The Hidden Village of Aspergers

April 21, 2016

An open letter to Roberto Martinez

Dear Roberto Martinez,

I’m not going to lie. Until recently, I fucking hated you.

I attributed Everton’s every failure to you. I read Everton forums and tweets and blogs to stoke my hatred. I built you up into a monster and saw you as a thing rather than a person. The very sight of your face or the sound of your voice filled me with rage. I hated you more than I’ve hated any human being, besides the man I call Itachi. And I wanted you dead.

I fantasised about killing you. I planned how and when I was going to do it. I’m not proud of this, but I had intrusive thoughts, like a voice in my head constantly telling me to kill you. Someone or something was telling me, “Kill this man, and you will be rewarded.” I figured that Everton fans would hail me as a hero or a god. Luckily, the opposite occurred. When I told other Everton fans what I felt, they called me crazy and a psychopath and said I needed locking up. I was banned from two Reddit pages and even the most negative of Everton fans told me I’d gone too far.

I have to thank you, because you made me realise I needed help. I saw a picture of you carrying Luella, your daughter, as you walked round the pitch at Goodison Park last season, and for an instant, I didn’t see a thing, a target, a hate figure. I saw a loving husband and father. I saw a human being who loves Jabugo ham and idolises his dad and dances badly to Jason Derulo and watches TV on his L-shaped sofa with his wife. More importantly, I saw a human being whose death would make many people sad, and the thought of your little girl growing up without a dad – just like I did – made me realise what I felt was sick and wrong. Even if the chances of me acting on my thoughts were virtually nil, I wanted to stop having these thoughts. One Friday, I had enough. I broke down crying and got an emergency appointment with a kind doctor who referred me to the local mental health services. I saw them a few hours ago today, as it happens.

I built you up into a monster and stripped away your humanity in order to make you easier to hate. I no longer saw you as a person, but the epitome of everything that had made me miserable this year. It was not you I hated. It was what you represented. Panic attacks, bleeding arms, and my mum hooked up to drips in a hospital bed, the week before I saw Everton lose to Swansea.

When I saw you after Liverpool’s 4-0 thrashing of Everton, any remaining hatred I had for you disappeared. You looked tired and sad, and older than your 42 years, with your rapidly disappearing hair, the lines around your mouth and the shadows under your big dark bloodshot eyes. You looked like a man who knew his time was running out and his job was on the line, that he had become a joke and a hate figure, and had nowhere to hide. You admitted the match was a disaster. I don’t know what goes on in the dressing room at Goodison, but I wouldn’t want to be you right now. I wished I could put my arms around you and say, “It’ll be OK.” Instead of rage and hatred, I only felt pity and sadness. Sadness that it could have been so different. You came to Everton full of life and promise, and we adored you. Now it’s 2016, and things are looking bleak for you. What goes through your mind when you see banners with ‘Martinez Out’ on them, or you hear the Liverpool fans laughing at you and chanting your name ironically? We’ll never know.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think you’ve got what it takes to manage Everton, but I wish you well in whatever you do. You seem like a genuinely nice person, and an interesting one at that, and your heart is in the right place, and I want you to be happy. I don’t wish harm on you anymore. I don’t see you as a monster, but as a flawed, ordinary human being just like me. Because that’s what football managers are – Klopp, Mourinho, Wenger, Rodgers, Derry, whoever. Just flawed, ordinary human beings with wives and kids and lives outside football.

Having obsessive thoughts is fucking shit, Roberto, especially when they turn me into a person I don’t want to be. Let’s hope that you’re the last person I feel like this about.

Yours,

Lotte

March 22, 2014

Diary Of A Wimp

(On Wednesday) I sent you a hundred letters in one day
I bet your friends had a good laugh at them
(On Thursday) Stood there before you all puppy-eyed
It’s my curse for falling in love

On TV Tropes, there’s much discussion of a certain character archetype, the Yandere (it’s an anime thing – the Western equivalent would be ‘bunny boiler’). The poster girl for this trope is Yuno Gasai (pictured), the main female character in the manga Mirai Nikki, who is obsessed with the hero, Yukiteru – and I mean, obsessed. If ‘Yukki’ so much as smiles at her, she explodes in an ecstasy of delight. She’s willing to kill for him, and anyone who poses the slightest threat, who so much as smiles as ‘Yukki’, has just painted a big target on their back. OK, so I was never that extreme, but I can empathise; I too have obsessed over men who did not love me back. The first one was R, my best friend in high school; the second was P, a boy in my year who I’d been friends with for a while; and the third, the most damaging, was a man I referred to as ‘Itachi’, a while back, who I met through the Rock Soc at university. It didn’t help that my obsession with him got serious a few months before my overdose and subsequent breakdown. Bizarrely, I’ve seen some men say that they want a girlfriend like this.

Let me tell you this: obsessive behaviour is not pretty. If you want a Yandere girlfriend, you are living in a fools’ paradise. Even if you’re so self-obsessed that the idea of a woman obsessing over you gives you wood, a woman like that will only make you miserable. I told my last boyfriend that he should be glad I didn’t feel about him the way I felt about certain men, because that was obsession, not love. I’ve never had a restraining order taken out against me, and it’s never gotten into such drastic territory, but it has caused friction, and in one case, turned the man against me. R and P remained friends with me, although I don’t see much of them now, but Itachi hated me.

I don’t know if it’s daddy issues or something, but I have a habit of fixating on certain men and getting obsessed with them. I have learned to recognise the warning signs:

– I google them a lot.

– They are constantly in my thoughts and dreams, and on my lips. I write songs about them. I drive my mates nuts with talk about them.

– I am terrified of making them angry. I make every effort to keep on their right side, because I’m scared of ‘losing’ them.

– If they have girlfriends, as was the case with P and Itachi, I make an effort to befriend said girlfriends, to get over my own jealousy. When I found out Itachi had a girlfriend, just as I was planning to ask him out, I went off to the toilets and cried.

– I get involved in the same stuff as I do in order to spend more time with them. In clubs, I hang around them like a bad smell. I dance with them. I try and sit near them. This is all stuff I did with Itachi, and he knew exactly what I was doing. A friend of his warned me, and I genuinely did try to stop acting like a lost puppy, but it was too late.

– I wander past their houses.

– If I text or message them and they don’t reply, I get panicky.

Do I have a type? Perhaps. The men in question have all been intelligent, tall-ish, outgoing (Itachi and R more than P), had fairly stable home lives in comparison to mine (although Itachi’s parents are divorced), and had the same sense of humour as me, as well as similar interests. Itachi and R even looked quite similar once Itachi got his hair cut, although Itachi is bigger and hairier. Each time, I felt a weird sort of connection with them. In Itachi’s case, I carved his initials into my arm. When he told me on MSN that he didn’t want anything to do with me, I cried for ages. I didn’t know what I’d done wrong and why he hated me so much. A year or so later, a friend of his took great pleasure in telling me that he didn’t like coming out with Rock Soc because of me always ‘following him around’. My obsessive love turned to hate. After the fall-out, when I returned to Manchester, every time I saw him, I’d have panic attacks. I’d feel sick and my hands would shake. I don’t know why – it’s not as if the guy raped me or anything. Perhaps it was because every time I saw him, I was confronted with the results of my horrible obsessive behaviour. I swore to myself that I would never fixate on a man like this again. Admittedly, I did worry that I might be getting like this with Space, and it’s a tendency I want to curb, though luckily it’s not happened, and when I hung out with the band on Thursday, they were as friendly as ever.

In an excellent article in the Times Magazine from April 2012, about girls on the autistic spectrum, a woman said of her young daughter, “I see kind little girls make friends with her and she’s so obsessive in her friendships, she literally wants to crawl under their skin. Eventually, she always loses them all because they can’t handle her intensity.” This is me with those three men. It goes back to the extremity of emotions: when we take an interest in something, we go all out. We love and hate in black and white. I went from wanting to do anything for Itachi to wishing him dead. Luckily, I don’t feel this way about most of my friends, though there are a couple I do tend to put on a pedestal, but I don’t fixate on them.

Love is beautiful. Love is powerful and strong and can move mountains, but love is not obsession and obsession is not love. It is merely a twisted reflection of love.

March 8, 2014

Blow Your Cover

From A to B, you pressured me
I’m everything that you want me to be
But all I ever wanted was your carnal knowledge

One thing people at school used to make fun of me for was being a virgin. Even back in Year 7, when I was only twelve, people would take the piss out of me for not having had sex yet. One girl suggested I do ‘Like A Virgin’ for the school karaoke contest. When I turned seventeen, I was desperate to lose my virginity. I felt I had to fit in by having sex with people and that if I didn’t have sex, I wasn’t normal. Please understand – this is only in my own head, and I mean no disrespect to asexuals, or people who lost their virginity late. Some people I know didn’t lose theirs until they were in their twenties. I just had this idea that sex was the be-all and end-all, not helped by all the girls’ magazines I read with articles about sexual positions. I felt I had to have it in order to become normal.

I was seventeen when I lost my virginity. It was in the women’s toilets on the second floor of the Krazyhouse in Liverpool, with a random man I’d just met called Dave. I asked him if he wanted to have sex with me, he said yes, and the next thing I knew, I was straddling him on a toilet. It lasted about fifteen minutes and wasn’t that great, to be honest. It was also unprotected. Luckily, my best mate at the time, R – more on him later – took me to get the morning after pill the next day. My mum later found the booklet and after I confessed it was mine, she went mad and took me to an STD clinic to get tested. Luckily, I had nothing wrong with me.

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but one night I was over at R’s house – his parents were away – and we ended up going to his bedroom, and I stripped off and he lay on top of me. A week or so later, he came round to my house and I gave him a blow job. Eventually we settled into a pattern where we’d go up to my room and put music on and I’d give him head, and then on my 18th birthday, we had full sex for the first time. It hurt. The second time I had sex with him, I cried because the pain was so intense. About the fourth or fifth time, though, it was great. He taught me a lot and he is, to paraphrase Kurt Cobain, the best fuck I ever had. Thus began my first sexual relationship, although it was entirely casual. I was in love with R, but he didn’t love me back. He was also the first man I ever obsessed over, with two more to come.

R always used protection; I wasn’t his first, and he knew I was scared of getting pregnant. We carried on for six months, with me going home with him after school on Fridays, or him coming over to mine. For some reason, he was worried about my parents finding out. Sure enough, I had to go to the toilet and my mum came in, and as R and I had been having sex, I put a dressing gown on. Mum later asked me why I’d been wearing a dressing gown in the afternoon and what I was doing with R, and I broke down and told her. She didn’t hit the roof, but she did warn me to be careful and not to get too attached. Getting too attached was my greatest flaw. In November 2002, R said he didn’t want to have sex with me anymore. I cried and called him a fucking bastard, but we did eventually make up and stayed friends after that.

I had four sexual relationships after that, as well as a one-night stand in 2003 with a guy who lived in my halls. Firstly with Pete, a guy I’d met in a club through my mate Paul, and a rebound after R and I split; then with Owen, who I met at a house party during my first year at uni, for two weeks; then a casual relationship with a guy called Danny, who I met through Rock Soc; and then my first serious relationship, with J, which lasted three years. There wasn’t much sex. Depression can do things to your sex drive. I still beat myself up for not being a ‘proper’ queer because I didn’t have sex with the woman I was going out with back in 2005. I was on Sertraline and it killed my sex drive, and that was one of the reasons why we split.

I’m going through a fallow period now. I haven’t had sex since 2008 and I still get those old pangs when I read about my friends’ sex lives. I feel like a freak and that I’m missing out and that I’m not ‘normal’ if I’m not having sex, which is stupid. I’ve considered dating random people off the internet, but the shyness and lack of confidence holds me back. I like sex, not gonna lie, and it bothers me that some people seem to see me as a weird sexless creature. I’m not. Funnily enough, I always believed I’d be a virgin forever, as no-one would want to fuck me, but I was wrong there.

By the way, the lyrics above apply more to me than R. He never pressured me into doing anything I didn’t want to – he did want me to do anal, but I refused because I was scared of the pain. He was a considerate lover. Now he’s married to a beautiful Iranian woman and living in Newcastle. I bear no grudges; he was a great friend to me as a well as a sexual partner, and he helped me a lot through school. He was the Ino Yamanaka to my Sakura Haruno, to use a Naruto analogy.

February 23, 2014

An announcement

If you’ve been following this blog, you might have noticed that I am a big fan of the Liverpool indie/rock / uncategorisable band Space. I’ve written about hanging out backstage with them at a gig in Manchester in March last year, how frontman Tommy Scott looked after me when I had a serious panic attack at another gig in Birmingham, and how they got me through high school. As it happens, they’re releasing their fifth album, Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab (yes, really), next month. It looks to be the best thing they’ve done since Tin Planet in 1998. To commemorate this, and as a challenge, I’m doing a series of miniblogs about Asperger’s Syndrome – some personal, some advice. Each will be around 600 to 800 words. Moreover, each post is going to be named after a Space song and have a different theme. Here’s the list:

1. If It’s Real: yes, it is a disability
2. Neighbourhood: moving house
3. Mr Psycho: emotional difficulties
4. Female Of The Species: not fitting in with other girls
5. No One Understands: the diagnosis
6. Dark Clouds: memories of Barcelona
7. Blow Your Cover: first sexual relationship
8. Influenza: getting ME
9. Life Of A Miser: managing money and other household things
10. Avenging Angels: relationship with my father
11. The Man: coping at work
12. Disco Dolly: festival tips
13. Fran In Japan: role models outside the family
14. I Am Unlike A Lifeform You’ve Ever Met: on books and the imaginary world
15. Bastard Me Bastard You: unwanted attention from men
16. Numb The Doubt: on drugs
17. Everybody In The Madhouse: primary school
18. Diary Of A Wimp: obsessive behaviour
19. Gravity: Dad’s death
20. Juno 54: relationship with music
21. Hell Of A Girl: bisexuality
22. Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll: the Chester years
23. The English Language Let Me Down: speech and language
24. Paranoid 6teen: relationship with my brother
25. Crying On The Webcam: self-injury and stigma
26. Quiet Beach: the overdoses
27. Fortune Teller: on being childfree
28. Armageddon: on parties
29. Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab: love-hate relationship with food
30. Falling In Love Again: relationship with the Perrys (my current stepdad and his teenage kids, Alice and Tom)
31. Guestlist To Hell: the people who keep me alive

I have my friend Chloe to thank for this – I found out about NaBloPoMo through her, and I wanted to see if I could do a challenge of some kind and stick to it for a month. This year is going to be about challenges; I’m going to Barcelona again, without any family members in the background this time, I’m doing the 5:2 diet, I’m going to go and see Everton play at some point (football matches are hard to deal with), and I’m going to be doing the Race for Life in my father’s memory, along with two friends, Topher and Sarah, and their dogs, Starbuck and Semtex (and we will be walking it, as I have ME and Semtex is a bulldog, a breed not known for their athletic skills!) I also, finances depending, may go to Berlin in the autumn / winter. The horrible Schonefeld experience did not put me off, and there’s so much of the city yet to be seen.

I apologise in advance to any family members I might upset with this. Also, out of consideration to readers, I will be posting trigger warnings / content notes on posts that contain potentially triggering content (e.g. sexual assault and eating disorders).

January 1, 2014

And 2014 begins.

I am sitting here, in my kitchen, playing Farm Heroes. The happy, smiling faces of the cartoon fruit and vegetables make me sad for some reason. I think it’s because I’m feeling a little flat and empty after spending time with my friends and family. Post-Christmas comedown and post-exertional fatigue (I’ve not been exercising, but I have been busy) has kicked in; I just want to sleep. I’m amazed I even can sum up the brain power to type this. I didn’t go out last night because of it. I just stayed in and watched Wayne’s World.

So, 2013. It’s been hit and miss. On the plus side, I met new people, went to Barcelona alone and had a fantastic time at Primavera. I became a lot closer to my stepdad, not that we weren’t in the first place, had a fun time with the family at Ness Gardens (rain notwithstanding), got to see a football match for the first time in years (it was Cambridge United, not Everton), and saw more Space gigs than you can shake a stick at. The last gig I saw was on Halloween in London, and after talking to him backstage, Tommy Scott got me to come onstage with him for The Ballad Of Tom Jones. We both hammed it up, and afterwards, he gave me a hug and told me I’d done the song proud, while Franny Griffiths smiled at me and Phil Hartley also gave me a hug backstage, and the audience were great. I still can’t quite believe it happened.

On the down side, my best mate moved to Oxford, I had a horrible panic attack at a Space gig, my mum went into rehab, I stopped going to synagogue because choir stressed me out, and I had to deal with problems at work, delusions and paranoia. A good deal of it is to do with Space. I find some of the band very hard to read and worry that they dislike me and do not appreciate me coming backstage, although Franny did say at the Hebden Bridge gig that he was cool with it. Then again, they haven’t told me to fuck off, Franny actually got somewhat irritated with me when I called myself a ‘dumb whore’ and told me to stop putting myself down, and the one time I did get kicked out of the dressing room, all the other fans who were there got kicked out too as the band were getting changed, which is fair enough. I also rely on alcohol as a coping mechanism. It’s not a case of being starstruck; I know Space are only human. It’s more a case of worrying a lot about appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and how other people might see me.

Communication is a problem I have in general, and when I’m able to gather my thoughts more coherently, I’ll blog on it, because sometimes it’s like trying to navigate my way through a forest, blindfolded. I’m not always good at expressing myself, I can’t always detect nuance and like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, I instantly suspect the worst of people and find it hard to trust others. I have to remember that just because some people hated me behind my back, and were only afraid to tell me how they really felt to my face because they knew I was mentally ill and feared I would flip out, does not mean everyone is like that.

I have plans for this year. I’ll be going to Space in March, at London, Liverpool and Manchester, and aim to get over my fear and paranoia. I’ve also got Nine Inch Nails and Primavera Sound coming up – I’ll be going back to Barcelona – and I plan to go down to Cambridge for my birthday, as well as visiting my auntie Chris, my dad’s sister, at the end of this month. I may well be going to Berlin as well – I haven’t decided yet. Hopefully there will not be a repeat of the unpleasant experience at Schonfeld Airport.

Also, I had a bit of a meltdown at Christmas when I got into an argument with my mum. She wants to get me a cleaner, as I have trouble taking care of my flat. I admit I have mixed feelings about this; I’m worried some of my friends will hate me for it and call me a spoiled brat, and I feel guilty for not being able to clean as much as I would like. I admit it; I am not a tidy person. I put cardboard and plastic in the recycling bins, I cook and wash the dishes, I change my sheets weekly and do my laundry regularly, I hoover, I clean the lav (again, not as much as I should), but it’s not enough. I haven’t cleaned the skirting boards, I barely wash the floors or dust. Mopping makes my back ache, as does any work on my knees. I think it’s a case of feeling like I can’t be that bad, that I’m not disabled to the extent that others are and I’m privileged and it could be a lot worse…and then the tiredness hits and I can barely think straight and I just want to crawl into bed. There’s a lot of internalised ableism and foolish pride going on as well. I’m still ashamed to admit I need help in some areas. When a lot of your friends are mentally ill and/or more understanding than most people, you become so used to that world that you almost forget how the majority of people see you. Cutting my arms and pouring boiling water over them at work seems normal to me, as does throwing up in the toilet after a binge…but to other people, it can come across as a bit scary.

I’m staying on the Venlafaxine for the time being. I’m not 100%, but let’s be realistic, I’m probably going to be on meds for the rest of my life. Still, I have some control over the delusions; when the Liverpool fans on my Facebook and Twitter sneer at Evertonians, I have to force myself to remember that it’s not personal and they’re not trying to get me, for instance. Hopefully it will get better. Fingers crossed.

October 2, 2013

It only takes one chocolate bar

First off, I should probably put a warning on this post. If you’ve ever had problems with an eating disorder, you might find this post triggering. Proceed with caution.

For reasons I’m not going into, out of respect for my family, addiction’s been on my mind recently. The other thing that prompted this post is the fact that I’ve recently been having difficulty breathing, and my chest hurts. After going on Google, I figured out I’d pulled my chest muscles from purging, and that was what was causing the pain.

I have an obsessive personality. I obsess over people, books, manga, bands.  My obsession with Space is one I need to keep a careful check on, as it’s caused me a lot of anxiety lately. I sometimes wonder if having an obsessive personality might overlap with an addictive personality; there’s the same kind of all-or-nothing quality in both cases. I have to go to as many Space gigs as I can and buy as much stuff by them as I can and back when I was a kid, I’d buy every magazine they were in that I could get my hands on, and I was in the fan club, and there were other, more embarrassing aspects of it that I won’t go into here. In the same way, when I’ve gone through phases of being obsessed with my body, I’ve counted calories and gone to the gym and pushed myself till I hurt. Even yesterday, I felt like a failure because I was only in there for 20 minutes and I had to get off the bike because my arms and legs were literally shaking. The last time I went, I was in pain for days.

I had a phase around 2004 where I was barely eating. I’d have an apple for lunch and things like two sausages on a plate of spinach for dinner, and I’d give up sweet things. That all stopped, luckily for my mum – who was worried about me – when I went back to uni. I was thin for a year, then I got put on Citalopram and my weight shot up. Looking at old pictures of myself made me want to cry. I missed being thin. I had to tell myself that being fat and relatively stable was better than being thin and cutting all the time and wanting to die, but when Mum was having a go at me over my weight, and when I looked in the mirror at the mikveh when I converted to Judaism and was ashamed of my gut, I wondered if coming off the pills might be an idea.

Food and I have a complicated relationship. I am a comfort eater. When I am stressed or unhappy, I comfort eat. When I’m going through a particular bad patch, I binge and purge. I have been doing this on and off for about half my life – I remember throwing up in the sink in my room. I can’t even remember what started it. I did it at school, I definitely remember that.

It only takes one chocolate bar, one biscuit, one packet of crisps on a bad day. You think, “I’ll just eat this thing.” Then you think, “Another one won’t hurt.” Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole pack. You feel disgusted at yourself. You run to the toilet, fill a glass with water to help, shove your fingers down your throat, and vomit and vomit until your stomach starts to hurt and only bile is coming up. Alternatively, you’re out with mates, and they’re having pudding, so you do as well, and then you immediately start to feel guilty and it’s toilet time again, and you wonder if your friends know what you’re doing.

I know vomiting doesn’t help. Believe me, I know. I’ve started to suffer the side effects. Besides chest pains, after purging I get an irritating cough – apparently ‘bulimics’ cough’ is a thing – a sore throat, and damaged teeth. That’s not to mention the watering eyes and bad breath, and having to clean my toilet, wipe down walls, wash my hands, check that there is no telltale puke in my hair or on my hands or face or clothes. Bulimia is not pretty or glamorous. It is, frankly, pretty disgusting.

I tried Slimming World. It barely worked. I may go back on if and when I have enough money and willpower, but it is going to take a hell of a lot. When you’re stuck in bad eating habits, it is hard to get out. Add to that a chronic condition that makes exercise potentially debilitating, and you’re fucked. I sometimes wonder if addictive personalities run in the family. I’m not the first person in my family to have had an eating disorder, or at least symptoms of one. There have been alcoholics in my family. I don’t think I’m in any danger of becoming an alcoholic; I don’t drink these days due to my meds, which makes Space gigs awkward (at the last one, I came very close to having a full-blown anxiety attack in front of Franny Griffiths), and I’m not a big fan of alcohol anyway. I’ve done drugs, and although I did enjoy MDMA, I never got addicted to it (the novelty would have worn off, for one thing). My addiction, let’s be honest, is food. I am overweight, in a society that hates fat people, and I am stuck in a horrible behaviour pattern and I want to get out of it, believe me. Sometimes you think, “I’m going to change, I’m going to give this up and I’m going to eat this instead and do yay amount of exercise,” and for a few days it lasts and then you have a bad day at work or you’re PMS-ing and it’s back to square one. Again, and again, and again.

As I type this, my lunch is in the oven – it’s a salmon steak, a couple of potato waffles, and I’ve got some homemade salsa in the fridge made of avocados and red onion and tomatoes. I know I will keep it down. I tend not to vomit that kind of thing. Even I have my limits.

March 17, 2013

On Space

Filed under: childhood,music,obsessions,relationships with others — kankurette @ 9:40 pm

Amazingly, this is one of the hardest posts I’ve written yet, not least because the people concerned may see this, and hopefully it won’t freak them out – but after last night, it’s something I need to get off my chest.

A bit of background: as my close friends and family will know, having listened to me playing their music and going on about them for years, one of my biggest obsessions is the Liverpool band Space. They were fairly big in the mid-to-late ’90s, their most well-known song being Female Of The Species, and they split up in 2005, only to reform near the end of 2011. This month, they’ve been touring, and I was lucky enough to see them in London – as my brother lives down there and a friend of his would be at the gig, and I thought it would be nice to have a mini reunion – and Manchester. I went to London last Thursday, and Manchester last night.

I am Facebook friends with two of the band members – Tommy Scott, the singer, guitarist and main songwriter, and Franny Griffiths, one of the two keyboardists and the only original member alongside Tommy in the current line-up – and they knew I was going to be at both gigs. They are also my two favourite band members; Tommy is a major influence on me as a songwriter, and Franny is one of my musical heroes and two keyboardists, the other being Regina Spektor, who inspired me to keep up with the piano and mess around with keyboards. I even arranged one of Franny’s songs, Fran In Japan, for piano for my GCSE Music exam, and got an A (the flute piece my teacher wanted me to play would have got me a B). I have met them a few times and both of them have been nothing short of lovely. Franny was even kind enough to put up with me acting like a deranged fangirl at the Unity Theatre gig in 2002, machine-gunning him with questions and talking non-stop. Even after we’d had an argument on the Space forums over a song I hated, when I met the band at the Metro in London a few months later, it was like nothing had happened.

I do not worship them. They are people, not gods. They have their flaws and I don’t agree with everything they say or like every song they’ve done. But it is no exaggeration when I say that Space saved my life in high school. Spiders, their first album, came out in 1996, when I would have been in Year 8, and Tin Planet came out when I was in Year 9. The first five years of school were, frankly, hell.

In short, I was a weird kid in a new town who had no real friends – the girls I thought were my friends were laughing at me behind my back, and the one friend I did have eventually turned on me – and I didn’t know who to trust. I was made fun of for not wearing my bag properly, for being a virgin, for my accent, my hair, my bad skin, my music taste, you name it. When I told my mother I wished she had never had me, I meant it. When I started cutting myself in 1999, I hated myself and everything that I was, and I wanted to punish myself for being a horrible flawed human being. I was jealous of my brother and desperate to please my mum and stepdad, and lonely as hell. Trite though it sounds, one of the things that really got me through those years was Space’s music. I would come home and put Tin Planet on and for a while, I’d be able to escape. Even though none of them were outcasts at school, they were outcasts on the music scene; they looked like a guitar band, but weren’t, Tommy was inspired by cartoons and B-movies instead of the Beatles, and they sang about serial killers and stalkers and Charlie Manson, not pulling girls and getting pissed. When I saw them for the first time in 1998, I didn’t come down for days. When I met them four years later, it was like a dream come true, and I wanted to bottle the night and replay it forever. I was terrified that Franny would be rude or arsey, even though my then friend Jo, who knew the band, assured me he was the opposite. Thankfully, she was right.

Last night, the gig was one of the most intense Space gigs I had ever been to – it was in a small venue, where we were practically nose to nose with the band, and my ears are ringing even now. Tommy hugged me during Female Of The Species and later, invited me backstage, and I went and sat in the tiny backstage bit with him and Franny, while the other three band members, Allan the drummer, Phil the bassist and Ryan the second keyboardist, wandered in and out. As Tommy had to go back to Chester, I spent most of the time talking to Franny – and Phil and his girlfriend Emma, to a lesser extent – and stealing his JD and Coke, and I finally got round to telling him what I’d wanted to say to Space for years, the one reason why I loved them so much in 1998: that Avenging Angels, released four and a half years after my father had died, was a huge coping mechanism for me when I found out that Tommy had written it about his own father. I had always believed that Dad was watching over me, and knowing Tommy felt the same way was a huge comfort. If you’re reading this, Tommy, thank you so much for writing that song, and Bad Days too. It means more to me than I can express here.

Sitting with the band backstage and talking to Franny, one of the people who’s influenced me the most as a musician, for ages about Spain and Catatonia and whatever was magical, and I’m really grateful to the guys for the invite. I walked out scarcely believing it had happened, although my brandy and JD-induced hangover is proof it did. I know people will sneer at me, a mentally ill woman of nearly thirty with no boyfriend who’s slavishly following a band of aging has-beens around the country…even if they are aging has-beens, they’re MY fucking aging has-beens, dammit, and no-one will ever take what I had last night away from me. For has-beens, they are very loved. I doubt Phil was kidding when he said it was the best gig of the tour. The audience adored them last night. Tommy was very game, posing for photo after photo after photo with loads of audience members, and he was the same at London. It must be very gratifying to know that, after all these years in the wilderness, there are still people who love your music.

So thank you, Tommy Scott, Franny Griffiths, Phil Hartley, Ryan Clarke, and Allan Jones – and not forgetting Andy Parle (RIP), Jamie Murphy, Yorkie and Leon Caffrey, the latter three of whom I have also met. You have made this stupid fangirl this little screw-up very happy for years, your music got me through tough times, and I cannot thank you enough. You’ve been great. Bring on the next tour.

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