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Academic Action
I took the day off from Actual Work yesterday for some full-on ACADEMIC ACTION.

During daylight hours I was on a course run by UAL called "Thinking Teaching". It was the second of two sessions that I'd done, learning about PEDAGOGY theories and general IDEAS about how you do The Teaching in Higher Education. Whenever I do ANY training I always DREAD it and end up sloping in like a teenagers with double Geography, even when I have purposefully BOOKED it myself, but I found this one to be VERY interesting. Partly because of the Interesting Theories, partly because it was very well taught (which you'd sort of hope a course ABOUT good teaching would be), but also because of my own reactions to it.

It was all about inclusiveness, diversity, engaging with students, and INTERSECTIONALITY, and I must confess that I tend to get A Bit Daily Mail when presented with these ISSUES in a WORK setting. I don't know why - I have a fully booked season ticket on the Political Correctness Train and read the Guardian online DAILY, but for some reason my BRANE tends to BRIDLE when I come across these THEMES in a Professional Environment. What then tends to happen is that the calmer, more reasonable parts of my BRANE actually LISTEN to what's being said, and see the SENSE of it all. It's a right rum old do though, I wish my MIND would sort itself out and just go straight to nodding thoughtfully!

It was, in the end, dead good, and I was disappointed to have to leave slightly early so I could head up to the Granary Square campus for even MORE of the aforementioned ACADEMIC ACTION. I was up that way to attend a new READING GROUP set up by the Comics Types at Central Saint Martins. There were about ten of us, comprising most of the BIGWIGS of London Comics Studies, sitting in a room for about 90 minutes discussing Ms Marvel Volume 1: No Normal. I was DEAD chuffed when I found out this was going to be our first book as I had a) already read it and b) flipping LOVED it. I was thus a bit worried beforehand about how I would behave myself, as I was pretty sure me saying "How DARE you not LOVE this book, it is THE BEST" would not be considered lofty enough criticism.

I managed to comport myself with sufficient dignity and even managed to restrain myself from going "OMG you should TOTES read Unbeatable Squirrel Girl also IT IS AMAZING!" , which was a first for me in ANY Comics Gathering!

After THAT I went to a short meeting about a PAPER wot I am co-writing (hem hem), and finally headed down to the BAR where I ended up having several beers with one of my supervisors while we discussed Jack Kirby and Long Gone Comic Shops We Have Known. Both of us admitted that it had felt WEIRD talking OUT LOUD about actual comics (rather than having learned discussions about BOOKS about actual comics), but also rather good fun.

It was a LONG old day on the BRANE, but it turns out that Academic Action can actually be quite interesting when it's ABOUT something interesting! Who knew?

posted 16/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Sounds Like Friday Night
A constant refrain round our way for many years has been "Why can't they properly bring back Top Of The Pops eh?" This has ESPECIALLY been the case around Christmas when we watch the Christmas and New Year specials and get ourselves caught up on what The Young People are listening to nowadays. It always feels GOOD to find out what's been happening, and it doesn't really matter whether we like it or not, we just want to KNOW without having to go through the hideous agony of having to listen to Radio One.

Imagine the DELIGHT in our house then when we discovered that "Sounds Like Friday Night" is a) on the telly and b) EXACTLY what we were after. For LO! it is PRETTY MUCH "Top Of The Pops" except without the charts, also WITHOUT the hapless attempts to be "cool" and very much WITHOUT Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates.

I have never understood why the BBC retained the services of these two for the TOTP specials. They presided over its FINAL DEATH, so why on EARTH would you want to keep having them back? It's like doing a new Star Wars film every year and having JAR JAR BINKS as the leader character in every single one. I MUCH prefer the two people they've got for SLFN (that's what the hip young things are calling it, right?) who seem like two CHARMING young people who are KEEN on what they're doing and not a pair of snide wazzocks who give every impression of being far too good for it.

In case it's unclear, I'm not keen on Ferne and Reggie. Dotty and Greg though, they are ALL RIGHT with me. I like the fact that they and the whole programme are JUST the right side of NAFF, not pretending that it is COOL, or indeed IMPORTANT (like the loathsomely pompous J Holland programme), but more like what it actually IS i.e. a Light Entertainment Show for The Kids to sneer at and for middle-aged people like me to get mildly yet happily perplexed by.

However, I have been AMAZED these past few Friday nights by the amount of people I know of my own age merrily slagging it off AS IF they are supposed to feel some OTHER way about it. OF COURSE you think it is a load of old rubbish, fellow middle-aged people! Isn't that EXACTLY how middle-aged people like THINE OWN PARENTS felt while you were going KRAZY about The Depeched Modes or whoever? Saying "Ooh it's so bland and commercial, not like in my day" on Facebook is but Twenty First Century version of peerng over the top of the newspaper and saying "Is it a boy or a girl? I can't hear the words!"

We have watched all three episodes so far and I must say that I have liked NONE of the music and could sing NONE of it back to you now, or indeed even when I was listening to it, which is right and proper. Most of the Young People dancing around and singing seem to enjoy it and most of the performers seem to be INTO what they're doing - the only people who were OBVIOUSLY FAKING IT were the dull and dreary old Stereophonics, who appeared OPENLY SCORNFUL of the whole process, and yet did not have the good grace to do so in an INTERESTING way. For shame!

I do agree with everyone who says there should be some more music on it, even though I quite like the cheesy Strictly-esque VT segments (mostly because they ARE so Strictly-esque), and I hope that at SOME point something ACTUALLY AMAZING manifests itself, but then I do remember watching the original TOTP back in the day and it being AWFUL for weeks on end, so am prepared to wait.

Most of all I hope it sticks around long enough for it NOT to be talked about at all, and just BE there so that we can ALL keep up to date with The Pop Music. If nothing else, I hope it lasts long enough to get its OWN Christmas Special and finally kick the SHOW MURDERING Ferne and Reggie off of our tellies!

posted 13/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Free Again
My NOVEL Storm House is FREE to download again this weekend, over on Amazon, so if you've not got a copy yet, now might be a good time!

I've read a metric TONNE of blogs about Self-Publishing, and they all say that giving your books away for FREE like this is the best way to get people to PAY for them in the future. The general idea is that readers get HOOKED by one book, so that when you release a new one then a) they're eager to PAY to read it abd also b) they tell OTHER people about it too. This all seems fairly sensible to me, and I AM hard at work on 'Storm House 2', but to be honest I mostly like doing it because it's FUN. My favourite activity at the moment is going and looking at the Kindle Sales Reports page every 30 seconds and clicking refresh to see if anyone else has 'bought' it! There is a GRAPH and everything!

Last time I did a free promotion I was mostly relying on the beautiful readers of the newsletter to get it all going, which they did wonderfully. As far as I can tell, the KEY is to get enough people to download your book so that it gets into the various categories of Top 100 free books on Amazon, and then OTHER people see it and decide to take a punt, which pumps it up even further and so on. Last time it was all VERY exciting as Storm House got to the TOP of various charts and even into the OVERALL Top 100 - of course that tailed off MIGHTILY once the free window was over, but it was fun while it lasted!

This time around I was very aware that many many nice people had helped me out, and didn't want to pester them again (not just yet anyway - there'll be a new book to hassle everyone about next year!) so I had a look at the MANY different service who'll include your book on their DAILY lists of free books via email or App. I got myself logged onto a load of them and even PAID for a couple, reasoning that this was the PROMOTIONAL BUDGET that I would usually spend on POSTAGE if I were releasing an ALBUM or something.

I wasn't sure if this would work or not - the world of ARTS is FULL of organisations out to take the money of VAIN people wanting to be LAUDED (and also people like me, OBVS) - but so far it seems to be going PRETTY well. Last night it got back to the NUMBER ONE spot on all the categories it's eligible for (which I think tells you more about how few copies you need to 'sell' than how popular Storm House is!) and this morning it's back in the Top 100 Free Books! HOORAH!

Hopefully this'll all lead to some more REVIEWS in the short term and some INTEREST for the next book in the longer term, but right now I'm just enjoying watching the GRAPHS move! As ever, thanks LOADS to anyone who's downloaded it and ESPECIALLY to those who've bought a paperback version (they are LOVELY), and if you've not done either yet... well, it's free until Sunday night, so get in quick!

posted 10/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Thor: Ragnorak
I went to the pictures on Sunday to (finally) see the latest THOR film. The short version of my review is this: "IT was GRATE!"

I usually like to go and see superhero films in the Odeon near my work as it is TINY and usually EMPTY so you don't have to hang around to get in, but as it was a Sunday I went instead to the GINORMOUS Vue cinema near my house. It's one of those cinemas where you buy popcorn and tickets at the same time, which seems daft to me as it means EVERYONE has to wait behind people getting TONNES of snacks, so I usually use the MACHINES. Annoyingly, however, the machine allocated a seat for me which it a) would not let me change because the touch screen wasn't working and b) would not let me book ANYWAY because it left a single empty seat next to mine. "BUT YOU ALLOCATED IT TO ME!" I said, to no sympathy from THE MACHINES. If THE MACHINES really want to take over the world then they are going to have to IMPROVE their customer service, otherwise they're going to find some of us forming an underground resistance.

THUS I had to go and join the huge queue, which took about a YEAR. By the time I got to the front I was so worked up that I decided to self-medicate i.e. get myself a BEER! Once in the SCREEN all was calm, the seats were comfy, and the wait for the film was surprisingly brief. The adverts just said "Turn your phones off" and "Look, this cinema has both sound and pictures!" (is that in case someone has come expecting RADIO or PAINTINGS by mistake?) and then we were OFF. There weren't even any trailers!

The film itself was FAB. The thing I liked most about it was how it LOOKED - for possibly the first time ever they had made it LOOK just like the comics, specifically the JACK KIRBY comics. Loads of the costumes (especially in the backgrounds) and technology looked like they were RIPPED straight out of the 1960s, and it looked BLOODY GRATE!

I liked all the GAGS and LARFS too, although I guess sometimes there was a tiny bit too much - having The Manager (I think) from Flight Of The Conchords in it was good, but I don't think you needed him to undercut every single dramatic bit EVERY SINGLE TIME, but that is a small complaint when there were so many BIG LAFFS to be had. I also liked the fact that it HAD a story that PROCEEDED at an orderly pace, unlike most of The Avengers films which LOOK good but are a bit confusing/confused. AND I liked the way that they used existing bits of The Marvel Cinematic Universe to tell bits of the story (e.g. Dr Strange turning up) like it was No Big Deal. Just like the comics!

It was basically a LOT of fun, with a LOT of BITS in it for superhero NERDS to enjoy... or so I am told hem hem I'm sure I wouldn't know. The only downside is that now it's MONTHS until "Black Panther" comes out - come on Marvel, three films a year is not enough!

posted 9/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Theatre Of Lights
After all the excitement of our trip to the RAF Museum on Saturday I was ready to put my BRANE in the bath to recover when we got home, but instead we were out again to an event called "Theatre Of Lights". This was put on for residents of The Olympic Village Where I Live (But I Don't Like To Go On About It). In previous years we've had FIREWORKS displays, but there is so much construction going on at the moment that I think they must have decided to do something a bit SAFER, also less FLAMMABLE.

SO it was that we walked round to Victory Park, a large green space in the middle of The Village, where there were HUNDREDS of people milling around happily, waving paper lanterns and/or GLOW STICKS. I got myself a bit ANXIOUS about it all for some reason - I think it was the crowds, all the lights and noises, the familiar setting looking so unfamiliar, but according to The People In My Crowd I was just "a bit grumpy" so she applied the tried and tested cure: A PINT. It worked!

We joined a PROCESSION around the center of The Village, which involved several hundred of us going for a bit of a wander about, led by illuminated stilt walkers and interspersed with ILLUMINATED JUGGLERS and DRUMMERS covered in lights.



Typing it out, it all sounds a bit rubbish, but it was actually LOVELY. There was a really nice atmosphere, and with the cold and the twinkly lights in the trees it all felt a bit CHRISTMASSY and cosy. Also, we had another PINT!

The procession strolled back to Victory Park, where there was a stage with some LIGHTS on it and some performers that we couldn't quite see because of the crowds. There were LAZERS and SMOKE and MUSIC going off, which was Quite Good, though my favourite bit was looking up at the residential blocks which mostly surrounded us and seeing the silhouettes of all the people stood at their windows, watching the show.



Usually these sort of things go on for AGES, leading certain GRUMPY people to require further medication, but this one finished almost TOO QUICKLY. It had only been going fifteen minutes and then the announcer said "Thanks for coming", it was BRILLIANT! All other public displays please take note: it's cold at this time of year and there is TELLY on that we want to get home for, where it is warm!

posted 7/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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We Saw A Lancaster Bomber
On Saturday The Wings Of My Plane and I headed out on a DAY TRIP to the RAF Museum in Hendon. The sequel to Storm House (what I'm currently writing) has a whole chapter that takes place there, so we thought it was probably a good idea to go and RESEARCH it!

Getting there was PEASY, via the Northern Line to Colindale, though the subsequent 10 minute walk to the museum was a bit odd, as it seemed that nearly EVERYTHING around there was NEW. There were a couple of old terraced houses, but otherwise it was all fancy flats, showrooms and construction sites. It was quite a bit like being back in East Village! I wonder what was there before - an airfield maybe?

There were more signs of construction when we got to the museum itself, though the main building itself looked more like a local shopping center from approx. 1981. There was a LOT of refurbishment going on, with temporary fences all around, one of the hangars closed, and there was STUFF left lying around a lot of the displays - some of this stuff appeared to be BOMBS!

Once actually inside though it was FLIPPING AMAZING. We'd expected to see maybe TEN aeroplanes but there were FLIPPING HUNDREDS of them in a VAST hangar space that had somehow been hidden behind the aforementioned small-town shopping centre. There were so many that you couldn't take it all in, although I will never forget the sense of SHEER AWE I had when I turned a corner and saw a BLOODY LANCASTER BOMBER!

CRIKEY! It was GINORMOUS! I couldn't believe I was looking at an ACTUAL LANCASTER BOMBER. I mean, I know Spitfires are the famous World War II planes, but I've SEEN those (there were about 300 of them in the museum too) but THIS was the plane that I most remember making from a KIT, and seeing in FILMS, and also the plane that my Grandad nearly flew on - thankfully he didn't because (according to FAMILY LORE) my Nan told him NOT to, which is handy for the EXISTENCE of my Dad, me, and all my siblings, as ALL of his friends who DID were killed.

It's not that I'm a huge PLANE fan or anything, but I DID grow up in the 1970s when pretty much all there was to do on a Saturday afternoon was to build model aeroplanes, and I was VERY impressed with my BRANE for remembering so much about them. "That looks like a HURRICANE!" I thought to myself at one point, and LO! it totally was!

As I say, it was all so overwhelming that it was hard to take in so we didn't read the info boards very much, but the general presentation was fairly casual. The knowledge that most of these amazing machines were designed to be vehicles of MASSIVE DEATH was never far away (there were several pictures of ATOMIC EXPLOSIONS next to the ACTUAL VULCAN BOMBER for instance) but it was never a) emphasized or b) celebrated.

It wasn't ALL death though, there were reconnaissance planes and an alarmingly WEIRD bunch of SEA PLANES, including the Stranrear which was HUGE, made of a QUILT of STEAL, four storeys high and, basically, LUDICROUS. How did it FLOAT, let alone FLY?!?



We staggered out of the main hangar, BRANES FULL, and had a wander round the RAF Photographer Of The Year Competition then to a smaller hanger to see a load of bi-planes in the First World War In The Air exhibition. It was all dead good but it felt like somebody had taken my MIND out of its box and given it a right good PUMMELING, as there was SO MUCH to take in.

What I'm saying is that it was AMAZING - and all free too! And did I mention they had a LANCASTER BOMBER?

posted 6/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Gigless
You find me in a very unusual position at the moment - I am GIGLESS!

Well, very nearly anyway - if you browse my forthcoming gigs page you will see that The Validators DO have a booking, but it's not until APRIL. That's nearly SIX MONTHS away!! Between then I not only have no gigs BOOKED, I have no gigs even VAGUELY happening. Nowt! ZILCH! Nothing!

This is a BIG change from the past decade, when I was averaging 50-70 gigs a YEAR. This year so far - and if it stays like this, in TOTAL - I have only done twenty five, which is the smallest number since I first moved to That London!

Part of the reason for this giglessness is my own CHOICE - doing the PhD means I don't have as much time for ROCK as I used to, so I haven't been asking around for gigs and I've put Totally Acoustic on a temporary hiatus. ALSO Steve and I don't have a SHOW on the go, so that's not happening either. Still, I'm sure that there USED to be other gigs around that I'd do!

It all feels a bit STRANGE - I know that lots of the people who used to book me years ago have now jacked it in, and I know that if you STOP going to gigs all the time to see OTHER people then you tend not to get asked so much yourself, but coming to a DEAD STOP like this feels WEIRD. Is this the end for me and ROCK? Will it be something I just do a couple of times a year now? Or what?

I hope not - I really LIKE doing gigs! Part of me thinks I should maybe have a go at Open Mic nights, but another, much larger, part of me hopes it doesn't come to that!

posted 1/11/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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New Innovations In Clock Changing
As I'm sure you are aware, the clocks went back at the weekend (NB if you weren't aware - this is why you keep turning up early for things). Officially they changed at 2am on Sunday, but in OUR house we tried an ADVENTUROUS and INNOVATIVE new method, proposed and executed by The Hands On My Dial, which involved changing them at approx 7pm on SATURDAY instead.

"Why on earth would you do that?" you may ask. "Surely that puts you out of SYNC with everybody else? What is the benefit?" I initially thought such questions myself, but realised that it WOULD have put us out of sync with the rest of the nation, but only if we had had any intent of INTERACTING with the rest of the nation that evening, which we did not. It was one of those TOTALLY RARE Saturday nights where we stayed in and drank WHISKY and watched telly rather than... er... doing whatever it is other people usually do on Saturday nights, and the TELLY we were watching was all non-live, so THE TIME didn't really come into it.

What DID come into it, however, was the FACT we got an extra hour of SATURDAY. As The Days In My Week pointed out, "Who wants an extra hour of SUNDAY? I'd much rather have more Saturday!" Any doubts I may or may not have had about this course of action were instantly DISSOLVED. An extra hour of Saturday is a load more whisky and a whole extra episode of "Designated Survivor"!

Mark well where you first heard of this CUNNING SCHEME - I predict EVERYONE will be doing it within a couple of years!

posted 31/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Spectrum 35
I had an early start on Saturday morning, as I was due in Cambridge at 10:30am to open a CONFERENCE!

This was Spectrum 35, a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the ZX Spectrum. Five years ago I played at the 30th anniversary event at Anglia Ruskin University, but this time it was at The Centre For Computing History, which I have been to SEVERAL times before.

I managed to drag myself out of bed on time and got to Cambridge OK on a VERY busy train. In the taxi rank a nice Academic Lady told me there was some sort of conference going on, so there were more people about than usual, and also that the area around the station taxi rank, where they've built several new hotels, is "a bit of a knocking shop." Good to know!

I arrived at the museum to find a QUEUE to get in (I later discovered it had SOLD OUT) while inside I discovered the organiser, Mr T Eberle, looking very happy with how it was all going but wearing what I can only describe as BOOTLEG MERCHANDISE!



It was lovely to be back at the museum, and I had a THOROUGHLY enjoyable wander around playing on their FREE Arcade Games (including Space Invaders, Tempest and Alien Syndrome), visiting the Amstrad PCW (my first "proper" computer) and having the traditional GAZE of AWE at their WALL OF TAPES.





Thomas and I thought I'd be doing my set in the main hall, but then found out there was a CAMERA waiting for me in the classroom (where me and Steve performed Hey Hey 16K a couple of years ago) so I went in there instead, waited five minutes for people to troop in, and then played Hey Hey 16K.



I had a LOVELY time, and even managed to get the audience to SINGALONG at the end, as you can see in the video HERE:

I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself - was really nice to be playing to an audience who had HEARD of me, and especially such a POLITE yet FORTHCOMING one. At various points during the morning people would spot me, do a double-take, and GRIN, it was ACE! After the show had finished I went and played on some more of the machines, and as I attained the THIRD SPACESHIP in "Jetpac" someone leaned over and pointed out that I was enjoying "the thrill of getting through Jetpac" for real!

It was a long walk back to the station afterwards, but it was a very HAPPY one. Roll on the 40th Anniversary - I'll be there!!

posted 30/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Croydon Of Two Halves
I was back in Croydon on last night in order to ROCK it. If it seems like I do MOST of my gigs in Croydon these days, that's probably because Mr T Eveleigh of Freedom Of Expression is pretty much the ONLY person left who still books me!

I got there a bit early so that I could get some TEA. I remembered that there was a Vegetarian Indian Restaurant somewhere on the High Street, so decided to take the opportunity to try it out. The experience was "mixed".

The food was fine - quite hot, but pretty tasty - but GOODNESS ME the service was SURLY. The woman who took my order seemed to be on a MISSION not to SPEAK to me or make eye contact, and other people working there seemed ANGRY to see me too. I wondered what they thought I'd done, then noticed a sign in the toilets that said "Please Do Not Spit In The Handwash." Who spits in the handwash? And how? And WHY?! The handwash bottles had screw tops, so presumably whoever HAD done it had gone to some effort to do so.

It was only when I left that it dawned on me - it must have been someone who looked like ME! That explains EVERYTHING!

The gig itself was happening at The Royal Standard, a tiny little locals pub next to the flyover, which I'd not been to before. Ms J Lockyer was in charge of proceedings, and she explained that we'd be playing next to the TOILETS. We were in a small corner, away from much of the rest of the pub, so I thought I'd avail myself of the PA system in order to make myself HEARD.

Mr W Pilkington arrived, having made the long journey from his flat on the other side of the underpass, as did Mr T Worth, the other act, and a few Audience Members, and so at 8:30pm I kicked off with THIS:

  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • Cheer Up Love
  • In The Pub (Talking Crap)
  • That Guy
  • I Did A Gig In New York

  • It did not, in all honesty, go very well. It turns out that having a CURRY before a gig is NOT a good idea, as my throat was all dry and spicy. Also I remembered why I usually chicken out of doing new songs (THREE new ones here, including a DEBUT!) as it is SCARY and I tend to forget bits. ALSO the nature of the gig made it extra difficult, as round the corner in the other side of the pub some of the regulars were SHOUTING at each other. This was particularly difficult - clearly they were doing it on purpose and what they were shouting was the kind of nonsense that I thought people stopped doing in the 1980s (e.g. "Another PINT for MY COMPRADRE Good Landloard!") but then again it WAS their pub and it was ME who was coming into to it to make a right old racket when all they wanted was to have a chat, so couldn't really remonstrate with them.

    I was quite happy when my first set was all over, and I was able to make way for Thom Worth to come on and make a MUCH better job of it all. I did notice that he was sitting down, so I thought I'd have a go at that for my second set which, after a short break, went like THIS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • We Did It Anyway

  • This went MUCH better - partly because The Chief Regular, who had been SHOUTING the most, had left (and so everyone else stopped doing it too), partly because I was sitting down so it didn't feel so much like I was demanding attention, and partly because I was doing a load of songs I actually KNOW! I really enjoyed this section, and wished I could have gone back and done the first half all over again!

    I went to the bar for a celebratory BEER, where I discovered that the woman behind the bar was ALSO from Peterborough, so we did the traditional thing of naming PLACES to each other - you hardly ever meet anyone other ESCAPEES, so it's Mildly Exciting to hear someone else say "Wisbech"! When I got back to the table Thom, who had just started his set, pointed out that I'd left most of ANOTHER beer at the side of the stage, which meant I now had TWO. The evening was looking up!

    I fear I may have got OVER JOLLY at this point, as I forced him into a discussion about how old our Soundman was - he was born in 2000 (!!!) so I pointed out that he was therefore underage, and there followed one of those conversations you can only really have after a few pints, trying to work out if it's possible for someone born 17 years ago to actually be 18. Spoilers: It Isn't!

    And so the evening came to a rather pleasant close - it feels like a WHILE since I did a gig like this, and though I didn't enjoy the first half I certainly did the second. On the way home I popped in to The Spreadeagle, where Tim was running ANOTHER gig, and said thanks to him. After all, if not for his efforts I'd hardly be doing any gigs at ALL!

    posted 27/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Quest For Stationery
    The EXCITING IDEA for the next Validators album that I mentioned yesterday has moved on APACE, and we are now looking at DATES for a meeting with the other PARTY who would be involved. I would love to tell you about the heady whirlwind of SUPER EFFICIENT ADMIN on BOTH sides that has brought this about so quickly, but alas I must hold my tongue until it is properly sorted out so instead I will speak to you of STATIONERY.

    Thus every year around about this time I go and get myself a new diary, and for the past decade or so I have been making my purchase in Paperchase. I use an A6 week-to-view diary, and Paperchase have always done really nice ones with bright flowery covers. I do like a bright flowery cover on my diaries, also on my NOTEBOOKS, because a bright flowery cover is much harder to lose. Years and years ago I used to buy plain ones with dark green or BLACK covers and I was forever losing them in the bottom of my bag/dark venues, or getting them confused with ones belonging to other people, but if your diary is BRIGHT PINK with PRETTY FLOWERS on it like what my current one is then it is hard to mislay.

    Imagine my DISTRESS then when I went to Paperchase to find that they only had ONE (1) A6 week-to-view diary, and that it was a DULL BROWN colour. All right it did still have some flowers on it, but otherwise it was very plain. I wondered if it might just be the FIRST diary they were issuing, with more to come as we got closer to the end of year, but I checked online and that seemed to be IT!

    I did actually find this quite upsetting, as I like being able to get the same diary (with a different cover design OBVS) every year, but it looked like I would have to venture further afield this time. So it was that I set off on my QUEST, first visiting WH Smiths and, as with every time I go into WH Smiths, finding myself wondering how on EARTH it is still running as a going concern. I used to LOVE going to WH Smiths as a child (you could look at all the BOOKS and COMICS!), but now it is HORRIBLE. I couldn't even FIND the diaries because they were hidden under massive signs saying "30% OFF OTHER THINGS", piles of vouchers, unwanted toblerones, and the general LITTER which seems to cover the floors of all WH Smiths. I can only guess it is overpriced crisps at train stations that keep them afloat, for the actual diaries they had were RUBBISH.

    As I was in The Big Westfield near my house I had other stationery options, but as I went from shop to shop all I found were cardboard items covered in GLITTER and non-humorous "humorous" cards. I ended up, as I so often do, in JOHN LEWIS where I finally reached my goal, stumbling upon Paperblanks Diaries which made me want to SQUEAL and say "OMG!" because they are SO BRILLO. Small! Week to a day! On sustainably sourced paper! SHINY! I eventually chose a Flutterbies diary because it is FLOURESCENT and has BUTTERFLIES and FLOWERS on it - there is no way THIS diary is going to get mislaid by accident!

    It also has all that stuff about currency rates, time zones, international holidays etc that diaries USED to have. I RUDDY LOVE it, basically, and cannot WAIT for New Year's Day so I can start using it EVERY DAY.

    As I say, I also did a load of ROCK ARRANGING, but I'll tell you about that another time!

    posted 25/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Why Don't We Do It In The Pub?
    On Sunday I headed to Derby to take part in an EXPERIMENT that could potentially alter the very FOUNDATIONS of ROCK!

    For LO! I was off to that fair city to meet The Validators for a practice. "What's so experimental about that?" you may ask. "You guys are consumate professionals who practice almost ANNUALLY, often in The Midlands." This is true, but we have previously always practiced in Rehearsal Studios, whereas this time we were going to be practicing IN THE PUB!!

    IN THE PUB!!

    This idea had come about via the success of Tim's Giant Testicle AKA the CAJON he bought a while back and which we have occasionally been using for gigs. Anyone who has ever seen Tim in action will know that he is NOT A QUIET DRUMMER, but having him on the cajon (it's one of those wooden boxes you sit on and tap) means that the rest of us can pretty much play and sing without amplification and still be heard. This has had the amazing effect of allowing us to actually HEAR each other, and know what everybody else is playing, which after approx. 18 years together is something of a novelty!

    I've been writing some NEW SONGS just lately, so we agreed that we'd gather to have a go at some of them, and as we would probably be PLAYING them in our new acoustical manner we might as well practice them like that too. It was here that my AMAZING idea struck: if we were going to be PLAYING the songs acoustically in pubs, shouldn't we REHEARSE them that way too? It is often said that the best place to revise for an exam is in a LIBRARY because it is a large, quiet, official building where you are surrounded by other people. Your BRANE thus associates the information you have put into it with being in a large, quiet, official building where you are surrounded by other people, so when you are in an EXAM HALL (which is ALSO a large, quiet, official building where you are surrounded by other people) it's much easier to retrieve that DATA. THEREFORE surely if we practice in a pub it'll make it MUCH easier to remember when we come to play the songs ALSO in a pub. Of course, this theory means it is ESSENTIAL that we have some BEER while we're at it. It's basic SCIENCE.

    I'd thus booked us a room at The Brunswick Inn, a lovely pub which we have often been to after conventional practices and which is very handy for the train station. When I rang I'd asked to use The Snug, but when I got there the chap behind the bar suggested using The Parlour instead ... which turned out to be the room I thought I'd booked anyway. There were a couple of people in there already, so the barman went and asked them to leave. I did feel a LITTLE bit bad about this, as one of them had a walking stick!

    The Validators arrived in fairly quick succession, and the ensuing discussions covered The Legacy Of General Tito, Fabric Samples, whether Tim and Frankie could maintain a domestic relationship (and what they'd talk about instead of The Fall if Mark E Smith died), DOGS, and most excitingly of all the FACT that Tim's eyesight has got to the point that now THE BAND are all wearing glasses!!



    We ARE The Black Hair And Glasses Brigade! Sort of!

    Once that was all sorted out we fell upon the songs themselves. We decided to go through the new songs in the order that they'd appeared on the set of DEMOES I'd sent everyone, which meant that the very first one was "Two Drips, One Pane". This was REJECTED by the band for "being a bit snidey". SUCH IS DEMOCRACY!

    The next one, "Kenny's Brother Alan's Stag Do", had been the subject of some debate on the band email as to what it was ABOUT (NB it is a DEVASTATING SATIRE of BREXIT but apparently it only works as such if you tell people beforehand. Consider yourself told!) but once we gave it a go it seemed to work out pretty well. We changed some stuff around, as we usually do, and even changed one of the WORDS, altering "Nigel paid" to "Nigel said". This has happened very occasionally before, but I made sure that everybody understood that it was a one-off, and should not be seen as setting any kind of precedent for our current sessions!

    Next up was "In The Pub (Talking Crap)" which sounded BLOODY BRILLIANT right from the start. I must admit I got quite excited - apart from sounding LOVELY with us all playing, it also has noticeable TUNES, also JOKES, also a POINT and a SINGALONG bit. It is, I feel, A HIT!

    We were proceeding at a fairly leisurely pace and were going to require some time at the end for a Formal Band Meeting, so we skipped to the END of the list of songs in order to have a crack at our CHRISTMAS SONG, which we're hoping to record next month. It's a COVER of a German drinking song what I have translated into PETERBOROUGH, and though it isn't specifically about CHristmas, it does FEEL dead Christmassy. Also, it is UTTERLY FANTASTIC - rarely have all five of us been quite so keen on a song, and when we played it through it was WONDERFUL. I can't wait to get this one out there, it is ACE!

    With that done we turned to BUSINESS, discussing our next gig, in April, and then what we were going to actually DO with these new songs. I'd had an IDEA which I can't really go into any DETAILS about as yet, but it was well received by The Validators and I was given clearance to go and talk about it with some other PARTIES who would be involved, if it comes off. I don't like to be MYSTERIOUS like this, honest, but as soon as I CAN say what it is, I will. All I CAN say is that it would be AMAAAAAAZING if it comes off!

    And then it was time for us to conclude. The Pattisons headed home to monitor a Christmas Cake (ROCK) while me, Frankie and Tom had another drink before I had to go and get the train home. The whole experiment had, I feel, been a HUGE success - this will not be the last time we practice in a PUB!

    posted 24/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Nosing The Future
    Saturday found myself an The Plans In My Proposal once again going round East London being nosey... I mean, being ENGAGED with our LOCAL COMMUNITY. This time we were off to look at some NEW PLANS for The International Quarter, the confusingly named (it doesn't seem to be hugely international and it's in two different places) section of The Olympic Park where they're going to build new offices for the V&A, London College of Fashion and various other CULTURAL organisations.

    The display was being shown in various places around the area over the course of a few days, but we'd chosen to go and look at this one because a) it was on Saturday b) it was in Stour Space, which we'd heard about but not yet had a nosey round. To get there we walked through Hackney Wick and Fish Island, where we MARVELLED at how quickly things are changing there. We saw the new Hackney Wick station building site then went and had a look around the showroom/offices for a new development of housing. In other words we played with their 3D computer display and pointed at bits we liked on the (rather good) plastic model. I noticed that the showroom looked out onto LOADS of Graffiti across the canal and thought "I bet they wish it didn't" but then realised that they probably LIKE it because it is EDGY.

    Stour Space itself was LOVELY, an old building knocked through and re-purprosed, with a cafe, a central exhibition area, and some friendly looking offices and/or studios. I must admit I felt a pang of REGRET that my WRITING CAREER had not taken off as I'd hoped when I had my year off from work a while back, as I would have flipping LOVED to have been able to rent an office in a place like this and then FLIT about having POSH COFFEE while chatting to other CREATIVES.

    The exhibition was interesting, as the original plans for LUDICROUS skyscrapers had changed and now featured significantly LESS ludicrous buildings instead. The display said that this was because of consultation with local people but I suspect it was more to do with local planning regulations, and I also wonder whether the revised plans REALLY had buildings MUCH more packed together in order to "encourage closer collaboration between organisations" or whether it's so that they can fit in as much FLOORSPACE without having to go up to 200 storeys.

    Either way it all looked quite good, although we did worry that these new buildings would block our view of the Stadium and The Squiggle. We said this to one of the STAFF, who replied "It's always been in the plans!" which is a) true but b) not perhaps the most tactful way of putting it.

    Still, they won't be putting in the planning permission until next YEAR so it'll be a while before it happens, and who knows? Maybe by then I'll have an offices in Stour Space and be able to see it all from there!

    posted 23/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    All The Telly
    Last year we got Netflix at home and I was QUITE EXCITED about it - rightly so, because it is GRATE!

    Since then we have also got Amazon Prime (CUNNINGLY subscribing to it just before Christmas Shopping began) and recently also a NOW box - this latter was done so that I didn't have to PANIC about a) RUSSIAN PIRATES taking over my machine or b) THE POLICE coming round whenever I tried (and usually failed) to download a show off the interweb. I got it just before the most recent series of "Game Of Thrones" and it was a JOY to be able to watch each episode at the same time as everyone else, rather than EITHER spending three hours trying to work out how to get AT it online OR waiting a year for the boxset.

    Now I find myself in the unusual, FUTURISTIC, position of being able to watch ALL THE TELLY. Previously I would look on with ENVY as people on twitter talked about all the exciting new shows they were watching, but now I can watch them too. "Star Trek: Discover"? I'm watching that! "The Good Place"? Don't tell me what happens, we're just about to start it! "Stranger Things 2"? I am already piling up IRONING to do while I steam (steam!) through it!

    We also have access to a TONNE of old stuff, so we POWERED through ALL of "Seinfeld" a little while ago and are now just over halfway through "Curb Your Enthusiasm". This is particularly ACE because I finally get to see what everyone's been ON ABOUT for all these years, and also to see what about 50% of all comedy shows since then have been ripping off!

    Having said all that though, the TV shows I am MOST enjoying at the moment are on the old-fashioned Terrestrial Telly, and are pretty flipping old-fashioned themselves i.e. "Cold Feet" and "Doc Martin". I know I should claim to be watching something DOUR about true crime in 1970s Denmark or something, but instead in our house we have been LAPPING up these two long-running, pretty straightforward, British STANDARDS.

    The funny thing is that both series, according to me, are currently the best they've ever been. It's not what we expect of British shows, which are supposed to only run for two series of six episodes each and disappear, but is definitely the NORM for American programmes, which take at least two seasons to warm up, become GRATE after about four years, and then tail off with a disappointing final series full of Celebrity Cameos. "Doc Martin" did most of its Celebrity Cameos in the last series (Sigourney Weaver!!!) and the best "Cold Feet" has managed this time has been two of The Dragons of of Dragons Den, leaving them free to go "Here are the CHARACTERS what you have come to know and love, and here are some SITUATIONS which you will enjoy watching them get out of."

    I think we maybe don't notice the GOOD STUFF on British Telly because we have access to so many fancy-dan BIG SHOWS from America, but there's a LOT. I'm also really enjoying "Upstart Crow" at the minute, for instance (though I am not quite ready to forgive my childhood hero Ben Elton for "We Will Rock You" just YET) and really LOVED "Count Arthur Strong". ALSO I was very happy to find that, after i recommended it to him, my baby brother watched and THOROUGHLY liked "The Detectorists".

    Cor, all this talk of TELLY is making me want to go and WATCH it! We've got a new episode of "Designated Survivor" to watch tonight - is it hometime yet?

    posted 20/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Fun With Submissions
    The promotional campaign for Storm House continues APACE with me gearing up for another push next month. I've got the Amazon page set up for another FREE WINDOW, and I'm looking at various ways of giving it a bit of a SHOVE around then as I attempt to get more people interested in reading it.

    I have thus spent a large part of the past couple of days submitting it to FREE BOOKS NEWSLETTERS, and then emailing various review blogs to ask if they could have a read of it. It's basic ADMIN work but I must admit I'm rather enjoying it as it's very similarly to the promo stuff you have to do for an ALBUM, except that this time around I do not have a LONG HISTORY of DISAPPOINTMENT and/or BITTERNESS with most of the people I'm emailing! This means I am full of OPTIMISM and HOPE for the whole affair - so much so that I fully expect to get a call from Conservative Central Office asking if I fancy being Chancellor Of The Executor!

    I've also updated the BLURB in the hope that, if people DO come to visit the Amazon page, they will be slightly more ENTICED to actually BUY a copy. As ever, this was significantly added to by my Internal Comms Team!

    My personal Writing Guru Mr C Flowers has told me on many occasions that "It's a Marathon, not a sprint" and all the advice on self-publishing says that you need to have at least THREE books out before you can really get anywhere, so at the moment it's EARLY DAYS and thus delightfully pressure free. I've no idea if any of this will actually WORK but at the moment it's all good fun, and at least I'm having a GO. With an attitude like that, maybe I SHOULD be Chancellor!

    posted 17/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Digging Digance
    Myself and The Songs On My Setlist headed to THE FENS on Saturday, where we met with THE PARENTS and also Mr P Myland for a trip to deepest darkest Rippingale to see Mr Richard Digance.

    I must admit I was Quite Excited about this. I'd seen him once before, at the Fringe and THOROUGHLY enjoyed it, but didn't remember much about it - almost as if I'd been drinking heavily for a week beforehand. This time he was playing in a CHURCH as part of a) his golden anniversary tour and b) events to raise money for the church roof, so I thought it would be a little bit different a boozy Fringe show.

    As it turns out, it wasn't really. For one thing we went to the nearest PUB first, and for another the venue was very slightly cold and damp. Throw in some students flyering at the door and we could have been in Scotland! The show itself was GRATE, with Mr Digance doing a LOT of GAGS and getting BIG LARFS from the audience, of which we were very definitely the youngest members, He did some LOVELY instrumental numbers, ACE songs, and told some GRATE stories too. Throughout it all he had a DELIGHTFUL stage presence, dealing with the odder aspects of the venue (e.g. he lights taking ten minutes to come on and having DISCO LIGHTS, presumably from the pub, on throughout the first half) really well and generally acting like a PRO with fifty years of experience of This Sort Of Thing behind him. HOORAH!

    The only slight downside was that he'd brought a support act with him who was VERY MUCH a Standard Folk Singer who would have been PERFECTLY acceptable if he'd done a bunch of cover songs but instead did Some Of His Own Material which was uniformaly a) cliche riddled b) tune free c) overlong. It's just possible that I MAY have been over-annoyed about it because I thought it should have been ME up there!

    Apart from that though it was a FANTASTIC evening, which made me wonder about maybe dragging Mr Digance in for a Totally Acoustic when I finally get round to booking some dates again. We've had OTWAY play, so I guess I could always ask!

    posted 16/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Don't Call It A Reboot
    Imagine my DELIGHT this morning when I saw a headline in the Guardian that said The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy was in line for a radio reboot. "How interesting!" I thought to myself. "I wonder why? Who will be in it? What changes will there be?"

    Then imagine my BOILING FURY when I read the actual article and discovered that it is NOT a reboot but in fact THE ACTUAL OPPOSITE i.e. a CONTINUATION of the ORIGINAL version, in the ORIGINAL format (radio) on the ORIGINAL channel (Radio 4) with the ORIGINAL cast. I sat FUMING with INDIGNANCY about it... then wandered why on earth I was getting so annoyed? I mean, I like Hitchhiker's a LOT, and would be keen to hear a new version, so why were my EYEBALLS popping out of my HEAD with uncontained RAGE?

    I have boiled it down to TWO things. Firstly it's the mis-use of the word "reboot". It is usually applied to Science Fiction properties and means that a story, or character, or Fictional Universe, that has already been presented is RE-DONE in a way that completely ignores everything that has gone before, usually in order to bring it up to date and find a new audience. There's different KINDS of reboots, and they often include references to the original version for FUN (e.g. the Star Trek FILMS are reboots in that they have a different cast and the ability to completely ignore the chronology of all the Star Trek TV shows, even though there IS an "in universe" explanation for it which KIND OF ties it all together) but that's the general idea of it. The new series of Hitchhiker's is clearly NOT THIS AT ALL and is in fact THE EXACT OPPOSITE for reasons mentioned above. I can only assume, therefore, that the word "reboot" is used by people who have NO IDEA what they're on about and are only applying it because they think it's what happens whenever there's a new version of something vaguely sci-fi and THEREFORE my RAGE is down to journalists not having a clue what they're on about, and applying this dimness to something I care about.

    Secondly, for related reasons, I think I'm annoyed that the term is being used in relation to a series that HAS ACTUALLY been rebooted LOADS of times. The original radio series was "adapted" for the books, but Douglas Adams made LOTS of changes which mean that the two sets of stories don't really tie together at all. THEN it was changed all over again, with a partially different cast, for the TV series, which didn't really follow the same story as the radio OR the TV show. THEN it was made into various computer games, and THEN Douglas Adams tried on a number of occasions to make it into a film, the scripts to which apparently changed it all over again. And then FINALLY the film version came out and that was a DEFINITE ABSOLUTE REBOOT with different cast, production company, format AND story. The only version of it for that has NOT been a reboot is this new bloody series that the newspapers say IS!

    If you are now thinking "Fair enough Hibbett, but is it really something to get so wound up about?" I would point you in the direction of the BBC Entertainment twitter account - the people who made the originals and are making the new series and so should surely know better - which says THE SAME FLIPPING THING! ARGH! GRRRR!!!! FURY!

    At least this does mean they're going to repeat the original series - my CASSETTE RECORDINGS what I did off the radio got worn out YEARS ago! Perhaps I should listen to them from my sick bed when all my BLOOD VESSELS have gone POP?

    posted 12/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Reading At Dina
    On Sunday I returned to SHEFFIELD, site of so many ROCK extravaganzas, to do a slightly DIFFERENT gig to what I usually do.

    I was due to perform at DINA for Off The Shelf, a month long festival of LITERARY STUFF. I'd been booked by Ms P Blackham and this was her first experience of ARTS bookings, as opposed to ROCK, so I was delighted to find that she was noticing the MANY MANY differences between the two arenas, much as I had done a decade ago when I started doing the shows with Steve. The big thing you tend to notice when you make the transition is that, compared to pretty much ALL other kinds of live performance, ROCK has MANY more SPREADSHEETS - it is NOT what you would expect, but it is a FACT!

    In THE ARTS you also get to play in a wider variety of venues such as, on this occasion, a former nightclub with a (sadly defunct) REVOLVING DANCEFLOOR! We met the owner of the club, who very kindly showed us THE WORKSHOP just in case he wasn't around and we needed a CLAMP to fix a light. He'd also shown Penny the PROPS CUPBOARD (not a euphemism) before I'd arrived - I bet you don't get that level of care at the O2!

    I wasn't using the PA or anything so had plenty of time before SHOWTIME to pop next door to The Tap And Tankard which was a dead nice Proper Pub for a Cheeky Half. Back at the venue people gently arrived, including several PALS, and then it was SHOWTIME ACTUAL. I'd had a good old THINK about what I was going to do - Penny had asked me to do a couple of songs as well as a reading, so I thought I'd tell the story of how the book came to be written and self-published too. THUS I kicked off with The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B) to get myself SETTLED before launching into the story of how I was commissioned to write my ROCK AUTOBIOGRAPHY, but then the chap who'd asked me to do it lost his job as a result. Next I did I Did A Gig In New York to illustrate the kind of stories that ended up being in My Exciting Life In ROCK, and then told the helpless audience how THAT ended up giving birth to Dinosaur Planet (with the theme tune played for illustrative purposes). THAT led on to doing the MA, and THAT led to the story of how I got an Agent then LOST an Agent, and how I decided to take the advice from a) The Clauses In My Contract and b) the song We Did It Anyway and self-publish. THEN I read a chapter out, and finished with It Only Works Because You're here, just because I like it!

    It all seemed to go all right - I always find it a bit difficult to JUDGE reaction when outside my usual environs, but people SMILED at some of my HILARIOUS GAGS, and nobody LEFT, so I think that's good. I enjoyed it anyway, ESPECIALLY doing the reading - last time I did something like this I just read the first chapter, which wasn't all THAT exciting and had rather too much about FILING in it, so this time I read the bit where (MILD SPOILERS) Shaun sees Trafalgar Square for the first time and Doug and Sir Hugo meet The Rrarrag. I would very much like to do it AGANE if anybody fancies having me!

    There was a short break and then we moved into another room where Stan Skinny had set up for his show "Captain 'The Butcher' Reality". It turned out to be a one-man show basically about WRESTLING - it was a work in progress but PRETTY GOOD, I think the main piece of feedback I would have given is that he needs to TELL people it is about Wrestling, as people go MAD for that sort of thing and I reckon he would get LOADS of WRESTLE MANIACS going if he did!

    And thus the evening came to a very jolly end, also an EARLY one, and I found myself back in My Usual Suite at the IBIS (which for some reason had been painted INDUSTRIAL GREY throughout, I'm not sure why) at 10:30pm, which lead to me having a LOVELY long kip before getting my train next morning. Their adverts at the moment say you can "Sleep Like A Rock Star" in their beds, maybe that's what they meant?

    posted 10/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Indie Daze
    On Saturday I headed over to Kentish Town and started the day by getting ENTIRELY FREAKED OUT!

    For LO! I was due to meet Mr Paul Myland in the pub next door to the Kentish Town Forum ready for our attendance at Indie Daze 4, and all-dayer featuring Indie Bands from Back In The Day. All sounds very NON-FREAKY, until you realise that the pub next door to the Kentish Town Forum is the recently refurbished BULL & GATE, site of MANY MANY GIGS for me. It has now been turned into a GASTRO PUB and so has been a) knocked through b) CLEANED.

    Being there again was UTTERLY WEIRD. The main bar area is pretty much the same, except with tables rather than booths, but the back bar and the live room are now all joined up too. The oddest thing is that the TRANSITIONARY TOILETS which you used to walk through to get to the venue have now GONE and there were people sitting there EATING THEIR LUNCH, seemingly unaware of how much CIDER and BASS and DREAMS had been passed away there over the years.

    Even walking up to the doors did my HEAD in, as all the many times I had gone there before to SEE gigs or to play them myself flashed through my BRANE. This was the place where I first met The Bands On My Bill! Where I first foisted a DEMO TAPE on Mr S Lamacq! Where I did my first LONDON gig! It says on the pub's website that they recognise their musical heritage by having a COCKTAIL PIANIST play upstairs on Sunday afternoons, but where is the BLUE PLAQUE for Jon Fat Beast eh? At least they had gone to the trouble of having CRAZYHEAD lurking outside, although by the time I'd got my pint they had GONE - they were playing next door as part of the all-dayer, so maybe they were just hanging around for that? If so: COME ON BULL & GATE, pull your finger out, at least employ some members of The Fighting Cocks to charge people to get in!

    Anyway, once Mr Myland arrived I calmed down a bit and we began our day in the manner in which we expected to carry it on i.e. by having a bit of a natter while I drank some LAGER and he drank SOFT DRINKS. He is doing Sober October and would be SORELY TEMPTED by the prospect of allowing alcoholic beverages to enter the temple of his body at various points of the day, but I am proud to say he RESISTED throughout!

    The original plan for the day had been that I would meet him in distant CHARLTON, where Posh were supposed to be playing that afternoon, but this had been thrown into disarray when it turned out that Charlton had three players called up for International Duty, so the match had to be postponed. This DID mean, however, that we got to see the last song by Salad (who turned out to feature TWO people I knew!) and Thousand Yard Stare, who were GRATE! I had heard of them way back in the late 1980s but had never consciously listened to any of their records. I'd done some REVISION in the week before the gig and had liked them a LOT but they were even better live - I especially liked the way the singer told everybody to be sure to PACE THEMSELVES throughout the day. GOOD ADVICE!

    So good was the advice that we TOOK it, going off for a bit of a wander and bumping into Mr P Golder, who I believe shared our intent never to knowingly watch any members of The Wonderstuff if we could help it (NB Miles *unt was on next). Mileage and I strolled down to Camden for a PINT (me) and SOFT DRINK (he), then went to line our stomachs at The Maharani before heading back to Kentish Town in time to catch the last song by Apollo 440. I am pleased to report that they, like most bands, did THEIR HIT last, and had apparently been BRILLIANT. I received this information from Mr D Barnett who we next bumped into. It's almost as if we were at an Indie All-Dayer or something!

    There was a definite JACKING UP of PRESTIGE for Voice Of The Beehive, who came on next - they had a ROADIE! Everyone else had been plugging themselves in, and we wondered whether maybe Woody From Madness (who was back on the drums) had bought his DRUM VALET with him? Anyway, they were Quite Good, although it must be said that THE HITS were SEVERAL times better than the NON-HITS. Having said that, I was surprised to find that they had one more hit than I realised, as I'd forgotten about "I Walk The Earth"!

    The final act were The House Of Love, who were the main reason we were there at all - we'd originally discovered the gig after talking in the pub about how GRATE they were - and, again, were Quite Good. They are not the CHATTIEST of bands, and it was funny to find that Terry Bickers, who is meant to be the KRAZY ROCKER, was VERY POLITE throughout, with Guy Chadwick not saying much at all. Most of the set was Pretty Good, but unfortunately for the rest of the setlist "Christine", "Shine On" and especially "Destroy The Heart" were SO VERY AMAZING that it put the other songs to shame. COR, they were dead good!

    We tottered out and off to the tube, where we went our seperate ways, though not for long. This weekend coming we meet again for even MORE gig ACTION as we're going to a church hall near Peterborough to see Richard Digance! He has a pretty high level of ROCK to live up to, but if anyone can do it I think Digance can!

    posted 9/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    His Exciting Life In ROCK
    Last night I was due to meet Mr S Hewitt to go to The Roundhouse to see Mr S Lamacq's show Going Deaf For A Living. However, the whole plan was put in DEADLY JEOPARDY before it even began, and could only be saved by a THRILLING CAR CHASE across The Midlands!

    For LO! Yesterday Steve was working in BROMSGROVE and MISSED the train he'd booked to get him back in time for the gig, so someone kindly offered to give him a lift to Birmingham International station where he could hop onto another train. It was a RACE AGAINST TIME that involved a lot of SQUEELING TYRES and LIGHTS JUMPED (so I imagine anyway) and ALMOST DEFINITELY a last minute LEAP over turnstiles to make the train, but he managed it and arrived at The Roundhouse with time to spare for a pre-show PINT.

    I got the tube there. It was fine.

    I was expecting the show to be about an hour long, because I expect ALL shows to be about an hour long, so was surprised to find it was a whole evening's worth of entertainment in two halves. Happily both halves were MORE than adequately filled, as Mr Lamacq has a WHOLE LOT of stories to tell! He'd done an early try out of BITS of the show almost exactly two years ago at Totally Acoustic but this was MUCH HONED. Back then he'd been doing it as a sort of STAND-UP set, but this was much more of a STORY, with him rolling through his career with ANECDOTES, THORTS, and occasional short musical interludes to illustrate a POINT.

    One of the most INTERESTING bits, to me at least, was finding out that his cousin had been in the Paralympic GB Basketball team, but there were LOADS of more music-related titbits, also JOKES. The only odd thing about it was that neither of us saw anyone we knew or even recognised - except for Jeremy Hardy in the bar afterwards, who I was DELIGHTED to overhear discussing PALESTINE, because that is EXACTLY what I would expect Jeremy Hardy to be talking about!

    We had a quick word with Mr Lamacq afterwards and told him it was GRATE (which it was) and strongly suggested that he take it to Edinburgh. He pointed out that that might not be ENTIRELY practical which, in the cold light of day, I have to accept is true, but hopefully he'll do it some more SOMEWHERE. If you get a chance to go and see it, I would HIGHLY recommend going, it was REALLY good!

    posted 6/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    AutonoBUS
    COR what a weekend it has been full of DYNAMIC DOMESTIC ACTION and also SONGS. It was my last weekend fully at home for AGES, so I made the most of it!

    Much of this ACTION was of LIMITED INTEREST to people who aren't me (e.g. having a FLU JAB and going and getting some new glasses sorted out - BY HECK they were expensive!!) but some were Pretty Darn Cool. For instance, I went and had a go on the AUTONOMOUS BUS which has been being TRIALLED in the Olympic Park for the past few weeks. The Wheels On My Bus went a little while ago and HIGHLY recommended it, and I must say I was SIMILARLY impressed. It was like being in a super-cool, also SUPER CUTE science fiction film, as a bunch of us trundled along and round corners, stopping whenever somebody walked in front of us, or indeed slightly too close. The only downside I could see to this AUTOMATION is that it required a security guard at the bus stop, a security guard ON the bus, and a Park Volunteer in it too, so there was not much room left for passengers. Otherwise, it was BRILLO!

    I also managed to do some ACTUAL SONGWRITING! Now we have a Validators PRACTICE coming up in a few weeks my BRANE has turned to THORTS of HITS, so I decided to finish off and record a couple of songs to send to the Vlads. As usual, I ended up spending most of Saturday afternoon writing an entirely NEW song as well, called "In The Pub, Talking Crap", which wandered off in some VERY unexpected directions. All THREE new songs are now with my colleagues, awaiting JUDGEMENT. Hopefully they will PASS and you, gentle reader, will get to hear them sometime!

    posted 2/10/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Local Celebrity
    One of the MANY things that all the "How To Promote Your eBook" articles I have been reading ALL say is that you need to use your "networks" to promote the aforesaid eBook. HENCE I have sent press releases and emails to various organisations I have belonged to (e.g. City University Alumni Society) and my old local newspaper. None of these have so far had ANY effect on sales, but still, it's worth a go!

    With that in mind The Facts In My Story suggested that I have a look to see if there's any STAFF NEWS at my current employers. I mean, obviously I KNEW ALREADY that there was because i diligently read it and definitely didn't have to GOOGLE it or anything, so I contacted them and they sent me a QUESTIONNAIRE to fill in so I could be in their weekly STAFF SPOTLIGHT.

    I thought this wouldn't be out until this Thursday, so imagine my surprise on Tuesday when one of my colleagues said she'd already seen it. "Your face is on the main staff page!" she said. I had a look and it certainly was, with a link to the actual interview into which I manage to casually SHOEHORN a mention of the book.

    Again, it doesn't seem to have had ANY effect on SALES as yet, but then the only thing that DOES seems to do that is making it FREE! The big shock is that nobody else in the office has mentioned it to me. It's almost as if nobody apart from the aforesaid colleague - and ME, obviously - reads the staff newsletter. That can't be right, can it?

    posted 29/9/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Acoustic Futures
    As well as the NEW COLLABORATIONS mentioned yesterday I am ALSO Moving Forward with my most VENERABLE group of collaborators, The Validators. For LO! We have been laying plans for our FUTURE ACTION!

    The advent of Tim's Giant Wooden Testicle (AKA The CAJON) and Frankie's purchase of an Acoustic Bass has meant that this year we have been able to do several Mostly Totally Acoustic gigs which has been, according to me, BRILLIANT. We have never really PRACTICED this way (I'm sure this has not been obvious from our performances!) and so we have arranged TWO (2) practices in this format, one in October and another in November so that - EXCITINGLY - we can have a go at working up some NEW SONGS this way!

    The GRATE thing about this CONFIGURATION is that we DON'T have to book into a Rehearsal Studio to do it. So we're NOT! For the October practice we're hoping to play in a PUB, not for frivolous reasons but for Good Professional Practice - as everybody knows, it is best to do EXAM REVISION in a library or suchlike because it is LIKE an Exam Hall, so your brain recalls FACTS more easily in the actual exam because it learnt them in a similar environment. THUS it must surely be ONLY LOGICAL to learn SONGS in a place/mental state similar to where you will be performing them i.e. in a pub, having had a couple of pints. It's just common sense!

    The current plan is to have the SECOND practice round at Frankie's house so we can RECORD it, possibly even recording this year's CHRISTMAS SONG too if we get the chance, all in preparation for a COLOSSAL GIG which we have yet to announce. I don't want to go into too many details about it, but suffice to say it is going to make OTHER Village Christmas Fayres in Leicestershire look PRETTY TAWDRY in comparison!

    So that's the plan - we've got a BUNCH of songs to have a go at, so who knows, there might even be some new stuff out next year!!

    posted 28/9/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    I Am Marr
    Most weeks I have a regular-ish LUNCH appointment with Mr J Dredge where we meet to discuss THORTS, come up with JOKES, and envisage BOLD NEW SCHEMES. The newest of these schemes is an idea John proposed a while ago to CO-WRITE a couple of SONGS. He suggested doing something like Morrissey and Marr, with me sending him some TUNES and then him coming up with some words. This sounded like fun, so we gave it a go.

    I have several spare tunes lying around, MOST of which were recorded on my phone on the way to work and go "La la diddly pom la something something-" and then it cuts out. HOWEVER there were a few bits and bobs that had ACTUAL GUITAR on them, so I worked a few up and sent them to John. He then worked out the vocal melody and words for one and used FRIGHTENING levels of futuristic technology to record it i.e. he played it Quite Loud on his computer and sang along with it into a recorder, which he then gave to me to listen to.

    It sounded DEAD GOOD - unlike anything I'd ever do myself, which was pretty much the POINT! We decided to do another and so he asked me to send him "the full song" for one of the other ideas I'd sent him. This was slightly tricky as there WASN'T a full song, it was just a RIFF basically, so I went home and tried to work out how a full arrangement might go. This is NOT how I usually write songs - the arrangement of verses, choruses and Middle Bits usually arise as a way of fitting in all the EARTH SHATTERING STATEMENTS I wish to make, so it was a bit of a BRANE STRETCH to do it JUST with the tunes, but also FUN, and the song we got out of it in the end was ALSO dead good.

    The next stage will be to record them, and so we have recruited Mr A Harland (aka Andy from the Dredgeland Podcats etc etc) to do DRUMS and we're planning to go to an Actual Studio to LAY THEM DOWN. After THAT the general idea is to do VIDOES and John has various PLANS of ways to promote it. I think it's going to be under the name of DREDGE, possibly with a backing band called The Plinths, but that is all to be worked out. We DID have a PHOTO SESSION the other day with me taking pictures of John in ROCK STAR POSES on my phone though, which was rather jolly. I am investigating options to become a ROCK PHOTOGRAPHER on tour with Thin Lizzy even as we speak!

    We're currently trying to work out DATES for the above mentioned recording session, and then it will be HO! for the Studio. I will report back on PROGRESS!

    posted 27/9/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Writing Progress
    I reached something of a MILESTONE on Friday, as I completed the second draft of the OUTLINE for "The Utopians", the sequel to Storm House.

    The idea of doing an OUTLINE is that you can work out the mechanics of the plot BEFORE you go and do all the exciting dialogue/character/funny bits, as it is a LOT easier to fix any errors that way than it would be when you have already written 10,000 words of HILARIOUS INTERACTIONS that you then have to entirely re-do. It is a methodology what was enforced upon me by Mr A Cartmel when he was my MENTOR on my MA course, and it is a GRATE way of going about it, not least because by the time you finally FINISH all the plotting you are FULL of ideas and GAGGING to get going on the fun bits!

    With this story I was very grateful to him all over again, as the ending is QUITE COMPLICATED and thus required a LOT of working out. Hopefully it won't seem too complicated way when people eventually read it, but it has quite a lot of different characters doing different things in different places at the same time, and it's quite difficult to keep track of them all! ALSO I have three seperate Quite Interesting Backstories that all come to a SIMULTANEOUS CLIMAX, and I am very aware that, if I'm not careful, it could all become a lengthy exercise in Characters Explaining Things To Each Other.

    I think I've got it all worked out now though - it was RATHER exciting when I was writing the last bit as various LOOSE PLOTS from earlier on in the story put their hands up and said "OOH! PLEASE! Can I be involved in THE FINALE please?" and also I got to DESTROY huge chunks of Peterborough City Centre. The plan is to LEAVE it all for a week or so, then go back and do a THIRD draft of the whole thing, checking for the above mentioned ERRORS and making sure it all makes some kind of vague sense. Then, hopefully sometime before Christmas, I can begin with the Actual Writing!

    In the meantime, and as mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I've been working hard on the SHORT STORIES. I've now got THREE (3) pretty much finished, with ideas for another two underway, and it's really rather good fun. I must admit that the shadow of THARG THE MIGHTY does hang over a couple of them but I reckon that, like songs, the best bet is to write SEVERAL and then see which ones actually work. It's also nice to ALTERNATE between the PLANNING of THE NOVEL and the much easier KNOCKING UP of short stories!

    I'm going to have a go at sending some of the good ones in for COMPETITIONS and the like, and then hopefully publishing them either on my writing pages or - WHO KNOWS - maybe even as a short story collection. Don't hold your breath though - if the ANALOGY of short stories as songs HOLDS then it will be approx THREE YEARS until the "album" is finished!

    posted 26/9/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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