'I was a child who was a cuckoo in the nest', Grayson says. In his bedroom not a scrap of wallpaper showed: every inch was covered with pictures of aeroplanes, and every surface with models. Fantasy took over his life, in a world of battles ruled by his teddy bear, Alan Measles. He grew up. And in 2003, an acclaimed ceramic artist, he accepted the Turner Prize as his alter-ego Clare, wearing his best dress, with a bow in his hair: another dream made real.
Now he tells his own story, his voice beautifully caught by his friend, the writer Wendy Jones. Early childhood in Chelmsford, Essex is a rural Eden that ends abruptly with the arrival of the violent milkman who becomes his stepfather, leading to constant swerving between his parents' houses, and between boys' clothes and women's clothes. But as Grayson enters art college and tries awkwardly to fit in - 'I used to go to the Taboo nightclub in a black suit with skin-tight Lycra trousers and a jacket two sizes too small' - he starts to find himself and at last, in his early twenties, he steps out as a potter and transvestite.
Direct and down to earth, stuffed with insights, imagination and wit, and with illustrations of Grayson's own work, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl is both a mesmerising read and a lifeline for all young boys who hug their dreams to themselves.