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Blog Archive: October 2019Visit Lincoln
This weekend myself and The Hills In My Wolds went for a sophisticated mini-break in LINCOLN. It was ACE!
The idea for the trip came about a few years ago when we were in Belfast - we were having such a lovely time there that we thought we'd look up other places that we could get to fairly easily which had Interesting Stuff in them. LINCOLN turned out to have everything we were looking for i.e. a Cathedral, a Castle, a Premier Inn, some kind of museum and a rail link to London, and so it was that last Thursday night we boarded the train NORTH. Our original plan was to get an open ticket, but when we looked at it a few nights before the aforesaid Price Of My Bargain pointed out that we could go FIRST for only about 5p more if we advance booked, so we DID. Brilliantly, as we were travelling on a weekday, we got FREE BOOZE, which meant that we arrived in Lincoln in high spirits! Hoorah!
I don't know what they do at Premier Inns that make them this way, but almost invariably they seem to be staffed by Nice People who are Happy In Their Jobs, and this was very much the case at the Lincoln establishment. On the Friday morning we missed breakfast but arrived downstairs to discover that it was CAKE FRIDAY, where Bev (one of the staff) makes CAKE, and she let us have a bit. It was GRATE! It was an excellent start to what turned out to be a brilliant day, featuring a look at the CASTLE and the CATHEDRAL. Crikey O Riley - this place has an ACTUAL CASTLE in it, just a few feet away via an MEDIEVAL TOWN CENTRE from a GINORMOUS CATHEDRAL, and yet nobody I know (including until recently US) seems to have ever thought about visiting. Everyone goes on about YORK, but Lincoln is, in my opinion, SLIGHTLY NICER, also nearer!
The castle is HUGE and has a complete wall all the way around, which we WALKED round, and also a Victorian Prison with (apparently) the only surviving Isolation-based prison chapel, where there were BOOTHS for each prisoner to stand in so they could only see the Priest. The whole place was ACE, with a whole prison to wander round and a display about the Magna Carta also. The only slight downside was the Walking Tour which was led by (CLEARLY) a former Primary School Teacher who talked AT SOME LENGTH so that, after half an hour's talk with very little walking but a LOT of descriptions of HANGING, we had to make our excuses and leave. We were the THIRD sub-group to do this - "I'm used to people leaving my tours!" she said happily.
The Cathedral was EXTREMELY impressive, not least because they had taken all the PEWS out so you could see how GIGANTIC it all was, like an indoor TOWN. It took us a while to work out where The Lincoln Imp was and when we did... er... we had seen it. We also went to a PUB, and then later on went for TEA in a Prezzo that had previously been a Car Showroom.
We discovered this fact the next day on the OPEN TOP BUS TOUR which was a ZOOM around the outside of the city, re-learning things we'd learned the day before. We followed this up with a trip the The Museum Of Lincolnshire Life, where we received the latest in a long line of Very Friendly Greetings. Speaking as Someone (Technically) From Lincolnshire (born in Stamford) I can say that people fron Lincolnshire are LOVELY. They are proper East Midlanders - not OVER friendly but very nice indeed, and also they TALK PROPER. The narrations in the museum made me feel like I was sat in a pub in Market Deeping, and lots of the exhibits made me feel as if I'd wandered into my Grandad's garage circa 1978, keeping a safe distance from the TOOLS and IMPLEMENTS which had had hanging from the roof! I also learned how BRICKS are laid - I always thought that the half bricks you see in a pattern were exactly that, and was STUNNED to realise that they were actually normal bricks side on, as part of a double-thickness of bricks that make up a wall. I could feel my BRANE churning as this new knowledge was input!
Both our BRANES were pretty much full at this point, but we still managed to have a quick zoom around The Usher Collection (it was Quite Good) before going back for our bags and then nipping to the shops for some PICNIC TEA before catching our train home. The first leg of the journey back was in a little chugger train, which heavily featured a KRAZY GIRL who pretended her ticket was on her phone but it was out of juice (and then rang someone up to ask for ticket money) then forced various people in the carriage to put her make-up on for her, but otherwise it was a DELIGHTFUL journey, although sadly lacking in FREE BOOZE.
It was, all told, a GRATE trip and a LOVELY place to visit - honestly, I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes castles, cathedrals, museums, pubs and Premier Inns, although possibly not anyone allergic to Really Steep Hills. Our only question remaining now is where to go next?
posted 22/10/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A Brush With Philosophy
The other day I went to a PHILOSOPHY SEMINAR. Or did I? How can we really say?!? Aaaah! Do you see?
The reason for my attendance was that for the past three years of my PhD I've heard academics ENDLESSLY banging on about Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida and various other French blokes who appear to have had a LOT to say about pretty much everything. However, try as I might I have never managed to find out WHAT they are saying (apart from "Aaaah! Do you see?"), particularly when it comes to my particular topic area. At least Umberto Eco wrote an actual paper about SUPERMAN (which everyone goes on about EVEN MORE) that you can read and see what he was on about, this lot don't even seem to have bothered with that.
I've found it all a bit annoying, to be honest, and when I have tried to ENGAGE with Philosophy it gets even worse, as Philosophy basically seems to involve acting like a teenager who has had their first cigarette, boring other people in the kitchen of a house party by saying "Yes, but what if none of this is real eh? aaaah! Do you see?" It also seems to involve making big pronouncement about entire other fields that you don't actually understand, getting it completely wrong, and then claiming it's an INSIGHT. Whenever I've seen people Do Philosophy around comics, for instance, they invariably say things like "Stan Lee invented Captain America" or similar, after which I have FRANKLY no time for anything else they say.
HOWEVER, I always think it is a good idea to get INVOLVED with such things and at least have a GO, just to see if your suspicions are correct rather than simply harrumphing round dismissing things. In that spirit I have gone to the Homeopathic Hospital, for instance, or taken a course in Stand-Up Comedy, or indeed done ACUPUNCTURE. In this way I have learnt that a) a homeopathic hospital is run by people who don't know really how hospitals work but are trying to pretend to be one like off the telly b) stand-up comedy is a lot of work for something that doesn't have an awful lot of SOUL to it c) Acupuncture definitely does SOMETHING but I have no idea how.
THUS I went to an Introduction To Philosophy Seminar in that hope that EITHER my preconceptions would be blown apart and I would gain an understanding of thought through the ages OR my preconceptions would be ratified and I could stop worrying about it. Friends, I got NEITHER of these things, but also... aaah, do you see? BOTH!
Pretty much all of my preconceptions turned out to be true. Within 5 minutes of the seminar starting it was clear that the bloke running it was the sort of teacher who asks blindingly obvious questions, asks for someone to give the blindingly obvious answer, and then calls them an idiot for saying something so blindingly obvious, so that very soon you get LONG SILENCES until someone is forced to be the patsy. Thus when he said "1,2,3,4 - wot is next eh?" it took AGES for some brave soul to eventually say "5?" and he then said "BUT WHY?!?" "Because you're adding one each time?" someone else (correctly) said and then there was much verbal strutting about before he said "No, it's because we're counting in Base 10!"
WHAT THE?!? Reader, I could not help myself. "No it isn't," I said. "It would be the same in Base 6,7,8 etc etc, and the sequence is nothing to do with the base." He waved away my CORRECT POINT and said "Oh well I could have gone on and done a longer sequence", which was not the point AT ALL, and left me ANNOYED for the rest of the session.
HOWEVER, the actual PHILOSOPHY bits were Quite Interesting. I do like Greek Philosophers and their MAD THEORIES, although again these were made ANNOYING. e.g. he told us Zeno's Paradox about ARROWS (i.e. before you go anywhere you have to go halfway there first, but before you can go halfway you have to go half of that etc etc so you can never go anywhere) which is all good BRANE FUN if you are FIFTEEN AND DRUNK but it is not QUITE as MIND BLOWING as it was made out to be. There were lots of good bits about how Philosophy developed and The Enlightenment and all that, but as it went on I thought "Hang on, you said it's all about finding things out for yourself and fearlessly investigating, but this appears to be a long list of dead men who said all this CENTURIES ago."
Also, and it pains me to say this, it all happened in a room full of PhD students who, with the best will in the world, are very APT to taking any opportunity to make everything about their own thesis and go into lengthy, unnecessary, detail about it, much like Doctor Doom does when he reveals a cunning plan (HEM HEM). It all got A BIT ANNOYING!
However, it also left me wanting to know some more FACTS about it all, and on the way home I had the SHUDDERING REALISATION that I could just watch a TELLY programme about it! Apart from comics, TELLY is pretty much the main source of all my knowledge, and so I was DELIGHTED to discover that there are MANY series on the YouTube which not only do all the Fun Stories about Philosophers, but also illustrate it with stock Open University footage of actors wearing bedsheets. THIS is the sort of learning I want please!
OR IS IT?! AAAAH! DO YOU SEE???
posted 14/10/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Four Years At Work
Let joy be unconfined, for today is the FOURTH ANNIVERSARY of me re-entering the world of Full-Time Employment! Whoo!
Way way back in the distant days of Spring 2013 I finally came to the end of my contract at Birkbeck College. I'd originally been employed ten years earlier to work on The National Evaluation Of SureStart, a massive project which set out to see if having SureStart Centres actually did any good (Short answer: yes, they did). It was a lovely job doing Important Work which gradually transformed into a lovely job where there wasn't that much to do anymore, especially when the actual study ENDED, and I ended up doing a lot of pottering round and GIG booking. THUS when my contract came to an end I didn't think I could really complain, especially as my years of sterling service meant I got paid some redundancy money!
This also coincided with me coming to the end of my MA at City University - my original plan had been to do my MA BECAUSE my job was finishing, and to spend a year off work doing it, but a) the job kept getting extended and b) the MA I chose took two years to do, so I ended up doing most of it while still at Birkbeck. As it happened I finished work not long before I finished my coursework, and so decided that I would take the opportunity to have some time off and become A Professional Writer!
This was not an overwhelming success. Over the next year or so I think I made about 20p from Professional Writing, largely through submissions to "Newsjack" on the radio, but I DID have a LOT of fun. It turns out that NOT going to work is lovely, who knew? Sadly, however, there came a point when I had to accept that the world of Literature was NOT READY FOR ME YET, and so I would have to seek out other avenues of CA$H while I waited for them to catch up. My first idea was to do a PhD, as I knew you could get FUNDING for that sort of thing, but it turns out that while you CAN get funding, it tends to be for BORING things that THE MAN thinks is useful e.g. MEDICAL SCIENCE, and not Doctor Doom. It is an outrage!
So it was that I had to get an actual JOB, and on October 10th 2015 I went to work at Imperial COllege. The reason I remember that date so clearly is because the job went horribly wrong, after being LOVELY for six months, and I ended up leaving to get ANOTHER job, which started on... October 10th 2016! This meant that on October 10th 2017 I was very conscious of the fact that I'd been in THAT job for a year and was a bit BORED with it, so started looking for something else instead. Before all this I had only ever really had TWO full-time jobs, at Leicester University and at Birkbeck, so it was all a bit of a WHIRLWIND, and one I hoped would calm down.
Here on October 10th 2019 I can confirm that it HAS. Indeed, someone on my team announced this week that they were leaving and I thought "Eh?! Why would you want to do THAT? It is dead good here!" which I think is a good sign. The only problem is that this contentedness will surely anger the Gods Of ROCK, who will doubtless decide, sometime between now and October 10th 2020, that the WOrld Of Literature IS finally ready for me and give me a MILLION POUNDS to put my book out.
Don't do that, Gods Of ROCK, that would be AWFUL!
posted 10/10/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A Brush With Royalty
For the past few weeks I have been trying to CIRCUMNAVIGATE the building I work in twice a day. This is mostly due to HEALTH, as otherwise I would spend the whole day sat in a stuffy office, only moving to pop to the shop to get some lunch, but it also allows for Interesting Insights. I work up behind Kings Cross station and there is usually something going, but not usually involving FEUDAL OVERLORDS... until yesterday.
For LO! as I stomped around the block on Wednesday morning I came across a small crowd standing behind some barricades. I am always interested in small crowds standing behind barricades, so asked a nearby Grumpy Kings Cross Security Officer what was going on. "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, apparently" he replied, grumpily. It took me a moment to work out what he meant, but then I realised it was William and Kate so I decided to hang around and have a look. After all, we went to their wedding, so it would be rude not to.
I wasn't the only one to take time from their busy schedule to be there. There is a LOT of building work going on round here, so there were several construction workers in attendance who'd also stopped to see what was going on. "This is how the rich stay rich!" said one to a pal as we waited. "Shout 'Stop Brexit'!" said another one. Everyone was joking around, being dead nonchalant, so when the Pakistani Ambassador arrived nobody batted an eyelid. It looked like there was an event going on at The Aga Khan Centre, and later research showed that they were coming for a chat with The Aga Khan himself, but at the time everyone was more concerned with waving at lorries going by.
After a while somebody said "They're coming!" and everyone looked down the road to see a police motorcycle and a big posh car coming towards us. More jokes were told and chat was chatted, right up until the moment that the car doors opened and then everyone went SILENT. It is a WEIRD THING about being British - however much you KNOW that Royalty is an oppresive concept based on centuries of injustice, you still have to fight off the urge to say "Gawd bless yer, your majesty!" while tugging at a forelock. To all the people who inevitably are now thinking "Not me, I would lob a BRICK at them, definitely" I say "OF COURSE YOU WOULD."
It was all over in approx 60 seconds as they got out of the car, said hello to someone at the doors, and then wandered in, and then we all magically returned to normal. "Back to work then!" somebody said, and we all dispersed, each giving the air of somebody who had been mildly inconvenienced in their important daily life, and who definitely hadn't taken a whole bunch of pictures on their phone to show off to people in the office. Or at least that's what I assume everyone was doing - I, of course, had gone of in search of a BRICK.
posted 3/10/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Rock Admin Returns
I have been doing some ROCK ADMIN just lately, and it has been LOVELY!
As subscribers will have noticed, the latest edition of the newsletter went out yesterday, and this took a LOT of Rock Administration. It needs writing OBVS (and checking by The Comms Team In My Corporation) and EMAILING and archiving, but then there's all the tidying up afterwards. During the summer months I usually get a pile of "Out Of Office" replies from people on holiday, but there's usually several defunct email addresses too. This month, for some reason, I got a TONNE of btinternet and yahoo addresses returned to me, which need removing from The Database Of ROCK. I'm sure this is peasy with MailChimp, but not so much when you're still doing it all by hand!
The newsletter has been somewhat SPORADIC this year, due to not much ROCK going on, and part of the reason for this ROCK DROUGHT has been the pausing of Totally Acoustic. However, as previously discussed, Totally Acoustic is now BACK, which means that the PODCASTS are back too. Crumbs, if it feels like the newsletter takes some doing, it is as NOTHING to the effort that goes into getting the podcasts sorted out. Luckily for me I have always kept NOTES on how to do this as there is a LOT of steps that have to be gone through to get my drunken recordings of events into an edited shape! I think it's worth it though - one day I expect the podcast archive to be seen as an essential ARCHIVE for historians of the past decade or so of INDIE!
I ended up having to finish the podcast yesterday at high speed, so that it could be ready for the aforesaid NEWSLETTER, which meant that I suddenly felt myself embroiled in more Rock Admin that I had had for MONTHS, possibly YEARS, and it was actually really good fun! I like ROCK, and I also like getting things organised, and it was lovely to revisit the days when I was up to my ears in this sort of thing all the time. I wouldn't want to go back to QUITE that level of admin again - quite apart from being busy with the PhD and the BOOK, I also know that I would COLLAPSE if I was gigging about as much as I used to - but it was nice to revisit it, and it's made me wander whether I might be able to dip the ROCK toe back in a little bit more? LET'S SEE!
posted 2/10/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Hornsey Road with Mark Lewisohn
Saturday evening found me in London's glittering LONDON area of London, attending The Theatre for an Interesting Lecture. Why on earth I don't have a Society Column in a leading newspaper yet I do not know.
The lecture was called "Hornsey Road" and was given by Mr Mark Lewisohn, the legendary Beatles scholar who has written MOST of the GRATEST books about The Beatles by the simple expedient of doing some RESEARCH. What makes hims so GRATE is that whereas most people who write about The Beatles simply go back through the old press cuttings and/or other people's books, Mark Lewisohn actually goes and CHECKS and/or talks to people who were THERE. It's Primary Research baby, and it flipping WORKS - his book "Tune In" is FULL of incredible FACTS about the early years of the band before they were famous, including ASTONISHING revelations such as an entirely OTHER name ("The Japage Three") for the group that had never been reported before.
The only problem with this is that it takes FOREVER for him to write them - the second (of three) volumes is still YEARS away apparently, which he acknowledged when he came on stage by saying "Yes, I'm getting on with the next book" to much relieved laughter. One doesn't want to be CRUEL or anything, but looking around the audience when I arrived I realised that this must be a bit of a worry for a lot of them - if I hadn't bumped into Mr S Love on the way in I would have thought I was the youngest person there!
The show itself was FANTASTIC. He took us through "Abbey Road", in chronological order of when each song had been recorded, with a world class Powerpoint presentation. This involved a HUGE number of photographs that I'd never seen before, including some incredible ones of ALL The Beatles, also George Martin and a bloke from Manfred Mann, crowded round a GIGANTIC Moog synthesizer, taking turns to do overdubs on it. There were also some great ones of them working into studio, taken by Yoko from the bed and including her slippers at the bottom of the picture!
He played each song as a "remix", remixing the individual tracks (apparently HACKED from "Beatles Rock Band") and accentuating them variously throughout the song, so he drew attention to, for instance, the bass playing, then the backing vocals, then it all together and so on. This was MOST pertinent during "Oh Darling" when there was a bit with just Macca's vocals and the backing vocals which sounded AMAAAAZING, and drew a round of applause at the end from the crowd.
There were also rounds of applause for some of the INSANE research work, which isn't something that happens often. One of them was for his investigation into the identity of Mr Mustard from the song "Mean Mr Mustard". I don't want to reveal the FUN of it all, but suffice to say there really was a Mr Mustard who really DID shave in the dark, and Mark Lewisohn even had a suggestion as to how John Lennon found out about it. Even more impressive was a detailed map showing EXACTLY where John and Yoko went on their ill-fated motoring tour around the UK using data gleaned from reading local newspaper reports from around the country!
It was brilliant fun, but also VERY INSPIRING, and led me to be determined to get my actual hands on some actual comics for my own research. It'll be something to do while I wait for him to finish book two!
posted 1/10/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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