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

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

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

MJ Hibbett & The Validators - Twenty Golden GRATES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

posted 24/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Bit Of Cornish Summer
After our trip to Sheffield on Thursday, Good Friday found myself and The Lines In My Network heading for CORNWALL. This may seem like an excellent use of the long bank holiday weekend (spoilers: IT WAS) but it did involve a certain amount of PANIC, as Good Friday is THE VERY BUSIEST day in ALL of the travelling calendar.

We knew what to expect well in advance - all of the cheap tickets had LONG gone, and when we'd tried to at least reserve seats in Standard Class we'd found that it was FULL, so came up with a PLAN. When we arrived we cunningly HACKED into the system to work out which platform our train would come in on (i.e. looked at which platforms had trains on but no destination yet, then cross-checked this with where they'd arrived from) and then casually went and stood near the gates. It seems that we were not the only H4X0Rs in the station as quite a crowd developed, all panting for SEATS. Things got tense/exciting as people got OFF the train, and as soon as the gates were opened (painfully slowly, one by one) for people getting ON we all RAN - RAN! - for the train! Our team went STRAIGHT for First Class where we knew a) there were SOME unreserved seats and b) Weekend Upgrades were in operation (i.e. you pay a bit extra for a First Class SEAT). We managed to NAB a two-er and watched as the carriage filled up, and then got FULLER, all around us, with people STANDING and LEANING on tables all the way to Exeter. MAN we were glad to get sat down, and even more glad that the RAMMED train meant that nobody could get down the corridors to ask us to pay an upgrade fee. WINZ!

The weekend itself was DELIGHTFUL, as we met with PARENTS and did what we always do when we go down to see them i.e. went straight to the pub on the first day, and on the second went for a WALK and then a CURRY. It's a system that works VERY WELL. We also had Family Christmas, which involved quite a lot of WHISKY and then everyone feeling Mysteriously Unwell the next day.

We had our big walk this time on Crantock beach which is HUGE and GORGEOUS. The Toes On My Foot suggested de-shoeing so we had a PADDLE and a SQUIDGE through the amazing SAND. It was an idyllic day made even more so by a stop-off in The Hevlas Licensed Tea Gardens, where we had CAKE and BEER in the sudden glorious sunshine while one of the owners played his guitar and birds sang along. It was bloody lovely!

Having gone out on the busiest travel day of the year we came back on Easter Sunday, which is apparently the quietest, and the train was NOTICEABLY calmer, which meant that we DID get charged for the upgrade but didn't mind - we were in such a good mood, in fact, that we didn't even getting DETRAINED at Reading and being put onto a MUCH slower service instead did not harsh our VIBE. I suggest The Mayor Of LONDON take a leaf out of Cornwall's book and bring in sunshine, beer, whisky and CAKE for everyone, it would make the tube MUCH more relaxed!

posted 21/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Sheffield sans ROCK
The start of my Easter Break last week found me doing something DEEPLY WEIRD: I went to Sheffield WITHOUT my guitar!

It felt STRANGE all the way there, knowing I was heading to somewhere which has so often felt the power of my ROCK but this time lacking the TOOL of its allocation. Myself and The Knives In My Cutlery Drawer were heading that way to see The Landlady, who has moved NORTH and bought a house. She came and met us off the train and then we walked back over the station where ANOTHER common event became WEIRD - we got on The Supertram, as I have so many times, but went in the OPPOSITE direction to usual! My very being screamed out in PANIC as we headed AWAY from the centre of town, but I soon relaxed into a highly pleasant assisted trundle out to Gleadless Valley where she is now situated. There turns out to be a lot more Sheffield than just the bit in the middle with PUBS and Universities - who knew?

We had a good look around the new house, ate an M&S PICNIC, and then set off for a WALK. As anyone who lives, has lived,or has just BEEN in Sheffield will tell you, it is surrounded by Beautiful Countryside, but it also appears to have a fair bit of Picturesque Landscape stored within it, as we walked back down from the suburbs via ANCIENT WOODLAND. You could tell is was Ancient Woodland because there were Wood Anenomes everywhere don't you know, it is a SIGN.

It was GORGEOUS, with old trees, looming hills and trickling streams, so it felt ODD to emerge into 60s housing estates, especially such UNUSUAL ones - instead of building huge blocks stacked on top of each other the architects of this one had gone for blocks of FOUR houses, one on each corner, scattered around a field. I've not seen anything like it before, it was like being in a SCI-FI film, although not necessarily a particularly SCARY one!

We got the bus back into town, where The Landlady's stories of her adventures in her new town were gradually taken over by MY stories of adventures in the same. We nipped into the Cathedral for a quick NOSEY and then headed to The Blue Moon Cafe where I DELIGHTED everyone by going on about all the places in Sheffield what I have done gigs (including the cafe itself). It's a LOVELY veggie cafe, where we had some ACE grub, much as I had done when I played there that time - did I tell you about all the places in Sheffield I have done gigs?

And then it was time to head home (via The Sheffield Tap OBVS - some things you HAVE to do) with our first trip of The Easter Break completed successfully. As I say, it felt WEIRD not to have done a gig, but I think Sheffield rose to the occasion magnificently - next time though, I'm bringing the AXE!

posted 20/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Photo Shoot
On Sunday I staggered round to Tottenham to visit The Hewitts. I say "staggered" because I was returning Steve's TENT what he had kindly loaned me last summer - I had originally planned to use it for the Towersey Festival but had then noticed that Travelodge's NATIONAL OFFICE was about 15 minutes walk from the site (and had a hotel attached too) so stayed there instead. Sensible!

The tent returnage was not my main purpose, however. Last week I started filling in our info for when we do Still Valid at the Camden Fringe, and realised that we didn't really have any appropriate pictures. We couldn't really use the ones we'd had for previous shows as a) most of them featured props etc from those shows and b) Steve now has a VOLUMINOUS beard, so we decided to capture his hirsute magnificence in a new SHOOT. This entailed a thoroughly enjoyable ten minutes of Meg snapping away taking pictures whilst her husband and I pulled faces and mucked about. We got some pretty good photographs in the end, with THIS one being my choice for the Camden booklet:



I reckon any sane person would go and see that show based PURELY on the picture!

We also discussed a RANGE of vital issues including NOT doing The Buxton Fringe (the place we were supposed to be playing let us down last week, and everywhere else is now booked up), possible other places to play, and BEER, with Steve very kindly giving me a carrier bag FULL of it (contained within bottles, fear not).

All in all it was a very successful SESSION, which will hopefully make it PEASY to provide publicity stuff for the next year or so of shows. I just have to hope that Steve doesn't SHAVE!

posted 11/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Flag Fen
Saturday found The Dates In My Diary and I heading to Peterborough to visit PARENTS and go for an OUTING. The train was Quite Full on the way there but everyone was quite jolly (probably due to the GORGEOUS weather) except for one Strange Man who got on around Stevenage. As he struggled along the aisle the pleasant older lady sat on the seats next to us said "I've got a spare seat here!" He turned and said "I'm with my WIFE!" as if she'd just propositioned him. It was most odd and I mention it here because i keep thinking about he overall WEIRDNESS of such a statement - he was only in his twenties, so maybe he was PROUD of being married, but if so why would he not take the seat for his BRIDE? It was a PUZZLE!

Anyway, we got to Peterborough and found, outside the station, an amazing TACTILE MAP that showed where everything was on the station in GRATE detail, with raise BUMPS to show the different areas AND braille. It was FAB - look!



We met The Parents and headed out to Flag Fen, which is apparently one of the most important archeological sites in all of Europe. It's been open since 1982 but of course, like all native Peterborians, NONE of us had ever been to it. My little brother has, but that was for a school trip so doesn't count. When we arrived we found it VERY quiet, with hardly any other visitors except for a few families, almost all of whom turned out to be of Eastern European origin. The proud tradition of people from Peterborough not going to look at things remains!

I tell you what though, my fellow Potato Heads are missing out - Flag Fen is BLOODY GRATE! It's basically a field with some buildings and LAKES, under which runs a prehistoric wooden CAUSEWAY which appears to have perhaps joined maybe two communities: as ever with archeology they're not sure exactly what it was for, but AS USUAL they reckon that at least part of it had "religious significance." It always makes I LARF when i see this - "religious significance" is Archeology Speak for "we haven't got a cluewhat it was for." I look forward, in the space year 5017AD, to archeologists saying "These ancient Britons would carefully place Biro pens beneath their furniture as offerings to the great god 'Telly' what they worshipped in private household rituals which held Immense Religious Significance." Yes, I am RIGHT looking forward to that.

Anyway, we were greeted at the entrance by a Very Knowledgeable Young Man who told us A LOT of things about the site. As The Facts In My Pamphlet said, it is GRATE when you talk to volunteers like this who are SUPER KEEN on the thing they work at and are eager to share their MIGHTY BRANES. He was quite excited about the LOT of it, which made US excited too!

As part of the general prehistoric VIBE they have a flock of Bronze Age SHEEP on site who seem to spend their whole time RUNNING around as fast as they possibly can saying "Mair". There were lots of lambs amongst them so it was DELIGHTFUL, especially at one point when we stepped into a building to look at the actual causeway. From outside we could hear what sounded like a bunch of schoolchildren saying "Mair" repeatedly. It got louder and louder and then a STORM of SHEEP ran by, in order of size from biggest to baby. The "Mair"s faded away and then came back two minutes later as they thundered past in the opposite direction, like a large family lost in an airport with a connection to make. Maybe "Mair" is SHEEP for "I told you we should have turned left at the John Menzies"!



The main exhibit was the causeway itself. There's a special building built over one section so you can go in and see it - it doesn't look like much, to be honest, just some rotten wood being constantly SPRAYED to keep it from disintegrating, but the idea of it is AMAZING - it was ENORMOUS! The rest of it is buried underneath the ground and also a LAKE, which had another building floating (sort of) in it where you could see the oldest wheel in Britain. They had pre-empted every middle-aged man who ever visits by putting a notice next to it that says it is "wheely old". Curses!

Another building contained some ANCIENT BOATS that they dug up out of an old river. The boats are Quite Interesting but the best thing about them are the NAMES.



Our party disagreed about which were the best - some went for "French Albert The 5th Museketeer", others preferred "Alan", but we all agreed that we'd be interested in finding out WHY they were thus named. We also saw a reconstruction of an Ancient Droveway (i.e. path that they herded sheep along), a HUGE nest with a swan sat on top of it, a display about Britain's Pompeii, a reconstruction of a Bronze Age roundhouse and TONNES more. It was EXCELLENT - if you're in the area I would HIGHLY recommend a visit, even if you're originally FROM Peterborough!

posted 10/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Spring Into Totally Acoustic
Last night found me back in one of my favourite places in London Town, The King & Queen, there for my monthly dose of ROCK ACTION i.e. Totally Acoustic. It was a GORGEOUS evening as I strolled round, light and sunny with all the pubs thronged on the outside with happy drinkers and so delightfully cool and half-empty within.

Ms H McCookerybook, one of the night's acts and all-round LEGEND, arrived not long after me, and we had the traditional chat of People Who've Been Doing This A While i.e. "Daft gigs I have done". Mr J Rosies, other act, arrived soon after, and I was amazed to find out that he used to live in The Olympic Village like what I do (but don't like to go on about). WEIRDLY the original THIRD act of the evening, Mr RG Saull (who'd ended up not being able to make it) used to live two floors up from me, ALSO in The Olympic village (which I rarely mention). What are the chances eh? What are the chances?

Our audience gradually arrived, and I was DELIGHTED to find that, for the first time ever, it was nearly ALL made up of REGULARS. This made it a bit strange for me doing the introduction, as almost everybody in the room had been before so knew full well what was going to happen, but otherwise it made it feel like a spontaneous gathering of CHUMS!

It also meant that the songsheets weren't really required for the theme tune, as most people knew it already! Once that was all sorted out it was time for ME to get things going, and I did this with a couple of songs I've not played live for AGES. The other day we listened to Say It With Words at home and I'd remembered how much I used to like Stop Look and Listen because the lyrics (I used to think) were DEAD CLEVER in their construction, so I did THAT. It seemed to go all right - I looked on the gigs list for that song later and was AWESTRUCK to discover it's SEVENTEEN YEARS since I last did it live!! I'm sure I've done it a little bit more recently, at least during the Validators gigs at the turn of the century, but I've been recording setlists for a good DECADE so it's definitely been a while. My other song, Only A Robot was last played five years ago, during the many performances of Moon Horse. I'd listened to that in the past week or so too (I think I'd been singing it to myself, so had looked it up) and rather liked it, although it very much missed the KAZOO SOLO and background messing about that was usually supplied by Mr S Hewitt.

With that done it was on to our main acts, who were GRATE. Jack Rosies, like Matt Shephard from a couple of months ago, is one of those extremely personable young singer songwriters you get these days, with their songs and ability to sing and stage presence - it must be a new innovation, we didn't used to have them when I was starting out! He was lovely, with a GRATE line in between-song REMARKS and a bunch of tunes that I found myself singing to myself as I headed down to the bar afterwards.

The second half of the evening was a FAB set by Helen McCookerybook. I've gigged with her, I think, twice before - once in Sheffield and once in Brighton, YEARS ago and years apart and yet, as soon as she started, I recognised the songs. She has a similar sort of JAZZY playing style as Mr I Game, also from a couple of months ago, though my idea of "jazzy" is probably different from other people's! She was wonderful, the only downside being that it she was so ENTHRALLING and GRATE that she appeared to only be on for five minutes!

I'm listening to the recording as I type this, and have high hopes of it being a BRILL podcast - as ever it'll be over on the Totally Acoustic podcasts page, which has a WEALTH of amazing sets. If you've not listened lately, or indeed ever, pop over and have a go, I guarantee you will find some BLOODY BRILLIANT stuff there!

posted 7/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Guided Bus
Tuesday found me in bucolic CAMBRIDGE for Work Reasons. The work reasons need not unduly concern us here - we were there to look at a new way of setting up our databases and forms, which was a) Quite Good and b) JUST (but only just) within the realms of my understanding - but what DOES concern us is the GUIDED BUSWAY!

The Guided Busway is a length of CONCRETE TRACKS designed JUST for buses to go down. The bit I travelled on between the railway station and Addenbrooke's Hospital is an old train track that has been converted into two pathways with concrete sides and another length of concrete down the middle, sort of like a track for wheels. The idea is that the bus can drive along normal roads quite happily, but then when it gets onto the busway little extra wheels attach to the side of the normal wheels (or maybe they're there already, I was too excited to check) which then touch against the concrete sides and steer the bus, so that the driver can (if they wish) wave their hands in the air like they just don't care. NB This is definitely what I would do, as it ALSO means that the bus can go REALLY FAST without fear of hindrance from other vehicles or pedestrians, as the track runs beside a FENCE so nobody ever has any reason to cross in front of it.

I'd read about it before we went, largely because people I know in Cambridge had tweeted pictures of what happens when idiots try to drive their cars along it (they get their exhausts knocked off and crash almost straight away). This RESEARCH however did not prepare me for the THRILL RIDE of ZOOMING along on it while jiggling from side to side as the bus steered itself. It was brilliant! Apparently local train enthusiasts had campaigned against it as they wanted the TRANE to come back, but I say unto them GUYS! have a go on the guided bus instead! It is GRATE!

The rest of the day was, as I say, all well and good, but the only thing that compared to riding the Busway there was... well, it was riding the Busway BACK again! MAN ALIVE! It is one HECK of a thing - they should make it a TOURIST ATTRACTION, it is approx 10,000 times more exciting than looking at a posh people's polytechnic!

posted 5/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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64bits Exhibition
I didn't have much KIP on Saturday night - as previously stated I was FULL of FOOD, but also I was in Nottingham where the shouting in the streets goes on until 4am and the church bells start ringing not long after! Thus it was a slightly bleary eyed Hibbett who arrived back in London on Sunday lunchtime, having spent the morning reading comics featuring Doctor Doom on the TRANE (me, not him). Doctor Doom isn't a nice man, it turns out - who knew?

My day perked up significantly that afternoon when The Features Of My Locality and I went out for an ADVENTURE in E20. We've had lots of flyers and emails about a Cheese & Wine Festival happening in Victory Park (the central area of East Village, where we live - did I mention that we live in THE OLYMPICS? Did I?) so we went for a look. Previous events have featured a few stalls and people vaguely wandering between them, but this one was VAST. Maybe it was because it felt like SUMMER had come slightly early, or maybe it was because THIS event featured BOOZE, but there were HUNDREDS of people there, queuing up for BOOZE and FOOD and/or lounging around on the grass. Say what you like about THE BRITISH, but you can never say we do not make the most of even the tiniest GLIMPSE of sunshine!

It was all very jolly, though as ever I GOGGLED at the idea of people queuing for food in areas where food vendors are plentiful. I see the same thing when I go into Soho - there's always LENGTHY queues of people basically spending their entire lunch hour waiting to get a sandwich from a particular shop, when there are LITERALLY HUNDREDS of other places within a 60 second walk where they could get served immediately. The People In My Line reckons that they must ENJOY it somehow, and that being SEEN to be willing to wait for The Cool Foodstuff is now GROOVY amongst the YOUTH. It seems daft to me, but then I guess that is how it's supposed to be. Anyway, we went to Ginger And Mint instead and had VEGAN CURRY PIE which was BLOODY BRILLIANT. We even got to sit outside, where we had a great vantage point for watching young people queuing and NOT eating. HA! Take that, young idiots!

That done we strolled across the Olympic Park (which is where I live, in case you didn't know) to Here East to see an exhibition called 64 bits about the history of the early internet. It was VERY MUCH within my range of interests, and was DEAD INTERESTING. It was in a VAST space which had boxes spread out across the floor each with an old computer on it showing an old webpage, often surrounded by people COOOING with delight. As the exhibition said, lots of the original websites are now LOST, never backed-up (because why would you, then?) and overwritten/replaced over time. Also, as Steve and I found whenever we were at The Centre For Computing History, there is something WONDERFUL about seeing old computer hardware again. We spend YEARS of our lives interacting with these things and then just chuck them away when something new comes along, so when you see them again it always comes as a SURPRISE how emotional it is.

The BEST things about the exhibition were some large prints by Eboy which, as above, I hadn't seen for YEARS, some ASCII art, and that vector game thingy where you draw lines together, put muscles on them, and try and create moving creatures. I cannot for the LIFE of me remember what it was called - at the exhibition I nearly took a photo to remind me, then thought "No no, I'll remember!" - but it was BRILLIANT to see it again. Back in the late 90s I spent entire DAYS sitting BORED at my desk at Leicester University trying to make a line creature that could totter across the screen. As noted above, I cannot now remember NOUNS for more than 20 seconds, but I could remember exactly how to work the interface on this thing. It was gorgeous!

I only had two complaints really. One was MINOR, in that approx 25% of the exhibits weren't working, but I guess that was pretty realistic for the time they were talking about. The other was that there was rather a concentration on Advertising Agencies and the annoying Flash websites they kept creating. MY memory of the time is that the exciting and FUN stuff was being doing by KRAZY LOONS off their own back, creating amazing things which the aforesaid agencies would NICK for their own use. Also, those flash sites were BLOODY ANNOYING because they only ever worked if you were in the same building as the server where they lived. Trying to access them online was IMPOSSIBLE, even if, like me, you had access to super fast JANET bandwidth. More things like the HAMPSTER DANCE (which was there, and looked LOVELY) would have been a clearer representation, I feel.

All in all though it was a FAB exhibition and I didn't even mind that there was no mention of the first free download single or even early viral videos.

Well, maybe I did a TINY bit, but it was GRATE other than that - go see it if you can!

posted 4/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Tying The Knot In Notts
On Saturday I was in Nottingham, there for the wedding of Mr & Mrs A & L Handcock Hale. I wasbooked in at the Ibis, where there have been some CHANGES i.e. they don't have a check-in desk anymore, just some people in t-shirts hanging around in the lobby. Banks have done this too, and it seems a bit mad to me. Surely having a DESK means you know where to go, staff can keep all their info to hand and, BY CRIKEY, you can have a proper QUEUE. I expect this to be TOP of the list of things that get sorted out post-Brexit, along with 5 billion quid a minute extra for the NHS and a land invasion of Majorca.

Anyway, apart from that everything else was very much the same as ever. I was allocated My Usual Suite, desposited my bags, and then headed out across town to the reception venue. It was at The Canal House, which I only needed three goes to find (including one attempt where I could SEE it, but could not cross a WATERWAY to get to it!), and eventually got in to find THE GROOM looking happy if BAMBOOZLED by all the EVENTS he had undertaken over the previous 24 hours: pretty STANDARD for the occasion, I reckon!

What followed was a DELIGHTFUL evening that, for me, was a sort of mini-Indietracks with everyone dressed up POSH. There was a TONNE of lovely people there to chat to, also some GRATE bands - they'd booked the fantastic a) Thyme Machine b) Simon Love & The Old Romantics to play, although these were BOTH slightly overshadowed by the activities of The Best Men, a BESPOKE band featuring Alex singing COVERS. It was a glimpse into a future where we have all bowed to sense and formed covers bands - every time anybody in an indie band DOES something like this it is always AMAZING, it's a wonder what you can do when you (and the audience) know the songs already!

Other exciting events included myself and Mr R Kirkham persuading Mr K Foster to play at this year's Hibbettfest (we used the cunning tactic of ASKING him), Mr S Love showing us one of the NEW One Pound Coins (he had sourced it via the cunning tactic of getting it in his CHANGE) and, best of all, the VAST buffet. When it was being put out I saw signs saying "Vegetarian" and "Vegan" and thought "Aha! Those are the sections I shall aim for" but did not realise until later that EVERYTHING was either V or Vg! HECKERS KNECKERS but I stuffed my face full of food... and then had to do it all again when the desserts came out. When I eventually staggered back to my hotel room I was FLIPPING STUFFED, I kept rolling off the bed so ROUND had I become!

It was, all told, a flipping LOVELY evening for a DELIGHTFUL couple - well done everybody, well done INDEED!

posted 3/4/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Aspects Of Daftness
After work yesterday I set off for distant Islington, there to meet Ms S Jenkins at the Almeida Theatre cafe for a CUPPA. One of the things that never fails to DELIGHT me about That London is the way that VERY different neighbourhoods can sit RIGHT next to each other, in this case the, frankly, stinky bit around Highbury & Islington tube station which suddenly turns into Super Swanky Proper Islington. Super Swanky Proper Islington is JUST like you would expect it to be, with fancy people swanning around, gluten free bakeries on every corner and ANTIQUE shops hither and thither. It is, to be honest, Quite Nice.

Steph was at the theatre to see a PLAY - Hamlet Starring Him Out Of Sherlock (The Baddie). It was, apparently, FOUR HOURS long. Four hours! My ideal length of play is 50 minutes pretending to be 60, and even though it had TWO (2) intervals I still think it would be a bit much. Four hours! Surely one's arse would go numb and never come back!

While we were chatting my phone rang. "Private Number", it said. I've had a couple of these this week and have been ignoring them, but my PHONE SENSE was tingling this time. What if it was something important? I picked it up and was SO GLAD that I did, for LO! it was The Passport Office. A couple of weeks ago I realised I'd LOST my passport and, after two days of PANICKED SEARCHING, accepted the inevitable and applied for a new one. This involved getting a picture taken (at a machine that kept saying "THIS IS NOT A VALID PASSPORT PHOTO" no matter WOT I did - maybe it was a BREXITEER?) and hassling old pal Mr S Wilkinson to sign my form for me - I told him that this was the moment his entire CAREER had been building to, that he was now considered A Responsible Member Of Society - and ever since sending everything off I had been AFEARED that something somewhere would go wrong, meaning I wouldn't get my new passport in time to go on HOLIDAYS. THUS a chill ran through my veins - was something AMISS?

Something WAS - the idiot who filled in the form had somehow managed to get his own Date Of Birth WRONG! In my defence, I spend large parts of the day looking at NUMBERS so may well have got confused, OR perhaps my "6" for June just looks very similar to an INCORRECT "5" for May, but either way they were very nice about it. I suppose they deal with this sort of thing all the time, but still, Her Majesty's Passport Office now sits alongside The Trademark Office as my FAVOURITE government agency for phone calls!

When the announcement came for SHOWTIME I headed off for the tube. On the way there I had seen an EXCELLENT Train Loonie - he had not only a PLACARD but also a SHINY HAT and was SINGING loudly, really raising the game for Train Loonies everywhere - so felt slightly CHEATED that all I saw this time, after disembarking at Kings Cross, was a man dressed up as a Christmas Fairy. He was VERY pleased with himself, but nobody paid him much heed, as we were heading to Central St Martins, where the Art Students live. He wasn't even in the top ten most daftly dressed people.

Alas, when I arrived, I faced further self-inflicted foolishness, as the Library was CLOSED. I do WORK for a University still, but am so far divorced from TEACHING that I had no idea we were now into student holiday time, which meant that much shortened HOURS were in effect. I slinked away, past an Private View for POTTERY, hoping nobody would see my THWARTED SWATTINESS. Denied access to a library book! I didn't know if this was TOTALLY PUNK or the OPPOSITE!

posted 31/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Pubs Are GRATE!
I've been back working in the centre of London Town for nearly six months now but my DELIGHT in it has yet to dim, especially on nights like last night when it meant I could leave work and, ten minutes later, be in The King & Queen!

I was there to meet my old chum Mr S Wilkinson, but on the way I bumped into another, newer, chum: Mr Ivor Game. Amazingly he was on his way to the same place, to take part in a night of music and poetry upstairs - there ALWAYS seems to be something going on upstairs at The King & Queen, all it needs is a hand-typed and badly photocopied piece of A5 with gig listings on it and it would be like The Magazine Hotel Leicester circa 1993!

Ivor said he was thinking about hiring a PR company to help him with his next release, and I related my DREADFUL experience with the one I hired to promote Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez all those years ago. On further investigation it turned out that he'd been in touch with THE VERY SAME PR company that I'd used, and so I was UTTERLY DELIGHTED to be able to give him the full details and advise NOT using them. It was MOST satisfying!

Ivor went upstairs to do his SHOW and Simon turned up for some PINTS and DISCUSSION on what was and wasn't wrong with The World Today, differing only on the subject of whether or not Weatherspoons pubs are "all right" (NB they're not). We also got to re-do "Shop Cop", an ongoing SKIT what we used to do 100,000 years ago in Leicester when we co-hosted The Casbah, a monthly student comedy club which ALSO saw the debut of VOON. I'd been reminded of it while talking to Mr John Dredge the other day, and was delighted to find that between us we remembered the whole thing.

A very pleasant evening was topped off by an offer to CHOOSE BEERS for the Totally Acoustic all-dayer that's taking place in August. "If you're going to be here all day I might as well get some beers on that you'll like", said CJ when I went to the bar. My eyes did that thing that Cartoon Characters do when they think of CA$H except instead of DOLLAR SIGNS it was PINTS that flashed by! This is going to be GRATE!

posted 30/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Sticking It To The Man
I had the afternoon off on Monday to go to a DEMO, for LO! there was a debate in the House Of Commons about the Badger Cull and so The Words On My Placard and I were there to support The Badger Army.

It felt weird coming out of Westminster Tube, into a scene which had been all over the news the week before. As I walked around Parliament I saw policemen going about their business and tourists being tourist-y, and then I saw all the flowers laid out in front and attached to the railings. It was all suddenly very moving and real, that something awful had happened here just a few days ago, to people just like all of us, here for all our various reasons in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

Like everybody else I carried on, literally, in fact, carrying along downn the road and soon found myself at the demo where The Members Of My Crowd had been given a LAB COAT to wear and a placard to hold. The lab coat was part of the plan to draw attention to the Scientific FACTS around the Badger Cull i.e. that there is absolutely completely no evidence WHATSOEVER that Badgers are carrying Bovine TB to cattle. The actual truth of the matter is that David Cameron brought in the cull as a way to allow gits to murder badgers, EITHER because some farmers think they're a "pest", OR to allow easier planning permission for HS2, OR just because some people enjoying killing animals, depending on who you believe. Whatever the reason, it's a total pile of bollocks which results in the cruel deaths of animals that are meant to be protected.

We stood around for a bit and then there were SPEECHES, during which we discovered that Bovine TB may not have been found in badgers (they're not actually TESTING the badgers they kill for some reason, almost as if that's not why they're doing it...) but HAS been found in Hunting Hounds! So, the people who are most keen on killing animals are CAUSING the disease they're using as an excuse for doing it! Worst still, this has been the case for DECADES, but has apparently been covered up - we stood AGOG, taking in this news!

After the speeches we were told there'd be half an hour or so break and then some more speeches. This, I thought, would coincide with the debate in parliament which was due to start at half past four. Time passed, however, and nothing much happened - the lab coats and placards were collected up, people drifted away, but of speaking there was none. At about half past five someone started up a chant of "Save our badgers - stop the cull!" which everyone joined in with for about fifteen minutes, until some of the (very friendly otherwise) police came over to ask us to stop, as there'd been a complaint from over the road. There were about six loudspeaker things being used, so it was quite loud, but The Voices In My Chorus suggested that maybe this was just part of the process. The demo makes a right old racket for fifteen minutes, the police come over and give us a reason to stop, and everyone can go home happy.

It was a perfectly reasonable plan, spoilt slightly by an "anarchist" who took this as his cue to stick it to the man by continuing with the shouting. When asked to stop he looked all innoccent, waited two minutes, then started blowing a HORN. SIGHS all round were heard as the policeman dutifully plodded over to ask him to stop - it was a bit of entirely unnecessary dickheadery which resulted in a KERFUFFLE which was SOMEWHAT undermined by the self same Anarchist leaving five minutes later because "I've got a train to catch".

Or maybe that was just another part of The Traditional Process that I was unaware of?

Anyway, we stood around a bit longer until the organiser said that that was the end and we could go home now. As ever with these events I found it slightly infuriating, also PUZZLING - if someone has the wherewithal to ORGANISE a demo like this, with all the police negotiations and booking of locations, PA systems and speakers, why do they always allow it to drift off into complete disarray on the day itself? The only time I've ever been to ANY demo that was properly organised all the way through and DIDN'T end with everyone standing around going "Is that it? Can we go home now?" was another badger demo a few years ago when BRIAN MAY came and talked. It was almost as if everyone thought "Crikey, Brian May is coming, we'd better make sure it all goes properly!" That one finished EARLY!

Still, it was good to be there and make our point - with all the utter nonsense about flipping Brexit going on, and all the unutterable crap that will be filling up the news for the next two years about it, it's important to make sure the Tories don't get completely away with everything unchallenged!

posted 29/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Trip Completed
This Saturday, The Sights On My Excursion and I headed way out West to Hampstead Heath, to finish off a trip we'd begun way back in October. On that occasion we'd had a big walk and then gone to Kenwood House to look at some ART, but we'd only ended up looking at the ground floor of the museum. We'd promised ourselves that we'd go back another time to see the upper floor, and so that is what we set out to do.

On the way there we passed through Mirabelle Gardens, a small park near chez nous, and heard a BURD singing in one of the trees. In the past couple of years I have realised that if you HEAR a bird singing nearby then there must BE a bird singing nearby, and if you look you can usually see it. I know this sounds BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS but it's been a bit of a revelation to me, as I've realised that there's all SORTS of birds all over the place. This time we stopped and looked and were astonished to see a GOLDFINCH. Apparently these are super common but I've never seen one before, so we stood AGOG. Later on that day, on Hampstead Heath, we saw a GREEN WOODPECKER, something else I'd never seen before. "I wonder how many birds I COULD see," I wondered to myself, "perhaps noting them down in a book when I have seen - or 'spotted' - them?" Luckily I realised what I was thinking before I had gone too far - I do NOT need another hobby right now!

Hampstead Heath is an AMAZING place to stomp through, it's like a wallop of countryside dumped in London, with all sorts of different parts all over the place so that (as happens most times we go there) we managed to get LOST. We eventually found Kenwood House where we DID go upstairs and saw The Miniature Room - lots of tiny portraits, including one that looked like a HOLOGRAM, also jewellery and BUCKLES - and then The Suffolk Collection, which is a room full of ancient paintings of posh people. It was Quite Good but didn't GRAB me in quite the same way as Paolozzi the other week, which probably definitely means I am SUPER MODERN.

And that was IT! It turns out the upstairs has SIGNIFICANTLY less things to look at than the downstairs so we were able to wander out and stomp back across the heath for our meeting with a woodpecker. It was a RUDDY DELIGHTFUL way to spend an afternoon and it only cost us a few quid each for the TRANE too. Sometimes That London can be pretty flipping GRATE!

posted 28/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Socks And Cocktails
Thursday night found me out and about in downtown ISLINGTON, where I was due to meet Mr S Hewitt. It seems weird these days when I enter a pub and DON'T see him sat at a table glaring at his phone with a half drunk pint in front of him. This occasion was NOT a weird one!

As other people arrived I went to get some drinks and ended up waiting TWENTY FLIPPING MINUTES as it was one of those pubs that a) serve cocktails but b) do not seem to train their staff how to do it and c) have only one person on at a time, so it took FOREVER or, at least, until 6pm when some other people came out of the kitchen to help. It made me GRUMPY!

Luckily for all concerned GRUMP was deflated by the fact that we were going round the corner to The Bill Murray to see The Scottish Falsetto Sock Theatre Company Do Shakespeare. I have seen The Socks MANY times but this was my first time seeing them anywhere outside of Edinburgh and with me anything but Quite Drunk. It turns out they are JUST as good Mildly Sober (i.e. VERY GOOD INDEED) and there was MUCH chortling, sniggering, and general GUFFAWING. It really is a very silly sort of show indeed, and I liked it a LOT.

I also liked the fact that the bar served St Mungo, the Only Lager Brewed To German Purity Laws Outside Of Germany as certain BORING and possibly WRONG people will tell you at length if you let me... I mean THEM, do so. It was LOVELY and may well have been the ingredient that allowed me to cope with not being in Scotland while I was watching. I would heartily recommend it, and The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Company, to ANYBODY, and if you can combine the two then all the better!

posted 27/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Another Secret Revealed
For the past few weeks I've been going ON and ON about all the various Exciting Things that I couldn't talk about - one of these was The Validators appearing at this year's indietracks, and today I can REVEAL what one of the others is, for LO! I have got an LITERARY AGENT!

"That is not quite as exciting as I was led to believe" you may think, which is fair enough, but to me it is THE MOST EXCITING. Ever since I (re)started with The Writing back in The Space Year 2012AD one of the AIMS has been to get an Agent - everybody always says "You don't need an agent, you can do it all yourself" but, to be honest, after 500 years in ROCK I have got pretty much all the transferable skills I need. I know about PRS, PPL, setting up PA systems, invoicing, manufacturing schedules, and the difference between CMYK and RGB, so would rather NOT have to learn the equivalents of the above for the BOOK world!

For LO! (again), it is MY NOVEL that this is all related to. When I re-read it a few weeks ago I thought "Actually this is quite good, maybe I should try and see if anybody wants to put it out?" After taking ADVICE from various sources I did The Proper Thing and got myself a copy of The Writers And Artists Yearbook, went through the lists of agents, identified ones which looked suitable, emailed them with whatever their requirements were for Unsolicited Enquiries (usually a covering letter, synopsis, and first 30-50 pages of the book), and then sat back to see what would happen.

I must admit I had precisely NO expectations WHATSOEVER - all my experience of doing The Proper Thing in regards to AND of The Arts has been that you sit around for months and nothing happens. I was fully expecting to get either NO replies or polite form letters, and had put a note into my diary to wait six weeks and then start properly investigating self-publishing via Amazon. Imagine my SURPRISE then when, a week or so after sending the emails out, I got a request from one of agents for the FULL novel! "It might take a few weeks to get round to reading it", she said, so imagine my FURTHER ASTONISHMENT when she emailed my the other side of the weekend to ask if we could have a phone chat! "Maybe she wants to tell me personally how rubbish it is?" I thought.

To cut a very long story short, that WASN'T the purpose of the call and so, some further weeks later, I am VERY PLEASED INDEED to say that I am now Officially Represented by Franca at Zeno Literary Agency! I'm on their webpage and EVERYTHING!

The next stage, apart from SWANNING AROUND saying "Oh I shall have to ask My Agent" (OBVS), is for them to send the book out to PUBLISHERS to see if they will, well, PUBLISH it. It's being PITCHED as for the 9-12 age group, which a) was a surprise to me as I didn't WRITE it that way b) meant a couple of very minor adjustments (apparently you're not allowed to rampantly kill human beings, textually, but small dogs are fair game) and c) probably says more about my MENTAL AGE than I would care to consider. That said, it is MORE than fine with me - I went to Waterstones to look at THE COMPETITION the other day and there are a HECKLOAD of AMAZING books in that age range!

My sole hope at this point is that I might help to DELIGHT and EDUCATE a few CURIOUS MINDS, and I have definitely NOT been fantasising about making 100 BILLION QUID from MOVIE DEALS, nor have I spent hours rehearsing CHAT SHOW APPEARANCES, and anybody who says I have is a rotten fibber. Either way it is all EXTREMELY EXCITING - it may, of course, all come to nothing, but you never know, it might end up with an ACTUAL REAL BOOK with my name on it! ZOINKS!

posted 23/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Banned From The Technical Area
Last Thursday found The Seats In My Stadium and I going round the back of The London Stadium for a Residents' Meeting about the Olympic Park. I must admit I was slightly GIRDING myself for BOREDOM as I have been to quite a few profoundly DULL meetings of late, but this was actually DEAD interesting. For one thing, we got to go into the Hospitality Area of the stadium, and then listen to some INTERESTING FACTS about what was coming up in the area. We also got to hear from some ARTISTS from the local area, one of whom seemed to think he was a REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVIST. He challenged one of the speakers, saying "Film has EMERGED of you saying this thing that is slightly inaccurate!" We thought "Ooh, secret filming!!" but it turned out to mean someone in the meeting had been recording it on their phone, in full view of a public meeting. Oooooh! SCANDAL!

After the talking was over we got to go on a TOUR of the stadium, starting in the Directors' Box where we stood out on the balcony looking onto the pitch. It felt WEIRD - I could see the SKY but still it felt like we were inside and the actual pitch looked TIDDLY. We then went to look at (and SMELL) the changing rooms, before heading down a tunnel and - LAWKS! - onto the pitch itself. As you can see, I found this EXCITING!



Other people - especially West Ham fans - were EVEN MORE excited, and all took turns sitting in the players' seats. I, of course, was much too dignified to do anything a silly as pretending to be a Beleagured Manager.



All right, maybe I wasn't. It was GRATE tho - we watched Match of the Day ESPECIALLY on Saturday to shout "LOOK! We have SAT there!" - and when we were finally SATED we headed back down the tunnel and OUT, for LO! it was the BEST kind of tour i.e. one in which we followed the route at our own pace without people telling you what you're looking at. After all, when one is presented with a football pitch one doesn't really need someone telling you what it is. And CRIKEY, when you're in a Football changing room your NOSE can definitely work it out!

posted 20/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Paolozzi Good Times
Saturday found the Theme Of My Curation and I off to see some of that there ART, in the company of Ms H Arnold. We were off to The Whitechapel Gallery ("I did a gig here once" I said, as i seem to do EVERYWHERE) to see the Eduardo Paolozzi retrospective. Short review: it was BLOODY GRATE.

Living in That London I like Paolozzi mainly because you keep bumping into his WORKZ all over the place, like the murals at Tottenham Court Road, or the big Newton outside the British Library, or the Self Portrait With Banjo that used to be on High Holborn. ALSO, his sculptures 'Piscator' and 'Head Of INvention' feature pretty heavily in MY NOVEL, and ALSO he did the cover to Macca's 'Red Rose Speedway', so he is compliant with my interests on MANY levels.

Despite all this the exhibition was packed with LOADS of things I didn't know and loads of ART I'd not seen before, and the way it was laid out in vaguely chronological order made it weirdly EXCITING. "Ooh look, he's started doing collages!" I said to myself, when they popped up, and you could see his LINES starting to appear and then mutate into sculptures and SO ON. It was also full of HUMANITY e.g. the sculptures of people that look like calcified cyborgs are a) weird and strange b) weirdly TOUCHING. AND there was a sense of humour throughout, especially when he got DEAD SARCASTIC around the early 1970s.

It was the best ART thing I have been to in AGES and has stuck in my BRANE ever since. Even better, we bumped into that nice Mr Dec Munro, Hero Of Edinburgh, on the way round, and it turned out he's one of the people behind The Bill Murray pub where ALL comedy gigs seem to happen now, including the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets that me and Mr S Hewitt are off to see next week.

It was, all told, a pretty flipping great afternoon out. ART! It's GOOD!

posted 14/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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DOS Reunited
I am STILL unable to reveal the various SECRETS what I have been going on about lately, and it is starting to do my NUT in. One of them in particular is something I am DESPERATE to shout about online, but so far am only able to do so in PERSON for fear of tempting fate. MANY is the time I have sat on Twitter about to TWEET about it or - worse yet - say "I have AMAZING news I cannot tell you about" and only just managed to pull away (and write a blog instead...).

Yesterday THINGS were going on to do with it and I felt as if I would go LOONEY if I did not tell SOMEONE. "I know", I thought, having deleted a tweet for the millionth time that day, 'I shall go to the comic shop. I often bump into people on the way there, maybe I shall do this time and manage to BLURT it out to the THEM!"

I set off for Gosh and DIDN'T meet anybody. "Probably for the best", I thought, as I stood before the RACKS perusing the most recent releases, but then Mr N Metcalfe, who works there, said hello and then FOOLISHLY added "How's it going?"

"GRATE!" I said, loudly, with a MAD GLEAM in my eye. Nat did not take this as a clue to FLEE (he works in a comic shop, I guess if he RAN every time someone said something KRAZY to him he would be winning Marathons) and instead said "Really? What's happened?" and reader, I TOLD him. At SOME LENGTH. Sorry Nat!

I CALMED myself back at work by reuniting with an old colleague: DOS!

There's a DOS database what I have been GRAPPLING with lately to try and get some information out of, and it has been surprisingly emotional. Looking at a DOS interface is like looking back a quarter of a century to my first endeavours in the field of employment, when EVERYTHING on computers was done this way. The way you move around the screen, the type face, the way it represents ICONS, the incredibly limited ways you can DO stuff - EVERYTHING about it is a nostalgia trip which I found myself ENJOYING whilst also wishing for stuff we take for granted now, like OPTIONS and MOUSE CLICKS and proper HELP functions. This database is SO VERY OLD that there isn't anything on Google to tell you what to do (which leaves a Computer Guy like me FLUMMOXED, as I have to use my BRANE instead!). Wonderfully, the system is very proud of being able to use new-fangled .dbf files (which was a legacy format even when I first started) although it is unable to export more than 15 variables at a time. AND! AND! I spent ages trying to work out why it was refusing to do something before finally realising it was because my FILENAME contained more than 8 characters!!

It's all oddly lovely, and I can't shake the sense of WONDER that it still actually works, although there's no reason why it wouldn't. The PROGRAM is a series of zeroes and ones, it's not like a rusty old PLOUGH or something that would wear out - as long as the files don't get corrupted something like this could work FOREVER!

PHEW! It was a right rollercoaster of THRILLZ - I thought when I sat down to type this blog entry that my inability to reveal The Big Secret Thing would lead to a dull blog, HOW WRONG I WAS!

posted 9/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Art School Confidential
Despite nursing a SEVERE post-Totally Acoustic hangover, I managed to DRAG myself over to West London on Friday lunchtime to meet The Artist Tom Smith for a cup of tea and a PRACTICE, for LO! that very afternoon we were due at Wimbledon College Of Art to do a TALK SLASH CHAT called "Scary Monsters And Super Creeps" about superheroes, performance personas and SUCHLIKE.

It was all to do with the Acts Reacts festival at Wimbledon College Of Arts. The college is a part of UAL so as a GRADUATE (him) and CURRENT STUDENT (me) of Central St Martins (as seen in That Pulp Song, and ALSO part of UAL) we thought we'd apply to DO something at it. When we got ACCEPTED we had to think about what we were going to say and, several emails, one skype chat and one trip to the pub later, we found ourselves sat in his kitchen with a fully loaded Powerpoint Presentation having a bit of an old run through.

Much to our mutual relief it turned out to make some sort of sense even OUTSIDE of the pub, so we set off for the tube ready to ROCK. Unfortunately the tube itself was not so inclined, as the District Line was KAPUT, so we had to go back to his house and use the CAR instead. This took AGES and denied us the time for nipping into the PUB on the way, but it did at least mean I was able to discover that my phone has flipping SATNAV on it. It was INCREDIBLE! "Just put in the postcode we're going to and press that button" said Thomas and LO my phone TALKING to me! I was ASTOUNDED!

We got to the college and met the VERY friendly and capable people running the tech side of things, who got us all set up in rapid time. We then went in search of a coffee or similar, and were DELIGHTED to find a whole table of coffee and cups just outside... though less delighted to be told to GERROFF in no uncertain terms by the people who a) had ordered them b) were nothing to do with the festival. FOILED!

Further investigation uncovered a vending machine and, duly refreshed, we returned to the room, which remained empty until PRECISELY 5pm at which point a whole BUNCH of people - 18 of them, I think - rolled up and came in. PHEW! I had been imagining the two of us just sitting there CHATTING to each other ALONE - I mean, that was what we'd PRACTICED, but I had hoped some other people might come and listen.

We got going and I THINK it all went all right - it was hard to tell as it was so ALIEN to what I usually do. For a start, everyone was STONE COLD SOBER, and also some people didn't seem to understand poorly spoken Peterborough-accented English hugely well, so were relying on the slides (which didn't have text on them) for guidance. Also also I'm used to doing 3 minute bouts of SHOUTING followed by (hopefully) applause and occasional LARFS, whereas here we were talking at LENGTH about various ARTY-TYPE THINGS with no discernible gaps.

Thomas seemed happy with it, and audience members who approached us afterwards said they'd enjoyed it, so I reckon it was OK. Weirdly, for the second night in a row, I found myself talking to another Peterborough United Fan - you don't tend to talk to them that often when you're IN Peterborough, so two in London was very odd!

Job done we FINALLY made it to the pub, for a VERY MUCH needed pint - who knew YACKING about ART could be so stressful?

posted 7/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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From Despair To Wahey
Last Thursday's Totally Acoustic began with PANIC - the acts had arrived, the audience had arrived (in LARGE number - we only just managed to fit everyone in), the beers were bought, but where was Steve?!?! His seat has sat sadly empty on other occasions, but those times I had been forewarned. Seeing it UNEXPECTEDLY unfilled like this was UNSETTLING. Had he been KIDNAPPED? Had he been waylaid by an EMERGENCY?!? "Where is he?" we asked. "Oh, where?"

"In the pub", came the answer, as he made it just in time wearing the face of a man who has had one too many while staying at his Mum's house. An "I'm ferpectly pine" sort of face. WOT a relief! After all that excitement it was almost relaxing to get the actual gig going, even though it was starting with ME doing a whole HEAP of new songs. Here's what I did:
  • Cheer Up Love
  • Come The Inevitable Apocalypse
  • My Computer Guy Voice
  • I Like You
  • Wallies
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • The Saturday Lunchtime Wrestlers

  • It all SEEMED to go OK - I had my music stand with me so I didn't need to worry about remembering all the WORDS, but that didn't stop me messing them up a couple of times ANYWAY and also getting the chords wrong, but other than that it all went pretty smoothly. Cheer Up Love surprised me by going down well, the joining in bit of Wallies worked (even though I PANICKED and did my bit wrong) and my belief that I'm Doing The Ironing is the first SUREFIRE HIT of the new batch was borne out by it getting the best reaction of the LOT. HOORAH! I also did The Saturday Lunchtime Wrestlers at the request of Mr J Anderson - if you ever want me to do a request, get it in several weeks in advance (NB months for The Validators) and I/we'll most likely do it!!

    Next up was Mr Matt Abbott, POET and recently arrived Londoner, who was GRATE. I'd asked him to come and play at short notice, after Ms G Petrie found herself double-booked, and he was an EXCELLENT replacement, being STRIDENT and funny and well worded and so GOOD in fact that - hey - you almost forgot he didn't have a guitar round his neck!

    And finally there was the always wonderful Mr G Osborn who was, as always, WONDERFUL. Seeing him and Matt one after the other gave me a serious bout of the MAN LOVES, especially when I got to be PART of Gav's new song "Don't Know Enough About That", reading out a series of questions at the end, most of which I managed to read out almost correctly!

    It was a pretty bloody fabulous night PACKED with goodtimes and also AUDIENCE - one of those shows which make me think I must keep doing this FOREVER!

    posted 6/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Secret Revealed
    For the past couple of weeks I have been BLEATING ON about the TWO (2) Exciting Things that have been in the offing which I can't tell you about. As you may know I absolutely HATE going on about myself (hem hem) so it has been a bit frustrating not to be able to get it OVER with and tell you, but thankfully ONE of the Exciting Things has been revealed: me and The Validators are playing Indietracks this year! HOORAH!

    We are OBVS very excited about it and have been DISCUSSING setlists and walk-on music (it is the only time we ever GET to have walk-on music!) since late January when Team Indietracks got in touch. Some of our BEST EVER gigs have been at Indietracks, also some of our BEST EVER weekends as a whole, so we are RIGHT looking forward to playing there again!

    The OTHER Exciting Thing is not quite ready to shout about yet, and it has been joined by not one but TWO more Exciting Things which I cannot speak of either! I don't know why this is all going on at once - if I COULD bang on and on about these Things then believe me I totally would, and very much hope to be able to soon. Just to prove these are REAL, one of them is a SCRIPT what Mr J Dredge and I have SOLD and has been FILMED (with proper actors and everything!) but has not yet been UNLEASHED, and another is a SONG wot the aforesaid gentleman and I have recorded which WE THINK is going to be on an album. The final one I shall save for a full SHOW-OFF about another time!

    In the meantime though, the Indietracks news is very much out there and SHOUTABLE about, and features a metric TONNE of GRATE bands, including Ms G Petrie FINALLY making her Indietracks debut. It's going to be BLOODY GRATE, come along if you can!

    posted 3/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Primary Sources
    Last night I FINALLY did some ACTUAL PROPER RESEARCH for my PhD and it was VERY exciting!

    "But Mark", you probably cry, "Surely you have done several metric TONNES of research over the past few months?" and you would be right to cry out so, for LO! I have been reading approx a MILLION books, papers and articles about comics in order to firstly get ONTO the PhD course and then to persuade people that I should be allowed to STAY. I've filled in forms, been to meetings, done presentations and TALKED about it no end, but this has all been reading what other people have had to say about it, or have DISCOVERED, rather than me actually going to PRIMARY SOURCES (i.e. COMICS) to look for myself.

    That changed last night. The current TASK is to create a definitive timeline of Doctor Doom's appearances in the Marvel Universe during "The Marvel Age". Just SAYING this throws up a whole HEAP of questions e.g. These are all EXCELLENT questions, which I have been a) asking b) trying to ANSWER, THUSLY:

    First of all, in order to get a "definitive" list of Doctor Doom's appearances I have been using SEVERAL databases of comics. I'm using the Grand Comics Database as my starting point, largely because you can download it as an SQL file (which Mr T Eveleigh, ROCK star and also my SERVER PROVIDER for these very webpages, very kindly uploaded to my server for me). I'm then getting data from The Marvel Chronology Project, The Comic Book Database and The Marvel Database to check that what I HAVE got is correct and to see if there's anything I HAVEN'T. Finally I'm using Comic Vine for MANUAL checks as we go along.

    Once I've got all that going on I need to look at the second question - what is "the Marvel Universe" then eh? For these purposes I'm saying it's anything published by Marvel comics that ISN'T a reprint OR some kind of FLASHBACK. The first bit's quite an easy one, but the second takes a little bit of digging. If Namor The Sub-Mariner THINKS about Doctor Doom (as he is WONT to do) then it gets logged in some databases BUT it's not actually Doctor Doom HIMSELF appearing and so isn't part of his timeline. I think that makes sense, but it takes a bit of checking!

    FINALLY, "The Marvel Age" itself. I have been GRAPPLING with the whole TIME PERIOD business ever since I started all this and originally was going to base everything on "The Bronze Age Of Comics". However, I VERY QUICKLY discovered that this is almost impossible to pin down. The Golden Age and Silver Age are pretty SIMPLE to define (first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 and the new Flash in Showcase #4 in 1956 respectively), but the Bronze Age starts anywhere between Jack Kirby leaving Marvel in 1970 to The Green Goblin killing Gwen Stacy in 1973, and the ending is variously "Crisis On Infinite Earths", "Secret Wars", "Watchmen", "The Dark Knight Returns" or approx 500 OTHER options - and that's even if you think there IS such a thing as "The Bronze Age" which about half the people I've read so far DO NOT.

    It was a FLIPPING NIGHTMARE so instead of that I decided to say I was researching "The Marvel Age" which, it turns out, is quite straightforward to define - it starts with the first issue of "The Fantastic Four" in 1961 and ends in 1987 when Jim Shooter gets fired as Editor-In-Chief. You can't say fairer than that can you? It includes everything Marvel did that was EXCITING and FUN before it all went down the plughole in - WHAT I LIKE TO CALL - "The Dark Age" of all comics being rubbish, or, as it is also known, "the decade that I didn't read comics in".

    And so it was that I spent a VERY ENJOYABLE hour last night actually LOOKING at some comics to see when EXACTLY this "Marvel Age" finished. I've got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, an APP which lets you read LITERALLY THOUSANDS of old Marvel comics, so I looked through a whole heap of them from late 1987 and discovered that all Marcel comics dated October 1987 have Jim Shooter listed as "Editor-In-Chief" but MOST have changed over to Tom DeFalco by November 1987. So far I've found ONE exception, as Captain America 335 still lists Jim Shooter in November then switches to Tom DeFalco the next month, but I can happily deal with that SIMPLY by looking through EVERYTHING they published in those months. It's RESEARCH baby!

    I need to finish doing all this and get it written up in the next couple of weeks as the putative first bit of ACTUAL WRITING for the thesis itself - tho thinking about it, I have pretty much done that with this here blog haven't I? Throw in a couple of REFERENCES and it's ready to roll - doing a PhD is PEASY!

    posted 28/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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