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Blog Archive: September 2012

Teacher's Pet
FIRED UP with EXCITEMENT from my first day at SKOOL on Wednesday I spent most of yesterday THINKING about what I'd write for my first assignment. We had to do a monologue, with one character talking to another (who doesn't speak... obviously). The speaker has a secret, and it's something to do with the Olympics.

Well, having been so OVERWHELMED by the who 'lympic experience my BRANE immediately leapt to ONE conclusion about who these two "characters" would be (CLUE: we saw them in a pair all the time BEFORE it all began, then they did one 'lympics alone EACH. Oh yes!) and by late last night I'd got it WRIT. Excited I dragged The Words On My Page into The Study and READ it to her... I'd hoped for PRAISE, but actually there were just TEARS from all concerned. It turns out that we both miss the 'lympics a LOT!

Still, it worked pretty well, and so today I did another edit and tidy up and went to post it on the FORUM we'd been told to. The deadline isn't until tomorrow but I thought I'd get it DONE (not least so that if anyone else had had the same idea I would at least have got in first!), but was STALLED by the fact that it wasn't working yet - i was TOO early.

An hour or so later it was all functioning, and so I ended up being the first student to upload the first assignment. Or, as the role is more traditionally known, "TEACHER'S PET". Oh blimey! When did this happen to me? Surely I was a ROCK AND ROLL REBEL in my earlier years?

Oh. No. I've checked my memory and it turns out that, actually, I've ALWAYS been this way. What can I say? If you do your homework as soon as you get home you've got the whole weekend free to PLAY OUTSIDE (or on yr ZX Spectrum). Everyone knows that, right? In fact, surely, that's more "cool" than being a "rebel", right kids?

It definitely is. Except that I'm going to see a PLAY tomorrow. SWOT!

posted 28/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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Back To School
Last night, after months of FEAR, DREAD, WORRY and PANIC it was FINALLY time for me to start my MA in Creative Writing (Playwriting and Screenwriting) at City University. As you might gather, I was UTTERLY TERRIFIED.

I'd worked myself into SUCH a state about it that I'd been having trouble BREATHING last week, and THIS week had ended up Proper Poorly and off work! All sorts of emotions had been churned up - memories of all the other times I'd started at new jobs, schools, or place of higher education; the stress of meeting huge numbers of new people and trying not to act like a pillock; the fact that it really IS a whole new chapter of my life, and the other fact that it marks, if not a CLOSURE, then definitely a quietening down for the whole ROCK AND ROLL thing that has partly DEFINED my life for two decades. FEAR!

I rolled up at campus 90 minutes early, to make sure I had time to finish registration and get my Student Card... which took approx 2 minutes, leaving me to sit in Costa Coffee and STEW for ages, reading "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" off of the reading list. It isn't the JOLLIEST or most distracting of reads.

Eventually it was time to go to the induction, and I got a bit lost. Luckily I found a couple of other course members, also lost, asking for directions, and together we headed off to the correct room. One of the big early indications that this would be a good course had been the excellent organisation at all points (I reckon that a good department that actually cares about the students will also take the time to sort out their SIGNAGE - I was amazed by how some other courses I visited didn't seem to give a toss) so was a bit surprised when we arrived to find a room much too small without enough seats. "I didn't expect so many people!" said the lady inducting us into the library, which seemed odd, given there was a course list, but otherwise all was WELL.

Everything else is so MODERN and FUTURISTIC - especially compared to when I did my first degree at Leicester Poly in 1988 (AD), when it was all handwritten essays, submission slips and the occasional floppy disk - that I was surprised to find that things like Inter-Library Loans are still considered a BIG DEAL. Surely it's all done with wi-fi and brain holograms?

Next we had an induction into the Electronical Student Materials Wotsit which is even MORE FUTURISTIC. As ever in ANYTHING in Higher Education involving computers a) some grumpy undergraduates had to be turfed out before we could start b) half the big flashy presentation screens didn't work, but once we got going it was all pretty impressive. These days, it turns out, you submit work by UPLOADING a WORD DOCUMENT (in two different ways for this lot too, so if one breaks you can't use it as an excuse for being late). The icon for this was a hand clutching a sheet of paper, which reminded me once more of floppy disks, appearing on the computer icon for "SAVE" - an image which will quickly lose its association with an actual THING and just come to MEAN what it used to represent.

Whilst pondering this I had a look at the timetable for the term, and was TERRIFIED to discover that there's a play we HAVE to go and see before next Wednesday. PANIC ROSE when I discovered that it WASN'T ON ANY MORE! TERROR! WORST NIGHTMARES! I became instantly convinced that EVERYONE ELSE already knew this and had been to see it and I'd be the only one who hadn't and IGNOMINY would follow. ARRGH!

Luckily it turned out that someone else had spotted this and pointed it out, so we've been given a different play to see - but still before next Wednesday! This FIRM INSTRUCTION came during the final section, about the course itself. It was all a bit odd to suddenly have people saying "YOU MUST DO THIS THING" with no discussion. It was like... well, being back at school really. We also got some other HOMEWORK, a writing exercise that has to be completed by Saturday night. It felt like we were being unapologetically LOBBED into everything, with no excuses. It was DEAD exciting!

We finished off with an "Icebreaking Exercise", a phrase which had filled me with SHEER DREAD when I'd first seen it, but turned out to be ACE. We were put into pairs and interviewed each other, then went through the whole room reporting back. Apparently it's fairly common, and I can see why - it REALLY worked in getting everyone to talk about someone else and finding out about each other. One of my (many, many) worries before starting had been that I'd be one of three or four mature students on the course, and that everyone else would be KIDS straight off an undergraduate course, but this turned out to be FAR from the case. It turns out we're a HUGELY mixed group from all over the world with all kinds of different EXPERIENCE and STORIES. As we went round the room I felt myself finally shifting from FEAR to EXCITEMENT. "This," i found myself thinking, "Is going to be GRATE!"

I'd told Harry, my interviewer, that An Interesting Thing About Me was that I knew The Maths Teacher Who Ran Off With His Student - I ended up having to clarify this situation SEVERAL times, I've just done a few gigs with him, that's all! Harry turned out to have been to the Edinburgh Fringe a few times too, so we had a good chat about all that. Again, I was surprised to find performers, former musicians and ALL sorts among the group. I'd pretty much expected everyone else to be fey whey-faced POETS or something - I guess Those Sorts went on the other, less Rock & Roll courses. My lot are ACE!

This opinion was only REINFORCED by the final part of the evening: THE PUB. Our course leaders bought EVERYONE a drink, and we all lurked together having a CHAT. In these situations I'm always aware of how hard I find it being A Normal Grown-Up - INDEED i spent large parts of the entire evening, from 6pm onwards, IGNORING my BRANE when it kept saying "Here's a really clever [actually IDIOTIC] remark you could make! Say THIS!" - but hopefully I didn't show myself up too much, and ended up talking to some a) dead nice b) really INTERESTING people.

It was all, in fact, BLOODY LOVELY, and I came away HUGELY excited by what's about to happen. It looks like it's going to be ridiculously BUSY, especially for the next couple of months, but a LOT of fun. I can't quite believe it's actually HAPPENING at last!

posted 27/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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A Very Busy Weekend
You find me today STILL exhausted from a weekend of frankly EPIC proportions - though not quite the same KIND of epic proportions one might have become involved in 15 years ago. This epic involved STEAM TRAINS!

Before that, though, myself and The Listing On My Buildings headed to the charming Lincolnshire town of Stamford, in Lincolnshire. I was BORN in Stamford and have been there to the FAIR and also the railway station many many times, but have never really had a good old nosey around. It was a) ACE b) STRANGE to be on foot in a town I'd been driven through my entire life. We met my Mum at the station, went for a cup of tea, and then went HIKING round the town, poking around at areas and houses and, eventually, inevitably, THE PUB.

Next day we went with The Parents to the Nene Valley Railway - this is something we've BOTH been keen on doing for YEARS, and the combined facts of it being The Coal In My Engine's BIRTHDAY weekend and there being a STEAM GALA going on meant we WENT for it. It was VERY exciting - there were steam trains EVERYWHERE, also EXCITED people. We got a train out to Yarwell then back through to Peterborough, where we got off and had a look at the Eco-Village that's being built near the Posh ground. Again, this was something we'd been reading about for a while, so it was GRATE to actually go and LOOK at it, before heading back on the train to Wansford. We GAZED at some model railways, more trains, and a TRACTION engine, then headed back to Peterborough AGANE and so to London... where, as a special Birthday Treat, we got the JAVELIN back to Stratford and thence to Tap East, which is rapidly becoming our LOCAL.

While all this was going on it was Open House Weekend, and so on Sunday we headed out to have a LOOK at some stuff. We went first to Abbey Mills Pumping Station. We weren't sure we'd even get in, but a very friendly chap on the gate said it was fine, and we wandered in via , I think, probably the WRONG door. Once inside another friendly chap found us and took us outside, where the tour was just beginning, and we thus embarked on TWO HOURS of MIND BLOWING exploration of this incredible building. It was astoundingly beautiful - apparently they made buildings this way in Olden Time to reassure people that they were getting good value for their taxes... which is pretty much the opposite of nowadays. It was gorgeous, like being in a huge steampunk Victorian SPACE SHIP, led round by a VERY enthusiastic archivist. If you get a chance to go next year, GO!

We trudged round the corner in the tipping rain to our next stop, the amazingly restored House Mill. It is/was, apparently, the largest mill of its kind in Europe, once used to make grain for GIN, and as we strolled around it felt like it had JUST finished work for the weekend. It TOO was ACE, though my abiding memory is of the tour group, which featured four Nice Couples of varying age grades. One pair were about ten years younger than us, just starting out on the JOY that is Wandering Around Old Buildings, but the others looked about ten and twenty years OLDER than us, so that was OK.

To get to our final stop we went to Bromley-by-Bow underground station, which was WEIRD. As everyone and his commentator dog will tell you, East London Has Had Huge Amounts Of Money Spent On It, so it was odd to go somewhere that totally HADN'T. The area around it featured derelict buildings, filthy pavements, and general DECAY. Perhaps this was the one place where Olympic Officials were guaranteed NOT to travel through?

Anyway, we ended our travels at Leyton Town Hall, a building I've walked past MANY times during my years in London, but never been inside. It was GORGEOUS - the old council chamber had been beautifully restored ready for use as a wedding venue (testament to this was the strange NIGHT CLUB toilets which hid behind old fashioned Municipal Doors). There were displays around the sides, including a brilliant one about Leyton Orient, which basically said "Something good happened, but not for long, and then everything was DREADFUL." I find this description of a club's past much more likeable and REAL than the Own Trumpet Blowing you more often get.

Whilst looking at the back of the stage area I had an ACCIDENT, slipping on the steps on landing HARD on my BUM, which rather winded me. I was Terribly Brave about it... but it really hurt!

I'd also taken the day off on Monday, when we had other plans for ACTION, but come the day itself we were UTTERLY KNACKERED - more even, I think, than if we'd embarked on a BOOZE/DANCING epic weekend of the historical kind. We DID have enough energy for the actual BIRTHDAY TEA (cooked by The Landlady) and Presentation Of Presents later, but we didn't half sleep well that night. ACTION is TIRING!

posted 25/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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The Last Wednesday Gig
Last night I headed back into town for what will probably be my LAST gig on a Wednesday night for the next two years, for LO! next week I start my MA, which is happening on Monday and Wednesday evenings until mid-2014. EEK!!

The evening, as mentioned yesterday, was a fundraiser for The Little Princess Trust, who sound EXCELLENT. I'd been asked on Monday when someone else had dropped out and i LEAPT at the chance to do one last mid-weeker before Everything Changes.

I rolled up at the venue, Surya, said "hello" and realised that, as I was just doing a line-check, I didn't need to be there, so nipped up the road to The Lexington for a nice pint of Flying Scotsman. At the bar I bumped into members of Apple Eyes, one of the other bands on the bill who'd done the same, and ended up having a chat to their drummer about his life in Function Bands. I do love the idea of playing in a Function/Covers Band,it always sounds GRATE!

I headed back to the venue to find that I was going on first, rather than second. Now, at this point I must admit that I thought "But I am The International Rock Star MJ Hibbett!!! How can you possibly put ME on first?" but, happily, not for very long. It's NICE to do gigs when people have already heard of you and come to see you ESPECIALLY, but i have always thought it's daft JUST to do those ones, and it's actually more FUN, also EXCITING to be presented with a room load of people who have NO IDEA what you're about to do, and aren't automatically inclined to find out. THUS I stepped on stage and did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • A Little Bit
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths

  • I REALLY REALLY enjoyed myself - most of my songs have been written SPECIFICALLY for environments where people aren't obliged to pay attention, and it was these that I wheeled out, and it seemed to work- people DID stick around and DID listen, and I had a lovely old time. HOORAH!

    I stuck around for some of the other acts - the evening had been organised via Bally Studios in Tottenham by a chap who works there (who was doing it as his first ever promotion - he thus looked WORRIED throughout!!) so it was a right mix of bands, and it reminded me a LOT of our early days doing Mixed Bill gigs at places like The Bull & Gate. I used to rather enjoy those gigs, so it felt nice to be back again!

    My favourite other act was Apple Eyes though, who were ACE. I know them a tiny bit via A Little Orchestra, and for some reason had got the idea that they'd be a bit Austere. GOODNESS knows why I thought that, as they were MEGA-LUSH, like a sort of vaguely Math Rock ELO with SHADES OF CARAVAN. Saying something sounds like Caravan is basically my way of saying "Proggy, but with songs and i LIKE it" for LO! there were SOUNDS and NOISES and all sorts of EXCITING things going on at all points. They were EXCELLENT!

    And so ended my (probably) last Wednesday night gig for a long old while - it was a lovely way to go out!

    posted 20/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Surya / Podcast
    Two items of ADMIN for you today! First of all, I'm doing a GIG tonight - I know it's late-notice affair but I'm STEPPING IN for someone who dropped out, and it's a VERY good cause. It's a Charity Event for the Little Princess Trust who "provide real-hair wigs to boys and girls across the UK and Ireland that have sadly lost their own hair through cancer treatment". It's free entry I'm on second, playing with JOS, Apple Eyes, and Yasmina Cherelle and Diego Raspati.

    And SECONDLY, I'm on this week's NerdBastards Podcast, talking about last week's episode of Doctor Who. I thought it was going to be a Light Chat Featuring Ranting, to be honest, but we ended up getting RIGHT into it - it was very strange for me, I said all sorts of UTTERLY GEEKY things that I usually do my absolute best to keep safely locked up INSIDE my MIND. Throughout our discussion I kept thinking "EEK! Don't say that! Everyone think you are a MASSIVE GEEK!" then realising that was pretty much the point. It was MUCH fun, and it even forced me to FINALL learn how to use SKYPE in order to do it - it felt DEAD futuristic!

    posted 19/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Draft Complete, Re-Writes Commence
    Apart from all the GADDING ABOUT that has occurred of late, I have been TOILING at The Coalface of Rock, for LO! I have finally got next year's show, Total Hero Team FINISHED!

    When I say "finished" I do, of course mean that I have produced a script that a) starts b) finishes properly c) does not include any sections that just say "WRITE AMAZING SONG HERE" or "SOMETHING HILARIOUS HAPPENS". It's a proper 30 page FULL SCRIPT of THE LOT - which will doubtless be tweaked, prodded, re-worked and completely FRISKED over the next nine months or so, but IS at least a THING of itself.

    It's taken a LONG time to get here - I reported at the end of last month that I was WORKING at it again, but I think the IDEAS started up about a year ago. In that time the story has changed COMPLETELY, largely because I kept thinking "Hang on, what's happening here completely goes against THE POINT of the whole show." I feel like I've been circling a huge mound of PLASTICINE, slapping new bits on, scraping old bits off, moving things around and generally sticking it together without really knowing what was going on. You can imagine my surprise then, when, a few days ago, I FINALLY stood back to have a look at the whole thing for the first time and found that... well, it seems to WORK!

    This has been VERY exciting, as I'd been convinced (as I was with Moon Horse and Dinosaur Planet) that it was all a lot of incoherent nonsense with no songs or proper characters in it. NOW, however, I'm beginning to think that Chester Champion, The United Statesman, Fufu The Future Cat, Doc Future and The WomanDroid might be characters I'm prepared to spend the next year or so with!

    The whole feeling of HOPE was IMMEASURABLY helped by sending the script to my colleague Mr S Hewitt and him LIKING it. PHEW! BOUYED UP by this I sat down at the weekend and recorded all the songs. Again, I'd thought that these were FLIMSY and BRIEF, so was amazed to listen back and find that there's some CRACKERS in there, with proper choruses, verses, TOONS and Arranagements. Admitedly I HAVE re-used some Old Classics (hem hem) like It Only Works Because You're Here and Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid (I've TRIED to shoe-horn old songs into all the previous shows, this is the first time I've managed it!) but the BRAND NEW ones are pretty good too. I've been singing "My Secret Origin" all morning, and the big anthem "Get Over It" is PERMANENTLY on my Mental Jukebox.

    Part of this, I realise, came froms seeing Mr G Osborn at Green Man last month - the sheer ACENESS of his songs is obvious, but I'd never really thought about the way he DOES them before, with a HOOK around every corner, variations in the way he plays each verse and so on. It made me go back to the show and TRY HARDER to make every song a unique thing in itself, rather than a BRIDGE to move the plot from one point to the other.

    I didn't succeed at ALL points - Steve has pointed out that the GRAND FINALE of the whole show is an exact copy of "The Birdie Song", so THAT will need re-doing - but I'm very excited about how it's all going to work out, and am already thinking JOLLY THORTS about practicing and previewing it before we do the WORLD PREMIERE at the Leicester Comedy Festival in February. Most exciting of ALL though is THE COSTUMES: we've already got some ideas, with a particularly BRILLIANT idea coming on Sunday from Steve about The United Statesman, and I think we're both looking forward to reaquainting ourselves with London's Tat Shops to get most of the new stuff.

    It's all looking like being a lot of fun, and my thoughts ALREADY turn to CHIPS for breakfast in Edinburgh next year. There will, of course, be LOTS MORE about this to come over the next few months, but for now I think I can sum it all up in the immortal words of Chester Champion, The Legend Of Lancashire, which I will be saying A LOT over the next year: "Good eh?"

    posted 18/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Chris T-T and Meryl Streep
    The Com In My RomCom and I had a right proper day out on Sunday. It started early afternoon, when we went to Kings Place just behind Kings Cross Station to see Mr Chris T-T doing his "Disobedience" show. It was LOVELY to see it again, and especially to do so whilst joined by Mr S Hewitt. We all saw it MANY times in Edinburgh last year, and seeing it again was a reminder of a) what a lovely time we had b) what a GRATE show it was. It was probably the best time I'd seen it too, very much helped by the addition of one of my FAVOURITE songs by Chris, "Giraffes", at the end. Hearing it slotted in at the end of the show made UTTER sense, it seems weird to think I'd never heard it there before!

    We had a bit of a chat, including some EXCITED NATTER between me and Steve about costumes for Total Hero Team next year. He's had a GRATE idea for one of the lead characters which makes me CHUCKLE with DELIGHT every time i think of it!

    Then it was HO! for East London where myself and The Shops In My had some Late Lunch before going to see the Movie Presentation "Hope Springs" feat. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee-Jones. I must admit I didn't go in with very high expectations, thinking it would be a fairly standard issue rom com that happened to have older actors in it... but actually, it was BRILLIANT. Some of it WAS funny, but it wasn't really a romcom at all and was, in fact, REALLY RATHER MOVING. Eyes were MOIST to the MAX by the end, and GOLLY but there was some Good Acting in it. I suppose THAT isn't surprising, but I AM still surprised by how much I liked it.

    And then we went back to our LOCAL i.e. TAP EAST where, upon noticing that their glasses had a mark on them for a third of a pint, i bought my first ever third of a pint. It was VERY SLIGHTLY smaller than a half - amazing times!

    posted 17/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Flying The Nest
    I did have a blog already written and ready to go today, but on closer inspection it turned out to be mostly a DERANGED, EXTENDED RANT about the PPL (who collect "Mechanical Royalties" i.e. for the actual recording of a song that gets played on the radio, rather than the writing of the song) followed by a surprisingly SADDENED peroration on the fact that we'd been passed up - AGANE - for The Mercury Prize. It can all be summed up thus: the PPL website is very poor, which was frustrating, and I somehow managed to convince myself we COULD get on the Mercury Shortlist, even though I knew we wouldn't. Hence: MILD GLOOM.

    Instead of that though, let us look at BRIGHTER Aspects Of Rock, for LO! last night The Fields In My Form and I met with The Hewitts to go and see Allo Darlin'. We met at Edgar Wallace, a LOVELY pub that I've not been to before, but sort of felt like I HAVE as it's packed with Beer Memorabilia. There's old EQUIPMENT all over the place and ancient posters on every wall, it is a Wonderland Of Pubs!

    Soon it was time to head to the gig, arriving just in time for Martha, who were ACE. We'd been informed beforehand that they were "punk, poppy" which usually just means "LOUD, No Songs". My expectations were half right - they were VERY LOUD INDEED. In fact, the whole evening seemed to be, as do all gigs in recent times. ARE gigs getting louder? Usually i'd assume it was just me getting old/grumpy, but with the simultaneous increase in The Entire Audience Talking Loudly At All Gigs I wonder if maybe venues are HAVING too? That may ALSO be me being old/grumpy tho!

    Anyway, Martha were LOUD but also full of TUNE and ROCK and were really rather excellent. The room was pretty full by the time they'd finished, and continued to get MORE full with loads of people that I DID NOT KNOW! We saw various familiar faces through the THRONG, but everyone said the same thing "Who ARE all these people?"

    It all feels a bit strange - I've always heard of bands you love getting bigger and bigger until NOT just you and yr friends like them, but it's never really happened with a band _I_ like before! Mind you, I've never had a Favourite Band before where it was SO OBVIOUS that they would be MASSIVE. Crikey! As soon as The Allo Darlins took to the stage it was HIT after HIT after HIT and they sounded AMAZING - on the one hand like a Proper Band who LIVE on that size of stage at LEAST, but on the other still with the same fantastic songs and JOY that made old twits like me love them in the first place. They were, and are, INCREDIBLE - best of all they did The New Song again, "The Kings And Queens Of Love", I think, which not only sounded fab but also A Bit Different. It's not a JAZZ DIRECTION or anything, it's still THEM, but it sounded like a New Kind Of Song. Elizabeth from them is, as far as I'm concerned, a GENIUS at The Songs, and the fact that she's reeled out a whole different TYPE is testament to this FACT.

    So yes - I liked it! I thought it best to LEAVE as the encore got started, as there was only two lifts down to the ground floor, I'd put a bag into lost property, and there were HUNDREDS of people there, so wandered out with the sounds of them returning to the stage ringing in my ears. It felt slightly sad to think that I might not get to see them ever again in the sort of venues i LIKE going to (i.e. SMALL ones!) but it's fantastic to think that one of OUR bands is flying the nest and going on to take a walloping great slab of Actual Proper Indie to the wider world. I approve!

    posted 14/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Victory Parade
    In my house we've had a FANTASTIC summer of 'Lympics. We'd INVESTED in it EARLY (pretty much since Bejing) due to the ENTHUSIASM and subsequent INVOLVEMENT of Mr S Hewitt, and ever since the Torch arrived in the UK it's been a fantastic display of JOY, EXCITEMENT, and all round loveliness. As everyone and her uncle has said, it's been like a bizarre SEA CHANGE, especially in LONDON where people have found themselves being NICE, also HAPPY and SMILING. It's been a) WEIRD b) ACE!

    The Athletes In My Village and I have both been rather dreading it ending, and so decided to do our best to see it all off in style. We'd both planned to go to the MARATHON on Sunday, but as I was still in bed poorly she went on her own - and found it to be AMAAAAAZING! Thus we were determined to go to the Victory Parade on Monday and, as I was now HEALED (and I'd booked the day off, so was DEFINITELY not going to spendit poorly!) that is exactly what we did.

    We rolled up outside St Pauls over an hour early, with Olympic t-shirts, packed lunches and a camping stool. Middle-Aged people, ROCKING! The atmosphere was great - we CHATTED to fellow Londoners AGANE, everyone seemed happy, and nearby was a vast mob of schoolchildren, getting EXTRAORDINARILY EXCITED! It was gorgeous, and it seemed a bit ODD, like Darkseid wandering into a Spider-man comic, when some City Bankers came and joined the crowd. "NO!" i thought, "Wrong Universe! Go back to your place, this is LYMPIC HAPPY WORLD!"

    Reports came in via ubiquitous smart phones that the parade had got started, and soon it was heralded by motorcycle police... HIGH FIVING the crowd as they sped past! The mounted police did the same, almost as if they'd seen how much everyone had liked The Games Makers and wanted IN on the action. If THAT is a legacy of the games - security and police people finally realising that TREATING PEOPLE LIKE HUMAN BEINGS is a better way to work - then it'll have paid for itself a hundred times over.

    Next we saw the LIONS at the front coming towards us and then - OH MY LORD! - there was Mo Farrah! About six foot away from us! And Jess Ennis! And... ALL OF THEM!

    HELL'S TEETH I have never seen so may AMAZING people all at once - it was like a living breath MONTAGE of all the best bits. I don't think I've ever been such a STATE before either, as I spent the next fifteen minutes CRYING and GRINNING and WAVING and CHEERING like a WAZZOCK as the entire wonderful experience of the past six weeks went by, waving and grinning back. "IT'S HER OFF THE TELLY!" my BRANE kept screaming, and by the time the Games Makers themselves came by I was just a waving/smiling/shouting/weeping hunk of EXHAUSTION. We saw ACTUAL Ellie Simmonds! Hannah Cockcroft! Johnie Peacock! THE LOT!

    Eager to keep it all going we had a couple of goes trying, and failing, to get to Trafalgar Square, before deciding to make one last attempt on at least seeing the final flypast by going to Green Park. This was an EXCELLENT THING. We arrived to find a BIG SCREEN and not many people at all, so sat and had a cup of tea to watch the end of the parade and wait for the planes. Usually we watch the flypasts in our back garden, ducking back into the kitchen after each lot goes over to see them described as they get to Buckingham Palace, but this time we did it the other way round - getting the descriptions and then going "OOOH!" as they flew overhead. I've seen The Red Arrows a MILLION times, but still: every time I see them I think "IT'S THE RED ARROWS!!!! ZANG!"

    And with that we went home, watching the rest of the ceremony at tea-time on the tivo box. During this I realised i am officially OLD ("Ah, the Pet Shop Boys! This is PROPER music, not that Coldplay nonsense!") and experienced the rare emotion of almost feeling sorry for David Cameron, as Boris Johnson WIPED THE FLOOR with him. I mean, I know Boris is a hateful right-wing nutter who would utterly destroy the country (and thus, NOT a leg-end) but that WAS a funny speech. Mind you, I'm sure POL POT could get a LARF every now and then, doesn't mean you want him getting his hands on the NATION.

    And so, with thoughts such as these, we ease ourselves gently back into normality. Next morning the news said that the TUBE, which has worked so COMPLETELY for the entire summer, will be going back to being "repaired" (or "mostly shut" as it's also known) this weekend, and the summer slowly drifts into memory. It's sad that the whole thing's over, but it's also a little bit of a relief - now we can safely pack this whole summer away, safe in the knowledge that it DID all work out, nothing horrible DID happen, and it was all a beautiful experience that we can look back on and think "that actually HAPPENED, and I was a tiny little part of it."

    Just don't show me a picture of Seb Coe, or Clare Balding, or The Weir Wolf, not yet. I fear i will BLUB!

    posted 13/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    The 8-Bit Paul McCartney
    Myself and The Trains On My Tubeline went to a GIG on Friday night - Banana & Louie (featuring members of A Fine Day For Sailing), Lisa Bouvier and Model Village, all accompanied in parts by A Little Orchestra. With basically THREE out of four acts as Totally Acoustic veterans it was impossible to resist, and a delightful time was had by all concerned. The sounds were GRATE, it was nice to see a whole bunch of the Indiepop People (it feels like AGES since I'd seen any of them) and it was EXCELLENT to go to a gig in Mile End, so near to Leafy Leytonstone.

    It was thus a bit of a shame that I had to LEAVE slightly before the end, as I had to get up DERANGEDLY early the next morning. I was booked to be the opener at the Spectrum 30 event, a weekend conference sort of thing celebrating 30 years since the release of the ZX Spectrum, which meant being in Cambridge for nine o'clock on Saturday morning. I rolled up at the venue a bit bleary eyed to find things progressing nicely, especially in the demonstration room where LOADS of old computers, games and add-ons were being laid out. It's odd how some things never leave you - even now, seeing a copy of UNDERWURLDE fills me with ENVY. It's the one Ultimate game i really wanted but could never ever afford (NB i couldn't afford ANY games really, but managed to save up pocket money/get birthday presents for Ultimate ones). Mr P Myland had it, I think, and I taped it off him (PIRACY!) but i always wanted my own. I know full well that I could actually BUY it now if i really wanted, but the REGRET still lingers.
    ANYWAY, things were gradually set up and with about fifteen minutes until start time Thomas The ORganiser came over and suggested a slight change of plan. "I'd planned to have you play in the big conference room", he said, "But everybody is in the demonstration room and nobody wants to leave their exhibits unattended, so they want to stay there." I did wonder if MAYBE some people also wanted to avoid having ME bellow at them, but agreed that it'd be easier all round if i just went and sang amongst the hardware.

    So that's what I did, and here's how it went:



    Two different camera angles for twice the fun!

    I tell you what - being STONE COLD SOBER doesn't half make it easier doing gigs, I must remember that when I'm back on the road again. As you can see from the above, I was moved to do a MINI-SPEECH, and then THOROUGHLY enjoyed belting out The Hit, and everyone was very nice about it when I'd done so. GOOD TIMES!

    I was planning to zoom off fairly soon afterwards - as said in the previous blog, i had plans for gig attendance later that evening - but stuck around for a bit to... well, all right, I ADMIT IT - I stuck around for a bit just in case anyone wanted to say anything NICE to me. I even did the old trick of Wandering Round Looking At Displays, and had a LOVELY time as lots of people did indeed come over to say nice things to me. It was GRATE! Everyone was very pleasant indeed - it was a room rammed with MEN, and had a gentle odour of Various Deodorants, as if EN MASSE everyone had decided to do their best NOT to comply to stereotypes of Computer Geeks by being a) FRESH b) CHARMING, which everyone very much WAS. That doesn't mean there weren't a lot of GEEKY T-SHIRTS on display - there were MANY, and I was very proud to see at least one Hey Hey 16K t-shirt in the mix, sported by Mr J Pennycook. Excellent work sir!

    Soon it was time to go - I took a while over the farewells as I was reluctant to drag myself away, but was wise to go as, by the time I got home, I was POORLY and ended up spending the rest of the weekend in BED! I was very very glad to have been there and PROUD to be invited - one day I hope that WHENEVER something related to the ZX Spectrum occurs people will feel DUTY BOUND to ask me to come along, like an 8-bit Paul McCartney, and sing Hey Hey 16K. I hope always to be able to say "YES PLEASE!"

    posted 12/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Watching Doctor Who
    Lots of things OCCURRED over the last few days which I'll deal with ANON, but I thought I ought first to report on the culmination of the Doctor Who Kerfuffle of last week i.e. when I actually WATCHED the "Dinosaurs On A Spaceship" episode.

    I usually watch the show the day after, and had intended to do so THIS week - The Plimptons were playing their first EVER London Gig, which i REALLY wanted to go to, with the added impetus of Keith Top Of The Pops & His Minor UK Indie All-Star Celebrity Backing Band ALSO on the bill, who I'd not seen for AGES. I was RIGHT excited about it, so GUTTED to come down with a HORRIBLE stomach bug on Saturday afternoon which LAID me up in bed.

    HOWEVER this did mean I was able to watch Doctor Who LIVE, although it also meant I ended up watching it for the first time with TWITTER on. I know LOADS of people do this every week, and I thought I'd have a go in case it was VERY similar to Dinosaur Planet, but GOODNESS ME I shall never be doing it again. Watching Doctor Who while tweeting is RUBBISH - it's not surprising people on twitter make so many idiotic remarks, or come up with some many stupid complaints! If you're not actually concentrating, you miss LOADS. For instance, at the time and ESPECIALLY afterwards loads of people were going "ooh, if the Doctor's meant to be dead, how did the Indian Space Agency know to call him in?" Having NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION myself I also thought "Yeah! That was rubbish! CONTINUITY ERROR!" However, on re-watching the first five minutes i saw that, actually, it explicitly said that HE saw the news and HE went to see THEM. It's easy!

    And to be honest, that was one of the biggest similarities with Dinosaur Planet - KIDS seem to understand it very easily, and follow the plot with ease, but lots of adults seem to have trouble! During the whole live run of the show I'd often get adults needing to ask queries about how it all worked, but NEVER from children. I did get questions about the back story, or suggestions about motivations, or indeed Actual Plot Holes, but never about the plot itself. This is something, I must say, I am very proud about!

    So anyway - was it a direct rip-off of Dinosaur Planet? Well, much as it pains me to say so, clearly not - the day was not saved by good quality academic research, it wasn't the ROBOTS who had stolen the dinosaurs, nor (SADLY) had the Dinosaurs evolved into super terrifying space monsters.

    HOWEVER! There WERE lots of bits that made me wonder if C.Chibnall had indirectly heard bits of the show. After all, i DID send copies of the album to various Doctor Who related types, and it WAS in several sci-fi websites, so maybe - MAYBE - the idea of mixing in space pirates, stolen dinosaurs, EVOLVED dinosaurs (which is what SILURIANS are, after all) escaping the first asteroid, beligerent giant robots, a returning "asteroid" that isn't actually an asteroid and - hey hey! - a motley group of adventurers including a slightly clueless lad and his dad/grandad - MAYBE there was a part of that that started with Dinosaur Planet.

    We may never know - but if anybody at the Doctor Who offices reads this and feels any trace of responsibility, it is easily fixed: just let me do a MUSICAL EPISODE some time. I've got a great idea for an episode about The Doctor and a HORSE (and robot) that he meets on the moon!

    posted 11/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Art / Click / Eye
    On Tuesday myself and The Picture In My Frame had one HECK of a cultured evening in That London. I feel now I can pretty much not BOTHER doing anything intellectual until Christmas and STILL have fulfilled my BRANE QUOTA!

    It all kicked off after work at The Serpentine Gallery, where we went to see To The Light, a big retrospective on Yoko Ono. The John & Yoko In My Bag had been to see it before and was RAVING about how FAB it had been, so we went again... and she was NOT WRONG. It's weird with Yoko Ono - she has the public image of being the weird, annoying one in The Beatles Story, and yet her art is a BEAUTIFUL, JOYOUS thing that leaves you GRINNING. As The Concept In My Art said, it could SO easily tip over into being TWEE, but it's so open-hearted (and mind opening too) and so ready to SMILE that you can't help being made happy by it. My favourite part of the whole visit was walking in to look at Ceiling Painting. As a Beatles NUT I know the whole story of this - basically, John Lennon went to see it, clambered up the ladder, clasped the magnifying glass and expected to see something snide or patronising, but was astonished/won over to see it said simply "Yes". As we walked in a small child was running up to a parent with a huge GRIN all over his face. "It says YES!" he said, "Someone told me!" He was DELIGHTED, and indeed so were we.

    We also saw another small child walk round "Amaze", a perspex transparent maze, and walk BANG straight into a wall. I felt that LARFING (quietly, around the corner) was PART OF THE ART, right? AND I went and did a SMILE for the SMILE piece, it was GRATE!

    Then we ZOOMED back into town to Broadcasting House, where we had tickets to see the recording of two episodes of BBC Click on the World Service. We'd been to one of these live shows before and had thoroughly enjoyed it, but this one was AMAZING. They were talking - at high speed - on a DIVERSE range of subjects, including future uses of technology, an end to planned obsolescence, new forms of music, the nature of human essence in creativity and... well, ALL sorts. To be honest I think beforehand we'd been most excited about Martyn Ware from The Human League being on the panel, but the whole lot of it was a MASSIVE BRANE EXPANSION. The music episode is on the iPlayer now, I think, with our other one in a couple of weeks - it's well worth a listen, it features people THINKING and SPEAKING about it!

    Once THAT was done we zoomed over to Embankment, and settled ourselves on a seat to watch the London Eye Olympic Twitter Positivity lightshow, where apparently the positivity of twitter towards the Olympics/Paralympics is somehow measured and... er... translated into a lightshow. I'm not sure how it works but it WAS very impressive, and it flashed and whizzed around for half an hour or so while we sat discussing the INTELLECTUAL TOPICS that were now flashing and whizzing through our BRANES. It struck me at one point that there didn't seem to be anyone else around who'd specifically come to watch the lightshow, knowing what it was, and that maybe the two of us were the entire live audience. I wonder if we were?

    EXHAUSTED now by all the CULTURE we retired to Tibits Restaurant (where we go A LOT) for our tea, also some BEER. It had been a KNACKERING, but bloody brilliant, night out - when you live in That London you do have to put up with a lot of noise and pollution and expense, but BY GOLLY you can't half get some AMAZING evenings out of it if you know where to look!

    posted 6/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    All Ages In Birmingham
    After a BIG DAY on Saturday I was up at KRAZY O'CLOCK on Sunday to head for Birmingham, where I was set to play at an afternoon all-ages gig in picturesque Kings Heath, along with August Actually and Allo Darlin'. It had been booked by Mr D R Kirkham - he was also promoting the "proper" gig on Monday with Ace Bushy Striptease and our very own Frankie Machine, but had LEAPT at the chance to do this one when Allo Darlin' had expressed a desire to do some all-ages shows on their current tour. I was WELL CHUFFED to be asked, although I definitely HADN'T been moping around because Ray had asked Frankie to do the main support gig next day. Anybody who said I was is FIBBING.

    Being a DILIGENT PROFESSIONAL (and also mindful of how many lyrics I'd forgotten in Sheffield last week) I was determined NOT to get all piddly before I went on, so returned to an Old Trick from my early days in ROCK: The Beer/Cola Alternator. This is when you have a PINT of Diet Coke between every pint of BEER - it works really well, keeping you teetering on a delicate edge of mildly jolly and WIRED, though it does mean you need to WEE quite a lot.

    The back room of the pub gently filled with all sorts of people - loads of various Birmingham-related PALS, some People We Don't Know (it's always exciting when this happens as it means SOMEONE on the bill is Doing Well!) and tonnes of KIDS, including young Mr J Williams who had arrived in a Dinosaur PLanet t-shirt. I was very pleased!

    August Actually were on first, and were GRATE - everyone was playing Totally Acoustically which, when people do it properly, always works BRILLIANTLY, and here it totally did with (mostly) small drums, guitar, ACCORDIAN and violin making a beautiful noise, and Alex and Laura standing FORWARD to sing louder when necessary. They have a pile of ace songs - I was singing along throughout!

    Then it was me, and I did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • Good Cooking
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • Strangely Attractive
  • A Little Bit
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • The Gay Train
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths

  • It seemed to go all right - I always enjoy Totally Acoustical gigs, though doing one a) in the afternoon b) to lots of people who've not known the DELIGHT of my "presentational skills" before c) many of whom are small children did make me SWEAT a bit, as I realised that I would probably have to EXPLAIN things, and also couldn't expect LARFS just out of people being polite. I got thrown a bit doing Good Cooking as I got the first verse wrong, mixing it up with the end of the second verse, couldn't work out how to FIX it and so LEAPT straight to the middle bit. It had been REQUESTED by the father of the aforesaid Mr J Williams, so I felt a bit bad about messing it up, but i seem to recall that the REST of the set went off fairly well. That said, I DID have a bit of trouble making The Lesson Of The Smiths all-ages friendly, and NEARLY said a Very Rude Word in the final chorus. EEK!

    And then it was time for Allo Darlin' who are, of course, MARVELLOUS and My Favourite Band. The songs, man, THE SONGS! Also: they're a right proper BAND - they too played Totally Acoustically and all sat bunched up right close together, making a beautiful SOUND - especially when the chaps joined in on harmonies. Myself and Top Promoter Mr DR Kirkham turned to each other as one and went "OOH!" at one point, THAT is how gorgeous it was. Ray (for it was he) also ensured EXACTLY the encore he wanted - leading the calls for them to come back on and then shouting "Emily! Rollins! Tallulah!" as his DEMANDS, with which they obliged. When the gig had started I'd wondered if maybe finishing with Tallulah at gigs all the time would ever start to PALE. NOT YET IT HASN'T - it's such an AMAZING song, and once again a whole room of people sat AGOG.

    So yes, it was pretty good! Very soon, however, it was time for me to pack up, HUG people, and zoom off back to Birmingham New Street station and HOME. It was a lovely afternoon - gigs are ACE!

    posted 5/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Paralympics
    We arose VERY EXCITED INDEED on Saturday, for we had tickets to THE PARALYMPICS!

    We also had free zones 1-9 travel passes, which came with the tickets, so decided to USE them. Thus The Towns In My County and I had a JAUNT to ESSEX in the morning. We went on the Central Line to have a look at LOUGHTON, which was Surprisingly Lovely - it was like a proper town, or big village, with loads of people about, ACE high street and even CRICKET! We had a HIKE through a DELIGHTFUL park and ended up on what appeared to be a PARKWAY, like we have in Peterborough, along which people drove to GYMS in the middle of nowhere.

    We walked all the way to Chigwell. I think we both preferred Loughton.

    One EXCITING tube journey later (i have never been on the MYSTERIOUS LOOP of the Central Line before, ZOOMING through countryside and beautiful old fashioned railway stations before suddenly, confusingly, being thrown into what looked like a missing chunk of the Berlin Metro) we were in Paralympic Stratford for a spot of lunch and then a visit to what is becoming our LOCAL - Tap East! It's a proper ALE/Craft Beer bar in a shopping centre, it's ACE!

    Soon it was time to go to the Olympic Park, which was like returning to a DREAMLAND. Everyone - staff, volunteers, punters - all looked so HAPPY. When we were WHISKED through security people working there TALKED to us and said "Have a great evening!" and MEANT it. Inside the park a WENLOCK, dressed as a beefeater, went by, waving from the back of a buggy and perfectly sensible people were going LOOPY with happiness. We stood near the Aquatics centre and heard ROARS of cheering from within - it was like thousands of people in LOVE with the whole idea of being there.

    We had a bit of a wander round the site, looking at the GORGEOUS wild flowers and... er... the megastore, which again was packed full of GRINNING people, trying to find a part of the experience they could keep forever. Getting into the stadium took a couple of SECONDS, we got some BEER, and then went inside.

    AND THEN WE WERE IN THE STADIUM!!! Having seen it on telly so often it seemed unreal - there was the torch! The evening of athletics WHIPPED by, it was like being in an Alternative Universe with a whole range of different SUPERSTARS doing slightly different sports. My BRANE found it hard to cope with some parts - watching the BLADE RUNNERS getting ready to run felt like watching some CGI Extravaganza!

    We soon stopped looking at the Differently Bodied and starting MARVELLING at the sport - it seemed like every race was a WORLD RECORD! We watched three heats of the 200m and saw THREE WORLD RECORDS! I was TWEETING about how many there'd been, and missed ANOTHER world record in the long jump (which, by the way, was INCREDIBLE!). I think the most incredible thing I saw was the blind 100m, where four blind/partially sighted female athletes ran, some of them with GUIDES. They were running ATTACHED to big burly MEN! It took AGES to work out what was going on - it turns out they're their COACHES, helping them NOT run off their lanes, but also, I think, shouting ADVICE.

    How on earth is that NOT already the basis for a romcom? COME ON HOLLYWOOD!!

    We were right up at the very top of the stadium, but were surprised by how easy it was to see what was going on. It all felt quite COSY and close, although we did have to squint a bit to see some of the track events. I felt a bit sorry for the javelin and shot-put lot, sometimes we'd be concentrating on them but whenever there was a TRACK event everyone concentrated on THAT instead. I guess they're used to it, but it did seem off-putting!

    We stayed right to the very end to watch the last of the medal presentations, then headed to the PUB. Here we found the volunteers JUST as happy, but this time not necessarily in such easy situations. SO MANY of us were heading towards the Javelin (we were going back to the PUB, which is NEAR there) that they had to set up Pedestrian Traffic Controls. Many people in the crowd were getting RESTLESS and ANNOYED, wanting to get onto TRAINS and HOME, but the Volunteers had to stay JOLLY and keep them BACK. They smiled, they talked to us, and they got everyone SINGING - it wasn't the MOST sincere version of "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands" I've ever heard a crowd sing, but it DID work and it DID keep the mood light.

    As we were released, and headed back to Tap East, it did make me think TWO things: 1) I wonder who did the BRILLIANT training? 2) why can't ALL crowd control people be trained so well? Bloody hell, why can't the POLICE be that good? How many ANGRY SCENES would be defused if, instead of SILENT GLARING, refusual to communicate and BATON CHARGES, the police smiled, explained what was happening, and led a chorus of THE HOKEY COKEY?

    We mused on this and other matters as we enjoyed our beers in Tap East, a place which seems to have become a HANGOUT for volunteers, Olympians and, now, Paralympians. We heard all sorts of accents and voice, all blissfully happy with a wonderful event. It was magical!

    posted 4/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Doctor Who Kerfuffle
    Ever since I read that the second episode of this series of Doctor Who was going to be called "Dinosaurs On A Spaceship" i have been CONFLICTED. On the one hand I'm REALLY excited - I mean, come on, if you had a TIME MACHINE surely the FIRST thing you would do is go back and look at Dinosaurs, right? So it seems DAFT that it's taken THIS long for the NEW series (yes, I know they did ropey model Dinosaurs in the original series) to do a proper episode with them. It's going to be GRATE!

    HOWEVER I was a bit concerned with the whole "on a spaceship" thing, having spent the past few years touting a story about dinosaurs on a spaceship around the nation's pubs and CD players. I reassured myself that there HAVE been plenty of stories about Dinosaurs in space in the past, so it would be unlikely that there'd be much more than a vague similarity of subject matter. I mean, i DID send a copy of the album to Steven Moffat, via his agent, back at the start of the year, but I'm sure there'd be nothing more to it than A Vague Cool Idea being the same.

    But then I read more about it, and GOLLY but they DID seem to be alike. The Dinosaurs were RETURNING to earth in a spaceship, and there DID appear to be some Giant Robots involved, and there was talk of SPACE PIRATES, but the biggest thing that struck me was the appearance of Rory's Dad, which reminded me A LOT of Terry Truelove and his grandfather. And then I saw an oddly familiar publicity picture, which doesn't half remind me of something else...


    (left to right) Dinosaur Planet, Doctor Who


    Now, to be clear, I am PRETTY MUCH CERTAIN that the Doctor Who office did NOT get together one day and say "HA! Let us NICK this story WHOLESALE! HAAHAHAHHAHAAA!!!" and goodness knows as a DWM subscriber of long-standing i BLOODY LOVE the show - the one and only reason i DID send Mr Moffat a CD is because I think he is GRATE - but I didn't want to let the whole thing go by without saying SOMETHING. If nothing else, if ANYBODY watches the show and thinks "Hmm, I like the idea of Dinosaurs returning to earth after 65 million years, but I'd it MORE if it featured some indie songs" I would like them to come my way!

    And so, after HEAVY CONSULTATION with The Rooms In My Tardis, we have concocted a PRESS RELEASE concerning the whole matter, which you can read at www.dinosaurplanet.co.uk/drwho. I've sent it to Press People VARIOUS and, as ever, any mentions, tweets or REMARKS anybody would like to make about it would be MOST appreciated. If it means someone who's never heard of Dinosaur Planet DOES get to hear about it through this, then I shall be very pleased indeed!

    posted 3/9/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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