When I was a child I had an enduring fantasy that I was not in fact of this world but was an alien, sent to observe these strange ape-like beings and send reports back to my superiors on Antares.  The details weren't always the same of course and the science fictional colour and background grew ever more complex as I reached my teens. However, when this notion first started I am sure it was a lot simpler.

I don't recall its beginning, it felt like something that was always part of me. However, my earliest clear memory of "being an alien" is from 1973 when I arrived at my new school in Muswell Hill.  This was the first time I had to play football and I loathed it. It wasn't just the game itself, it was the football teacher Mr Gibbins who was also my class teacher; a moron and a bully.  He was also obsessed with football.  I didn't like football so he instantly took against me.

It was his exhortations to "Face me!" or "Face the goal!" that brought my alien identity to the surface. What if, I wondered to myself, I came from a planet where the verb "to face" meant something completely different? For example to stare at an object and make it disappear? To disintegrate it?  Naturally I'd be confused by Gibbins's apparently self-destructive orders but wouldn't dare disobey and then and then as a result he'd vanish. Disintegrated.  Along with those goalposts he loved so much.

For a long time my alien identity was a story I told only to myself, part of my inner life, a secret that kept me going. One day my starship would come back and I'd be taken away from all this. Until then I would have to keep my head down and observe; resisting the temptation to deploy my devastating psionic powers on my tormentors.  How I longed to make my history teacher Mr Clarke's nose explode using telekinesis. But it was against the rules of non-interference.

Originally I think my feelings had been given shape by episodes of Star Trek and Doctor Who; now I started reading a lot more and had discovered science fiction. My introductions to the genre were Puffin Books editions of Islands in the Sky and Of Time and Stars by a far more intelligent Mr Clarke, one Arthur C Clarke.

Of course these days Clarke has something of a reputation as a bit of a techie sceptic who wrote hard science fiction, but there was a lot of poetry and oddness in his early work (those two books were part of this), especially the latter which was a collection of short stories.  I also read a number of children's SF novels by Nicholas Fisk which were sinister and gripping.  This new seam of ideas and concepts shaped my outsider fantasies which grew ever more complex.

Eventually I had to express myself.  I would talk to people at school, having long discussions about how I was an alien, how I'd arrived at Earth and integrated with a human family, where I originally came from. These were like more sophisticated children's games; we were to old to play let's pretend but I recall some other boys being quite hooked on the mockumentary conversations with an extraterrestrial that talking to me allowed them.  However, it really upset me when they tried to break the fourth wall mid-conversation; "Yes, but really... in real life..."

That too was against the rules.  In these conversations I was an alien. This was real life.

Our consciousnesses, our selves, are stories we tell ourselves.  Eventually the alien viewpoint began to fade as the story I begun to tell myself changed. I am a punk... I am a goth... But then I discovered that I wasn't alone after all, I'd been right the first time.  Others had felt the extraterrestrial blood running through their brains before me:
"Oh, it was pathetic, I guess," Hobie said. "It started out ... I believed they were real, you know? Kirk, Spock, McCoy, all of them. And the ship ... I had it all figured out, they had me left behind as an observer." Hobie giggled.
"They were coming back for me. It was secret. All I had to do was sort of fit in and observe. Like a report. One day they would come back and haul me up in that beam thing; maybe you know about that? And there I'd be back in real time where human beings were, where they were human. I wasn't really stuck here in the past. On a backward planet."
"Oh, I mean, I didn't really believe it, I knew it was just a show. But I did believe it, too. It was like there, in the background, underneath, no matter what was going on. They were coming for me. All I had to do was observe. And not to interfere. You know? Prime directive ... of course after I grew up, I realized they weren't, I mean I realized consciously. So I was going to go to them. Somehow, somewhere. Out there ... now I know. It really isn't so. None of it. Never. There's nothing ... now I know I'll die here."
Beam Us Home, James Tiptree jr
So someone else had felt the same, "James Tiptree jr" (which was actually a pen name for one Alice Sheldon) had felt something similar at some point and made a story out of it. Then some years later I had an even bigger surprise. I was now running the fan club for Toyah Willcox and she sent me the transcript of a speech she'd given to Birmingham University in September 1989 to include in the latest newsletter. It began:
"Hello. I am an alien. I'm on a "Remand Vacation" on the Planet Earth from the Planet of Ghosts for unacceptable quasi-social behaviour..."
She then went on to describe how she'd been sent into the body of a unborn child in 1958... the speech continued to become not only the story of her life but a reflection on the past and future of the city in which she'd been born.

But she'd felt it too, this otherworldiness, and had used the memory of this mental sensation to write an entertaining and imaginative speech. The fact that it's occurred in more than one person I'm aware of means it's more likely to be a psychological phenomenon than mere flight of fancy. But what does it actually mean?

The concept of the extraterrestrial is the latest iteration of the Other - the non-human sentient beings that homo sapiens has always been convinced exist. Two hundred years ago people claimed to have been abducted by faeries rather than aliens; it would be interesting to know (but probably impossible to find out) whether some people back then also fantasized about being faeries or elves abandoned in the mundane.

Perhaps it's part of the learning process. As a child everything is fresh, new and fascinating and yet all the adults around seem blasé and uninterested. Adults take the world for granted, so it's not surprising that they appear to belong. For those with childlike minds the outside world is like the surface of an alien planet. So much to observe, understand and catalogue.

There's another facet of it as well, something alluded to in the James Tiptree jr extract above. The alien world is better than this one. There's a desire to return home to somewhere one is understood and where people don't hurt and kill each other.

 When some people grow up they find their niche, arrive "home" and the world no longer seems such a terrible place. Others remain aliens.

This need not be bad thing. If enough of us have a vision of a better world maybe we can return to it by terraforming this one. Or rather by utopiaforming it.

Even before the car had pulled over I could see that Toyah had clocked me. She continued looking directly at me as it stopped, opened the door and marched directly towards me with single-minded intent.

"I've just realised," she said "You're the same Chris Limb I used to write to YEARS ago!"

It was the summer of 1983 so I suppose at a stretch it could have been described as years ago (two to be precise). She had written me a handful of letters (probably nothing compared to the reams of drivel I used to send her) but even so... Still, it sounded good. It sounded very good. Everyone else must have felt more than a little impressed and perhaps somewhat jealous.

However, paranoid soul that I was my main thought was Oh no - I hope she doesn't remember those bits where I wrote that I loved her! Or still worse bring the letters along and read them out so everyone laughs at me!

But how had I managed to reach the point where she not only knew me but was able to make the connection with my earlier fan letters in only a few short months?

It was mainly because back then time seemed to contain a lot more room in which things could happen.  The year was not even half over and had already become the best year of my life so far.  I suppose it could have been thought of as my Gap Year as I'd finished school but had yet to start university, but what a Gap Year it had turned out to be.

It was meeting Hayley that previous December that had done it. Hayley was as obsessed with meeting Toyah as I was, but seemed to have her ear to the ground a lot more than me and knew what was going down and where. The first event we went to was the British Rock and Pop Awards at the Lyceum in February 1983, the forerunner of the modern BRITs, at which the previous year Toyah had received the award for Best Female Singer.  We weren't able to go inside and watch or anything, we just hung around outside waiting for Toyah to turn up.

Hayley had eschewed the camera for a more imaginative method of chronicling the event.  She brought along a portable tape recorder and microphone. These days of course we'd all be recording such events on our phones in full sound and vision but back then the idea of taping it seemed quite radical.  On this particular occasion she also recorded Boy George saying hello to her. Listening back to these tapes now they're almost unlistenable, partly because of the recording quality but mostly because listening to your teenage self is embarrassing. Luckily I was still pretty quiet back in those days too.

Other pop stars arrived. The Belle Stars, Duran Duran, Buster Bloodvessel (whom the bouncers were very dubious about letting anywhere near the entrance until he'd shown them his invite).

Eventually Toyah turned up. I think Hayley must got a little overexcited on this occasion; she'd brought along a ring as a present for Toyah and duly gave it to her - but in exchange tried to get Toyah to give her one of her famous "eyeball rings"...

"Hey! You're not having that!" said Toyah (although she seemed to take this cheekiness with a pinch of salt).

I had to go home before anyone emerged at the end of the evening, but received a full report from Hayley by telephone the next day, as well as news of somewhere else Toyah'd be appearing in a week or so - the Russell Harty Show (a chat show infamous for the host being slapped in the face by Grace Jones two years previously). I don't recall how we managed to get tickets - I think it was just a case of turning up at the Greenwood Theatre on the day and setting Hayley loose on the receptionist.

Toyah and Hayley after Harty
Once inside we secured ourselves front row seats. This week's show had the theme of "school days"; Harty himself was dressed in a gown carrying a cane whilst the three guests - Toyah, Willie Rushton and Janet Bloody Street Bloody Porter were seated at wooden classroom desks.  The show was interesting enough, the guests regaling Mr Harty with tales of their time at school; Toyah entertained us with details of the occasion she hid an alarm clock under the stage in the school hall, timed to go off during a speech by visitor and then Education Minister Thatcher. Sadly the Iron Harpy's reaction to this is not on record. Also mentioned was the fact that Toyah would soon be appearing in a play at the Mermaid Theatre every day for the entire summer, Claire Luckham's Trafford Tanzi.

After the show we waited at the stage door along with two girls Alison and Linda, and walked with Toyah and Tom to the car, recording sound and snapping photos as we went. I got the impression that Toyah was beginning to recognise me now, if only as Hayley's sidekick.  Eventually Toyah drove off and we departed, planning to meet back at the Mermaid Theatre in fifteen days for the start of Tanzi. We had no idea what we were about to embark upon.

And so it begins...

Toyah and me at the Mermaid, day 1


Mid-week, early-afternoon, late March. A Wednesday.  Hayley and I arrived at the Mermaid Theatre and met up once more with Alison and Linda. Today was the first day of previews for Tanzi before the official opening a few days later.  I can't remember how long we waited but eventually a car drew up and Toyah emerged, dressed in a grey tracksuit. She looked very young for some reason... it took me a few seconds to realise that this was because she didn't have any makeup on.

 She seemed a little surprised to find us waiting there - aside from Alison, Linda, Hayley and myself there were a couple of other fans around and Toyah spent five minutes or so chatting, posing for pictures, signing autographs and answering questions, staying outside for far longer than most people would have done, despite having to go to work...
Toyah at 24 by catmachine
At one point she said hi to me and asked how I was - another indication that she was beginning to remember me, I thought.

I wasn't going to see the show that night - even back then theatre tickets were expensive, but I had already bought tickets for performances in April and on Toyah's birthday. Not having tickets didn't stop us going back to the theatre and waiting outside a few days later. And a few days after that. More people began to turn up and hang around and after a while a close knit gang of regulars began to coalesce. Toyah got to know who we all were, including me. She even made the connection between the spotty peroxide boy Chris and the author of the embarrassing fan letters from a couple of years earlier.

After a while we thought we should probably give our small group a name. We discussed possible titles drawn from Toyah's canon before eventually settling on Angels and Demons. Nothing to do with Dan Brown (who would only have been about 18 at the time anyway) this was track four of the Four From Toyah EP, a haunting song with lyrics loosely based on the Arthur C Clarke novel Childhoods End.

Toyah loved this idea of a little gang and insisted that she was one of us as well.  We got the artistically inclined member Bob to design us a logo which we drew on the back of our jackets in gold marker pen.  Toyah even brought a jacket of her own in and asked Bob to draw the logo on it.  Once he'd done so she added her own tagline to the bottom:

The Chosen Ones

Listening back to some of Hayley's recordings of the early days (although she stopped documenting our summer in this way fairly early on thank goodness) the overriding impression you get is how damned patient Toyah was with us. There she was surrounded by teens babbling incomprehensible questions at her from every angle and she took it in such good spirits, making a point of spending time with us where so many other celebrities wouldn't have bothered.  When she had the sides of her hair styled short for the photo shoots for the forthcoming album and single she gave each of us a lock.

And we were so hyperactive. High on nothing but youth and alcohol, we were a strange collection of individuals. There was Toyah of course, the Boss. Hayley, Alison and Linda.  Artistic Bob and his friend Lee. Steve. Eddie and Simon who were tall and cool and knew about the Batcave, Specimen and Sex Gang Children. Bill who was into heavy metal as well as Toyah.  Mark.  Kev from Watford and his mate Russ. Trevor. Lunar the outrageously tall thin man who was older than Toyah and claimed to be able to do black magic. The other Chris who was also older than Toyah. Zetta. Abi and Jenni the "munchkins". And me.

Spring became summer. In an article about the play in Smash Hits rival "Number One" Toyah's co-star Neil McCaul (who went on to star in a plethora of TV shows including the controversial  Heil Honey I'm Home) was quoted as saying "We get punks camping out around the theatre. It's like a new wave Greenham Common."

We hadn't actually camped out, but the quote was all the encouragement that we needed to do so. The following Saturday we all turned up with our sleeping bags and after saying goodbye to Toyah when she left the theatre set up camp in Puddle Dock and went to sleep for the night.

This became our weekly ritual. When Toyah began recording her new album at the Marquee recording studio in Wardour Street we extended these habits, catching the last tube from Blackfriars to Leicester Square after the play and hanging around outside the studio until she finished for the night before walking back to the Mermaid and crashing out for a few short hours.

Bob and the Big Graffiti
There was something strangely calming and surreal about half-waking at 4.30am in the centre of a totally deserted city, tucked away from general view in an industrial cul-de-sac, the desolate sounds of lonely vehicles passing occasionally through the nearby tunnel which we'd christened with our name in two-foot high letters. The oddness of realising that one had been asleep in such an unusual situation.

Sundays were usually spent at home recovering.

Sometimes real life got in the way of this unorthodox idyll. Several of us had to go away on family holidays and missed a week or so of the unrepeatable experience. I was particularly lucky yet very unfortunate - my parents had arranged for me to spend time in Mexico spending five weeks travelling around and staying with a friend of a friend of the family.

Mexico was amazing, but I was so upset to be missing the party.  I sent postcards on a regular basis back to Toyah and the rest of the gang care of the Mermaid Theatre.

When I returned there were only a couple of weeks of Tanzi left. I'd missed some amazing things; apparently one night at the Marquee Toyah and her guitarist Joel had asked the members of the Angels and Demons who were outside that night in to record backing vocals on the title track of the album Love is the Law. I'd also missed some trials and traumas too, as well as a coming out. The good thing was that everyone was pleased to see me back including Toyah.

The last night felt like the shindig at the end of the world.  The play had been spectacularly successful  and over the months we'd seen a number of famous visitors including Tracey Ullman and Rik Mayall.  Toyah had been asked to stay on but was unable to as not only had she a tour coming up at the end of the year, but was also flying off to France immediately after the end of Tanzi to make a film, The Ebony Tower, with Lawrence Olivier and Greta Scacchi.

Maybe it was because we were all drunk, but the final performance seemed like the best of the run. Outside afterwards Puddle Dock was crowded with fans from all around the country, a street party to end all street parties which continued long after Toyah had left.  Larger numbers than ever crashed out on the pavements and walkways of Blackfriars that night before being determinedly escorted out of the City of London by two hard-nosed police constables.

A chapter had ended but the events therein had completely changed the shape of the book.  The future looked bright.

Coming soon

Part 5: The Angels and Demons hit the road...


This is a piece of short Doctor Who fiction I submitted to
Big Finish on two occasions for their Short Trips anthology range (collections of short stories in both audio and traditional format). Whilst it was not amongst the successful submissions, I think it is at least worth a little wider exposure, so am reproducing it here. The character of Wendi has gone on to a supporting role in my current work-in-progress novel.

Doctor Who is © BBC

This is the most important night of my life and I'm terrified.

You probably think I'm exaggerating on both counts. True, my band's headlining the Camden Palace at the end of a successful major UK tour, but the most important night of my life? Surely I have higher ambitions than that? Well maybe you're right, perhaps I do. The most important night of my life so far, happy now?

And terrified? Stage fright is one thing, but nerves are a healthy reaction. If I find performing so terrifying how come I've stuck it out for so long?

That’s not it. It's not the gig itself that terrifies me. It's what I might see when I get out there. Suppose I look up at the front of the balcony and he is there, just as I fear he will be, him and...

***

I first met him five years ago, when we were still a two-piece working our way around the North London pub circuit. It was one night at the Albert Arms; we'd just gone down a storm which had taken us totally by surprise. Leaving Peter to start packing up the gear, I fought my way from the optimistically named backstage area (next to the mixing desk, fenced off with beer crates) to the bar, unable to control my grin. Buying a couple of pints, I turned round and bumped straight into him, a third of a pint of lager slopping straight over the sleeve of his coat.

"Oh god, I'm sorry," I turned and placed the drinks back on the bar, "I'll get you a bar towel, hang on..."

I glanced up and to my relief he was smiling.

"Don't worry, my fault. Serves me right for being so eager to talk to you! It's Sally isn't it? Good to meet you." He extended a hand.

I shook it, taking his appearance on board. He looked like a bit of a Goth to be honest. Not one of the rubber, piercing and amphetamine brigade, more one of those Byronic types who take silver hip flasks full of absinthe to nightclubs. His longish dark hair gave the impression that he’d recently been pulled through several hedges backwards. Still, the green velvet coat looked quite good on him, even if it was far too hot in the pub for that sort of thing. He didn't seem to be breaking a sweat.

"That's right!" I reached behind me and retrieved my pint, "Did you enjoy the gig?"

"Oh definitely, very much.” He grinned, and we started talking about music for a while. He music taste was bizarre; he hadn’t heard of half the bands I thought he would have done, but sometimes really seemed to know what he was talking about. I approved.

"You know, I really liked that one you did about half way through, you know, where the music suddenly stopped and it was just you singing those words from Lewis Carroll for half a minute..."

"Dog Alice," I interrupted. He nodded.

"Haunting. I always liked that chapter. I'm really glad I dropped in now, I was just passing, you see. I'm the Doctor, by the way."

It figured. Those Goths and their pseudonyms. I expected he spelled it with a K. Mind you, I thought, I could talk... Something nagged at the back of my mind then, but before I could follow the thought, he was asking when our next gig was.

"Not long – next Friday. At the Durham Tavern, it's only a mile from here. I’ll see if I’ve got a flyer." I started groping around inside my leather jacket.”

"Don’t worry, I’ll remember. I'll be there.” He glanced about then seemed to come to a decision, “Sorry, I've got to dash off but I'll see you in a minute. I mean next Friday!"

And with that he was gone, making his way through the sweaty throng with remarkable speed – not so much pushing his way out but just selecting random gaps between people as they opened and slipping effortlessly through. A bit of a space cadet, I decided, but cute.

It was only as I made my way backstage with the drinks that the nagging thought caught up with me. He'd called me by my real name, Sally.

***

True to his word, “The Doctor” did indeed show up at the Durham Tavern. I didn’t spot him until halfway through our set, a silhouette hovering at the back of the crowd. I smiled but the lights in my face were too bright to see if he responded.

It wasn't that good a gig. Peter and I just didn't have the spark we'd had at the Albert Arms, but that's just the way things go sometimes. After the show I insisted on getting the drinks, despite Peter’s protestations. I wanted to chat to the Doctor again; for one thing I was keen to find out how he'd known what my real name was – all our publicity referred to me by my stage name, "Wendi".

But somehow I never got around to asking. He was standing by the bar again and smiled as I approached. He was dressed exactly the same – that’s Goths for you – and I could have sworn the sleeve of his coat was still damp. We had a lovely chat but before I knew it he made his excuses and left, promising to see me soon.

***

He was as good as his word. Over the next couple of years he'd show up at the gigs – not all of them, but enough for it not to feel quite the same when he wasn’t there. Our fan. He'd chat to me and to Peter - and then to Toby when he joined – but mostly to me. The funny thing was I never got the impression he was coming on to me. He was just infectiously enthusiastic about what we were doing, and it's fair to say that whenever I did have doubts about the band he was a master at dispelling them.

I never did find out anything about him. He kept the details of his own life to himself, I had absolutely no idea where he went between the gigs even when he turned up at King Tut's in Glasgow!

And that's probably how it would have continued had it not been for that incident at the Cowbox.

***

It must have been about two years after the gig at the Albert Arms. I think it's closed down now, but the Cowbox was a medium sized club; a considerable step up from the pub circuit but nothing to get too excited about. Nevertheless, we'd put on a good show and I’d heard were some influential journos in the audience. In particular one Dik Write – remember him? - from the Record Mirror, you know, the guy who had a reputation for discovering the Next Big Thing. And he wanted to interview me after the show.

Once we came off stage I realised I was drunker than I should have been and was so nervous that I even forgot to go and have a look for the Doctor in the bar. And then Mr Write – ha! - came backstage for his feature...

Look, I really don't want to go into it again now. He was a sleazebag who seemed to think his make-or-break rep gave him carte blanche to make a pass at me. I'm not talking harmless flirting; once we were alone in the dressing room he dropped all pretense; it was obvious the kind of coverage he had in mind.

I was drunk and I've always had a bit of a temper on me. He ended up with a fist in the face and a knee to the groin.

It was only then that I realised what I'd done. A major influence in the music press at the time, he made it quite clear that as far as he was concerned my music career was over. He stormed out and I got stuck into a bottle of vodka.

I lost track of time after that, my memory of the rest of the evening started to degrade into odd fragments of reality. I recall sitting out in the main part of the venue some time later, more vodka in front of me, staring in incomprehension at the bodies gyrating on the dance floor. A figure approached and slid into the seat next to me.

"Sally? What's the matter?"

It was the Doctor. Slurring, and through what I was shocked to discover were tears, I explained what had happened. His face darkened.

"Why is crass ignorance and stupidity always so keen to drag creativity and beauty down to its own level?" He almost seemed more upset about it than I did.

"Don't you see?" I said, "That's it. We'll never make it now, he's got the music press in his pocket."

"You can't give up!" The Doctor took my hands in his and stared into my face, "I’m sure this feels like a setback now, but it’s nothing someone of your talent can't overcome! Your art is better. Far better. He doesn't deserve to win!"

"What's the point? He will. He has. 'Don't give up the day job', he said. It's just as well I haven't, isn't it?" I uttered a bitter laugh.

"Listen, Sally. You are important. Your career is important. Don't throw it all away on his account. If you only knew how far you'll go, what you're capable of when you’re in the right place at the right time..."

I shook my head in despair. This time the Doctor's talent of making things seem OK didn't seem to be working. He stared into space for a minute and then turned back to me.

"I'd like to show you something," he said.

I don't really remember leaving the club; my next clear memory is of staggering along the wintry streets of North London though the orange sodium light gloom, one arm linked through the Doctor's, the feel of the velvet of his coat clear and comforting under my hand as he strode purposefully... where? I don't know, I can't remember.

At one point we turned into an alleyway at the end of which stood a tall shed with two small, brightly lit square windows beaming welcome, with – oddly – a light on the roof as well.

I can't recall what happened next. Despite the sobering effect of the night air, the vodka in my bloodstream was playing havoc with my memory. I honestly think some of what was happening just wasn't being recorded in my brain.

I was sitting in an easy chair. I wasn't cold any more. Half opening my eyes, I could see that I seemed to be in some sort of cathedral. Somewhere big and dark, anyway. But for some reason I felt safe. Some way off I could blurrily make out the Doctor bending over something, busy, active, but I couldn't work out what he was doing. A column of light seemed to extend upwards beyond him.

I closed my eyes again and my head span, the floor seeming to rock and sway in sympathy – but not in the sickening way it usually did when I'd had too much, more in the comforting manner of a sailing ship crossing a deep, calm ocean...

More pavements, more night, more street lamps. It wasn't cold any more, if anything it could almost have been described as balmy. It didn't feel nearly as late as it should have by then. I felt as if I was abroad, jet-lagged. Busy streets. I became aware that we'd stopped walking and had joined a queue outside a brightly lit, baroque building. Squinting upwards I could just make out the neon sign high up on the front.

The Camden Palace.

We made our way inside, through a warm red atrium, a bloodstream crowded with bodies, down corridors and up spiral staircases until we reached the front of a balcony and leaned on the railing looking down into the packed interior. A crowd surged and boiled, a solid mass of humanity down on the dance floor in front of the stage, all pressing eagerly forward. Something was about to happen.

The lights dimmed and the sound of melodic thunder filled the air. Figures strode out onto the stage below as the crowd shrieked their approval.

One, two , three people. And hang on... surely that was Peter? Far more confident and sophisticated than I'd ever seen him, but undeniably Peter. And there was Toby, pretty much the same, and some other bloke I didn't know. And then as the thunder picked up pace and became repetitive, percussive...

A woman ran out to stand at the centre of the stage. And she was me. And she started singing.

My addled brain had no idea how long we stood there watching the gig. I remember tears running down my face at the beauty of it all – this was our music, this was how I'd always wanted it to be and how it finally was. My vision of our art, ultimately made real. We could do it, we had done it...

Even though none of this made sense. At one point I glanced up at the Doctor but he was just staring at the stage smiling, rapt.

"Thank you! Good night!" The crowd bawled with approval, craving more, but that was it and this perfect version of myself and her friends slipped off stage.

The last thing I recall is the woman down there briefly turning as she stepped into the wings, waving at everyone.

I remember nothing else from that night.

I awoke the next morning in my own bed, a severe vodka hangover poisoning my peace of mind. I had absolutely no idea how I'd got there or what I'd done beforehand. I'd been left with just one thing though thanks to that inspiring... dream I'd had. Determination.

***

It's been two and a half years now and I never did see the Doctor again. I always kept an eye out for him at the gigs but he never showed up.

What if he does tonight though? What will that mean? Here we are, actually are playing at the Camden Palace and even from the dressing room I can hear that there's a huge crowd in.

And am I amongst them? The thought petrifies me, even though I can't say why. Another body out there with my mind in it. It's irrationally wrong. I'm afraid.

Oh god. That's it, they're ready for us to go on. Here we go.

Don't look up, don't look up.

A short metablogular interlude before resuming the tales of Toyah-fandom...

Some people might think my blog entries are self-obsessed.  When I'm not recounting tales of my past obsessions, I'm mulling over what makes things tick from my point of view. How I see things.

This may very well be a fault and probably is.  However, I don't feel it would be polite for me to talk about other people all the time, and quite apart from the risk of offending them should they ever read it, I'm not sure I'm qualified.  I can only observe their behavior but have absolutely no idea what makes them tick. Of course anyone who has ever stumbled across my Twitter stream may be aware of my bite-sized ranting against sections of the populace, but as has been noted before I do try and restrict my vitriol to "...when people do..." rather than "...people who do..."

I don't think the blogosphere needs another gossip column.

Since last August the primary purpose of this torrent of superfluous verbiage has been to get my creative juices flowing and to make it easier for me to complete my novel. It does seem to have done the trick as well as despite the lack of a writing course with all the sustained peer review that entails, I have managed to link up all the chunks of novel I'd written and now have a fairly coherent first half of my first draft complete.  However, this does mean that the blog itself is merely brain exercise and won't necessarily stand up to any quality control scrutiny.  When blogging I will tend to write what comes easiest - and that's usually a transcript what's going on in my head (rather than in anyone else's).  Sometimes if I find myself obsessing over something it will turn out that writing it down and sorting it out stops me doing so. It's almost therapeutic.

Mainly though any perceived self-obsession is due to the nature of the beast. A blog is by definition one person's take on things. The word "blog" is short for "web log". It's a diary kept online and diaries are the acme of self-obsession (which is probably why they're so popular amongst teenagers).  What did I do today?

In my defense I would just point out that I do try and steer away from the "... first I got up and had a piece of toast. Then I brushed my teeth. Then I went to the store to buy some fish ..." school of bloggery. I try and make it interesting. If some conundrum concerning the nature of consciousness, evolution, quantum theory or the human mind has been fascinating me I try and share that fascination, try and break things down to their constituent parts and see if we can't work out what's going on. More often than not I'm probably unsuccessful, but I'd like to think that there may be some value even in my clumsy attempts to find out why.

And of course people don't have to read it.

"I don't have a drinking problem. I drink. I get drunk. I pass out. NO PROBLEM!"
Sigh...
"Also available in sober."
For fuck's sake...
"If found, please return to the pub."
OH SHUT UP.

I mean really. What on earth must go through someone's head when they buy an article of clothing with such a slogan on it? The kind of slogan that is only vaguely funny the first time you ever hear it when you're fifteen years old but loses all comedic value mere nanoseconds later?
Woah... That's freaky! You know I have trouble controlling my drinking and often lose all memory of the end of the evening. It's as if the author of that t-shirt somehow could see into my life... I've got to buy it. It's fate. It's not enough that I'm suffering from a crippling addiction, I want to shout it to the world!
To be fair these t-shirts are usually only available in souvenir shops in city centres so it's a fair guess that most of the time people buy them for someone else. They're a last minute gift for a so-called best mate when you've been on holiday or an eleventh hour Secret Santa for that bloke in the post room. Somehow that's even worse though...
You know I don't know much about Baz, but he has got that severe mental disorder. I'd know what he'd like - a t-shirt that draws attention to it.
Imagine if that kind of reasoning was applied to other problems people suffer from. If nothing else it would be a lucrative new line of products for t-shirt manufacturers:
I self-harm - ask me about my scars!
Dissociative identity disorder: who do I want to be today?
SSRI seems to be the hardest word
...and so on.

The difference of course is that there's a peculiar doublethink about alcohol. On the one hand consumption of ridiculous amounts is seen as a badge of machismo. I recall our current Foreign Secretary boasting that he used to be a 14 pint a day man in an attempt to appear hard whilst Leader of the Opposition. On the other hand everyone who claims to sink these gargantuan quantities of booze also denies being an actual bona fide alcoholic. However much we drink, we always like to think there's someone else who's worse.
Yeah, I do drink every night, but I'm not an alcoholic - it's not as if I piss in a bucket next to the bed and then suck the alcohol off the top with a drinking straw first thing in the morning like some people...
It's not helped by the recommended daily amount bandied about by the medical profession. Four units a day? That's two pints of gnat's piss lager. This guideline is so ridiculously low that it's not surprising that most of us just think sod it and go over the limit anyway. If you're going to stick to it you might as well give up drinking all together.

Which of course might be the preferable course of action in the long run. However, it's far easier said than done. Even if someone admits they have a problem they tend to do so in a manner that tries to pass the buck.
I've got an addictive personality!
No. Alcohol is addictive. So is tobacco. And heroin, come to that. Your personality most certainly is not, I can tell you that first hand. Just as “my bad” seems to allow the user to accept responsibility for something without apologising or shouldering any of the blame, claiming to have an “addictive personality” is still pleading not guilty to addiction just as much as denying you have a problem in the first place. I wonder if it would stand up in court?
Normal Stanley Flickknife, you have been found guilty of murder. Do you have anything to say before I pass sentence.

Yeah, it's not my fault your honour, I just have a murderous personality…
Whether we admit it's us or blame our misbehaving personalities, it's difficult to work out where such a strong addiction comes from. How does it evolve and how is it selected for? Overeating can at least be explained; in the past it would have been impossible to supersize me; likewise OCD makes sense in the context of hunting tigers out in the tundra...

But intoxication is another matter. Thugg and co came up with a cheeky little pinecone cider that they used to ferment in the skulls of mammoths; the hint of pachyderm brain used to give the beverage a certain je ne sais quoi… The problem was that cousin Glugg used to like it a little bit too much and one night drank so much that he fell out of the cave and down the cliff face. In the morning the only trace of him was a pool of sick, some smears of blood and a trail of tiger footprints leading in the direction of the distant outcrop. As it turned out, drinking yourself to distraction and the associated perils were guaranteed to ensure you didn't pass on your selfish genes yea even unto the ninth generation.

Why is it such a problem then? How did it survive? Either every new generation discovers the pleasures of the hydroxyl carbon compound afresh or there's something else going on. Perhaps drinking alcohol somehow mimics something else that's very difficult to shake.

It's certainly very difficult to stop drinking, even if only for a while:
"People who've never tried not drinking have no idea just how hard not drinking can be. Some days you succeed, win a white-knuckled battle against yourself. On others you don't, and it's those days which feel like the victory. Fuck it, a voice says. Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it all. You've no idea whose voice it is any more, but it seems to speak sense and truth."
Michael Marshall Smith, One of Us
All this talk of drinking has made me a little thirsty. I need a drink. NO PROBLEM!