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If you’re an Arsenal fan, please stop reading now.mainbanner

I enjoyed one of the most thrilling football games of my life last week – and I wasn’t even at the ground. Newcastle United wereplaying Arsenal, and the Geordie team were facing their 30th trip to London without a single win.

So when a Newcastle evening newspaper contacted me to break the jinx, I knew it was a tough order. The alansenterprising editor had already hired an exorcist and two voodoo witchdoctors to combat the Curse of the Big City, without success.United’s directors had even flown a pair of stuffed magpies the club’s symbol – in a private jet to a London game … but Newcastle had lost. The old rhyme about Magpies promises, “One for sorrow, Two for joy” – but maybe it doesn’t count if they’re stuffed.

I knew my mission: it was Arsenal who had to be stuffed this time. No hard feelings for Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry: they are among the greatest players in the world. But this was a true challenge, and I love to be tested to the limits.

As the game kicked off, I headed for the gates at Highbury, where Arsenal play. I’d told the editor that positive thinking was the key, and I needed all the support of the fans both at the game and in their homes.

Great conviciction from the supporters can translate itself into great performances on the pitch. That’s why giant clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid believe that playing in front of their ferociously partisan fans is easily worth an extra goal on the scoresheet.

My manager video’d me as I rattled the gates and focused intense bursts of energy on Bobby Robson’s side. As I was chanting “Think positive, goal! Think positive, goal!” news blasted in of Newcastle’s equaliser.

I quickly predicted a winner from an Alan Shearer penalty – it’s all there on the video! And sure enough, the Magpies won a controversial penalty and smashed it home. A third goal in injury time wrapped it all up and powered Newcastle to the top of the Premiership.

The referee’s penalty decision has been much criticised, as minutes. I don’t claim to have brainwashed the official, Graham Poll … the Football Association might want to sue me!

But I do believe that no true football fan can ever doubt again the power of positive thinking.

Uri helps stop Newcastle United’s London curs. Click here for story


Picture possible: harassed shopper? Mountain of gifts? Credit cards?credcard

This is the season of overdoing it. Food and drink are not the only things you could be consuming to excess – shopping can get out of control too. You don’t need to wait for next month’s credit card statements to know if you’re hitting the plastic too hard this Christmas.

Shopping till you make yourself ill has been recognised as a medical condition for almost a century. A German psychiatrist labelled it as an addiction called ‘oniomania’ and recent US studies have linked it to clinical depression.

As many as one in four Westerners admit they sometimes seek to salve stress by spending on purchases they don’t need or even want. In the States alone there are an estimated 15 million compulsive shoppers, with another 40 million in the danger zone.

Incredibly, up to 90 per cent of oniomaniacs are women. As with any addiction, the flimsiest of excuses is enough for a binge. With the festive celebrations posing an outsize headache for everyone with a family to organise, and the tradition of buying extravagant gifts for everyone, especially children, tempting us all beyond our credit limits, it’s easy to kid yourself that you can spend your way out of trouble.

Researchers at Stanford University, California, are testing a drug which could beat the addiction. Acting rather like Prozac, the popular anti-depressant, this pill – not yet commercially available boosts levels of serotonin, the brain’s natural feelgood substance.The trial is in its early stages, with just 24 volunteers, all shopaholics, taking the cure. If you’re panicking about your cashflow, you don’t have to wait for a drug.

The power to heal yourself is built into your head. Recognise there’s a problem, and be bold. Put away your credit cards and chequebook, and set a spending limit. Draw out this amount in cash, and use this as your shopping fund. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

Plan alternative activities to shopping – invite neighbours for coffee and cake one morning, or offer to lend a hand at the local day centre. There are better ways of giving than simply buying more toys and giftwrap.

Pet telepathy

All my life I have owned dogs, and I know the unconditional love I receive from them is like a healing energy. Being nkisiwith my waggy friends fills me with vitality and high spirits.

This bond is often so close it becomes telepathic. Once, as a teenager in Cyprus, I was exploring some hillside caves when I realised I was lost in the labyrinth. My matches ran out and I thought I would starve there. I desperately wished my little dog Joker was with me – and suddenly he was How he found me I’ll never know. But he led me to safety and, ever since, I’ve never been without a dog called Joker.

Dr Rupert Sheldrake, a former Cambridge don and internationally respected biologist, has studied the connection between human and pet, and discovered some extraordinary animals like a psychic African Gray parrot called N’Kisi who lives with her trainer, Aimee Morgana, in Manhattan. Sheldrake recorded tests in rigorous scientific conditions where Aimee turned over a photo, saw two people cuddling … and in another room N’Kisi squawked: “Can I give you a hug?” Then Aimee picked up a picture of a man with a receiver to his ear – “Watcha doin’ on the phone?” demanded N’Kisi.

Another Sheldrake star is JayTee, a terrier who knows when his owner Pamela Smart is coming home, even if she tries to fool the dog by turning up at odd hours. The scientist’s videotapes prove Jaytee spends an average four per cent of his day at the window – but he’s there more than half the time when Pamela’s on her way home.

Have you got a psychic pet? Use a video camera and a notebook to keep track of occasions when your faithful friend seems to be reacting to your unspoken thoughts – and be sure to send the proof to me here at the Mirror.

Costume drama

Life is too short for television, as a rule, but I have enjoyed the glimpses I’ve caught of the lavish BBC costume thewaydrama, The Way We Live Now. It’s not the script or the story which fascinate me, entertaining as they are – the real pleasure is to be enveloped by a world that vanished more than a century ago. Television can be a time machine, catapulting the viewer back to a long-gone era. That explains the sudden popularity of those ‘I Love The Seventies’ shows – it’s hard to believe that the whole decade wasn’t some kind of costume drama itself. Did we really wear those loon pants? Was my hair that long?

Of course you don’t need a budget of millions to recreate history. The whole production crew is in your head – your imagination.

Sometimes when I meditate, I imagine myself walking through history. Perhaps I am remembering a past life: I picture the stiff dark clothes of a Victorian gentleman, the tight leather shoes and the silk hat. Or I see myself in scarlet doublet and hose, with a sword at my belt and a magnificent codpiece.

I focus on the people that I meet, and their clothes, down to the smallest detail. In my mind, I dress my wife in gorgeous satins and furs, as she sweeps on my arm into a royal ball in the court of St Petersburg. I am wearing a splendid military uniform, ranks of medals on my breast to tell of the campaigns I have fought and won.

Meditation can certainly be about blending your consciousness with the vast oneness of the universe, but it can also be a tool to reinforce self-esteem and ambition. Above all, it must be fun – when your mind is happy, your whole body will be relaxed.

My imaginary adventures in Victorian England have led me to write a play, set in 1874, called The Ghost Stripped Bare. It’s based on the real-life love affair between the scientist William Crookes and a spirit apparition, Katie King, who materialised at seances. I’ll tell you more when it reaches the stage.

Clear Out

Deep beneath my house, behind steel doors 30 inches thick and along a concrete corridor, there is a nuclear bunker.kr It was built at the height of the Cold War, when Kennedy and Kruschev were staring each other down with an arsenal of doomsday missiles bristling at their backs. For a few terrifying days, 40 years ago, many people truly believed the world was about to end. The millionaire who lived in this house at the time decided he would prefer to sit Armageddon out, and installed a bunker. Later, he filled it with racks of fine vintage wines. I am not a wine-drinker – one glass and I get giggly, two glasses and my spoon starts drooping.

But I am a collector of books, and I lost no time in filling the racks with thousands of volumes. The bunker has been overflowing for years. There are no provisions down there, no cans of soup or dried orange juice, no vats of spring water … just a lot of books, packed in boxes, waiting to be read. The boxes accuse me, silently, of ignoring their wisdom and neglecting my mind, whenever I carry another box along the corridor. At the weekend I had a major clearout. More than a thousand titles went to a second-hand dealer, and a cheque went to a children’s charity. Most of the books were unread. To work through them all would take me years, even if I did nothing else. Many more remain, of course – the favourites I have enjoyed, the special gifts from friends, the volumes I really will get round to studying soon. But to clear out so much has lifted a weight from my mind. It is a good, strong, positive decision to start afresh, to draw a line and say: all these jobs I’ve been promising to do for years, all these books I ought to have read … forget them. I’m wiping theslate clean. And I’m tackling the future, not the past.


All of us love to believe in magic. Look at the crowds thronging to see the wonderful Harry Potter movie – there are lotrthrilling adventures and terrifying villains, but what we want most is to witness real magic.

The special effects are so stunning that every young viewer and a lot of parents – probably imagines that the actors really did learn to fly their broomsticks for the Quidditch match. Hermione’s wand levitates a white feather so convincingly that my mind rushed back to incredible feats of gravity-defying psi-power which I witnessed 30 years ago at the height of spoon-bending mania.

And then there are goblins, and a giant, and a dragon and in another certain cinema success to come next month, Lord Of The Rings, there are elves, hobbits and orcs. We’ll sit in the magical, darkened theatres and believe in the hobbit heroes as fully as we believe in our own cars and bank accounts.

The truth is even more wonderful than these beguiling fictions. Magic is real, and we can perform it. Magic exists in our own minds. The imagination which brings these characters to life on screen can be extended into every corner of our lives. To make it work we have only to exercise it, and this is why children are the best magicians of all.

It’s no coincidence that JK Rowling’s hero is a young boy. It would be much harder to believe in an adult who discovered the powers Harry has – harder, but not impossible. The hobbits are like children too – innocent, small and always speaking their minds. Children are born with real magical gifts, such as the ability to read their parents’ minds and even the power to defy the ‘laws’ of physics. Because our society does not encourage these gifts, or even acknowledge them, they are rarely developed very much.

But I know from countless performances of my own, on stage or at home, in parties or during visits to hospitals, that my strange effects on metal are magnified many times when I am surrounded by youngsters who believe innately in magic.

When you take your children or grandchildren to see one of these marvellous movies, remind them – magic can be real. You’ll never know what miracles you can manage until you try.


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