Magpie Anthology

In Which a Teenage Crush Shows his True Colours

When I was a teenager many moons ago in rural Ireland I had dreams like every other teenage girl my age. I wanted to meet rock stars, have a ‘boy next door’ boyfriend so beloved of Jackie columnists, shop at Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Chelsea Girl (non existent in those days in Ireland), wear make up properly, lose weight and go clubbing. Unfortunately I lived, as I say, in rural Ireland where the nearest neighbour, a farmer in his 70s, was a mile away, the nearest village 3 miles away and the shopping mecca of Dublin 50 miles away so precisely none of this ever happened.

And so I lived my teenage fantasies out through magazines which in themselves were in short supply and had to be ordered specially from the newsagents to be delivered at least three weeks after their publication date. From my little room at the top of the Wicklow mountains I devoured copies of Jackie (every girl’s staple for knowing what was what) and Smash Hits with its printed song lyrics and pull out posters for bedroom walls. Cathy and Claire, the Jackie agony aunts  gave an address of King’s Reach Tower in London and I wondered where that might be. Of course this being eons ago there was no internet or Google so I wondered on for many years until I ended up working there myself in a bizarre quirk of fate on Classic Cars Magazine and so the wondering on that count was over. But what of Smash Hits?

At the time of my reading, there was a rather handsome editor called Mark Ellen in charge and I gazed at his picture and wondered (again) what he was like and how he got to be in the exalted position of editor. He seemed terribly knowledgable and interesting and I longed to meet him, just for a minute so that I could reassure myself that he was all that he seemed. Fast forward about 15 more years and in another bizarre quirk of fate I bumped into a friend in Soho and who should she be with but the man himself. It’s inevitable isn’t it, that at the moment when you want to seem nonchalant and cool you blow it completely and gush that you’d had a HUGE crush on this bemused man and that you were so thrilled to meet him…coolness was ever one of my twentysomething attributes.

And then. Many years later over on Twitter, Mr Ellen was giving away some rather fantastic things from his attic and so we began a little correspondence. I admitted to my crush, he didn’t run away screaming, I won none of his prizes and asked (reasonably coolly) for a signed copy of Smash Hits as a consolation prize as it were. I have since read of his great charm in interviews and book reviews and this charm has been extended to me because just a week later a signed copy of the iconic Toyah 1980’s cover copy of Smash Hits landed on the mat.

He also sent a lovely e mail making sure that I’d received it. They say that you should never meet your heroes and OK if we’re being honest here I did disgrace myself somewhat by gushing when we did meet briefly but I think that I’ve redeemed myself sufficiently. The mag has been framed and hangs next to a vintage Isle of Wight Festival poster because that seems kind of fitting. I know that this might sound like the worst sort of sad muppetry to some but as it just so happens I have now been a writer for many years and like to think that the path was set  for me all those years ago in my little bedroom in Ireland with Cathy and Claire and of course the very charming Mark Ellen.

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