"Sorry mate."

I was talking to Grant on the phone. Apparently the photos hadn't come out, it had been too dark and he hadn't used a flash bulb. A shame, but never mind. I had discovered a new purpose.

Meeting Toyah.

After all, how difficult could it be? I just needed to keep my ear to the airwaves listening out for any TV or radio appearances, plus there were the summer gigs coming up...

Back in 1982 no-one talked about "stalkers" but even if they had I'd have been shocked and insulted at any suggestion that I was turning into one. I was just going along to public places she'd be and saying hello. Maybe next time I'd actually remember to bring something along to be signed.

I discovered that I wasn't alone. The next opportunities to present themselves were the four (count 'em) sell out shows at the Hammersmith Odeon which would be recorded and turned into Warrior Rock, one of the later - and one of the finest - examples of that now lost art form, the Double Live Album. Turning up at the stage door with a carrier bag full of album sleeves and a borrowed camera, I was perturbed at the number of other people who'd obviously had the same idea as me. How dare they? This was my plan.

Any disappointment I might have felt was dispelled at the sight of a white VW Golf pulling up the access road beside the Odeon, a familiar pink haired figure in the passenger seat. My heartbeat increased, I got my camera ready.

She'd come down with laryngitis and was resting her voice in preparation for the show that evening, but this didn't seem to have brought her down at all. If anything she seemed in a more mischievous mood, clowning about and ignoring Tom's protestations that she go inside, instead making sure that everyone who wanted something autographed got it.

I wanted to hang around for her after the show as well. The access road was now crowded with fans who'd just experienced a huge and impressive live show; the night felt electric and exciting. Eventually the word got around (although whether this was true or misdirection I never found out) that Toyah had left by another exit. I made my way to Hammersmith station only to discover that the tubes had finished running for the night.

I hadn't heard of night buses and even if I had would have had no idea from where to catch one; besides, the network was probably a lot less comprehensive in those days. I was going to have to walk home.

I knew the general direction in which I wanted to go and set off down Hammersmith Road which eventually turned into Kensington High Street. Hyde Park came into view and I made my way along its southern border. At Hyde Park corner I made an error of judgement and rather than heading up to Marble Arch towards Oxford Street I took the route that took me past the walls of Buckingham Palace (where a policeman asked to look at my signed album sleeves) and eventually Parliament Square where the face of Big Ben beamed down like a vast, close moon. North to Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross Road, Tottenham Court Road across Euston Road and into Camden. Kentish Town, Tufnell Park and Archway.  Highgate.

I was on the home stretch. I could have taken a short cut through the woods, but considered that it might be a bit scary at this time of night. Instead I decided to walk along Muswell Hill Road and down Cranley Gardens to number 131 where we lived. Ironically this was the place I was in the most danger although I didn't realise it at the time. At 23 Cranley Gardens lived a certain serial killer named  Dennis Nilsen who at the time had already killed 13 young men whom he used to lure back to his place at night. Even as I walked past the house that night the dismembered corpse of his thirteenth victim was slowly decomposing within.

However, what you don't know can't scare you.  I was lucky and made it back home in one piece at around four in the morning having walked twelve miles.

This ordeal didn't put me off even remotely. I waited impatiently for my pictures to come back from the developers (can you believe we used to live like that?) and when they did come back they were mostly blurred. I didn't mind. There would be more opportunities.

I sent drawings into the fan club but never had anything printed. I sent off for an enamel badge bearing the Toyah logo. Classy. Next time I'd get someone to take a picture of me with her.

Next time turned out to be early September in front of BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place following an  appearance on Radio One's "Studio B15" show. When I arrived there were a handful of fans, but nowhere near as many as there had been at the Hammersmith Odeon.  I got chatting to a young boy who, despite his size and delicacy was acting like a bit of a tearaway. Nevertheless, he said he'd take a picture of me with his camera and post it to me.

The white VW Golf was parked outside.  I impressed people by telling them that this was Toyah's car. "I thought she'd have a Rolls Royce!" someone said.

"Do you fancy her?" a girl who seemed to be a friend of the boy I'd been talking to asked. I was confused; it seemed a bit of a non-sequitur. However, I assumed that as we'd been talking about Toyah that was who she meant. I told her yes.

My confusion was forgotten when Toyah appeared. The pink hair had been replaced by orange. There were too many people around to say more than just hello, but I managed get in shot a couple of times for the boy to take a couple of pictures.  It was all over so quickly though and before I knew it the VW Golf was pulling away into the West End traffic. There was a little more excitement in the crowd when Kid Jensen emerged, but I couldn't see the appeal myself. I didn't like Toyah just cause she'd been on the telly. It was more than that.

It took a couple of weeks for my photos to arrive accompanied by a terse note signed "Maria". Ah. I see. Oops.

A chance remark by a teacher whilst I'd been at primary school had led to the expectation that I'd "make Oxbridge one day" so against my will I returned to school for one last term in September 1982. It was marginally more bearable now that a lot of the Fuckers had departed.  I'd like to think that they ended up as dustmen but knowing my luck some of them are probably the CEOs of multinationals by now.

Well of course I didn't get into Cambridge.  The very idea.  Despite some of the teachers' delusional belief that I was clever, years of expert mental and physical abuse from the Fuckers and their colleagues the Wankers and the Cunts had left me unable to concentrate on anything at school.  I wasn't even remotely interested in Biology. It remains a mystery to me how I got offered places at both York and Sussex.

I didn't turn up to school on the last day. What were they going to do about it? Instead I got the tube into Central London.  Toyah was doing  a gig at the Lyceum; I hadn't bought a ticket, but that didn't stop me turning up to say hello.  Maybe get my photo taken with her again.  It felt like the perfect way of celebrating not having to go back to that place any more. Ever.

Since I'd last met her there'd been a new single out, "Be Proud Be Loud Be Heard" in the photos for which her hair had been styled in an interesting multi-bunched do. One of the first things I saw when I arrived at the stage door in Burleigh Street was a girl sporting an imitation of that look, one of a handful of people loitering.  Buoyed up by the happiness I still felt at not having to go to school any more I plucked up the courage to ask this girl whether Toyah had arrived yet, and we fell into conversation.

Her name was Hayley, and we seemed to hit it off straight away. Our enthusiasm for Toyah and all things Willcoxian was closely matched and seemed to offer an instant bond - a shortcut to friendship. She had a camera and said she'd take a couple of pictures of me with Toyah if I reciprocated. I was happy to agree and we exchanged addresses. Hayley was surprised that I wasn't actually going to the gig, but I told her I was going to the one  about a week later at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

Toyah arrived with Tom. Hayley and I got our photos taken (Tom telling me to "keep your hands to yourself" - as if I'd have dared do anything else) and chatted briefly with Toyah. Our time was curtailed somewhat by her abrupt disappearance thanks to a creepy older man with a satchel who started trying to tell about the poems he'd written about her and about how he was sure he'd known her in a past life. If I was her I'd have disappeared too.

I really wanted to go to the gig, but I couldn't.  A week later when I turned up at the Shaftesbury it was very crowded and by the time I'd arrived Toyah was already inside. Still, the gig was fantastic and I was right at the front, elbows on the stage.  Afterwards the atmosphere in the alleyway outside the stage door was intoxicating, a light-hearted riot with more audacious fans climbing the fire escape ladder and tapping on the dressing room window.  I felt as if I was part of something new, bold and exciting.

Shame the gig got such a slating in the music press.  Even Smash Hits seemed to have turned against her by now. Perhaps it was the end of an era but even though I didn't know it at the time an even more exciting era was about to begin.

As 1982 ended I had no idea that 1983 would change everything forever...


Thugg the Caveman and some of the other males from his tribe made their way across the tundra of Ice Age West Midlands.  It had been a hard winter and numbers had decreased significantly. Some had been lost to the cold, some to hunger and still others to the saber-toothed tigers that continued to plague this branch of infant humanity.

It was a risky business, this hunter-gathering. If you didn't pay attention constantly it could spell doom for both you and your chances of passing on the genes for not paying attention constantly.

Thugg clipped Foot-Watcher around the ear and by means of a series of complex grunts and gestures indicated to him that whilst staring at his own feet might one day become the de rigueur pose for indie musicians many millennia hence, right here and now it was about as much use as a chocolate teapot.  Foot-Watcher looked perplexed - as well he might seeing as neither chocolate nor teapots would be invented for thousands of years - but straightened up and begun obediently scouring the horizon.

In this neck of the woods there was no friendly neighbourhood alien monolith to give them a helping hand; they'd had to rely on their own wits to get this far and if they were going to make it out of the Ice Age in one piece they'd have to develop further coping strategies.

The problem was you could never be sure where danger was coming from. Or when. It was true that sometimes tigers would run out from behind that outcrop yonder, but the problem was that if you kept your eye on the outcrop the whole time you ran the risk of falling foul of the bear that had recently started using the nearby copse as an outhouse.  Not to mention that huge eagle that had recently started carrying off some of the lighter members of the tribe.

It was all very irritating, but Thugg had come up with a way round this conundrum. He kept looking about. Now the outcrop, then the copse, then the sky.  Then the sky again, followed by the rock and then the copse for a couple of minutes. Then the rock. And so on - random, unpredictable and strangely addictive. There was no way he could predict where the next attack would come from, but he might stand a better chance of catching it out this way - and even if he didn't at least he'd have invented OCD ten thousand years early.

He even took to carrying a small piece of bark around with him upon which he drew three small pictures. A tree. A rock. The sun.  Every time he looked in one of the places, he scratched a mark next to the picture.  Even though he wasn't checking them on a regular, repeatable basis, this tally did at least allow him to make sure he wasn't favouring one or the other.

Foot-Watcher didn't get it at all.  The last time they'd come out this way a tiger had run off with Grugg, so his attention was firmly fixed on the outcrop.

This was his undoing. With a screech of victory the giant eagle pulled up out of a silent power dive and headed towards the distant cliffs, a howling Foot-Watcher dangling from its talons.  Thugg stared up after him in dismay - he'd promised Foot-Watcher's mother he'd keep an eye on him, and instead he'd let him get killed. What was he going to say to her? Now he was bastard of the world, and he was not quite sure what to do next.

But he would think of something.

He hurled his fragment of bark up after the eagle in anger and frustration but it did no good. Foot-Watcher was gone.

Hold on the bark fragment. Zoom in. Track it upwards. And....

...cut to an iPhone slipping in slow motion from the palm of a businessman standing on a balcony in New York City at night. It falls down, down, down...

We're all living with the legacy of Thugg's learning, and things that appear and disappear in the manner of predators or prey capture our attention like nothing else.  Random, intermittent, sudden. We become addicted to games like Tetris or more recently to activities like checking our emails, twitter feeds and status updates.  Whilst these may not be a matter of life and death, they fit very closely into the spaces in our head that evolved to deal with matters of life and death, and we're powerless against their allure. After all, in the past ignoring such compulsions would have got us killed.

We just can't help ourselves. But maybe we should try - after all there's no reason we should remain slaves to our selfish genes all our lives.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.

There was nothing for it really. In the end I had to admit to my immediate family that I had become a Toyah fan. I imagine it was almost like coming out - in some ways it was coming out. In admitting I liked Toyah I was admitting I liked girls and therefore wasn't the asexual child I had hitherto appeared to be.

Still, without doing that it would have been difficult to get to the gigs, and attending gigs was the natural next step.

The places in which I first saw Toyah play weren't exactly the ideal introduction to me of the world of gigging.  Hammersmith Odeon and Theatre Royal Drury Lane - great hulking cavernous buildings with nary a chance of an intimate show. At the time I didn't know any better though and any gripes I might have had at the choice of venue were totally eclipsed by one simple fact - for ninety minutes or so I was going to be in the same room as her.

As well as 3000 other teenage boys. Not to mention the little girls and their parents. And the teenage girls.  And the posse of die-hard punks.  And the band. And the road crew. And - at the Hammersmith Odeon - a whole tribe of bouncers who were determined to ensure that no-one left their seat.  But even the bouncers couldn't spoil the excitement and enjoyment of Toyah live. There she was, just over there and these were the songs; bigger, louder and faster than I'd ever heard them before. Some of them brought tears to my eyes, goosebumps to the back of my neck and a huge flood of endorphins into my bloodstream.

Inspired by these experiences, I wrote more letters to Toyah on my prehistoric typewriter; she even wrote back again, proving that the first time had been no fluke.  I joined the intriguingly named "Intergalactic Ranch-House" which was her fan club - a friendly, rough and ready organisation with photocopied newsletters sent out six times a year along with black and white Walkerprints of Toyah and of course a membership badge.  The badge joined others I'd been able to acquire from the vendors on Oxford Street on the reverse of the lapel of my school blazer. This was partly to avoid being told to remove them by the teachers but mostly as a secret act of defiance against the Fuckers. I was sure none of them had received letters from her.  Writing to her wouldn't have occurred to them.

She continued to appear everywhere; it felt almost impossible to keep up with her appearances on TV and in magazines.  There may have been only three TV channels, but there was a plethora of glossy magazines aimed at the teenage consumers of the flourishing New Romantic pop scene; go into in any newsagent in the land and you came face to face with a whole shelf of Phil Oakey, Marc Almond, Adam Ant and Toyah staring at you with heavily made up eyes. Pop Hits, Disco 45 SongbookChart HitsSmash Hits, New Sounds New Styles, Flexipop, the variations were endless.


However, now that she was a success, the serious music press had started to get bored with Toyah. I found myself very upset by some of the vitriol now appearing in the pages of the NMERecord MirrorSounds and Melody Maker.  I thought her 1982 album The Changeling was brilliant, no matter what some cynical coked-up journo might think.

I soon got the chance to tell her this in person.

It was a dull grey day in late June 1982. A weekday, so I'd been at school earlier on. However, I was now in my bedroom listening to Capital Radio. I don't remember what the show was now, but it was some undemanding discussion programme.  Today the panel consisted of a load of men... and Toyah.

I knew where Capital Radio was - that huge blocky tower opposite Warren Street tube that dominated the London skyline and seemed to be challenging the skinny Post Office Tower to a fight. What's more it was only a few stops away on the tube.

Half an hour later I was standing outside the revolving doors on a deserted Euston Road listening on my green transistor radio as the men on the show clumsily flirted with Toyah. My heart was beating fast. She was in there and would be coming out through here.

"All right mate? Are you waiting for Toyah?"

I looked up. A bespectacled young man in an anorak brandishing a camera had joined me. He looked more like one of my erstwhile fellow nerds from the aisles of Forbidden Planet than a Toyah fan, but I said hello anyway, and we conducted an awkward conversation.  He was called Grant.  He said he'd take a picture of me with her and post it to me.

I couldn't really concentrate of what he was saying. The radio show had ended and she'd be coming out any minute. Down those stairs at the back of the foyer past the huge painting of her by Dexter Brown.

There she was - I could see the bright pink mop of her hair as she descended the stairs.

"OK, here I am!" She was outside and standing right in front of me.

She was small. I'd seen her live and on TV, but hadn't quite been prepared for how diminutive she actually was. Her hair was bright. She seemed far more there than anyone I'd ever met before, her personality burning through the skin of reality. Or was that just in my head, my expectations of her being reflected back at me?

Grant was talking to her, taking record sleeves out of his rucksack. It hadn't occurred to me to bring anything along to be signed.  A blonde man who was obviously Toyah's boyfriend / bodyguard Tom about whom I'd read stood at a slight distance to one side.

She asked if we liked the new album.

"It's brilliant!" I blurted. She look at me, surprised and pleased. I wondered why my opinion mattered.

"I'm so glad!" she said, "I worked my bollocks off on that album and the press have just been slagging it off!" I started to talk to her about some of the songs, in particular the stand-out Angel and Me which was a bit of a departure from her usual style, but amazing nonetheless. Grant meanwhile was lining up the shot of me and her.

"Say cheese then!" he interrupted. I'd have been happier with just a picture of us in conversation. Because we were in conversation. I was having a conversation with Toyah.

"Cheese," she snapped, almost as if she was annoyed at the interruption too, I imagined.

Grant took his place next to her whilst I fiddled with the camera.  Rather than talking to her, he put his arm round her shoulders. "You don't mind, do you?" he asked Tom. I wondered why he hadn't asked Toyah if she minded.

"Yes," growled Tom. I took the picture and Grant let go of her.  Toyah said goodbye.  She and Tom got into into a small white Volkswagen Polo parked at the kerb and drove off. I exchanged contact details with Grant and caught the tube home.

That night I couldn't sleep.

It's probably a bit unexpected that I'm writing a blog entry with the same title as a Michael Jackson song, but in my defence I'd just like to point out that the late Mr Jackson doesn't hold a monopoly on the concept of mirrors, or the male inhabitants thereof.

However, looking in the mirror these days I begin to understand his desire for plastic surgery.

I have always had a curious relationship with mirrors. As a child and early teen I disliked them.  Firstly because they were frightening, especially at night. They reflected and doubled the scary luminous shapes that seemed to make their way into my bedroom no matter how thoroughly I closed the curtains. And what if I had to get up in the night?  In the small hours a mirror was an eerie portal into an unnatural perverse world where I could never be sure that the shape moving in there was only my reflection. And what would happen if I looked into it whilst I was asleep?

Far better to cover it up with a blanket.

Secondly, I didn't like what I saw in there. As a younger child I just didn't like the idea of my reflection, it unnerved me. Once I'd entered my teens I was obsessed with how ugly I looked.  The spots didn't help, and I disliked the way my features seemed to be jostling for position on my face.

However, in my late teens and early twenties I suddenly developed an almost arrogant confidence in my appearance and embellished it.  As stated in another entry, this was partly in an attempt to bypass my natural shyness but that's not to say I wasn't taking pride in my appearance as well.  I mentally froze my internal self image in this form. This was me.

This caused problems as age began to take its toll. At first I was blind to it. Like its cousin the camera, the mirror never lies, but can it be persuaded to bend the truth. If I stood like so and tilted my head at just that angle I still somehow managed to convince myself that I still matched my internal self image even though I was about five stone heavier.

My wake up call came from outside. Firstly someone at the drama class I went to said I "looked Welsh" because I was stocky. Whilst I am 25% Welsh, "stocky" wasn't part of my self-descriptive lexicon. Then in a review of the Gonzo Dog-Do Bar Band (in which I play bass) I was horrified to read the words "The bassist is a hefty, shy-looking bloke". Firstly how could I look shy, but mainly it was the word "hefty". As the Sixth Doctor might have said, "Hefty? Hefty?! HEFTY!?"

It made me sound like an elephant.

I was indignant until I watched a DVD of the same show.  Fuck.  FUCK. I was hefty.  My self image was now totally at odds with what I actually looked like. People must have been laughing at me behind their hands for years.

A concerted dieting effort meant that I dropped three stone in two years and my weight has been yoyo-ing within a stone of that lower weight ever since. It's not enough though.  The Man in the Mirror is still at odds with the Boy in the Head. Whilst I like to think I am pragmatic enough to know that there's nothing that can be done about aging, I'd rather be an older version of who I feel I actually am than some fat, decrepit stranger.  I can't get my youth back, but can I have a better middle age? Maybe this is insanity, certainly it's vanity.

I need to lose more weight.  I'm not a foodie and I want to be thinner far more than I want chocolate. However, it's not as easy as it should be; my feelings on the matter are described quite well by Michael Marshall Smith in his short story Diet Hell:

I started doing a little running. I went to the gym. I dropped my beer consumption back down to the level of a normal human being, and then cut it out altogether. I ate healthy food, and not so damned much of it.
Sorta.
The thing is, I did all this apart from a beer here and a beer there, and apart from skipping the run every now and then. Most days, in fact. I mean, running is dumb. Animals only do it when they're frightened, right? And why do you think that is? Because it's no fun at all. I didn't really join a gym either: they're real expensive and full of body Nazis. And shit - what's the point in being alive if you can't have a halfpounder with cheese when you feel like it, and a couple beers to wash it down? I mean, really? And do I have to spend the rest of my life dieting the whole time? Is this a reasonable way to live? 
No. I don't think so.
Aside from the stuff about the halfpounder with cheese, those could be my thought processes.  Can't I just reset my metabolism to that of a 21 year old and leave it there?

It seems not. If I want my appearance to more closely match my self image (and I really do - I'm sure I'll feel much happier as a result) I'm going to have to do all that grown up stuff like diet and exercise.

Then if all else fails have plastic surgery.


Next time...
I Was A Teenage Toyah Fan 2: From the Hammersmith Odeon to Capital Radio - the times I got to see her play live and then talk to her at last.

I was always a bit of a late developer.

Whilst all the other boys at school were sneaking porn mags into class under their jumpers, I couldn't quite see the appeal of the airbrushed mannequins contained therein. I disliked the way they prised their nether regions open with gynecological expertise whilst wearing expressions that made them look simultaneously half-asleep and nauseous.

My peers said this was because I was a "bender" or a "pervert". But it wasn't. As mentioned in an earlier entry, for some unknown reason I simply found a very different kind of woman attractive. Furthermore, for me it was about fancying the girl to start with.  It was about getting to know them, hanging out with them, talking to them. Maybe getting a snog. Then who knows?  The short cut to views of genitalia offered by these magazines seemed to miss the point completely.

It was at the bitter end of the nineteen-seventies.  I'd admired these scary punk girls from afar for a little while now, but as a small spotty geek into Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and Star Wars I would have had absolutely no idea about how to go about getting any kind of girlfriend, let alone a punky one.  I didn't yet have a popstar idol either.  Like many boys of my age Kate Bush's Babooshka video had made me feel all hot and bothered but, despite the fact that I liked some of her songs, Kate just didn't do it for me.

It was a very different time and there was far less entertainment around. No-one had a video yet, there were only three channels and you just had to make do with what was on. As a result you often ended up watching any old rubbish.  So it was that on 2 December 1979 I found myself watching Shoestring, the show starring Trevor Eve as a private detective who worked for a local radio station. It was one of those shows that was always on a Sunday evening with all the associated depression involved; there was now nothing else between now and being back at school bar sleep. Often you hadn't done your homework, but it was too late. Even the man with the moustache investigating crime couldn't take your mind off the inevitable horror of the week ahead.

The previous day I'd watched The Doctor grapple with the Mandrels, today Eddie Shoestring was looking for a missing beauty queen. Personally I thought the punk girl Toola in the story was far more attractive and interesting than the woman who'd disappeared.  Striking and angry, somehow familiar looking. If I ever have a girlfriend, I thought, I'd like her to be like that.  I enjoyed her music as well (she was the singer in a band which was part of the plot).

I had no idea that the band was real and didn't have the wit to check the cast list at the end.  With no videos and no internet that was it.  She'd gone.

A new decade dawned, the futuristic sounding Eighties. I turned 15 and continued to have a thoroughly miserable time at school. During the summer holidays I took to wandering around the local area looking in the record shops, in particular Harum Records in Muswell Hill Broadway.  I still wasn't sure what kind of music I liked, but they had a lot of interesting looking punk records in there. At first I thought the section in 7" singles labelled INDIE was something to do with Indian music but soon realised it stood for Independent as in record labels.

And what was this? Sheep Farming in Barnet? A hand written sticker said that it was music from the BBC TV series Shoestring, the sleeve itself said that it was a Safari Alternative Play Record, a seven inch single playing at 33RPM with a further printed sticker claiming "ALTERNATIVE PLAY: 6 tracks 20 minutes max price £1.50".

But far more importantly, there on the sleeve was Toola. Or rather Toyah as I could now see her real name was (was that Russian? I wondered at the time). I bought it of course and there was a certain illicit thrill doing so. Part of it was "ooh, look at you, buying indie records", but most of it was because I'd bought a record and I liked the girl. I was simultaneously embarrassed and excited by the fact.

Naturally I couldn't tell anyone for precisely this reason. I hid the record in my bedroom and only played it when I was alone in the house.

Nowadays of course I'd have known everything there was about her in an instant, but hard as it is to imagine now, there was no internet back then.  Would I have to wait for fate to toss me another morsel by chance? Who knew how long that would take? Until then Toyah Willcox, which was her full name, was a mystery to me.

Determined to find out more, I returned to Harum Records. Now I knew what to look for and where to look. It turned out that Toyah had a handful of records out; in particular an LP which appealed to my interest in the darker side of life, The Blue Meaning.  It had what looked like a haunted house on the cover.

I didn't have a lot of money in those days, so it took me while to save up the £4.99 for the album, but save up I did, and it joined the other record in its hiding place.   I played it whenever I could and it probably played a major part in the formation of my fledgling musical taste.

Back then if you wanted to know what was on all three TV channels you had to buy both the Radio Times for the BBC and TV Times for ITV.  In our house we never had the TV Times; for a start as a BBC employee my dad got the Radio Times free and the received wisdom was that ITV was rubbish.  This meant that it was purely by chance that in late December I happened to catch the second half of a whole documentary about Toyah on ITV. This piqued my curiosity even more as did the article about her in Smash Hits that came out at around the same time.  It turned out that this fascinating and bewitching woman who spoke with a punk accent was an actress as well (to be honest, the Shoestring appearance should have given me a clue). But how could ever I get to meet her? Oh it was hopeless...

Early 1981.  Out of the blue (and fortunately whilst I was alone in the room), Toyah unexpectedly appeared on Top of the Pops on Thursday evening singing a new song: "The big question mark in history is in a mystery". Well that's what I thought she was saying at first.

Suddenly she was everywhere. A copy of The Hot Press with her on the cover joined my clandestine collection. She was in the top ten. She started appearing on Saturday morning children's TV which was often the only place outside TOTP that you got to see any bands.  The Toyah fever sweeping the land combined with my burgeoning interest to form a fully fledged obsession.  I convinced myself that I was in love. When the news came that she was to appear on Ask Aspel I wrote in to the BBC asking for a signed photograph.

A problem I had hitherto been unaware of reared its ugly head, the loose association of Fuckers at my school. The Fuckers was a private name I'd given a certain type of boy. Tall early developers, they wore their ties loose with their top shirt button defiantly undone.  They also delighted in tormenting me with merciless punches that astonished me with their strength and, perhaps surprisingly, vicious hard pinches.  The problem was that they liked Toyah too, and when they discovered my crush persecuted me mercilessly, saying I wasn't good enough to like her.

I'd show them. I wasn't sure how, but I would.

A signed photograph arrived.  I held in my hands something that had once been in her hands.  I put it on my wall hidden behind my signed Tom Baker poster.  A new single, I Want To Be Free came out followed by more Top of the Pops appearances and an album Anthem with a science fictiony cover.  I spent an afternoon tapping out a letter to Toyah on an old second hand typewriter (I was selfconscious about my messy handwriting even then).  I remember that I included a new Toyah logo I'd been designing, but the letter itself was no doubt over the top and embarrassing; I'm sure I did something mortifying therein like pledging my undying love...  However I still posted it, care of her record company.

That was the thing you see. I was in the grip of an unhealthy obsession and had fixated on one person, someone unaware of me, but someone whose work was providing me with much needed solace during an unpleasant time.

Some time later a letter arrived with my name and address written in large, unusual handwriting.  As I opened it, I had no idea who it was from.
Dear Chris

Thank you for your lovely letter which is one of the most flattering I have read for ages.  Thanks also for the logo design, I have stuck it on the wall of my work room, I always fill the walls with inspirational things.

My (or should I say our) new single is out on 18th September. It's called Thunder in the Mountains. I hope you like it.

lots of love
Toyah
xxx

PS I bet your writting isn't as bad as MINE.
It felt like the best day of my life.


Coming soon, part two:
In which I go to see Toyah play live and finally get to meet her.

There remains very little else to tell. In some ways it feels odd that a series of memoir-based blog entries could have started with vague black and white memories and ended up in the present, but on the other hand given the subject matter that's exactly what I should have expected.

So... previously... Season Four had ended with a overblown bang and the news that there would be another hiatus in 2009 broken only by five hour-long "specials", guest appearances for the Doctor in two episodes of season three of Sarah Jane Adventures and a week of Torchwood on BBC1. How would the poor fans cope deprived in such a manner?

Don't you think he looks tired?

It's not as if David Tennant was using the hiatus to put his feet up and relax. Far from it - he took the opportunity to pursue the actors' Holy Grail of playing Hamlet with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I didn't see that even though it was recorded, broadcast and released on DVD and BluRay, but did watch all five of the specials broadcast between December 2008 and January 2010.

There was a lot about them I enjoyed, although the OTT plotting and smug self regard of the Tenth Doctor was really beginning to grate by now. In a way this was addressed "in show", and the Doctor ended up hoist by his own hubris, but nevertheless you got the impression that by now the cast and crew really were beginning to believe the hype.

Or were they? Russell T Davis's The Writer's Tale provides a fascinating insight into the first five years of the revamped show and highlights the insecurity and occasional darkness beneath the bonhomie.

The final two part story was very good in places, it helped that John Simm's Master was back, as barking as ever. Some complained about his portrayal of the "Doctor's Moriarty", but watching Roger Delgado in Frontier in Space recently you can see the same sense of humour and sarcasm. Totally the same man. Just less barking.

But oh dear. The last ten minutes of Tennant's tenure as Ten were ill-advised to say the least.

A regeneration is supposed to be a way of cheating death. Whether induced by old age, the Time Lords, radiation, being dropped from a great height, the terminal stages of spectrox toxaemia, absorbing all the energy of the time vortex or simply a blizzard of gunfire, its not something that can be held off for long. It's very much like a bout of acute diarrhoea in that respect.

Even given the amount of suspension of disbelief required to watch a show about a 900 year old man who travels around time and space in a phone box, the length of the Tenth Doctor's regeneration still seemed to be stretching credibility to the limits. And what did he do with this extra time he'd been given? Wander around time and space staring moodily at his former friends from a distance like some kind of Gallifreyan stalker.

And weren't the final moments just the Doctor's narcissism in action?

"I don't want to go".

You're not going anywhere, mate. All that's going to happen is that your face is going to change. You may well be extremely attached to the way you look now, but change comes to us all in the end. At least you get a new body - us real people merely decay...

A Madman with a Box

Being contemporaneous with the broadcast of what's being written about, this memoir ceases to be one, and metamorphoses into a mere review. As I write, Vincent and the Doctor is due on BBC1 in a couple of hours.
So what have I made of the new series under the control of Steven Moffat starring Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor so far?

At first I thought it was fantastic. The atmosphere was so very different from what had come before. In universe the Eleventh Doctor seemed like a cross between Troughton and Davison with a modern twist and companion Amy Pond certainly seemed the most interesting sidekick since the series's return, if not since Tegan. Everything seemed marvellous, I was no longer having to "make excuses" for flaws in the stories in my head.

I realised (very recently) that this was partly a "honeymoon effect". This latest series wasn't perfect, nothing is, and I was probably wilfully ignoring any faults at first because I was so relieved that we'd finally moved on...

It's still very good though. Showrunner Steven Moffat seems to be the same kind of Doctor Who fan as I am, with some of the same obsessive compulsions as me. His vision of the show sits very comfortably in my head even if there may occasionally be a mis-step.

Its OK. The Doctor is in good hands.

Even as a young child I was very interested in astronomy. One of the most irritating things about this was when an indulgent adult would patronizingly ask me what I was interested in.

"Astronomy."

"Really? Astrology? How interesting. What sign are you then?"

Even as a five year old I knew the difference between the two. Astronomy was the science of stars, moons, planets, telescopes, galaxies, lunar modules, comets and all the interesting stuff. Astrology was, not to put too fine a point on it, bollocks.

And it still is, isn't it? Russell Grant's star may not be in the ascendant as much any more but there still seems to be a mass market for delusion. Many newspapers still carry horoscopes, including the Metro which is supplied free to the commuters of the UK on a daily basis. Does nobody ever question the fact that the central idea of these predictions requires 5 million other people across the country to share their fate diurnally?

Oh but it's just a bit of fun, they say.

It's also a nice little earner. OK, so the Metro is free (and it's not as if anyone reads it for the horoscope anyway) but I wonder how many people have paid to download a horoscope app to their iPhone or iPad? It's evolution in action I suppose. Wherever people are vulnerable and gullible, struggling to make sense of life in a meaningless uncaring cosmos, there will be someone trying to make a fast buck off that uncertainty. If there's a niche, a virus will evolve to exploit it.

It wasn't always that way. In the past astrology was a respectable discipline, and four or five hundred years ago was indistinguishable from astronomy, they were merely different aspects of the same system. Accurate astrological predictions demanded precise observation and recording of the positions of celestial bodies; if anything astronomers were the astrologers' technical support.

You can just imagine the Astrologer Royal rushing in with his robes flapping shrieking that he simply must have the latest accurate planetary almanack figures in order to to bring the King his Breakfast Good News whilst the Chief Astronomer, wiping his hands on a oily rag, shakes his head mournfully and points out that the lack of funding for new telescopes is directly responsible for the poor quality of current celestial data...

But the point is that out of the nonsense came something wonderful, and from this we can surmise that every science must pass through a childhood and adolescence before it starts making sense.

Alchemy is another case in point. Nowadays largely forgotten, the word itself appropriated by the common tongue merely to mean an inexplicable change, alchemy was once big business. For one thing it promised access to unlimited reserves of precious gold without all that tedious mucking about in mines, so it's no wonder that every Tom, Dick and Dee was interested. Even someone as well respected as Sir Isaac Newton, responsible for prisms, gravity and calculus and considered by some to be the first true scientist in the modern sense, was blinded by the promises of alchemy (not to mention the mercury fumes) and wasted a lot of his time in pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life.

Of course it is possible to change lead into gold by nuclear transmutation, but attempting to do so by mixing up the minerals and fooling around with fire and potions was not only barking up the wrong tree, but barking up a tree that was in the wrong scientific forest all together.

But without alchemy we'd never had developed chemistry. Once again a flowerbed full of bullshit proves to be excellent fertilizer allowing something better to flourish.

Could this happen again? Modern rationalism holds that All Weird Shit is Bunk - not just the aforementioned astrology and alchemy but all the other stuff as well - ghosts, astral projection, ESP, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, ouija boards, leylines, gods. Could it be possible that some of this rubbish, whilst still remaining rubbish, might point us in the direction of something new and exciting?

I'd like to think so. As I have mentioned before, I think it is extremely unlikely that we already know all that there is to be known. A hundred years ago we had no idea of the extent of modern quantum theory and the ridiculous things it would make us believe.

Who knows what else is lurking amongst the shit and what it will expect of us?