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Tack Tack, Tech 'Tecs
After yesterday's admittance of BRANE FAILURE/confession of unutterable 90s grooviness, I received a whole HEAP of comments from people eager to help out. It was a beautiful outpouring of INTERNET DETECTIVES, scouring the elder corners of the web to find answers.

Thus, thanks to the efforts of Mr J Kell, Mr M Cresswell, and Mr G Wood we're now sure that I DID play a gig supporting Half Man Half Biscuit, but we do not know what configuration it was in. I don't remember supporting them solo but, as we discovered yesterday, that is no indication whatsoever for whether I did or not. Either way, as I said yesterday, we'll be celebrating twenty YEARS of Validation on May 5th, not necessarily a precise anniversary!

The experience serves as a reminder of all that we have LOST from those early days of the interweb. Nowadays, of course, it's pretty difficult to ever remove something from the public record, with so many copies, back-ups and archive engines, but right back in the early days, or at least the early days of public access, things were regularly deleted without ever being recorded. It's a weird little window when information that might previously have been recorded on physical media would be done digitally instead, but not kept. Thus I have plenty of souvenirs of my life in ROCK in the early nineties, including flyers, posters and photographs, but there's a couple of years when it all switched to online and was swiftly lost forever.

I know there's the Wayback Machine and suchlike, but those are just snapshots. Huge swathes of VITAL history is LOST! Although, looking at some of the photographs I DO have from around that time, maybe that's all for the best!

posted 22/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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If You Can Remember The Nineties
Sorry for the relative QUIET on this here blog of late, I hope it has not caused too much distress and rending of garments. The reasons for the silence are TWOFOLD.

Firstly, I am very gradually coming to the end of my current job - three month notice periods take FOREVER! All is well, but it does mean I've been spending a lot of my time tidying up things that, in the normal course of working life, would get gradually finished off and/or forgotten about over the course of months/years. It looks like there won't be a direct replacement for me in post for a while too, so I have been trying to HOOVER UP as many future TASKS as possible because I am DEAD PROFESSIONAL like that, which means I've not had so much time for my usual Wise Thoughts and Astounding Cultural Commentary.

Having said that, we're on season 3 of "Friends" now and have found that we can't remember ALL the episodes QUITE as clearly as previous seasons. It's still good though.

Secondly, there ARE items of ROCK occurring, but not items I am quite at liberty to talk about just yet. What I CAN say, however, is that much of them are based around the gig celebrating 20 years of The Validators, which will be happening on Saturday 5th May at The King & Queen in That London!

I'll be dishing out more details about this nearer the time, including THE EXCITING THING that we are going to be officially releasing that day, and also THE SECRET PROJECT which we intend to REVEAL that day too, but what I can say for now is that it is HAPPENING, we will probably be doing TWO sets, and that one of them will be accompanied by A Little Orchestra, so put it in your diary! NOW!!

I originally intended to herald this gig as the actual 20th Anniversary Of The Validators, as it takes place on the 20th anniversary of what I thought was our first ever gig, but now I am not so sure. I know for a FACT that we put together a LIVE BAND version of The Validators in order to support Half Man Half Biscuit at The Victoria Inn in Derby, and I also thought that this occurred on May 5 1998. My gigs page for that year says that I DID play that gig that night, and that The Validators played Abbey Park later that summer, which is another event I clearly remember. However, my gigs page for 1999 ALSO lists gigs supporting HMHB in Derby AND one at Abbey Park AND says the HMHB gig was our first one!

Normally when something like this arises I would simply consult the blog archives but ALAS I did not START the blog until 2003. I did do fortnightly updates of the webpage, but I did not start archiving these until late 1998, and they are to say the least UNCLEAR about what was going on. It's all very confusing.

"Hold on though," you may chuckle, "Why don't you just consult your BRANE?!? Surely you must REMEMBER?" I answer that with the simple truism that if you can remember the 1990s then baby you were not THERE. Or, if you were, you were clearly not as uniformly DRUNKENED and/or hungover as what I was for most of the decade. Hey! It was BRITPOP! Being leathered was COOL!

I definitely remember the events mentioned above HAPPENING, but I can't say for sure what ORDER they occurred in. I know that The Durham Ox Singers were doing their own gigs in early 1999, which I THINK means they must have done some gigs with The Validators before then too, but I could be wrong. I distinctly remember trying to get everyone to clap in time whilst recording one of the songs for Say It With Words and having to a) apologise to Kev Reverb (who was EXTREMELY PATIENT with us) and b) giving up, but have no idea when that actually was.

I do know for definite that Clubbing In The Week came out in the summer of 1998, and that I spoke to Frankie and Tim about recording Born With The Century as a BAND around then too, so whatever else happened The Validators definitely BEGAN in 1998, and so I am fairly confident that I can call May 5th the start of our twentieth anniversary YEAR, if nothing else!

What I'm basically saying is that I've booked the pub now so we're doing the gig, and that any inaccuracies in the timing simply prove that I was DEAD COOL at the turn of the century. That, at least, is IRREFUTABLE!

posted 21/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Future Phone Frenzy
A few weeks ago I got my regular bi-annual call from an unknown number which I answer in a SHIRTY manner but then have to rapidly Become Polite About, for LO! it was my phone company ringing to ask if I'd like a new phone and also a lower monthly tariff? I always end these phone calls pathetically grateful to the nice young person who's saved me some money, but this time I should perhaps have been sterner, as it was the beginning of several weeks of ANNOYANCE, ending in TECHNO FEAR.

It all began to go awry a week or so after the call, when I realised that my new phone had not turned up yet. I emailed the company who said it had been delivered to a neighbour by DPD. Are there any more DREAD WORDS than "by DPD" in Modern Britain? Pretty much every time DPD have delivered - or tried to deliver - something to me they have dumped it on some unlucky sod SOMEWHERE in my block of flats, not taken a note of which number it was (they seem to think I know everyone in all 43 flats personally) nor left a note for me, and expected whoever took the parcel in to finish off the delivery. I do realise that DPD are a horrible company who don't pay their workers properly, by the way, so maybe this is a company cost cutting policy, all I know for sure is that their presence in my delivery chain affects my life ADVERSELY.

There followed two weeks of emails back and forth while DPD "conducted an enquiry", which ended up with my phone company giving up and sending another phone... which DPD again "left with a neighbour". This time however they DID record the flat number so when I got home I popped upstairs to collect it, and discovered the TRUTH behind the whole business: my phone company had put THE WRONG FLAT NUMBER on the package!

There then followed a delightful community gathering when I had a chat to the person who'd taken my current phone in AND the person who it had been wrongly addressed to, after which I ended up with TWO phones (as the original had gone to the same wrong address)! It was all, to say the least, EXTREMELY frustrating, especially as I'd been NICE to the phone company whose fault it was all along! Still, I DID get to meet some neighbours, and I DO now have my new phone!

With that mystery solved I sat down and prepared myself for a couple of hours transferring things from my old phone to my new one. You know the sort of thing - adding contacts, installing apps, entering passwords for emails etc etc. Every time I get a new COMPUTER of some sort I do this, and every time I am reminded that it is no longer the 1990s and computers are designed to be used by EVERYONE, and not just bearded computer loons with seven types of screwdriver. I was, however, AMAZED to find that the same principle applies to mobile phones. "Do you basically want me and your old phone to sort this out for you?" said a message which popped up on my new phone (I paraphrase a little, but not much). I said "all right then" and, about ten minutes later, it was all DONE. I didn't even need to connect the phones with WIRES or anything, it did it with THE WI-FI!

I was flipping STUNNED by the whole process. It was so PEASY and now my new phone has all the stuff my OLD one did, plus (hopefully) I will be able to make phone calls without the SOUND disappearing every sixty seconds. It's pretty good, though I have to admit it's taken a bit of the New Phone Novelty out of it - it's almost exactly the same as the old one, after all!

posted 9/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Trouser Emergency
As VERY briefly mentioned previously, I'm starting a brand new job in March. It's all RATHER exciting, as I'll be based at UAL (where I'm doing my PhD) doing Research Databases for the ARTS. I have a fully formed DREAM VISION of my new life frolicking around surrounded by Arts Students in Unorthodox Trousers while ENTHRALLING academics with tales of SQL. I'm pretty sure that's EXACTLY how it's going to be.

In the meantime though I have LOADS to do in my current job, making sure that everything is sufficiently in order before I depart and they commence The Era Of Great Sadness which will doubtless ensue. It's all going fairly well so far, and I was congratulating myself on my ORGANISATION yesterday when FATE decided to teach me a lesson by instigating a TROUSER EMERGENCY.

What happened was that I crouched down to pick something up and heard a mighty RIP, then discovered that I had torn THE ENTIRE ARSE of my trousers asunder! It was not, I promise you, due to them being too tight or mine own derriere being too vast (HONEST), but rather I think that the GUSSET was hanging too low like some street tough youth of approx 5 years ago, and so, when I Bent From The Knees to pick something up from the floor, my ATHLETICISM was too much for the fabric to withstand. Luckily I was ALONE when this occurred, and was able to DISGUISE the event by Walking Primly, but still: what was I to do? What is ANY gentleman to do in such a situation? It's not like I had spare trousers stored in my desk, and HOME is a long old way away!

What I did do was to calmly and quietly put my coat on and set off down Tottenham Court Road in search of Emergency Trousers. My first port of call was Muji, but I could barely even understand what the trousers in there WERE, let alone if I wanted any of them. There were pictures of people with LEGS, but everything seemed to be "slim" or "tapered" or somesuch, and nobody in any of the images looked particularly happy about it.

I swiftly left, heading for the TOP MAN which has always been on the corner of New Oxford Street, and which I have used for many previous Clothing Emergencies over the years (e.g. The Coffee/Jumper Disaster Of The Early 2000s), but was horrified to find it CLOSED! There was only one choice left to me: I was going to have to go to PRIMARK.

As a person of a Certain Age my natural clothing destinations are a) Marks & Spencer b) Fat Face c) THAT'S IT, so I have never really entered this popular retail outlet before, so when I DID I felt like a Caveman faced with an AIRPORT. There were so many things! That I didn't understand! EVERYWHERE!

Eventually I realised that the Men's Department was downstairs (where, in olden tymes, the Musical Instrument Department in the HMV Megastore had once been), but my quest was ALAS not much easier down there as I was faced with EITHER enormous terry-towelling tracksuit trousers OR more of the slim-fit tapered HELL TIGHTS I had been faced with in Muji. It was awful, and again the models in the displayed photographs appeared to agree with me. "I look like a PANTALOONED NINNY" they seemed to say. "Please help me, or at least send an electric razor."

Eventually I found two pairs of trousers that seemed to be vaguely normal, though when I tried them on one pair were like putting on JODPHURS. I mean, I'm not asking for FLARES or anything, but I do not wish to parade around in LEGGINGS thank you very much. FINALLY I found a pair that DID at least function as Actual Trousers and, as they were only a tenner, I thought I'd chance it.

THUS i was able to return to my workstation fully compliant with both health and safety AND public decency. It had been a terrifying encounter with modern legwear - this weekend I'm off to M&S to buy 17 pairs of trousers to keep in a range of handy locations so that this TROUSER EMERGENCY never recurs!

posted 8/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Out On A Saturday Night
This Saturday was a THROWBACK to the 1990s, as I had a MASSIVE lie-in, loafed about during the day, and then went to a gig in the evening. It only really needed CD:UK on the telly to make it complete.

The GIG was the Just Joans at The Lexington, which I'd been looking forward to for ages as a) the Just Joans are a GRATE LIVE ACT in their full-band incarnation and b) their latest album is FAB. I met The Hewitts in the pub round the corner beforehand, and had some of that Gloopy Lager you get in fancy pubs. I fear this may have been a mistake, as I have been drinking Very Weedy Lager in the main lately, and found myself becoming quite drunk, quite quickly!

After some BEER we hied round to the venue, where I was delighted to find that Mr J Jervis was ensconced in his BOOTH. Unfortunately this meant we missed pretty a lot of the support bands due to CHAT, but it was JERV, so definitely worth it.

There was a TONNE of other chums there to say hello to too, which was delightful. I must say I haven't really missed the GIG aspect since I've stopped a) going to b) playing as many gigs as I used to, but I have missed the PALS I'd always bump into, so it was lovely to see people again. It was like a very small indietracks, in the cold!

I went down near the front for the start of the Just Joans who, as expected, were ACE. I have known them since before the band even started, when they were all about 12 (approx), so I always think they have done JOLLY WELL to even get down to Big London on their own, let alone ROCK the house, but that is very much what they did. The new songs sounded brilliant and the BIG HITS were MASSIVE!

I watched the second half of the gig from the comfort of the Executive Box (i.e. the seat in the far corner at the back that nobody seems to know is there) with Mr S Hewitt and then, once there'd been time for congratulations and a bit more helloing, staggered off into the night.

The next morning I woke up LATE again, feeling slightly DAZED by the hangover and enormous amount of KIP. It was SO 1990s that I fully expected to find myself in the Durham Ox that evening, losing the quiz!

posted 5/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Important Thoughts About Friends
Now that we have ALL THE TELLY in our house we use to expand our knowledge with insightful documentaries and foreign language films. Very very occasionally though we find time for something a little lighter, and have thus managed to squeeze in the complete runs of 'How I Met Your Mother', 'Community', 'Parks & Recreation', 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', 'Brooklyn 99', 'Sienfeld' and 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt', just in those rare moments between all the hard-hitting independent films about people gazing sadly out of windows, which we definitely watch most of the time.

The trouble with ploughing through these (mostly) old series is that when they end they TOTALLY END and there's no new season to look forward to, so you have to go and find another one to watch. As you can see, we have pretty much binged ALL of The American Classics (we already watched 'Cheers' and 'Frasier' back when we just had SOME of The Telly), so have been scrabbling about a bit lately to try and find something else. Imagine then our DELIGHT at New Year when Netflix dropped ALL of 'Friends' on us! It was a LOT of delight!

We're about halfway through the first season now, and THREE (3) things have become abundantly clear. The first is that, between The Handclaps In My Title Song and I we know pretty much every episode off by heart, and can often recognise the entire story from the first few seconds. I know it was repeated endlessly on Channel 4 for years, but I'm sure I haven't watched EVERY episode multiple times. Maybe this is what my brain was concentrating on during the nineties, instead of remembering anything else? It would explain a LOT.

The second thing, as so many of your modern 'millenials' have discovered, is that it has, in some cultural respects, not always aged entirely well. For one such as I this is not exactly NEWS, but I guess every generation has to have this moment when they realise that TIME HAS PASSED. For people of my age and FORMAT this came when 'Battle Of The Planets' was released on video, and it turned out to NOT be the most amazing thrill-ride ever shown on television, but actually nonsensical, repetitive, and a bit rubbish. I was DEVASTATED by this, especially as me and my younger brother had sat down out YOUNGEST brother in front of the telly and promised him it would be AMAZING. He was NOT impressed, and I imagine our FEELINGS on the matter are pretty much the same as these hepcats who are now discovering that the programme they loved so much as children turns out to has a distinct tendency to use the word 'lesbian' as a punchline.

Thirdly, and most importantly, watching it again makes me wonder why on earth JANICE was never given her own show? Janice is THE BEST character in the whole show - I am amazed that The Live Studio Audience doesn't cheer ever time she comes in, although maybe they do and it is just obscured by her CATCHPHRASE. Last night she said "OH. MY. GOD" for the first time, and truly it was a moment of television brilliance. They gave a solo show to Joey, for heaven's sake - if only I'd been in Hollywood at the time I could have set them right!

As I say, we're only halfway through season one - expect more INSIGHTS in a few weeks when we get to MAGNUM turning up!

posted 1/2/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Romance Of The FA Cup
Saturday found me up EARLY (for a weekend) so that I could be in PETERBOROUGH by half past eleven. I was there to meet Mr CM Smith for a trip to London Road, for LO! Posh were playing Leicester in the FA Cup!

I must admit I was RATHER EXCITED about the whole thing, and tho my BRANE was counselling preparedness for defeat my HEART was convinced we were going to DRAW! I know that ideally one's heart should be convinced we were going to win, but even MY heart isn't that daft. I thought it would be a thrilling game in which we held Leicester to a draw, and then we'd get WALLOPED by them at home. I was so convinced of this that i spent quite a while worrying about a) whether i'd be able to get back home from Leicester after a midweek replay and b) what pubs I could go to beforehand.

SPOILERS: I need not have worried. Within approx 15 minutes of the game starting we were losing 2-0 and the atmosphere at a SOLD OUT London Road (apparently the first time it had sold out since the LAST time we played Leicester City, when both teams were in the Championship!) declined MARKEDLY. Without wanting to get too technical with my FOOTBALL EXPERTISE, I think the problem was that Leicester City are much much MUCH better than Peterborough United. They were really good!

By half-time it was 3-0 and we were COLD and also WET as the weather was flipping miserable. Later we met some Leicester fans who'd left at this point and gone to a warm pub instead to watch the second half - I thought this was a bit odd when they said it, but in retrospect I can see the merits of the idea. The second half was a bit better, and we did score once (TWICE, if you count Junior Morias's ACE goal, which unfortunately the linesman didn't), but by the end it was 5-1 to Leicester and this was ENTIRELY fair enough. They were, as I say, MUCH better!

Afterwards we met Mr P Myland and went to the PUB for the aforementioned chat with some Leicester fans, and some IN-DEPTH DISCUSSIONS about... something or other. For some reason I can't quite remember what we were on about, except that it made a lot of sense at the time and was SO DELIGHTFUL that I ended up having to have a little bit of a nap on the way home. It also reminded me that I need to go back for some more home games before the season ends: The Football! It may be cold, wet and inevitably disappointing, but it's also a LOT of fun!

posted 30/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Unleash The Plinths
Today is a momentous day in ROCK HISTORY for LO! today is the day that The Emergency EP by John Dredge & The Plinths is UNLEASHED upon an unknowing universe. It's available to download via iTunes, Amazon and all your major music sites, it's on Spotify and you can always buy it direct from us via the bandcamp site.

As if that wasn't THRILING enough, we're also releasing a VIDEO for the lead track 'Going Down' today. This was filmed a few weeks ago in London's Lincolns Inn Fields area of London, and looks pretty much exactly like THIS:

The track's already been played on various radio stations (MANY THANKS to all of those who have so far!) and we have high hopes of a bit more airplay this week. In the long term the cunning plan is to put out a video every month, to keep the MAD EXCITEMENT going, but for now I hope you enjoy this first song. I am, I must say, rather chuffed with how it turned out!

posted 29/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The exciting DEBUT from John Dredge & The Plinths, "The Emergency EP" is out on Monday, and I'm beginning to get Quite Excited. Monday is the point when it stops being a load of ADMIN and starts becoming FUN!

For LO! there has been a lot of stuff to do to get to this point. When a band has been going for, say, nearly twenty years, you have got into a GROOVE of how to do stuff, but when it's a new thing you have to work it all out from scratch. For instance, the way the songs have been written for this was all new to me, with me coming up with TUNES, then recording them and emailing them to John to put words and vocal melody to, then we had to think about how HE could demo HIS bits, then how we'd RECORD the proper version etc etc. New accounts had to be set up with all sorts of MEDIA places, new mailing lists were generated, videos done, press releases written, and so on and so on. It's a lot of STUFF!

We've also been FRONTLOADING - the EP's not even out yet, but we've already got two VIDEOS done and two more underway. The PLAN is for ALL of the songs on the EP to have a video - we are VERY MUCH like Duran Duran in this way, as well as in MANY OTHERS.

The PRE-PROMOTION has been going pretty well too, we seem to have been played on a different radio show every night this week, and I'm fairly hopeful for more to come. However, the BEST thing will be on Monday when it is finally UNLEASHED and people can HEAR and SEE what we've been up to. I think it's QUITE GOOD, I hope you will too!

posted 26/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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On Locations
Over Christmas The Doors On My Advent Calendar and I watched a whole bunch of films. Most of these were, of course, highly intellectual motion pictures about French people cycling and staring into the distance etc etc but we also managed to watch "Bridget Jones' Baby". It was FUN, but did feature a lot of London Landmarks In The Wrong Places.

What I mean is that everything that happened seemed to happen near to An Iconic London Landmark, which is all well and good, except that these landmarks always seemed to be weirdly close to each other and/or in the wrong place. For instance, the character Bridget Jones lives in London Bridge, but her local Antenatal Class seemed to be at the swimming pool from the Olympics, which is MILES away. Similarly Colin Firth and The Other Bloke managed to carry her over Tower Bridge and then arrive at UCL Hospital which is a) near my work and therefore b) nowhere NEAR the river.

It was really weird and it KEPT HAPPENING. I know that film crews use locations all over the place to film things and that these don't have to be anywhere near each other, but it did seem a bit strange to deliberately pick such well known places and then wantonly move them around the city. We all KNOW these ICONICAL buildings - those of us who live here AND those of us who come to visit - and so MILLIONS of people watching would know roughly where they ARE too. Why would you do it so wrong?!?

At least Bridget Jones is an International Film, so I guess they'd argue that people in the rest of the world would not necessarily be bothered by it - a similar argument was used to explain THOR getting the wrong tube line during "Thor: The Dark World" - but the same excuse cannot be used by the television programme "Hard Sun" what I started watching this weekend. It's all jolly good fun, but they too seem to be OBSESSED with using London Landmarks In The Wrong Places. In the second episode they had a FIGHT on the south bank of the Thames, then walked onto the road to get into a TAXI near the Cheese Grater (which is NOWHERE NEAR there), drove past UCLH (again, MILES away) on the way to a building next to St Pancras Station (going in exactly the WRONG DIRECTION). It happened so much that it became UNSETTLING. I know that not everybody is aware of where UCLH is in relation to the Thames, but by choosing SO MANY places that MILLIONS of people are familiar with, it borders on ARROGANCE to assume that they are too DIM to realise where they are.

Having said all that, I did quite enjoy it. I don't usually watch Cop Shows (except for Brooklyn 99 obvs) so THOROUGHLY enjoyed all the MASSIVE CLICHES, especially the way that the Possibly Corrupt Male Lead With A Complicated Personal Life semi-whispers everything. Is that a thing that still happens in cop shows then? Also, I wonder if anybody has ever really covered an entire wall in photographs and bits of string, with post-it notes that say "GUILTY?" stuck all over the place. I do hope so!

posted 25/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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How To Make Money From The Arts
On Sunday afternoon I ventured out into Rainy London Town to meet Mr John Dredge to film some more videos for The Plinths. Our exciting new record, "The Emergency EP" is out on Monday and we're planning to gradually do videos for each of the four songs. We are VERY MUCH like Duran Duran in this way, possibly in others too.

The rehearsal place we'd booked into was one of those "studios" that are actually a suite of abandoned offices. This seems to be very much a THING in That London at the moment, it is one of at least FIVE that I know of where a theatre company has rented out some unused office space and then sublets loads of the rooms for people needing rehearsal space. It is, in the nicest possible way, a bit of a RACKET. It costs MORE to hire these rooms than it does for music practice rooms, which have to have some soundproofing, PAs, amplifiers and all things which require maintenance, whereas these are JUST old offices. I have often thought that the way to MAKE money in The Theatre is to run a venue and FLEECE theatre companies by hiring the space out to them, but clearly renting rehearsal rooms is even better!

This place was FINE though, and it did have something in common with music rehearsal rooms i.e. the people who have the room before you are pretty much ALWAYS dickheads who NEVER pack up in time and will carry on playing as long as you let them. There was a DANCE TROUPE in our room before us, and at five minutes to the hour I heard the troupe leader say "We've only got five minutes left, so let's learn one more step." I knew THEN that they were going to be trouble, but thought to myself "Give them a chance, perhaps they will surprise you!" They very much DID NOT, so at five PAST the hour, when they were still dancing away, John and I went in and asked them to leave. They DID NOT LIKE THAT. "We're just finishing", said one of them, disgusted at my impertinence. "You can wait outside." "No," I said, "I can't."

There were about twenty of them and they were mostly ANGRY LOOKING YOUNG PEOPLE, so I felt a bit SCARED, but at my great age I cannot be doing with such twattery. I stood firm and they sullenly started packing up. The leader came up to say he had forgotten the time, so I told him I had clearly HEARD him saying "It's five to" ten minutes ago and he went away, TOLD.

It took me SEVERAL minutes to calm down after all that, though on reflection later I realised I was never really in any danger of getting duffed up. They may have been YOUTHS, but they were YOUTHS with an interest in interpretative dance, so the worst I could have expected would have been an excoriating piece of performance art criticising my actions in six months time (funding permitting).

With our room secured we set to work, with John getting into a SUIT and me filming four takes of him miming to the song "Alison Alien". This one is hopefully going to feature some animation, so all we needed to film was John singing the song to be cut into it later, which was fairly peasy.

The NEXT song, "Rose Tinted Glasses", however, was anything BUT. The video plan had a very complicated STORYLINE that required us filming everything out of sync, with different scenes needing to happen in similar locations at different times. Luckily I had written most of it down, and it was only John who had to do the actual ACTING, so there followed 90 minutes of me shouting "Now do this one SLIGHTLY NERVOUSLY!" at him. We also dashed about doing occasional GUERILLA filming, nipping into unoccupieded areas to film extra bits when nobody else was looking. It was lots of fun, especially when we had to utilise the few chairs and tables left in the room to creation the ILLUSION of different locations.

When I got home that evening I thought to myself "I will just have a quick look at the 'Rose Tainted Glasses' bits, to make sure it makes sense" and ended up doing a rough cut of ALL of it. It did seem to work in the end - it's going to need quite a lot of fiddling with to get it properly done, but I think it's going to be PRETTY FLIPPING COOL when it's ready.

The plan is, as I say, to do a video for every song, releasing them roughly one every four weeks. It all starts on Monday next week, when the EP is released and we UNLEASH the video for "Going Down". I hope you like it, I think it is PRETTY GOOD!

posted 23/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Saturday Night Lights
Last year The Rooms In My Gallery and I instigated a system of (roughly) fortnightly SOJOURNS, to ensure that we got out and about in That London and BEYOND to LOOK at stuff and DO things. We have a very comfy sofa and access to ALL the telly, so it's important to have a system in place!

This weekend just gone saw us embarking on the first such SOJOURN of 2018, heading first of all to Tate Britain to have a look at The Impressionists In London Exhibition. Here is my review: it was DEAD GOOD. I didn't realise that loads of French Artists FLED France around 1870 due to WAR and the regular bout of Murdering Each Other, and it was fascinating to see ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPHS of Paris after battles. I also liked the fact that, at the time, critics wondered if the French artists might be taking the mickey out of the English, especially with an ACE painting of some tourists Looking A Bit Lost. I don't THINK they were, but who knows?

We followed a deliberate policy of Not Reading All The Labels, which meant we got to float round in just over an hour, IMBIBING the ART rather than standing squinting trying to read about it. It was dead good, I'd recommend having a look if you're nearby!

We got kicked out at 6pm when the gallery closed, which was IDEAL for the next section of our SOJOURN, which was to wander around looking at London Lumiere. This is a FAB event which we also went to last year, where LIGHT SCULPTURES are put up all over London and streets are closed so that people can LOOK at them in safety. Our first port of call was Westminster Abbey, where one of the doorways had been lit to look as if all of the columns and statues within it had been COLOURISED. It looked UTTERLY AMAZING, and apparently at other times the whole FRONT of the Abbey was done the same, which I fear might have BLOWN my tiny mind as that one bit was incredible enough. We then - sensibly - went for a couple of BEERS before heading over to Trafalgar Square, where there was a BRILLIANT installation featuring a couple of hundred helium balloons that swayed around and lit up in time to music. It may not sound much here, but seeing them all DANCING in the square together, forming light shapes and THROBBING, it looked ASTOUNDING!

To be honest I thnk the brilliance of those first two rather put the next batch in the shade, but remaining sculptures were still pretty good and the overall atmosphere was MAGICAL. As with last year it felt like a FESTIVAL as everyone reveled in the freedom to stroll down the middle of major thoroughfares GAWPING at things, and in the pubs and on the tube everyone seemed to be talking about it. It was ACE!

After looking round Westminster we nipped into Tibits for tea and were astonished to discover that it was too busy to fit us in, although somehow The Food On My Plate DID manage to get us a spot next to the BAR, which seemed to be where the staff also went to eat. It was EXTREMELY handy for getting to the aforesaid bar, which I really liked!

With that done we had a quick zip into Soho, saw the Giant Psychadelic Globe over Oxford Circus (the one that apparently ESCAPED last week) then got the tube over to Kings Cross to look at the lights there. The best from that lot was in Granary Square, where they had LAZERS creating SINE WAVES in dry ice which hovered over everybody's heads. It looked AMAZING from a distance and even MORE so when you were actually underneath it. While we were there I also MARVELLED at the fact that, in a couple of months, I'm actually going to be WORKING round there, when I go to my new job at UAL. I mean, I know it's not always going to have LAZERS and DRY ICE, but I think it's going to be fairly groovy nonetheless.

We ended up being out right until it all finished at 10:30pm, which was unusually KRAZY of us. It's a long old time since I was regularly out in town on a Saturday night, so being reminded what it was like came as something of a surprise. Did everybody always talk SO VERY LOUDLY all the time, and use SWEARING quite so much? I am pretty sure that in my weekend boozing days myself and my companions spoke gently of highbrow topics in a respectful tone, and I also reckon that we wrapped up warmly against the weather. The younger people out and about must have been FREEZING!

It was, all in all, a magical evening, and as The People In My Crowd said, it was lovely to think that so many people had gone out just to look a LIGHTS. I was well chuffed that it had come back again after how SMASHING last year's was, and I hope it becomes an annual thing from now on!

posted 22/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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My Top Ten
There's a MEME going round on The Facebook at the moment where you list the ten albums which have had the biggest effect on you and which you still listen to, putting up the cover to one of them each day for ten days. Normally I don't do these kind of things, but when Mr N Pillinger nominated me for this one I thought "Oh go on then" and CRUMBS I am so glad I did!

For LO! it turns out that my taste in music is TOTALLY EXCELLENT, and I say that as a completely objective observer. I had a good old think about what records had ACTUALLY changed my life, and came up with a list of ten ACE records, THUS:

I'll give you a moment to get your breath back from that ASTONISHING list of esotericsim... OK yes all right, I guess a lot of that is fairly predictable to anyone with the merest hint of knowledge of my output, but then that's kind of the point. If a record really HAS made a big impact on you, you'd expect that to be visible to the casual observer wouldn't you? Still, I was a bit surprised to find the other day that The Validators not only guessed pretty much THE LOT, but they also guessed the albums I EXCLUDED (like 'It's A Shame About Ray') because there wasn't enough space.

Thinking about which records to pick did remind me of three things though. Firstly, as stated earlier, I really do have QUITE EXQUISITE taste in music, OBVS, secondly ALL of those records are ACE (especially Giant Steps and Kite, which I listened to on the train back from Leicester last weekend), and thirdly that I don't listen to music on PURPOSE anymore. I always have 6 Music on in my earphones when I'm at work, and we often have MAGIC on at home, but I hardly ever actually BUY it anymore. Now that you can GET nearly all music so easily I don't really feel the NEED to own it, which is kind of a shame really. As demonstrated by this exercise, albums DO mean something, and continue to do so years later.

Maybe I should try having a listen to some new records again. If Woolworths is still open when I leave work, maybe I will!

posted 19/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Marvel Age Doom
Today I'm launching a terrifically exciting new thing - the Marvel Age Doom blog!

As I have mentioned many many times I'm currently doing a PhD called Comics And Transmedia In The Marvel Age (1961-1987): Doctor Doom As Hyper-diegetic Hero, and part of the research for it involves reading through every single appearance of Doctor Doom during this time period (if you want to know why those dates, which comics I'm looking at or how I tracked them down, it's all in the FAQ!).

I spent AGES worrying about how I was going to log all these comics. There's about 200 of them overall, which is a LOT of Doctor Doom to remember, so I thought a BLOG might be a good way to keep it all in check. After all, THIS blog has long been a memory back-up for me and indeed The Validators, and unlike my BRANE it's fully searchable! I also thought it might be a way of attracting some attention to my RESEARCH, and getting some input from other Interested Parties along the way, hence I've set up a twitter account for it too.

The plan is to cover one issue every Wednesday which has an actual Doom appearance in it, then look at others as they crop up in between. For instance, between Fantastic Four #10 ("The Return Of Doctor Doom!") and Fantastic Four #16 (ALSO called "The Return Of Doctor Doom!"), in which he makes full appearances, there was also Strange Tales #106 and Fantastic Four #14 where he's basically mentioned by other characters, but doesn't show up "in person". I'll be doing shorter blogs about these issues as we go along, but I'll be saving the ACADEMIC RIGOUR for the main appearances!

There's also some JOKES along the way and, I hope, something of interest for those poor few of you who aren't intimately familiar with the first quarter century of Marvel Comics. It is, I think, going to be FUN!

posted 17/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Try A Dosa
The Festive Season may be well and truly over, but there was still space for a little Christmas in the hearts of The Validators this weekend, for LO! we were meeting up in the fine city of Leicester to celebrate out traditional CHRISTMAS CURRY!

This is a MIGHTY tradition where we get together most years for a proper sensible band meeting without the distraction of a gig to get to... and also for a load of beer and curry. It is GRATE! We have recently had a restructure of out internal organisation, which broadly means that Tom's official position within the band has changed from The One Who Gets The Money After Gig to The One Who Gets The Money After Gigs AND Books The Curry. It is, as I'm sure you'll agree, a big change for all concerned, but one that worked out really well as he'd not only booked us into Kayal (which I'd heard loads of good things about, especially during the Leicester Comedy Festival) but also suggested The Ale Waggon as pre-curry BEER venue. It's not that it's a particularly wonderful pub (it had MORRIS MEN in it when we were there, dressed in "non-racist" "redface" and saying Morris Men things like "quaff" and "Yeoman") but it WAS dead handy and, apparently, the BEER was dead nice. I have to experience Real Ale vicariously these days, but it did smell good!

This section was ALL MALE as Emma was driving CHILDREN around, so instead of formal decision making we spent the time in intellectual conversation, including Tim telling a GOOD STORY that we hadn't heard before, the rest of The Vlads correctly guessing most of my Top 10 albums, and a lengthy session of "Do You Remember When..?" There were a LOT of LARFS.

Emma turned up just as it was time to wander round the corner for TEA, and it was here that we made many IMPORTANT decisions e.g. we're going to do our next two gigs (in Leicester and Cologne) ELECTRICALLY and we're going to try and have a practice during the afternoon before our spot at the Leicester Indiepop Alldayer. We also discussed our TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY (!) coming up in May and made some Important Decisions regarding the SECRET PROJECT that i was on about the other day. It was ACE!

There were also quite a lot more LARFS and some DELICIOUS food, which featured us all saying "It's South Indian Cuisine" quite a lot, and me having a Dosa THE SIZE OF A ROLL OF WALLPAPER!! It was ENORMOUS! Also, BRILL!

Tim and Emma headed home afterwards, so me, Frankie and Tom popped over to the traditional One Quick Pint Before The Train pub The Hind which, as it has been for the past THIRTY YEARS of my knowing it, was weirdly empty for 10pm on a Saturday night. It's ALWAYS been like that - I wonder if it just makes all its money when a train is late and people have nowhere else to go?

The evening ended with Frankie going for his train and me and Tom returning to Tiger Towers for some FINE WHISKY. It was LOVELY - I know bands are SUPPOSED to do gigs, but it's a LOT easier to get some drinking and chat done when you don't have to!

posted 15/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Meetings Meetings Meetings
The first week back to work is always a bit of a SLOG, as you're forced to leave the sofa and carry out tasks that are often, shall we say, not quite as viscerally thrilling as sitting in your pajamas watching a film and drinking a cup of tea. It's also a week when loads of people are still off work, and everybody's trying to get to grips with the grisly return to non-Christmas reality, so nothing much ever happens.

The SECOND week, however, is when everyone gives themselves a bit of an old talking to and decides to GET ON WITH IT. It is a time of EMAILS being sent, PLANS being set in action, and IDEAS for the new year being thrown around. ALSO, the FACT that this happens is always overshadowed by looking forward to Christmas and then DREAD of that dreary first week, so when it comes around every year it does so as a rather lovely surpris!

This has very much been my situation this week, as I have skipped between a succession of delightful MEETINGS to discuss New Stuff. The first of these came on Wednesday for me, when I met with Mr J Dredge for one of our usual CONFLABS, this time discussing the processes required to UNLEASH The Emergency EP (the debut EP from John Dredge & The Plinths) at the end of the month. When you've been in a band for (nearly) TWENTY YEARS you forget quite how much setting up needs doing for something NEW, but I think we've got just about everything covered. By the time release day comes around on January 29th we'll have the EP available online and on bandcamp, a FACEBOOK page set up, and a promotional campaign in full flow. The VIDOES are looking GRATE too!

Later that day I headed over to UAL to attend a Comics Reading Group, which was excellent fun, followed by a meeting with fellow RESEARCH STUDENT Mr T Yu-Kiener, who had an idea for him and me to collaborate on presenting a short course about COMICS. This was all rather thrilling, as TEACHING (about comics) is something I would like to get into a bit more in future. Tobias had a course all worked out already, so I suggested i do a session on SUPERHEROES and also British Humour Comics. I think I could QUITE EASILY talk about both those subjects at SOME LENGTH!

The next day featured two MORE meetings. The first was on the telephone with Mr M Tiller, who is in the midst of his own MEETING MANIA this week and has INDEED written a blog all about it. We were talking about a SCRIPT what I wrote AGES ago which he is going to do some gentle touting of, and I also persuaded him to have a look at 6 Billion To One, a screenplay I did AGES ago which did well in all sorts of competitions but which everybody said could never actually be filmed. Surely this is PRECISELY the kind of challenge that Hollywood Bigwigs YEARN for?

Then that evening there was YET MORE Meeting as I went to The King & Queen to meet representatives of a MUSICAL COLLECTIVE with whom I hope to be doing some COLLABORATING with in future. I can't say at this stage who they are or what we're thinking off, as we want it to be a surprise, but I CAN say that it was an EXCELLENT meeting which featured much note taking, BRANESTORMING, and a general agreement that being organised was a good way to go about things. I think it'll probably be MAY when I can talk about this freely, so will try not to go on about it too much in the meantime!

And there's even more meetings to come, for LO! tomorrow afternoon I head up to LEICESTER to meet The Validators for our CHRISTMAS CURRY (which we were too busy to have before Christmas due to it being Christmas) and the accompanying Validators AGM. We have MUCH to discuss, and also CURRY, it is going to be AMAZING! HOORAH for MEETINGS!

posted 12/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Video Shoot Efficiency
Sunday afternoon saw me heading into London's fashionable Holborn area of London to meet Mr John Dredge to film a POP VIDEO.

Last year The Plinths (me, John and Mr Andy Harland) recorded an EP, which is set for release at the end of this month. Here in the futuristic modern era you need to have VIDEOS to promote your TRACK on the MTV and the Youtube, so that is what we were planning to do.

After some minor confusion (turns out there are TWO Cafe Nero's opposite Holborn Station, one on High Holborn and one on Kingsway!) we headed into Lincoln's Inn Fields for some very enjoyable titting around. We had an idea of the SORT of thing we wanted to do and used this as the basis for wandering around the general area looking for likely looking SHOTS to ENGAGE with in a daft manner. This was all fine and dandy for me, as I was working the camera, while it was John who was doing the actual Looking Foolish!

The original plan was to go into Actual Lincoln's Inn itself, as it's full of ALLEYS and ARCHITECTURE that would have looked good, but it turned out to be SHUT. Luckily for us there was an ALLEY nearby that we could use instead - take that, LAWYERS!

The final part involved me chasing John down one of said alleys with the camera, which probably looked RIDICULOUS to the various black cabs that came past, but looked QUITE GOOD when I got all the footage home that evening. It was BLOODY FREEZING all afternoon while we were doing it, so I was very happy to discover that it had been worth it. INDEED, it seems we have got MORE than we bargained for - the alley stuff looked so good (and the song itself is SO SHORT) that I was able to make pretty much a whole VIDEO out of it, which means we can use all the other titting about for ANOTHER song. HA! I bet Godley and Creme don't manage this level of efficiency!

posted 9/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Bath Time At Last
On Friday I was hunched over the REFRESH button eagerly awaiting the announcement of the shortlist for the Bath Children's Novel Prize. I'd entered Storm House but just after noon the announcement came, and ... Storm House wasn't on it.

I didn't not feel TOO disappointed though, because this meant I could FINALLY show off about the fact that Storm House HAD made the LONGLIST back in December! The competition is judged blindly and the names of the AUTHORS are meant to be kept secret, so when the longlist came out I realised that I'd have to keep SCHTUM - it would be pretty easy to work out which book was mine as a) I have only written one book b) that was the title and c) I have been GOING ON about it for ages! The Longlist was announced at the start of December, so imagine if you can my private PAIN as I struggled NOT to SHOW OFF about something that I really really WANTED to for a WHOLE MONTH!!

The GRATE thing about this particular award is that a lot of the judging is done by ACTUAL CHILDREN. This is lovely as it means that nobody's second guessing what they want (e.g. claiming that children will ONLY read books about OTHER children of exactly their own age) and you ALSO get the BNAKids hashtag, which features excerpts from some of the reader reports, which are GRATE. It seems daft to me that MORE Literary Competitions don't do that - surely if you want to know what sort of thing The Young People want to read, then maybe asking The Young People would be a good idea?

Anyway, I'm MIGHTILY honoured to have made the Longlist, RELIEVED to be able to say so, and proffer HEARTFELT congratulation to those who have made it through to the shortlist. If the comments on the hashtag are anything to go by, there are some pretty excellent books on there!

posted 8/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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I Am Become Heritage
Over the past couple of years my ROCK activities have calmed somewhat - as I always say, for years I did LOADS of gigs because I thought if I ever stopped asking people then they'd stop asking me back... and it turns out I was right! The main outcome of this is that I have had a LOT more time to stay at home and watch TELLY, but it also means that I have commenced The Long Walk into life as a Heritage Artiste.

Clear evidence of this comes from my daily Self-Google. This is a practice I began AGES ago when lots was going on and I needed to keep ABREAST of my MEDIA PROFILE, but now it has become a habit which means I am constantly perplexed by weird Russian websites offering free mp3s of INTENSELY obscure songs. However, it also means that every now and then I spot a MENTION somewhere, and this week I have spotted two BLOGS which filled me with DELIGHT and THORTS in equal measure.

The first was a discussion on Europlop about Ed Sheeran, where Billy Jones Is Dead is mentioned as a song about teenage years which is a) somewhat obscure b) better than Ed Sheeran. The former I can certainly go along with, the latter I cannot possibly comment on hem hem.

The second blog was Football And Music talking about the Coupe de Monde EP, which featured the first version of The Fair Play Trophy (again). It's an excellent article, though I would like to make clear that I did NOT set up or edit my Wikipedia entry* - if I did it would be a LOT more up to date and have a DISCOGRAPHY on it!

Both of these articles are about songs I recorded almost TWO DECADES AGO which feels a bit disconcerting - surely 1998 was only a couple of years ago? It was also strange to realise that some of the information was apparently OBSCURE and had had to be RESEARCHED, like one of those articles on ANCIENT indie bands from the early 1990s that don't even have webpages and only appear on... well, indie music blogs. I know about these because every now and then I think "I wonder what happened to Blammo, or Mambo Taxi, or The Voodoo Queens" (etc etc etc) and the only information I can find is a) on a BLOG b) somewhat different to how I remember it myself. This is especially true when they talk about bands I KNEW - I have on numerous occasions been amused to read articles about Airport Girl or Prolapse, for instance, which refer to them making ARTISTIC DECISIONS and having MUSICAL INTENTIONS when, as I recall, they were just drunk like the rest of us.

THUS it's a bit weird to read similar articles about ME, when as far as I'm aware I am still an ONGOING PROJECT and very much an UP AND COMING NEW MUSIC ARTIST who just happens to watch a lot of Netflix and not like being out after 10pm. I guess it's better than being FORGOTTEN ENTIRELY though, and who knows? Maybe this means I'll have RICK RUBIN on the phone in a couple of years to talk about a comeback record!

* actually I DID edit it once - AAS was referred to as my "publishing company" which I kept getting on my nerves so I changed it to "record company" instead!

posted 5/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Back At The Workstation
You find me today back at work after what feels like approx 17 months off. For LO! it was a flipping lovely Christmas round our way, also an ORGANISED one.

We seemed to spend MONTHS working out what we were going to do, so when the festive season finally rolled around it rolled smoothly, easily, and in entirely the right direction at all points. Last year most of our planning came to NAUGHT because everyone was POORLY, but this year health and intentions were maintained at all times. We saw all available family and friends, travelled hither and thither without problem, and spent the whole of Christmas Day Actual at home doing EXACTLY what we wanted. It was bloody GRATE! Highlights included a trip to Stamford (and a meal which accidentally featured an entire VEGAN MENU), a full Christmas Dinner cooked by ME, and a night at Heathrow (NB not flying anywhere) staying in a Premier Inn that had a covered atrium full of cafes, bars, and children in their pyjamas.

Now it's back to work, but also hopefully back to ROCK. All is quiet and still this week, but after that things start to pick up. I've got a SECRET MEETING next week to discuss the Big Secret Band Project, then a trip to Leicester for the traditional Validators Christmas Curry (yes yes I know it's miserable when WORK have their Christmas Do in January, but this is The Validators so it will be DELIGHTFUL). I'm also doing some more filming with Mr J Dredge ahead of the release of The Plinths' EP at the end of the month, and have a whole new BLOG about Doctor Doom ready to roll later this month. Later in the year there'll hopefully be a sequel to Storm House, a trip to Cologne for the inaugral Cologne Popfest, and even a new JOB for me in the Spring!

It is, in fact, going to be ALL GO, so maybe it's not so bad to have a bit of a quiet week to kick the new year off with. Needless to say, I will be going on about all of the above right here at intermittent intervals, and hopefully a few more things beside. I hope, gentle reader, you will be able to join me!

posted 2/1/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Lights Of London
On Wednesday evening I met The Baubles Of My Tree in London's fashionable Covent Garden area of London for a new Christmas Tradition: A Walk Around The Christmas Lights!

This had been the aforesaid Presents In My Sock's idea, but it had been left to me to work out our ROUTE, which went RATHER well if I do say so myself as shouldn't. We first popped into a PUB for a reassuring DRINK, gazing in awe at the HUGE tree in Covent Garden itself. COR it was good, it was SO BIG that the wooden plant pot it sat in was about EIGHT FOOT TALL! They'd made a lovely job of decorating it too, we were IMPRESSED.

After our beers we wandered round to Trafalgar Square, feeling VERY Christmassy with all the twinkly lights and people merrying around. That bit of London feels dead Christmassy for about six months of the year anyway, but was even more so here in Christmas Actual!

When we got to Trafalgar Square there was a ginormous CHOIR singing Christmas Songs (they were singing along to a tape tho, which was a bit rum) next to The Big Tree From Norway which everyone learns about on Blue Peter. The tree itself was jolly good, but the decorations were a bit rubbish, especially compared to the Covent Garden one. It looked like someone had just attached eight strips of fairy lights to the top and dangled them down in straight lines down the sides. We agreed this must be due to Brexit.

Next we stomped around to Regent Street, which in contrast looked INCREDIBLE. When we went to see the Lumiere Lights a while ago there had been giant FLOATY FISH and ANGELS down the street, and it looked as if they had taken inspiration from that, as there were huge ANGELS all the way along with flapping wings. It was lovely, also approx 1,000,000 times nicer than last Christmas when they had Disney Adverts all the way along.

Being on Regent Street meant we had to go to Tibits for tea, which was GRATE, and then on the way home we stood at the corner of Oxford Street looking at the lights there too. These were done like giant advent calendars, which looked FAB. It was all dead good, in fact, with only the Big Tree in Trafalgar Square anything other than ACE. This WALK OF LIGHT was a new tradition, but I feel it will be a long lasting one!

posted 22/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Storm House Sequel
Yesterday found me celebrating a MOMENTOUS MOMENT in CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE, for LO! I finished the first draft of "The Utopians" AKA the sequel to Storm House!

It has taken me two months of an hour or two's writing a day to get to this point, which may not sound like a lot but certainly FELT like it! Those two months were just for the "writing up" of the book, as I'd spent approx 8 months before that working on the PLOT OUTLINE. This was something I learnt to do on my MA, working under the MENTORSHIP of Mr A Cartmel. He was intent on getting the actual story worked out, at some great length, before he'd agree to let me start the WRITING, which turned out to be absolutely brilliant advice. It made working out the overall plot MUCH easier, as it's PEASY to move whole chunks of story around at that point, and you can clearly see which bits aren't working. Best of all it meant that when I did the first proper draft I didn't need to worry about what was happening next, and could just enjoy WRITING it and putting loads of GAGS in!

It's been lovely spending fictional time with the Storm House team again, they are a LOVELY bunch of characters who always seem happy to YACK AWAY to each other. Also, for the last book I was adapting it all from a screenplay, but this time it was ALL NEW, so I could go all over the shop and do all KINDS of KRAZY STUFF, and I think I pretty much did!

The plan now is to leave it alone for at least a month, so that when I go back for the second draft it'll feel like a SURPRISE. Hopefully most of the surprises will be GOOD ones - I do enjoy a good laugh at my own jokes, and I'm pretty sure I'll have forgotten them by February - but there'll also be the long slog of getting my enormous paragraphs of waffle into something that makes sense. I'm quite nervous about whether it'll be any GOOD, but also quite excited in case it iS!

All being well "Storm House: The Utopians" will be out in the summer, around the same time of year as the first one was out, but you can rest assured that I will not keep quiet about it when it's ready!

posted 21/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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I Have Seen Star Wars And Have Opinions
I've spent the past few days nervously NOT looking at anything on the internet that had the word "Star Wars" anywhere near it, as I was determined to go in SPOILER FREE. I did see a couple of mentions of it being "surprising" and "not what you expected", but was doing quite well until Mr FA Machine emailed The Band to see who wanted to talk about it. I didn't want to miss out on BAND CHAT, and was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to hold out for much longer without gaining Unwanted Knowledge, so yesterday I booked the afternoon off and headed down to the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road to see it.

For those who have as yet remained unspoiled, there now follows a picture of The Validators to give you time to look away!

The Odeon Tottenham Court Road is not what you'd call a Good Cinema by any stretch of the imagination - it's tiny, it's cold, and it's not exactly PLUSH - but I do have a soft spot for it because it's where I've seen MOST of the Superhero and Sci-fi films that have come out since I've lived in That London. It's been handy for my WORK for most of the time, which means I've been able to go at non-peak times and enjoy it in aN uncrowded room in the company of my peers i.e. other middle-aged IT types. This was VERY MUCH the audience when I arrived early for the 2pm showing yesterday, and we all enjoyed the same BITS together with Light Chuckles. It was lovely!

The film itself was GRATE. My only slight disappointment was that it wasn't as Different and Groundbreaking as I'd been led to believe, although that did mean I spent the whole film CONVINCED that ANY of the characters could die AT ANY MOMENT. This made the bit with Finn and The Giant Space Cannon VERY TENSE INDEED for me!

My favourite bits were a) anything with Rose in it (she is THE BEST) and b) the whole story of Rey's parents. MAN ALIVE but I was pleased about that - I HATE it in fantasy/sci-fi when characters are FORETOLD DESTINIES and SECRET PARENTS and INHERITED POWERS. It is an entire narrative which says that the only worth these characters, and by extension ANY of us, have is nothing to do with our own actions, but instead comes SOLELY through our parentage. It is basically a TORY version of heroism and it WINDS ME UP NO END! Having a character find out that her parents were nobody famous, and that her destiny is HER OWN is a fantastic message to the 99.9999% of people in the Universe who do NOT have Space Warriors or BLOODY WIZARDS for parents. More of this sort of thing please!

Other things I loved were Luke Skywalker's last words, every time that Adrian Edmonson and ESPECIALLY Domhnall Gleeson were on screen (the "can you hear me?" bit was MEGA BRILL), all of the JOKES (so many jokes!), and the way the film goes "Yes, these PORGS are LUDICROUSLY cute. We know it, you know it, let's ENJOY it!" Oh, and also Finn getting to kill his Evil Line Manager. HOORAH!

In fact, I think I'm enjoying it now, the next day, even more than I did at the time. This is very handy because, as is the way of my people, I will almost definitely be watching it MANY MORE TIMES!

posted 19/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Very Festive
On Sunday afternoon The Lights On My Tree and I headed over to Leytonstone for our traditional attendance at the St John's Church Carol Service with our pal Ms H Arnold. It was a right grim and wet night out, but once inside it was warm, noisy, and EXTREMELY festive.

I love this Carol Service, it fits in exactly with my idea of what Christmas, and indeed our GRATE NATION, should really be i.e. a mish mash of hundreds of years of different ideas, full of all kinds of people, churned up with deranged selection box of odd traditions which no-one's quite sure how they started, and held together with goodwill and sticky tape. THUS, alongside the traditional prayers and readings there was a children's percussion EXPLOSION (it made The Music Of The Future sound like a FLUTE CONCERTO), a ROCK BAND, a BRASS SECTION, some extremely glorious choral singing, the Nativity as told by a children's TV presenter, the vicar getting the words wrong, and of course the lighting of the Christmas Tree followed by the traditional response by the congregation of "OOOooooOOOOOO!!!!"

It was bloody lovely and, as ever, suddenly MOVING at various expected and unexpected junctures. I always get a lump in my throat when we get to "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" as it reminds me of my Nan coming to see my school nativity play when I was in Junior School, but there were many other MOMENTS dotted around when LO! the spirit of Christmas did o'er shadow me. The big one this time was when the choir stood in the aisle on their way out and sang the last verse of the final carol with the organ, brass section AND the band all blasting out. It sounded SO ENORMOUS I had to stop singing to have a sniffle!

After all that our traditional trip to the Red Lion over the road was much needed, and on this occasion it was augmented by the presence of erstwhile VOON iconoclast Dr N Brown. I haven't seen him for AGES so we had a good old chat about Diverse Topics and it ended up turning into a little bit of a session, ending with the traditional acknowledgement of a good time well had: "Shall we have a whisky?" The cry went up "YEAH!"

We had so much fun, in fact, that when we got home we decided to have a CHIPPY TEA, rather than struggle through attempts to COOK. It was a delightful end to a delightful evening, and we went to bed feeling DECIDEDLY festive!

(I didn't feel particularly festive when I woke up this morning, mind you, but then again what could be MORE Christmassy than a Seasonal Hangover?)

posted 18/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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They Did, They Did Rock Us
Last night The Audience In My Arena and I went to see QUEEN! Executive Summary: It was GRATE!

The gig was at our FAVOURITE big venue (i.e. the only one we ever go to), the O2 arena. It's dead good there - not only is it SUPER PEASY to get to from our house, it's also actually dead nice. It is VAST but feels quite cosy, the seats are comfy, the sound is good, and the bar is easily accessible. This is pretty much all I require from The Big Gig Venue Experience, and the O2 fulfills all criteria ADMIRABLY.

It was the aforesaid Kick Drum Of My Kit's idea to go, and indeed she PAID for the both of us, which was pretty flipping amazing. We'd checked stage times before going and arrived with about 20 minutes leeway... and then stood in a MASSIVE shuffling queue for 20 minutes. They were doing individual bag checks and metal detector walk throughs into the main arena, which, thinking about it, I guess is understandable, but did mean it took AGES to get through. Once we WERE inside I spotted two seats on the AISLE and RIGHT near the doors. "I wish those were our seats," I thought, and they TOTALLY WERE! Even better, the person in the seat next to us never showed up, so we not only had EASY ACCESS to bars and toilets, but also LEG ROOM! We even had time to go and get BEER before the ACTUAL start time - we were GIG WINNERS!

This actual gig itself was BRILLO. You know these Stadium Rock Shows that you read about? It was one of THOSE, done by MASTERS of the GENRE. There were LAZERS and SMOKE and EXPLOSIONS and SCREENS and a GIANT ROBOT and everything you could wish for. There was also a great deal of BUSINESS over the course of the two hours, including Adam Lambert riding a pink tricycle for "I Want To Ride My Bicycle", Brian May doing a BIT in the middle of the Arena with a Stereographic Selfie Stick, and Roger Taylor doing a DRUM SOLO FACEOFF with the percussionist (surprisingly there were only six of them onstage throughout - Queen, Adam Lambert, a bass player, percussionist and keyboard player). A small, teenage, voice within me said "This is decadent and ludicrous!" while a much larger, WISER voice, replied "YES AND IT IS MAGIC!"

The SONGS were RUDDY FAB throughout - they started off with a couple of songs that I Did Not Know but then it was pretty much ALL THE HITS, ALL THE WAY, even including the DAFT ones like "Fat Bottomed Girls" and the ENORMO HITS like... well, do a list of all their many many many hits, they DID them! Adam Lambert was also GRATE - as The Members Of My Band pointed out, the fact that he was YOUNG and AMERICAN worked in his favour, as it meant he wasn't a direct replacement for F Mercury, and it was LOVELY seeing how pleased Roger Taylor and Brian May seemed to be to have him there. He's been with them for five years now, and I imagine it has given them a new lease of LIFE that they weren't expecting, it was all rather DELIGHTFUL.

They also handled the whole "Freddie Mercury Isn't Here" bit VERY nicely, with him popping up on video at the end of a Brian May solo version of "Love Of My Life" (which was PRETTY EMOTIONAL) and then during "Bohemian Rhapsody", but that was it. Adam Lambert did a speech near the start saying he wasn't replacing anybody, and after that it all felt RIGHT. The only thing that felt slightly odd to me was that at no point did anybody mention John Deacon. When he appeared in the video section for "Bohemian Rhapsody" it felt like everyone had forgotten he'd existed!

It was, as stated earlier, GRATE, and we emerged from the 120 minutes of ROCK feeling PRETTY JOLLY HAPPY in a crowd of people who had been ROUNDLY entertained. Well done, The Band Queen + Adam Lambert, well done!

posted 14/12/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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