TODAY, as on any other working day, Todd Gitzlaff will arrive at his University of Minnesota desk and fire up his computer.

Then, before tackling his busy schedule handling data for the occupational therapy and medical science departments, he will check the Adver website for news of Swindon, which he follows avidly.

The story of why began many years ago.

“I was 15 years old and I was a sophomore in high school – it would be like one year before college here. I was on a bus trip; I was on the swim team when I was younger.

“Back in those days Walkmans were all the rage, so everybody had cassette tapes and you’d pass them around.

“I had a friend and he said, ‘Hey, you might like this band,’ since I was into what we called alternative music back then, bands like REM and The Cure and The Smiths.

“He gave me XTC’s English Settlement, and something in that album really resonated with me.

“Eventually, through XTC, I found out about Swindon.”

His love of the band has never wavered.

“They’re timeless, in my opinion. I’ve heard so many say that the best way to put it is they kind of picked up the charge where the Beatles left off. I’m not saying there was a gap, because there were a million great bands, but the Beatles are a very special band to me and XTC is even more special. I love that continuity.”

His first trip to Swindon was two years ago.

“I’d actually quit Facebook but for some reason I went on there once and I saw they were having an XTC convention here in Swindon.

“So I thought to myself, ‘You know, Todd, you live so close to Canada but you’ve still never been out of the country. Why don’t you just man up, go get a passport and take a trip?’ So that’s exactly what I did.

“I contacted the organiser, a gentlemen who is a local around here. His name is Gaz Barrett – he was a postman for a long time. Gaz told me what was going on.

“I wound up coming over here and meeting this amazing group of fans. I can’t even begin to tell you how much these people mean to me.

“I come from the Midwest. We’re hardworking, industrious, straightforward people that are very nice, and I find the same thing here in Swindon. So I immediately fell in love with the town.”

Not everybody shares that love, of course, and Todd’s 2017 trip began with an experience which became an anecdote.

“The first time I get to the UK I’m going through Heathrow and I get to the passport control. I give them my passport and the gentleman’s looking down at it.

“He’s got his reading glasses on. He says, ‘Todd, what is the purpose of your visit?’ ‘Pleasure.’ ‘So where are you going?’ ‘Swindon.’ He just kind of looked up, cocked his eyebrow and said, ‘Why?’

“I wound up explaining, but it was quite funny!”

Todd found himself among kindred spirits from all over the world; there were fans from his home country, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and throughout Europe.

Visiting the Wheatsheaf pub in Old Town, Todd happened to meet a Facebook friend, Todd Bernhardt, author with XTC’s Andy Partridge of Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC, who in turn introduced him to the band’s drummer, Terry Chambers.

Last year, Todd returned to Swindon to catch all the Arts Centre shows of TC&I, which brings together Terry and fellow former member Colin Moulding.

A compilation of those shows can be found on new album Naked Flames – TC&I Live at Swindon Arts Centre.

Naturally, Todd was back in Swindon earlier this month for the 2019 convention, and has teamed up with fellow fans Mike Smith, Julie Matthews, Darryl Bulloch and Steve Manning to organise next year’s.

Running from September 18-20, it will be held at Steam, but Todd will be back before then. He plans have Swindon as his base when he runs the London Marathon in April.

“I absolutely adore this place.”

The XTC Convention 2020 Facebook group is open.