My workmate handed me a CD by Keith Urban.
"I think you'll like this," she said.
This colleague was one of the few people who knew I liked country music.
I was too embarrassed to tell others – especially when I'd spent most of my life a huge Bon Jovi fan.
But from the moment I listened to Keith, something clicked in me and I knew it was different to anything I'd ever heard before.
His music was so uplifting and put me in a good mood.
When he toured later that year, I went along and sang my heart out.
My interest in Keith grew so much I started connecting with other fans across the world and attended as many of his concerts as I could.
I couldn't believe my luck when I won a meet-and-greet through a radio competition.
We only had a few moments together and I wanted to make the most of it.
"You make me feel happy all the time," I told him.
Keith signed my arm, which I later had tattooed so it would be permanent.
"That's crazy!" he laughed when I showed him at another meet-and-greet.
Keith's music became so important to me that I started planning my holidays around his tour dates – even travelling to New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
Other fans and I hung out together in Nashville, where Keith was based. Attending the concerts with mates made them even more exciting.
One time, at Wellington airport, I even spotted Keith and went up to him. He gave me a hug, which I cherished.
I'd recently broken my leg trying to rescue a possum so this unplanned encounter with my idol was a great end to a difficult year.
So far, I've been to 45 concerts with 11 more booked when Keith tours again.
At home, I've got a collection of memorabilia, including guitar picks, drum sticks and even an air horn from his shows.
I'm not obsessed with Keith.It's his music I love most, but being his fan has certainly changed my life for the better.
I placed the wreath on the grave then took my place amongst the crowd and began singing in Elvish.
I'd flown from my home in Australia to Oxford in the UK for a gathering of J.R.R. Tolkien fans.
Together, we'd come to his grave to show our respects and, on behalf of the Tolkien Society, I'd made this offering.
Tolkien was famous for writing The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.
He was a master not only of inventing different worlds, but linguistics, too, and had created the entire language of the Elves.
Back in my 20s, I'd been given The Lord of the Rings novel as a birthday gift and soon discovered the joy of delving into Middle-earth – the world in which the stories were set.
As time passed, I began collecting various editions of Tolkien's books and artworks.
In 2001, when The Fellowship of the Ring – the first in the LOTR trilogy – was released as a Hollywood movie, I watched Tolkien-fever spread globally.
I went to the cinema countless times and later travelled to New Zealand to visit the landmarks where the films were shot – especially Hobbiton, the set outside Rotorua which remained a permanent tourist attraction.
"You look just like a hobbit!" people told me, noting that I'd dressed in similar clothing to Bilbo and Frodo.
"If only I were a little shorter," I joked.
Through my love of the books, I'd made so many friends around the world.
One of my mates refers to me as Uncle Bilbo, while I call him Nephew Frodo.
Before retiring, I'd been a teacher and it's a role that has stayed with me as I often travel and give talks and presentations about Tolkien and his work.
I've become such an authority that I've often been asked to sign fans' copies of The Hobbit!
And while my home in Brisbane is a long way from the hobbit holes that Tolkien brought to life, with three bedrooms filled with all sorts of memorabilia, like books, maps and figurines, I never feel far from Middle-earth.
Navigating my way through the boxes, I finally made it from the kitchen to the living room.
"It's like a maze in here!" my husband joked.
He wasn't wrong.
But knowing our abode was also home to the world's largest collection of Spice Girls memorabilia made the tricky journey from room to room all worth it.
Back when I was 15, my friend, Laura, played me a song she'd recently taped off the radio.
The moment I heard the lyrics, "If you wanna be my lover", my heart began to soar.
It was so different to all the other pop songs.
As the Spice Girls released more singles, my love for them only grew.
Their energy was infectious and filled me with confidence, helping me to accept my sexuality as a gay man.
When I was 17, the band was touring near me but, hard as I tried, I just couldn't get a ticket.
One day, I'll make it happen, I vowed.
When they broke up later I was devastated, though I followed the girls' solo careers after that and even got to meet Geri, Mel B and Mel C through their gigs.
"Believe in yourself and keep your head held high," Geri told me.
Thankfully, the Spice Girls reunited a few times and I got to see them live.
On their last tour, I went to all 13 concerts!
I'd always been a collector: from vinyl records to key rings, so I started buying Spice Girls memorabilia, too.
What started as a costume worn by Mel B soon turned into a house overrun with dolls, lunch boxes, jigsaws, magazines – everything to spice it up!
Realising the enormity of my collection, which cost over $360,000, I organised to show it all off in an exhibition containing 7000 items, held inside the Spice Girls bus, which I borrowed.
As word of the exhibition got around, Mel B even turned up.
"Everyone needs to leave," she said to those in the bus. "I want to talk to Alan."
We sat together in the bus and I told her how much the Spice Girls had meant to me.
She was so lovely that I knew all those years of adoration had been worth it.
"Good luck with your exhibition," she said, giving me a hug.
When I married my husband, who isn't a fan like me, I agreed we wouldn't have any Spice Girls songs played at the wedding, which was fine with me, as he graciously puts up with it every day.
Whenever people ask who my favourite is, I have to tell them the truth – I love all of the girls!
Scary and Ginger are so in-your-face, while Sporty inspired me to stay fit, Baby's cute and I did have a crush on her for a bit.
I just love her don't-mess-with-me attitude and tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.
Those five girls have definitely spiced up my life, and I'll be a fan forever.
Gripping the giant sword with both hands, I stopped and admired the ruins of the Irish castle.
"It's like we're in Westeros," I said to my girlfriend, Maranda.
I'd recently won a competition to find Australia's biggest Game of Thrones fan, which had seen us fly to Ireland and Iceland to visit film sets and locations used in my favourite show.
I'd first started watching GoT as a 16-year-old.
Back then, I was a huge fan of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and loved discovering other worlds.
Westeros, where GoT is set, appealed to me and I loved the complexity of the characters that inhabited this fantasy land.
My interest grew and, before long, so did my collection of memorabilia, which has cost over $10,000.
But it didn't end there.
My dedication saw me get half my body covered in GoT-themed tattoos, and we have pet Malamutes, who resemble the Direwolves in the show.
Maranda doesn't share the same enthusiasm as me – she's more into Taylor Swift – but as we journeyed through Europe together, she was happy to dress up and explore with me.
Although GoT has become a huge part of my life, I've never forgotten that it was Tolkien who introduced me to the power of fantasy.
So on an earlier trip to New Zealand, I proposed to Maranda at Hobbiton.
Our life together doesn't have half the battles of a Game of Thrones episode.
But I don't need the Iron Throne to make me happy.
Our love is a fantasy come true.