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A Birthday Festival
Friday and Saturday had been such a full weekend of ACTION and GADDING ABOUT that I really needed ANOTHER weekend to relax and get over it all. Handily, that is exactly what I got!

On Sunday it was the Great Get Together event in the Olympic Park (where I live, in case I haven't mentioned it), which was set to feature Hero and Whizbee, the mascots for the World Para Athletics and IAAF World Championships that are happening at the stadium this summer. The Trees In My Forest enjoys a good Mascot and/or Character, so we were VERY excited to eventually meet them and discover that they are GRATE. I am always a bit confused by Characters like this. "They look like they're really enjoying themselves!" I think, and only later remember that the BIG SMILES are part of the costume. I'm sure they WERE enjoying themselves, they were surrounded by hordes of very excited people wanting HUGS!

We also heard that Sadiq Khan would be coming, but nobody was sure what time he'd be arriving so went for a bit of a wander. Atop a small hill we saw a couple of cameras set up. "I bet he'll be coming up here," said The Lens On My Nokia. "I doubt that," I replied, "Why would he come up a hill?" It was approx 2 seconds later that we spotted Sadiq... strolling up the hill towards us.

I had the day of work on Monday as it was my BIRFDAY (after 17 years I am still enjoying being in my thirties) and we'd booked tickets to go and see The Hero Hockey World Championships Semi-Finals at the Lee Valley Hockey And Tennis Centre (just behind the Velodrome). Things started very well as, about halfway there, someone called out "Would you like a lift?" It was the driver of one of those GOLF BUGGIES that shuttle the elderly or disabled around. Clearly they had ferried everyone to the venue who actually needed it and fancied a quick drive, so we hopped in and ZOOMED along. It was BRILLO!

We arrived at the hockey centre to find an excited crowd made up mostly of SCHOOLCHILDREN enjoying the sunshine and, mostly, the fact that they weren't at school. It made for a GRATE atmosphere while we watched the final quarter of Scotland versus Pakistan, after which we went and got some FIZZY WINE and BEER, which seemed EXTREMELY appropriate for the occasion. It was very much like I imagine CRiCKET would be - we had a lovely time in the sunshine with BOOZE easily available and without really having much clue what was going on. The second game featured the Netherlands being a bit like Germany in The Football (tall, blonde, SKILLZ) and Canada like Leicester City (small, good on the break) but that is about as far as my analysis went.

We wandered home in GORGEOUS weather, stopping off at a local cafe for a bit of cake and it all felt SO MUCH like being on holiday that we went and did some SUNBATHING. It was flipping GORGEOUS, even though I did get a bit sunburnt - at my grand old age I STILL refuse to accept that you would EVER need suntan lotion in the UK!

Later on we watched "The Hunt For The Wilderpeople", which was ACE. It was, in fact, a bloody BRILLIANT birthday, at the end of which I tried to stay up as late as I possibly could. I didn't want it to end!

posted 22/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Saturday morning found me navigating the London transport system in order to get to Paddington, from whence I was heading to BATH to attend the super secret surprise 40th Birthday Party for Mr Gavin Osborn.

Crossing London was wonky all over the place, with me GETTING a javelin train I thought I'd missed but then having to go a super long way round from Kings Cross due to various line closures. When I got ON my train all was well, although things continued strange when I got to Bath and found an Atmosphere. Maybe it was the VERY HOT weather or maybe there was a Sporting Fixture on, but everyone seemed in a bad mood and/or DRUNK. I got a TAXI out to where the DO was happening and the driver seemed rather grumpy too. I told him where I was going and, when it turned out 20 minutes later that he didn't know where it was, he got annoyed with me. "I thought you'd know", he grumbled. However, the pair of us then went on a mini-adventure around the local area until he found it and were quite pally by the end, to the extent that I asked for and got his number to go back again.

The party had been organised by Mrs Amy Osborn and she had done an INCREDIBLE job of it. She'd hired out a field and then basically put a mini-LATITUDE inside it. There was a tent for MUSIC with a stage, lighting system and full PA. There was a CINEMA tent (or AWNING anyway), loads of kids games including an enormous Guess Who and strategic PAGODAS all around the place for when it got a bit hot. There was also full CAMPING, so it really felt like being at a festival site!

Most impressive of all she had kept Gav totally in the dark about the whole thing, so he was in a state of permanent DELIGHT and DISBELIEF as people kept turning up, it was a JOY to see!

The only thing missing was phone signal, though I suppose that is part of the festival experience too. I did find that you COULD get signal up at the top of a hill, beneath a tree which became known as The Signal Tree. I kept going up to check for news from The Leaves On My Branch, who had set out that day to get herself some Guns N' Roses tickets. They were playing in the Olympic Stadium and, after hearing how GRATE the Friday night show had been from a chum who had attended, she had resolved not only to get a seat but also to pay half the asking price for doing so. I was WORRIED about the whole enterprise - I would never have been BRAVE enough to do such a thing and thought it would end in disappoint and/or loss of CA$H but of course she managed it HANDSOMELY!

Spending time at The Signal Tree enabled me to witness Gav in his natural element i.e. surrounded by small children who appeared to FLOCK to him at any opportunity. He seemed to spend much of the afternoon pushing children on the rope swing which dangled from said tree, and when he wasn't doing that he was being PILED ON by mobs of small boys!

Before setting off I'd been a bit worried I wouldn't know anyone, but there turned out to be several chums there, including the Wainwrights and associated children and also Ms G Petrie, with whom I had a jolly discussion about Current Events. She played later on and was GRATE, and I also did a set MYSELF mid-afternoon, during which I did my usual HILARIOUS trick of NOT SWEARING in front of small children but then explaining what I would have said immediately afterwards. I always think this is HILARIOUS and I am definitely sure that all parents agree with me. Gav knows several comedians, notably the really really good ones, so it was a bit weird to be doing GAGS and then realise I was being watched by, more or less, the CREAM of a GENERATION of comedians. If you spot a trend for Award Winning Comedians not swearing and then swearing in front of children in the near future you will know where they got the idea from!

Soon 7pm came and it was time for me to say my goodbyes and head back to the Station, where I discovered that the trains to London had gone hideously wrong. It took me an extra TWO HOURS to get home, but handily this gave me PLENTY of time to worry about whether I had been All Right all afternoon - it is my CONSTANT FEAR that I have behaved like a PILLOCK whenever I am a) unaccompanied b) amongst groups of people I do not know particularly well, but I THINK I was OK. I tried to make up for any inadvertent idiocy by telling the nice lady sat next to me ALL about to claim Delay Repay for a ticket refund!

When I eventually made it back to East London I found myself surrounded by Guns N' Roses fans, who had seeped into the very fabric of Stratford and were EVERYWHERE walking in ALL directions. It was a bit weird - where had they been, and where were they going? Some were going AWAY from the stadium, others TOWARDS, and they were all round the area we live in too. I half expected to find a few lurking under the bed when I got in.

It was a long day of travel, heat, and ROCK, but a DELIGHTFUL one in which to pay tribute to a TITAN of ROCK!

posted 21/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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This weekend just gone was a LOOOONG weekend, full of incident and excitement, and it begane on Friday morning at Central Saint Martin's college, where I was co-running a COMICS SYMPOSIUM.

This is something that myself, Mr G Lawley and Mr T Yu-Kiener have been organising alongside our comics-based PhDs at UAL. It was called Frame:Works and the idea was to get a bunch of speakers from different areas of comics to come and talk about working within RESTRICTIONS. We had a GRATE list of people talking, a good batch of tickets "sold" (it was free through Eventbrite), so all we needed to do was make it happen!

It all started very well with a trip to WAITROSE to get DRINKS for the attendees. Waitrose is a 20 second walk from UAL's Granary Square building where we were holding our event, but we had a LOT of liquid so asked if we could use a trolley. A chap called Michael from the customer service desk very kindly came with us (he had a GIZMO which unlocked the wheels when you left the shop), helped us unload, and then took the trolley back for us. I do like Waitrose!

We got the room sorted out, checked our tech, and met with Professor R Sabin and Dr I Horton, our shared supervisors and all round GOOD EGGS who had suggested we DO this thing. Speakers gently arrived, and at this point the usual Conference Issues arose and, also as usual, were solved. We couldn't get some videos to play that were part of Ms Emma Hayley (of SelfMadeHero)'s presentation, so she rather brilliantly suggested putting a small speaker's microphone next to the output on her laptop. This worked PERFECTLY and I spent the rest of the morning being impressed! At around the same time noted comics writer Mr Al Ewing arrived, and told me that he had spilled hot coffee on himself on the train that morning. He was telling me this while we were GETTING some coffee, which he immediately spilled all over his hand. He dashed to put it under a cold tap and I RAN back round to Waitrose to get some Soothing Hand Cream!

Apart from all that things went very well. Of the 60 tickets we'd "sold" around 40 people actually turned up over the course of the day. I was quite surprised that so many didn't come, but apparently this is normal for such things. We had a morning session on Publishing, which was dead interesting, and then after lunch it was time for MY session. The three of us were basically running a session each, with guests we'd chosen, and I'd managed to get Al for mine, along with Ms Josie Long, to talk about moving from FANZINES to mainstream work (Marvel for Al, The Guardian for Josie). I was interviewing them both, and so was VERY nervous, even though I had written up a long list of questions, but it seemed to go OK. Al's bit was pretty easy as he was happy to talk at length and in depth about what I asked whereas Josie's section was more nerve wracking as she was so ENTHUSIASTIC that she kept on answering my planned questions before I'd even got to them! I had a GRATE idea to ask, about halfway through, whether Jeffrey Lewis had been an influence on her cartooning, for instance, but she ROMPED through all that within the first five minutes!

The best bit was at the end where we did a mini-panel with both of them answering questions from the audience, and they got to swap THORTS on each other's area of expertise. I do believe this is what your modern academics call TRANSECTIONALITY!

After that there were more discussions, including a history of QUEERZINES (which was ACE, although a bit weird to find that the Riot Grrl scene wot I remember is now An Historical Event) and some STATISTICAL ANALYSIS on whether comics really are the best way to get people to remember information. Turns out it is!

For the final session Mr John Miers did a SKETCH RECAP of everything we'd seen - it was amazing, and you can read about it on his website!

At the end Guy, Tobias and I were given PRESENTS by Ian and Roger to say "Well Done" for putting it on, which was completely unexpected, and then we got another FREE GIFT when we went to the bar for a much needed DRINK. A young woman on the door said "Are you going to the bar?" and then gave us all BEER TOKENS! I have absolutely no idea why, but wasn't complaining.

It was a FAB day and well worth all the effort and work what had gone in. As we sat around the table there was talk of doing it again next year - if we do I shall know to buy LESS orange juice beforehand, and MORE first aid!

posted 20/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Tour Life
Day TWO of The Validators Tour 2017 was meant to commence with the four male Validators meeting in the lobby of the Travelodge at 11am to go in search of breakfast. However, three of the four of us were greeted upon waking by an email from Tim, who had unilaterally decided to go for a walk up a HILL and have breakfast there. THUS we got into the Tigermobile and headed off to find him, thereby getting to enjoy the delights of HILLZ without having to actually WALK up one.

We found him standing outside the cafe on Teggs Nose, and duly regrouped we went inside to DINE. As part of my whole Stomach Flora Realignment Diet I am avoiding bread, so ended up having SALAD as the only vegetarian non-bread item on the menu. It was very nice! The others had MASSIVE toast, although Tom had to send his Beans On Toast back due to Lukewarm Beans. Life On The Road - it is so often fraught with PERIL!

With some time free we agreed to Tim's demands that we walk up to the TOP of the hill, and though in general I feel that hills are Silly Things (why can't people just live somewhere flat?) it was actually quite good fun, although at the very top it was quite WINDY, STEEP and MUDDY and we realised that we only had one pair of trousers each, so had to walk down very carefully. See above re PERIL!

We hopped back into the car and drove off to Congleton, where we were due to play at Going Up The Country. Here we discovered a whole HEAP of lovely people, not least amongst them Emma and the Junior Pattisons. It turned out we knew pretty much everybody there, which was GRATE for wandering around and hugging people, and nearly ALL of the acts from the weekend as a whole had played at Totally Acoustic at some point, which meant that I spent most of the day having to stop myself from getting up and introducing the acts!

I'd thought that the gig itself would be inside in the pub, but instead discovered that we were playing in the MARQUEE out front. This was all very jolly but did mean that there'd be a need for amplification, which we had not prepared for. Me, Emma and Frankie could all be plugged in, but Tom had brought his GOOD violin (which doesn't have a DI) and Tim had his Cajon, so we weren't sure what to do. Luckily for us INDIE LEGEND Mr Pete Dale was doing the sound (which was also a bit weird - it was like going to see Donavan and finding out that Bob Dylan was working the sound desk) and, after a bit of a conflab, we decided to use microphones for me and Emma, plug the BASS in to boost it a bit, and to leave the rest of us as we were. With that decided we took to the stage and did THIS:
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Leave My Brother Alone
  • In The North Stand
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Easily Impressed
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It was, not to put too fine a point on it, BLOODY GRATE. The sound sounded FAB (it's lovely playing in this sort of format, as we can HEAR each other) and everybody was WELL up for it. I got so excited that I ended up using many of the REMARKS that I had been preparing for Indietracks (NB it's been several years since we last played, I have been thinking about it a LOT) so will probably have to think of some NEW ones. Or just hope people will be too drunk to notice - probably that actually.

    It was a LOVELY way to spend an afternoon, and we were HONOURED to be the last band EVER to play Going Up The Country. Delightfully, most people there were of a certain age, also inclination, and so were all still feeling a bit tired from our late night on Thursday, which meant that once we were done everyone drifted away pretty quickly for TEA and possibly BED.

    We said our farewells to the Pattisons and then Frankie, Tom, me and Mr Pete Green hopped into the Tigermobile, they for Derby and me for Congleton again. Foolishly, when booking my travel arrangements, I'd not realised the gig would be finishing this early so had thought I'd have to stay in Macclesfield overnight. Frankie suggested I catch a train from Congleton, but this excellent plan had two small niggles: firstly, Congleton station is about an HOUR'S WALK from Congleton itself (or at least from the bit where I disembarked the Tigermobile) and there wasn't a train for TWO HOURS. I thus had a HIKE and then a lengthy sit in a beer garden where a very loud elderly blues band played for an extremely drunk couple who had clearly just began a sexual relationship and wished to express it in a) dance b) extremely unrhythmical clapping. It was all a bit odd.

    Still, I made it back to Macclesfield in the end, KNACKERED but very very happy. Going On Tour is EXCELLENT fun, especially when you do it with such MARVELLOUS chums, but it doesn't half wear you out!

    posted 15/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back On The Road
    Saturday morning found me getting up SUPER early, still a bit tired out by the late night on Thursday, in order to meet Mr S Hewitt at Euston Station for the slow train to Birmingham, for LO! It was the weekend of HIBBETTFEST!

    After a CHARMING journey we rolled in to New Street, found Mr FA Machine, and together strolled over to Moor Street for the train to Cradley Heath. Setting something of a TONE for the whole weekend, our conversation was mostly of POLITICS, with me REVELLING in the idea that I am almost always WRONG in my predictions and that, therefore, pretty much anything could happen!

    We were collected by Ray's Mum and headed for Kingswinford and the festival site, stopping en route for BOOZE. It was here that I faced the implications of my No Real Ale rule - the others got BOOZE while I got... bottles of water. Well, all right, I DID get myself a bottle of Corona for later, but it did feel a bit odd. As it happened though I was entirely FINE with water for the rest of the afternoon, which surprised no-one more than it did ME.

    We arrived on site to discover Tim and Tom waiting for us (Emma would not be joining us until the second date of the TOUR {two dates totally counts as a tour} the following day) along with Mr R Kirkham, PROMOTER, and a whole heap of other delightful people. Apparently this was the FOURTEENTH (!) Hibbettfest, and over the years it has become a DELIGHTFUL afternoon full of fantastic food (prepared by Ray in a GINORMOUS BUFFET), nice people, dogs, children, and LARKS. This time it also feature Mr Dan Ransome as Official Support, ROCKING the Patio to no small degree while we wolfed down Vegan Jaffa Cake.

    Then it was time for The Validators to take to the stage* (*area just in front of the kitchen window) where we did THIS:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • In The North Stand
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Leave My Brother Alone
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway

  • Boom Shake The Room

  • The set was not without incident, including DOGS going WILD and racing through the performance area, knocking over a recycling bin and smashing a couple of glass bottles. MAYHEM! More sedately, just before We Did It Anyway we dragged Steve on to present him with The Artists Against Success Football Trophy, which he had WON for this year, and then as he was there ANYWAY we got him to sing the song with us, which sounded GRATE.

    After THAT we had officially finished, and I was AMUSED to see that The Validators had all trooped off through the patio doors and into the living room, like it was a DRESSING ROOM or something, and thus were able to stride back out for an ENCORE. It was FAB!

    With all that done there was time for chat, yet more GRUB, and for Mr Kirkham Senior to present me with a bottle of RUM, before it was time for us to get into The Tigermobile and head for MACCLESFIELD - we were booked to play at the Going Up The Country festival next day, and this was the closest place we could find any accommodation. On the way there we listened to the last twenty minutes of England VS Scotland. As Frankie remarked, it was the first interesting England game in about 300 years and we weren't watching in!

    We arrived at Macclesfield Travelodge and checked ourselves in before heading out for the evening. We found a GRATE micro-pub called The Treacle Tap, where once again I was faced with the fact that I would be drinking LAGER. Luckily they had some REALLY nice German lager, which I enjoyed while we spent the next HOUR discussing (in turn) our various AILMENTS. I think if you put the four of us together you could probably make about THREE healthy adult males, although two of them would probably have a bit of a bad back. We then went round the corner to Balti Kitchen where we had a BLOODY GRATE curry. Ooh, it was lovely, one of the nicest I've had ON TOUR!

    At this point I really wanted to go clubbing, totally, but the others are dead square and old, yeah, and tired from staying up later on Thursday, so instead we went back to the hotel and gathered in Tim's room to a) drink RUM b) plan next year's European Tour (NB this is an Actual Thing) c) discuss future recording and performance options d) agree that we are now a FESTIVAL BAND. It was an EXCELLENT meeting and I feel that ALL future such discussions would be greatly enhanced by RUM!

    And thus the evening ended. The next day would be another day of ROCK, for LO! we were on TOUR!

    posted 14/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Happy To Be Wrong
    You find me bleary eyed and happy this morning, as I find myself never more DELIGHTED to have been totally wrong about something. All week I have been saying "It's going to be a big majority for the Tories, 50 or so - let's not get our hopes up." At the same time The Ballots In My Box has been saying it would at least be a hung parliament, which made me worry about how she would take the inevitable disappointment.

    Come 9:55pm I turned on the telly filled by DREAD and TREPIDATION. Was I wrong? Would it be a 100 majority after all? When the exit poll came out it took me several minutes to take it in. "What? Are they saying a hung parliament? REALLY?" I wanted to jump up and down with GLEE but then remembered BREXIT. THAT had all looked fine until the first results came in, so I resolved to attempt to stay calm.

    When the results from the North East came in I was even MORE reminded of Brexit, as the number of votes was well below what was expected. "Maybe it'll be a small majority, that'll at least be a bit better," I thought, preparing for disappointment. But then, as the night went along, it all started to look real. My plans to go to bed at 10:05pm changed to midnight, then to 1am, then 2am, then "whenever Jeremy Corbyn speaks" and finally 3:30am. I'm a bit tired today as a result, but by HECK was it worth it!

    The best thing about the evening, for me, was that I was accompanied on the sofa by The Percentage Of My Swing. Normally I sit there all on my own looking at twitter and texting various chums, but this time I had a POLITICAL EXPERT sat up with me, sharing WHISKY as HOPE started to look more and more likely. As with the results, the aforesaid Members Of My Cabinet had also been HISTORICALLY CORRECT about Jeremy Corbyn - I have been sat complaining about his performance while she has been pointing out that he is GRATE, and it is only over the course of the campaign that I have come round to her way of thinking.

    Now it seems like there will, probably briefly, be a Tory administration and then ANOTHER election. If you want me to tell you how THAT'S going to turn out, you'll have to give me time to ring home and ask!

    posted 9/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Exiting Amazon
    Last week I received an email from the lovely people at Proper Music Distribution, to say that they're ending the "Proper Access" scheme which we've been a part of, which means that pretty soon our CDs will be no longer be listed on Amazon.

    The idea of "Proper Access" was to allow smaller independent acts like us the chance to get our Physical Product listed and sold on Amazon (and other websites, but mostly Amazon) without having to get into big complicated deals. Proper would keep a small stock of CDs in their warehouse and sell via online stores and shops if anybody ordered them, but they wouldn't actively try to get shops to stock it. This was GRATE for us - over the years I've been involved with various distribution companies who basically did this anyway but claimed they were ringing round record shops asking them to stock us and then charging us for the privilege, even when nothing was sold, so I was VERY happy to enter an agreement that was a) HONEST about what would happed and b) MUCH cheaper. Also it meant our CDs were on Amazon, so if anybody was too SHY to buy them direct from us they always had another option!

    To start with we did quite well, but it tailed RIGHT off in later years so, at time of writing, only approx 4% of our overall sales came from that direction (for comparison 22% were from sales at gigs and a whopping 53% were direct via this very website, with the rest in various forms of online sales and, DELIGHTFULLY, a single percentage point's worth of POSTAL SALES from back in the 1800s when people used to send CHEQUES). It's amazing to see how much this sort of thing has changed since I set off on The Road Of ROCK - when I first started, shop distribution was CRUCIAL as, apart from the aforementioned postal orders (which tended to come in via fanzines or, occasionally, the very early interweb) and GIGS that was the only way to get your stuff out to people. To be honest I always disliked shop distribution, not least because we were never cool enough for lots of stores to take our records and, even when they did, it always seemed to end up costing us more to send them to the distributors and, inevitably, to get them sent back some months later, than we ever made from Actual Sales!

    It also always seemed WEIRD that it was so HAPHAZARD - a random smattering of shops around the country would each have a single copy of one of our CDs in the vague hope that somebody who wanted a copy would just so happen to wander in and manage to find it. I MUCH prefer sales online, even though selling stuff on Amazon meant I had to shell out for BARCODES for everything. It never made us much CA$H but still, it was nice to know it was available.

    Nowadays, as far as I understand it, Physical Product is on the way out and everybody is buying DOWNLOADS instead, which is fine by me as downloads are PEASY to do. For historical reasons some of our DIGITAL CONTENT is distributed through CD Baby with the newer stuff through emubands, both of whom are very simple, straightforward, and ACE. You just need to click a few buttons, pay a small fee, and within a couple of days your music is available ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. It's like MAGIC!

    For all these reasons I'm not too upset about our leaving of Amazon, though I remain very GRATEFUL to Proper for having us for so long. I'm just hoping that they DUST our box of CDs before they take it off the shelf and post it back!

    posted 7/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Smiley At Canary Wharf
    On Sunday I got the Jubilee Line over to Canary Wharf, where I was due to meet Mr John Dredge. We'd arranged to meet outside the Jubilee Line exit and, as is OBLIGATORY when meeting people at Canary Wharf, we both went to different exits. It is THE LAW.

    Once we'd found each other we set to work on the job at hand, which was to film a video for 'The Day We Fall In Love', our track on the Listen To The Bands compilation of Monkees cover versions. John does an Alec Guiness impersonation on the track (NB it is widely held, not least by ME, to be the WORST EVER Monkees song, so our version is not entirely respectful) and so our plan was to do it SORT OF like Smiley's people. As you can see, John was costumed appropriately.

    I'd suggested filming it at Canary Wharf because I thought it would look suitably BLEAK on a Sunday, so was surprised to find quite a few people wandering around (often, RUDELY, in the distance behind us while filming - have they no respect for ART?!?), but we managed to get all our shots done pretty easily. John had LEARNED all the words, which made the first bit of lip synching dead easy, and then we wandered around looking for BLEAK spots to film him walking about in. We filmed about 30 times more than we needed, so when I later sat down to edit it I had to leave LOADS of Dramatic Walking shots on the metaphorical cutting room floor.

    The finished version looked pretty darn GRATE and, with the inherently DAFT version of the song we did, is also pretty darn FUNNY, at least according to me. All being well it will be online SOON - fear not, I shall ALERT you when it is!

    posted 6/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Night At The Theatre
    Saturday night found myself and The Cast Of My Play getting DOLLED UP to meet The Parents for some fine dining and a SHOW, for LO! we are well fancy.

    The show we went to see was The Play That Goes Wrong and, suffice to say, we enjoyed it A LOT more than when we went to see 'Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf'! It had been recommended by CHUMS and then we'd all watched 'Peter Pan Goes Wrong' on telly over Christmas, so we were GEARED UP for a fun time, and we were not disappointed. It was VERY daft and VERY funny!

    One weird thing though was that, while watching it, I kept thinking "This is quite similar to 'Poisoned Sherry'." This was a play what I wrote back when I was PRESIDENT of the Leicester Polytechnic Poor Theatre Company (yes, that's right, BE IMPRESSED) approx. a quarter of a century ago. It was about a domestic farce which goes wrong when one of the characters falls off the stage and realises he's in a play, and there's stuff like tech crew coming on stage and joining in, lines being missed, chunks of dialogue being repeated out of order and all sorts that also goes on in 'The Play That Goes Wrong.' It's even performed by a Polytechnic Drama Society and then, near the end, POISONED SHERRY is employed as a plot point!

    I was all ready to Call My Solicitor... then looked at the writers on Wikipedia and realised that they would be about THREE YEARS OLD when we performed the play, and so were unlikely to be amongst the approximately 27 people who actually saw it. Oh well!

    posted 5/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back In Action
    Last night I was back in THE PUB for the first time in AGES, for LO! it was time for Totally Acoustic!

    As discussed previously I am now on a NO REAL ALE plan, so was looking for Alternative Drinks. I started off with a couple of pints of WATER with LIME in and... well, it was quite nice really! When The Ice In My Glass arrived she bought me a bottle of LAGER, which would be the first BEER I would drink in almost three weeks. Mr S Hewitt queried when was the LAST time I had gone that long without a beer. I'm not sure, but I believe Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister! Weirdly, the lager tasted MEGA FIZZY and like how I remember beer tasting when I was a teenager - I later switched to WHITE WINE (because I am FANCY) and that was very nice indeed!

    Anyway, more importantly, the gig kicked off with me doing a couple of songs before introducing The Boy In The Cupboard aka Mr B Bailey, who I have known for MANY years via The Lovely Brothers. He was meant to be playing a few months ago but was FOILED by Southern Rail so it was GRATE to finally get him on. He said that one of his songs featured a line from one of MY old songs - I didn't notice it at the time and I've listened to the recording since and haven't heard it. It is going to BUG me until I work it out!

    Next up was Mr Nathaniel Metcalfe, who was the first stand-up comedian what we have ever had. I really like Nat, he is ACE, and any worries about how stand-up might work in this format EVAPORATED within seconds. He even did a REQUEST, doing his bit about his old flatmate Tony Lee ("an unreliable witness") which made us LARF a LOT!

    Then at the end we had the glorious return of Ruth From PO, this time with her band, PO! Ooh but it was lovely, and this time there were songs I'd not heard AND new songs too! It was GRATE when Ruth played solo before but it was even MORE brilliant this time as all the arrangements of musical bits in the songs what have lodged in my brain for decades came flowing out. I liked it a LOT!

    It was, all in all, a rather marvellous night. My only worry is that this reintroduction to pubs was so DELIGHTFUL that I fear other pubs will have to up their game!

    posted 2/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Anti-Hunting Marching
    Bank Holiday Monday found myself and The People On My Protest taking another tentative step back into normal life when we zoomed into Central London to take part in the Anti-Hunting March. We both very much wanted to be at this one - it's FLIPPING RIDICULOUS that in 2017 anyone could even THINK about legalising it again, when they should be enforcing the existing ban on this hateful practice - so even though I was still technically A Bit Poorly off we headed.

    The march was due to start at noon, but we are OLD HANDS at this sort of thing and rolled up at 12:45pm to find we had plenty of time still to pop to the loo and get some grub before the speeches even began. As ever we had Dominic Dyer ROUSING the ENORMOUS crowd... and then a succession of other people who we couldn't hear properly wittering on. It always ENRAGES me that this happens - if I was going to talk to several thousand people I might THINK about what I was going to say BEFORE going on, and possibly not repeat what others have said before and/or wander off topic WILDLY and not know when to stop. I have said it before, but there really needs to be an Course for Activists Speaking At Public Meetings!

    Once the actual MARCH got going though it was GRATE. We'd been warned that the walking would be a bit slow, but a CRACKING pace was set and we fair STOMPED through central London. Usually, when we've done Badger marches, people look a bit puzzled, but this time there was a LOT of people applauding and giving the thumbs up. Full disclosure: we spent most of the march walking behind a lady with a Corgi, who EVERYONE wanted to pat as it passed by, but I did get the impression that Public Feeling was on our side.

    After an hour we landed just outside Downing Street where there was shouting, more similar speeches, and general milling about. During the speeches a couple of VERY interesting points were made THUS: 1) the reason Theresa May has put a vote on Hunting in her manifesto is that she needs funding and campaigning teams from The Countryside Alliance and 2) there has been a MASSIVE cover-up to hide the fact that Hunting Hounds are often RIDDLED with TB and it could be that Fox Hunting, no Badgers, actually CAUSES disease in cattle. Apparently there's a LETTER being published about it later this week, which hopefully will get into the election debate.

    I'm very hopeful that, even if the Tories DO win and DO allow a vote, even Tory MPs are not stupid/hateful enough en masse to vote for something that approx 85% of the population are vehemently against, but I suppose we will see if/when it happens. For now it was good to be out and about and making our voices heard!

    posted 31/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    First Time At Comic Con
    On Sunday I took a first tentative post-poorly step into the outside world when I went to MCM Comic Con London. I actually had a ticket for the whole weekend, but hadn't been well enough to go, and as it was I was only there for an hour, but that was long enough to leave a LASTING impression.

    For LO! It was AMAZING! I have never really understood the point of cosplay before, but being in that gigantic MEGADROME surrounded by people dressed up it all became clear to me - this was a huge BEAUTIFUL coming together of people from all over the country, expressing their pride in themselves and their hobby and bringing JOY to each other with their amazing creativity. It really was BLOODY DELIGHTFUL to keep seeing Deadpools, Harley Quinns (there were a LOT of Harley Quinns), Manga Characters Who I Don't Know Who They Are and suchlike parading past. My favourites was a Luke Cage who'd brought his kids, and a Lego Batman who I assumed was happy to have his picture taken but then later realised that the GRIN was actually painted on.

    I was in search of Doctor Dooms to see if I could talk to them about my RESEARCH, but the closest I got was a couple of Lokis. In all the excitement part of me thought "Well, if NOBODY has come as Doctor Doom then maybe, next year..."

    The main thing I took away from it was how Properly DIVERSE it was. The common conception of comics fans is that we are all fat, white, middle-aged men, and though these people - MY people - were represented they were by no means in the majority. If anything, there might have been more women than men there, and people came in all sorts of colours and sexual persuasions. Seeing everyone wondering around so happily, freely, and proud of themselves was INTENSELY moving, and though all I did was walk up and down the halls LOOKING at people, rather than going to any talks, it was PROFOUNDLY moving. Roll on next year!

    posted 30/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Little Bit Of Otway
    Before all this ILLNESS began, The Bands On My Bill found time to go and see a ROCK SHOW!

    For LO! Mr John Otway has a new album out, Montserrat, and we had booked ourselves tickets to the LAUNCH GIG. We rolled up at the 100 Club at 8:30pm and were VERY pleased to be told the show was just about to start. It's a delicate operation, getting to gigs at the right time, and we got it SPOT ON, being able to get in, get beers and find a spot JUST as the Big Band took to the stage. We were quite pleased with ourselves!

    I have seen Otway at LEAST 50 times, since i first saw him at The Princess Charlotte back in 1989, and so I have heard some of his jokes at least 50 times also, but they remain EXTREMELY funny. It's the way he does his ACT with such happiness and enthusiasm, especially when he plays with the Big Band who gently CHIDE him throughout as he carries on relentlessly. It's a wonderful show to watch, everyone looks so happy to be there even when they're pretending not to be.

    They played two sets and, despite it being an Album Launch, did ALL of the hits in exactly the same order, with the same introductions, and the same mucking about, as they ALWAYS do, and it was BLOODY GRATE. With the extra time they also played about half of the songs off the new album, missing out some of my favourites (like "Five Kisses" which I think is FAB) but IMPROVING some songs (like "Dancing With Ghosts") WAY beyond the album versions.

    The highest praise I can offer was that, over the course of two sets of about an hour each, I was never bored and could happily have watched an hour more. I say this as someone who is pretty much ALWAYS BORED within twenty minutes of watching ANY band and desperate to go home after half an hour. Around song 3 of most sets I start trying to use my PSYCHIC POWERS to make the singer say "This is our last one" but when Otway said it I was DISAPPOINTED. That pretty much never happens with anybody else!

    We emerged onto Oxford Street with achey faces from all the grinning and brains buzzing with all the fun we'd had. If all gigs were as GUARANTEED to be GRATE as Otway gigs I would be out every night!

    posted 26/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Farewell To Ales
    It's continued to be ALL GO with me and my INFECTED KNEE this week. I've been round so many departments of UCL Hospital, showing off my knee, that I think the medical staff members who have NOT seen my pants are probably in the minority. Still, I now know I don't have Diabetes, OR an abscess, and have managed to avoid various nights in hospital and, best of all, am now very much On The Mend. It really has been QUITE A Thing though!

    It's also given pause for thought and, of course, for SYMPTOM GOOGLING, and I have come to several Startling Conclusions. Apparently my cellulitis of the knee was probably caused by Athlete's Foot (I've got a CREAM!) which, to cut a long and not entirely savoury story mercifully short, led me to think that the fact I get cellutlits three or four times a year means I might have issues with YEAST and possibly CANDIDA. I got some of this confirmed during one of my many hospital visits, which was actually rather BRILLIANT as it looks like a whole HECKLOAD of things that are wrong with me, many of which I thought were either "normal", "being a bit tired" or "part of being middle-aged" could ACTUALLY be down to an imbalance in my GUT FLORA and, if I can manage to get THAT sorted out, I will (as far as I understand it) become a super slim living dynamo of fitness and shimmering health. And all I have to do, once I've finished all the various pills and lotions, is to try and eliminate food and drink that contains a lot of yeast and/or sugar. WOT could be simpler eh? I mean, it's not like any of my favourite things contain either or both of THOSE is it? Is it?

    Obviously yes, it is. It is thus after heavy contemplation and thought, that I have decided to DRASTICALLY reduce my intake of BREAD and ELIMINATE my useage of REAL ALE. I have told a few people this and, to my surprise, nobody has seemed surprised or alarmed by this conclusion, or afeared of the consequences. As The Liquid In My Glass pointed out, "You have, after all, probably had your fair share of Real Ale." I think she might be right. I think I might actually have had SEVERAL people's fair share of Real Ale.

    So that's the plan - if, over the summer, you see someone who LOOKS like me but is shinier, slimmer, a BLUR of activity, and drinking a Filtered Lager, do not be afraid. It is NOT my twin from The Milliverse, it is me myself. Wish me luck!

    posted 25/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Give Blood
    I was going to go on about myself a bit more today (on here? really?) but what with everything in Manchester I thought it might be better to temper that slightly with a suggestion that people reading this sign up with NHSBT Blood Donation. This morning I was looking a pictures of people queueing up outside blood donor centres, and how there's been so many that the centres have asked to stop people to stop, but health services ALWAYS need blood, and it's dead easy to book an appointment.

    It's also dead easy when you go in, especially these days when they have SYSTEMS and INTERNET BOOKING and everything. It takes about an hour, so can be done over a long lunch break or after work (or during work hours if there's one near and they'll let you), and you can donate (or BLEED as they say when you're there, which makes it all sound Quite Daring) three or four times a year, which isn't much of a hardship. You also get FREE DRINKS (NB tea, coffee, or squash), and PROPER BISCUITS, also a bunch of people fussing around you for ages checking you're OK.

    And of course, most importantly, you get to swan around afterwards feeling PRETTY GOOD about your... no, hang on, that's not the most important thing, it's that you're actively, constructively, ACTUALLY helping people who need help urgently. These days they even tell you which hospital your blood went to, it is VERY exciting!

    So yeah, if you're feeling like you need to do something to help, sign up and get an appointment booked. You'll be helping people who need it and getting free biscuits as well. WINZ!

    posted 23/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Proper Poorly
    I am sure many many MANY of you have been returning to this blog daily - HOURLY - thinking "Where is the latest update? Wot has Hibbett been up to? Why won't he TELL us? IN DETAIL??!?!" It is true that I have been very quiet on here this past few days, and it has been with good reason.

    For LO! It really has been QUITE a time of it that I have had.

    It all started last Tuesday, when I complained of a horrible ache down the back of my right leg. As mentioned pre-hiatus, we'd just been to Tenerife so I IMMEDIATELY thought "Deep Vein Thrombosis!" but then checked NHS Choices, saw my lack of symptoms, and felt reassured that I'd probably just STRAINED it on a volcano somewhere.

    Next morning I noticed there was a big red patch behind the knee that was hot and sore. At work I googled it and suddenly discovered that this was a BIG SYMPTOM of DVT so PANICKED, rang my GP, and within the hour was sat in an office discussing it. This felt all very efficient, but unfortunately my local GP service is contracted out, so we tend to get Locums who are... not necessarily the most switched on. "Yeah, it could be DVT, or maybe an infection? You should probably go to A&E?"

    THUS I turned round and went back the way I came, and was shortly back again five minutes from my desk at UCLH A&E department. I thought this was a good idea as, once they said it was all fine, I could just cross the road and go back to work. It turns out it WAS a good idea, but not for the reasons I thought!

    In quick succession I saw a triage nurse, a very jolly Posh Young GP, and then an almost as posh but even jollier Consultant in Ambulatory Care, who "oohed" sympathetically and sent me up to Imaging, where a not quite so jolly SCAN guy put jelly all over my leg and did a SCAN, then said "It's not a clot." PHEW! Deep Vein Thrombosis OFF the suspects list!

    As I wandered back down to Ambulatory Care a couple of THORTS occurred. Firstly, that the NHS really is BLOODY AMAZING. I'd just popped into A&E off the street and all of this was going on entirely for free. It took a little while sometimes and some of the support staff were not hugely friendly (there's a lot of that thing where they don't look you in the eye, like London Underground staff do), but CRIKEY the Medical Staff were INCREDIBLE, the system WORKED, and nobody was saying I should pay for it. It's easy to take for granted (or, clearly, to think it should be scrapped) but when you're in it you don't half see it for the insanely amazing thing it truly is.

    The other thought was that the body is just a body. I'd been prodded and poked and looked at in ALL sorts of unseemly places, and I realised I didn't really mind at all. Perhaps it is my destiny to become an NUDIST in old age?

    Anyway, I went back to the consultant who got me hooked up to an antibiotic drip,for LO! it was my old enemy CELLULITIS, getting me in the KNEE for a change. She took off my shoe and as she did she said "Cellulitis in the leg is often caused by - AHA! Proving me RIGHT! - Athlete's Foot!" I didn't even know I HAD Athlete's foot, but apparently fungal infections like that can cause Cellulitis nearby. This was something I would think on ANON!

    I went home with MASSIVE amounts of medication, spent Thursday in bed, and then the NEXT day The Medications On My Script said "I don't think that's getting better - go and see them again." I'd been told by the consultant I could just pop in if I had any worries (see above re: AMAZING) but I thought it would be easier all round if I googled my consultant's email address and sent her a photo of my KNEE - technology! It's GRATE!

    A couple of hours later she replied, VERY sympathetically, asking me to come in again and see a Nurse Practitioner at The Hospital Of Tropical Medicine. Everything here was UTTERLY FANTASTIC - the nurse was brilliant, sympathetic, and explained ALL SORTS of things, and I ended up put on ANOTHER drip and booked in for TWO MORE over the weekends.

    I thus went in first thing Saturday and Sunday morning for MORE DRUGS through the CANULA what was stuck in my arm, like I was the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN or something. Again, everyone was LOVELY, and then I was back to see my original nurse this very morning, where I got MORE DRUGS, was told I'd probably be off work all week, put on EVEN MORE DRUGS to take at home AS WELL as the ones they were giving me, told I didn't have MRSA *or* HIV (which would be a relief if I'd thought I had!) and staggered out feeling pretty bloody BLESSED to have this incredible service to fall back on.

    I've not been this poorly, I don't think, since I had my TONSILS out back in 1908, so it's all been a bit of a shock to the system. Luckily I have The Walls Of My House to look after me, and she's been doing a FANTASTIC job of it too. I've also had time to think about what's been going on and WHY a) it happened this time and thus b) why I get poorly so often with similar things, and it's led to some LIFE CHANGING THORTS - though I think you've probably had enough of this for one day, so let's do that NEXT time!!

    (*don't worry, they're good ones!)
    posted 22/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    All Is Delightful
    For the past couple of months Totally Acoustic has been missing a vital element: Mr S Hewitt, sitting at the front. Thankfully, when I arrived for this month's show, I found Steve already there, sat (as is TRADITIONAL) looking at his phone, halfway through a pint. PHEW! I went upstairs and discovered that not only had Mr R Vince arrived super-early, he had also laid out all the chairs and tables. "I hope that's all right," he said. Note to all future acts: this sort of behaviour is COMPLETELY FINE WITH ME!

    Our audience gently gathered and was once again mostly made up with regulars. I almost entirely really LIKE this - our regulars are LOVELY and know EXACTLY how everything is supposed to work, my only worry is that they may notice that I VERY OCCASIONALLY use the same JOKES during my intro.

    I kicked off with a couple of OLD songs - Say It With Words (with slightly different middle bit because a) i never liked the original tune there and b) couldn't work it out anyway) and Red And White Sockets - then brought on Royston and his COLLECTIVE, who were GRATE. As previously they did some covers of some songs I didn't know (which led me once again to think that he would have got CLEAN AWAY with it if he hadn't said anything) but also some DELIGHTFUL songs of his own. It was MAGIC!

    Next up was Matt Stead and Rob Ash. Matt used to be in one of my FAVOURITE of the Indie Bands, A Fine Day For Sailing, and had thus played Totally Acoustic MANY times in the past. He introduced their set by saying they were going to do Ukelele Instrumentals. I thought this was a JOKE, but no, that is entirely what they did, and very nice it was too! Rob played Acoustic Bass (kindly lent to me for the evening by Mr K Top Of The Pops), which usually sounds a bit QUIET in this environment, but he played it with a Plectrum so that it was entirely audible. A little TIP for all you acoustical bassists out there!

    Finally we had The Perfect English Weather who are also 50% of The Popguns. It probably gets a bit boring me saying how all the acts at these nights are GRATE, but the trouble is they are and these were no exception. Highlights for me included a STIRRING version of Johnny Logan's "Just Another Year" (I never thought THAT song would give me goose bumps), and some EXPERT Tambourine playing. I hope to include BOTH in the podcast - this has been delayed slightly by me going on holiday, but will be out soon I promise.

    With all that completed all that remained was to retire to the downstairs bar for some WHISKY DRINKS. As I often say, if ALL gigs were like this I would GO to them all!

    posted 16/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    What We Did On Our Holidays
    You find me today BEFUDDLED, SLEEPY, COLD and unable to comprehend why it has gone noon and I have not as yet had any BEER, for LO! it is my first day back at work after HOLIDAYS!

    Our destination was Tenerife again, for a week this time, and it all went AMAZINGLY smoothly. Even TYPING that feels risky, as if somehow something could still go AWRY, but apart from a slight delay to our return trip everything went GRATE. Things were SO PEASY at Gatwick in fact that The Staff At My Station and I had to find a Security Employee to ask what was going on. It was almost TOO efficient!

    The only non-efficient elements were a) us being confused by everything being DIFFERENT to how we remembered it then eventually realising this was because we had always gone from the North terminal before and were currently at South and b) the bar at Weatherspoons, which took FOREVER. Being British we formed an orderly, grumbling, queue, although at one point I had to step forward and REPRIMAND somebody who had decided to ignore it and go straight to the bar. I pointed out that we were queuing and he said "It's a BAR! If I queue it'll take half an hour." "Yes," I said, doing a STEELY GLARE, "It will." He flounced off - I felt like a SUPERHERO!

    When I eventually did get served the kitchens proved to be SUPER efficient though - our chips got back to our table before I did!!

    The flight was ACE as we had three seats between the two of us (that happened last time we went to Tenerife too, it doesn't half make a difference) and when we arrived at our Apartment Complex we were told that we had A PENTHOUSE! This meant we could see TEIDE, the volcano in the middle of the island, from our balcony. Last time we'd been to Tenerife we hadn't managed to get up it so were determined to do so this time!

    Tenerife seems to be quite CHEAP (compared to Majorca where we usually go, and DEFINITELY compared to That London!) so we KINDLY and HELPFULLY put CA$H into the local economy by going to the bar a lot. On our first night a gentleman we named Juan Shuttleworth was playing the keyboards, and over the course of the week we saw flamenco dancers, a violin player, and a lot MORE keyboards with the EASY CHORDZ function switched on. I wonder if holiday resorts ever question their constant use of "entertainment"? On the Friday night, when there wasn't any, there seemed to be a general air of RELIEF amongst all holidaymakers!

    On the Tuesday we were picked up by a man called Pedro, to take us to the volcano. He was GRATE - he seemed to be a Local Legend as people greeted him wherever we went, and he told us at length about how proud he was of the island, with its Trade Winds and various different landscapes. He told us it was called "a little continent" about 17,000 times but we didn't mind, it felt an HONOUR to be in the back of his car.

    Going up the mountain was pretty incredible - we drove through clouds, saw humans habitations disappear, forests end, and finally emerged onto a MARTIAN LANDSCAPE. When we got to the cable car we were told that it was closed, so we couldn't ascend to the summit after all. It was a bit disappointing, and Pedro offered to take us another time if the winds stopped, but they never did, so it looks like we might have to go back another time!

    The day after that we got a BUS round the coast (Tenerife is basically a sodding great volcano sticking out of the sea, so if you want to go ANYWHERE you have to go round the edges) to Los Gigantes, which is a small town with GIGANTIC (hence the name) cliffs. Here we went to a cafe run by Los Bros Mitchellos, distant cousins of our own E20 Eastenders, who were amazed and, I think, IMPRESSED, by our order of two beers and two coffees. It's the combo that will be the talk of the island by July! We went out on a boat trip to look at the cliffs, and were amazed to find we had the WHOLE BOAT all to ourselves on the way out, we felt QUITE the dignitaries. AND we got free beers!

    We went round the base of the cliffs to pick up some people from La Masca round the corner. There wasn't actually anywhere to dock - the boat captains got as close as they could to a small pier and then passengers had to JUMP aboard! I don't think I've ever seen anything like it, it looked DANGEROUS and we were Rather Glad we had a round trip. On the way back we soared across the waves and then suddenly were in amongst a family of dolphins. It was ASTOUNDING and totally unexpected, we couldn't quite believe it was happening.

    Other highlights included going to most of the Veggie restaurants (there's LOADS of veggie stuff, also Gluten Free options EVERYWHERE), doing quite a lot of paddling in the sea, seeing LIZARDS all over the place, and, on our last day, going to a "Street Art" festival. This turned out to be Street Entertainers, doing the internationally recognised art of shouting at crowds and Being A Bit Aromatic. We didn't stay long - we went back to the bar instead!

    The general DELIGHT of it all continued even unto our transport home, as we boarded a big old bus back to the airport expecting it to travel round the town picking other people up, only to find we had it ALL to ourselves. It took us about an hour to work it out, at which point we gingerly took a couple of bags of our laps and put them on another seat - we didn't want to get told off did we?

    It was all pretty fantastic really, which is why being back at my desk feels a bit STRANGE and blurry. Surely this isn't what I'm meant to be doing? Where is my WINE?!?!

    posted 15/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Most Unusual Course
    I was on a course all day yesterday, and it was Quite Good. The title was "How To Write A Book" and I had gone on it for THREE (3) reasons. Firstly I thought it might give me some guidance about how to construct my PhD, which it did, although due to the nature of the course I had to pretend I was thinking of writing a BOOK rather than a THESIS. However, the more I PRETENDED the more I thought "Hey! This COULD be a book!" My main source of this thought was the way that everyone ALWAYS says "A PhD about Doctor Doom? That sounds REALLY INTERESTING!" They may, of course, be being polite but a) most PhDs are REALLY BORING and the rule is that you don't have to pretend otherwise and b) it REALLY IS interesting, come on, it's about Doctor Doom, who wouldn't want to read a book about that? I predict a MILLION SELLER. Elsevier: CALL ME!

    My second reason was that I thought it might tell me whether, when I wrote my NOVEL last year, I had done it right. As I say, the course was meant to be about Academic Books, so not everything applied, but I was DELIGHTED to hear the course leader recommending "Seven Minute Moments Of Writing" i.e. finding seven minutes to do some writing rather than waiting until you had a whole DAY free. This is pretty much exactly what I did - rather than looking at TWITTER or something when I was BORED I did five minutes of WRITING instead. All right, it took me nearly a year, and I had to do a TONNE of re-writes, but it did turn into a book in the end. I nodded VIGOROUSLY throughout that bit!

    The final reason was that I'd been told I have to do some TRAINING for my Continuing Professional Development, and this one looked like it would be a LOT more interesting than the Database Stuff courses I usually go on. It definitely was! The chap running it reminded me A LOT of Larry Lamb, and had many Interesting Opinions and FACTOIDS to share. He seemed to be able to tell you how long a book was designed to last just by looking at the SPINE and could say how many pieces of PAPER had been used to make it too. He ALSO claimed that books have SHRUNK in the past few years, because now people mostly buy from Amazon, where you see the FRONT of the book, rather than bookshops where you see them lined up on a shelf with the SPINE showing. Now that you don't need the Spine to be thick enough to read the title, you don't need the book to be so long. I have no idea if this is true but, as a FACTOID, I LIKED it!

    THUS, much to my surprise, I actually ENJOYED a course at work - maybe Continuing Professional Development isn't so bad AFTER all?!?

    posted 5/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Arts And Parties
    The Bank Holiday weekend was meant to be a quiet one round at our house. We'd planned to watch THREE films over the course of the weekend, but this ended up being DRASTICALLY reduced to a couple of episodes of "Seinfeld", as our life became a SOCIAL WHIRL.

    It all began on Saturday when The Shoes On My Feet and I went out for a STROLL round Wanstead Park, looking at BLUEBELLS, seeing a FOX CUB and also a CAT. During our wanderings my MUM rang to say that they were coming to London that evening to go to the THEATRE and had some spare tickets, would we like to go? So it was that, instead of watching "Hunt For The Wildurpeople", we rolled up at The Harold Pinter Theatre to see Imelda Staunton and Other Actors in "Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf?"

    Here is my review: it was very well done but, personally, I don't know why you'd want to do it. The message seemed to be "Lying to yourself is a bad idea, and life can be difficult in middle age." I'm pretty sure I knew that already and did not need actors SHOUTING it at me for THREE FLIPPING HOURS. Flipping heck - the first act was all right, as it was at least funny, like an American Sitcom about VERY UNPLEASANT CHARACTERS, but it got less funny and MORE SHOUTY the longer it went on. On the plus side, we did have GRATE seats right at the back on the end of an aisle, so could get STRAIGHT to the bar (which was NEEDED), but overall I would say it was Not Much Fun.

    Much MORE fun was the following evening's outing, when we went to the birthday do of Mrs M Hewitt. Usually for such events we try to go at the START - everybody needs people to turn up early for parties - but this time we rolled up FASHIONABLY LATE. I tell you what, I can see WHY people do that - we got to stay right to the END this time when everyone else was heading home and felt QUITE The Cool Kids! ALSO it was in a nice pub, in a basement, where we ended up sat nattering with both Hewitts. All it needed was a curry afterwards and we could have been in Edinburgh!

    The actual Bank Holiday Monday didn't feature ANY socialising, but DID include us both doing a TONNE of stuff, in my case lots of VITAL, IMPORTANT PhD work (about Doctor Doom). Once again we didn't get around to watching a film, but that night's post-tea episode of "Seinfeld" (it's on Amazon Prime, we have watched LITTLE ELSE for the past month" was "The Soup Nazi", which was AMAZING and, frankly, MUCH better than any silly old play! Hoorah for TELLY! Hoorah for long weekends!

    posted 2/5/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Listen To The Bands
    Today I'm EXTREMELY happy to FINALLY reveal yet another of the Secret Things that I was on about ages ago. For LO! no less an authority than The Official Davy Jones Facebook Page has announced that myself and Mr J Dredge have a track on the forthcoming Monkees tribute album "Listen To The Bands"!

    Our song is "The Day We Fall In Love" which, I am told, is widely held to be THE WORST of all The Monkees' songs. I had never heard it before this, but once I had I fear I was forced to agree entirely with critical consensus, as it is BLOODY AWFUL. It's a terrible, cack-handed song which is performed with the air of people being forced to do so at 5:15pm on a Friday when the sun is shining outside and everyone VERY CLEARLY knows what a STAIN on their otherwise excellent OUVRE they are recording.

    Unfortunately for me I had to listen to it A LOT in order to work out how the guitar part goes (NB I am Not Very Good at the guitar and thus it takes me FOREVER to work out parts) and then EVEN MORE times to try and find some sort of structure to the wretched thing. Happily though, once I had WRESTLED it to the ground, I was able to meet with the aforesaid Mr Dredge in the tiny little rehearsal room underneath Store Street to record his vocals. He did a SPLENDID impersonation of Alec Guiness and then we added a METRIC TONNE of sound effects to create something which, I feel, improves the song NO END!

    As you can see from the tracklist we are occupying the coveted Second From Last On A 26 Track Album position, which I believe is TRADITIONAL for "The Weird One". We're thinking about doing a VIDEO for it too, with John as GEORGE SMILEY, as we are RATHER PROUD of what we have done with (or perhaps TO) the song. I am relieved that this news is finally OUT THERE, and can now not WAIT for people to hear it!

    posted 28/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Twenty Golden GRATES
    Last week someone on the Anorak Forum was asking for recommendations of albums to listen to in preparation for their forthcoming trip to Indietracks. They needed help because some of the bands had such ENORMOUS back catalogues that they didn't know where to start. One of these acts was US, and I thought "If only we had a greatest hits that I could recommend them. IF ONLY."

    The Validators have spoken of a Greatest Hits album MANY times over the years, usually over curry and often in DRINK, but I, as LABEL, have never gone anywhere near trying to actually MAKE one, mostly because I have HUNDREDS of CDs in my flat that I would quite like to sell before I go out and pay to make hundreds MORE. Now though it appears that PHYSICAL PRODUCT is on the way out (according to The Guardian ) with everybody listening to stuff on STREAMING services instead, and I realised that doing a HITS PLAYLIST would be a) the right thing to do in this futuristic age and b) a piece of cake!

    I put the matter to The Validators, expecting instant debate and heated discussions on what should BE on the playlist, but was greeted by almost total SILENCE. Part of this was doubtless because The Pattisons were on holiday (Tim has OPINIONS about this sort of thing), but even when they returned we agreed the songs to include with the minimum of fuss, especially when Mr FA Machine suggested expanding the original shorter list I had suggested to "Twenty Golden Greats" and from THAT it was a very short hop skip and a jump to the playlist you can enjoy below:

    MJ Hibbett & The Validators - Twenty Golden GRATES

    For those who don't have access to Spotify, here's all the tracks with links so you can listen on Bandcamp instead and then perhaps have your OWN Mild Discussions about what should be on it.
    Hey Hey 16K
    Payday Is The Best Day
    Born With The Century
    Things'll Be Different When I'm In Charge
    You Will Be Hearing From My Solicitor
    Easily Impressed
    Better Things To Do
    The Gay Train
    The Lesson Of The Smiths
    Billy Jones Is Dead
    Leave My Brother Alone
    Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
    Do The Indie Kid
    My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
    It Only Works Because You're Here
    Theme From Dinosaur Planet
    A Little Bit
    20 Things To Do Before You're 30
    (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
    We Did It Anyway

    We hope it DELIGHTS one and all, however you listen to it. We're also planning to do a companion volume of our favourites that AREN'T stellar mega-hits like what these are. I feel that that may involve a LOT more internal debate!

    posted 27/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    I Tried To Sell Out But The MAN Kept The Receipt
    Anyone who saw my first Fringe show, My Exciting Life In ROCK, will be familiar with the story of how I got the idea to do it - it was based on a ROCK AUTOBIOGRAPHY I was going to write, but the chap who suggested the idea lost his job when he told his boss about it.

    Well guess what? It looks like it's happened again!

    Last week I got an email from my AGENT to say that she could no longer be my agent. I don't know what exactly happened, but it seems that she's leaving the company and, as I'd only just signed up, they weren't going to be keeping me on with somebody else. She was EXTREMELY nice about it, and has been very lovely and helpful since too, but still, it was SOMETHING of a kick in the nuts.

    People who see me at gigs sometimes say "Cor you are SO Optimistic, are you like that all the time?" and I would like to present this occasion as evidence that the answer is "Not all the time, no." I was in fact A Bit Cheesed Off and so NOT in the mood for JOLLITY, which was a shame as I had an appointment at NOON to meet Mr J Dredge to make some HUMOROUS CONTENT.

    As I approached him along the street he said "You look like something really rotten's happened". "It has", I said, and told him about it. He reacted EXACTLY how one would hope, by being DEAD ANNOYED and almost knocking over a parked bicycle! ROCK AND ROLL MAYHEM!

    We were booked into the tiny rehearsal room on Store Street to record the AUDIO of a stand-up routine he'd been working on, and a VIDOE for Iain Lee's YouTube channel. I may not have been in the mood to begin with but it was a FLIPPING TONIC and no mistake. John is an IMMENSELY amusing fellow, and it took all my willpower NOT to CHORTLE throughout the recording of the stand-up bit. The VIDEO was even more JOLLY - he was doing it in CHARACTER, which was immensely confusing as he kept addressing bits of it to ME. "Is this part of it?" I had to ask, for LO! he was doing The Acting.

    It was a LOT of fun, and came out pretty well too. In fact, for those who may ALSO need a bit of cheering up, here's the final version of the VIDEO:

    I thus returned to work feeling a LOT cheerier. I was still pretty upset about it all though, OBVS, so when I got home The Pages In My Book and I had a Big Talk about it all, which made me feel MUCH better and ready to ROCK once more. We agreed that YES, it WAS disappointing, but there was still a whole heap of GOOD to come out of it. My (former) Agent had been SUPER KEEN about the book and her ENTHUSIASM has given me the confidence to go out and try to get it to some more people, and it's ALREADY been sent out to a bunch of publishers who might still be interested. And even if NONE of that comes off, I can always publish it myself on the Amazon Kindle thingy!

    So I'm sure it'll be all right in the end - after all, I managed to turn the DEFEAT of my Rock Autobiography getting someone sacked into a SHOW (and the chap concerned has done all right for himself since), so who knows what'll happen this time? SOMETHING, that's for sure!

    posted 26/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Going Nowhere
    I was quite SHAKEN last week by some news from Chris T-T. "A Scary Announcement" was how he billed it but even so I was a bit stunned to find that he was, basically, announcing his retirement from doing solo gigs. Crikey!

    I have been to see Chris MANY times (he's one of the few people that I'll still make an effort to go and see at ALL, to be honest) and been HONOURED to have played with him on quite a few occasions, so was very sad to think that, once he's done his Farewell Shows, it won't be happening again. We've known each other a LONG time in ROCK and though I've never been quite as up there in terms of sales, audiences, or Big Gigs as he has, I've always felt we are CONTEMPORARIES, so it hit me on a Proper Personal Level too. After all, if HE's packing it in, maybe I should think about doing the same?

    It's not the first time I've wondered about this lately I must admit. It's felt like a LOT of endings recently, notably with Fortuna Pop jacking it in last month. Sean Fortunapop is a contemporary in much the same way as Chris is, we both started around the same time in many of the same places, and I was on their THIRD ever single (actually, I think I'm now the only person from Fortuna Pop!'s first few releases that is still AT IT) so that DEFINITELY felt like a big ending to me. Also this years's Pop South Weekender was the last one and apparently Going Up The Country is ending too, so it feels very much as if this whole Indie Scene is drawing to a close.

    However, like GALACTUS surviving the end of a previous universe, this is not the first time a SCENE has ended around me. This is, I think, at LEAST the third iteration of The Indie Scene that I've been through, although it's definitely been the one that I've felt most a PART of and where I've made most friends, so as it drifts off into retirement it's made me think about whether I should do the same. After all, I've got a LOT of other stuff going on, with The Writing, doing the PhD and... er... having Netflix at home, so it's not like I'm able to dedicate as much time to ROCK as I used to is it?

    Whenever my thoughts lead me this way I always think "Yes, I shall give it all up!" and then IMMEDIATELY add "But I'll still do Totally Acoustic, obviously." After all, it doesn't take THAT much effort, the pub's only round the corner from my work, and it's ALWAYS a fun night out.

    "And OF COURSE I don't ever want to split The Validators" I then add. The very idea of not getting to occasionally spoil a nice night out with THOSE GUYS by doing a gigs is too awful to contemplate. And for similar reasons I immediately add "See above with regards to gigs with Steve - that's FAR too much fun to pack in, clearly!"

    Basically I go through everything I do and decide that I still want to do it. I mean, I doubt I'll ever get near my old record of 72 gigs in a year because I don't go round doing solo gigs so much anymore (and don't really want to), and it'll probably be a while before another Validators album appears, but then the world is hardly CRYING OUT for one is it? I'll spend my time mucking around with my PALS instead, and having a good time, for LO! that is what ROCK is for.

    In summary then, it's sad to see people go, especially GRATE people like the above, and I salute them ALL for their bravery in giving up something they have so obviously loved for very sensible reasons. I, however, will be continuing on my plan to stick around for SO LONG that everyone assumes there's a reason for me being there OTHER than sheer bloody mindedness!

    posted 25/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Pointless Football
    After trips to both Sheffield and Cornwall you might think that I had done quite enough travelling for one Easter Weekend, but NO, for on Easter Monday I was bound for distant KINGSTON, for some particularly pointless football i.e. AFC Wimbledon vs Peterborough United in a battle to decide who would probably end up somewhere in the middle of League One and who would also end up somewhere in the middle of League One. It was SURE to be a THRILLER!

    My travelling began at The Kings Arms in Waterloo, a lovely pub which seems to be known to one and all as THE lovely pub in Waterloo. It was here I met Mr P Myland and Mr C Dowsett, my companions for the rest of the day, also a whole HEAP of other Poshies, with whom MUCH nattering would be undertaken. Also undertaken were pints of MILD (lovely) and Plum Porter (30% lovely, 30% all right, 40% A Bit Much in that order).

    We headed back to Waterloo and took the train to NORBITON, then had a long walk to the Kingsmeadow Stadium, interspersed with a CHIPPY LUNCH. The walk was familiar to me as I have been there BEFORE on two occasions, both times supporting Boo Hewerdine. I remember the Social Club, where I played, being quite big, so was surprised by how DIDDY the ground itself is - I reckon that if a capacity crowd from the stadium went into the social club all at once you'd still get served within five minutes!

    It was a DELIGHTFUL ground though. I mean, all right, the roof on the terrace was so low that you couldn't see what was going on in the far corner, but it had a friendly atmosphere and you were VERY close to the pitch, which led to a LOT of Trying To Wind Players Up. The best bit was when one of the players told one of his colleagues to "{flipping}> throw it!" during a Throw In, which caused much hilarity. I'm not sure WHY it caused such LARFS, but it seemed very funny at the time - perhaps because we were desperate for ANY amusement.

    For LO! it was not exactly a Classic Match Of End To End Play. There was nothing at ALL to play for, and it showed. There were SOME good bits (I was delighted to see both Craig Mackail-Smith and Junior Morias in action, I officially LIKE them) and the fact that it didn't matter made the whole experience much less stressful. I have seen MUCH WORSE when it DID matter!

    When the game was FINALLY over we sloped back to the train station and I traveled back listening to Messrs Myland and Dowsett sharing opinions on lower league players with an AFC fan. I didn't have sufficient knowledge to join in!

    Back in town Mileage went to check into his hotel (he was in That London for a weekend of CULTURE with Mrs Myland and son who had, INEXPLICABLY, gone to do something else that afternoon!) so Chris and I went to the St Stephens Tavern for some further NATTERING. While there I got into a MINOR DISAGREEMENT with Bar Staff who refused to accept a tenner I had proferred because the EDGE had been torn off. I apologised and opened my wallet to get a different note and as I did so thought "I wonder where I got that note from? HANG ON!" I turned to the barman and said "But YOU gave me this in my change from my last pint!" The manager was called and he silently tucked it back into the till and I was given my beers and change without further comment. Now I think of it he never apologised nor nothing, that's a bit off isn't it?

    Anyway, the evening carried on without further unnecessariness - Mileage came back, further chat was chatted, pints were finished and I wobbled my way back to the tube for home and an end to my many travels. It had been a MARVELLOUS Easter but I would need a couple of days to get OVER my days off!

    posted 24/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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