kowarth gave me Oxford, Biggles, Scooter, Servalan & Orange.
Ah, Oxford, scene of my higher education. It was a nice place to spend four years, and also a safe one - if I'd gone to one of the London universities I'm sure I would have been repeatedly mugged during those first tentative flutters out of the nest - but I don't retain any particularly fond feelings for it. I can only recall visiting once since graduation, and I could certainly never live there - too full of bloody students.
Worth mentioning is that I met kowarth, who had lived within ten minutes of me for all of our lives, because his then girlfriend happened to be on my corridor in my first year.
I was already a teenager when Captain James Bigglesworth flew into my life thanks to my best bud Sally, who was having a clearout and presented me with three Biggles books on the grounds that "he's like the James Bond of the air".
I don't think the clean-living, morally upstanding Captain would have appreciated the comparison, but I lapped up his adventures. I was just getting into First World War aviation thanks to some great airshow displays, and Biggles of 266 was probably responsible for tipping me over the brink into obsession.
My Biggles collection has its own bookshelf; I own almost all the books, only a few scarce and pricy titles eluding me. Over the course of his career Biggles is a boy warrior, Spitfire ace, treasure hunter, Cold Warrior and flying detective. But the stories I re-read over and over all put him in the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel.
Scooter: always, never a motorcycle. Sorry to all my biker buds, but scooter aesthetics appealed to me while bikes left me cold. kowarth was a frequent flyer on my first scooter, Bernadette, and her successor, Oscar - I'm recalling particularly our trip to see Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me in Bournemouth one balmy summer evening.
Servalan: Blake's 7, like Star Trek, has never featured in my personal canon of sci-fi greats. It didn't help that the first episode I saw featured giant rubber spiders which revolted me utterly. But when I do happen to catch an episode, I have eyes only for Servalan. The height, the haircut, and the withering sarcasm delivered in that voice. The lady rocks.
Some years ago I accompanied kowarth to a signing at Barking's sci-fi bookshop. Having stood with him in Jacqueline Pearce's queue for some time, I decided I might as well have my photo taken with her while I was at it. I asked permission, and Jacqui patted the arm of her chair and said - in that voice - "Of course, darling! Come and perch!"
I was pretty smitten.
Orange: My favourite colour was always red. Then, in the summer of 1999, I acquired Oscar, my Vespa, painted in a beautiful shade of burnt metallic orange. I still think wistfully about that scooter, the first I ever owned from new.
Around the same time, I found an orange corduroy shirt in a charity shop. "I'm into orange at the moment," I told the lady behind the counter. "That means you want to be loved," she informed me.
It was very true at that time (to a certain extent, of course, it always is). Whether that's the reason orange has been part of my personal statement ever since, though, I don't know. Maybe it's just groovy.
Would anybody like five words? I can't promise they'll be terribly good ones.