Of course when I first got referred to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I was delighted.

For too long it had been that whenever I mentioned problems with anxiety, panic and terror to my GP I was prescribed drugs - not a bad thing in itself but generally lacking. The SSRIs for depression tended to make me put on weight and the beta-blockers for panic were more of a short-term solution. I wanted to get to the root of the problem and it seemed that the Holy Grail was some kind of therapy, getting to talk to someone. It was of course difficult to get my GP to refer me and even when she did she warned that there would likely be a long waiting list.

By the time I eventually got to see someone my life had changed somewhat and I had made plans to leave my day job which was one of the major causes of the anxiety I suffered. I had no illusions that this would be a cure all, some kind of magical fix, but I did feel that I was taking control of my own life and that made a big difference.

I figured it was still worth attending these sessions though, given how long I had waited for them. The first sessions I attended weren't Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - they were just a short series of four which gave me some kind of assessment. I found them very useful - if only for the fact that I was able to talk to someone about how I felt without the danger of them thinking it was something to do with them and taking it personally - or rather the danger of me thinking that they might think it was something to do with them and taking  it personally. Someone whose job it was to listen. Someone impartial. As someone who has been described as a good listener it was good to finally experience this from the other side.

Of course it didn't last. There were only four sessions and I had no reason to expect that I would get any more. However I was pleasantly surprised when the person I had been dealing with said that she thought I would benefit from further help and referred me "up" to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. I'd have to wait a bit before they started but I figured it was worthwhile. Better to have to wait a couple of months than not have it all together.

I was quite enthusiastic when sessions started. A lot of what the therapist talked about made sense - and the instructions to question my own anxiety as I experienced actually seemed to work. This was clearly the start of a major change in my life. I was very excited.

Email comes in with a message that sends the familiar dread spiralling up into my brain and down into my guts? Stop and think about it. Ask what I think is the worst that could actually happen and then ask whether that is actually likely to happen. Then ask what IS likely to happen. And so on and so forth.

It worked!

I started keeping notes of whenever this happened, comparing and contrasting. During the sessions I got to the root of a lot of my anxiety - worrying about what people think of me; specifically worrying that people might think me boring. It wasn't too difficult to trace back these feelings of anxiety either - when I was a child in the days before anxiety I did used to endlessly go on about my enthusiasms (such as the London Underground or ants) in a monomaniacal manner which resulted in people telling me I was boring.

So now that I had uncovered this it was simply a case of overcoming it using the techniques I had been taught right? I was ready for a brave new world in which I would be able to go to social gatherings and talk to people and finally after all this time Have A Life.

Or so I thought.

The problem was that the techniques didn't work with everything and didn't work all the time. Sometimes I would get an email or other electronic communication to which I would have The Reaction but on which The Technique simply wouldn't work. It was like trying to paint an ice cube. No matter how much I kept telling myself that the imagined consequences wouldn't actually be that bad even if they did happen which they probably wouldn't, the dread remained. The dread hung around for several days.

I thought that this was probably something to do with brain chemistry. It made sense - after all I had in the past noticed a definite positive change when taking anti-depressants (even if the physical side-effects meant that this wasn't a permanent solution) which showed that some of what I was feeling was based in the chemical world. When discussing these intractable anxieties at the next session I happened to mentioned my brain chemistry theory to the therapist at which point - while not actually saying anything - they got an expression of extreme disapproval on their face and then carried on talking without referring to my suggestion. I could tell that in their worldview there was no such thing as brain chemistry and that as far as they were concerned the root of all problems lay in cognitive behavioural therapy.

Still if this had been the only disagreement I could have coped and might even have finished the course of sessions.

But there was something else. I was going through a period of simultaneously being very busy but not socializing very much. Readers may have noticed that when talking about the anxiety triggers in this blog entry I keep mentioning emails or other messages (and I do believe that such things are just as valid as other forms of social interaction). I simply wasn't getting out so keeping the diary or putting the techniques into practice in the real world was difficult. Plus on the rare occasions when I was out and about making notes wasn't that easy.  It's not as if I could pause a conversation that I was finding difficult anyway by asking the other participant if they didn't mind if I made notes on my phone.

Eventually I found myself frantically scrabbling around on the morning of the session trying to remember (or even making up) occasions to put in the diary I had to keep. Without me being aware of the point at which it had done so, the therapy sessions had themselves become the main thing in my life giving me anxiety.

I had to think about it for a bit - I don't like leaving things undone or bailing out - but in the end I had to stand up for what I wanted, just as I had done the previous year when deciding to leave my day job. I cancelled the remaining sessions.

I still wonder whether I did the right thing. Was the anxiety that the sessions were inducing me part of the cure; should I have let it take me outside my comfort zone in order to cure me?

I guess I will never know.

Icon created by Julian Claus from The Noun Project

Ah, I'll do it when I get home, I think excitedly.

And I visualise it in my head, sitting at the computer and doing the thing which has just excited my mind whether it is writing, coding or photoshopping. Except in my head I am still sitting at my computer in my old flat even though I moved out of there a couple of months ago. The human brain maintains a model of the world around it and when things change in reality it takes far longer for these changes to percolate into the mindscape of the head. The older you are the longer it takes for these changes to kick in.

In dreams of course it takes even longer. When asleep I still seem to be living in the house I lived in as a teenager (although oddly am the age I am now).

These mind quirks dragging me back into the past have of late caused me to become increasingly worried about dropping dead although I suspect that turning fifty also has a lot to do with these concerns. When I was a kid the idea of being fifty was the same as the idea of being an old man. Fifty was the precursor of old age, a kind of dry run with the grey hair and the wrinkles and the exciting bit of your life behind you.

The problem is that now that I've reached that age I don't seem to have actually started my life yet, let alone achieved all the good stuff. I still feel like a teenager. At least in terms of what I haven't achieved. Still single. Still not doing the things I really want to do for a living. I still feel teen anger. Perhaps I've wasted my life. Perhaps there was something to the conventional lifestyle after all, perhaps it imbues life with a sense of purpose that is invisible and incomprehensible to me but which if I could only see it would give me the epiphany of a lifetime. But I still can't see and my eyes are beginning to go.

When you are a teenager you think you are going to live forever or at least if you don't actually think it then the idea of immortality is at the back of your mind. Now that I'm fifty I am fully aware that I am very probably more than half way through my life and that even if life extension and rejuvenation techniques are invented within my life time it will be too late for me to use them - or if not I very probably won't be able to afford them. So I have a limited amount of time left and being a rationalist I can see that it's all there is.

There is no room for regret, I simply don't have time for it. Thinking back over all those things that almost but not quite happened twenty years ago is pointless. Best to get on with doing stuff now that in twenty years time I will be able to look back on and say "I'm glad I did that!"

Difficult to know where to start though. Perhaps I am wrong about this as well and the point is not to do things now to make my future self proud, but to do things now for my present self. Enjoy my life now rather than investing in some kind of experience savings account. After all if I do the latter there's the danger I'll drop dead before I get a chance to spend it.

For some reason I have been unable to blog this year aside from that one in January which was, basically, just me going on about something in the same way as I would if it came up in conversation in the pub.

It's not that I haven't been trying. I have in fact started writing several entries but they all petered out before reaching a publishable state and have ended up abandoned in the drafts folder gathering virtual dust as they slowly become less and less relevant.

The one about how we were all Ferengi now which led to the one about how I enjoyed Deep Space Nine the most of all the Star Trek series. The one about the brain's remarkable talent for pattern recognition which could probably explain so much about the human experience if only I could finish it. The one about how arbitrary so called "round numbers" are when you come to think of it. The one about anthropomorphising things. All these entries will be lost in time like tears in rain... if I leave them sitting there on the blog shelf because I can't be bothered to get off my digital backside.

I am not sure why I have been so unbloggish this year. It's true I've been busy but then again I have definitely been busier in past years. After all I don't have a day job now - previously I would have had to fit in all the freelance work, bass playing and writing around spending ten hours a day at or on my way to and from my place of work. So in theory I have more time even if I have less money. There should be blogs coming out of my ears not to mention numerous short stories and novel drafts. I should have been able to use this free time to swot up on all the latest in web design and development in order to hone my freelance skills all the better to get more work.

And yet I haven't.

I can't quite work out why. There was a massive glitch in my plans when I discovered that I had to move from my home of twelve years but I've done that now. There isn't quite enough freelance work yet and yet what there is seems to take up all my time. I'm not sitting around watching day time TV - if anything I am watching less TV than ever. I'm not staying up that late either. While must admit I am not forcing myself to bed by 10.30 or 11pm as I used to do when in a day job I'm still in bed by midnight most nights. And while I am no longer getting up at 6.30am to get the bus by 7.00am to get into work by 8.00am it's not as if I was doing anything particularly useful in that first ninety minutes anyway.

It seems that on some level life expands to fill the time available. I am sure there must be a solution to this conundrum - probably to force myself to start doing all these things that I imagine will make life more fulfilling in the hope that the act of doing them will stretch time to accommodate them. It seems that the forcing is the thing that is important. I can start by forcing myself to write a blog - this will do.

And once I have started doing things despite an imagined lack of time then no doubt I will find great vistas of extra time opening up to me.  So I am going to do things anyway. For example I am going to do this. I am going to finish this blog and then publish it. Then I am going to do some more work on something to do with the various web and graphic design jobs I have in my mental "to-do" folder. Then I am going to get a relatively early night and therefore a relatively early morning so I can get a relatively early start in the morning

Who knows if it all goes well maybe I will write another blog tomorrow.

But don't hold your breath.

What with all the furore surrounding the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who back in November 2013 you might have thought that the programme had celebrated enough anniversaries for now. After all - fifty one and a bit years on from the first episode? Nothing that special.

But today, 25 January 2015, sees the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of what is probably my favourite run of sixteen episodes (four stories in the old money) from the show. There are of course stories and episodes that I like more than that, but this particular period - from 25 January to 10 May 1975 - was the most consistently enjoyable time for me watching.

There is a danger that in writing this I will go over old ground but checking back on the Dimensionally Transcendental Confession blogs covering the relevant period it appears that I restrained myself from going into too much detail. It was almost as if I knew I was going to write this blog five years hence.

My enjoyment of these particular four months of Who probably had a lot to do with my age but also because, in those pre-video days, it was the first time that I was able to experience the shows more than once. My dad had started work at the Radiophonic Workshop by this point which meant that I got to see discarded scripts.

25 January wasn't the beginning of Season 12. The show had actually started at the tail end of 1974 with Tom Baker's debut as the Fourth Doctor in Robot. This too was one I'd seen the script of (and even seen some of in advance of transmission) but I hadn't been too impressed for reasons which I went into in more detail elsewhere.

But episode one of Ark in Space changed all that.

For a start there was something about having a TARDIS team of three that felt like a breath of fresh air. In retrospect Harry Sullivan was far from a bumbling imbecile and actually quite shrewd and clever. What with him, the ever smart Sarah-Jane Smith and the newly rejuvenated Doctor here was a team to strike terror into the hearts of any monster trying to take over the universe for no very good reason.

But the monsters in the Ark in Space weren't just trying to take over the universe. It was far more sinister than that. The far future setting was claustrophobic and nightmarish, especially before any of the Ark crew were awakened from suspended animation. Sarah-Jane getting caught in the hibernation mechanism was another brilliant touch, the sense of mindless mechanisms going through the motions in the absence of humanity added another dimension to the disturbing atmosphere.  And that was even before we got on to the body horror of the Wirrn's modus operandi and the grisly fate of Dune the Chief Technician.

Yes they used bubble wrap, sprayed green to represent Noah's infection, but that didn't stop me being terrified when we first see his bubble-wrapped hand, the sense of horror portrayed by the actor convincing enough to make the young me really start to imagine what it might be like to undergo such a gruesome metamorphosis.

The story and concepts were so strong that they overcame the limitations of the budget.

But one thing that really stood out for me was the end of the story. Unlike in almost every story that I'd seen before the Doctor and co didn't just slip away quietly in the TARDIS. They stayed to help, teleporting down to the abandoned Earth to give the receiving station a once over before the sleepers from the Ark came down to start repopulating it.

For me this was a huge development. Not only was the Doctor crew staying in the same (non 20th century Earth) place and time for more than one story - he'd left the TARDIS behind too. Two consecutive stories set in the same world.

The previous year had seen the debut of the Sontarans in The Time Warrior. However at the time I hadn't remembered the name of the race, just the name of the eponymous Time Warrior (Lynx) so the title of the next story The Sontaran Experiment offered me no spoilers whatsoever which meant that I shared Sarah-Jane's shock at the end of the first episode when the villain made his appearance.

A lot has been said in recent years about how the character of Strax in the latest incarnation of Doctor Who has taken the threat away from the Sontarans making them a bit of a joke. I'm not so sure. Watching Styre's first scenes now it's easy to imagine them in Dan Starkey's voice (although Styre does appear to have less trouble telling the difference between human genders).

"Female number one. First assessment. Would appear to have no military justification. Offensive value therefore nil."

The Sontarans were always ridiculous. Styre is a dangerous sadist but is also petty and small minded.

The bleakness of post solar flare London was another thing that impressed me about the story at the time. The Sontaran Experiment was shot entirely on location which gave it a very different feel from anything that had gone before.

And once again the end of the story continued with the unusual travel without the TARDIS theme as the three of them beamed back up to the Ark. From the Radio Times I knew that the next story had Daleks in it which seemed a bit much for the newly awoken human race to cope with...

Of course it turned out I was wrong about that. Far from returning to the Ark and the TARDIS the Doctor and co were dragged half way across space and time without so much as a by your leave by the Time Lords, one of whom informs the Doctor in one word that they require help with a very particular problem.

"Daleks!"

The Daleks had appeared in the series every year since the beginning of 1972 but what was on offer here was something very different.  And even though we only had a black and white TV at the time there was something dark gunmetal green about Genesis of the Daleks, a grim impression that has stuck with me ever since (and which I was pleased to see reflected in the design of the DVD cover).

The premise - the origin of the Daleks - was one that interested me a lot more than the previous few Dalek tales and the first proper glimpse we got of Davros at the beginning of episode two excited me because I mistakenly thought his wheelchair was part of a Dalek under construction.

However there was a lot that actually was in the story to enjoy too. This was one occasion on which the getting captured, escaping and recaptured plus to-ing and fro-ing between the same locations seemed to work. A lot has been made of the Kaleds as Nazi analogues but watching the series again you get the distinct impression that the sadistic slave-labour using Thals were no better. Pre-Dalek Skaro was an arena of bastards the like of which probably wouldn't be seen again until The Caves of Androzani nearly 10 years later.

The Kaled scientists were very well drawn though. Davros's sinister sidekick Nyder sticks in the memory decades later. He had such great lines - his dismissal of the Doctor and Harry's concern with "your views are not important" is almost as chilling as his line upon uncovering Gharman's treachery, "Thank you. That's what I wanted to know."

Thanks to the LP version of this story it is still one with which I am very familiar. But obsessive child that I was the narration at the beginning of the LP bugged me.

"I stepped from the TARDIS..."

No you bloody well didn't. You were in the middle of beaming up to the Space Ark from the devastated surface of future Earth.

But on the whole the LP version represented a tighter version of the story containing all the key scenes, all of which have become iconic and quotable. Genesis of the Daleks - all the hits! Includes You Will Tell Me, Have I The Right?, She Is A Norm, But Would You Do It?, And I Sent Sarah and Harry in There, Have Pity, No Tea Harry and many, many more.

Of course Genesis of the Daleks has its flaws. The giant clams for one. The fact that the two races that have been fighting each other for a millennium live in domed cities within walking distance of each other. But all in all the story deserves its reputation as one of the best ever stories - and like the equally well regarded Caves of Androzani the ending is bleak and the Doctor's presence hasn't really done much other than make things marginally worse.

Plus of course he starts the Time War.

The ending shot of the Doctor, Sarah and Harry flung through the universe by time ring isn't a particularly impressive one, but it excited me at the time as it meant that the three of them were on their way back to the Ark.

And - despite them reusing the rather naff time ring shot at the beginning of the episode - there was the Ark fading back into view. And there was the familiar set, Sarah, Harry and the Doctor shimmering into existence in the same place in the Ark control room from which they'd left.

In  common with the previous two stories, the title left little doubt as to who the villains of the piece were (childhood forgetting of the name notwithstanding). Once again, pre-transmission I thought having to cope with an infestation of Cybermen was a bit of a pain for the Ark's sleepers. Furthermore I was perturbed to see in the Radio Times that the cast did not include Wendy Williams as Vira. As was so often the case in those days at school we spent one morning in the playground acting out what we thought was going to happen in Doctor Who that week. On that occasion the Doctor (played by me) found a list headed "Deaths" at the top of which was the name Vira.

Of course the real explanation was very different. This was the Ark at an earlier point in its existence, when it was still a space beacon in orbit around Jupiter. This bothered me a bit, partly because of the way that they had to wait for the TARDIS to join them but mostly because I liked the far future of the Ark and wanted more.

But never mind all that. There were going to be Cybermen! For someone who'd grown up on Doctor Who but whose memories of the Cybermen were brief fragments from my time as a toddler, this was a heady prospect.

Apparently Revenge of the Cybermen now has a bad reputation, but at the time (and on a more recent re-watch) I actually rather enjoyed it. True, some of the special effects were woeful, one of the Cybermen's heads was very loose and the Cyberleader continuously referred to the Doctor as "Dacter" but I really got into the story and enjoyed being back on Nerva despite my initial resistance to the earlier time period. Kellman's double treachery also intrigued me and I though it a shame that he died when he did as I'd have liked to have seen more of his motivation. And I remembered what what it was that I had found so frightening about the Cybermen as a toddler - the expressionless faces like a child's drawing of a skull, bland and blank even as they gunned down the Vogans with their head cannons.

Once again this was a story I got to enjoy over and over again as I had the scripts to read afterwards. I was particularly intrigued by the stage directions this time around - when the Doctor is shot by the Cybermen at the end of episode two they describe him as having "A FIT OF THE CAGNEY STAGGERS" a turn of phrase I had to ask my parents to explain. Furthermore the description of the closing shot of that episode "AND WE CLOSE ON HIS UNPLEASANT STEEL MASK" was one that stayed with me and I was slightly disappointed upon re-watching it to find out that this wasn't the case, the final shot actually being of the prone post-Cagney staggers Doctor.

The TARDIS did turn up at just the right moment - the end of episode four - and before there was even time for our heroes to stop and say cheerio they had to rush off having been summoned to attend a real emergency back on Earth by the Brigadier.

And there the season ended. Had original plans for the following story Terror of the Zygons come to fruition and it had actually been included in Season 12 instead of being held back as the Season 13 opener I would have been looking at an even longer run of consecutive weekly episodes to consider one of my golden ages of the series.

The Doctor, Sarah-Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan, not actually in the TARDIS.

Previously...

Top of the Pops was the centre of the musical week but as more and more bands begun to produce promotional videos the mimed performances were often a disappointment as you wanted to see the video.

This early eighties over-experimentation with video didn't go unnoticed by the satirists - nowadays they can't show a retrospective of early eighties music without wheeling out the Not The Nine O'Clock News parody Nice Video, Shame About the Song. But even though I did like Not the Nine O'Clock News and thought that the parody was well observed in places I couldn't quite shake the feeling that the writers didn't quite "get" it and were probably in the process of turning into a parental generation banging on about the rubbish that young people listened to in the name of music today.

Or rather the rubbish that they watched. By now everyone had to have a video and inspiration was beginning to wear a bit thin. Having scored an unexpected big hit with Too Shy, Kajagoogoo threw everything (including cameos from Kenny Everett and Christopher Timothy) at the video for Ooh To Be Ah and ended up with a bit of a mess. Other bands contented themselves with videos which attempted to reproduced the experience of them playing live with varying degrees of success.

But everyone had to have a video.

Of course there were still bands and directors experimenting with the medium. After producing a whole album of videos for Soft Cell - unique at the time in that they weren't being made to sell singles but to illustrate an album - Tim Pope went on to produced myriad memorable and psychedelic clips for The Cure.

Other bands went the other way. In a (subconscious?) mirroring of The Clash's refusal to appear miming on Top of the Pops, The Smiths initially refused to make promo videos before eventually caving in in style by getting Derek Jarman to direct them.

But everyone had to have a video and Top of the Pops was not fit for purpose.

Denied access to MTV the UK made do with The Chart Show, which launched on Channel Four in 1986. In keeping with the show's video only format it also eschewed presenters, instead mimicking a clunky computer desktop in which snippets of information about the band would appear mid-song - a gimmick later appropriated by the BBC for their Top of the Pops repeat compilations TOTP2. If a band hadn't shot a video then a snippet of their single during the chart countdown would be accompanied by a still photograph.
The Chart Show also attempted to spread the net a bit wider when it came to what they'd show. In addition to the normal chart the show would run down the "specialist" charts of Dance, Rock and Indie, focussing on each one of them (showing several videos from it) in a three weekly cycle.

However it became clear to me that the show probably had a rota of editors some of whose musical tastes reflected mine and other whose didn't. This was at a time when dance music was becoming big and Stock Aitken and Waterman made their breakthrough and unfortunately a lot of the acid house records and all of the PWL output were at the time on independent labels. This meant that if you got the editor who liked dance music on the week that the Indie Chart was due to be shown, all you got was Kylie and S-Express. To be fair the reverse sometime happened - once Dance Chart week was obviously overseen by the editor who liked Indie/Alternative music as we got Renegade Soundwave's Probably a Robbery. In retrospect the cross-fertilisation of indie and dance music that was happening at the time was actually very interesting in its own right, but that's another story...

At the time I used to fill endless Scotch E180 VHS cassettes with videos from The Chart Show as well as Top of the Pops appearances and other live TV performances, confident that I was creating an archive of visual music that I would enjoy into my dotage. Little did I realise that the Scotch skeleton was lying through his teeth when he told us we could watch Scotch forever.  In recent years upon attempting to play tapes I've discovered that snow and static are the order of the day.
I'm going to tell you how it's going to be 
I've been replaced by DVD
To be fair the only reason I've dragged VHS cassettes from the archive recently has been in a bid to transfer them to my computer so I can then upload to the final platform in the story of music video: YouTube.

When YouTube first started out in 2005 I couldn't see how it was going to catch on. Compared to all the other fledgling social networks it seemed like too much work, the idea of having to make a video and then sit through a long uploading process. Even the tagline "Broadcast Yourself" sounded vaguely insulting.

Of course in the end where YouTube came into its own was as a way of salvaging all those videos and Top of the Pops appearances from decaying VHS music tapes. Plug your old VHS into the computer and the treasure contained within can be preserved digitally forever, static and interference included. Furthermore YouTube turned out to be the saviour of many lost memories. Remember that video from one of your favourite bands you only saw thirty seconds of on The Chart Show twenty years ago? Here it is complete in all its three minute glory.

But it's not as exciting.

How much of this is simply as a result of getting old and how much is due to genuine change I have no idea, but with everything being available all the time there isn't the anticipation of a band's new video appearing on The Chart Show. Or, more importantly the excitement of the Top of the Pops debut of one of your favourite bands.

No matter how much some might have sneered at the mainstream appeal of Top of the Pops, when a band finally appeared it meant that they'd made it. It was a rite of passage, a defining moment and ultimately more exciting than seeing a promo video.

I miss it.

Like Doctor Who, Top of the Pops was always a part of my childhood for as far back as my memory goes. It was just something that was always there, and my infant brain saw it in much the same way as Winter, Spring the Sun or the Moon.

I remember dancing in front of the large black and white television in the family flat in Birmingham much to the amusement of my parents plus Tony and Jill, the couple upstairs who didn't have a TV but always came down on Thursday evening to watch. Personally I couldn't quite see what was so funny about my dancing - I had decided that it must consist of clenched fists bounced up and down in front of me - but I enjoyed the music and the experience plus I was getting attention so it was all good.

There was always music around whether it was the records my parents would put on - the Beatles (interesting if sometimes scary) or Bob Dylan (inexplicably sad because I thought the combination of his voice and the harmonica sounded like crying) but Top of the Pops was the centre of the week.

Earliest memories were of the bands playing or of women dancing to the songs - Pan's People they were called. I always wondered if one week Pan was going to turn up - I had no idea who he or she was but assumed they were in charge. Then short films of the songs started being shown when the bands couldn't or wouldn't appear and this - the birth of the video - was where things started to get interesting.

There are some early videos that I remember but can't track down - including one for the Laughing Gnome by Bowie which must have been reissued at some point in the 70s - but the main early memories centred around Space Oddity and Bohemian Rhapsody, both from 1975 (the Bowie single being another reissue). The narrative as told by the video of Space Oddity was haunting and frightening and stayed with me. I used to wonder what had happened to Major Tom and didn't buy my babysitter's explanation that "I think 'e died." As a child five years is a long time and so Major Tom's reappearance in the video to Ashes to Ashes in 1980 was as exciting a moment for me as the reappearance of the Cybermen in Earthshock.

But it's Bohemian Rhapsody that everyone else remembers. Looking at it now it's rather tame and the effects used basic, but - combined with the unusual nature of the song itself at the time this was all people could talk about at school the next day. It was at number one for a long time and there were parts of it that you looked forward to seeing every week - specifically the weird bit in the middle. One week Top of the Pops, wearying of the lengthy song outstaying its welcome, faded it out just before that bit and my sister burst into tears.

By the time Major Tom made his reappearance the videos on Top of the Pops had started to become more commonplace and many of them were quite memorable - from the Police cavorting about in front of a Saturn V at Cape Canaveral to Madness and their flying saxophonist. And then in 1981 - which was the year it all changed anyway - things took a turn for the interesting. Not put off by the limited budgets and effects available to them, the New Romantic bands started experimenting resulting in such disturbing nightmare imagery as Visage's Mind of a Toy - it may look silly now but at the time it was impressive (although some of that may be due to the fact that I was far more impressionable back then). One band that became known for their videos were Ultravox who produced mini-movies. Nowadays everyone goes on about Vienna but the ones that impressed me the most at the time were the videos for the two singles that followed at the end of that year the dreamlike The Thin Wall and epic bombastic The Voice.

My own idol Toyah was not exempt from experimenting with video and produced a number of worthy entrants to the canon although - perhaps due to her label's independent status - not all of her singles received an accompanying film. This is a shame as I'd have loved to see the video take on Good Morning Universe...

And my feelings there were symptomatic of a shift in attitude. Whereas at first the video had been a substitute for a live (mimed) performance, so much artistic effort was being put into them that ultimately you ended up being disappointed if you didn't get to see it. This came to a head when Adam Ant returned to the Top of the Pops studio in 1982 for Goody Two Shoes. Up until then he'd been too big to appear and as a result his playful videos had become essential watching and part of the anticipation of the release of a new single. Furthermore his live appearance was just cavorting about with a load of scantily clad dancers - no band in sight, miming or otherwise. That was boring. We wanted to see the video, dammit!

Of course Top of the Pops couldn't become a video only show - that would miss the whole point of its existence. And yet the video continued to grow and grow, artistic experimentation giving way to glossy nothings as pop continued to be big business. Many of these videos ended up never being seen until - and it was only a matter of time - they begun to be sold on VHS. What had started out as a promotional tool had become an end in itself and something people would spend good money on in addition to the albums and singles.

Across the Atlantic MTV had already taken advantage of this new musical form and was going great guns but back in the UK there was still no way to get access to many of them. Until the arrival of a new show on the fresh faced young Channel Four. The Chart Show.

To be continued.

I am a rationalist and were it not for the fact that I prefer not to define myself by what I don't believe in you could probably call me an atheist because most of my world view coincides with most of the world view of an atheist.

I say most of because I think there are exceptions. Whilst I do not agree with the lazy but oft repeated mantra that "atheism is just like another religion" there are certain aggressive aspects of behaviour I have observed in atheism that I also don't agree with. Of course one could argue that they're just down to human nature rather than any flaw in the atheist argument - after all we are all human whether or not we believe in a god or gods.

One particularly distasteful atheist argument is the "religion is a mental illness". I don't think this is a valid analogy for many reasons. In general people choose religion - or have it forced upon them as children - and can change their minds about it later. Furthermore their religion can be very important to them and can help them through difficult times.

Mental illness is another matter all together. I'd give anything not to suffer from depression.

Also, religious belief and thought is something that has existed for a very long time, possibly since the dawn of consciousness. It's probably ingrained in the structures of the human brain - although of course this doesn't meant that we can't outgrow it. After all the urge to overeat and the urge to hate the outsider are in there too but we can rise above them.

As I have so often done in the past on this blog in order to work out why some modern aspect of human behaviour exists I am going to turn back the clock to prehistoric times. And there we find Thugg the Caveman and the rest of his hunting party making their way across the veldt in search of things to hunt and gather.
The current leader of the tribe is Dugg - or Dugglass as he prefers to be known - who is taller than the rest of the tribe. Furthermore there is something in his bearing that make people want to obey him - whether it's the long beard or the pronounced brow ridges Thugg cannot say. But like many others he feels safer when doing what Dugg tells him. 
Not everyone feels this way. Only the other day Yugg disobeyed Dugg's instructions about sticking to the path and ended up tripping and sliding down the slope to his death. And two moons ago Pugg ignored Dugg's advice and instead of hiding behind the Big Rock started pacing up and down in full view of the sabre-toothed tiger which made short work of him only minutes later.
And so it went on. Those who felt the natural inclination to obey Leaders like Dugg - whether due to an ingrained subservience or simply fear - survived to pass on their genes. And eventually - despite the entreaties of the tribal bard Dylug - it became second nature to follow Leaders instead of watching parking meters. Although given that parking meters didn't yet exist the last part wasn't too difficult. Of the few that didn't feel this way some were strong enough to become Leaders themselves.

This was all very well until one day someone - probably a Leader who was becoming tired of having to be everywhere at once - came up with a supernormal stimulus which plugged straight into the Leader-following behaviour. Suppose there was an all seeing all knowing all powerful leader in the sky behind whose back it was impossible to go and who, if you disobeyed, would condemn you to everlasting torment in his own private torture dimension?

Like all supernormal stimuli once it took hold this belief would be very difficult to shake. Whilst the Leaders wouldn't necessarily believe it themselves it did turn out to be a very useful tool for controlling their followers. And after millennia in place this behaviour pattern might prove difficult to shake even when logic and reason argue that it can't possibly be true.

So religion isn't a mental illness. Perhaps if it has to be compared to anything it's a bit like an addiction - or a bit like the appendix - the remnant of a more primitive past that still holds sway over the human mind but which in these enlightened days we would probably be better off without.

Anyone know any good faith diets?