Do you ever have dreams in which there are two versions of the same person?

The strangest thing is that in the dream you don't really notice. It's really quite odd - there's Jack and of course there's Jack as well.

Often one of them is a lesser instantiation - they have less talent or inspire less fear. You say I thought Jack was frightening but they're nothing compared to Jack! Sometimes it's something less negative - Jill will show you something and you think That's interesting - I bet Jill would like that, I'll have to remember to tell her about it!

This last one sometimes occurs in real life - when Jill shows you something just for a second you think that Jill would be interested and resolve to tell her before remembering that the notion is ridiculous.

It must be caused by an error in brain processing. A person is probably represented in the memory space by a complex object with myriad properties and associations. Perhaps sometimes two versions of the object are called into being by accident. Whilst awake the error trapping is probably far more stringent which is why the impression is momentary but when dreaming it's another matter altogether.

In dreams it's the pattern recognition part of the brain, the infamous Question Machine, that drives what you imagine is happening to you rather than any external stimulus so it's quite possible for you to "recognise" (which in a dream simply means "conjure up") two different person objects as having the same identity. Most of the time you probably don't spot the anomaly but sometimes it comes to your attention.

Continuity errors in dreams can be disturbing if you notice them. Sometimes a dream will throw up a non fact like "that time you spent in Australia last year" but not have any false memories to back them up with.  The practical upshot of this is that if you notice this anomaly you begin to worry in the dream that you are losing your mind or your memory. This often happens to me - dreams spent in a semi panic due to the fact that I don't really recall something major that I know has happened to me (in the dream world).

Spotting mistakes in dreams can also happen when there are accidentally two versions of a person. However, because the person doubling is so much more "real" than the lack of memories about a supposed past event (sometimes both versions of the person are in your field of view at the same time) there has to be a semi rational explanation. Thankfully there are many possible explanations for double people - the second version could be a clone or a sibling (both of which explanations I've seen used in one recent dream which actually contained two sets of double people).

But why does this happen in the first place? Well due to the way that dreams may work it could well be that the people who end up doubled are ones who are very much on your mind. When attempting to make sense out of the red noise of unconsciousness the expert pattern recognising question machine that is your subconscious picks patterns that you've been thinking about a lot. As a result our dreams are usually populated with our hopes and fears, sometime those that we didn't even know we had.

Next time you dream of two versions of the same person ask yourself whether you should be paying them more or less attention in real life. If there was a noticeable difference between the two this may give you further clues.

Dreams may not predict the future but they can certainly shape it.

Things may have changed a lot when it comes to listening to music. Whilst the fact that I have no idea what is in the charts these days is most likely to be an indication of advancing age than anything else, it does nevertheless feel that people aren't as into music as much they used to be. Whilst the tribes seem as strong as ever (Belieber or Directioner?) it's more disposable and the energy seems to be missing. However I can't really judge without being young myself and the only experience I have of that was in the past.

It was exciting back then - all these new things to discover. The absence of an internet meant that information was far more difficult to come by and therefore far more precious. You scoured the music press for the smallest clipping. And as for the music - well without YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, Last.fm, illegal and legal downloads you simply had to wait. Sometimes if you were lucky a DJ - John Peel or Kid Jensen, sometimes even Peter Powell - would play something they'd got hold of in advance or that had been recorded specially for their show. Well that was what tape decks had been invented for wasn't it?

But the most important things were the records themselves. They were the central artefacts in the process, ultimately desirable and sometimes even collectable. After all if you were a true fan of a band it was essential that you owned their entire output. That was a given. To this day it still rankles that I never got hold of Soft Cell's Mutant Moments EP or A Man Could Get Lost/Memorabilia 7" single. The fact that I now have the songs contained therein is scant consolation.
Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra track (and a tacky badge)
- The Smiths, Paint a Vulgar Picture
There were rules of course and when a band broke them it felt like a bit of a rip off (and I apologise in advance here for covering some of the same ground as in a previous blog entry "Extended Remix"). As an obsessed fan you had to buy everything, sure - which of course helped get the single into the all important charts - but in return you expected a reward. The tacky badge or photograph were all very well, but what really counted was the extra track (or tracks). Furthermore both the seven and twelve inch singles should contain something unique to the format so your desire to own both of them was fully justified. Ideally different B-sides and a different mixes of the A-side. Where ten inch singles were issued the tracks should be different again. It was only fair.

The only exceptions were cassette singles (or "cassingles" as they were so execrably known for a short while) and the cassette versions of albums. Despite the fact that I taped stuff from the radio and loved my home made tape collection - and I used to copy all my vinyl LPs onto cassette so I could listen to them on the move - there was something altogether false about official cassettes. I preferred my collection to consist of things I could buy. Tapes were more informal. After all if you bought the album on cassette then - aside from the card insert - a copy you made would be pretty much equivalent.

Besides the sleeves were way too small, and the enjoyment of record sleeves were part of the whole experience.

Whilst singles were obviously released as a taste of the album to come - the bigger the hit the more people would buy the album - I did have a set of internal rules about was and what wasn't acceptable when it came to the relationship between the two.

Firstly, singles should only come out before an album. After all, once you'd heard a song on the album then being made to buy it again on the off chance of a new B-side was annoying - however not many bands adhered to this rule so I was more forgiving of it being broken provided the related rule two wasn't broken as well.

Rule two: B-sides should not be album tracks. I'll repeat that: B-sides should not be album tracks.

B-sides were a bonus - extra material from your beloved band. I never subscribed to the theory that they were somehow substandard - there just wasn't room for them on the album. Furthermore they gave you an additional reason to buy the single which almost certainly would be on the album. They were there so you could tape them onto the end of the side of the tape upon which you'd put the album. Sometimes there'd be too many of them to fit on one side of the C90 which, whilst annoying, still mean that there was more precious music in your collection.

Breaking both these rules meant that you could end up with an album that was next to pointless (or a handful of singles that was pointless) to the serious collector.

Of course you could understand why the record companies did it. If an artist  on the rise had a moderately successful hit single which made a large number of punters buy the album a few weeks later then the temptation to release another track from that album in that hopes that it too would go top ten and provoke another rash of album sales must have been strong. After all it made sound economic sense. And if there wasn't anything to put on the B-side aside from one of the tracks from the album then so be it.

But it was annoying to a collector like me, not least because it meant I still had to buy the superfluous single on both seven and twelve inch to avoid a hole in my collection which would nag at me for years.

A major offender was the David Bowie album Let's Dance. It was only eight tracks long anyway, two of which were re-recorded tracks from earlier in his career - Cat People (Putting Out Fire) from the sound track of the film of the same name the previous year and China Girl which he'd co-written with Iggy Pop and which Iggy had included on his 1977 album The Idiot. To add insult to injury three of the four singles released from the album contained album tracks as B-sides. This meant that there was only one track unique to the album. Frankly this was just taking the piss.

Still, at least I wasn't a fan of Michael Jackson as I seem to recall that every last track on Bad was released as a single. Whilst this no doubt contributed to the fact that the album was one of the best selling of all time it must have made an obsessive Michael Jackson fan's record collection very irritating.

Thankfully lot of the bands I was really into were very conscientious when it came to giving their fans value for money. During the Safari years and at the peak of her chart success Toyah was constantly determined not to rip fans off. In 1981 her Platinum album Anthem contained only two tracks that people had heard before (and I suspected that the first of those It's a Mystery had been included only under protest).

You'd have expected that after the success of the album a further single would have been lifted from it - but no. Instead a brand new track - Thunder in the Mountains - was recorded and released.  Eventually in addition to the 11 track LP there were a grand total of 14 other tracks realised that year (if you counted the two on Flexipop magazine - both of which were unavailable elsewhere) on EPs and singles. That was like having a whole extra album.

My other favourites, Soft Cell, were equally dedicated to giving their fans value for money with long versions of both the A-sides and B-sides on their 12" singles (with extra verses, new lyrics and everything), extra tracks alternate mixes etc - and I forgave them for issuing Say Hello Wave Goodbye as a single after it had already appeared on the Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret album due to the magnificence of the remix on the A-side and the B-side Fun City. Plus of course there was a brand new single only a couple of months later in Torch.

The collector mentality had not gone unnoticed by the record companies. It wasn't long before they realised that a few additional formats could help kick start a single in to the all important top forty. Furthermore they could skip on studio costs if they included no extra tracks or remixes. And thus was the picture disk born.

I had mixed feelings about picture disks. On the one hand they felt like a rip-off because they invariably contained the same tracks as the regular seven or twelve inch but at lower quality - and sometimes ramming them onto the turntable itself was a bit of an effort.

On the other they looked great.

These days it's all a lot simpler and now I actually think I prefer it that way. What is important is the music itself and for the avid collector making sure you track down every last byte of music is the important thing.

But unfortunately there isn't an equivalent of the Camden Record and Tape Exchange for downloads.

So the World Cup is upon us again? I can't entirely believe it. Surely all that business with the vuvuzelas was only last year? Or a couple of years ago, maximum. Four years ago is just... stupid.

Not that it makes a huge difference to me anyway as I am not now and never have been interested in football. This is a fact that occasionally people seem to find hard to get their heads around. Every so often when meeting someone in a social situation they will ask What team do you support? When I tell them I don't follow football they look at me as if I've just told them I haven't got a head.

I must admit that from the outside the whole football fandom thing does look insanely complex and it's a relief that I have never been into it as it's probably a lot of work.

But on the other hand it does seem to give people a lot of pleasure and for that reason I can't justifiably complain about its existence. The world isn't created and run for my benefit and if something bores me or I have no interest in it then the easiest thing to happen, the thing that is the most energy efficient, is for me to ignore it rather than expecting everyone else to shut up. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one, as Spock once said. Kirk's rejoinder that sometimes "the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many" is both illogical and selfish.

The same thing applies to other things I'm not interested in such as X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing or the Eurovision Song Contest.  It would be the height of egomania for me to expect everyone not to talk about their enthusiasms on Twitter just because I have no interest. If it really bothers me there is the mute facility but I've rarely used that as sometimes it's useful to know what the ingredients of the zeitgeist are even if they don't actually appeal to me.

Besides, when people start complaining about things on Twitter then other people start complaining about them complaining and if they're not careful everyone will end up in a spiral of intolerance which can only end in tears.

So live and let live, I say. There may come a time when something that interests me happens and I want to talk about it online with like minded individuals without the worry that I'm going to end up as the target of someone's displeasure because what I am saying is of no interest to them.

Actually this already happened.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and for a couple of months leading up to the anniversary - and perhaps a month or so afterwards - social media was awash with lively discussion and appreciation of various types. I was very interested in all of this. At last there was something everyone was into examining and expressing opinions about that I could join in with, enjoy and get pleasure out of. Even if only for a couple of months.

But then it started. The complaining tweets: I'm getting sick of Doctor Who, Doctor Who really doesn't interest me and Why don't you all shut up about Doctor Who? over and over and over again.

Yes I fully appreciate that it doesn't appeal to everyone and that a media frenzy about something in which you have no investment is at best dull and at worst annoying.

How do you think I feel most of the time during football tournaments or the run of a popular TV talent show?

Can't you let me have this couple of months once in fifty years? Is that too much to ask?

Well apparently it was.

This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve written a blog whilst miles up in the air, but it has been a while. In fact it’s been a while since I flew anywhere at all – and even then it was the same place I’m heading for now.

Why the gap? I don’t know I just don’t seem to have had the time or inclination to go anywhere abroad. Plus my passport ran out a couple of years ago. But the thing is that’s just an excuse, I like travelling about and part of my MO these days is to ensure that I keep doing different things in an attempt to fool my brain into thinking time is lasting longer.

Or perhaps when I do different things time is lasting longer. It’s all subjective after all.

Anyway I thought it was about time I wrote another blog entry as I don’t yet have one for May 2014 and that month is nearly over. It’s a far cry from the days when I used to blog on an almost daily basis. In those days my blog was something I used to look forward to and I enjoyed uncovering fresh topics to attack from differing angles. But now? I keep it up for the sake of it and most of the time the subjects aren’t as complex and interesting as they used to be. Of course I am still writing my 750 words every day, but that is another matter and of course few of those entries are suitable for immediate public consumption.

So why am I less prolific?

The main issue that prevented me from both travelling and blogging seems to have been becoming inordinately busy. I feel far busier now than I ever have in my life, and as I sit here on a plane on a Thursday evening it is not an exaggeration to say that this week seems to have been one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a long time, work of both the day job and freelance variety seeming to have reached a crescendo simultaneously.

But am I just imagining it all? Is this “blimey things are getting hectic” feeling just a side effect of old age or are there really far more demands on us than there used to be?

I don’t know although one thing I do know is that I am less willing these days to kick back and relax in the evenings and at weekends. Twenty years ago once I caught the tube home I was ready for play, it was party time and I thought nothing of staying up late on a work night and even going off to a gig in Manchester and catching the train back overnight and rolling straight into work from Euston the next morning. Anything else could wait, After all, I had all the time in the world, time which sometimes seemed to last for ever.

And then something happened. The millennium turned and suddenly there wasn’t enough time and ten years could pass without  anything really happening. It’s already 2014 and yet it still feels as if the turn of the century was only a couple of years ago instead of the same amount of time that separates it from 1986 in the other direction.

And this is why I am so busy -  I am trying to cram as much as possible into whatever time I have left. There are books to be read and written, music to be listened to and played, challenges to be met and yes, still good times to be had. Whereas in the past the day job was a means to an end now it gets in the way as time becomes more valuable than money (although of course it is still necessary as I doubt the landlord would like to be paid in stories, blog entries, websites, graphic design or basslines).

And I know how important play is – without it Jack is a dull boy so we are told – but the kind of work I want to do is far more fulfilling.


One of the hardest facts to accept is that you or I are nothing particularly special and that there are in fact millions of people just like us all over the world. Nevertheless this is true - but at the same time we are each of us unique and what we create is perhaps the only way of proving that.

If the price I pay is feeling that it’s all got a bit busy lately then so be it.

I clearly remember when I felt that TV as I knew it had truly died.

It wasn't video that did it. Video may have killed the radio star but it was a close friend to TV, enabling people to enjoy their favourite soap opera even if they'd planned to go out for the evening. If anything it helped, giving TV a shot in the arm - no more did people say Oh well it's just a TV show when real life got in the way of their planned viewing. Instead they'd tape it, a word which we still use today even though there's no magnetic tape involved.

Oh have we got a video? Weird that the technology that inspired that raw excitement and freed us from the shackles of TV scheduling is now obsolete and almost forgotten. Remember how magical it was at first? Re-record, not fade away.

No the death of TV occurred far more recently.

There were many enhancements along the way that served only to bolster the screen in the corner. VHS's companion technology the Laserdisc was stillborn because what people wanted to do was record programmes, not buy something ready made - but once they got their head around the concept of Yours to own! pre-recorded VHS took off, followed by DVD which was basically Laserdisc in a far more compact and familiar form.

DVD recorders and PVRs were simply more sophisticated versions of blank videotape and made keeping up with the TV simpler. You could rely on them to record whole series of TV, thus enabling you to binge watch them in the same manner as DVD box sets. Even this was not the death of TV although it contained many of the elements that would become associated with it.

No, the death of TV was when I first experienced iPlayer on a television set.

iPlayer in itself was a major leap forward of course, a kind of retrospective video recorder. Now you no longer had to remember you were going to miss something in advance. It was enough to remember that you had missed it as long as you did so within a week. People could recommend you watch something they'd enjoyed last night. And yet while watching iPlayer was restricted to your computer or tablet it was still a novelty, something added on to TV, a tool not an executioner.

But when iPlayer became available through the TV itself it killed the old model. No longer did you have to know when something was on and take your favourite programme into account when trying to organise your life. Now you could sit down in the evening and wonder what to watch - and instead of having to choose from what was on or from what you'd had the foresight to record you had the whole of the previous week's schedule. The question "What's on TV?" became redundant.

TV was dead.

It took a while to sink in of course and whilst it was just iPlayer I could pretend that TV as I knew it was still in with a chance. But gradually as the new services came in it was clear that each of them was another nail in the coffin of broadcast TV. When they were introduced more often than not they were at first only available on your computer, phone or tablet and therefore didn't seem to add to the threat but ever since that first occasion I came across a TV plugged into a router the ways of getting programmes from the internet onto the set have been increasing. Apple TV. Smart TV. Chromecast.

The only thing that still ties TV into the old days is the fact that it is still being broadcast through the air - but for how much longer will this last? Analogue transmissions have gone the way of the dinosaur and perhaps digital transmissions are just a staging post on the journey to the fully on demand experience of the future, the last gasp of a dying paradigm.

It is incredible that I can watch HD TV coming down my internet connection when you consider that only fifteen years ago it took me well over an hour to download the trailers for the next episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - one megabyte video files the size of a postage stamp which lasted thirty seconds at most. And this delivery method sees an end to interference - whether the static and ghosting of the old analogue signal or the abstract colourful glitching of the bad digital connection. The worst that can happen now is that the picture might pause for a few seconds and a spinning wait cursor may appear.

Some companies are taking on board the new model of what could be a new golden age of post-TV. Netflix are producing their own series and releasing all episodes of a season at the same time, reflecting what the consumer wants. The anticipation is still there and if anything is bigger and analogous to a film coming out in the cinema as on release day you can get to see all of the new season should you have the time. Other content providers are dipping their toe in the waters of the new model - whilst some condemn the forthcoming movement of BBC3 to internet-only as a mere cost-cutting measure, it could well be that it ends up being a bold pioneer, the first BBC channel in the new universe.

But on-demand TV has an unexpected downside. Something is missing which I didn't know was there. I can now start watching at any time, pause if I need to go to the toilet, rewind if I didn't catch something. The picture quality is higher. And yet...

When the credits roll I begin to feel uneasy. A lifetime as a viewer of traditional broadcasts has programmed me to expect the announcer, the trailers, the start of the next programme. Instead the screen goes blank and the service logo appears. Silence fills the flat. I have no lifeline to the outside world, I can't go and make something to eat whilst the news chunters away in the background.

I am cast adrift into a cold black digital void. These colourful high definition programmes are discontinuous packets of information rather than a link to other people. I realise that I am alone in a solipsistic universe, now choosing when and what to allow into my cartesian theatre.

On-demand TV is a lonely experience.

The Science Museum was another matter altogether.

Sometimes I entered it from the passage that led from the Natural History Museum and on other occasions I approached from the main entrance in Exhibition Road - at the far end of the "Foot Tunnel to Museums" that led from the tube station; a tunnel so long that the end appeared to disappear with the perspective and you wondered whether it had originality been designed to carry trains.


The entrance to the Science Museum was deceptive - it was nothing like the grandiose frontage of the Natural History Museum but more like you imagined a Victorian office building or part of the Ministry of the Defence. However the interior took you by surprise - a cavernous hall filled with light and lined with machines in glass cases, brass mechanisms the purpose of which was often obscure. Off to one side a wide curved staircase surrounded a stairwell in which an enormous pendulum swung to demonstrate the rotation of the earth.

It was when you penetrated deeper into the building that you came across the real treasure though. At the far end of the bright entrance hall loomed a dark portal into a chamber as shrouded in gloom as the previous one had been in bathed in light. This chamber was all about the exploration of space - and as such right up my alley.

Pride of place in this exhibition was given to "Charlie Brown", the genuine Apollo 10 command module that had taken Cernan, Stafford and Young to the Moon and back (without actually landing) in May 1969 - a dress rehearsal for the actual landing two months later. This vehicle had taken human beings the furthest from home than any other, having carried the astronauts a quarter of a million miles from Houston. I used to stare at it and imagine the bronze coloured exterior exposed to space and how it would have looked with the moon only a hundred miles or so beneath it.

The rest of this gallery was equally as impressive - full sized replica satellites hung from the ceiling including the four pronged space age shuttlecock of Sputnik 1. The catwalk that ran around the upper level contained more wonders with exhibits dedicated to the exploration of the rest of the solar system by  automatic probes. A model of the Viking 1 Mars lander stood on a reproduction of the Martian surface whilst the Pioneer and Voyager probes' lonely flybys of Jupiter and Saturn were illustrated in colour photographs and artists impressions.

I always spent a long time in here but inevitably I'd start to tire of Telstar and Explorer 1, Ariel 1 and HEOS. I'd walk through the back into another large chamber, one that echoed the entrance hall but that unlike that hall was filled with shining vehicles.

Most of these belonged to a bygone age but shone like new, their brass and steel fittings having been thoroughly polished. Aside from the London Underground I'd never been much into trains but there was something abut seeing these metal behemoths outside their natural habitat and stranded on truncated sections of rail that made them enormously impressive. The wheels looked so heavy and solid, the drivers' compartments so high up from the ground. This was the equivalent of the dinosaur gallery in the Natural History Museum, a room full of animals whose size alone had the ability to shock.

There were other, friendlier beasts in here of course - electric teams and old fashioned tube carriages into which I was always disappointed not to be able to go - I wanted to examine the maps and advertisements adorning the carriages in detail.

Further up and further into the museum lay galleries that were less popular and it was these that I used to enjoy exploring after I'd finished with space and trains. It was like being let loose in the bowels of some abandoned research institute; glass cabinets filled with components and developments that had no doubt once been very impressive. Tucked away somewhere on the top floor of the building in the corner of a department dedicated to optics was one of the most impressive exhibits of all (to my young mind) - a real hologram.

I'd heard of holograms of course - they were three dimensional pictures - and I had often imagined watching holovision in the future - but at this point they were far from commonplace. The lighting in this section was eerie, weird green and flickering. The image of a bald man with glasses (Dennis Gabor, the inventor of holography) sitting behind a desk seemed an odd and rather dull subject for such an exciting technology but this was mitigated by how exciting the effects of the technology itself were. As I walked backwards and forwards in front of the image I could see around things - in particular I recall a pen in a pen holder on his desk displaying distinct parallax. Another hologram was concealed in a vertical tube around which you could walk - inside a woman looking over her shoulder winked at you.

Some places in the upper reaches of the museum were a showcase of exciting new technology. I remember on one occasion - and given what I remember this must have been at a time when my obsession with wandering around museums was nearing its end as it involved the subject of a new obsession - there was a display, sponsored by the BBC, of the wonderful new Laserdisc technology. These were the size of LPs but looked to be made of metal and held high definition video (in retrospect just giant DVDs). The demonstration showed how they film could be slowed without any static or loss of image quality and even paused or run backwards. The disc they were using for this demo was Toyah at the Rainbow, one of the first laserdiscs (and VHS cassettes) released by the BBC.

Elsewhere in the museum were other forerunners of things we take for granted these days. One popular exhibit which you usually had to queue to use was a computer you could play "games" on. This was simply a monitor displaying blocky orange alphanumerics behind a clunky keyboard you used to communicate with it. These were probably connected to a mainframe somewhere in the building.

The games you could play were very simple. One asked you to type in the name of a tube station and it would then give you the route there from South Kensington. Another was a version of twenty questions in which the computer tried to guess what you were thinking of. Despite the simplicity this program did allow the computer to "learn" and so was a baby step on the road to Artificial Intelligence. The ends of these games were always interesting as more often than not the computer would fail to guess and would then ask the person to give it a yes/no question to distinguish between the last guess it had made and what the person was thinking.

Most people didn't understand what it was asking them and either gave up at this point or typed a vague definition of their object in which didn't work as a question. Baby steps on the road to artificial stupidity. This was one of the most frustrating things about waiting in line - other people usually seemed to squander their go... Even back then the attraction of the computer was strong.

There were other museums in South Kensington but none of them had the lure of the Big Two and I never ventured inside the V&A until I was an adult - and even then not very often. Even the British Museum over in Bloomsbury - a place that in later years I used to spend hours - didn't have the pull that the Natural History and Science Museums did during childhood.

I wonder what they're like now?

As a teenager I used to like going to the museums at South Kensington on my own.

This might sound like an odd thing to want to do, but what with the cheap tube tickets (half-fare was for a time set at a flat rate of 10p even if you wanted to go to Ongar) and the fact that the museums had no entry fee it was a cheap way of entertaining myself.

As a younger child these visits with adults had always been a special treat but had been slightly frustrating as you were subject to the whim of your guardian (whether parent or teacher) with regard to how long you could spend staring at things. This could get annoying if you wanted to try one of the demos - more often than not there would be a scrum of five year olds around the button jabbing it pointlessly and not waiting to see whether a tinny voice would start to emerge from a speaker or the intricate brass mechanism within the display case would start to operate with slow inevitability. By the time it became free you'd have been dragged off into the next chamber. I longed to have the place to myself, like the Time Traveller in H G Wells's The Time Machine when he discovers the Palace of Green Porcelain in the year 802,701.

Once I was old enough to travel solo on the tube, going to South Kensington on my own at weekends or during the summer holidays was the nearest I could get to this ideal.

The excitement started when disembarking at South Kensington. Rather than making my way up to street level I always used the "Foot Tunnel to Museums" - a long, wide Victorian subterranean passageway lined with ceramic tiles and with shafts up to pavement level to let in light. Halfway along a set of steps emerged at the corner of the gardens in which the Natural History Museum was set.

I don't know which museum I liked the most; I think it depended what kind of mood I was in. Sometimes it was definitely the Natural History. The complex gothic exterior gave some indication of the myriad wonders concealed within, and my heart always started beating a little faster as I walked through the doors into the Central Hall.

Originally the centrepiece of the hall had been a display consisting of some replica elephants and rhinoceroses, a display my parents remembered from their own childhood visits. If you wanted to see the dinosaurs - as all right thinking children would - you had to go looking for them, eventually finding the gallery somewhere deep in the museum. Your discovery was made all the more exciting by the fact you'd had to search.

Then they changed it. They moved the diplodocus skeleton into the Central Hall. I didn't like this. Of course I liked the diplodocus itself, it was one of my favourite exhibits (even after I discovered that it was only a plaster replica of an original fossil), but moving it to the entrance like this felt like a sellout, showing people one of the most popular and exciting of the museum's inhabitants the moment they arrived. It was like revealing the climax of a story on page one.

Every time I visited I told myself I was going to look at the whole of the museum and every time I got distracted by something which would take up all my time until I had to leave.

Some of the galleries with things in glass cases were virtually empty the whole time. With a whole cavernous hall to myself, I used to walk up and down the rows staring at the ancient specimens. The fact that they had probably once been collected by long dead Victorian naturalists was almost as interesting as the exhibits themselves. Tucked away in the gloom in one corner were the remains of the last dodo. In other corners flocks of butterflies were frozen under glass, their colours muted in the half-light.

More popular was the human biology gallery, a space age interactive experience on the ground floor that was all curved white surfaces and cathode ray tubes shining in the darkness. It was completely unlike the rest of the museum, like a trans dimensional alien craft that had inexplicably materialised in the cathedral like interior of the old building.

At the entrance stood a group of naked human effigies in white - the nudity robbed of its embarrassment value by the fact that they appeared more like statuary than flesh and blood. Nevertheless, after a few visits I noticed that their bottoms had started to get a bit grubby. I concluded that when confronted with a pair of (plastic) buttocks most tourists found themselves unable to resist having a quick feel.

There was something organic and dreamlike about this gallery. Behind the hubbub of visitors you could hear the subtle sound of a heartbeat - not actually an ambient effect designed for the whole exhibition, but unavoidably leaking put of one of the chambers - an oversize reproduction of a womb into which visitors could walk and contemplate a model of a gargantuan human foetus whist listening to the soundtrack of pre-birth.

Other exhibits in this gallery were interactive. I clearly remember one in a darkened section all about the human brain. In front of a screen was a sloped metal surface from which protruded two levers - comedy archetypes consisting of a metal stick with a plastic ball on the end. Above them was a notice that read "pull one of these levers". I did so and almost immediately a voice boomed out of the darkness.

"What have you just done?"

Despite the accusatory nature of this sudden question, the voice was  calm and reassuring. It then went on to explain the sequence of events that had just occurred - from the eye seeing the words to the brain decoding them and what happened next ("You then realised that you had a choice...").

The sound of this and other exhibits added to the phantasmagorical atmosphere of the  Human Biology gallery. One showed a short film about the fight or flight response in which a man was surprised by a cat in the middle of the night. The man's gasp of fear, his elevated heartbeat and breathing plus the cat's miaow all added to the bizarre ambience as I walked beneath giant red blood cells and examined displays demonstrating the wiring of the human brain and how perception worked. Skeletons stood like sentinels in the corner, adding vestiges of my childhood fear of them to the mix. Strange questions ("duck or rabbit?") decorated the walls and further white mannequins with perspex chests revealing their internal organs stood on pedestals. Models of the cortical homunculus stood in glass cases, their giant hands on pencil thin wrists somehow reminding me of the nightmares I had when delirious.

After this psychedelic experience the calm of the rest of the museum was required simply to ground me. The stuffed animals in painted dioramas were reassuring in their blandness. I mounted the stairs in the Central Hall and made my way to the upper levels, back to the glass cases, seeking out rooms I'd never visited before. On these upper levels I discovered the whale gallery, a full size model of a Blue Whale hanging from the ceiling like the hull of a gigantic airship. Up here in the rafters large skylights let in the sunlight and I felt a long way from ground level. There was so much to see and I could spend all day in here. Nevertheless after a while I would start to feel the compulsion and made my way back to the ground floor and headed towards the rear of the museum.

Natural History was all very well but there was something else I found just as fascinating. Science and technology. My visits to South Kensington were never complete without a visit to the Science Museum. And I knew a secret.

It wasn't that much of a secret really, but in the ground floor tucked away behind a room containing stuffed crocodiles and ostriches was a long, low gallery, the walls of which were lined with glass cases. This passageway led from the Natural History Museum to the Science Museum, and passing under the open shutters at one end you would step out of the world of the organic and were now surrounded by machines, from steam engines to space capsules.

This was another world altogether.