"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Arthur C Clarke
My old iPod broke down irretrievably the other day. Well, I say irretrievably, but I'm sure someone out there knows how to replace the hard drive for a tidy sum, but in the meantime it's quicker and easier (and probably not that more expensive) for me to buy a new one. After all I've had it nearly five years - that's an eternity for a modern gadget.

It was good to finally have a proper reason to visit the new Apple store in Churchill Square. It had been sitting there between River Island and the Build A Bear Workshop for a few months now, a tempting technological candy store for the kid in me. And now I was finally going shopping there.

I decide to go for the middle of the range iPod Touch. With a capacity just over that of my previous iPod, I decided that it probably had what it takes for all my music and podcast listening needs. What I didn't realise was how many other productivity-destroying features it possessed. Once I'd negotiated the sales assistant (who wasn't that bad actually - he hardly patronised me at all) and got the thing home I discovered that it's basically an iPhone without the phone or the camera. The world of apps was my oyster and if I wasn't careful I'd find my bank account steadily trickling away a few pence at a time as I impulse bought software as spectacularly pointless as, for example, the Profanity App.

Never go app shopping when drunk.

However, the thing that most impressed me was the simple calculator. A fairly basic four function affair, it mimics the basic four-function electronic adding machines of the seventies such as the Rockwell 8R that I lusted after throughout 1975. It's not the functionality that's impressive - after all, if I'm concentrating enough I can do that sort of thing in my head - but the interface.

There's a little picture of a calculator tucked in between Notes and iTunes - poke that and it swims smoothly out to fill the screen, buttons and all. The interface is the screen - there are now controls where previously there were none. I'm holding a calculator in my hand. I can dismiss it in a second to be replaced with the weather forecast (or with a little program that generates useful phrases such as Hideous Potbellied Bum Lord).

Where have we seen this sort of technology before? Well, in Star Trek the Next Generation and its successors of course. It was called LCARS. For some reason it's arrived three hundred years early.

Even ten years ago this sort of technology in your pocket would have been amazing, magical even. To me it seems like just yesterday, but things were very different in 1999. I still connected to the internet down the phone line via a 56k modem, and it took me upwards of half an hour to download a grainy 1MB postage-stamp sized thirty-second preview video of the next episode of Deep Space Nine. Nowadays you can just click and watch high definition wide-screen TV on a pocket-sized device on the bus.

Where are we going to be in ten years time? Predicting the future is always a risky business if you're afraid of making a fool of yourself. However, I'm going to stick my neck out and predict devices that project straight onto the retina, and can be controlled by focusing your attention on them. SatNav will actually drive cars (on motorways at least).

And you'll be able to call someone a Hideous Potbellied Bum Lord by simply projecting the phrase directly into their audio cortex from a distance.

"I never use the word 'atheist' of myself; it's scarcely worth having a name for. I mean, I don't have a name for not believing in pixies..."
Atheism seems very popular these days. You can hardly move for events, benefits and poster campaigns. And a good job too - far better to start the new decade (which I have a horrible suspicion will end up being called The Teenies) as a largely secular people. Strictly speaking I suppose I am an atheist, being as I don't believe in a god. However, it does seem a little strange to define yourself by what you don't believe, as Jonathan Miller so clearly states in the quote opening this blog entry.

Evangelical atheists have a very convincing logical argument with which to counter the godbotherers' strident cry of "But you can't prove that god doesn't exist!", which is commonly known as the parable of the Celestial Teapot. In it Bertrand Russell put forward the idea that just as we cannot actually disprove the existence of god, so equally we can not disprove the existence of a hypothetical china teapot orbiting the sun between the orbits of Earth and Mars. This does not mean that anyone seriously believes in said teapot, but that the burden of proof exists with the believers of ridiculous things, not the disbelievers.

I don't believe in the Celestial Teapot either, but wouldn't describe myself as an Ateapotist. Why should I define myself by what I don't believe?

Of course the hardcore godless might claim that the reason they have to do so is that there are so many deluded people around and that belief in a god or gods does far more harm than good. I can see that point, but can't help but think that one reason for identifying with this particular -Ism is, ironically, out of the very basic human desire for oneupmanship, to be holier than thou (or should that be unholier than thou?) "Look, we're cleverer than them!"

There is still very much a sense that in being a rationalist one is fighting the good fight against ignorance and superstition, but is it really that much of a crusade these days? Back in the days of Galileo and Copernicus being a scientist - let alone an atheist - was a dangerous business, and had he lived in the seventeenth century Richard Dawkins may well have been imprisoned or even executed for his lack of belief.

These days that's not going to happen - when you read The God Delusion you get the distinct impression that he's preaching to the converted. Aside from Buddhism, which is unique amongst religions in that it lacks a god and perhaps should more properly be considered a philosophy than a faith, the major religions of the day are Christianity and Islam. Christianity's like a grumpy, senile old man forever droning on about the old days, about how things were so much better before these new fangled changes and about the trouble with kids these days, whilst Islam is like a belligerent teenage boy locking himself in his bedroom and plotting revenge against anyone who doesn't agree with him.

The atheist brigade pointing and laughing at them is only going to wind them up more and make them defensive and aggressive. The best thing to do with such characters is to ignore them. In due course hopefully Christianity will pop its clogs and Islam will get a girlfriend and grow out of it.

So, no, I don't believe in god. Or dragons.

It's that strange time of year again, when, due to the odd way I visualise numbers and dates, I start to get (santa) claustrophobia.


There is something about the period between Christmas and New Year that feels the wrong size. The whole of the final quarter of the year seems to be a build up to the festive season, which whatever your belief system and curmudgeonity-level is at least a break from the day to day grind of everyday life and a chance to relax and recharge the batteries. What's more, if you're fortunate, you get over a week off work gratis without having to use up any valuable leave days.

Then after the blowout of 25th December you crawl up through the trapdoor into 26th and realise there's nowhere to go. It's not so much another storey like the rest of the weeks have been, but the attic of the year, and not one that's been given a swanky loft makeover either - this is the old fashioned kind with bare beams, darkness, spiders, old cardboard boxes, a copy of the Daily Express from a day in 1968 when nothing happened, smashed christmas baubles underfoot and a mysterious battered metal trunk in the corner full of 1970s pornography.

It's more of a crawlspace really. If you're lucky there's a one light bulb illuminating the space with a washed out grey light. This is what the late December sun is like. Even if you do get some bright blue days they somehow manage to contrive to appear grey. When you go for a walk if feels as if any moment you're going to run up against an invisible wall, as if there's not enough space to go around.

I'm not sure what the deal is with the time. It feels dessicated and tasteless, as if we're either using up the last few dregs of dust at the bottom of the year's time barrel or have actually started recycling the days themselves like used teabags. No matter how much milk and sugar you put into them there never as tasty as they were first time around.

This time that feeling is being writ large; not only are we at the end of the year but we're also at the end of The Decade That Didn't Have A Name. It's not just the ceiling of the year you're banging your head against, it's the ceiling of the repulsively termed "Noughties".

They never seemed to really get going, did they? I keep thinking that I'm going to wake up and discover that the past ten years have been a dream and that it's really only 1st January 2000. This is partly due to the way I started the decade - slowly becoming conscious at 5am, alone in my studio flat, lying across the bed fully clothed with the light still on. I had no memory of the Millennium celebration whatsover.

I've avoided drinking an entire bottle of vodka in one evening ever since.

Still, if this is all a dream, then at least I'll be able to make a killing once I wake up by inventing Facebook and Twitter ahead of their time and writing a self-published comic of a less shit version of the Da Vinci Code in biro. Then again I might wake up into a world where these things were never going to happen anyway because the Millennium Bug will wipe out civilisation after all...

Even if this is all rubbish and 2010 dawns as expected then I still don't think it's going to be as good as the film or the book.

The good thing about social media is that you don't have to suffer in silence. I spent an evening of irritation at Gatwick Airport yesterday and its the kind of annoyance that just keeps on giving (quite apart from the fact that my plans for the festive period were royally stuffed). Still, at least I got a blog entry out of it.

It started out OK - we got through security in record time, having been diverted via the spare suite on the upper level. It was when the gate for our flight to Edinburgh was due to open that the trouble started. At around 6.30pm, the information available for flight EZY713 went from Gate opens at 18:25 to Please wait. At this stage I wasn't that bothered - I was assuming that this was just the prelude to Boarding at Gate 6. After all, I reasoned, surely at around half an hour before take off they'd know (and pass on the information) if it was going to be delayed or even cancelled.

Please wait
.

Take off time came and went. At this point I was starting to get worried. By any reasonable definition of the word the flight was now delayed. Couldn't they let us know? Even if they weren't sure, they must have been capable of plucking a rough figure out of the air. A simple "delayed until at least 20:00" would have been more helpful and informative that what we did get.

Please wait.

The flight began to move up the screen into the company of other shamefaced flights embarrassed by how late they were. Most of the flight codes seemed to bear the EZY prefix; for some reason flights with other prefixes seemed to be making it into Gate closing mode and then disappearing from the board all together. Surely if this was due to Act of Snow it should affect all airlines equally?

Please wait.

And then one of the other Please wait EZY flights which had been due to depart at around 5pm surreptitiously switched to Cancelled as if it was hoping that no-one would notice. There were no announcements. What were people supposed to do, how would they get out of the departure lounge? There were no Easyjet staff on hand.

Please wait.

Eventually there was a general announcement. Apparently if your flight was cancelled you should go home and arrange a reschedule or refund online as there were insufficient facilities at the airport. Fair enough, but the question remained... how were we supposed to get back out again? I hoped that it wouldn't come to that and that sooner or later our gate would be announced.

Please wait.

A passenger by the name of what sounded like Jennifer Angst was paged over the tannoy. I went to the toilet in the vain hope that in the absence of my attention my flight's details on the departures board would change. It didn't work of course. I sat back down again. Further announcements over the tannoy gave details of how passengers on delayed and cancelled flights on other airlines could obtain meal vouchers.

Cancelled.

I blinked. Somehow the details for our flight had changed whilst somehow managing to give the impression that they'd read Cancelled all along. It was now around 9.00pm, two hours after we were due to depart. No announcements were forthcoming or Easyjet staff available. I attempted to go backwards through security but they weren't having any of it. I had to ask at the information desk at the centre of the concourse.

Cancelled.

The man at the information desk said there should be an announcement and that a representative of our airline would be along shortly to escort us back through immigration. Ridiculous. For a start we hadn't been anywhere yet and furthermore this was a domestic flight. When pressed, the man at the desk said that if we wanted to risk jumping the queue we should go to gate eleven where people were gathering.

At gate eleven a doorway into a dingy, poorly-decorated holding pen was being held open by a bad tempered security guard who kept telling people that this wasn't his job. Eventually we started moving - I'm still not sure whether there was anyone from the airline there or simply that everyone was acting on herd initiative. We found our way into arrivals.

This is the point at which insult was added to injury. We had to wait in a queue for our passports to be checked. It was as slow as ever if not slower; no allowance being made for the fact that we'd already been severely messed about and as I said before hadn't even been anywhere.

Eventually we were allowed out through customs and into arrivals past the hordes of people holding up cards; at this stage it wouldn't have surprised me if they'd read "Ha ha!"

So, an entire evening wasted and, more importantly, holiday plans completely scuppered. I didn't hold out any hope for rescheduling and even if we'd been promised a place on a flight the following day, who's to say the experience wouldn't have been repeated? I'm no Yulophile, for me it's just nice to have some time off work and see the family, but I know how much it means to some people. It's no wonder, as was reported in the Guardian, one woman in a Santa hat started screaming.

One thing I can't understand is why they can't let people know flights are cancelled sooner? If it's inevitable I'm sure Easyjet would generate a lot less bad will if they cut their losses and cancelled as soon as possible rather than hanging on and hanging on in the vain hope that somehow they might be able to put the flight on. If nothing else it would give people a little more time to make alternative arrangements or at least get home at a reasonable hour.

And why did the delays seem to be affecting mostly Easyjet flights?

The ordeal wasn't over. The following day they added insolence to the insult and injury as I attempted to get a refund online (as suggested in about the only useful tannoy announcement I'd heard). It was uphill work. I logged in, browsed to My Easyjet and as suggested clicked on the link for customer services. I was told:

Permission denied - this answer is no longer available.

It didn't even make sense. What answer? I just wanted to speak to Customer Services. Apparently this wasn't allowed. One thing the website made abundantly clear was that on no account was I to phone or email them.

Eventually I found my way into the refund procedure. Once I'd given my details for some reason the site said I had to create a new account - despite the fact that I was already logged in. When I attempted to do so I was told my email address was already associated with an account. Well, duh! That's me! Why can't I use my account? Luckily my surfeit of email addresses meant I was able to create an extra one simply for the purposes of the refund (despite the fact that the flights for which I was claiming the refund were booked with my original account).

I don't hold out much hope for getting my money back any time soon. At one point I considered going straight to the top, but a glance at Stelios's Twitter account shows not much action there.

Next year I think we should all boycott Easyjet and fly by Rage Against The Machineair.

It has been interesting to watch the behaviour of the popular press and some of the celebrities involved in the run up to the announcement that Rage Against the Machine were Christmas number one for 2009.

Earlier in the week there was outrage. The Sun even dedicated their front page to it in a short piece littered with words such as "sickened", "dreadful", "hate" and "upset". Cowell himself called the internet campaign "stupid" and "cynical" and said it was going to "spoil the party".

At this point the average reader could be forgiven for thinking that the campaigners were wicked old Scrooges intent on ruining everyone's Yuletide, burning their presents and defecating in their Christmas stockings, leaving a trail of weeping toddlers in their wake.

Then suddenly towards the end of the week things started to change. The Sun ran a sympathetic interview with Rage Against The Machine, emphasising the fact that charity Shelter stood to gain a substantial sum from the stunt, and Cowell telephoned the campaign organisers to congratulate them on their marketing.

So what was going on? What changed their minds? Did they weigh up the pros and cons of the argument and realise that they'd been wrong all along?

No, of course not. All that happened was that the probable result started to become clear. In order to save face they had to start pretending to have been in favour of it all along. It's basically a case of "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords" syndrome.

It's interesting that public opinion is still so important to an organ like the Sun, despite their claims to control it a la "It's the Sun wot won it". The papers are still wary of the young upstart internet and are unsure of its powers. The X-Factor debacle is just the latest of its stunts, following the unprecedented reportage of the unrest following the disputed Iranian election result and the lifting of the Trafigura gagging order in October.

If the internet be used can motivate half a million people into buying a seventeen year old song with parental advisory explicit content online and making it number one, just think what else it can do. The powers that be are doubtless engaged in research to find out how they can make use of this new vector, but the thing about the internet is that anyone can do it. It is the first truly punk medium. You just need to get noticed.

If you get noticed by Stephen Fry or Neil Gaiman, you're laughing. It would seem that these days internet-savvy celebrities have more power than politicians. It is perhaps no coincidence that Simon Cowell recently announced plans to take his "skills" into politics.

Start the online counter-campaign now!

You can still donate to Shelter at:http://www.justgiving.com/ratm4xmas

One of the things people say about me is that I'm quiet. Sometimes this is a criticism, other times not. I've already explained that part of the reason for this is because I find small talk difficult. Well, not just difficult, I find it pointless. If there's something worth discussing, I'm quite capable of amputating the hindquarters of a member of Equus africanus asinus with my garrulousness.

Some people just can't help themselves though. As Douglas Adams once said "if they don't keep exercising their lips, their brains start working". I usually come across them whilst I'm out and about, on public transport or in shops. You can hardly call it eavesdropping; to avoid overhearing these types you really have to be listening to Napalm Death on your iPod.

Its incredible just how much you can overhear without picking up any genuine content. It's all filler, conversational fluff designed to prevent the other person getting a word in edgeways and to prevent the speaker having to contemplate the horror of their existence.

"So I was like... so she was like... then I was like... then he was like..."

Why are you talking in similes? Never mind what it was like, what actually happened? But even worse than the simile operator is the second-hand revolutionary conversation.

"So I turned round and said... so he turned round and said... then I turned round and said... and she turned round and said..."

I can understand when this expression is used in isolation to indicate a sudden volte face, but when an entire exchange consists of these changes of mind... well you have to suspect it's padding. Either that or these people exist in a continuous state of epiphany.

I suspect it's the former. But if so, what does this say about these people's states of mind? If it's true that you are what you speak, that our consciousness is built up of the stories we tell ourselves and the universe about us, then a lot of the time these inveterate wafflers must have heads full of fluff, and in some senses could hardly be considered conscious at all.

Perhaps they suffer from a condition whereby if they stop speaking they stop being aware, so their motormouths are in fact their conscious minds' desperate survival mechanism as they struggle to stay afloat in a sea of oblivion.

"If they don't keep exercising their lips, their minds disappear..."

Or maybe they just don't want to be left alone with their thoughts. Even alone they're addicted, you can always spot them, the people for whom hands-free was invented. Deep in so-called conversation wherever they might find themselves, walking down the street, on the bus, throughout an entire train journey (tunnels permitting). How did they survive before the advent of mobile communications?

Then again seeing as I'm so quiet, how can I possibly be considered as conscious either? Luckily my internal dialogue comes to the rescue, the tale I've been telling myself for as long as I can remember. I'm talking to myself.

So I turned round and said...

I walked through the doors and then pushed through a heavy black velvet curtain, the top of which seemed lost in the tangle of dark confusion up above and suddenly found myself standing in a building on the surface of an alien world. I was on Traken.

Or rather I was in a studio at the BBC Television Centre on the set of The Keeper of Traken (1981).

A lot had changed for the Doctor since I'd met him in Wood Green. The series was undergoing a change in direction, similar to that experienced at the end of the Pertwee era. Once more the old Doctor was having to cope with a style of programme that would become his successor's stock in trade. The title sequence had changed; gone was the familiar time tunnel, to be replaced by a rather tacky looking starfield. Yes, we were definitely over the page again...

Even more shockingly, Delia Derbyshire's definitive arrangement of the theme tune had been replaced by a new one, realised by the Radiophonic Workshop's Peter Howell (even though this was a shock at the time I am now quite fond of this version).

This last change was part of the reason I'd ended up on Traken. New Producer John Nathan-Turner had decided to involve the Workshop to a greater extent than just Dick Mills's "special sounds", with the result that my dad had been asked to compose some of the incidental music for the show. The first serial he worked on was the Keeper of Traken, so when it started filming he was able to bring my brother and I along to the set for a visit.

For some reason the set of the palace on Traken was sharing the space with the interior of the Master's TARDIS. There it was, over in one corner, wall roundels sprayed a distinctive black just so you were sure you were looking at an Evil TARDIS. Rather than a central console it had what looked like the flight deck of an airliner, below two eye shaped viewscreens. In one corner stood his spare TARDIS, still in the shape of a grandfather clock. And...

There was the Master himself, in thirteenth regeneration rotting corpse mode, chatting to one of the studio staff. Over the other side of the studio was the Doctor, looking scary, pissed off and tall, his burgundy costume hanging off him. At one point my brother was alarmed to look up from fiddling with the controls of the Master's TARDIS to see this terrifying figure bearing down upon him.

As we left we spotted Adric wearing a leather jacket. He looked sheepishly at us.

In the Whoniverse itself there had been a number of changes reflecting the real world transformation. Romana and K9 had buggered off into another universe, leaving the Doctor stuck with Adric, an irritating precocious boy-child in a mustard yellow boiler suit. As a result, he seemed to have become somewhat depressed. There were no more silly faces, jokes and jelly babies; instead he looked gaunt, hunted and was dressed in a much more sombre, almost gothic, version of his traditional hat and scarf.

The serial following the Keeper of Traken was Tom Baker's swan song, Logopolis (1981), a grim piece shot through with sepulchral atmosphere. No Visions of Ood here, in this one the fourth Doctor gained foreknowledge of his own doom by being stalked throughout by the backwards ghost of his future fifth self. No wonder he looked so grumpy. Plus in the space of just one adventure he'd managed to pick up two extra companions, Nyssa and Tegan, and seemed to hate them both as much as he hated Adric, railing at all three of them in a bad tempered rant towards the end of episode three.

In the end there was nothing for it but to drop himself from a great height. Moments later, a young blond man sat up wearing the Doctor's clothes.

Younger viewers must found this a huge shock, and even I found it hard to swallow for a few seconds. A new Doctor after all this time?

A scenario I imagine will be repeated in living rooms around the country on 1 January 2010... Happy New Regeneration.

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession will return. And of its own free will.

There's a bit of minor furore at the moment about the fact that Rage Against the Machine might beat X-Factor to the Christmas number one slot as a result of a concerted Facebook and Twitter campaign. Rather doing the sensible thing and ignoring it (after all on Sunday it'll all be over bar the shouting of "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me!") I've decided to wade in and express my own opinion, despite the fact that I doubt anyone's interested. This is the reason for this extra blog entry (usually I only write every other day).

The people making the noise seem to fall into two camps; (1) those who are behind it and think it's a great idea and (2) those who are against it and think it's a terrible idea. For reasons that I don't fully understand myself, I find I disagree with opinions expressed by both sides.

Group 1 seem to think they're doing something bold and exciting and sticking it to the man. Well that's not really the case; despite the fact that they're left-wing agit-rockers, Rage Against the Machine are actually signed to Epic, a subsidiary of Sony, so a lot of the profit will be going into the pockets of media moguls. Also the Christmas number one doesn't really mean much any more, nor indeed do the charts mean as much as they used to, especially now Top of the Pops is dead.

Group 2 seem to think the whole thing is invalid for the reasons given in the paragraph above, and argue that people should be devoting their energies to more pressing matters. They dismiss the fact that the charity Shelter stands to benefit from association with the campaign: "Well you should be donating to charity anyway". Yes, that's true - so should we all - but surely anything that makes people who aren't currently donating start doing it is a good thing? Of course I have no idea about the motives of Group 2, but get the distinct whiff of curmudgeonly sour grapes that they didn't think of it first...

So I do think it's a good thing, and have purchased Killing In The Name from iTunes as well as donating to Shelter via http://www.justgiving.com/ratm4xmas. Not because I think I'm sticking it to the man, or even because I want to piss Simon Cowell off (his state of mind is not high on my agenda), but for two different reasons.

Firstly it's nice to protest in some small manner about the appalling way the music industry has become commercialised. Killing In The Name is a great song by a real band, not "one of countless songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department and composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator" (George Orwell, 1984).

Secondly, and more importantly, it's an object lesson in people power. It shows in a fairly harmless manner to people who might otherwise think "but what can I do?" that together people are stronger. Whilst subverting the UK Top 40 for one week is hardly the fall of the Berlin Wall, it's an interesting demonstration of the way the internet and social media have empowered us in a way we never have been before.

Today the X-Factor, tomorrow real social injustice. In a way this whole debacle is just a test, the gestalt masses of homo digitalis flexing their muscles for the first time.

And as I write, Shelter are £45,096.16 better off than they were last Saturday, which can't be bad, plus Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello has pledged to donate some of the proceeds of this unexpected windfall to a charity helping children in the UK start careers in music.

"The one thing about the X Factor show, much like our own American Idol, is if you're a viewer of the show you get to vote for one contestant or the other, but you don't really get to vote against the show itself until now.

It's this machinery that puts forward a particular type of music which represents a particular kind of listener.

There are a lot of people who don't feel represented by it and this Christmas in the UK they're having their say."
Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine, BBC News Website

"The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it [but] as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me ... immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents."
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
There seems to be nothing quite like smell (and its twin brother taste) for stirring up the memory in a way and to such a powerful extent that none of the remaining senses are able to.

At the moment I seem to be stopped in my tracks by this experience on an almost daily basis. I step out of the building onto the frosty campus and am instantly thrown back to any one of a number of past winters; in the playground at school, on this very same campus some twenty years previously, visiting my grandmother for Christmas on some unspecified occasion in the seventies... And it's not just the winter campus that does this; the mere smell of the outside world anywhere (but especially at night for some reason) has the power to turn back the pages of time like nothing else.

Surely it's the weakest of our senses? We're constantly being told how infinitely superior a dog's nasal faculties are, a hundred million times more powerful than our own puny noses. If this atrophied sense can evoke such a powerful remembrance in a human being, imagine what it must do for our canine brethren. It must be like living with a time machine stuck to the middle of your face.

Even in human beings this aid to remembrance can be stronger than anything short of sticking an electrode in the brain. As Monsieur Proust himself observed in the quote above there was nothing about the visual appearance of the Gallic sweetmeat that transported him back to his childhood, but the moment he put it in his mouth it was a different story. For some reason the nose has a hotline to the hippocampus denied to the swankier multimedia senses of sound and vision.

Why is this?

Our old friend Thugg the Caveman doesn't seem to be able to help on this occasion. In many ways he's the same as us, with massive visual cortex and a sense of self consciousness built on the enhanced audio facility of language. His experiences when tasting the mammoth bone meal biscuits dipped into sabre-tooth broth are probably just as mystifying to him.

It could be that as such an ancient sense its not linked to the young upstart language and instead can provide a short cut back to the raw experience without having to pass through the distorting filter of description. I think that it's significant that when experiencing these Proustian smell-epiphanies it's more of a sense of time and place that is evoked rather than something specific that can be pinned down.

Evoking a past experience at a mere whiff is also of course a useful survival trait. Recognising friends, family and fodder is very important, as is avoiding disease, dung and corruption. A sense of smell linked directly to past experiences is a way of making important decisions about what's in front of you very quickly. Halt! Food or faeces?

This doesn't explain why smell only seems to evoke happy nonspecific memories nowadays. Perhaps the power of olfactory recall is actually withering away in human beings, an appendix of the senses no longer relevant in the modern world, and the pleasant side of it is all that remains.

Recent research has shown that the sense of smell relies on something known as quantum tunnelling. I find it fascinating that biology found a way to make use of quantum physics millions of years ago and if you think about it, there are all sorts of thought-provoking implications.

Maybe it means the inside of your nose exists in more than one universe.

A second major problem in basing a memoir like this around Doctor Who is that as I start to describe things that happened when I was older, the memories are far better and more detailed. If I'm not careful I'm going to end up with a blow by blow account of every episode by the time I get to the 1985 hiatus which quite apart from being incredibly time consuming would probably make for very boring reading.

Another script that my dad brought home ostensibly for me to draw on the back of was EPISODE 1 of SERIAL 4C, namely The Ark in Space (1975). For some reason the pages of this one were yellow rather than the more usual white; probably some BBC colour coding scheme.

I found the story fascinating and a million miles (literally) away from the military-based runarounds and pompous galactic federations of the Pertwee years. Despite the lack of oxygen the episode was a breath of fresh air for the budding SF fan. A deserted space station in the far future with a crew in suspended animation sleeping through the poisoning of Earth by solar flares whilst watched over by an electronic defense system; the body horror of an insectoid alien menace stalking the corridors and laying its eggs in the sleeping human bodies...

I even persuaded some friends to reenact the first half of the episode at playtime. I was the Doctor, Mark Davies was Harry Sullivan and a pale girl called Catherine was persuaded to stand in for the slowly asphyxiating Sarah-Jane Smith.

Despite the bright lights, jump suits and bubble wrap of the finished product, the story stands up today as a fine example of Robert Holmes's work, and it was here that the true character of the Fourth Doctor began to make itself known, character traits even now occasionally channelled by David Tennant, right down to the "Indomitable" speech, a homage to which appeared in Utopia (2007).

The Ark in Space was also remarkable in that it was the beginning of the series's first proper story arc which lasted four serials and saw the Doctor and his companions separated from the TARDIS and...

There you are you see, I've started going into way too much detail. Lets just skim lightly over the next few years.

Not that there wasn't a lot happening. With the advent of Tom Baker I seem to recall the country being plunged into a Whomania frenzy that has only since been matched by the furore and merchandising surrounding the series's revival in 2005. Everywhere you looked there were pictures of the big-eyed bohemian buffoon in the hat and scarf.

Of course visual SF itself was to undergo a renaissance during Baker's reign, so some of the series's revived success was probably due to this. After years in the doldrums cinema served up the first installment of those famous adventures that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away which was itself to spawn any number of imitators on both big and small screen. Doctor Who even gained a sibling, Blake's Seven, from the pen of the man who invented the Daleks.

We were all reading 2000AD (and briefly Starlord) whilst the Doctor himself returned to the world of comics with Doctor Who Weekly (later to become monthly - and still published today).

For me some of the finer vintages of the Doctor's adventures during this period included Hammer Horror Frankenstein homage The Brain of Morbius (1976), the Doctor once more getting bitch-slapped by someone infinitely more powerful than himself in The Pyramids of Mars (1975), the return of the Master in a portrait of a Time Lord society which was revealed to include TV anchormen, politics and limits on the number of regenerations in The Deadly Assassin (1976) plus killer art deco robots with tinfoil slippers in The Robots of Death (1977).

It was in around 1979 (more of a table wine really) that I first met the Doctor. I was wandering around the still relatively new Wood Green Shopping City only to pass an unusually crowded bookshop. At the centre sat the Doctor himself in full costume. I joined the queue instantly - how could I have not? As I approached the front I could hear him speaking in a bright and animated fashion.

"Hello! What's your name?

The queueing child at the front mumbled incoherently. Not to be put off, the Doctor scribbled a personalised autograph on the poster of himself and K9 and handed it across the table, "There you are Steven!"

The queue shuffled forward until another child stood across the table from the Time Lord.

"Hello! What's your name?" Mumble, scribble, "There you are Russell!"

Shuffle. "Hello! What's your name?"

Well, you get the picture. Eventually I shuffled into place to find those manic alien eyes trained on me, a face beaming with amused indulgence.

"Hello! What's your name?"

"Chris." Scribble, scribble.

"There you are Chris!"

And that was it.

Oddly enough it was shortly after this that I started getting sick of the Fourth Doctor. The relentless studied quirkiness, the jokes, the jelly babies, the endless Xcho-ness (Xcho being a term my brother and I used to describe him, based on the way he spoke). This was very similar to the way I am now beginning to tire of the Tenth Doctor's remorseless bipolar chirpy/portentous behaviour, the unflagging Awwwwww-Brilliant! Still, only two more episodes to go now and I'm sure I'll miss him when he's gone.

Back then I felt that the Fourth Doctor had outstayed his welcome. Whole generations of children were growing up remembering only him. Little was I to know that a big change was on the horizon and that entropy had him in its sights.

However I was to see him in person once more before the end. This took place on a world called Traken...

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession will return. And of its own free will.

Toys in picture above available from Forbidden Planet

It's that time of year and that time of decade when people start looking back at the previous ten years and start making lists. This is the third occasion I remember clearly; in theory of course I was old enough to remember the Seventies Retrospective, but perhaps there wasn't as big a deal made about it at the time; perhaps there were still enough new and exciting things around for the media of the day to be looking forward rather than back.

And perhaps the media itself was still enthusiastic and experimental enough still to find getting caught up in nostalgia and retro a bit boring. Never mind what happened in 1971, look what's around now in 1979! The Clash. Independence for Zimbabwe. Kate Bush. The first Star Trek movie. Tubeway Army. Sheep Farming in Barnet. Blondie. Blake's Seven. The Police. City of Death. Joy Division. The list is endless, the future looked bright.

That said, the current look back at the past decade seems a bit lacklustre this time. I think for a different reason though. It's because even now during its last couple of weeks we've yet to come up with a decent, commonly-accepted term for it. The Noughties? Fuck off, that's not even a proper word. In the absence of correct nomenclature the whole retrospective process feels a bit pointless. Nevertheless I am going to indulge myself, if only a little bit.

What is the one thing that occurred during the past ten years that has improved my life beyond measure?

No, not the internet, that's been around for a surprisingly long time. Not the demise of the CRT, although I have to admit that's up there in the top ten. No, this may be a surprising choice, but my Invention of the Decade has to be the self-service supermarket checkout.

I'm not joking, I think they're brilliant. Firstly, the majority of shoppers are still so wary of them that it means I never have to queue up in the supermarket any more, and secondly it means I don't have to deal with the member of staff operating the till. What's wrong with checkout staff? Let me count the ways...

Firstly there's the Someone Likes Yoghurt syndrome, as identified by comedian Richard Herring in his 2005 show. For some reason, checkout staff seem to think that the fact that they've been employed for their ability to move objects across a beam of coherent light and open a foolproof till gives them carte blanche to comment on and judge you for your shopping choices.

Maybe they see this merely as an opening gambit for the second reason they're so hateful. They try to engage you in conversation all the time. When I'm in the supermarket I'm not in the best of moods, half the time they've sold out of whatever I'd come in there for in the first place. The last thing I want is to talk rubbish with someone I don't know - I find conversation difficult enough at the best of times.

Thirdly they seem to think they're in a race with you. Can they finish scanning the items and chucking them at you before you've finished packing so they can roll their eyes at the person behind you in the queue and sigh noisily at your tardiness? Of course they can, they always win because their task has been enhanced by technology. I'd like to see how they'd do if they had to type all the bar codes in by hand.

So all in all I'm pleased that the same technology has now come to my aid and is making my life more bearable. I even like the soothing voice that welcomes me and reminds me to wait for my change and that notes are dispensed below the scanner.

I know a lot of people complain about the things, but that's just because they can't be bothered to work out how to use something new. The general public love to wear their self-proclaimed "uselessness with technology" on their sleeves as a perverse badge of honour. Even though on the surface they're being self deprecating, the subtext is always making a point about how crap they think technology actually is and what an awful person someone who is comfortable with it must be.

Of course it's different when you give them iPods and mobile phones.

Naturally, there's room for improvement when it comes to the operation of self-service checkouts. For a start they need to stop being so hung up on how many of your own bags you're using and just give you one green clubcard point for, say, every ten items you buy when you don't use their bags. They need to stop worrying quite so much about "unexpected item in bagging area". Half the time that's your own bag you're bringing in to be green.

No, the main problem for me with self-service checkouts is that they free up the staff to wander around with those metal cages on wheels restocking the shelves. Not that there's anything wrong with that in principle, it's just that when they're shoving these behemoths around the aisles they behave as if the shop's being run for their benefit and that customers are just an irritation.

"Outta my way, bastard, I'm shelf stacking!"

There is something on your backThere was something different about Jon Pertwee's final season. To my youthful mind this difference was all wrapped up in its position in the Radio Times Tenth Anniversary Special; the as yet untransmitted adventures were listed "over the page" from the rest of the guide on a page of their own. This, and the fact that they lay in the future set them apart.

Of course there were other major differences. There was a new "time tunnel" title sequence, Jo and The Master had gone and there was this annoying Sarah Jane Smith woman following the Doctor around and being over self-consciously "feminist" every other line, although they called it women's lib in those days. Even as a nine year old I remember thinking they were labouring the point to the extent that it almost felt as if the scriptwriters were taking the piss.

I had no idea the character would still be around thirty-five years later.

The final story Planet of the Spiders (1974) had a melancholic funereal atmosphere (despite the ridiculously overlong chase sequence that took up most of one episode). I recall there was something very dramatic about the Doctor showing his fear and being confronted by something far more powerful than he was. Also, after five years of "holier-than-thou" superior behaviour, his ego was cut down to size by the appearance of his old Time Lord mentor, K'anpo Rimpoche.

I wasn't a religious child (and am an even less religious adult) so when I finally read the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, it put me in mind of episode six of Planet of the Spiders. The Doctor faces his fear and dies. Unlike Jesus, instead of rising from the dead after three days he disappears for three weeks and then upon his return changes before our eyes into a much younger man, and...

The season ended. It was the middle of summer and I discovered that I'd have to wait until after Christmas to find out what this new Doctor was like.

Or would I?

As luck would have it it was around this time that my dad started working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. He started bringing old TV and radio scripts home for us to draw on the back of, and one day brought home a big pile of scripts still fastened at the corners with metal clips, and the following disclaimer typed across the head of the first page:

THE SENDING OF THIS SCRIPT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN OFFER OF ANY PART IN IT
Further down the page it transpired it was the new Doctor Who SERIAL 4A, with the rather unimaginative title "Robot". I was suddenly far more interested in reading it than I was in drawing spaceships on the back, I devoured it in an afternoon. Reading a script was a very different experience from reading a book or watching a TV show, what with all this talk of TELECINE 1 and THE DOCTOR (O.O.V.), and, rather surprisingly, typos (at one point Ms Winters called Sarah-Jane "Miss Snit"). It was also written from a production point of view, so that it contained asides like THE ROBOT IS REMARKABLY AGILE FOR ITS SIZE (WE HOPE).

And the new Doctor? He seemed to be written as a bit of a clown. I wasn't sure I was going to like this, he seemed too silly. I decided to reserve judgment until I'd actually seen him in action. And besides, the robot sounded cool.

I was to get the opportunity to see episodes one to three sooner than I thought. One afternoon my dad had to take me into work with him, so to keep me occupied he sat me down in front of a machine the size of a fridge with a black and white TV embedded in its top, which played TV programmes from big square plastic cartridges. It was a video player.

So I watched episodes one to three of Robot (1975) for the first time in black and white without sound effects or music. I wasn't bothered by these limitations - seeing it before anyone else felt like magic.

I still wasn't sure about this new Doctor; he seemed too silly - even dressing up as a clown at one point. He was all over the place. Still at least Sarah-Jane and the Brigadier were there to reassure me. And the robot was good.

It was time to go home, so I didn't get the chance to watch episode four. Never mind, I thought, I'd watch it when it was transmitted,

Towards the back of the 1974 Christmas Radio Times lay the listings for 28 December with a picture of Tom Baker. From memory, the caption read:
Time Lords never die, they just sort of rejuvenate and become...? Tom Baker takes over as Doctor Who this evening in Robot.
For some reason or other I missed the fourth episode on transmission as well. In retrospect this was a blessing as it meant that I missed the awful CSO Giant Robot sequence and the Action Man tank.

Robot was an odd beast, a post-Pertwee blip, the birth throes of a new era for the programme. The Tom Baker years would start in earnest the following week with an episode that had me enthralled and which marked the beginning of the programme's first proper story arc.

Funnily enough it was called The Ark in Space.

Dimensionally Transcendental Confession will return

I don't know what to say.

In the past this used to get me into trouble. I'm not talking about big trouble with a capital T, it was just that when I was placed in social situations I never knew how to engage in small talk and ended up saying nothing. This meant that even the people that liked me found me hard work, and those that didn't thought I was rude and aloof. I wasn't; it was just that in the absence of any guidelines I usually ended up frozen into inactivity.

I'm somewhat better now. When placed in a social situation I've observed enough small talk and sociability over the years to be able to come up with a fairly convincing facsimile. It's always conscious though; whilst people may not find me hard work as much any more I still find them harder work than ever.

You might think that someone to whom social interaction doesn't come naturally would be cold and uncaring, ultimately selfish, but I would hope I'm not like that at all. It's true that I don't find it easy to "read" people, however, this means that I try even harder, look more closely and attempt to "read" consciously.

However, not being able to instinctively sense which way things are going to go, I start to over analyse and extrapolate, weighing up the potential pros and cons. Whilst this means that a lot of the time I do have other people's interests at heart, it's not always obvious. There are sometimes so many different possible outcomes that I end up being unable to make a decision with the result that I do nothing. Doing nothing is usually the wrong decision.

However you can't say I'm not trying.

What I do still find very difficult to understand is how selfish some people are capable of being on occasion. They've obviously been blessed with the ability to know what to say and small talk comes naturally to them. They can read people and know what someone else wants without even having to think about it that much.

The problem is they don't appear to give a shit.

Having been granted the gift of automatic empathy they seem to be able to ignore what it's telling them, and even though they might be able to imagine what it would be like to find themselves on the receiving end of their behavior they prefer not to.

We've all seen them. For some reason this behaviour usually seems to manifest itself when on public transport; I suppose this is an occasion when we are all forced against our will to spend time in close proximity to complete strangers. However, whilst we're not forced to behave like complete dicks, some people do.

Years ago Ben Elton had a famous routine about everyone wanting a double-seat on the train, "You don't want some bastard sitting next to you, do you?" This is true of course. Given the choice I'm sure we'd all prefer to be left alone with our book in the mornings without some smelly stranger intruding upon our personal space. However, I can't believe the lengths to which some arseholes will go to keep their double seat to themselves, even during a crowded rush hour.

They're invariably men.

They spread themselves out, treetrunk-like legs splayed wide open. Even if you do manage to insinuate yourself into the space next to them they try and take up at least one and a half seats, refusing to fold themselves up even a bit. The won't even look at you when you ask to sit down, although an expression of utter contempt crosses their faces as you do so; how in the world could you have been so utterly selfish and annoying to have wanted to sit down? they seem to think.

What I find so hard to understand is how they can maintain this facade even in the face of a crowd of other people so obviously in need of a seat.

I think I actually met the god of this behaviour more than once; I used to see him on the upper deck of the bus on the way to work. He was unnecessarily large; not fat, just built to the wrong scale. He wore a permanent expression of sleepy arrogance on his dull features, half closed eyes peering superciliously out at the world from behind a shaggy curtain of badly cut fringe. He used to sit sideways across two seats, legs blocking the aisle and to add insult to injury used to hook one elbow over the back of the seats thus even invading the space of whoever was unfortunate enough to be sitting behind him.

When people were brave enough to ask him if they could use one of the seats he was taking up he used to regard them with an expression of dull uncomprehending hatred and more often than not didn't move an inch.

I haven't seen him for ages; in an ideal world I'd like to think that someone's bludgeoned him to death by now.

NB: part three of Dimensionally Transcendental Confession follows in the next blog entry

Of course one problem in basing a memoir like this around Doctor Who is that it's all been done before and if I'm not careful, people are going to accuse me of ripping off 2006's Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf (so I'll have to be careful not to mention John Abineri) or even 2007's Dalek I Loved You (so I'll have to be careful to sound like I actually like Doctor Who).

There was something about the beginning of the seventies that felt like a big change, even to someone as young as I was at the time. It still feels as if everything in my life up to the end of 1969 was in black and white, whereas in 1970 I started being broadcast in colour. Even though we moved to London in (late?) 1968, my memory has shifted this event to 1970 for dramatic reasons and so the move from Birmingham to London also seems to have been simultaneous with the transition from monochrome to colour.

Likewise, I don't remember watching any episodes of Doctor Who featuring Patrick Troughton in London even though I must have done. It seems like everything happened at once; we moved house, everything went colour and there was a new Doctor Who.

That final fact confused me a bit; the last I remembered was that the Doctor had disappeared into a void gurning and shouting "No!". Now there was this taller man who'd fallen out of the TARDIS onto a verge somewhere. What was more he didn't seem to have changed as much in the comic I read - they just seemed to have drawn his face a bit thinner.

Even though we didn't get a colour TV until quite a while later, somehow this new colour series felt different anyway. After a while I stopped missing Troughton and once The Master and Jo arrived a year later Jon Pertwee was the Doctor, a lisping avuncular figure who knew everything and had a habit of rubbing his chin (or the back of his neck) whilst thinking. I collected the free badges given away with packs of Sugar Smacks.

I still didn't entirely get it all the time of course. During The Daemons (1971) when the Doctor, having been captured by evil Morris Dancers, commands a streetlamp to shatter I completely overlooked Sgt Benton hiding behind a car taking it out with his rifle and thought that it was because the Doctor was somehow magic, despite the strong sceptical pro-science message of the story.

The mood of the programme had changed. The Master was usually behind everything and there was not so much lumbering going on any more. Things became more psychological and nightmarish; The Mind of Evil (1971) featured an unseen alien parasite which fed on people's fear - you might think the concept too cerebral for a six year old, but I was gripped. I also still clearly remember the narrative shock I felt when the Doctor unexpectedly returned the Master to the Axon ship at the end of the Claws of Axos (1971). This was well written stuff.

Of course I was changing as well; as Pertwee moved into his fourth season and the programme turned ten, I'd just turned eight and was reading a lot. I wouldn't have said I was "obsessed" with Doctor Who at this point, it was still just something that was always there. I could have no more missed an episode than I could have forgotten to have got up in the morning.

The tenth anniversary Radio Times Special was a revelation. I was aware that there'd been an earlier Doctor than the two I was familiar with; he was the old man who'd appeared in The Three Doctors (1973) that I couldn't remember, but suddenly here were all his stories listed with titles, plot synopses and photographs. What was more the special seemed to list some Pertwee stories that hadn't even been on yet...

There was a lot else in it including the plans to build a Dalek for only £15 in materials, which was nevertheless an unreachable sum for an eight year old in those days. Besides, where would we have kept it?

Michael Lavin, the school bully, suddenly started being really nice to me on the day I brought the Radio Times Special into school. Even back then I thought this was a rather pathetically transparent ruse to try and get me to let him read it.

I had started getting bored with the constant earthbound nature of the programme; I realised this when I found myself excited to read in the Radio Times listing synopsis for the first episode of The Green Death (1973) that whilst the Brigadier was investigating something or other in a Welsh coal mine, the Doctor had problems of his own on the planet Metebelis Three, which sounded much more exciting. Stupid Brigadier!

Sadly the Metebelis Three scenes didn't last very long, but happily the story ended up being The One With the Maggots, which I enjoyed anyway.

I was to get my wish for more space-based adventures soon.

to be continued

Well it's now December which means it's time to look back on not taking part in NaNoWriMo. Any regular readers of this blog may recall that I said despite not taking part, I was going to use all the inspiration in the air to try and write great swathes of my novel.

I didn't manage that but did fill in a lot of the gaps, managing in total I would guess around 4,000 words. What with the 8,000 words of blog written during the month it comes to around 12,000 words, which isn't too shabby. Maybe next year, eh?

During this time I also finally completed reading Daniel Dennett's "Consciousness Explained", a book which took me a long time to finish but which provided a lot of inspiration and information for many of my blog entries about the mind and brain. I was surprised by the ending - it turns out the Central Meaner did it in the Cartesian Theatre with the lead piping...

But seriously I did find the ending a pleasant surprise. I was expecting, what with his staunch materialistic stance, that Dennett would turn out to be one of those "Worst of Both Worlds" sceptics. It had always seemed to me that explaining the mind and consciousness as the effect of a biological machine meant that it was therefore possible not only for electronic machines to also be conscious but also to duplicate or upload the information comprising our consciousnesses, our personalities into an electronic medium, providing us with a form of data immortality.

However, a lot of materialist theory I'd come across rejected those interesting possibilities as well, seemingly intent on making the world as boring a place as possible. Not only was there no Weird Shit, they claimed, no ghosts, magic or telepathy, but there was also no possibility of strong artificial intelligence, or of duplicating a human mind on the computer.

No I don't understand their motives either.

Thankfully Dennett doesn't share their views and comes to the same conclusions as I would have (although via a far more intelligent and informed route).

There will be robots and there will be cyber-immortality.

There will probably be a lot more besides; as previously documented I find the materialists’ habit of lumping all Weird Shit together (as nonsense) somewhat unscientific. It's reminiscent of the way the church branded scientists and pagans alike as heretics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Might not some of these phenomena be the product not of wishful thinking but perhaps of some science we don’t understand yet? Why should we tar ESP with the same brush as the belief in pixies or god?

As I've mentioned before, I have a scientific materialistic stance but my mind is open to future discoveries. Some coincidences are just too weird - and I suspect not a case of seeing patterns that aren't there, but of not seeing things that are.

Another case in point, and like the Diana incident, it's also a case of dream precognition. Years ago I sent a postcard to my parents who were looking after the canary whilst I was on holiday. In it I mentioned that I'd dreamed (whilst on holiday) that the canary had laid an egg. Odd dream to have, given that the canary was supposedly male. A couple of months after coming back from holiday, the canary actually did lay an egg.

It's a shame that I didn't document this; I already had the independent record of the dream in the form of a franked postcard. You'll just have to take my word for it. Of course it could be just a coincidence, and proves nothing but why would I dream that a male (I thought) canary laid an egg? It's one of those things that makes the universe a little more interesting. Perhaps one day we will have a scientific theory to explain it.

It has to be said though, as an act of clairvoyance it's somewhat unimpressive; it's hardly predicting Tiananmen Square or 9/11.

NB: part two of Dimensionally Transcendental Confession follows in the next blog entry

It's a worthy organ with a long history, but these days there seems to be so little time that buying the Radio Times hardly seems worth it. As a kid an issue would seem to be around so long that it had time to get dog-eared and tattered; now it seems like I've hardly had time to shake out all the advertising supplements before sticking the thing in the recycling.

I'll be buying it this week as it has a cover featuring Doctor Who. This seems to be a tradition with me; they were worth collecting because Doctor Who based Radio Times covers used to be few and far between. It may surprise you to learn that Tom Baker never got one during his seven-year tenure.

Nowadays you could wallpaper the living room with them.

But what's so special about Doctor Who? Well, I'm a fan. That's fine these days of course, but there was a time that such a confession was not to be made unless you were absolutely certain you were amongst sympathisers lest you bring down the ridicule of the cool brigade. Back then we liked to think of it as a Cult Programme, and whilst it satisfied some of the criteria to be described thus, there was always that element of embarrassment that fans of, say, The Prisoner would never have had to suffer.

It's nice to finally be vindicated what with the stupidly high ratings and multiple Radio Times covers. We were right all along!

But just what is it about the show that inspires such, some would say unhealthy, devotion amongst its fans? Why am I a fan?

I don't remember becoming one. Doctor Who is just something that was always there, like the Moon. I watched it. My earliest memories of it are monochrome, and given what I remember I must have been very young. The first TARDIS team I remember was the Doctor Jamie and Victoria. Given that I also remember Daleks from this era the earliest we can pin it down to is Evil of the Daleks (1967). I was two. I remember the following story (Tomb of the Cybermen) as well, so it's no fluke of memory - I was starting to take things in at this age. Of course I don't remember understanding the stories in those days, but then again I probably didn't understand half of what my parents were talking about either.

Doctor Who seems to have been an integral part of that black and white childhood. The lumbering monsters of that time (and aside from the Daleks they really did all lumber, go on, have a look) populated my dreams but never scared me quite as much as the self-created enemies within my own brain, although my parents did have to turn off The Ice Warriors (1967) as I couldn't bear their hissing, whispery voices.

When we moved to London my childhood started being shot in colour even though we still had a monochrome TV and Doctor Who was still being broadcast in black and white. One of my first memories of arriving at our new home was that there was a police box on the corner of the street; I don't recall having seen them in Birmingham. Another early London memory was my mum dressing up as a cyberman in the garden. My dad was the Doctor, I was Jamie and my sister Zoe. I used to read a comic that had a Doctor Who strip in it.

Then the Seventies started and it all changed.

to be continued