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Totally Acoustic Returns
Today I am EXTREMELY happy to announce that Totally Acoustic is BACK!

For those unaware, this is the regular night I have done for YEARS where acts are invited to come and play in the top room of a pub without any kind of PA or amplifiers - totally acoustically, in fact. I also RECORD the proceedings and unleash an edited PODCAST shortly afterwards. These PODCASTS are very much still available to download, and provide a pretty GRATE catalogue of some of the GIANTS of indiepop over the past decade or so. And also, ME.

The last regular gig was a couple of years ago, when we had an all-dayer to celebrate our tenth anniversary after which I let it lay FALLOW for a while so that I could concentrate on doing my PhD. There've been a couple of one-offs since then, but I think now I'm ready to bring it back on a regular, albeit probably bi-monthly, schedule. I have, to be honest, missed it!

The original idea for this one was to have Mr Matt Tiller play as part of hs Slightly Wonky Love Songs Tour, but when we couldn't work out a date that fitted a) Matt's rigorous touring schedule b) the pub's diary I decided, with Matt's agreement, to just go ahead and do it ANYWAY. My excuse is that the pub said they were looking forward to having us back, and I couldn't upset them after that could I?

THUS the first night of the grand return is on Thursday September 26th when, as ever, "Doors" will be 7pm and the first act (ME) will go on not long after 7.30pm. It all gets better after that though, as we'll have two GRATE performers who have each graced us once before - John Osborne and Helen McCookerybook!

I have also had confirmation that Mr S Hewitt will also be in attendance, in his usual seat, so it is BOUND to be a good one - come along if you can, and if not, there'll be a podcast!

posted 5/9/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Actually Good Football
On Saturday I went to The Football again, to see Peterborough United play Sunderland, and it was ACTUALLY GOOD!

To be clear to those who follow Premiership teams, or watch it on telly, "Actually Good" in this context means "UTTERLY AMAZING", for LO! it was not the usual mix of cock-ups, missed passes, falling over and occasional flashes of proper football like what you usually get, it was... well, ACTUALLY GOOD! Posh looked like an ACTUAL TEAM! They passed to each other! They scored THREE (3) properly - PROPERLY - good goals. It was like nothing else I have ever seen at London Road - I've seen them win at home before (not often, but I have) and I've seen them play well away from home (notably Wembley hem hem) but to see them do so at their home ground, against one of the teams tipped to win the league, was astonishing.

I wasn't the only one to think so either - all around me, my fellow Peterborians jumped up and down and hugged each other in unalloyed GLEE when our third goal - our THIRD! - went in as a result of astonishingly good ACTUAL FOOTBALL. The streets around the ground afterwards, so often full of frowns and grumbling, glowed with GRINS as disbelieving Poshies staggered out, their BRANES struggling to grasp the fact that what they'd seen hadn't needed excuses, or hopes for improvement. It had been ACTUALLY GOOD!

It was also lovely because Mr P Myland had got us seats in The Family Stand, which OOH LA LA was quite swanky and like a modern football stand, with seats you could actually sit in, toilets that worked and Ample Space for shops rather than one tiny cupboard. "It was built in the 1990s" he pointed out, not in 1932 when people were shorter due to malnutrition and had less health expectations. I was MOST impressed!

I had such a lovely time that I have committed myself to going AGANE in a couple of weeks, when a lifetime's experience tells me that we will be roundly trounced by Rochdale and it'll rain. Still, we shall always have Sunderland!

posted 2/9/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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An Actual Night Out At An Actual Gig
My life has been a giddy social whirl of late, with up to THREE trips out A WEEK, often involving pubs! A few years ago this would have counted as par for the course, even QUIET, but now that I have got used to sitting on the sofa with The Tea In My Mug watching TELLY it has all been a bit of a SHOCK!

For instance, I went out for PIES and PINTS with Mr Matt Tiller on Wednesday night and then, NOT TWENTY FOUR HOURS LATER went out AGANE on Thursday to a GIG. A GIG! What was I thinking?

Actually, what I was thinking was "This is dead good", as I was off to see Alex and the Christopher Hale Band with Simon Love & The Old Romantics at Paper Dress. It took me a while to get there, however, as I had blithely thought to myself "Paper Dress is near Hackney Station" and got off at Hackney WICK, only to realise that I should have got off the train five minutes earlier at Hackney CENTRAL. I went back, caught the next train, and was in good time to find Alex and everybody in the PUB down the road. PHEW!

When we got back to the actual venue I was pleasantly surprised by how REALLY NICE it was. I've seen in gig listings that Paper Dress have been doing gigs for a while, and had imagined it as a smelly corner in an old clothes shop, but actually it was LOVELY, with a downstairs BAR area and an upstairs with a stage and proper PA system, and also a very jovial LANDLORD stood behind another BAR! It was GRATE!

I've not seen Alex play for AGES, nor at any point with the current band, who were ACE - notably the drummer, who I was astonished to find was very much in the Tim Pattison STYLE. You don't get to see these majestic creatures very often, and I MARVELLED at the way he WALLOPED his kit with a mixture of FURY and DETACHED SADNESS, dropping his head to concentrate during the (rare!) moments when he WASN'T hitting things, and even doing Classic Pattison Fills and also STOPS. I took photographs to inform The Band, but I wish I'd got a video of him in action!

The whole set was FAB, in fact, especially as it meant Alex was FREED to roam about and do proper frontman stuff. This was then followed by ANOTHER excellent set, by Simon Love and co - Simon has been ROCKING AROUND in groups in the same scene as me for AGES but I have very rarely seen him and/or them play live, which is a terrible shame because they were GRATE. My favourite member of the band in THIS set was his trumpet player who a) made it sound a bit like The Boo Radleys and b) DANCED DETERMINEDLY. It was ACE!

It all reminded me of the good bits of when I used to do this all the time, although when I looked around me it felt odd to realise I didn't actually KNOW anybody else there... until, to my DELIGHT, The Cresswells turned up! HOORAH!

It was, all together, rather brilliant, though I must admit that the way I felt the following morning was not quite as filled with nostalgic joy!

posted 30/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Nice Shirts
I recently embarked upon a reappraisal of my SHIRTS, brought about by the realisation that most of the shirts I wore on a daily basis were OLD and a bit TATTY. I thus went through my wardrobe and THREW OUT all and any that were no longer fit for purpose, and set to getting some new ones.

The last time I did this was about three years ago when I returned to the workplace after my (WONDERFUL) year OFF. On that occasion myself and The Pattern Of My Fabric went to Fat Face and Marks & Spencers and selected a whole bunch of perfectly reasonable WOrk Shirts (NB for my sort of work, so basically what other people would call Casual Shirts, mostly CHECKED) which saw me through the years that followed. It was all fairly painless and, I thought, would be again. I thought INCORRECTLY!

Maybe it is the time of year, but I could find NO reasonable Work Shirts AT ALL. We live next door to Westfield in Stratford which is RAMMED FULL of clothes shops, ALL of which I schlepped around, unable to find ANYTHING reasonable. There were plenty of EXPENSIVE shirts, and MILLIONS of cheapo shirts in "SLIM FIT", but precisely NO standard Work/Casual Shirts for a gentleman of my girth and status. "WHat is going ON?" I thought. "WHere are the SHIRTS?!?"

It is a situation which the aforementioned Buttons In My Buttonholes has referred to as "Try To Buy", where one does one's BEST to go round traditional high street-style stores to buy something, but is FOILED at every turn, and thus, as in this case, turns to THE INTERWEB. We didn't find any Standard Work Shirts here EITHER, but we DID find a whole HEAP of Reasonably Priced and NICE Shirts and, after all the HASSLES of going round the shops I fell upon them in relief and bought LOADS.

So it was that I suddenly found myself in possession of approx EIGHT new shirts, ALL of which were DEAD NICE. This sounds good, but it was actually a bit difficult to get my head round - I'm used to having Standard Work Shirts that I wear in the day, and then 2-3 NICE Shirts which are reserved for Going Out In, and the two very rarely interact. NOW, when I open my wardrobe of a morning ALL I see are Nice Shirts, and I feel a bit guilty putting them on. Shouldn't I be saving this for a trip to the PUB or something?

I did wonder if this was all in my head, but it seems not - since I started wearing Nice Shirts I have been COMPLEMENTED on them THREE times, which is precisely THREE times more than I have ever been complemented on a shirt in my LIFE. It is Quite Unsettling for someone who has spent his entire life so far being mostly UNNOTICED clothes-wise to suddenly be OBJECTIFIED in this way. It's nice of people to say, but it FREAKS me out a bit!

So what I'm saying is, if you see me out and about, do not be ALARMED if you see me in a dead swanky bit of clobber. I'm probably not on my way to an Awards Ceremony or Wedding Reception, this is all I've got!

posted 29/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Three Years In
This week I received an email from the fine folks at Transport For London, telling me that my Student Tube Pass was about to run out. I was already GIRDING myself from the annual month of renewing various Student cards that happens when a new term starts in September, but this was something slightly different. The email told me that Student Tube Passes only last for three years, as that's how long an undergraduate degree usually takes, but they'd be sending me a new one automatically as they knew my course lasted longer.

Once I'd got over my AMAZEMENT and DELIGHT that something like this was set up to work so smoothly, without the need for 17 forms, 38 signatures and a photocopy of my passport, I was suddenly struck by the FACT that I have now been doing my PhD for THREE YEARS, which is longer even than I spent on my BA(hons) from Leicester Polytechnic. Crikey! It feels like only a few months ago since I first set sail on the sea of Unique Contributions To Knowledge, while in contrast my first degree - Combined Arts (English & Politics) for which I recieved The Gentleman's Degree i.e. a 2:2 - looms LARGE in my memory as taking FOREVER. During that time I played in at least three bands, directed two plays, wrote a musical, learned to play bass guitar, took three seperate productions to the Edinburgh Fringe, discovered BEER, set up and compered a comedy club, ran the student drama club, found out what happens when you drink a pint of WINE, contributed to the college newspaper, did two stand-up comedy sets and made friendships that are still with me now. Since starting my PhD I have mostly watched American sitcoms.

Of course, I have ALSO done several TONNES of Actual Work for the PhD, whereas for my first degree I worked out precisely how many lectures I needed to turn up to to avoid getting told off (40%, apparently) and then stuck religiously to that number. Also the fact that I DID all that other stuff while doing my first degree might just possibly explain why I was LUCKY to get the grade I did, although of course ANY degree from Leicester Polytechnic, especially an HONS degree, remains the passport to riches that it always was.

It still surprised me though, not least because it means I am well over halfway through it all now. I'm doing a part-time PhD so, in theory, I'll be handing it in in September of the Space Year 2021. That seems an awfully long way away, until I think of all I've got to DO between now and then, at which point it doesn't seem long at all!

In fact, I should really be getting on with it right now. Or maybe I'll go to the kitchen and see if Neil's got the kettle on, then check under the sofa to see if there's enough change to get me into the Poly Bop on Friday. After THAT, I'll definitely do some work!

posted 23/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A Whole New Season
On Saturday morning I was off out again on the East Coast Mainline, this time heading to Peterborough. I was there to meet Mr P Myland and his associates for my first trip to London Road of the footballing year, with Posh playing Ipswich. I read beforehgand that they were bringing 4,000 supporters with them, most of whome seemed to be getting off the train next to mine, and later on there were MILLIONS (approx) of them marching down Long Causeway, singing away. It was Quite Exciting!

On the way my phone was buzzing with Whatsapp messages as the meeting place changed from The Brewery Tap to The Ostrich (AKA Bogarts) to The Bumblebee as each place filled up with Ipswich supporters, which worked out nicely for me as The Bumblebee is LOVELY. We loafed around there for a while and I was amazed to find that this group of chaps now contains ONE person who commentates for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and another who is part of the team looking for a new ground. It was like being in the Peterborough United ILLUMINATI!

Mileage had moved his season ticket so we were sitting together, right down near the front in seats which a) had a GRATE view b) were in very easy range for shouting at the Linesman but c) had clearly been installed at a time when the height of the average Fenlander was about 4'11". My poor old KNEES are STILL hurting, especially from when the rather LARGE gentleman in front of me would sit back SATISFIED after making a pronouncement upon the game. OW!

The actual FOOTBALL seemed, to me, to be much the same as ever, although there were some THRILLS from the goalie who DROPPED the ball in the first half to let in a ridiculous goal but then saved a PENALTY in the second half, forcing approx 6,000 Peterborians to suddenly decide they had liked him all along. It ended up 2-2, with Ipswich scoring an equaliser in the very last minute of extra time. As I say, pretty much the usual sort of thing.

There was time for one last pint and then I was heading home, but I would be returning - in two weeks time in fact, when we play Sunderland. Mr Myland assures me that this time we'll have seats designed with modern knees in mind!

posted 21/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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48 Hours In Edinburgh
I went to Edinburgh again last week, this time with Mr S Hewitt to experience a 48 Fringe SPECTACULAR!

We met up just before 8am at Kings Cross station and had a DELIGHTFUL trip up on the train, furnished with BREAKFAST and HOT DRINKS in our luxurious carriage - as OLD HANDS we had of course booked First Class, and as luck would have it we managed to nab The Best Seats In The Carriage i.e. one of the two doubler seats right in the middle where there's an extra big GAP so loads of room. It was ACE!

As we arrived into Edinburgh I felt, as usual, TERRIFIED with NERVES. "No, BODY", I said to myself, "I know Steve is here but that doesn't mean you're doing a show. BE NOT AFEARED!" I was so nervous that I was forced - FORCED - to go with Steve to The Halfway House for our traditional Just Off The Train Pint. It was extremely helpful!

We had a bit of a wander round (including a visit to The Cold Town Bar which was VERY nice) before we split up for our first shows. I went to see my nephew Mr O Grant in "A Chorus Line: High School Version" which I was expecting to be like a school play but OH MY GOODNESS it REALLY wasn't! The whole thing was SUPER PROFESSIONAL, the LIGHTS and the SOUND and the COSTUMES were all top notch, and CRIKEY but those kids could sing! PROPERLY too - Oliver was, of course, the BEST, but there was a LOT of dancing and singing all round. It was ace!

ALSO I was the only person in the audience aged between 16 and approx 70 - there were a lot of very proud Grandparents in the room, and they had every right to be!

Steve and I regrouped in The Bow Bar and then went to check into our HOTEL - or rather, Student Halls. I was expecting it to be like Halls in OLDEN TIMES e.g. a BROWN room with a SINK in the corner, but it was actually Quite Nice. I suppose Halls have to be like that nowadays as they spend about 25% of the year pretending to be hotels. It was also very quiet, almost as if it was full of grown-ups going OUT to do things, rather than KIDS staying in and having parties etc.

I'd intended to go and see the Basil Brush show next, but I read a review that said it wasn't very good so, rather than spoil my impressions of a childhood HERO (who is looking very good for his age etc etc) we went to see "Awww Snap - Marvelus" which was two grown men titting about for an hour with cheap props being silly about superheroes. It was a KRAZY IDEA but, for some reason, we rather liked it!

Memories become slightly hazy at this point but I think it was somewhere around here that we ended up in The Royal Oak AKA The Folk Pub. It is a tiny little place and when we barged in it was FULL of people, with about six musicians ranged around the edges, taking AGES to tune up for their last song. We put money in the JAR which had time to go round the whole pub while they were faffing, and then the singer gave a speech about how it was 50 years since the start of The Troubles and how this was Important (she self-described as a "Millenial" and most of the others looked the same age) so they were going to do a song all about it. "OHO!" thought Steve and I. "Get ready for an ANGRY song about the iniquities of British Rule with SWEARS and possible IRA mentions!"

And then they played "Zombie" by The Cranberries. This was the MOST HILARIOUS part of our entire trip and we had to go outside to a) laugh b) swear. Then a man who looked like he'd been squashed in a car compactor turned up and played The Border Pipes and it was ACE!

My final show for the day was "The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Company" who, as ever, were BRILL, but as I staggered off home Steve headed off to see some WRESTLING-based shows. He loves that sort of thing!

We began our second day with John Osbourne's "You're In A Bad Way" which was a GRATE and very MOVING storytelling show. It ended with him playing "The Lesson Of The Smiths" on his iPod which i THINK may be because he'd seen us watching, but could possibly now be part of every show. I would support it if so! Next we split up, with Steve going for more wrestling and me watching "If You're Feeling Sinister: A Play With Music" which was a bit ODD. I, like pretty much everybody else there by the looks of them, had gone because I love the album, but there wasn't actually much of it IN the play and what there was was very short and oddly detached from the story, which for some reason was about a robbery of a painting. The play itself was a bit rubbish, in fact, and fairly pointless but GOLLY the DIRECTION and especially the ACTING was AMAZING. Both actors were INCREDIBLE and they way it was all put together was BRILLIANT, it's just that the material was a bit crap. ALSO, vitally, they didn't do "Judy And The Dream Of Horses" AT ALL!!!!

I then went to see Tom Parry who was BRILLO, especially in the face of some, let's say "boisterous", older people who clearly thought they were co-starring in the show. He dealt with it very well and was EXTREMELY funny throughout. I then went and found Steve, who was with Tamsyn and Jo from Northampton, had a beer, and then we went to see Josie Long doing her new show up at The Stand. She also was very good - it's almost as if only going to see people you've seen before is a way of ensuring you see stuff you're going to like when you're on a time limit.

And talking of people I'd seen before, my final show of the trip - after dropping into The City Cafe to do a pub quiz and to get Steve his tea - was Steve Lamacq's "Going Deaf For A Living" which has come on A LOT since the last time we saw it - it was GRATE then, but this time it was super tight, full of LOADS more gags, a lot less audience participation, and felt like a Proper Show all round. It was ACE!

After the show I sat in the Teviot Lounge upstairs for a little while and had a moment of PROFOUND NOSTALGIA as I realised I was sitting at the same window that I'd sat at 29 years ago on the final night of my first ever trip to The Fringe. A LOT has changed since then, but the building is still pretty much the same and the motivating forces of the Fringe - BEER and LARKS - are unaltered.

Next morning I was heading back alone, accompanied by a carriage full of various VERY POSH LADIES, mostly in their sixties, who talked Very Loudly And Confidently all the way back. I tell you what, if anybody ever suggests that a private education encourages intelligence, get them to travel First Class on a long journey and MARVEL at the fact that Posh People are utterly incapable of understanding how seat numbers work!

I got home TIRED but full of GOOD TIMES, and also very pleased to discover that it's possible to enjoy The Fringe without having to spend a fortnight, and several thousand pounds, doing your own show! Hoorah!

posted 20/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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The Review Show: The Boys, I Am Mother, Get Out and Blinded By The Light
I love the IDEA of watching films, especially now that I have Netflix and Amazon a.k.a. ALL THE TELLY, but I always think that I don't have the time, especially now that they are regularly about two hours long. HOWEVER I am also conscious of the fact that I tend to watch at LEAST two episodes of Whatever Show I'm Bingeing At The Moment and, in the case of "The Boys", three and a bit until I am unable to stay awake any longer.

"The Boys", by the way, is BLOODY BRILLIANT - what a world we live in, where TELLY has caught up with COMICS so much that it can not only do the Dark Commentary On The Genre that comics did in the 1990s, but do it WELL to such an extent that you just take for granted all the special effects that, only a few years ago, would have been beyond them. ALSO I am very pleased that I simply didn't bother reading any of The Cool Comics of the past 20 years or so, as it means that I get to watch "The Boys", "Umbrella Academy", "Preacher" and "The Walking Dead" without a CLUE what's going to happen!

ANYWAY, the point of this was to say that I basically DO watch nearly a film's worth of telly most days, so thought I'd have a go at watching some. ALSO The Clips In My Trailer was away on Friday night, so I had to do SOMETHING to take my mind off the existential loneliness. HENCE I sat down and watched "I Am Mother" on the Netflix. Here is my review: It was Quite Good. I'm pretty sure it could have been half an hour shorter, and there were several times when I thought "Hang on, why are you doing THAT?" but it passed very pleasantly, also Quite Excitingly.

The second film I watched, the next day, was "Get Out" and that was BLOODY BRILLIANT. I spent the first half thinking "EEK this is TOO TENSE, I can't watch any more!" and then the next quarter going "You WHAT? ARGH!" and then the final bit basically applauding how EXCELLENT it was. It reminded my of "Back To The Future" in a lot of ways (NB I may be the only person to think this) because of the SCRIPT which was, not to mince words, EXQUISITE. Every single AMAZING TWIST was very carefully, very cleverly set up in such a way that you never saw it coming but, when you did, your brain went "Hang one, how did that... OH YEAH!" There's a reveal towards the very very end about why some characters act the way they did that made me want to IMMEDIATELY watch the whole thing all over again. It was AMAAAAAZING!

And then on Sunday I went to the Actual Pictures to watch "Blinded By The Light" as we'd seen it on The Film Review on the news channel and it looked good. Review: IT WAS! It was very obviously directed by the same person who did "Bend It Like Beckham" and there were LOADS of places where they were clearly doing something Just Because It Was Cool rather than for narrative purposes, and lots of the supporting characters were JUST supporting characters, but the main plot was EXTREMELY MOVING - almost as if the story of a boy growing up in a nowhere town in the 80s who wanted to be a writer had some sort of RESONANCE to me, who can say? ALSO for the first time in my life it made me understand why so many people I know LOVE Bruce Springsteen so much. He's sort of like an American Billy Bragg isn't he? I have bought the soundtrack album anyway, so will give it a go - I hear he does a version of our song "Glory Days", so he can't be all bad.

In summary then: FILMS! they range from quite good to AMAZING, and therefore are worth a go every own and again!

posted 12/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Today I am very happy to say that The Plinthsmania EP by John Dredge & The Plinths (feat. ME!) is available to stream, listen to and, partially at least, WATCH!

This is the set of songs that we recorded AGES ago with Mr A Brook in Surry (who I saw last week) and features a whole bunch of songs what I wrote with Mr J Dredge. The lead track is called Idiots Run The World and there is a rather MARVELOUS video to go with it, THUS:

If ever a song was released at precisely the correct time, socio-politically, I believe it is THIS one!

posted 6/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Annual Art Day
On Sunday The Picture In My Frame and I embarked on our Big Annual ART DAY, where we go into London Town and look at a load of ART. We don't JUST do this once a year of course - we are dead sophisticated - but this is the day when we always go to two or more SPECIFIC Art Events in the same day.

The first of these was The Serpentine Pavilion at The Serpentine Gallery, what we go to every year. This time we took a rather circuitous four-stage route of trains and tubes to get there which took a while but allowed us to almost entirely miss out the stinky Central Line, and then walked through the park to the gallery via a LOT of parrots. It's always good to go and see the pavilion because it is not only a Unique and Interesting Installation, but it is also one guaranteed to have BEER on sale within it, and so we sat on a bench with a drink admiring this year's presentation, which is basically as SLATE ROOF without a building beneath it. It was DEAD GOOD.

We then went into the gallery to look at the Faith Ringgold exhibition, which was quite good but didn't move me as much as I wanted to. It was quite similar to the Victoria Crowe exhibition in this and one other way - I think I preferred the earlier stuff. You can put the indie kid in an art gallery, but you can't stop him being indie!

We then HIKED across London for about 50 minutes until we reached Trafalgar Square, where we we nipped into The National Portrait Gallery for a well deserved sandwich and another BEER. We were also there to make our usual visit to see the BP Portrait Awards, which has varied a LOT over time, with some years (like last year) being DEAD GOOD and others being a bit bland/disappointing/GLOOMY. This year's fell quite neatly into the bland category, with an awful lot of those pictures where you have to look in REALLY close to see it's a painting rather than a photograph. It's all very clever, but I don't see the point, especially when it's a perfect replica of a not very good photograph. Why not just put a frame around the photo? Having said that, The Eye Of My Beholder did like Eden (Protection) which looked AMAZING. I think I may also have been put off by the caption to Ninety Years which said that the subject's "facial expression and hands serve as a metaphor for her life." NO THEY DON'T. Faces and hands can be reflections, or expressions, or even the RESULT of a life, but they are not flipping metaphors!

There was to be MUCH more of this sort of stuff - "Art Bollocks" as we in the trade call it, don't you know - when we got to our final stop, but happily it was more than made up for by some BRILLIANT exhibits. For LO! we got on the tube again and headed to Regents Park for the Frieze Sculpture park, which was BLOODY GRATE. Our favourites included a replica of a toy car scaled up to actual car-size, some GIGANTIC numbers and, my favourite, "Superhero Cog Woman #1" by LR Vandy.

There were LOADS of GRATE sculptures which were being enjoyed by some very happy people out for a stroll around them. There was also some NONSENSE, including a sculpture that was described as circular "like the sun, the moon, the earth, the eye, the mother's breast, or the galaxy." I am PRETTY SURE that those last two are not actual circles, chaps.

Despite that it was a BRILLIANT way to end a THOROUGHLY enjoyable day wandering around drinking beer and looking at THE ART. I would highly recommend it, and can't wait for next year!

posted 5/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Rocking All Over The World (Surrey branch)
I had a lovely day yesterday, as I was in distant SURREY, doing some recording with Mr A Brook at The Brook Recording Studio. Andy used to have a studio on Denmark Street where, many years ago, I used to pop in at lunchtimes to record DEMOES, and since then I have taken every opportunity to visit his new place, notably recently with The Plinths. On this occasion however I was there to record my vocal and guitar bits for the HITS that The Validators recorded in Derby last month, and I was RIGHT looking forward to it!

I'd taken the day off work for the SESSION and spent a large part of my morning on TRANES. It took nearly two HOURS to get down to Wallington where Andy has his studio, including DELAYS, but when I got there I found he had already loaded up the STEMS what I had sent him the night before and he was SO READY TO ROCK that I barely had time to put my bag and guitar down before I was shepherded into the Vocal Booth. This is one of the SEVERAL reasons I like recording with Andy - he is SUPER KEEN to GET ON WITH IT, so we always get LOADS done!

Once in the vocal booth (i.e. cupboard) I was surprised to see a TELLY on the wall which acted as a VIDEO RELAY so I could see Andy at his desk and he, terrifyingly, could see ME! This is obviously useful when you're doing this sort of thing, but I must admit I have become used to the comforting SECRECY of doing vocals inside a cupboard where nobody can see you. When I'm doing The Vocals I have a tendency to wrap my arms and hands up in knots, pull faces, and DANCE AROUND, but I quickly realised that I am surely not the only person to do this, and that if you're a studio engineer you probably see a lot worse, so relaxed into my usual Ian Curtis/Strictly Come Dancing/Drunken Octupus CAVORTING.

Doing the LOT took about 90 minutes, with me generally doing one complete take straight through and then doing a second take with stops whenever I went wrong followed by PATCHING UP to get it sounding decent. It's another great thing about going and doing this in a studio with someone who is Very Patient - if I'd been on my own I would have done one take of each song and then RAN AWAY!

With that all done we moved onto THE GUITAR, which was HORRIBLE. I am not the world's greatest singer but at least I can BELLOW and call it some kind of STYLISTIC CHOICE, but my guitar playing is entirely irredeemable, and it sounds even WORSE when it is EXPOSED as the sole FOCUS of an activity. We did get everything done in the end but it was PAINFUL, especially when my inability to play the chord B minor reared its ugly head (as it so often does) and we ended up recording those bits as their own special overdubs. The only bright spots in the whole terrifying experience were when Andy assured me that the reason my guitar kept going out of time with the rest of the band was that THEY - not me, THEY - were going wonky. I must remember to get this down in writing next time I'm there.

The SCARIEST bit though came when I attempted to begin two entirely NEW recordings, of Cheer Up Love and It's Hard To Be Hopeful. My initial idea was just to DO them, with a click track to HELP THE OTHERS LATER, but instead I ended up trying to JUST do the guitar parts, which didn't work at all as I kept getting lost. Instead I recorded a GUIDE vocal and guitar first, which went ALL OVER THE PLACE on both occasions as I was thinking about approx 17 different things at the same time. We then did GUITAR for each, by which time my fingertips were in AGONY from all the playing, so by the time I FINALLY went back into the vocal both I was in A Bit Of A State, with heart RACING. Happily the singing was a nice way to CALM DOWN and feel better, and it sounded PRETTY DARN GOOD in the end.

With that done there was time to sit and have a bit of a natter while Andy sorted out the STEMS what we'd recorded ready for export. It turns out that he has been recording STATUS QUO, and that Francis Rossi, unsurprisingly, has a LOT of stories to tell!

With that done we shook hands and I set off for my train, full of JOY at how it had all gone, and it was only when I got to Norwood Junction that I realised I had left my flipping guitar behind in the studio! Even this hassle, which will probably involved EITHER meeting Andy in town sometime or heading back down to Wallington, did nothing to take the shine of things, as it had been a BRILLIANT day adding extra HIT-MATERIAL to a whole set of HITS!

posted 2/8/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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All The World's A Comic
On Friday after work I went back to my old stomping ground of BLOOMSBURY to attend an event at The British Museum - or, as all the cool kids call it, "The BM". It was BRILLIANT being round that way again - I worked in Bloomsbury at Birkbeck College from 2003 to 2014, and then adjacent to it a couple of years later at UCL, and I flipping LOVED it. The whole area is full of MUSEUMS and INTERESTING PLACES and SHOPS both Chain and Non-Chain and mostly PUBS. Much as I love my current job the area around Kings Cross is nowhere NEAR as much fun!

One of my favourite things to do when I was at Birkbeck was to pop into the British Museum on my lunchbreak, just to go and see one Interesting Exhibit at a time. I would usually pop in via the back door, and did the same on Friday night, passing the Easter Island statue (i.e. Arthur in "Storm House") on the way. It was very WARM in the main building, but thankfully the talk I was going to was in the air-conditioned basement, where various staff members somehow knew EXACTLY what I was there for.

For LO! the talk was called "All The World's A Comic: Storytelling Through Pictures" and the audience contained a large proportion of The Usual Suspects. It was chaired by all-round legend Mr Paul Gravett and featured a talk by HIM and then from five EXPERTS from the museum, discussing items they looked after which related to narrative storytelling. I knew Paul Gravett's talk would be fun, but I was expecting the others to be a bit DRY and BORING, and possibly not much related to comics. In this expectation I was ENTIRELY WRONG however, as each of the experts were INCREDIBLY ENTHUSIASTIC and REALLY REALLY wanted to tell us about their items. They all had different styles too - some bombastic, some a bit cheeky, some just desperate to tell us why they found it all SO VERY EXCITING!

It didn't teach me a lot about comics, but it DID teach me a lot about ROCK PAINTING, the ancient Assyrians, Buddhism, and LOTS more. One of the amazing things about living in That London is that talks like this happen EVERY DAY, all over the city. If I wasn't worried that my BRANE would explode I would go to them all the time!

posted 29/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Financial Management Of ROCK
As well as being peerless pioners of ROCK ACTION, The Validators also have an enviable track record in revolutionising ROCK ADMIN. Our development of The Spreadsheet Of ROCK, for instance, has helped literally MILLIONS* of young bands successfully manage their time in recording studios, and our use of Good Practice in Procedureal Issues has been a major part of our dominance in the field of Being Good At Having Band Meetings (*I expect).

This trend is set to continue in the future, notably in the GRATE new idea for Physical Product which we shall be using for our forthcoming series of EPs, but also in terms of FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT. For LO! after years of having "the record company" (hem hem) paying for the recording and release of our Physical Products, we are now moving to a CO-OPERATIVE model whereby funds ACCRUED by said band are used to fund things. This change has come about entirely because of our ongoing desire to experiment and innovate, and definitely not because "the record company" works in the public sector and has basically had pay cuts for the past ten years!

This decision came at quite a good time for us, as we have recently done TWO gigs that actually PAID US MONEY, which we were able to put into a notional FUND to pay for other stuff. This was all very jolly when money was just coming IN, but gets a bit more complex when it starts to go OUT for things like rehearsals and recording sessions, so over the past few days I have been in correspondence with our Financial Director Mr T "The Tiger" MacClure, to find ways to formalise our processes.

(if you're wondering wht Tom is our Financial Director, it's because he is REALLY GOOD at Going And Asking For The Money after gigs, and has even on occasion come back with MORE money than expected. Various previous Financial Directors have often come back looking SHEEPISH having got too embarrassed to bring the subject up)

All this led to us setting up our own BAND PayPal account (Tim's idea!) where money can both be deposited and sent out from, enabling individual band members to PAY for stuff and then claim the money back, and also for us ALL to see what we've got left. EXCITINGLY we also now have one of them Google Spreadsheets which shows what we've spent AND ALSO what we still need to spend.

This last bit of PLANNING has been, genuinely, QUITE EXCITING, as it shows HOW we can do our next batch of releases and, by extension, affirms that we WILL! As mentioned previously, we're hoping to put out at least three EPs of new material, with the first coming later this year, and seeing it all written down like this is rather LOVELY as it makes it all look highly do-able. The next ACTION POINT, once the financial plan has been discussed, amended, and agreed by the entire BOARD... sorry, BAND, will be to get on with some more recording. I'm booked in to do my bits next week, and I can't WAIT - nothing says ROCK AND FLIPPING ROLL like a properly budgeted recording session!

posted 24/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Edinburgh Again
Myself and The Lava In My Volcano had a BRILLIANT time this weekend, as we went on a MINI BREAK to Edinburgh. AGANE!

As previously, we booked our train WELL in advance, which meant we got to go FIRST. This is always good, but especially so when travelling on a weekday as they give you tonnes of FREE BOOZE and also GRUB. Going up on Friday we got veggie WRAPS, but coming back on Monday we got ACTUAL CURRY on PLATES. It was well swanky!

Also as last time we stayed in the Premier Inn Hub, which The Guests In My Rooms described, correctly, as "like a posh youth hostel", notably because instead of a BAR or RESTAURANT it has a sort of mini-REFECTORY where you could go any time day or night to get free tea and coffee, with a FRIDGE to get beer from and a counter to pay for it at, also to get stuff like TOAST. It made the whole place feel very SOCIABLE, and we even CHATTED to some other guests!

One of the (many) lovely things about going to Edinburgh is that we have both been there A LOT so didn't feel the need to dash around doing things, which meant that on Friday we just went for a bit of a WANDER round, then had some tea. Saturday was a bit more ACTIVE, kicking off with us going to see Victoria Crowe: Fifty Years Of Painting on the recommendation of a work chum. It was Really Quite Good - I especially liked the paintings of the SHEPHERDESS she used to live next to, though we both wondered how it would feel to have a Posh Artist move in next door and then keep bothering you with her easel. The exhibition was THORT PROVOKING in many ways, notably about PRIVILEGE in ART i.e. it always seems to be Posh People painting pictures of and for OTHER Posh People which are then BOUGHT by Posh People in a huge network of Awards and Honours also for and by Posh People. I know this one was about an artist who started half a century ago, so you could say it is as a result of being from A Different Time, but I'm not so sure things have changed that much.

After THAT we zoomed round to The National Museum Of Scotland to go on one of their themed TOURS. The one we rocked up for was called "Strokes Of Luck", which involved an EXCELLENT Retired Psychologist taking us around a hugely varied bunch of ARTEFACTS which had been found through, or discovered involving, or were very very vaguely linked to the idea of, LUCK. To be honest the theme didn't really hold up, but it was a BRILLIANT way to zoom around the MASSIVE collection, and we got to see some brilliant things, notably the BERSERKER from the Lewis Chess Pieces who did NOT look like Slaine but DID very much look like a LOON. We also got to see the TAPESTRY version of one of our favourite paintings from the Victoria Crowe exhibition, Large Tree Group.

We spent the rest of the day doing further Wandering About, notably round Greyfriar's Kirk which, after a MILLION visits to Edinburgh, neither of us had been to before. It turned out to be full of Harry Potter fans, and also the sound of The Proclaimers soundchecking at the castle! Further wandering took us down Calton Road where, after YEARS of thinking about it, I finally located the site of Calton Studios where I did my very first EVER Edinburgh Fringe show in - YIKES! - 1990!

On our last full day we went for a MASSIVE HIKE up Arthur's Seat, which involved a LENGTHY return journey round the base after someone (it doesn't matter who) got a bit confused about the best way down. It was a GRATE walk, but crikey, it didn't half hurt the next day - my Fenland legs are not meant for such things!

In the evening we met my SISTER for the PUB and then a GIG, as we'd booked tickets to see Hamish Stuart from The Average White Band. It's not the sort of thing ANY of us would usually do, but it seemed rude to go to Edinburgh during a festival (the Blues & Jazz one in this case) and NOT see a show. The support band were RUBBISH - they were very Proficient and Competent, but they had no TUNES or indeed POINT and (most HEINOUS of ALL band crimes) they not only did Introducing The Band TWICE, but when they did it none (NONE!) of the band did the traditional BIT. When you say "On BASS, Kenny Rhythm!" (for example) Kenny is SUPPOSED to e.g. play that bit off of Gracelands, but all they did was NOD and smile. DISGRACEFUL!

Hamish Stuart and co, however, were BLOODY BRILLIANT. It was sort of like the first time I saw Belle & Sebastian and thought "Oh THAT'S what this sort of music is MEANT to sound like!" in that it was all the usual FUNKY THINGS you see bands like that do, but GRATE. They were a DELIGHT to watch, ENGAGING between songs, clearly having fun and, astoundingly for me who always wants a song to finish after two minutes, it was ACTUALLY ENJOYABLE when they started mucking around and RIFFING. I could hardly believe what I was hearing - there were GUITAR SOLOES and they were A GOOD THING!!

It was, all in all, a pretty bloody brilliant holiday and one I would recommend to ALL. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, I'm going up again NEXT month!

posted 23/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Rocking Woolwich
On Sunday I headed over to distant WOOLWICH (Abbey Wood, to be specific) where I was due to meet The Validators to play at the "Abbey Acoustics" day at Lesnes Abbey. I had never been to that particular bit of London, so was astonished when I came out of the station to find that I appeared to be on the VERY EDGE of the entire city, looking out of a SPACESHIP BALCONY onto The Actual Countryside. In one direction: LONDON. In the other: HILLS!

I stomped round to the Abbey grounds to find Mr T Eveleigh, promoter, waiting. Tim - or Big Tim as he is known round our way for avoidance of confusion - had booked us in his capacity as The Only Promoter Left Who Still Books Us, on a bill with the ever mighty Grace Petrie. The whole event was being run by the local council, which meant we got paid and there was a LOT of nice gear to use, but there was also the small matter of the council not remembering to actually promote it very much, so it was Not Exactly Rammed!

The Validators arrived (with Tom and Frankie having come via The Woolwich Ferry, which made all concerned VERY JEALOUS INDEEED), as did various pals including The Hull Of My Boat, Mr W Pilkington, Mr M Tiller, The Hewitts, Mr D Greene, and various members of Clan Pattison. It felt like what I believe the young people refer to as MY SQUAD i.e. a TONNE of lovely people what I have ROCKED variously with the years. Ms E and Ms L Pattison managed to secure us the use of one of the PAGODAS that had been set up as shelter, so we even had our own AREA to spend the afternoon in.

And WHAT a lovely afternoon it was - the sun shone, BEER was had (via a couple of supermarket runs) and there was much YACKING, only slightly interrupted by the fact that we had to go and do a GIG in the middle of it all. The stage was one of those with an INFLATABLE ROOF, which made it feel very WARM, much like distant memories of being inside a bouncy castle and we thus duly all took our SHOES off when we performed.

The gig went pretty well for the most part - the sound was GRATE, and the audience, though a bit far off (there was a whole row of pagodas about thirty feet away from the stage, and most people were comfortably sat around them), seemed to like it - but there were some ISSUES in the middle. Somebody - and there's no point saying who, it could have been anybody - forgot the WORDS quite a lot and, when it came time to do Have A Drink With Us was unable to remember what the chords were. We then launched into Payday instead and discovered EXACTLY the same problem. SOME members of the band found this HILARIOUS, but it should be noted that whoever it was was distracted by the fact that the soundmen had had to MIC UP his guitar because the pickup wasn't working, so he was unable to JIG ABOUT as much as usual, or to turn round during songs to see what everyone was up to.

Despite all that, it all went off jolly well (even if when we eventually DID do Have A Drink With Us the chords were soemwhat more VARIED than usual), with THIS as our eventual setlist:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • I Don't Have To Worry About That
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • People Are All Right
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It was a LIVE (band) DEBUT for I Don't Have To Worry About That, and the highpoint I think was the determination of a section of the audience to BELLOW the "OI! HIBBETT!" bit of Easily Impressed from a distance. It was all bloody delightful, and continued to be so as we all sat around for a couple more hours, including a BRILLIANT performance by Ms G Patrie at the end. Flippin'eck, that is someone who knows how to work an audience, she was FAB!

    When it was all over we said our farewells, before a sub-group of us headed to the pub for a quick pint. It wasn't even seven o'clock when I got home, which was a VERY sophisticated way of doing a gig. More of this sort of thing please!

    posted 10/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Making Some Hits
    After the bizarre altercation on St Pancras platform earlier, my journey to Derby did not get much smoother. A train ahead of us had a "braking problem" which meant it got stuck at Market Harborough and we got stuck behind it. There had also been a line-side fire overnight, near Wellingborough, which not only LOOKED like the apocalypse but also SMELT like it when we went past. The staff on the train were GRATE, with regular announcements keeping us up to date, even if it was just to say "We don't know when we'll be moving, but we're trying to find out." It's EXACTLY the right thing to do - if you TELL people what's going on they don't PANIC, and everything is MUCH less stressful.

    What with one thing and another we ended up getting into Derby precisely 60 minutes late, which at least was good news for my Delay Repay Claim, but did mean I missed my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE bit of any band-based activity i.e. setting up the drums. Ask anybody in a band, they will tell you that that is the BEST BIT, especially when it goes on for HOURS. I hopped in a taxi, but by the time I reached Snug Studio Tim had nearly finished hitting things repeatedly. EPIC SADFACE!

    For LO! I was up there for a recording session with The Validators, or in this case 80% of The Validators as Emma was not in attendance - there was unlikely to be time for ANY vocals we thought (correctly), but still I was surprised that she didn't come just to hear the rest of us doing puns about bands we saw thirty years ago and, occasionally, making a racket.

    The PLAN was to record drums and bass for a bunch of new tracks, which we're planning to release as EPs later in the year. Tom had brought his LAPTOP and logged the PLAN, which we discussed with Mr R Newman, studio WHIZZ and all-round CHUM. With that done, and instruments sorted out, we set to WORK!

    On previous occasions I have stood in the control room with Robbie and sometimes Tom, while Tim and Frankie occupy the studio, so that my vocals and AXEWORK don't leak into their tracks, but this time I was offered the chance to go in the VOCAL BOOTH instead. This worked REALLY well because it enabled me to LOOK at The Rhythm Section and give them CUES. The only downside was that it was Quite Warm in there, especially once we got going. Tom, meanwhile, remained in the room with the air conditioner and no drums.

    We had prioritised three songs - "People Are All Right", "You're A Tory Now" and "I Don't Have To Worry About That" - which we had learned up at our recent practice, and we got through them all in EXCELLENT time, having a few bashes at each and then returning to the control room where Robbie spent some time FIXING them. I'm not sure what he was doing - we are METRONOMIC in our timekeeping and FLAWLESS in our professional competence - but he seemed to spend quite a while doing it!

    With those in the bag, bass and drum-wise, we had a go at "I'm Doing The Ironing", which we'd rehearsed with the others, but had never gotten quite right. We spent about half an hour going through it, TIGHTENING UP various aspects so that, when we finally got round to a proper take, it sounded DEAD GOOD. We then did three MORE takes, until it sounded BLOODY GRATE - in previous years the final issued version of a track has often been the only time we ever managed to play it right to the end, but this time we had a go at making them a bit better too!

    While Robbie did some more inexplicable "fixes" to our clearly perfect musicianship we went back into the main room to have a go at something else. When last we'd met Tim had pointed out that, in our early days, we had OFTEN just learnt a song in the studio, without worrying about ever having to play it live, and that if we wanted to have some B-SIDES for the aforementioned EPs it surely wouldn't hurt to try it that way again. Thus we had a very brief go at "Facebook Manifesto", discovered it wasn't actually very good, and then did an ACE version of "An Office Ballad". It was FAB - VERY different to how I've been doing it live, and even MORE GRATE!

    By now we only had half an hour left, and two songs remaining on the "possibles" list. Tim revealed he didn't really like "Cheer Up Love" much, so we didn't do that one, and I wanted to save "It's Hard To Be Hopeful" for when I/we had a bit more time. Thus, without any other options, we went back in and DONE A JAM! I'm not sure whether it was any good or not, but we did at least have a go!

    All that remained was to get packed up, thank Robbie, and then head off. Frankie walked back with me towards the station, which gave us a chance to have a delicious PINT on the way before I got my train- this one went FINE, and also featured TV's Liz Kendall in my carriage!

    It was a DELIGHTFUL way to spend the day, and hopefully laid the foundations for some MASSIVE BANGERS in future. The only slight sadness to these occasions usually is me going away wishing I got to see The Validators more often, but there was no need in this case, as I would be seeing them the very next day!

    posted 9/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Platform Altercation
    I had a very strange experience at St Pancras station on Saturday morning. I'd booked on the 09:02 train to Derby, where I was due to do some recording with The Validators (more on which another time), and when the platform was announced at about 08:45 I, along with several hundred other people, went to get on board.

    When we got to the train the doors were still locked, which isn't that unusual, but then they stayed locked. It got to 09:02 with them still that way, and no announcements whatsoever about what was going on, so I thought I'd go and ask. It's always annoying when train companies leave you like that - even if they made an announcement to say "We'll find out what's going on" it would reassure people that their train isn't going to just leave without them.

    Keeping an eye on the train to make sure it didn't do just that, I walked back down the platform to the area near the ticket gates, where two members of staff were having a chat. I asked what was happening with the train, and one of them, a big bloke dressed in a management suit rather than uniform, started suddenly laying into me. "Be patient!" he yelled. "We're waiting for a driver!" I was shocked at how suddenly, very aggresively, angry he was (I'd asked very politely!) so said "Could you tell us all that? There's all these people waiting - " "We didnt' know did we? We've only just found out ourselves, which is why we're making an announcement now," he shouted, pointing at his colleague, who then took out a walkie-talkie and made an announcement. It was all a bit weird, not just because he was SO AGGRESSIVE about it, but because they had clearly not only just been informed - before they'd spoken to me I'd seen them chatting to each other without doing anything, and anyway the train had been locked for 15 minutes and should already have left!

    "Now go back and wait for your train," he said, jabbing his finger at me. Look at all those other people - everybody else is waiting, you're the only one who's complained."

    "You're the first to complain" is one of those things that arseholes always say, as if that invalidates what you're doing - in this case I was the first because I was at the near end of the train. The whole experience was ASTONISHING - he seemed to be FURIOUS, as if I'd accused him of something, instead of just asking when the train was going. I've had all sorts of bother from East Midlands trains and their predecessors over nearly 30 years, but never anything like this.

    "Is this how you do customer service at East Midlands Trains?" I asked (yes, that is an INCREDIBLY ENGLISH way to protest!). "Yes it is!" he said. "Now go back to your train and wait."

    It was UTTERLY WEIRD, but then it got worse! I went back to the train, shaking, and then thought "Hang on a minute, he can't get away with that." Like most people i have met bullies like this at various points of my life, and have realised that they behave this way because they CAN. Here in The Future, however, we have tools to help us STAND UP to them, so I turned back round and got my phone out to take a picture of him, so I could report exactly who had been so horrible.

    He was stood in the middle of the platform watching me - triumphant at his victory I guess - but when he saw my phone come out he turned around and started walking away. This bloody infuriated me, so I marched back down to try and get round him. He moved around, hiding his face, and said "Yeah yeah, get your phone out." He then got HIS phone out and held it up in my face, so I couldn't get a picture of him. "I'll take a picture of you shall I?" he said.

    I took my picture and started to move away, and he said "It's illegal to take pictures of staff on the platform!" This infuriated me even more - this is ANOTHER thing that bullies ALWAYS say, it's the equivalent of some git on a messageboard in olden times saying "That's LIBEL that is, I'm going to SUE you."

    "No it's not," I said, "And anyway, you've just taken a picture of me!"

    "Oh yeah, do you want to see my pictures?" he said. Goodness knows what that meant, but at this point another member of staff came over, presumably to calm him down, which was handy as I had a witness when he shouted "I'm going to smack that phone out of your hand!" "Did you hear that?" I said. "He's threatening me with violence!" "I said I was going to SNATCH it out of your hand," he shouted, as if that was entirely different (it's not what he said).

    It was all WEIRD, especially as it had begun with me asking what was going on with a train! I turned and went back to the train because, to be honest, my brain had realised that this was all a bit scary. He was a big bloke, clearly not used to being challenged and, I guess, in a position of power, and he really did look like he was going to thump me! A few minutes later the doors finally opened and I got on the train, shaking with adrenelain, and TWEETED East Midlands Trains about it. I gave them most of the details above and they said they were sorry that I felt I was "not addressed in the correct manner" (!) and that they'd investigate, but that "Usually in these types of situations it's one persons perception of events against another and emotions can run high in stressful situations", which I felt was pretty much a guarantee that they'd do sod all!

    It was an EXTREMELY weird, and frightening, experience. Thank goodness the rest of the weekend was a bit more fun!

    posted 8/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    More Conferring, More Showing Off
    I've spent the past two days at ANOTHER conference, this time in the city of LIVERPOOL. It was not QUITE as interesting as the previous conference, as this one was about WORK rather than COMICS, but still it had its moments.

    HONESTY forces me to say that the most fun bit (for ME) was on the second morning, when I'd agreed to do a "lightning talk" in a session where people talked about their experience using ELEMENTS, the computer system that we were there to talk about. There were meant to be six slots in the session, but just before I got up to do my bit I was informed that, out of the TWO people who had agreed to do it, I was the only one who'd shown up! Luckily for all concerned I don't mind a bit of showing off, and was this very happy to a) get some actual LARFS at 09.50am when talking about a computer system and b) share some of my INISGHT and KNOWLEDGE i.e. I always check our SYSTEM LOGS in the morning to see who's had trouble logging in, then EMAIL them with one of two standard emails to tell them what they need to do to make it work - I always think this helps stop people either PANICKING or going and telling all their friends that the system is rubbish and broken, and assumed it was Standard Practice, but a couple of people afterwards said they were going to start doing it themselves. Does this make me a THORT LEADER?

    The rest of the conference was the usual mix of Interesting Things, Not Very Interesting Things, and Lots Of Biscuits. I'd gone up early on Tuesday morning and headed back straight after it had all finished on Wednesday, so didn't get much time to look at Actual Liverpool - I could have done some sightseeing on Tuesday night, but I had some FOOTBALL to watch. There has been a LOT of drama, controversy, borderline cheating, bad behaviour, dodgy decisions, ludicrous skills and general PALAVER about The Women's World Cup, and as this is EXACTLY the sort of thing I like most about International Football, I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed it. I must admit though, a little of the PAIN of England going out was taken off by the fact that it won't now interfere with our GIG on Sunday at Lesnes Abbey - I don't think the festival is quite big enough for a BIG SCREEEN TV to watch it on!

    posted 4/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Comics Conferring
    I spent most of last week in the city of Manchester for the International Graphic Novels And Comics Conference. It was a whole WEEK of people talking about comics in a scholarly way, which was a) fun but also b) a LOT!

    Manchester, it turns out, is quite an expensive place to stay in, so to save money on my accomodation I ended up having to set off on Monday morning rather than staying the night before. It was VERY early - registration was at 9am so I had to get up at 5AM IN THE MORNING to catch the 6.36am train - but it all went fine and I made it to venuew good time. It carried on being fine until lunchtime when I realised I was KNACKERED and so went off to my hotel to a) check in b) have a NAP.

    I stayed in the Premier Inn in Media City, which was very pleasant, just about affordable, but a LONG way away. It took me about an hour to get between my room and the conference each day, but the good part about that was that I got to go on the TRAMS every time - I do like trams and these were dead good ones. It was also Quite Exciting being in Media City, especially in the mornings when I'd put BBC Breakfast telly on and think "That's just round the corner from here!"

    The conference was about Comics and Transmedia which should have been RIGHT up my alley (NB my PhD is all about Doctor Doom and Transmedia) but, as ever with this sort of thing, in many cases people had thought "How on earth can I make MY research sound relevant?" and just said "storyworld" a couple of times while doing the traditional Here Is A Comic What I Have Read presentation. I was a bit disappointed also that TWO of the FOUR main people I wanted to see had dropped out since I registered, but the TWO I DID want to see were GRATE - I didn't learn a whole lot of NEW stuff from their talks, but it was EXTREMELY reassuring to UNDERSTAND about 90% of what they were on about and know that I was thus on the right tracks!

    Away from my Subject Area there were LOTS of very interesting talks, notably one that told me Alfred E Neumann existed before MAD Magazine, and another that PROVED that me and Steve's shows were ENTIRELY in the vein of RADICAL FRINGE THEATRE. Infuriatingly though, one of the best and most interesting talks was by one of my own supervisors, who talked about using Art Historical Techniques to show the similarities between Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland's work on "The Cursed Earth". It was dead good, but I could have got that sort of thing back in London!

    I also got to do a talk myself, in a slot at 9am on the very last day, which actually worked out well as a) only people REALLY interested in Marvel Comics And Transmedia could come b) the person before me in the session gave a REALLY interesting talk about Marvel Legacy and Marvel Now! and then c) the final person didn't show up so d) we had plenty of time for a LENGTHY discussion with the aforesaid ENGAGED audience members. It was brillo!

    An interesting thing I discovered was a shop called BOOTHS which is apparently known as "The Waitrose Of The North" because it TOTALLY IS. Next time someone from The North claims that Southern people are too posh I shall highlight my knowledge of this fact. They're all eating focaccia up there!

    I did manage to CARVE OUT some spare time for myself over the week, especially on Wednesday when I did a LOT of work on The Book (which is now onto - hopefully - final re-writes) and then ended up going back to the hotel to watch THE FOOTBALL. Here is my excellent joke about The Lionesses: "They are so GRATE at The Football, you might almost forget that they are ... (pause for effect) ... ENGLISH". Thank you very much! My other joke is an HILARIOUS RIFF around the idea of having "Comics Studies Bingo" where (HOLD ONTO YOUR SIDES) once you have ticked off all the buzzword you shout... "MAUS!"


    It was a very good, very interesting week, but I tell you what, I was glad to get back on the train when it was all over. It made my BRANE hurt!

    posted 1/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    8 Bit Symphony and Hull Itself
    On Saturday morning myself and The Seats In My Carriage headed north to distant HULL where we were due to attend a CONCERT called 8 Bit Symphony at the invitation of the organiser, Mr C Abbott. It's AGES since I was last in Hull, so I was looking forward to going back. As it turned out, I was RIGHT to do so.

    We had our first inkling that it was going to a fun weekend when we were on the way to our hotel. We stomped through Old Town heading for what we thought was a standard issue, possibly Millenium-related, pedestrian bridge, only to find it not only gently CHIMING, but also MOVING! As we approached it looked like some weird structure was moving down the river, but when we got there it turned out to be The Scale Lane Swing Bridge, a moveable bridge that sort of ROTATES round to allow boats down the river, and is the only one in the whole world that lets people SIT ON IT while it does so, while chiming a little tune. This only happens once a day on Saturdays so we felt entirely BLESSED to happen to be there just as it was in motion!

    The Premier Inn we were staying in was perched right on top of a multi-storey car park, which meant that the lifts and staircases were all a bit, well, car park-y, but also that we had an AMAZING view out over the Humber. Once we were ENFRESHENED we headed back into Hull for TEA and then to the Hull City Hall for the concert.

    The idea behind "8 Bit Symphony" had been brewing for YEARS, and you could see the amount of THOUGHT and PLANNING that had gone into it right from the start. There were stalls inside the (hugely impressive) building, merchandise, illustrated title cards for each piece of music and also specially commisioned VIDEOS which played along with the different tunes. The actual music was supplied by The Hull Philharmonic Orchestra, performing adaptations of classic 8-bit computer game theme songs. When I say "8-bit" I actually mean Commordore 64 theme songs, so I didn't really recognise any of them, but it sounded FABULOUS, and there was an ENORMOUS amount of love in the room, both for the nostalgia and for the HUGE team effort that had gone into it all. It was GRATE!

    We had bumped into various chums, including Mr A Fisher and Mr W Pilkington, and in the morning at breakfast we also saw Mr C Abbott again, which gave us the chance to tell him what an outstanding achievement he had achieved. I do hope he gets to put it on again somewhere else, it was amazing!

    Once we had reached the point in a Premier Inn Breakfast where NO MORE FOOD is possible we checked out and went to do some SIGHTSEEING. We started off at Hull Minster, where we were lucky enough to catch the last ten minutes of the current Vicar's last service, in which he very tactfully acknowledged that people in Hull are a lot more "self-effacing" than where he's going next i.e. Liverpool. This was very true - everywhere we went the people of Hull were friendly and welcoming and mostly self-effacing, although the spokesperson from Hull College, who sponsored the event the night before, did say that Hull is forever being put down by people who have never been there, and that it deserves a lot more praise as a Unique Place than it gets. I agree!

    We had a look round the Minster, which is GORGEOUS, and then headed to the Ferens Art Gallery. This turned out to be an excellent example of the way Hull doesn't seem to promote itself very well - it was BRILLIANT, yet I'd never heard of it, and it didn't appear anywhere when we tried to google Things Of Interest In Hull before we set out. We only thought to pop in because we'd passed it on the way to the hotel, but we were VERY glad we did.

    There were two highlights for us, the first being a chalk sketch of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger which was a) oddly MOVING as it was so REAL and b) dead interesting because you could see lots of little DOTS around the outlines, which apparently was for an MEDIEVAL version of TRACING. The second was an exhibition of contemporary art called Is This Planet Earth ESPECIALLY the stuff by an artist called Dan Hays who did big canvas made up of painted DOTS, like pixels, which transformed into pictures as you moved away from them. Saying it like that makes it sound BORING and OBVIOUS, but being in the room with them they were AMAZING things. I recommend having a look if you get a chance!

    In fact I recommend Hull in general, if and when it is available to you. We had a bloody brilliant time there, I hope it's not so long before I get to go back again!

    posted 18/6/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Down The Road From My House Fringe
    There was a miniature THEATRE FESTIVAL in The Olympic Village Where We Live last week - they'd hired a "Pop Up Theatre" from Paines Plough and booked a bunch of SHOWS to put in them and, being less than five minutes from our front door, it seemed RUDE not to go to at least one or two shows, so that is what we did!

    Once we got inside the theatre for our first show on Sunday we found it to be LOVELY, surprisingly so in fact. From the outside it looked like it was going to be a HOT TENT, but inside it was Actually Comfortable teired seating in the round with proper facilities and not BOILING HOT. The only downside was that it didn't have a bar in it!

    The show we saw that night was Not Very Good. From the blurb it looked SUSPICIOUSLY like a two-man musical featuring general titting about, which FOR SOME REASON appealed to me. Unfortunately for all concerned, however, it was just a bit rubbish - I had had cause to listen to a little bit of Moon Horse earlier in the week, and I can tell you this: It was NO MOON HORSE.

    It started off OK, but it soon became clear that this was very much a Work In Progress. This would be FINE if it had been advertised (and charged for!) as such, but if definitely wasn't. Actually, saying it was "in progress" would have been charitable anyway, as they gave the distinc impression that they'd not done it ANYWHERE before. The "Work" bit was questionable too, as we both thought it needed A LOT OF WORK doing to it. There was no proper story, the songs were a bit boring, and there just weren't enough GAGS in it.

    We DID enjoy slagging it off on the way home though, which is always a big part of the fun of going to the Edinburgh Fringe anyway! When we got back I did my usual thing when I see Rubbish Comedians In Fancy Venues: I googled them to see if they went to Oxford or Cambridge. INVARIABLY they will turn out to be one or the other, and I was not disappointed this time, especially when I got the BONUS RESULT of discovering that one of them is also the POSH SON of a POSH HUMOURIST!

    The next day's show was MUCH MUCH MUCH BETTER, when we went to see a double-bill of Rob Auton and Rhys James. Again, this was a Work In Progress and again it wasn't advertised as such, but a) it was a double bill so basically HALF PRICED and b) it was GRATE. I've never seen Rhys James before, but he was very good indeed - I mean, he's very much a young white male stand-up comedian doing stand-up comedy, but he was EXTREMELY good at it and had A LOT of Actual Jokes, although it was a bit unsettling hearing him talk about the 1990s as a long time ago and MEAN it.

    Rob Auton was something else altogether, he is ACE. We've seen him before and thought similar thoughts e.g. that what he does is very close to being POETRY (especially this time as he was reading most of it out!) and also THOUGHTFUL with INTERESTING IDEAS and NEW OBSERVATIONS. On top of that though he is SUPER-ENGAGING and has, again, LOADS of Actual Jokes. It was, in short, a FAB night out which more than made up for the night before!

    It also kind of made me want to pop up to the Fringe again sometime. A Day Return's doable, right?

    posted 30/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Staying Up For The Results
    On Sunday evening The Numbers In My Poll and I did our usual exercise of Staying Up For The Election Results, for LO! it was the night that the results were announced for the European Elections, and we had WHISKY in the cupboard!

    As is traditional on such events I was also in communication with my long-term ELECTION NIGHT BUDDY Mr T Pattison, who commented that it was very nice to have an election where the results came in EARLY. Not long after midnight most of the UK Results were in, which was EFFICIENT even if not particularly encouraging for the wellbeing of our NATION.

    Having said that, there was a surprising amount of happiness for me in the results, especially when the people on telly FINALLY LISTENED to me shouting at them through the screen, and pointed out that a) the Br*x*t Party had actually NOT gained 31% from NOTHING as they were basically UK*P and had just taken all their votes and b) if you added up the Definite Remain votes then we had MORE than the Definite Brexit ones. Also, as a lifetime Lib Dem, it is always nice to see them doing well again, and ESPECIALLY so when that happens alongside The Greens. It was at least SOMETHING to maintain good cheer in the face of the UTTER LOONIES who were BRAYING all over the television otherwise.

    Having it all get mostly announced before 1am meant that we had some WHISKY left to put back in the cupboard, but I am not resting on my BOOZE LAURELS as yet - we've got the Peterborough by-election to get through soon, and then I suspect we may have at least one more WHISKY NIGHT before the year is out!

    posted 29/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Festival Band
    On Saturday afternoon I headed back to Derby, where only a few short months ago The Validators and I had played at A Beer Festival. This time we were going to play at... a beer festival!

    For LO! The Furnace Inn (AKA Frankie's local) was having its Annual Beer Festival, and we had been invited to play! Well, I say "invited", it had actually come about due to the aforesaid Frankie fancying doing a gig at the end of his road, and so negotiating with a member of the Brewery Staff there to get us on the bill i.e. his own FIRSTBORN SON. What on earth they think they're doing employing a SIX YEAR OLD to brew their beer I am sure I do not know, but it certainly worked out for us!

    So it was that I met my fellow Validators in the beer garden, where the main band (we were on at 6.30pm - they had got in a proper local covers band to do the headline set!) were setting up their MASSIVE PA system beneath the GAZEBO. We had a DELIGHTFUL ninety minutes of CHAT, during which Tim was presented with The AAS Football Trophy for his success in The AAS Football Competition, and we hammered through some THORTS on our forthcoming recording session(s). The upshot of the latter was that The Validators are going to have a practice WITHOUT ME, as this is "easier to organise", apparently. I am sure it is not a COUP.

    The beer garden filled up with a wide range of lovely people, even including some who were not directly related to Frankie, and we took to the stage and did THIS:
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • Two Blokes, One Pub
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway

  • To be honest, I do not think I was at my GLORIOUS BEST for this set, as I couldn't really hear myself so SHOUTED to start with and thus lost VOICE towards the end, but everyone else was GRATE and people seemed to like it, which is very much The Main Thing!

    With the all done with we settled into a DELIGHTFUL rest of the evening which featured much discussion and MANY and various types of BEER, which was flipping delicious. As I always say, the GIG bit of Validators gigs are all well and good, but I mostly turn up for the hanging around before and afterwards!

    It was a lovely evening, although when Tim suggested going for a curry I had to excuse myself as being "too pissed for curry". I was actually too pissed to a) stay awake and b) communicate with other humans, but I made up for the lack of curry by joining The Pattisons and Chums next morning for a GINORMOUS Premier Inn breakfast! HOORAH! More of this sort of thing please!

    posted 28/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    It's been a long long time coming, but I'm happy to say that there will be another Plinths EP out in a few weeks time. It's called "Plintshmania" and you can see a thrilling trailer for the lead track HERE:

    It's good isn't it? Originally I was going to have a go at making something vaguely similar, but after approx 900 hours of trying I realised I had absolutely no idea what to do. Luckily Mr J Dredge had been talking to Jeff from Popaisy Productions who had a a) similar b) much better way to do it that invovled c) actual ability and competence. PHEW!

    "Idiots Run The World" is the first track, but there'll be three more available on Bandcamp, iTunes and all that. We recorded them WAY back in September last year alongside Pancake Day, so it will be a DELIGHT to finally get them out in the world!

    posted 23/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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    Game Of Thrones
    I got up at 6am in the Actual Morning on Monday, not for Work Reasons but to watch the final episode of Game Of Thrones. I did something similar a couple of weeks ago when I went to see Avengers: Endgame for exactly the same reason i.e. to avoid Annoying Sods Doing Spoilers, and this was the only way to do it!

    It's not the IDEAL way to watch the conclusion to ANY long-running franchise, but it did mean I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen, and I enjoyed it a LOT more because of it. In fact I enjoyed it quite a LOT - it wasn't packed with ACTION but then the best bits of the series have always tended to be People Saying Things In Rooms, and there was a LOT of that about. Also, there were several JOKES which I particularly enjoyed!

    Having got to the end I'd really quite like to go back to the start and watch the whole thing again. I haven't read the books and I've never re-watched an episode - I watched the first three seasons at HIGH SPEED on DVD boxsets, so there's LOTS I'll have missed along the way. Whenever I read a review it's always full of references to PROPHECIES or STATEMENTS from past issues that I have absolutely no memory of, so I'm sure I'll get something out of it. The only problem is that I've been watching it on the Now TV box, which DOES have all of the episodes on it at the moment, but only for another four weeks or so. I guess I COULD watch the lot between now and then, but I don't think I can face getting up early EVERY day to fit it all in!

    posted 22/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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