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Course Of Empire
Friday evening found myself and The Paintings In My Gallery meeting up in the CAFE at the National Portrait Gallery for some post-work ART. We met in the NPG cafe purely because of its handy location and charming ambience, the fact that it was HAPPY HOUR (2 for one on BOOZE) had absolutely nothing to do with it!

Once refreshed from the working week we wandered round the corner to the National Gallery to go and see the Ed Ruscha: Course Of Empire exhibition. We had a bit of trouble finding it because we didn't know how to pronounce "Ruscha", and the staff we asked seemed not to understand. "Rothko? Not here..." began one, before a lengthy discussion on that particular artist. Eventually we repeated it enough times (and actually almost correctly!) before she went "Oh RUSCHA!" and pointed us along the corridor.

The aforementioned Dates In My Diary had picked this exhibition to look at because she thought it would be compliant with our interests, and she was CORRECT, for it was ACE! It was two sets of five paintings, one done in black and white in the 90s, depicting the rooftops of various small town businesses, the other the same buildings in colour about ten years later. The two versions of each scene were shown together and it was DEAD GOOD. It told a story (it was on because it was named after Thomas Cole's Eden To Empire which was showing elsewhere in the gallery), it was FUN, it was FREE and also it was VERY SHORT - all ten paintings were hanging in the same room, so you could stand in the middle, turn 360 degrees, and see THE LOT.

It was fab and I would highly recommend it, especially if you can get to the NPG Happy Hour beforehand!

posted 24/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Catalogue Logging
This week I have undertaken an onerous ROCK ADMIN task which has stretched my patience to the very limit, as it has forced - FORCED - me to go through most of my own back catalogue, thinking about my own songs and reading my own lyrics. As anyone who knows me will guess, this has been AWFUL.

Oh all right, no it hasn't, I've had a lovely time! I can never understand people who claim not to like their own stuff - either they are FIBBING in an attempt to look COOL in the eyes of idiots (surely not!) or are telling the truth in which case WHY are they going round inflicting it on other people? Listening back to your own stuff is even MORE fun when it's OLD stuff that you have half forgotten about, as then it sounds like someone else wrote a song SPECIFICALLY TAILORED to your own thoughts and opinions!

The impetus for undertaking this task came from my esteemed publishers Wipeout Music, who emailed last week asking for some help. They're currently entering their entire catalogue into a new database and required a load of METADATA for every song, and so are having to go through THE LOT adding in song codes and other information by hand. For some reason they assumed that I would have most of the information about my own songs easily to hand, so wondered if I might be able to do my bit myself?

I'm sure I don't know WHERE they got THAT idea from - I am much too busy smoking doobie joints and ROCKING OUT to know anything at ALL about metadata, and certainly do not have some kind of "Database of ROCK" to hand recording in-depth information about songs, albums, PRS Codes, ISRC codes... oh, hang on, I TOTALLY DO! Thus I happily volunteered, and have spent the rest of the week a) copying across codes, song lengths, filenames etc into the spreadsheet they sent me and b) going through every song to add QUALITATIVE information.

This last bit has been the MOST fun. Each song has fields for "Mood" and "Lyrics", the first requiring a single word like "Happy" or "Sad", the second needing a brief representative section of lyrics. I assume both of these are so that Soundtracking/Advertising Types can do a quick search of the database to find, for instance, a Happy song which features the word "sozzled" or an Angry song featuring the word "architecture", so I've been trying to get 2-4 lines of lyric for each song which both captures the ESSENTIAL ESSENCE while also containing relevant KEYWORDS.

This has actually turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, as for most of my songs that is what the CHORUS is. It's much more difficult trying to boil down the MOOD to something sensible, and it's noticeable that certain words crop up more often on certain albums. "Nostalgic" comes up a lot for A Million Ukeleles, for instance, while there's an awful lot of "Christmas" on Christmas Selection Box!

The main problem, however, is that it's making me think "This song is dead good, why don't I play it at gigs more often?" Of course at the moment the answer is "Because you're not DOING any gigs!" but, in a broader, long-term sense, the answer is something like "Because it has that weird chord in that you had to overdub on its own in the studio after an embarrassing hour of incompetence" or "Because the middle eight sounds like the Bon Jovi song you clearly ripped it off from". Still, maybe if I DO get round to doing gigs again I'll actually make an effort to LEARN some of the older, non-gigged, songs again.

For now it's an enjoyable stroll through the back catalogue, which turns out to be FLIPPING LENGTHY. There's 156 songs in the database, and that's just the ones that were RELEASED on COMPACT DISC and iTunes, there's at least as many again that came out in other directions. How did I ever manage to maintain a COMPREHENSIVE DATABASE at the same time?!?

posted 21/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Gigs And The Getting Of Them
On Tuesday night I went to BOROUGH, to meet Mr M Tiller and to case out a VENUE.

The venue was The Gladstone Arms, where me and The Validators are playing next Saturday (the 29th, we're on first at about 8:30pm). It feels like AGES since I last played a venue I've never even BEEN to before, so I thought it'd be good to go and have a look. I am glad that I did, because The Glad is a LOVELY little pub, with nice beer, a most pleasant atmosphere, and Easy Access To Transport Links. It's quite small too, so if you're planning to come and see us (and if you live within 80 miles of central London then surely YOU MUST) I would advise getting there in a timely fashion!

The MEETING was to discuss the possibility of me and Matt going out on TOUR next year. Over the past few weeks I've been trying to book some gigs, with very little success. I emailed 14 (fourteen) promoters in London, and of those only THREE replied, with just Bark, who are putting us on at The Glad, saying "yes". This was a little bit disappointing, not least the fact that the VAST majority of people didn't even bother to reply - I ALWAYS reply to people who ask to play Totally Acoustic (except for one person whose Facebook message disappeared for some reason - this was about 6 years ago and I still feel bad about it), even when they have clearly emailed very venue or promoter in London asking for a gig for their Death Metal Band. Surely that is just MANNERS?

Anyway, I'd mentioned this on the social media and Matt had sympathised, having had similar luck himself, so we got together to see about going round the country together instead. We agreed immediately that we would NOT be doing this in a VAN, nor would we be going out and STAYING out, but rather would try and do somewhere between 5 and 8 gigs over a roughly six week period. This seems MUCH more sensible and do-able - I mean, I of course could happily hit the road for a whole month and eat nothing but Jack Daniels and motorbikes, it is Matt's health I am thinking of.

We got a LIST of places to try, three each to start with and then other batches to follow that, and agreed a rough area of DATES to do it in. The next stage is to start ASKING - I'm going to start with PALS, so even if they say "I haven't put a gig on in ten years!" or similar, at least I'm sure of a reply!

posted 20/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Christmas Is Coming
It's that most wonderful time of the year, when the thoughts of all indie bands turn to Christmas!

For LO! September is when deadlines start to loom hazily over the horizon, and you realise that if you want to have a song on a compilation, even if it's one of our own, in early December, it needs to be sorted out by November, which means recording in October, which means you need to write it... NOW!

I had already written ONE song, but it felt more like a "me" song rather than one for The Validators, so I was thinking maybe I should do something else. I discussed this matter with The Links On My Chain who said "I've already GIVEN you a GRATE idea for a song - " and continued to re-relate her idea for a song about how this would be our last Christmas in the EU.

This is, obviously, a TREMENDOUS idea, and by the time we'd got home the general SHAPE of the song was fully formed, requiring just a few more ideas from The Validators, and then a couple of days of bits of TUNE arriving in inconvenient places (thinking of a chorus is almost IMPOSSIBLE when you are in a rehearsal room SPECIFICALLY to think of a chorus, but it's EXTREMELY easy in the middle of a Very Long And Important Meeting), before it was completely finished. Then all that remained was a half hour to record a DEMO for The Validators, et VOILA! "Last Christmas (in the EU)" was complete! And also, BLOODY GRATE!

The next stage will be to record the band version, which we're planning to do a week on Saturday in LONDON TOWN. The Vlads are coming down to the big city on Saturday 29 September for our gig at The Gladstone Arms (everybody come and see us!) so we've booked into a rehearsal room for a couple of hours so that I can record AT LEAST Tim's drums and Emma's vocals, hopefully Tom's violin too, then add MY bits at home later and send THE LOT back to Frankie (who's coming down on the train so won't be in the rehearsal room) to MIX. We are quite excited about this song as it is a) dead Christmassy b) DEAD POLITICAL, so we're keen on getting it right!

I'm planning to release this song, and ALL of our Christmas songs so far, on iTUNES this year, so that they can find their way onto Christmas playlists and such like, and all being well there will be a VIDEO and even some PROMOTION. It's been a quiet year so far for The Validators, but we're planning to finish it with a BANG!

posted 19/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Pattisonisphere
Saturday lunchtime found me heading for Leicester, or to be exact Woodhouse Eaves, for the ROCK EVENT of the Season - PATTISONISPHERE!

This was the long-anticipated extravaganza to mark the 50th Birthday of our own Mr Tim Pattison, which was taking place in the Village Hall. Tim's original plan was to get EVERY band he had EVER been in to reform and play a couple of songs during the course of a day long festival of ROCK. Luckily for his own sanity (and all of ours) this had been whittled down over time to a much more reasonable three - The Torture Garden (his first band proper), Prolapse (hence the low-key warm-up last week) and us.

Once I'd got to Leicester and checked into the Premier Inn I strolled across town to St Margaret's bus station. "It's so much better these days," I thought, "now that there are big signs clearly telling you where the buses go from." The only trouble with this was that MY bus was not on ANY signs, and it took some PANICKY QUEUING in the info centre to discover that the signs were "playing up", followed by a DASH back to the other end of the station to catch my bus.

Five minutes into the journey I was joined by Mr T "The Tiger" McClure, and we arrived in Woodhouse Eaves not long after to find it a HIVE of activity. The Torture Garden had just finished their practice in the scout hut (which would serve as DRESSING ROOM later on!) and so PA systems were being moved into the main room, lights were going up, food was being brought in, and all manner of people were dashing about setting things up and moving things around. It was all quite exhausting!

Soon Mr F A Machine arrived and we were able to drag Mrs E Pattison away from her Project Management duties for long enough to have a sound check. Last time we played the Village Hall the sound wasn't particularly great, and I was AFEARED that this would be the case again, but as usual I had forgotten that the REASON you do a soundcheck is to get the sound right, and that it will ALWAYS sound a bit weird to start with. EVERY time we do a soundcheck I panic at the start, and have to remind myself that the POINT of this is to sort it out!

With that all done we left Prolapse to take their turn and Emma to continue her work, while me, Frankie and Tom popped down the road to the pub, where we were joined by Mr M Petersdorf and family, not long arrived from distant GERMANY. We had a right old chinwag, which continued when we moved down the road to the OTHER pub in the village, as the first one had been fully booked for food. It was all a bit GLAM in the second pub, demonstrated most clearly by the fact that we were soon also joined by Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey!

After dining we headed back to the Village Hall, which was now full of PEOPLE and a PARTY in full swing. I had been following text message updates from The Points Of My Plan who had got the train to Loughborough and taxied it from there, so was a) relieved b) DELIGHTED when she rolled up not long after us. Now the PARTY could truly get going!

What followed was a BLOODY BRILLIANT evening of boozing, yacking, dancing, eating and occasional interruptions for ROCK BANDS. The beer was supplied by Mr Jimmy Machine, who had come with Mrs Joanne Machine bearing a barrel of BEER what he had made himself - it was DELICIOUS. The dancing meanwhile was provided by DJ TURK, demonstrating all the skills, and even more of the LARFING, that he used to demonstrate all those many years ago back at The Tube Bar!

Tim had got himself different OUTFITS for each of the acts, and he looked VERY dapper when The Torture Garden took to the stage, wearing a paisley shirt, waistcoat and sunglasses. I think it was meant to look funny, but it actually really suited him, as if he was meant to STILL be a GOTH and dress accordingly! It was pretty fab to actually SEE The Torture Garden, which we have heard about SO many times over the year!

It was pretty fab in a lot of ways really - the GRATE thing about being in a band with the same people for SUCH a long time is that you end up intertwined in each other's ACTUAL LIVES, so at things like this you bump into FAMILY who feel like your own cousins and PALS from other people's work or villages who feel like your own. It's lovely, especially when it leads to an ANIMATED conversation with your bandmate's brother-in-law about the current season at Peterborough United!

Prolapse were on second, and it was STRANGE to say the least to see them in a Village Hall, playing NOT at the usual high volume, but it seemed to work! Then it was our turn, and we went armed with SURPRISES. Unbeknownst to Tim, The Validators had spent the previous few weeks organising Pattisonisphere t-shirts, with a BACK PRINT sort of like The Reading Festival adverts, with EVERY band he'd EVER been in listed on it. THUS when we took to the stage I was able to say "Tim! THE BAND are wearing Pattisonisphere t-shirts!" and then we all removed our OUTER GARMENTS to reveal matching t-shirts beneath. I passed Tim his shirt and he looked BLOODY DELIGHTED by the whole thing - also ASTONISHED! It was GRATE!

We then did our set, which went like this:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • Easily Impressed
  • Dinky Doo
  • We Did It Anyway
  • Notable surprises for the birthday boy including having to do a DRUM SOLO during Do The Indie Kid, Frankie's introduction of the 'Brooklyn 99' theme tune during Introducing The Band, and Emma singing an un-setlisted rendition of Dinky Doo towards the end. It was all in all RATHER a lot of fun, and I think Tim liked it. We certainly did!

    Afterwards there was further hugging, boozing, eating (there were PILES of Samosas and Pakoras, it was ACE), yacking and DANCING, including a mass Validators Dance Frenzy when The Cure came on. Eventually though it was time to go, and myself and The Songs On My Playlist headed into the night to wait (AGES!) for our taxi, and then to go back to The Premier Inn.

    The next day felt a lot like the aftermath of Indietracks, as everyone was poised over their phones hoping for MORE pictures and MORE comments on how GRATE it had all been, as a way of making it all last a little bit longer. Lots of people said that Tim and Emma should do it again - I for one would heartily agree!

    posted 10/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Reunion Interrupted By Racket
    I went to a GIG last night, for the first time in AGES. It had been so long, in fact, that I forgot how gigs WORK and turned up just after 7:30pm i.e. at DOORS. What was I thinking?

    It all turned out fine for LO! I was at The Moths Club to see Prolapse, and being there so early meant I ended up sitting in the front room for about an hour chatting to a parade of CHUMS who came strolling through the door. It was lovely, also slightly unnerving, as everybody looked a) THE SAME and b) simultaneously OLDER. It felt like I was living through a memory of a similar night somewhere TWO DECADES ago, except everyone seemed quite a lot HAPPIER now, and also a bit more excited about the fact that we were all OUT!

    I last saw a lot of these same people a couple of years ago i.e. the LAST time Prolapse did a reunion gig! That meant that we'd already done a lot of the "I haven't seen you this century!" stuff back then, so this time there was more general catching up. It was like going to a really nice reunion, except with some people making a RACKET every now and then so you had to stop talking.

    The first such noisemakers were FIVEHEAD from Leicestershire, a band SO YOUNG that one of them had been one of the Actual Children in our 'Do The Indie Kid' video! He seems to have grown up VERY quickly - we only put that out, as far as I recall, last year? They were dead good, doing their first London gig and everything, although I did feel for them halfway through when a LEAD broke and they had to stop and fix it. Some things never change!

    After they'd finished there was even more HUGGING and saying hello to people I hadn't seen for AGES, before Prolapse rather selfishly interrupted us all and started doing a gig. Scottish Mick was saying that they had only done two practices in the past 23 years (we are much more professional and have done THREE TIMES that many) but it sounded GRATE. I tell you what, their drummer is VERY good!

    The whole gig was actually a low-key warm-up for Tim's birthday party this weekend, to mark him turning FIFTY earlier this week! It's all a bit strange - I spent much of the set stood with Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey, and we were discussing the fact that his own FORTIETH birthday party seems quite recent (NB it was 18 years ago) and at the time we all thought he was becoming VERY OLD.

    It was a lovely evening, though I must confess that I am feeling ALL MY YEARS this morning. How did I manage to do this sort of thing three or four times a week EVERY week? And how am I going to cope with doing it all AGANE at the weekend? PRAY for me!!

    posted 7/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Return of The Plinths
    On Sunday I was up bright and early (for a Sunday anyway) to head South to distant WALLINGTON, where John Dredge & The Plinths were booked in with Mr Andy Brook to do some more recording at The Brook Recording Studio.

    It took me AGES to get there due to a) TRANE connections and b) getting slightly lost in Wallington. The Brook used to be a studio AND a vegetarian cafe, but the vegetarian cafe has now moved to Hackney, so when I searched for it on my phone it kept trying to give me directions back to EAST LONDON again!

    When I finally arrived I was greeted by Andy B and found that Mr Andy Harland (DRUMS) and Mr John Dredge (ARTISTIC STYLINGS) had already got set up, so we were able to leap straight into ACTION. As with the last batch of songs we recorded, we had had no rehearsal AT ALL and, in fact, had not even been in the same ROOM with the songs together, let alone played them. I'd recorded all the guitar parts at home and sent them to John, who added vocal medleys and lyrics before sending the LOT to Andy H who practiced them in his house. The whole process of writing and recording songs this way has been VERY interesting to me, not least because John puts CHORUSES and LINE BREAKS in places I didn't expect, but it's a bit nerve-wracking when you arrive to record them and realise that none of you have you have ever played them with other people before!

    Despite all that it went REALLY well! The first song had a vaguely complicated structure but we did it all in ONE take, and then the others (which were all SHORTER and mostly verse/chorus) were all finished in two or three. It was PEASY!

    We recorded FIVE songs - four for the EP and then a special EXTRA one that is to be unleashed next year to mark an OCCASION. I am under EMBARGO so cannot say WOT occasion, but the idea is it's like doing a Christmas Song or one to mark a sporting event, but neither of those. The EMBARGO is so that nobody else NICKS it and e.g. records and releases their OWN Whitsun Anthem.

    With all the basic tracks recorded we then did John's vocals and my Guitar, all of which was again a DELIGHT due to Andy B's CALM and CALMING nature. As we discussed at the time, most Studio Engineers are REALLY nice people who are EXTREMELY patient, probably because if they WEREN'T like that they would go absolutely BERZERK having do deal with idiots in bands all the time!

    The whole thing was done and dusted in about four hours, leaving us to return to our homes and see how much I can SPOIL it all by adding BASS on top and mixing it. The plan next is to get the songs all done and do some VIDEOS again, much as we did last time - there will be more news on this as soon as it occurs!

    posted 4/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Barrels of Art
    Saturday found myself and The Items In My Catalogue once again heading out in search of ART. Spoilers: we found some!

    Our first stop was Hyde Park, where we were planning to undertake our annual look at The Serpentine Pavilion. Earlier in the morning the aforesaid Letters In My Bundle had been chatting to our Postman (it's called East Village where we live and it sort of IS a bit like a village - we expect Mrs Marple to turn up to solve a Complicated Society Murder any day now) and he'd mentioned a huge installation of BARRELS. When we arrived in the park we wandered down to the lake to see if we could spot it and GOODNESS ME you could not help but see it because it is BLOODY MASSIVE!

    The official title is The London Mastaba by the artist Christo and it is a HECK of a thing - a HUGE pile of what looks like stacked multi-coloured oil barrels LOOMING out of The Serpentine. It looks BEAUTIFUL and also like something out of a SCIENCE FICTION film, as if there's an enormous SPACESHIP in the lake and this is just the top. It also follows you around the park, peeking out from behind trees. It seems UNREAL, and it was only really the FACT that there were loads of people out in BOATS (it was a lovely day) LOOKING at it that convinced me that it was real.

    It is, in short, GRATE, and well worth a look. Unfortunately after that the actual Pavilion was a bit underwhelming, though the exhibition in the gallery next door, all about the Mastaba, was DEAD good. Seeing the plans for all the unmade ones made the real one seem even more BIZARRE.

    Also in Hyde Park, between the lake and the pavilion, we passed a tree which was making a RIGHT racket. Standing under it and looking up we realised that an entire FLOCK of Starlings was sitting in it and having an EXTREMELY ROWDY DEBATE. I have honestly never heard the like, it sounded like somebody had made a recording of birdsong and was playing it over a SPEAKER what they had nicked from the Brixton Carnival.

    After all that I went to Tate Modern to see the PICASSO exhibition, which The Angles Of My Lines had a) already seen b) recommended. It's all about Picasso's work in 1932 when, evidently, he did a LOT. There was room after room after room of stuff, and it was amazing how VARIED it was. My favourites were the big colourful paintings of women sitting down, especially Reading and Nude Woman In A Red Armchair which were GORGEOUS. When I was at school the ONLY bit of Art Appreciation we did in ART was about PICASSO (other than that we drew a lot of pictures of plant pots and, of course, went on a school trip that forged my destiny in ROCK) and seeing those paintings reminded me of the teacher going on about how Picasso painted movement, and CRUMBS you could really see it in those pictures. I also really liked the head sculptures, which looked like something out of "Yellow Submarine" (or possibly vica versa).

    Other parts of it were less enjoyable but still dead interesting, and it was amazing looking at the DATES of them all and seeing how busy he'd been. It's amazing that he found the time to have an exhibition AND an affair in the same year!

    All in all it was a GRATE day of ART what I would highly recommend, especially the BARRELS - they're only there for a couple more weeks, so if you're in London between now and 23 September I would suggest popping over to Hyde Park and having a LOOK!

    posted 3/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Transferable Skillz
    Today I have been Working From Home and so have taken the opportunity to book a tour, set up Eventbrites links, make a comic, and write a press release.

    And it has ALL been for WORK!!

    It's all in aid of the LAUNCH of the new Computer System what I have been put in charge of. The TOUR will be me going round all 6 of UAL's Colleges to do Introductory Sessions in using the system, and we're using Eventbrite to manage attendance. The comic is something we've commissioned from the marvellous Mr John Miers to promote it in a "UAL-y way" and which I am trying not to spoil with some TEXT (I keep saying we are doing it "Marvel Style", which makes me STAN LEE and John JACK KIRBY!), and the press release is the text for our intranet and newsletters.

    The whoe process feels EXTREMELY similar to ROCK, and the transferable skills are certainly coming in handy, ESPECIALLY with booking the gigs... I mean introductory sessions. It turns out that the bookers for training rooms at Arts Collegs are JUST as varied as Venue Owners, with some very swift to act and informative, and others... less so. It's JUST like tour booking too, as dates are booked, fall through, re-booked and moved, and then it's all VERY satisfying when it's all finally finalised. I am thinking of getting t-shirts made!

    The TOUR starts in October, by which time I hope to be able to share the final comic with you. In the meantime I've got a meeting tomorrow with the record company... sorry, my boss. I wonder if I can persuade him that we need BADGES?

    posted 30/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Full House At Rochester Bingo
    On Bank Holiday Monday the Days of My Leave and I went off on a DAY TRIP. We'd had a look at various options and settled on ROCHESTER because it is dead easy to get to from our house via HS1 and it has a CASTLE.

    It turned out to have SO MUCH MORE, for LO! it was bloody GRATE! Getting there was totally peasy, and as we crossed the road from Rochester railway station we saw the Tourist Information office straight ahead. It's always a good idea to find this first, as they tend to have Local Maps which you can NAB, and which come in VERY handy if you've, for instance, printed off a numbered self-guided walking tour of the city which doesn't come with a map of its own.

    We then set off down the High Street consulting the map and guide and LOOKING at things. I flipping LOVE self-guided walking tours, as it gives you a route round a new place full of FACTS, and unlike a normal guided tour you can wander off as you wish. Our first major deviation from the route was to go STRAIGHT into the Cathedral rather than walk round it first - I do like a visit to a Cathedral, ESPECIALLY when they're higgeldy piggeldy with loads of different AREAS, and ESPECIALLY especially when they are full to the rafters with extremely (but not TOO) friendly volunteers who are eager to tell you even more fascinating FACTS. I say "you" but in my experience they always HOME IN on The Directions Of My Route and discuss local history with her, leaving me to stand in the background somewhere nodding helpfully. This is reportage, not complaint - if I was in their position I'd do exactly the same!

    The best bit of the Cathedral was in the CRYPT where they had a copy of the Textus Roffesnsis, the first written down book of LAW in the UK, predating the Magna Carta by SOME YEARS. I'd never heard of it before, which seems odd, but it was dead interesting - it basically told all the local parishes which bit of the Roman Bridge they were responsible for keeping in good repair, but in the grand scheme of things was a precursor to WRITTEN LAW.

    Outside the Cathedral you could see the GIGANTIC Castle, LOOMING. Cor, it is a BRILLIANT castle - the walls are pretty intact and VAST, and inside them is the GINORMOUS Keep. We paid to get in and it was totally worth it, as you are able to walk up the stairs right to the top, SIX STOREYS HIGH! We discussed it and don't think we've even BEEN in such a Castle-y Castle, it was WELL worth the admission.

    After some refreshing refreshment we wandered on and saw some DICKENS places, such as the house that he based Mis Haversham's house on in Great Expectations. In the book it's called 'Satis House', which was a bit confusing as, ten minutes prior to this, we'd seen an ACTUAL house called 'Satis House'. Later on we saw Eastgate House which Dickens had used in another book and called 'Westgate House'. I do like Dickens - A LOT - but he does seem to have been a bit crap at thinking up names for things!

    Later on we went to look at The Poor Travellers' House, which used to house Six Poor Travellers and which Dickens based the story 'Seven Poor Travellers' on (with himself as the plus one). It was lovely, especially the garden, and as with everyone in Rochester the staff were dead friendly. The only slightly odd thing, for me, was that people seemed to think that Dicken's story was REAL, despite the fact that the Information Boards inside said that the story was set at Christmas, but he'd visited and written it in MAY. This disparity was more than made up for by the fact that the garden behind it had a Curry Plant that REALLY smelt of Curry! It made me HUNGRY!

    In between these two Dickens events we saw some more recent local history when we walked past a Cafe and saw Billy Childish, inventor of The Medway Sound, sitting outside it. I was explaining to The Strings On My Guitar who he was as we walked further down the street, and when she asked if I was sure it had been him I was able to say "Yes, look, there he is!" and point at a MASSIVE painting on the side of a wall with his face on it! Thanks, massive painting!

    With Castle, Cathedral, Dickens AND a bonus Billy Childish under our belt it felt like we had scored a FULL HOUSE in Rochester Bingo, so took our leave of it, ZOOMING back to The Olympics in just half an hour. It was an all-round GRATE day out - if you have a chance to visit Rochester I would HIGHLY recommend it!

    posted 28/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Still Here!
    It feels like most of my blogs recently start (or should start) with "Sorry for the lack of news lately" because there's not really an awful lot of ROCK going on at the moment. It's not for lack of trying though - I've emailed about a dozen venues and promoters over the past couple of weeks, and had one rejection, two promises to have a listen, eight non-responses and, beautifully, one YES (a full band gig at The Gladstone Arms on Saturday 29 September).

    OTHER stuff is very much happening, not least with my job which is not only INTERESTING but also FUN, which I am still finding a bit odd. There's also been some more ART, with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery last week with The Choices Of My Curation to see The BP Portrait Awards. We try and go to see it every year, but it's been a bit GLUM in recent times. THIS year, however, was GRATE - lots of dead interesting, and often quite moving portraits painted by artists who seem to actually LIKE the people they're painting.

    I've also been squeezing in some of THE WRITING. As recently reported, I've embarked upon a re-write of the first Storm House book, and it went a) very quickly b) really well. I'd had a suggestion that if it was going to be accepted as a proper Children's Novel (it wasn't written to be one, but apparently it IS one) then it needed an actual child as the hero. I wasn't sure about this, but had heard it so many times I thought I might as well give it a go, so changed it so that the hero, Joanne, is the same age as her brother Shaun. To my amazement this turned out to be a BREEZE to do and made all SORTS of things MUCH better. The plan is to send this off to a few more places like agents and competitions, to see how it goes down, and then think about maybe changing the sequel to match.

    Talking of which, I've just started a re-write of THAT too - I'm not planning to do ALL of it right now, but thought I'd take the opportunity to do at least the first few chapters, so that I can make sure the TONE carries on from the first one. So far I have done THREE PAGES (NB that's three Word pages, which I think works out at about 12 in Normal Book font) and have LARFED quite a lot at my own jokes. I think that's a good sign!

    So that's what is occurring. There IS more music stuff coming, like The Plinths heading back into the studio soon and the aforesaid GIG, but I apologise in advance if the next update takes ages and is all about BOOKS and TRIPS again!

    posted 24/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Friends Ends
    A couple of nights ago myself and The Day, Week, Month and Even My Year completed an odyssey of cultural adventure. For LO! after EIGHT MONTHS of viewing we finally reached the last episode of "Friends" on Netflix!

    We have been watching it EXTREMELY regularly ever since the earliest hours of the year, when Netflix announced that they had the streaming rights to it, and it seems we have NOT been ALONE. Apparently it is the MOST STREAMED show in the whole country, and thus there have recently been several Think Pieces about it in The Media, mostly consisting of pillocks saying things like "Oh it's nostalgia" and "How could they all afford such big apartments?"

    These are both idiotic remarks, because a) a large proportion of the people watching the show were not BORN when it started and b) this is addressed IN CONTINUITY: Monica's NAN left her the apartment in her will! After all this time I was quite surprised to see the stupid kind of snobbery about "Friends" STILL going on, as if the fact that it had not only stayed popular after all this time, but was the MOST watched show on streaming, was all a coincidence and that it was actually tawdry rubbish and we should all be watching documentaries instead.

    The reason "Friends" is still popular is because it has excellent writing, good acting, likeable characters, decent storylines and a LOT of jokes. It is, I think, the American answer to "Dad's Army", another show that idiots MOAN about because it's still more popular than NEW shows, but which people LOVE for exactly the same reasons as they love "Friends".

    And yes ALL RIGHT I guess that analogy DOES suggest there's an element of nostalgia to it all for some of us. CURSES! One of the added DELIGHTS of watching it now, here in the futuristic world of the future, is spotting new things appearing for the first time and requiring New Jokes, like when Chandler suddenly gets a laptop, or EBAY of all things pops up towards the end. There's also the comfort of having watched most of them before too, and remembering how storylines end just before they actually do.

    Mostly though it's because it's so well done that you don't even notice it. Maybe that's why DREARY sods think there's nothing to it, because they prefer to watch things that point out how CLEVER and IMPORTANT they are all the time, rather than having to work it out for themselves. It's so full of JOKES and nice character touches, especially as it gets past the first couple of series, that it's a joy to watch it develop. Watching it all again I especially appreciated the way that Rachel and Monica develop and get to have a whole range of stories about their own personalities, rather than just being the Attractive Women who are there when The Men are making jokes. I also, once again, came to feel sorry for Paul Rudd, who spends most of his time in the show Nodding At Other People's Remarks.

    But now it is done and we are once more ADRIFT without a long-running sitcom to watch. Over the past few years we've done Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Community, Parks & Recreation and How I Met Your Mother, so we are RACING through the Great, Long, American Sitcoms. If anybody has any other recommendations for long-running (i.e. at LEAST seven seasons) FUNNY half-hour sitcoms that are on Netflix OR Prime, I would be very pleased to receive them!

    posted 17/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    One From The Archives
    Today I bring you a slice of ROCK HISTORY! For LO! Mr S Hewitt was recently MUSING on the fact that it's ten years since he and I first went to the Edinburgh Fringe with the show My Exciting Life In ROCK and remembered that he had a RECORDING of the time that we broadcast part of the show LIVE on 6music. Always a champion of making such vital historical material widely available he uploaded it to Soundcloud, which means you can listen to it right NOW, right HERE!

    https://soundcloud.com/carsmilesteve/bono-and-the-pope

    I vaguely remembered it being quite good fun, but CRIKEY when I listened back a decade later I was ASTOUNDED to find what a lot of TOMFOOLERY was going on, with me EGGED ON by what sounds like a HUGE audience - my records show it was 25 people, but they were VERY enthusiastic! At the time it seemed like tremendous LARKS but, as you will hear, a re-listen reveals poor Mr Steve Lamacq remaining STOICALLY PROFESSIONAL while I talk at some length about him leaving Radio One and planning his REVENGE on his former employers. A lesser individual might have got annoyed, but he dealt with it with APLOMB - next time he gets a Lifetime Achievement award I expect this to be part of the Strength In Adversity Montage!

    The next morning, according to the blog of the time, I had a VERY different experience with ANOTHER live call to 6Music - I was polite about it at the time but I think it's safe to say now that this second occasion was AWFUL, as I was invited to ring into the Breakfast Show expecting to chat lightly about what we were doing, only to find that I was on some DREADFUL 'wacky' zoo-style thing with a twit who couldn't remember anything he'd been told who wanted to ask about sex with badgers while playing 'ZANY' sound effects. It was that period when they kept trying to make 6Music more like, I don't know, E4 or something. Thankfully that all went away in the end, yet Mr Steve Lamacq still has the same show - long may he continue!

    posted 13/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Return Of The Stock
    Yesterday a long running saga finally came to a joyous end, when the lovely people at Proper Distribution returned the last of our unsold CDs to us.

    This was first MOOTED over a YEAR ago, but nothing really happened until they sent me another email earlier this week - it's almost as if they have more important things to do than return unwanted CDs from about a decade ago?!? - saying that they wanted to arranged sending our stock back to us. I immediately replied in the affirmative, and when I got home last night there was a BOX waiting for me full of Old Stock. I was delighted, especially when I found that several CDs had been LAMINATED by whatever shops originally took them!

    "But Mark," you might say, "surely your aim is to disseminate yr ART wide and far, and thus the return of old stock could be seen as a symbol of failure? Also, do you have enough room for EVEN MORE CDs in your cupboard?" The answer to the second question is, thankfully, "just about", as I had a sort out last year when they first got in touch. The answer to the first question is a bit more complicated. I mean, YES, I do like the IDEA of selling every copy of every album, but the REALITY of that happening is not quite as much fun as one might think.

    For instance, This Is Not A Library sold out AGES ago (largely because we didn't make as many as we did others!) which is all well and good, but I don't have any spare copies left to THRUST on people, and sometimes I'd quite like to. Similarly, we ran out of copies of Dinosaur Planet last year too - I say "ran out" because a LOT of them were given away by me and Steve during the Edinburgh run of Total Hero Team, as I got a bit over-excited and didn't do my stock accounting properly!

    There weren't any copies of This Is Not A Library in the returns box (they sold out even before we did our deal with Proper!) but there WERE several copies of Dinosaur Planet! HOORAH! There's not enough to make it worthwhile putting them back on sale in the SHOP but it does mean I have a few to INFLICT on passers by if I need to, there WERE copies of a couple of other items that I thought were long gone.

    THUS I am happy to say that the EPs Better Things To Do and It Only Works Because You're Here/My Exciting Life In ROCK are now BACK ON SALE! They're also part of the Postman's Back Breaker Back Catalogue Gift Pack Attack package which gives you EVERYTHING we have in the shop in one massive package (NB I'll update the list later, but if you buy it now you'll get the recently returned CDs AND 20 Golden GRATES all for the same price!).

    I mean, obviously I'm aware that if you're reading this there's a high chance that you probably already HAVE most of this stuff, but you never know! For now I am delighted to have them back in the FOLD!

    posted 10/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Literary Update
    I feel I must proffer an apology to the Waiting World for the lack of information about my current Literary Endevours. I am fully aware of the eager multitudes BEGGING to know when the sequel to Storm House will be released, and I can only thank you all for doing so with such calmness and reserve that it might seem to an uninformed observer that nobody was asking at all.

    To these and all interested parties I bring good news, for LO! on Monday I finally finished Draft TWO of what is now most likely to be called "Storm House: Minds Immeasurable"! It has taken AGES to do, partly because it is a bit longer than the first book, and partly because I now have an Actually Quite Interesting job so I've had to do the WRITING on my OWN time!

    I think the final document is probably ALL RIGHT, but I have no way of telling at the moment. My PROCESS with this sort of thing is to PLOUGH THROUGH a draft and then leave it alone for several weeks, so that I can go back to it FRESH for the next go. That's what I've done so far with the various drafts of the plot and outline, and then with the first FULL draft that this second one was based on, and it seems to have worked OK. I did the same with the original book and then, the same as this time, the second draft seemed to take FOREVER. Doing the plot/outline is dead good fun because you're making up as much exciting stuff as possible, and then doing the first draft is ALSO fun because you get to put all the dialogue and JOKES in, but the SECOND draft is basically a near complete re-write as you try to make it all make some kind of SENSE and, in my case, make sure that you don't tell the same joke TWICE just because you forgot you'd already told it earlier.

    The THIRD draft will, hopefully, be much quicker and involve me LARFING at the aforesaid JOKES because I'd forgotten them, as well as correcting spelling, grammar and so forth, before I try and find some willing chums to have a read of it to see what they think. After that it'll be drafts four (re-writing on the basis of their THORTS) and five (spelling and grammar again) before it gets near anyone else, so it's going to be a while yet before it's officially out. I'd hoped to UNLEASH it before Christmas this year, but that looks rather unlikely now!

    In the meantime though I've got another job to do - a re-write of the FIRST "Storm House" book!! "But Mark," you might say, "Haven't you already published that one?" Well yes, I have, but the other week I got a rather brilliant READER REPORT from one of the competitions it got long-listed for, suggesting a couple of MAJOR but also VERY DO-ABLE changes to a) one of the characters b) some of the pacing. It made a LOT of sense, so going to have a go at DOING the suggested changes and then, if it works, re-entering said competition. There's nothing to lose by trying, and if it comes out rubbish I can forget about it!

    Once THAT's done I'll be having a go at the second draft of the OTHER book I was working on earlier this year, which WAS called "Alpha Male" and then "Six Billion To One" but is now probably going to be called something else again. Doubtless that'll take a good long while too so it's going to be AGES before I have ACTUAL TEXT to show people - this does, I must admit, make it all a bit of a SLOG to keep going at, as my favourite part of this whole process (SHOWING OFF) is always AGES away!

    Still, it's all moving forward, if very slowly, and hopefully it'll be worth the wait when they finally come out. In the meantime, thank you all for your STOICISM and patience!

    posted 8/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Art Bollocks
    On Monday evening The Culture In My Society and I went to look at Frieze Sculpture 2018 in Regents Park. We went to it last year and thought it was GRATE, so when the aforesaid Notes In My Guide suggested a return trip I was WELL up for it.

    It was a lovely evening and the park was PACKED with people sitting around having picnics, but the ART itself was, overall, not as good as last year. There were some good bits - a PAVILION which reminded me strongly of the bird houses in Central Park in Peterborough (this MAY not be what it was meant to be like) and a sculpture made of various iron TUBES you could look through - but a lot of it was just Sort Of All Right. The MAIN problem, however, was with the descriptions, which were AWFUL.

    This is a common thing in THE ARTS, where people who are dead good at SCULPTURE or PAINTING or INSTALLATIONS or what have you try to sound DEAD CLEVER in an area that they are really really bad in i.e. Writing Comprehensible English. I've seen loads of ART over the years which, when explained in HUMAN TALKING by The Actual Artist suddenly makes huge amounts of sense and becomes ALL THE BETTER, but are described in the accompanying notes using INCOMPREHENSIBLE NONSENSE which, frankly, makes you want to burn down all galleries with lit copies of the Daily Mail.

    Luckily for my composure I am not alone in this frustration - it even has an official (NB not actually official) name: "Art Bollocks", relating to the multiply adjectivised, but also unnecessarily complicated, sentences, yet paragraphs, which play with the ideas around the subject which generate buzzwords and at the same time, though differently, say nothing useful at all. There's even an Arty Bollocks Generator for people who don't have time to write their own!

    One example was a GIANT PENGUIN, which I liked a lot until I read the description. "Drawing on classical Hollywood tropes, (the artist) exposes the limits of our preconceptions. Both funny and destablizing, this work depicts the artist as a penguin, six feet and seven inches tall." We had a good look around the sculpture but it was JUST A PENGUIN, with no hint of it being the artist, and anyway, WHAT Hollywood tropes? If it's just the fact that there have been penguins in films, then doesn't that apply to ALL HUMAN ENDEAVOUR?

    Elsewhere everything was "playing" with something and simultaneously exposing something else, while a reconstruction of some machinery was "confronting the precarity of technological desire, the progress of industry and automation, is set against biological evolution." Spoilers: It wasn't and it didn't.

    The worst of all this is that it makes ME feel like a PHILISTINE complaining about PRETENTIOUSNESS in ART when, actually, honestly, I just want a bit of CLARITY. These artists clearly have THORTS and IDEAS and spend AGES manifesting them, so why ruin it by annoying the HECK out of CONNOISSEURS like what we are eh?

    In summary then: not as good as last year but we had a lovely time and some of it WAS dead good - definitely worth a visit, just don't read the descriptions!!

    posted 7/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Looking For A Horse To Get Back On
    As those who received the latest issue of the newsletter will know, there's not an awful lot of ROCK going on around here at the moment. For instance, we have precisely ONE gig booked, for Tim's birthday, with nothing much else on the horizon.

    The reasons for this are manifold and CLEAR. It's a Universal Truth that most gig promoters, like most bands, have a well-defined life cycle, starting full of enthusiasm, getting into it for a few years, and then eventually getting fed up and jacking it in. In much the same way that The Validators have passed through several cycles of Which Bands Are The Cool Bands over our DOUBLE DECADE history, we have also seen Gig Circuits rise and fall in the same way. It's always sad when a Promoters pack it in, but as they have tended to become CHUMS over time it's always nice to know they'll be getting a lot of their TIME, also CA$H, back!

    However, this does mean that you have to keep an eye out for new mugs... sorry, promoters, coming through who might be willing to BOOK you, and for the past few years I must admit that I have rather taken my eye off the ball there. This is partly due to the fact that the various SHOWS we've done have an almost entirely seperate list of venues and promoters to GIGS, and partly because doing Totally Acoustic has been such a DELIGHTFUL way of getting to show off that I haven't felt much need to look elsewhere.

    This was all lovely for a good long while, but now that the shows AND Totally Acoustic are on hiatus while I do my PhD there are YAWNING GAPS in my diary where any kind of GIG should be. So far I have dealt with this mostly by MOPING AROUND and SIGHING a lot, occasionally clicking "Refresh" on my email to see if there's any chance somebody who hasn't put a gig on for five years has suddenly decided to a) get back into it and b) do so by booking an act that is almost guaranteed to bring in an audience of up to 3 people. Last week though I had A Bit Of A Word With Myself and agreed that if I really DID want to do some gigs (I checked: I DO) then I should do probably do something a bit more pro-active about it!

    My first idea was to go and do some Open Mic nights, but as soon as I started looking into it I remembered one very crucial thing about Open Mic nights, and that is that I don't really like them. They always start really early, you never know when it's going to be your turn, you only get two songs (and mine are dead short!) and then, if you are like me, you feel duty bound to sit through the rest of it, which tends to feature a LOT of Serious Men doing very long, very twiddly, largely tune free dirges.

    THUS I decided that maybe I should try ASKING for some ACTUAL gigs instead. I have very little idea what's going on in the world of INDIE at the moment, but I have a vague idea that maybe a bloke in his late late LATE Thirties (SHUT UP) playing an acoustic guitar may NOT be what they're crying out for. HOWEVER, I then realised that there ARE "Acoustic Gigs" which are set up specifically FOR people playing acoustic guitars and, living in London, I probably had access to several such nights every WEEK.

    A quick Google showed that my suspicions were correct, so I have spent several jolly evenings looking for likely places and then EMAILING them my DETAILS, asking politely if I could come and play. I am very aware that none of them will care about my MIGHTY ROCK HISTORY, but that doesn't matter as it's a Whole New Area what I am trying to get into. I don't even really mind if most of them don't want me to play, it's just quite nice to feel like something is actually POSSIBLE again!

    So far I have had one Definite No and one Possibly Yes, with about EIGHT unanswered and a similar amount still to contact. It's really rather good fun - hopefully the NEXT newsletter will have a bit more in it!

    posted 6/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Holy Island!
    During our time in Edinburgh we were constantly updating the BBC Weather Forecast online. It was LUDICROUSLY HOT back in London, but UTTERLY GORGEOUS in Edinburgh, like Holiday Weather, but we had long been forewarned that it was going to rain for the entire duration of the second stage of our holiday, in Berwick-Upon-Tweed. As it happened, it rained for about five minutes during daylight hours, TIPPED it down overnight, but otherwise was lovely. We felt BLESSED!

    We were staying in the Youth Hostel in Berwick, which was perfectly all right but very much NOT The Premier Inn. Call me SPOILT by fine living, but within MINUTES I found myself HANKERING for 24 hour news channels. It's a funny old place Berwick, like a small North Eastern town but one with MASSIVE bridges and GINORMOUS Elizabethan battlements. There's huge WALLS most of the way around it which are astounding, and make YORK look like somewhere with a fence, but neither of us had any idea they were there until we went. There's also a chronic over-provision of hairdressers (there were a LOT) and under-provision of places to STAY and/or to EAT - the YHA was the only place left with vacancies when we tried to book (several months in advance), and in the evenings the few restaurants/cafes that were still open had big FULLY BOOKED signs in the windows. What they need is a Premier Inn with a Thyme Bar!

    There was also a LOWRY trail, which was dead interesting - we had a right good old stomp around the town looking at places that Lowry had painted, discovering along the way that he was very happy to change something to make it look better, irrespective of reality. That was the best bit about Berwick, I think. The worst bit was the 300,000 SEAGULLS outside our window all night!

    The main reason for being there was to go to Lindisfarne, which we'd wanted to visit for ages. In my research beforehand I'd struggled to find a way to GET there - there seemed to be ONE bus which went at different times according to the tide, detailed on a timetable you needed a PHYSICS DEGREE to understand but, as far as I could tell, meant getting up at DAWN to catch. We decided to get a taxi, so headed off to the rank only to find all the roads closed for a MARCH by The British Legion! When that finished we waited AGES without any luck, until The Cabs On My Rank spotted a BUS at some nearby traffic lights, with "Holy Island" as its destination.

    We dashed round the corner to a handy bus stop just in time to hop on. The Change In My Pocket asked the driver what time she'd be coming back, and was toldnthat the bus was turning round and heading back as soon as we got there. We got our tickets and sat down, and then approx 30 seconds later another couple sat in front turned round and said they'd booked a taxi for 7.30pm, and would we like to share it? We said "YES PLEASE!"

    THUS we got to do the whole trip for CONSIDERABLY less than we otherwise would, and also met some nice people, James and Imogen, who we would bump into repeatedly for the remainder of our trip, for LO! neither Berwick nor Lindisfarne are particularly big!

    The whole experience of being on the island was MAGICAL, right from the bus ride across the CAUSEWAY, with SEA on either side. As we approached the village of Holy Island the bus driver pointed out SEALS nearby, and then when we got there it was full of BIRDS. Man alive, I have never SEEN so many BIRDS being so TAME. At one point we sat outside for a cup of tea and were SWAMPED by them, flying around people's tables, nicking crumbs straight off plates, and feeding from hands. It was ACE!

    The causeway was shut from approx 2.30pm to 7.15pm, which meant that most of the ATTRACTIONS closed by 2pm so that staff could go back. We hadn't realised this before we set off, so didn't actually get to go INTO any of them, but that turned out to be fine as we got to LOOK at them for FREE! HA! We looked at the Priory then went for a stroll up to the (ENORMOUS! IMPRESSIVE! ASTOUNDING!) Castle, before wandering along the beach until we found ourselves, accidentally, on a Nature Trail. This was AMAZING, especially when we saw a SEAL, and then a Mysterious White Pyramid which turned out to be a Mysterious White Pyramid That Is Also A Shipping Beacon and bumped into ... James and Imogen again!

    It was all pretty idyllic, especially with SWALLOWS everywhere you looked (NB these are my favourite) and GLORIOUS sunshine. When we got back to the village we had the aforementioned, and well earned, tea, also GRUB, and then went off for another wander, this time finding ourselves in a series of sand-dunes that surrounded various AMPHITHEATRES, like naturally forming golf courses.

    We ended up in THE PUB, where we once again bumped into James and Imogen, and sat feeling UTTERY KNACKERED. We had walked for HOURS!

    Next day we headed home, though not before bumping into our new acquaintances AGANE - tho this time we were already in the cafe when they came in, so it felt very slightly LESS like we were STALKING them. The journey home was, again, a DELIGHT, although as it was a Sunday we did not get the BOOZE PLYING we had previously received. BOO!

    In summary then: we had a lovely time and, despite all the BOOZE and GRUB consumed, I think all that walking meant I even lost some weight! RESULT!!

    posted 2/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Edinburgh During Not The Fringe
    Last week myself and The Train On My Tracks embarked on a sophisticated two-centre holiday to Edinburgh and Lindisfarne. The Executive Summary is as follows: One of the BEST bits came right at the very start, when we got the TRANE up to Scotland. I love this journey at ALL times, but especially when it is done in (very far in advance pre-booked) FIRST CLASS during the week, as it means that they PLY you with food and drink for HOURS. They started taking food and drink orders not long after we left, which meant that by noon we had already started our LUNCH (veg chilli: LOVELY) and also our DRINKING. By the time Edinburgh was coming into view we didn't want to get off!

    We stayed in the Hub By Premier Inn, which is a slightly dinkier version of the regular Premier Inn, and also like a SPACESHIP as everything runs on ELECTRONIC PANEL DISPLAYS. We found this to be DELIGHTFUL! It was also SUPER HANDY - we are both used to being in Edinburgh during the Fringe, when you end up staying somewhere at least a good walk out of town, so I kept getting confused by the fact that we would leave the hotel and not only IMMEDIATELY be in town, but could also pop back for stuff whenever we needed. It was GRATE!

    I'd thought Edinburgh would look really different outside of Fringe times, but it was already covered in posters, there were Venue Numbers going up everywhere, and it was full of people, so it all felt quite familiar. The only real difference was that the people were on average about 30 years older than I'm used to, and they didn't keep trying to give us flyers for shows.

    We saw our nephew Felix on two evenings, enjoying some fine dining and some even finer WHISKEY drinking, and we spent a FAB day out with my sister, her husband and four MORE nephews (and a lot of ladybirds for some reason). It was a very NEPHEW HEAVY holiday really, and all the better for it!

    When not engaged with nephews we managed to do a couple of things we'd never done before in Scotland's capital i.e. take the Open Top Bus Tour (HIGHLY recommended) and visit The National Museum Of Scotland, wherein The Exhibits In My Show went on a big explore of the galleries, and I went to look at Rip It Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop. This was Quite Weird, as there were loads of bands I LIKE and have seen, and think of as Modern And Groovy, but in a MUSEUM. There were also a LOT of Bass Guitars on display, almost as if the person most likely to have kept anything in a band is the bass player. Surely that can't be right, can it?

    All in all it was a MEGA-BRILLO idea to go to Edinburgh during Not The Fringe, especially when the weather was so GLORIOUS. I would recommend it HIGHLY, as I would the NEXT bit of our holiday, which would take us to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and LINDISFARNE!

    posted 1/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Graphic Brighton
    After work on Thursday I went to the PUB - nothing so fascinating or unusual about that, you might think, except that THIS pub contained Mr F A Machine!

    For LO! we were off on an ADVENTURE to Brighton! A while back I'd seen a Call For Papers for Graphic Brighton, an annual comics conference looking this year at the link between comics and music. It seemed rude NOT to submit something, so Frankie and I worked up a paper called "The Swingin' Sounds Of Sixties Marvel" about the theme songs for Marvel series in that decade. It got accepted, so off we went!

    We arrived in Brighton and set off for our hotel, stopping briefly on the way for a refreshing beer in a pub containing a GIGANTIC cat called Bailey. Our plan was to go to the BEACH to have a practice (so as not to disturb other guests) so after a DELICIOUS curry we headed down to the shore, and found that a) it's not as easy as you'd think to get onto the actual beach in Brighton and b) when you do it is full of people, so instead we went to the PUB and had a gentle sing through together of the various songs instead. Frankie had already sent me mp3s of his versions of the songs, but it was still good to actually go through them TOGETHER, even if only in hushed tones.

    After a night of disturbances (heat, seagulls, people outside etc etc) we regrouped and took the long walk back to the railway station. Brighton is a BIG place, and seems to be full of HILLS, also HOTELS, yet it always seems really hard to find anywhere to stay there. Are there just a lot of people who want to hang around temporarily, or are the hotels FRONTS for the many Artisanal Bagel Factories that are required to keep the town running?

    We got the train to Falmer, and followed some EXCELLENT fully illustrated instructions to find The University of Sussex, where the conference was being held. Frankie later told me that this was his first time back in a lecture theatre for TWENTY SEVEN YEARS and that initially it had given him THE FEAR. However, this ebbed as the day went on, especially during the first talk by Holly Casio, who was speaking about her fanzine about Bruce Springsteen. It was EXTREMELY interesting, and she spoke about it brilliantly. "Not all comics conferences are this much fun" I warned Frankie.

    The rest of the day was GRATE - lots of interesting talks, excellent people, and great organisation. If Frankie ends up undertaking a DOCTORATE next I am pretty sure that this is where it will all have started! We did our bit towards the end of the day, talking about the perceived HIPNESS of the songs and, indeed, BELLOWING them at people. It appeared to go down really well, and though there wasn't a HUGE volume for the singalong at the end, people did CLAP a lot!

    Afterwards we took part in a PANEL. I'd thought our bits would be all down to me, but Frankie happily joined in - I was VERY proud, he is a NATURAL at this academic lark! Afterwards a chap came up to talk to us about The Who's cover of "Batman", and it was only when we went back in for the final session that I realised he was HUNT EMERSON! He and Julie Hollings did the final session, which was BRILLO. They talked about the history of their work (including the fact that Hunt designed The Beat's "Beat Girl" logo, which I never knew) and did the GRATE thing where Comics Professionals get perplexed by Academics asking questions. "Why on earth would you want to know that?" they reply. "I have no idea! It was years ago!"

    It was a GRATE day, topped off by having JUST the right amount of time to get TRANE BEERS at Brighton Station before heading home. I think both of us thought that this would just be an excuse for a JOLLY to Brighton (it was!) but it turned out also to be DEAD INTERESTING and, actually, quite a good thing to talk about. I think I would like to do it AGANE - San Diego! Call us!

    posted 23/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Hibbettfest 13
    Saturday morning found me up bright and early to head to The Midlands for the annual extravaganza known as HIBBETTFEST!

    When I had consulted with Mr R Kirkham about dates earlier in the year I had been well aware that this was the day of the World Cup third-place play-offs, but thought that a) there was no way England would still be in the tournament by then and b) who cares about the third place play-offs anyway? I had not banked on a) England doing really well and b) me loving the World Cup quite as much as I have, so I must admit there was a small part of me who would have quite liked to watch a bit more of it. However, all worked out well and my day turned out to be MUCH more fun than watching England getting beaten by (according to Match Of The Day later on iPlayer) a better team!

    The fun commenced at Marylebone station, with my trouser pocket breaking and all my change falling on the floor. People FLOCKED to the area to help me, picking it all up and handing it over. A lady sitting nearby handed my the last pound coin and said. "Everybody helped - aren't people lovely?" and I had to agree that they were.

    Talking of lovely people, I then bumped into Mr M Tiller, who was this year's special guest. Being sensible grown-ups we had both arrived SUPER EARLY and so had plenty of time for a cuppa before hopping onto the slow train to Birmingham Moor Street. The journey passed at high speed due to NATTERING all the way up, and we were soon changing and on our way to Cradley Heath where Venue Owner Mr K Kirkham (aka Ray's Dad) picked us up and took us, as is traditional, to the Offy to get some booze. This was the THIRTEENTH (!) Hibbettfest, and I think it's important to maintain some of these ancient traditions!

    We rolled up at the venue not long after to find a whole bunch of lovely folk there, including the usual assortment of dogs and BABIES, although this time several of the babies appear to have become CHILDREN, and children who were more than happy to JOIN IN too. One of the aforesaid was Ray's nephew Luke who this year was wearing a high vis jacket, t-shirt labelled "security", dark glasses, a walky-talky and an earpiece. He even had a FLAG for guiding in traffic, I have never felt so well protected at a gig before!

    After quite a lot of sitting around in the baking sunshine chatting, drinking beer, and eating the ENORMOUS Vegan buffet which Ray had supplied (featuring some particularly brilliant sausage rolls this year, also CURRY) Matt took to the stage - or, rather, awning of the SHED - to perform. He was joined not only by the security officer but also three DANCERS who FLOSSED and DABBED throughout his performance, which he coped with MANFULLY! It was GRATE!

    After returning to the buffet area for DESSERT we then gathered outside once more for ME to take to the awning and do THIS:
  • The Fair Play Trophy (again)
  • Cheer Up Love
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • We Did It Anyway
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • I had a LOVELY time, especially with my dancers helping me, and I think it went OK. I had been a bit worried in the days leading up to the festival that I would FORGET how to do a gig, as I have done so few lately, but it all came back!

    There was then more time for sitting around and BEER before a select group of us got on the PARTY BUS back to town for an INTELLECTUAL round table discussion in the pub on diverse topics, after which Matt and I said our goodbyes and headed to Snow Hill Station, where we JUST got into Waitrose before it closed to get some TRAIN BEERS. HA! The journey home passed, if anything, even more quickly, partly due to the BEER and partly due to the extensive chats we had on MEN'S ISSUES and POLITICS... which were probably also partly due to the BEER!

    It was a lovely lovely day all round - roll on number fourteen!

    posted 16/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Queen Again
    On Wednesday Night myself and The Fireplace In My Guitar went to our favourite Big Music Venue, the O2, to see QUEEN. Short version: It was BRILL.

    We'd been to see them late last year and had a GRATE time, so the aforesaid Chorus Of My Anthem was very keen to go again. I was not so keen - I'd really enjoyed it, but expected them to do exactly the same show again - but was persuaded to attend by having my ticket PAID FOR and the offer of DRINKS too. I never said I was a CHEAP date, but I can be bought!

    It was lovely being back at the O2, especially after going to the Olympic Stadium a few weeks ago, which isn't half as nice for this sort of thing. The O2 always feels COSY, despite being GIGANTIC, and there is AMPLE supply of bars to get BEERZ from, which there was NOT at the stadium. This time we were much closer to ground level than previously, so could not only see the BAND properly but could also see our chum Mr M Sutton, who WAVED to us from his position near the sounddesk where APPARENTLY he could see Anita Dobson watching the show and ROCKING OUT!

    I do not blame her for doing so, because it was a VERY ROCKING show. A lot of it was indeed the same as last time, but there was a LOAD of different songs, and anyway it was all HIGHLY enjoyable. We could not help but compare it to The Rolling Stones gig at the aforesaid stadium. MicK Jagger had been good but in comparison to Queen the rest of them looked like they could not be arsed to be there, the actual playing was distinctly ropey, and the SHOW element was designed to hide the fact that it was 3 old men standing very still and one old man jigging about. In contrast QUEEN looked like they were DELIGHTED to be there, the music was FANTASTIC, and the show was entirely integrated into what they were doing, and FUN. The highlight of the whole thing for me was near the end, when Brian May came on to do the solo in "Bohemian Rhapsody" wearing a SILVER JUMPSUIT which had LONG DANGLY BITS on the sleeves like ARM CLOAKS, JUST like he did in the video. It was a small touch, but endemic of the CARE and RESPECT for the audience that characterised the whole thing.

    Other highlights were B May doing "Love Of My Life" illuminated ENTIRELY by people switching on the "torch" setting on their phones, Adam Lambert HUGGING the senior members of the group, and the mass adherence by the audience to THE RULES OF ROCK demonstrated by the QUEUE for the urinals when everybody went to the loo during the DRUM SOLO.

    It was BLOODY FAB is what it was. On an unrelated note, where can I hire a smoke machine, giant robot and RISER STAGE for Tim's birthday gig?

    posted 6/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Unusual Sporting Emotions
    You find me today in a strange limbo of NO FOOTBALL. It is very weird indeed - it has been ALL FOOTBALL nearly every day for, as far as I recall, DECADES and now suddenly we are in a space of NONE. I can only hope it returns tomorrow or LORD knows what we will do.

    The only thing weirder than the lack of football is the presence of a strange new emotion that I have never previously felt in regard to the England Football team, which feels almost like LOVE. I don't know what it is, but every time I hear Gareth Southgate being Entirely Reasonable on television, or see him consoling a Colombian, or nursing a small kitten back to health, something WELLS UP inside me that makes me want to shake him firmly by the hand and buy him a pint. It's similar with the team themselves - most of my life I have seen them as wallies, prats and, occasionally, outright gits, but this current lot appear to be Delightful Young Men. It is probably my GRATE AGE, but I have an URGE to hire a mini-bus and take them all on an outing to ALTON TOWERS or a CITY FARM, because by golly I think they deserve it.

    These feelings were only increased watching the game against Colombia on Tuesday night when, in the words of a certain song they really DID behave like "a team of virtuous saints". I've seen England play nasty teams before, but seeing the Colombians screaming, fouling, head-butting and, most infuriating of all, DESECRATING THE PENALTY SPOT felt like watching the local sixth-formers who lurk around, giggling to each other, outside my local shop being suddenly SHOVED AROUND by some Older Boys who are SMOKING. I tell you what, it made me want to go over there and give them a STERN PIECE OF MY MIND!

    Overall I have been FLIPPING LOVING this World Cup (Spain VS Portugal! Belgium VS Japan! Korea VS Germany!) but I did not enjoy this game AT ALL. As well as feeling outraged I felt TERRIFIED at every stage, so when that last minute equaliser went in it felt like a long awaited DOOM descending. I was getting STOMACH CRAMPS during the extra time, and I must confess to considering leaving the room all together when the penalties began.

    However, as the shootout commenced myself and The Net Of My Goal (who had remained Remarkably Calm until this point) noticed something rather wonderful happening. Round the corner from our house a Big Screen had been set up, which had 900 people watching the same game as us but, apparently, approximately ONE SECOND ahead. THUS whenever an England player began his run up we would hear a MIGHTY ROAR just before he scored, or a MIGHTY GROAN if he didn't, coming from the future-viewers down the road. This made the entire experience SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful, especially when Jordan Wonderful Pickford SAVED one and ESPECIALLY especially when Eric Dier stepped up to take the final winning shot. There was a BEAUTIFUL moment when we heard a MIGHTY CHEER and KNEW that we were going to win, just it began to happen on our telly. It was one of those out of body experiences you hear about, when time itself slowed down to one elongated perfect moment.

    I think I would like it very much if ALL big events could have a BIG SCREEN round the corner in future, preferably about a WEEK ahead of me, to reassure me that things will turn out all right.

    All of the above has of course engendered ANOTHER unusual emotion related to the England Team: HOPE. I have been singing "Three Lions" to myself for the past couple of days, and am imagining England ACTUALLY WINNING THE WORLD CUP... well, all right, I am imagining England NARROWLY LOSING TO BRAZIL IN THE FINAL, but that's still a lot more than my usual expectation of them losing 7-0 to the Isle Of Wight and John Terry punching somebody, so I will take what I can get. For now at least, it is very much COMING HOME!

    posted 5/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    PPI Pleasures
    Like every living sentient creature in this country I have spent the past few years hearing about PPI flipping EVERYWHERE. It's so omnipresent in spam emails, spam phone calls, adverts and newspaper articles that GDPR came as something of a BLESSED RELIEF!

    I had always been a bit sniffy about the whole business, taking the line that surely you would KNOW if you had taken out PPI and did not need all these people telling you about it. "It only applies to twits and wallies who can't manage their money," I thought, "I am sure it wouldn't be me!"

    HOWEVER, a few weeks ago somebody on Facebook (I can't remember who and can't find it now!) mentioned that they'd gone onto their bank's own PPI checker page, spent about half an hour putting in their details, and had received enough CA$H to get, as they put it "some nice bottles of wine." "Hang on," I thought, "I like nice bottles of wine AND have half an hour spare. Maybe I should have a go!"

    THUS I went onto Barclay's PPI Page and filled in a few details so that they could check whether I'd ever been mis-sold PPI. I was entirely sure that a) I wouldn't have ever been so daft to do so and anyway b) would remember if I had, so imagine my surprise when I received a letter a few weeks later saying I HAD had a PPI policy, for ELEVEN YEARS from 1998 to 2009!!

    "Oh yeah, I guess I did take out a loan didn't I?" I thought. "Yes," said my BRANE. "You got it to put out your half of the Clubbing In The Week single!" AHA!

    The letter said that I now needed to put in a proper CLAIM, to check whether I had been MIS-sold, rather than just sold, it, which did involve a bit of research - it turns out there IS a point to keeping piles of old payslips from twenty years ago! I typed it all in, pressed send, and then expected to wait AGES to be told that it had all been entirely above board. THUS when I got back from Bournemouth and found I'd had a letter from Barclays saying "We have received your complaint, it'll probably take ages to process" I was not surprised.

    Imagine then my GLEE when I opened ANOTHER letter in the same pile of correspondence which said that my complaint had been UPHELD, and that they were going to give me a load of CA$H! All right, not a life-changing amount by any means, but CERTAINLY enough for some very nice wine and maybe a bottle of whisky too! It turns out that me not really paying attention to what I was signing back in the last century was the BEST INVESTMENT I have ever made!

    I tell you this not to GLOAT over my good fortune - though as it is purely at the expense of THE MAN I think some gloating is fine in moderation - but to advise you, gentle reader, to have a go yourself. There is only about a YEAR to go to make these sort of enquiries, and as it only takes a few minutes to do the initial enquiry it is WELL worth a go. You don't need to go through an agency or talk to anybody on the phone or anything, apparently THE BANKS have to make it as easy as possible so they're all supposed to have dedicated sections on their websites where you can just do it yourself. All you need is GOOGLE basically. It's peasy - have a go!

    posted 3/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Comics, Beer And Football
    I spent most of last work in the absolute HECKHOLE that is an Academic Conference. Wot a TRIAL it was, spending every day talking about comics, only broken up by regular trips to the pub to watch football with supporters of many nations.

    Yes all right, it was jolly good fun, but it did not begin that way, for LO! there were Troubles On The Line on Tuesday night which meant that every service to Bournemouth, where the conference was, was BUGGERED. This meant that the pleasant 100 minute sprint to the coast just in time to watch the football that I'd been hoping for turned into THREE AND A HALF HOURS on a PACKED train with me having to STAND for most of the way. When I finally arrived in Bournemouth, having entirely MISSED the football I trudged across town to what turned out to be the WRONG Premier Inn. "A lot of people get confused" said the lady at reception. The lady at reception in the RIGHT Premier Inn said EXACTLY the same thing when I got there!

    The conference itself started on the Wednesday morning and it was GRATE. I did my talk (about defining 'The Marvel Age' as a distinct period) right in the first session of talks, which meant I could then RELAX for the rest of the week. It seemed to go all right, with some good questions and nice feedback afterwards, which added to my RELIEF.

    I also went to some ACE talks on Dan Dare, The Marie Duvall Archive, a cunning use of DATABASES to demonstrate changes in storytelling methods over time, digital comics collecting, and quite a lot of Alan Moore. I also ended up going to several sessions about WOMEN in comics, especially in early GIRLS' comics, which was fascinating - it was a MASSIVE market that ran alongside the BOYS' comics that we all know so much more about, and it feels like there's a whole ALTERNATE UNIVERSE where, instead of banging on about Pat Mills and Judge Dredd, people are fascinated by Anne Digby and Tammy! (NB I say Anne Digby because she was there and did an INTERVIEW, and she was BRILL)

    Another nice thing this year was that I actually KNEW a few people. It's always scary going to these things when you're NEW and don't have anyone to sit with at lunch. It is basically SKOOL for grown-ups, and like SKOOL it's much much easier when you have people you know from previous events who you can sidle up to for a chat. One of the people there was Mr J Senna, who I'd met when I was in Tuebingen in February, and who I ended up seeing several football games with. Watching Brazil with an Actual Brazilian was a lot of fun, only topped by spending one afternoon BUNKING OFF and going to the pub to watch South Korea beat Germany. That was PRETTY GOOD.

    The whole thing FLEW by so that I now find myself back at work once more, looking forward to the NEXT conference I'm attending in a few weeks. This one's only a day long but it will have the added benefit of featuring me CO-PRESENTING with Mr FA Machine - more on this ANON!

    posted 2/7/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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