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A Night At The Para Athletics
Last night The Starting Blocks Of My Race and I went to The Olympic Stadium (THAT IS WOT IT'S CALLED) to see The Para Athletics and it was BLOODY BRILLIANT.

We've been watching it on telly all week and it's been VERY exciting to think that it was all going on over there at the stadium, as seen out of our living room window (because we live in The Olympic Park you see, sorry, that may not have been clear because I Do Not Like To Go On About It). The Days Of My Week had already been last Friday, and reported that it was GRATE, but I was still not quite prepared for how AMAZING it would be.

The AMAZINGNESS began when we walked into the stadium itself and down to our seats which, it turned out, were not only RIGHT down the front, but also next to the finishing line! This meant that ALL NIGHT LONG we got to see the start of lots of races right up close and also ALL THE FINISHES! It was incredible! ALSO all the athletes came running past us waving flags when they won (the best was the shot putter Niko Kappel who looked like he was going to EXPLODE with DELIGHT) AND all the TV crews were filming nearby AND loads of athletes came and sat in our section to cheer on teammates. Georgie Hermitage's family were sat right near us, and she came and sat with them after getting her win, and we waved (A LOT) at Hannah Cockcroft and Whizbee the mascot!

Before going I was sort of expecting it to go on a bit, and had been advised to bring a BOOK for LULLS, but the entire three hour session FLEW by, with races and track events going on all over the place. They were doing the F11 Long Jump for a lot of the evening, which is basically the long jump WHILE WEARING A BLINDFOLD! It looked absolutely TERRIFYING, and the whole stadium had to be quiet while they did it so the athletes could hear their coaches telling them when to jump. It made the T11 400m (also visually impaired - what, have you not been memorising all the categories too?) look like a BREEZE!

It was utterly fantastic and we all entered a state of JOYFUL DELIRIUM which culminated in EVERYBODY singing along to "Sweet Caroline" and DABBING with gusto. We staggered out with huge GRINS on our faces - there's still tickets available, so if you're anywhere near I would THOROUGHLY recommend going. I think we will be!

posted 21/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Tour Of Reading
Wednesday evening found myself and Mr S Hewitt getting one over on THE MAN, this time in his guise as TRAIN TICKET PRICES. We were heading for Reading and all the tickets for direct, fast trains were over 30 quid. You could get a cheaper one for about half the price BUT it took over twice as long... except for a couple of exceptions that only took 10 minutes more than the fast trains, but were at the lower price. HA! We felt QUITE the insider rebels when we spotted and USED this information - who says PUNK ROCK is dead?

We were in Reading to perform Still Valid at The Reading Fringe. Our venue, The Milk Bar, was very close to the station and, once we'd arrived, it took about 2 minutes to say hello to the organisers and have a quick look round. As a result of this efficienty we ended up having plenty of time to Explore Reading. By "explore Reading" I mean, of course, "Go to some pubs", so we popped into The Ale House (exactly what you'd expect from the name, including beer mats on the ceiling and walls, and as Steve said "more ponytails than women"), The Monk's Retreat (basically a Weatherspoons but not actually a Weatherspoons) and The Bugle. This last one was a GLORIOUSLY old-fashioned pub that was old-fashioned in that it was like old pubs ACTUALLY WERE, rather than what marketeers would like us to think i.e. it was, to quote TripAdvisor, "a bit rough" with people swearing loudly and happily at each other across the bar, beermats that had seen better days, and regulars mumbling to themselves in corners. To PARAPHRASE the philosopher D Emery, it was awful but I liked it.

Our tour complete we returned to The Milk Bar where we found a gentleman gloriously attired in a Keith Top Of The Pops t-shirt, who would make up just over 10 percent of our audience. Steve, our nine audience members, and myself were all ready to get going at 8:50pm but we politely waited until the alloted hour to start the show, and once we did it all went pretty well. The first ten minutes were strangely similar to when we did the Leicester Comedy Festival, in that it felt like nobody AT ALL was laughing, but once we all got settled in the LARFS became audible. They were a lovely audience, and we were VERY excited to get to 100% PER CENT AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION for the "Air Punching" section of (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock. It was BEAUTIFUL!

Job done we finished our drinks, consulted our timetables, and headed off back to That London. The next show is in CROYDON (where I appear to do ALL my gigs these days) at The Spreadeagle. You can book tickets in advance if you fancy coming to that one. It should be a good old do, not only are Jenny Lockyer and Gavin Osborn playing, but on the evidence of last night it would seem that Steve and I have a SHOW to show you!

posted 20/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Cockcroft And Kitson
While I was busy ROCKING CROYDON on Friday night, The Trams On My Track was at the OLYMPIC STADIUM (I know we're supposed to called it "The London Stadium", but that's not its real name and everybody knows it) to see The Para Athletics. She had a GRATE time and so on Saturday afternoon we wandered over to The Hero Village to see the MEDALS ceremony. The organisers had - quite sensibly, I thought - decided NOT to have the ceremonies during the event itself, but the next day so that other people could go along and be part of it.

It was all very exciting. Next to us was an Indian Delegation who WHOOPED like mad when their guy got his gold medal, then stood RAMROD straight when they played the national anthem, and then later still got all excited again when their winner came over to chat. We cheered and clapped a LOT, none more so than at the end when ACTUAL HANNAH COCKCROFT came out to get her medal. It was DEAD exciting!

I was out and about again on Sunday, heading to Chalk Farm to meet Mr S Hewitt to go and see Mr Daniel Kitson at THE ROUNDHOUSE. It was a lovely warm day, which made having a pint of cold lager in a pub garden nearby MUCH NEEDED, though also slightly alarming when Steve told me the show was TWO HOURS long without BREAKS!

Once we got into the roundhouse I was further alarmed by signs saying you wouldn't be let back into the main area if you DID leave for a wee, and it seemed that this was the HOT TOPIC amongst the audience. A LOT of us went for nervous wees pre-gig!

It was dead nice inside the Roundhouse. The show was happening In The Round, with the stairs tiered all round in a circle like a CIRCUS. There was a HAZE over everything, which I think might have been an air conditioning thing - we went on a PLANE a while ago that had a MIST coming out of the roof, and they told us then that that's what it was!

I've never seen Mr Kitson do a GIG before - I've met him a couple of times as he's chums with Mr G Osborn, and he's always seemed DELIGHTFUL, but it was still a bit surprising finding him taking to the stage and being IN CONTROL of the whole thing like he was. It was dead impressive, but I did have to stop myself waving and going "Coo-ee!"

The show itself was BLOODY GRATE I must say. I kind of see what all the FUSS is about now! He had a very clever system of LIGHTS which signified different sections of story, narrators and Types Of Narration, and he also occasionally sent his voice to different speakers around the room. It was technically very impressive, but the main thing was the stories he was telling and how FUNNY they were. The two hours pretty much FLEW by, although a break halfway through would have been much appreciated by quite a large proportion of the audience, and there was a MAD DASH for the loo as soon as he went off!

Apart from that though, it was dead good. I wander what ELSE everybody else has been right about all along?

posted 18/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Tram Trip To Wandle Park
On Friday night I headed out to distant Croydon, a place I have been to MANY times before, to do something for the first time: ride on one of the Croydon Trams! These majestic transports have whizzed past me every time I've been to Croydon, but I'd never had cause to actually BOARD one before. This evening, however, I was playing a gig in Wandle Park and had been told that the TRAM was the best way to get there.

A tram rolled up just as I excited East Croyon Station and I HOPPED aboard. It was a DELIGHT, and I exited at my destination full of the joys of TRAVEL. I quickly found the bandstand, where things were being set up under the direction of Ms J Lockyer, who was hosting the evening, with fellow ACT My Favourite Andy nearby. This was part of a regular series of gigs put on by Mr T Eveleigh aka The Croydon Comedy Festival - Tim is pretty much the only person who still books me for solo gigs, which is why I'm in Croydon as often as I am!

To use the LOO you had to find the PARKIE and get him to unlock it for you. I noticed one of the Andys following said Parkie so hobbled off after him. My back was playing up (AGANE) so I didn't quite catch them, and when I arrived at the loos they both seemed to have DISAPPEARED. There were several LOCKED doors, but no indication which to use. I thought I'd just wait until Andy emerged, which meant hanging around the back of the Public Toilets near a small group of young men wearing CAPS and smoking VERY FRAGRANT CIGARRETTES. I was VERY relieved when Andy emerged and I was able to hop inside!

There was a little while until showtime so I asked directions and headed off to the nearest off-licence. As I say, I've been to Croydon many times and always found it dead nice. It has a reputation as being a bit grotty, but i have always found it CHARMING ... so I was a bit surprised to find myself in pretty much exactly the sort of Croydon that everyone thinks is ALL of it. I was once again very relieved to get back to the bandstand!

I thought the show itself would basically be My Favourite Andy playing to ME, and then vica versa, but as it went along quite a few people appeared. My Favourite Andy went first and were ACE - they've played Totally Acoustic before, so I knew they would be, like a South London Simon & Garfunkel. Then it was my turn and I did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Mental Judo
  • In The North Stand
  • I Want To Find Out How It Ends
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It all went pretty well - singing inside the bandstand meant there was NATURAL REVERB which sounded lovely, and as I looked around the park I could see dots of people scattered hither and thither watching. It was, in fact, a LOVELY gig, only added to by the traditional Very Stoned Person Asking For Requests. This used to happen to me all the time when I played in Lewisham, so when a gentleman staggered over to ask for "Country Road" I knew how to deal with it i.e. NOT to ask if by any chance he knew how to play it (NB they always do) but instead to carry on with the gig!

    Afterwards most of the performers and also the audience wandered over and CRAMMED themselves onto a VERY busy tram to head home again. I'm back in Croydon with Steve in a couple of weeks to do Still Valid, maybe we'll get the tram then too!

    posted 17/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Crisis On Infinite Earths
    Last week I went to the UAL library to get some BOOKS. Nothing strange about that, you might think, but this time I was getting some GRAPHIC NOVELS. Again, bearing in mind that I'm doing a PhD about COMICS this might appear fairly straightforward, but actually I had until that point taken NO graphic novels/collected comics out of the library. I've got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited so don't usually need Actual Physical Printed Comics, but this time I was after (YIKES) non-Marvel product - at the conference in Dundee someone had recommended "Hellboy" for representations of Eastern Europe in US mainstream comics, and several people had mentioned Alison Bechdel's "Fun House" which I hadn't read and thought I ought.

    I got both these books out but have as yet read NEITHER of them as something MUCH more exciting caught my eye - the collected edition of DC Comics' "Crisis On Infinite Earths"! I have mentioned this myself in VARIOUS presentations as one of the possible endpoints for The Bronze Age so thought I should have another look at it, as I've not read it for at LEAST fifteen years, since I sold my original comics collection. Also, it looked really cool and I fancied something a bit FUN.

    I have been TRYING for the past year to read "Secret Wars", which is the Marvel Comics equivalent of the above, but have been constantly thwarted by the fact that it is BLOODY AWFUL, so I was half-expecting Crisis to be much the same. Imagine my surprise, then, when it turned out to be GRATE! It's exciting, intriguing, full of ideas, MOVING, and also looks GRATE! It does share some of the same problems as "Secret Wars" does, but I think those are problems shared by MOST comics from back then. The most obvious thing is that all the characters keep introducing themselves ALL THE TIME and addressing everybody by their full titles e.g. "Hey Captain Comet, how are you getting on in your battle with The Monitor's Shadow Demons?" "All right thank you, Shade The Changing Man - I knew being a mutant born 10,000 years before his time would come in handy!" NB this is not me joking, this is how they talk.

    They are also CONSTANTLY describing things that are happening to them ("Oh no, this building! It is falling down and I am trapped in it!") and explain everything to THEMSELVES in thought bubbles. I know that much of this is a hangover from newsstand distribution (any comic could be someone's first, so all characters must be named) but the description of events gets a bit tiring. "I know the building is falling down, Kid Flash, I can see it doing so there in the picture!"

    With all that said it is still a RIGHT riveting read, and a LOT happens. Flipping heck, when you're used to today's decompressed comics (and compared to Crisis, ALL comics are decompressed) with splash pages galore, duplicated images and a four panels per page norm, it comes as a bit of a shock to find page after page with TWENTY tiny little panels, all PACKED with dialogue, corner boxes, thought bubbles and CONSTANT ACTION. Each issue takes FOREVER to read through, and you certainly feel you've got your money's worth when you've done so!

    Two things REALLY surprised me about it, that I don't remember from previous readings. Firstly, it's rather MOVING, especially when (SPOILERS) Supergirl dies. I got quite worked up at that bit, and there's a real heartfelt sadness to lots of sections. We think we're all modern and characterful with today's comics, but the Bronze Age stuff can still pack a punch!

    Secondly, it didn't work out AT ALL like I thought it did. I'd forgotten all about the various twists and turns, the different ways that the Multiverse got moved around, and also that, really, it is "Crisis On Five Earths" rather than infinite ones. MOST OF ALL though I was astonished to get to the end and find that, according to this series at least, loads of the superheroes remembered exactly what happened, with most of the leftover Earth-2 types just getting conveniently killed in a final battle. Eh? Wot? I distinctly remember John Byrne's "Man Of Steel" being a complete reboot going RIGHT back to the start in a modern setting, what happened there then?

    Alas I may have to force myself NOT to find out - I've got the flipping Marvel Multiverse to worry about, I don't need to get involved with another one!

    posted 13/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Lit Just Got Real
    You find me today giggling coquettishly with excitement, like a medieval monarch with a new serfdom to dominate, for LO! there has been progress on THE NOVEL.

    For the past couple of weeks I have been talking to the BRILLIANT comics artist Rachael Smith, who has been designing a COVER for me. I first saw her stuff when she did the poster for All In The Same Boat with Lost City Writers, which was ACE, so I was VERY pleased when she agreed to do the cover for 'Storm House'. It has been a LOT of fun working with her - I say "working" but, as with when Mr John Allison did the artwork for Dinosaur Planet, it was mostly a case of me trying not to AUDIBLY SQUEAL when she emailed me drafts and occasionally asking for something to be a slightly different colour. The finished work is GORGEOUS, I'll show you it soon I promise!

    Once the image was sorted I added the LOGO and suddenly it looked like an Actual Real Book. It was really strange - out of nowhere, after more than a year of working on it, there it was, MY NOVEL! I sat and just STARED at it for ages, ASTONISHED that it could actually have happened.

    Yesterday I started the process of uploading it to the Kindle Select Program, which is where it'll be hosted. When you upload it they have a VIRTUAL KINDLE which you can read it on and, again, I was AMAZED by the FACT that it looked JUST like a real book! The cover, the acknowledgements and even the CONTENTS PAGE looked like an Actual Book On The Kindle. It seems weird to be saying it because OF COURSE it does, but it suddenly struck me that this was a proper actual thing I was doing. I realise now that this is EXACTLY the same sensation I had 300 million years ago when The Masters Of Nothing recorded a cassette one afternoon and I made sleeve for it using a piece of lined paper and some coloured pencils. It felt REAL, the same as it did years later with Say It With Words or the Hey Hey 16K DVD, and it was EXTREMELY exciting!

    Things are PROCESSING as we speak, but I think we're all on track for the OFFICIAL LAUNCH over Indietracks weekend. Last night I met with The Author Charles Flowers to get some HOT TIPS on publicising it (also, beer) and I have many IDEAS. The initial plan is to make the book available for FREE for a few days so that hopefully I can get it off to a good start with the mighty Amazon Algorithm, and I shall be using every opportunity to remind you about THAT when we get nearer to the time. For now though: ZOINKS! It looks REAL!!

    posted 12/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Validators Practice 2017
    Myself and The Validators consider ourselves a rigorously professional, finely honed squad of committed musicians, and thus we make sure that we have a practice EVERY SINGLE YEAR, whether we need to or not. This year's practice was booked for Saturday lunchtime in Leicester, which meant that I had to drag my hungover self there from Northampton via THREE (3) trains. Three trains, it is KRAZY! When I lived in Leicester I NEVER went to Northampton, despite it being REALLY close, because it is hideously difficult to get there. Three trains!

    I had arranged to meet Mr FA Machine at the station but was delighted to find that the whole Family Machine had come, and the four of us thus relocated to THE SPOONS for a much-need pint of precisely the dog wot had bit me (CARLSBERG) and some GRUB. I am not super keen on Weatherspoons at the best of times, but it provided some much-needed succour on Saturday morning! It was lovely to see The Machines, and I was DELIGHTED to later discover that, when I went to the loo, a puzzled young Evan Machine had asked his father why nobody in the pub was pointing at me, as I am in a band and therefore FAMOUS.

    I'm with Evan on this one - it's WEIRD!

    Our dining complete Frankie and I hopped into a taxi and ZOOMED over to Quad Studios. Tim had recommended it from when he'd had Prolapse practices, and coo er gosh but it is DEAD POSH. It looks like just another Studio Inside An Old Factory from the outside, but inside it is all airy spaces, decent equipment and CLEANLINESS. It was SO clean that it felt like practicing in a CONFERENCE CENTRE or something, inside the practice room there was a SKYLIGHT and it didn't even STINK!!

    Once we'd all recovered from the shock and got ourselves set up we settled down to the serious business of practicing. A few weeks ago we'd had a lengthy email discussion and agreed a MENU of songs which we all agreed, ratified, and then (as usual) CHANGED the day before we met up. The final menu was a good mix of HITS and a few we hadn't played for YEARS or, indeed, have NEVER played live. We worked through most of them (we don't really NEED to play Easily Impressed any more times, it's not going to get any better!) and then had another LENGTHY discussion about the best ORDER to play them in. There's a couple of songs that sound, SHALL WE SAY, hewn from the same cloth (despite being written nearly twenty years apart!) so WORK had to be undertaken to make sure they were kept a safe distance apart, and then of course we needed to apply the usual setlist rules e.g. two BANGERS to start with, "quiet" ones not too close together, and HITS ALL THE WAY for the final third.

    When all that was finally agreed we pick up our instruments and performed the WHOLE SETLIST in order! We are like THE ROLLING STONES or something! We timed it all to make sure that it fitted into our timeslot, which was a good idea as, though we DID do the lot in under 45 minutes it did not leave much spare for Accidents or indeed REMARKS, so we agreed to DROP a song. I'd rather run slightly quick and be able to introduce the band (and impart various other WISDOMS, of course) than have to cut the final song because the soundman's giving us EVILS!

    With our work complete we packed up, said our farewells, and then Frankie and I headed back into Leicester City Centre. It has changed A LOT in recent years. Whole chunks of town seem to have been knocked down and replaced by Student Flats, and everywhere still standing has been turned into a BAR.

    Talking of which, I completed my tour of Pub Chains I Don't Usually Approve Of by visiting Brewdog where we met the rest of the Machines, I was interrogated about Marvel Comics by a small child (this happens a LOT) and then said hello to Charlie from The Retro Spankees, who happened to be there. Clearly it was Meet The Retro Spankees In Different Midlands Towns weekend!

    Soon it was time to head back home, safe in the knowledge that we had successfully completed our Continuing Professional Development In ROCK for another year. You've got to keep yourself up to date haven't you?

    posted 11/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    In Town On A Friday Night
    Friday night found me meeting up with both Mr S and Mrs M Hewitt at Euston Station, ready for a trip up to Northampton to perform Still Valid. I am CLEARLY out of practice at this gigging lark, as I was foolishly lurking around in the station waiting for them, when OF COURSE we always meet in the Euston Tap. I missed a pint!

    We were soon back in the swing, however, doing LINEZ on the train then checking into Our Usual Suites at The Ibis... although this Ibis has had a refurb since last time we were there, which seems to have, somehow, made the rooms LARGER. Or maybe we were just on a different floor, who can say?

    Our venue for the evening was a new one for us, and it was a bit FANCY. It featured the words "pop-up" and "street food" in its description, had paint brushes instead of door handles in the loo, and of course had various Grumpy Middle-Aged People complaining about it all. It's not my cup of tea but it IS nice to know that THE KIDZ TODAY have created an environment seemingly DESIGNED to annoy the older generation. It is how it should be!

    My favourite bit of Hipster was when I asked for a PINT of San Miguel. "We don't serve San Miguel in pints" said the young man behind the bar, as if I had just asked for a tonne of lemurs. This seemed odd - I know STRONG beers get served in smaller measures, but surely that didn't apply to San Miguel? "Why's that?" I asked. "We don't have any pint glasses."

    Despite, or possibly BECAUSE, of this fun the actual evening was lovely, booked for us by Ms T Payne, and the street food was flipping GORGEOUS. They also had a VIDEO playing downstairs, showing Vic and Bob's The Weekenders. I'd never seen it before and very much enjoyed it, though it did slightly WARP my perceptions for the next half hour or so, as I kept expecting things to comply to Vic and Bob logic!

    We were supported by Winston Echo, who was GRATE and did all the HITS - if feels like ages since I have heard "Winchester Cathedral Choir"! Then it was our turn, and it all went pretty well. There were laughs where we hoped for laughs, lots of opportunities to MESS AROUND, and I even got to put my foot up on a Raised Stage Edge during (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock, which felt a) appropriate b) ROCK!

    Afterwards we stood around for various CHATS, which included me getting a little over-excited when Mr D Middleditch revealed he was a Forest Green Rovers fan. I really want to try their half-time food! After that we headed out for another drink, and had a stroll through Northampton Town Centre which reminded many of us EXACTLY why we tend not to go out in TOWN of a weekend evening. We ended up in The Black Prince, which was rather nice, for a LENGTHY discussion of diverse topics, which reminded me why I used to LIKE going out in town at weekends!

    It was thus Quite Late when I rolled into the Ibis, my alarm set for further ROCK the following day!

    posted 10/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Grand Finale
    The first Thursday of the month has, since time immemorial (well, about two years ago), been Totally Acoustic night. However, the show that occurred last night will be the last of these for a while. We've got the ALL-STAR ALL-DAYER next month (details HERE) but after that I'll be putting Totally Acoustic on a temporary hiatus so I can get some PhD and OTHER stuff done!

    With all that in mind I could not have WISHED for a better FINALE for this batch of shows. I arrived at the King & Queen at 5:30pm to find Mr S Hewitt already in place, sat looking at his phone with half a pint in front of him AS IS TRADITIONAL. We discussed some of his recent globetrotting and then headed upstairs. We had arrived an hour earlier than usual so that we could have a quick practice for Still Valid, which we'll be performing TONIGHT in Northampton. We WHIPPED through, having a delightful time and even doing some extra jokes for the entirely fictional audience!

    Towards the end we were joined by Mr D Green and Mr K Top Of The Pops, two GIANTS of Totally Acoustic. They were harbingers for an ARRAY of Superstar Performers and Beloved Regulars - there were so many FACES, it was like THE AVENGERS or something! For instance, I enjoyed a delightful chat with Mr J Jervis, who suggested that I could do a READING from MY NOVEL in the Merch Tent at Indietracks! Part of me thought "But that's a crazy idea!" although to be honest it wasn't a very BIG part - I'm going to see if there's a bit that would SUIT public reading, but I do rather like the idea. I shall pretend to be DICKENS!

    When Steve and I were setting the room up I had noticed Steve putting out LOADS of chairs, including several Theatre Style rows behind the normal tables. I thought this was a bit unnecessary but I turned out to be entirely WRONG, as we got a HUGE audience - probably the biggest EVER!

    This was no doubt due to the stellar line-up we had, kicking off (after me and a ROUSING version of the theme tune) with Deerful. As I said in my introduction, LOADS of people have recommended BOOKING her, and ALL of them have added "I'm not sure how she'd do Totally Acoustic though." Turns out she would do it MARVELLOUSLY, sitting on the floor with three gadgets and a tiny amplifier, all battery powered to conform to THE RULES. It was a small cramped room full of hot people sitting in SILENCE, ENTRANCED by the amazing music she seemed to be making from almost nothing. I liked it a LOT!

    Next up were The Indelicates, at least 50% of whom were sporting some MAGNIFICENT silver trousers. They were mostly performing songs from their new album, and thus there were many Metaphors For Brexit. It was DEAD theatrical, especially when they did a song about SPIRITUALISTS. Suddenly people in the AUDIENCE started singing back to Simon as he interacted with them, it was a) STARTLING b) AMAZING. That one is DEFINITELY going on the podcast!

    And then finally we had the fantastic Emma Kupa, playing totally solo this time. She RANGED across her output, including HITS, tracks from the forthcoming CONCEPT ALBUM (I *knew* concept albums would get cool again one day!) and best of all some NEW songs which sounded BRILLIANT. She is, as I have said many times before, one of the BEST peoples to come out of the Indiepop scene and I cannot WAIT to get a listen to the new records, once Jerv gets them made!

    With the whole show finished it simply remained to dole out the IMPRESSIVE whip round (also the biggest ever!) amongst the acts and then head out into the Summer Night with The Cash In My Bucket, feeling very happy that this particular run had ended on such an enormous HIGH.

    As I say, next month is the all-dayer with Pete Green, Gavin Osborn, Jenny Lockyer, Matt Tiller, Peter Buckley-Hill and Keith Top Of The Pops plus maybe more. CJ at The King & Queen is even ordering us in some specially chosen SESSION BEERS, it's going to be GRATE!

    posted 7/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Storm House Incoming
    Regular readers of this THRILLING BLOG will know that earlier this year I got myself an AGENT for my NOVEL 'Storm House' and then, a few weeks after that, I LOST the aforesaid agent for the aforesaid novel. The whole thing was a RIGHT pain in the arse and a source of MUCH disappointment which, I must admit, did rather knock the wind out of my sails.

    However, after a suitable interval of MOPING I picked myself up and sent it out to a bunch of other agents. In the couple of months since then I have received precisely ZERO response so recently decided to say "SOD IT" to the whole business and just do it myself. It would have been nice, I guess, to get a Professional on my side, but a LARGE part of me was actually quite relieved . I'd tried doing it the conventional way via GATEKEEPERS and now I was free to follow my natural inclinations and go INDIE. It's what I've done in ROCK for DECADES, so I might as well do the same in LITERATURE!

    I've been doing some reading up on how to DIY Publish via Amazon Kindle and apparently you need to give the book a big BOOST when it first comes out to send it flying up the bestseller rankings, which means that the ALGORITHM will then push it at lots of other people. With this in mind I have decided to a) make it FREE for the first few days and b) release it over the weekend of July 29/30th when I'll be at Indietracks and thus have access to literally SEVERAL people who I can try and persuade to buy it. I'm going to do FLYERS and everything!

    The FREE period will also cover the following Monday, which is newsletter day, so hopefully I can LEVERAGE my MAILING LIST for OPTIMUM LAUNCH VELOCITY. As you can probably tell I have got myself Quite Excited about it all, and that's before I even start to think about the fact that I'll FINALLY be able to get people to actually READ it too! ! I'm also rather enjoying the process of FORMATTING it, as I have not only taught myself how to do automatic tables of contents in Word (ROCK!), but have ALSO been able to commission some COVER ART. I shall save further details on that until it's all done, but so far it is looking GRATE!

    The main message for now is to say GIRD THYSELVES, for LO! not only will I be going on about this quite a bit over the next few weeks, I shall also be asking for some ASSISTANCE. Mainly this will involve asking everyone I know to DOWNLOAD the book when it's free (I don't think you even have to have a Kindle, you can get it for reading in one of their "readers"). If anyone then wants to actually READ it that would be lovely too - I can't promise it's the BEST self-published science fiction action-adventure story with JOKES in, but I CAN promise that it is a) SHORT b) SPELL-CHECKED and c) HOPEFULLY AMUSING!

    More - much MUCH more - on all this as we approach release day, but in the meantime, stand by for EXCITEMENT!

    posted 5/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Annual Art And Architecture Adventure 2017
    Every year The Exhibits In My Gallery and I like to have a day where we go and look at the Serpentine Pavilion and The BP Portrait Award and this year that day was the Saturday just gone.

    It all began with some additional MUSIC, as the aforesaid Voices In My Chorus was taking part in the Chorus Festival at the South Bank Centre, along with her CHOIR. She set off early so I ended up rolling up on my own to wander round looking for her lot and getting a bit CONFUSED as there were many many choirs and they had ALL decided to wear BLACK. I eventually found our team just in time to go to the outside stage where they were performing and it was PRETTY FLIPPING GRATE, especially their version of "Fix You" which was approx 17 times nicer than the original. It was really good!

    After a quick change out of STAGE GEAR we headed West to Hyde Park where, despite having done this annually for YEARS, we managed to get A Bit Lost. We did find the Serpentine Gallery in the end, though not before a walk round the Round Pond which featured lots of a) SWALLOWS b) DUCKLINGS. I would happily get lost like that any time!

    This year's pavilion was Quite Nice - it looks like a very posh Bus Station, and smelt deliciously of freshly planed WOOD, but ALAS (for it) could not compare with how much we liked last year's. On the way into the pavilion we'd noticed a QUEUE into the gallery itself, which turned out to be for a Grayson Perry exhibition, so we queued up for a couple of minutes and went in for a look at that too. The first two-thirds were good - lots of POTTERY about BREXIT, basically - but I liked the last section the best, where he'd done a customised MOTORBIKE and a bicycle and a Marriage Shrine. It was funny AND moving, two things which most ART singularly fail to be, and I liked it a LOT!

    At this point we had been STOMPING and being CULTURED for quite some time, so went back into town to TIBITS for a BIG LUNCH, then stomped round the corner to the National Portait Gallery for the BP Portrait Awards. It was, basically, All Right. There seems to have been a real push towards REALLY realistic pictures in recent years, with quite a few that you had to STARE at really closely to work out whether they were a painting or a photograph. The question in these cases is, as The Words In My Manifesto pointed out BALLA had asked, "Why bother?" If you can perfectly replicate a photograph, why not just take a photograph and save yourself HOURS of painting? We weren't sure whether this was ART being a bit boring at the moment or just The Curators of the exhibition being REALLY into something slightly dull.

    There were SOME paintings that we both liked, all of which seemed to have a point to them BEING paintings. I liked My Father Studying Form by Gary Lawrence, The Strokes Of My Brush liked Archipelago by Brian Shields (which in real life is painted on a sort of mirror), and we BOTH liked The Mayor Of Woollahra by Sinead Davies. There were a few other good ones, and it's always worth a visit, but all those highly detailed realistic portraits don't half get samey after a while!

    With our artistic impulses SATED we headed home, arriving JUST after Doctor Who had begun, which for me meant 55 minutes of DILIGENT Not Looking At The Internet until it popped up on the iPlayer. COR! I was glad I kept myself relatively unspoilerised! I mean, I knew quite a few things that happened (esepcially re: the ending) due to repeatedly looking at FORUMS for MONTHS beforehand, but there were HUGE CHUNKS of surprise, also FUN and EXCITEMENT. Roll on Christmas!

    posted 4/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Week In Beanotown
    I spent most of last week up in Dundee, where I was attending The Eighth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference. My original plan was to go by TRANE but that turned out to be SO heinously expensive that I ended up FLYING instead. I flew from London City Airport, which is INCREDIBLY easy to get to (14 minutes by DLR from my house!) and LUDICROUSLY straightforward to get through. I had to go back to the check-in desk just to check that I really COULD waltz through as quickly as I was!

    I was on the first flight from London to Edinburgh and so the waiting area was FULL of Businessmen, doing Business and reading Business News. Not only was I NOT reading The Business News I was also NOT even wearing a tie - I was THE BAD BOY of the Departure Lounge!

    Getting to Edinburgh was the quickest part of the journey, as the leg from there to Dundee involved lots of waiting for trains and trams and then, when I arrived, a DELUGE of wind and rain. I'd left that morning ready for the sort of summery weather we'd had in London, so was VERY glad I'd packed my brolly and jumper!

    Once I'd got myself checked in at The Holiday Inn ExpressI wandered across Dundee to my first session. As I strolled through town I couldn't help notice that it was Actual BEANOTOWN. DC Thomson, publishers of The Beano and The Dandy, are still based in Dundee, and it rapidly became clear that this was where the LOOK of many of their characters had come from, especially those drawn by Dudley Watkins. I saw Oor Wullie (aged about 30), several members of The Broons and half of Lord Snooty's gang on the way, then was served in a newsagent by Desperate Dan!

    Once I got to the University I got my badge, went to a Keynote Speech, and then headed for my first actual Seminar. Five minutes in I thought "Hang on, this isn't about comics podcasts, this appears to be... COMICS FORMALISM!" and had to hastily sneak out and into the next room. Here I managed to ANNOY people with a question about Comics Ages (some people get Quite Upset if you try to use fan terms like "Golden Age" and "Silver Age" in academic texts - I asked why this was the case when, for instance, Music Historians use similar terms like "Jazz" and Punk") which was fun, before heading to the PUB with my fellow student Mr T Yu-Kiener. I'd missed the first day as I'd had to do my talk at RNUAL, so Tobias filled me in on what had happened so far. We were then joined by various other TYPES and there was DISCUSSION on ISSUES before I had to face the fact that I'd been up since 5am and had to go to BED!

    The next day also started early, as we all got on a BUS at 9am to be driven to GLASGOW where we were going to look at an exhibition called Frank QUitely: The Art Of Comics. Franky Quitely HIMSELF gave us an introductory talk and then we all went into the exhibition itself which was a) ENORMOUS b) UTTERLY BRILLIANT. Mr Quitely was hanging around the gallery chatting to people, but I knew from previous experience that it was best for me NOT to try and talk to him lest I end up GIBBERING and telling him "YOU ARE BRILLIANT!" fifteen million times before being dragged away. It truly was GRATE though, he is a flipping genius at comics!

    After a CHIPPY LUNCH we got on the bus again and went to Clydebank, where we we meant to be looking at another exhibition called Comics Invention, which was Quite Good, but spent more time looking at one about LEGO which was in a rather lovely converted swimming pool at the back of the gallery. There was TEA and CAKES and WINE but also a bit too much TIME so a large subset of the convention went down the road to a PUB. It turned out to be VERY MUCH a locals' pub, but the locals were also VERY FRIENDLY and, I like to think, many new and surprising friendships were made!

    The journey home took about TWO HOURS which was approximately NINETY MINUTES longer than was comfortable, bladder-wise, for much of the demographic involved. When we got back to town I headed home to attempt a SKYPE CHAT with The Comics In My Rack. I had been away for a LONG old time by this point and I must admit that I was really MISSING her, so even though the low quality Holiday Inn Express wi-fi meant we couldn't use VIDEO and had to say "OVER!" at the end of every sentence to deal with the time delay, it was a MUCH happier Hibbett who went to bed post-chat than before!

    THURSDAY was the big day, for LO! I was doing MY presentation! I took the morning off to practice and I was glad I did, as I was VERY nervous. In the course of my ROCK career I have spoken at LENGTH to all sorts of people, but this was the MAIN academic conference for comics and the audience would ALL know more than me, so at least knowing my talk would be the right LENGTH gave me one less thing to worry about. I was EXTREMELY conscious of the need to stick to my script and NOT start waffling and/or making extra JOKES, and I mostly managed to do so, although i DID make a couple of extra GAGS when I knew I was getting some LARFS. At some point I need to convince myself that the point of Academic Presentations is NOT to get as many LARFS as you can, but I am not quite there yet!

    The other talks in my session, concerning Harley Quinn and Ms Marvel, were GRATE and I was astonished to realise that part of the reason I like the latter so much may be because her stories follow Silver Age storytelling outlines really closely. Most questions at the end were about Ms Marvel, though somebody did ask me about the fact that one of the images I'd shown appeared to be Doctor Doom quoting from "Candide". "Could you talk around that?" they asked. "No," I said. I hadn't got a RUDDY CLUE about "Candide" and thought it likely that several other people WOULD, so chose not to risk it!

    At the end a whole heap of people came over to give me HOT TIPS for other sources of FACTS, which was ACE, and then I had a chat with the other presenters and ended up missing the final Keynote of the day, so instead went to have some TEA and DECOMPRESS. Whilst I was eating Professor R Sabin i.e. my Supervisor texted to ask if I fancied a PINT so I went and joined him and a group of DELIGHTFUL types for a few beers nearby. This was LOVELY and was made all the more so when I wandered back to the hotel at 10pm in DAYLIGHT (Dundee is NORTH!) through huge crowds of very very happy Little Mix fans, who'd just left a CONCERT. The Police trying to marshal them away looked TERRIFIED by the hordes of small girls, Mums and Aunties, and I had a LOT of sympathy for them!

    Friday was the FINAL day of the conference and, though I'd THOROUGHLY enjoyed it, I was very much ready to get home. I went to some more interesting talks, chatted to a few people (Comics Studies seems to be a VERY small field, also a FRIENDLY one) and even got RECOGNISED for my Alan Moore song! I skipped off before the final session in order to collect my bags and then attempted to send out the newsletter but was FOILED by the aforementioned crappy Holiday Inn Express wi-fi, so had to go to a (very nice) cafe over the road to do it instead. It's a very First World Problem, but CRUMBS the relief of getting decent wifi again is like taking off a heavy rucksack full of ROCKS after a ten mile hike!

    The train from Dundee to Edinburgh was RAMMED, and then when I got on the tram to the airport I found myself once more surrounded by Little Mix fans, this time going TO a concert. Edinburgh itself seemed to smell of STINKY CHEESE for some reason but thankfully the airport did NOT, so I once I'd been through Security and so forth I settled down for a nice relaxing PINT. Unfortunately this was a bit TOO relaxing, as when I emerged they were doing the FINAL CALL for my flight, and I ended up having to run and got on the plane as The Last Passenger. Once again, I was THE BAD BOY!

    I finally got back to That London and was DELIGHTED to find that The Wings On My Plane was WAITING for me as I came out of baggage reclaim, which was FLIPPING MARVELLOUS. As Mr F Sinatra so wisely sang, it's very nice to go travelling, but it's oh SO much nicer to come home!

    posted 3/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    End Of Year One
    I've got the whole week off work this week, mostly for a conference in Dundee (where I am now - more about THAT another time!) but on Monday I was at RNUAL, a week of presentations by PhD students on their research so far. Originally I, and my fellow Comics Guys, were supposed to be there the whole week, but we managed to WRANGLE it so that we could do our presentations on Monday and then spend the rest of the week at the aforesaid conference.

    I must admit I wasn't HUGELY looking forward to RNUAL. I've been to several of these events this year and though some of them have been Useful and Interesting the majority have been Largely Pointless and Boring, which is always RATHER annoying when you've had to take annual leave to do them. HOWEVER I must admit that this time it was DEAD INTERESTING - maybe it's because everyone has now had the best part of an Academic Year to properly get INTO their research topics, maybe it's because the high dropout rate means those who aren't interested in what they're doing have packed it in, or maybe I was just lucky, but I spent the whole day happily listening to people talk about what they're up to.

    It was SO interesting, in fact, that during the first session I started to worry that mine would be a bit boring. I'm giving a presentation at the conference (later today, in fact) so had concentrated on that, so was a bit worried that the very quick talk I'd prepared would be a bit LIGHT. However, once I got started I found that I actually had QUITE A LOT extra to say and was SOMEWHAT ENTHUSIASTIC about it, so much so that my previously timed eight minute talk had to be stopped after fifteen!

    Afterwards we had gentle questions from the mixed audience, but later in a tea break I received several rather more PIERCING THORTS from Knowleadgeable Comics Types, to the extent that I'm going to have to have a Proper Think about some of my ASSUMPTIONS. This is pretty much exactly what you want from these sort of events though, so I left for the day with a head full of IDEAS and INSPIRATIONS, ready to go home and start packing for SCOTLAND!

    posted 29/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Art And Theatre
    I had a RIGHT cultural weekend this weekend just gone, full of ART and also THEATRE.

    The ART was on Saturday, when I went to The Estorick Collection in leafy Islington to see an exhibition about Giacoma Balla. This was the LAST day of the exhibition - The Paint On My Brush had been a few weeks ago and HIGHLY recommended it, so I wanted to get in while I still could!

    I arrived to find a TOUR had just started, so wandered round behind it being WOWED by the ART. It was dead good, full of IDEAS and COLOUR and experimenting with new stuff. Just the kind of thing I like, really. The Estorick has a whole heap of other Italian art upstairs too, which was ACE - I especially liked The Hand Of The Violinist (also by Balla) and "Music" by Luigi Russolo. ART!

    On Sunday I headed down to Croydon to see Jenny Lockyer's new one-woman show about Amy Johnson. I've talked to her about SHOWS and suchlike for AGES so was eager to see what she'd come up with. I thought it was going to be a series of SONGS or somesuch but it was an Actual Proper One Woman Show like what you get at the Fringe i.e. her doing a series of characters to tell the story through SORT OF monologues. The GENIUS part of it was that she did a lot of the story from the viewpoint of her plane "Jason". She'd even got in a Proper Director so it was WELL theatrical, with lights and sounds and all the sorts of things some others of us never get round to doing. There was also ACTING, which I always find a bit confusing when it's someone I know!

    As I came out I was reminded of how much FUN it is going to Edinburgh and seeing shows like this, I really hope she takes it out and about for more people to see, because it was GRATE!

    posted 26/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Future Is Amazing
    Last night those delightful Indietracks people unleashed their traditional compilation album featuring bands playing the festival. I was VERY excited about it as, when we were putting together the tracklist for Still Valid all those many moons ago we kept the song The Future Is Amazing to one side ESPECIALLY so we could give it to the Indietracks Compilation the next time we played there. We've nearly ALWAYS done an exclusive track for the compilation when we've played, but it's been quite a while since we were there last so I was very much looking forward to people being able to HEAR this one at last.

    Imagine my HORROR, then, when I looked through the list of forty four songs and found that we weren't there! I double then triple checked, but no, we were MISSING. Had they not liked the song? Was 44 tracks the MAXIMUM number they could hold? We were TOO PUNK ROCK?!?

    No, in fact what had happened was that they'd just forgot to put our track on! Being SUPER KEEN I'd sent it over to them back in APRIL i.e. pretty much as soon as it was possible to send ANYTHING, so I guess maybe it had been put on a Dusty (Virtual) Shelf and then got lost when everything else came in. Nat Indietracks replied to my enquiry within SECONDS to explain that there were SO MANY songs our had got missed and said that they were rectifying the situation right there and then, so all was well and a few minutes later there was forty FIVE tracks! HOORAY!

    As some people may be aware the song was originally written for the musical Hey Hey 16K and so the bits that Emma sings on the NEW version were originally sung by Steve, although neither Steve nor I managed to enact the rather MARVELOUS violin/flute* DUET what Tom does on this one (*it's not really a flute, it's STUDIO WIZARDRY!).

    I'm EXTREMELY pleased to have it FINALLY available for listening, especially under the auspices of such a MIGHTY organisation and a SPLENDID collection of songs. I would HEARTILY recommend buying the whole album right away as it is GRATE - I'm just off to do that myself in a minute, it's time for the great pre-Indietracks REVISION to begin!

    posted 23/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Birthday Festival
    Friday and Saturday had been such a full weekend of ACTION and GADDING ABOUT that I really needed ANOTHER weekend to relax and get over it all. Handily, that is exactly what I got!

    On Sunday it was the Great Get Together event in the Olympic Park (where I live, in case I haven't mentioned it), which was set to feature Hero and Whizbee, the mascots for the World Para Athletics and IAAF World Championships that are happening at the stadium this summer. The Trees In My Forest enjoys a good Mascot and/or Character, so we were VERY excited to eventually meet them and discover that they are GRATE. I am always a bit confused by Characters like this. "They look like they're really enjoying themselves!" I think, and only later remember that the BIG SMILES are part of the costume. I'm sure they WERE enjoying themselves, they were surrounded by hordes of very excited people wanting HUGS!

    We also heard that Sadiq Khan would be coming, but nobody was sure what time he'd be arriving so went for a bit of a wander. Atop a small hill we saw a couple of cameras set up. "I bet he'll be coming up here," said The Lens On My Nokia. "I doubt that," I replied, "Why would he come up a hill?" It was approx 2 seconds later that we spotted Sadiq... strolling up the hill towards us.

    I had the day of work on Monday as it was my BIRFDAY (after 17 years I am still enjoying being in my thirties) and we'd booked tickets to go and see The Hero Hockey World Championships Semi-Finals at the Lee Valley Hockey And Tennis Centre (just behind the Velodrome). Things started very well as, about halfway there, someone called out "Would you like a lift?" It was the driver of one of those GOLF BUGGIES that shuttle the elderly or disabled around. Clearly they had ferried everyone to the venue who actually needed it and fancied a quick drive, so we hopped in and ZOOMED along. It was BRILLO!

    We arrived at the hockey centre to find an excited crowd made up mostly of SCHOOLCHILDREN enjoying the sunshine and, mostly, the fact that they weren't at school. It made for a GRATE atmosphere while we watched the final quarter of Scotland versus Pakistan, after which we went and got some FIZZY WINE and BEER, which seemed EXTREMELY appropriate for the occasion. It was very much like I imagine CRiCKET would be - we had a lovely time in the sunshine with BOOZE easily available and without really having much clue what was going on. The second game featured the Netherlands being a bit like Germany in The Football (tall, blonde, SKILLZ) and Canada like Leicester City (small, good on the break) but that is about as far as my analysis went.

    We wandered home in GORGEOUS weather, stopping off at a local cafe for a bit of cake and it all felt SO MUCH like being on holiday that we went and did some SUNBATHING. It was flipping GORGEOUS, even though I did get a bit sunburnt - at my grand old age I STILL refuse to accept that you would EVER need suntan lotion in the UK!

    Later on we watched "The Hunt For The Wilderpeople", which was ACE. It was, in fact, a bloody BRILLIANT birthday, at the end of which I tried to stay up as late as I possibly could. I didn't want it to end!

    posted 22/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Saturday morning found me navigating the London transport system in order to get to Paddington, from whence I was heading to BATH to attend the super secret surprise 40th Birthday Party for Mr Gavin Osborn.

    Crossing London was wonky all over the place, with me GETTING a javelin train I thought I'd missed but then having to go a super long way round from Kings Cross due to various line closures. When I got ON my train all was well, although things continued strange when I got to Bath and found an Atmosphere. Maybe it was the VERY HOT weather or maybe there was a Sporting Fixture on, but everyone seemed in a bad mood and/or DRUNK. I got a TAXI out to where the DO was happening and the driver seemed rather grumpy too. I told him where I was going and, when it turned out 20 minutes later that he didn't know where it was, he got annoyed with me. "I thought you'd know", he grumbled. However, the pair of us then went on a mini-adventure around the local area until he found it and were quite pally by the end, to the extent that I asked for and got his number to go back again.

    The party had been organised by Mrs Amy Osborn and she had done an INCREDIBLE job of it. She'd hired out a field and then basically put a mini-LATITUDE inside it. There was a tent for MUSIC with a stage, lighting system and full PA. There was a CINEMA tent (or AWNING anyway), loads of kids games including an enormous Guess Who and strategic PAGODAS all around the place for when it got a bit hot. There was also full CAMPING, so it really felt like being at a festival site!

    Most impressive of all she had kept Gav totally in the dark about the whole thing, so he was in a state of permanent DELIGHT and DISBELIEF as people kept turning up, it was a JOY to see!

    The only thing missing was phone signal, though I suppose that is part of the festival experience too. I did find that you COULD get signal up at the top of a hill, beneath a tree which became known as The Signal Tree. I kept going up to check for news from The Leaves On My Branch, who had set out that day to get herself some Guns N' Roses tickets. They were playing in the Olympic Stadium and, after hearing how GRATE the Friday night show had been from a chum who had attended, she had resolved not only to get a seat but also to pay half the asking price for doing so. I was WORRIED about the whole enterprise - I would never have been BRAVE enough to do such a thing and thought it would end in disappoint and/or loss of CA$H but of course she managed it HANDSOMELY!

    Spending time at The Signal Tree enabled me to witness Gav in his natural element i.e. surrounded by small children who appeared to FLOCK to him at any opportunity. He seemed to spend much of the afternoon pushing children on the rope swing which dangled from said tree, and when he wasn't doing that he was being PILED ON by mobs of small boys!

    Before setting off I'd been a bit worried I wouldn't know anyone, but there turned out to be several chums there, including the Wainwrights and associated children and also Ms G Petrie, with whom I had a jolly discussion about Current Events. She played later on and was GRATE, and I also did a set MYSELF mid-afternoon, during which I did my usual HILARIOUS trick of NOT SWEARING in front of small children but then explaining what I would have said immediately afterwards. I always think this is HILARIOUS and I am definitely sure that all parents agree with me. Gav knows several comedians, notably the really really good ones, so it was a bit weird to be doing GAGS and then realise I was being watched by, more or less, the CREAM of a GENERATION of comedians. If you spot a trend for Award Winning Comedians not swearing and then swearing in front of children in the near future you will know where they got the idea from!

    Soon 7pm came and it was time for me to say my goodbyes and head back to the Station, where I discovered that the trains to London had gone hideously wrong. It took me an extra TWO HOURS to get home, but handily this gave me PLENTY of time to worry about whether I had been All Right all afternoon - it is my CONSTANT FEAR that I have behaved like a PILLOCK whenever I am a) unaccompanied b) amongst groups of people I do not know particularly well, but I THINK I was OK. I tried to make up for any inadvertent idiocy by telling the nice lady sat next to me ALL about to claim Delay Repay for a ticket refund!

    When I eventually made it back to East London I found myself surrounded by Guns N' Roses fans, who had seeped into the very fabric of Stratford and were EVERYWHERE walking in ALL directions. It was a bit weird - where had they been, and where were they going? Some were going AWAY from the stadium, others TOWARDS, and they were all round the area we live in too. I half expected to find a few lurking under the bed when I got in.

    It was a long day of travel, heat, and ROCK, but a DELIGHTFUL one in which to pay tribute to a TITAN of ROCK!

    posted 21/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    This weekend just gone was a LOOOONG weekend, full of incident and excitement, and it begane on Friday morning at Central Saint Martin's college, where I was co-running a COMICS SYMPOSIUM.

    This is something that myself, Mr G Lawley and Mr T Yu-Kiener have been organising alongside our comics-based PhDs at UAL. It was called Frame:Works and the idea was to get a bunch of speakers from different areas of comics to come and talk about working within RESTRICTIONS. We had a GRATE list of people talking, a good batch of tickets "sold" (it was free through Eventbrite), so all we needed to do was make it happen!

    It all started very well with a trip to WAITROSE to get DRINKS for the attendees. Waitrose is a 20 second walk from UAL's Granary Square building where we were holding our event, but we had a LOT of liquid so asked if we could use a trolley. A chap called Michael from the customer service desk very kindly came with us (he had a GIZMO which unlocked the wheels when you left the shop), helped us unload, and then took the trolley back for us. I do like Waitrose!

    We got the room sorted out, checked our tech, and met with Professor R Sabin and Dr I Horton, our shared supervisors and all round GOOD EGGS who had suggested we DO this thing. Speakers gently arrived, and at this point the usual Conference Issues arose and, also as usual, were solved. We couldn't get some videos to play that were part of Ms Emma Hayley (of SelfMadeHero)'s presentation, so she rather brilliantly suggested putting a small speaker's microphone next to the output on her laptop. This worked PERFECTLY and I spent the rest of the morning being impressed! At around the same time noted comics writer Mr Al Ewing arrived, and told me that he had spilled hot coffee on himself on the train that morning. He was telling me this while we were GETTING some coffee, which he immediately spilled all over his hand. He dashed to put it under a cold tap and I RAN back round to Waitrose to get some Soothing Hand Cream!

    Apart from all that things went very well. Of the 60 tickets we'd "sold" around 40 people actually turned up over the course of the day. I was quite surprised that so many didn't come, but apparently this is normal for such things. We had a morning session on Publishing, which was dead interesting, and then after lunch it was time for MY session. The three of us were basically running a session each, with guests we'd chosen, and I'd managed to get Al for mine, along with Ms Josie Long, to talk about moving from FANZINES to mainstream work (Marvel for Al, The Guardian for Josie). I was interviewing them both, and so was VERY nervous, even though I had written up a long list of questions, but it seemed to go OK. Al's bit was pretty easy as he was happy to talk at length and in depth about what I asked whereas Josie's section was more nerve wracking as she was so ENTHUSIASTIC that she kept on answering my planned questions before I'd even got to them! I had a GRATE idea to ask, about halfway through, whether Jeffrey Lewis had been an influence on her cartooning, for instance, but she ROMPED through all that within the first five minutes!

    The best bit was at the end where we did a mini-panel with both of them answering questions from the audience, and they got to swap THORTS on each other's area of expertise. I do believe this is what your modern academics call TRANSECTIONALITY!

    After that there were more discussions, including a history of QUEERZINES (which was ACE, although a bit weird to find that the Riot Grrl scene wot I remember is now An Historical Event) and some STATISTICAL ANALYSIS on whether comics really are the best way to get people to remember information. Turns out it is!

    For the final session Mr John Miers did a SKETCH RECAP of everything we'd seen - it was amazing, and you can read about it on his website!

    At the end Guy, Tobias and I were given PRESENTS by Ian and Roger to say "Well Done" for putting it on, which was completely unexpected, and then we got another FREE GIFT when we went to the bar for a much needed DRINK. A young woman on the door said "Are you going to the bar?" and then gave us all BEER TOKENS! I have absolutely no idea why, but wasn't complaining.

    It was a FAB day and well worth all the effort and work what had gone in. As we sat around the table there was talk of doing it again next year - if we do I shall know to buy LESS orange juice beforehand, and MORE first aid!

    posted 20/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Tour Life
    Day TWO of The Validators Tour 2017 was meant to commence with the four male Validators meeting in the lobby of the Travelodge at 11am to go in search of breakfast. However, three of the four of us were greeted upon waking by an email from Tim, who had unilaterally decided to go for a walk up a HILL and have breakfast there. THUS we got into the Tigermobile and headed off to find him, thereby getting to enjoy the delights of HILLZ without having to actually WALK up one.

    We found him standing outside the cafe on Teggs Nose, and duly regrouped we went inside to DINE. As part of my whole Stomach Flora Realignment Diet I am avoiding bread, so ended up having SALAD as the only vegetarian non-bread item on the menu. It was very nice! The others had MASSIVE toast, although Tom had to send his Beans On Toast back due to Lukewarm Beans. Life On The Road - it is so often fraught with PERIL!

    With some time free we agreed to Tim's demands that we walk up to the TOP of the hill, and though in general I feel that hills are Silly Things (why can't people just live somewhere flat?) it was actually quite good fun, although at the very top it was quite WINDY, STEEP and MUDDY and we realised that we only had one pair of trousers each, so had to walk down very carefully. See above re PERIL!

    We hopped back into the car and drove off to Congleton, where we were due to play at Going Up The Country. Here we discovered a whole HEAP of lovely people, not least amongst them Emma and the Junior Pattisons. It turned out we knew pretty much everybody there, which was GRATE for wandering around and hugging people, and nearly ALL of the acts from the weekend as a whole had played at Totally Acoustic at some point, which meant that I spent most of the day having to stop myself from getting up and introducing the acts!

    I'd thought that the gig itself would be inside in the pub, but instead discovered that we were playing in the MARQUEE out front. This was all very jolly but did mean that there'd be a need for amplification, which we had not prepared for. Me, Emma and Frankie could all be plugged in, but Tom had brought his GOOD violin (which doesn't have a DI) and Tim had his Cajon, so we weren't sure what to do. Luckily for us INDIE LEGEND Mr Pete Dale was doing the sound (which was also a bit weird - it was like going to see Donavan and finding out that Bob Dylan was working the sound desk) and, after a bit of a conflab, we decided to use microphones for me and Emma, plug the BASS in to boost it a bit, and to leave the rest of us as we were. With that decided we took to the stage and did THIS:
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Leave My Brother Alone
  • In The North Stand
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Easily Impressed
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It was, not to put too fine a point on it, BLOODY GRATE. The sound sounded FAB (it's lovely playing in this sort of format, as we can HEAR each other) and everybody was WELL up for it. I got so excited that I ended up using many of the REMARKS that I had been preparing for Indietracks (NB it's been several years since we last played, I have been thinking about it a LOT) so will probably have to think of some NEW ones. Or just hope people will be too drunk to notice - probably that actually.

    It was a LOVELY way to spend an afternoon, and we were HONOURED to be the last band EVER to play Going Up The Country. Delightfully, most people there were of a certain age, also inclination, and so were all still feeling a bit tired from our late night on Thursday, which meant that once we were done everyone drifted away pretty quickly for TEA and possibly BED.

    We said our farewells to the Pattisons and then Frankie, Tom, me and Mr Pete Green hopped into the Tigermobile, they for Derby and me for Congleton again. Foolishly, when booking my travel arrangements, I'd not realised the gig would be finishing this early so had thought I'd have to stay in Macclesfield overnight. Frankie suggested I catch a train from Congleton, but this excellent plan had two small niggles: firstly, Congleton station is about an HOUR'S WALK from Congleton itself (or at least from the bit where I disembarked the Tigermobile) and there wasn't a train for TWO HOURS. I thus had a HIKE and then a lengthy sit in a beer garden where a very loud elderly blues band played for an extremely drunk couple who had clearly just began a sexual relationship and wished to express it in a) dance b) extremely unrhythmical clapping. It was all a bit odd.

    Still, I made it back to Macclesfield in the end, KNACKERED but very very happy. Going On Tour is EXCELLENT fun, especially when you do it with such MARVELLOUS chums, but it doesn't half wear you out!

    posted 15/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back On The Road
    Saturday morning found me getting up SUPER early, still a bit tired out by the late night on Thursday, in order to meet Mr S Hewitt at Euston Station for the slow train to Birmingham, for LO! It was the weekend of HIBBETTFEST!

    After a CHARMING journey we rolled in to New Street, found Mr FA Machine, and together strolled over to Moor Street for the train to Cradley Heath. Setting something of a TONE for the whole weekend, our conversation was mostly of POLITICS, with me REVELLING in the idea that I am almost always WRONG in my predictions and that, therefore, pretty much anything could happen!

    We were collected by Ray's Mum and headed for Kingswinford and the festival site, stopping en route for BOOZE. It was here that I faced the implications of my No Real Ale rule - the others got BOOZE while I got... bottles of water. Well, all right, I DID get myself a bottle of Corona for later, but it did feel a bit odd. As it happened though I was entirely FINE with water for the rest of the afternoon, which surprised no-one more than it did ME.

    We arrived on site to discover Tim and Tom waiting for us (Emma would not be joining us until the second date of the TOUR {two dates totally counts as a tour} the following day) along with Mr R Kirkham, PROMOTER, and a whole heap of other delightful people. Apparently this was the FOURTEENTH (!) Hibbettfest, and over the years it has become a DELIGHTFUL afternoon full of fantastic food (prepared by Ray in a GINORMOUS BUFFET), nice people, dogs, children, and LARKS. This time it also feature Mr Dan Ransome as Official Support, ROCKING the Patio to no small degree while we wolfed down Vegan Jaffa Cake.

    Then it was time for The Validators to take to the stage* (*area just in front of the kitchen window) where we did THIS:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • In The North Stand
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Leave My Brother Alone
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway

  • Boom Shake The Room

  • The set was not without incident, including DOGS going WILD and racing through the performance area, knocking over a recycling bin and smashing a couple of glass bottles. MAYHEM! More sedately, just before We Did It Anyway we dragged Steve on to present him with The Artists Against Success Football Trophy, which he had WON for this year, and then as he was there ANYWAY we got him to sing the song with us, which sounded GRATE.

    After THAT we had officially finished, and I was AMUSED to see that The Validators had all trooped off through the patio doors and into the living room, like it was a DRESSING ROOM or something, and thus were able to stride back out for an ENCORE. It was FAB!

    With all that done there was time for chat, yet more GRUB, and for Mr Kirkham Senior to present me with a bottle of RUM, before it was time for us to get into The Tigermobile and head for MACCLESFIELD - we were booked to play at the Going Up The Country festival next day, and this was the closest place we could find any accommodation. On the way there we listened to the last twenty minutes of England VS Scotland. As Frankie remarked, it was the first interesting England game in about 300 years and we weren't watching in!

    We arrived at Macclesfield Travelodge and checked ourselves in before heading out for the evening. We found a GRATE micro-pub called The Treacle Tap, where once again I was faced with the fact that I would be drinking LAGER. Luckily they had some REALLY nice German lager, which I enjoyed while we spent the next HOUR discussing (in turn) our various AILMENTS. I think if you put the four of us together you could probably make about THREE healthy adult males, although two of them would probably have a bit of a bad back. We then went round the corner to Balti Kitchen where we had a BLOODY GRATE curry. Ooh, it was lovely, one of the nicest I've had ON TOUR!

    At this point I really wanted to go clubbing, totally, but the others are dead square and old, yeah, and tired from staying up later on Thursday, so instead we went back to the hotel and gathered in Tim's room to a) drink RUM b) plan next year's European Tour (NB this is an Actual Thing) c) discuss future recording and performance options d) agree that we are now a FESTIVAL BAND. It was an EXCELLENT meeting and I feel that ALL future such discussions would be greatly enhanced by RUM!

    And thus the evening ended. The next day would be another day of ROCK, for LO! we were on TOUR!

    posted 14/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Happy To Be Wrong
    You find me bleary eyed and happy this morning, as I find myself never more DELIGHTED to have been totally wrong about something. All week I have been saying "It's going to be a big majority for the Tories, 50 or so - let's not get our hopes up." At the same time The Ballots In My Box has been saying it would at least be a hung parliament, which made me worry about how she would take the inevitable disappointment.

    Come 9:55pm I turned on the telly filled by DREAD and TREPIDATION. Was I wrong? Would it be a 100 majority after all? When the exit poll came out it took me several minutes to take it in. "What? Are they saying a hung parliament? REALLY?" I wanted to jump up and down with GLEE but then remembered BREXIT. THAT had all looked fine until the first results came in, so I resolved to attempt to stay calm.

    When the results from the North East came in I was even MORE reminded of Brexit, as the number of votes was well below what was expected. "Maybe it'll be a small majority, that'll at least be a bit better," I thought, preparing for disappointment. But then, as the night went along, it all started to look real. My plans to go to bed at 10:05pm changed to midnight, then to 1am, then 2am, then "whenever Jeremy Corbyn speaks" and finally 3:30am. I'm a bit tired today as a result, but by HECK was it worth it!

    The best thing about the evening, for me, was that I was accompanied on the sofa by The Percentage Of My Swing. Normally I sit there all on my own looking at twitter and texting various chums, but this time I had a POLITICAL EXPERT sat up with me, sharing WHISKY as HOPE started to look more and more likely. As with the results, the aforesaid Members Of My Cabinet had also been HISTORICALLY CORRECT about Jeremy Corbyn - I have been sat complaining about his performance while she has been pointing out that he is GRATE, and it is only over the course of the campaign that I have come round to her way of thinking.

    Now it seems like there will, probably briefly, be a Tory administration and then ANOTHER election. If you want me to tell you how THAT'S going to turn out, you'll have to give me time to ring home and ask!

    posted 9/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Exiting Amazon
    Last week I received an email from the lovely people at Proper Music Distribution, to say that they're ending the "Proper Access" scheme which we've been a part of, which means that pretty soon our CDs will be no longer be listed on Amazon.

    The idea of "Proper Access" was to allow smaller independent acts like us the chance to get our Physical Product listed and sold on Amazon (and other websites, but mostly Amazon) without having to get into big complicated deals. Proper would keep a small stock of CDs in their warehouse and sell via online stores and shops if anybody ordered them, but they wouldn't actively try to get shops to stock it. This was GRATE for us - over the years I've been involved with various distribution companies who basically did this anyway but claimed they were ringing round record shops asking them to stock us and then charging us for the privilege, even when nothing was sold, so I was VERY happy to enter an agreement that was a) HONEST about what would happed and b) MUCH cheaper. Also it meant our CDs were on Amazon, so if anybody was too SHY to buy them direct from us they always had another option!

    To start with we did quite well, but it tailed RIGHT off in later years so, at time of writing, only approx 4% of our overall sales came from that direction (for comparison 22% were from sales at gigs and a whopping 53% were direct via this very website, with the rest in various forms of online sales and, DELIGHTFULLY, a single percentage point's worth of POSTAL SALES from back in the 1800s when people used to send CHEQUES). It's amazing to see how much this sort of thing has changed since I set off on The Road Of ROCK - when I first started, shop distribution was CRUCIAL as, apart from the aforementioned postal orders (which tended to come in via fanzines or, occasionally, the very early interweb) and GIGS that was the only way to get your stuff out to people. To be honest I always disliked shop distribution, not least because we were never cool enough for lots of stores to take our records and, even when they did, it always seemed to end up costing us more to send them to the distributors and, inevitably, to get them sent back some months later, than we ever made from Actual Sales!

    It also always seemed WEIRD that it was so HAPHAZARD - a random smattering of shops around the country would each have a single copy of one of our CDs in the vague hope that somebody who wanted a copy would just so happen to wander in and manage to find it. I MUCH prefer sales online, even though selling stuff on Amazon meant I had to shell out for BARCODES for everything. It never made us much CA$H but still, it was nice to know it was available.

    Nowadays, as far as I understand it, Physical Product is on the way out and everybody is buying DOWNLOADS instead, which is fine by me as downloads are PEASY to do. For historical reasons some of our DIGITAL CONTENT is distributed through CD Baby with the newer stuff through emubands, both of whom are very simple, straightforward, and ACE. You just need to click a few buttons, pay a small fee, and within a couple of days your music is available ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. It's like MAGIC!

    For all these reasons I'm not too upset about our leaving of Amazon, though I remain very GRATEFUL to Proper for having us for so long. I'm just hoping that they DUST our box of CDs before they take it off the shelf and post it back!

    posted 7/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Smiley At Canary Wharf
    On Sunday I got the Jubilee Line over to Canary Wharf, where I was due to meet Mr John Dredge. We'd arranged to meet outside the Jubilee Line exit and, as is OBLIGATORY when meeting people at Canary Wharf, we both went to different exits. It is THE LAW.

    Once we'd found each other we set to work on the job at hand, which was to film a video for 'The Day We Fall In Love', our track on the Listen To The Bands compilation of Monkees cover versions. John does an Alec Guiness impersonation on the track (NB it is widely held, not least by ME, to be the WORST EVER Monkees song, so our version is not entirely respectful) and so our plan was to do it SORT OF like Smiley's people. As you can see, John was costumed appropriately.

    I'd suggested filming it at Canary Wharf because I thought it would look suitably BLEAK on a Sunday, so was surprised to find quite a few people wandering around (often, RUDELY, in the distance behind us while filming - have they no respect for ART?!?), but we managed to get all our shots done pretty easily. John had LEARNED all the words, which made the first bit of lip synching dead easy, and then we wandered around looking for BLEAK spots to film him walking about in. We filmed about 30 times more than we needed, so when I later sat down to edit it I had to leave LOADS of Dramatic Walking shots on the metaphorical cutting room floor.

    The finished version looked pretty darn GRATE and, with the inherently DAFT version of the song we did, is also pretty darn FUNNY, at least according to me. All being well it will be online SOON - fear not, I shall ALERT you when it is!

    posted 6/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Night At The Theatre
    Saturday night found myself and The Cast Of My Play getting DOLLED UP to meet The Parents for some fine dining and a SHOW, for LO! we are well fancy.

    The show we went to see was The Play That Goes Wrong and, suffice to say, we enjoyed it A LOT more than when we went to see 'Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf'! It had been recommended by CHUMS and then we'd all watched 'Peter Pan Goes Wrong' on telly over Christmas, so we were GEARED UP for a fun time, and we were not disappointed. It was VERY daft and VERY funny!

    One weird thing though was that, while watching it, I kept thinking "This is quite similar to 'Poisoned Sherry'." This was a play what I wrote back when I was PRESIDENT of the Leicester Polytechnic Poor Theatre Company (yes, that's right, BE IMPRESSED) approx. a quarter of a century ago. It was about a domestic farce which goes wrong when one of the characters falls off the stage and realises he's in a play, and there's stuff like tech crew coming on stage and joining in, lines being missed, chunks of dialogue being repeated out of order and all sorts that also goes on in 'The Play That Goes Wrong.' It's even performed by a Polytechnic Drama Society and then, near the end, POISONED SHERRY is employed as a plot point!

    I was all ready to Call My Solicitor... then looked at the writers on Wikipedia and realised that they would be about THREE YEARS OLD when we performed the play, and so were unlikely to be amongst the approximately 27 people who actually saw it. Oh well!

    posted 5/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back In Action
    Last night I was back in THE PUB for the first time in AGES, for LO! it was time for Totally Acoustic!

    As discussed previously I am now on a NO REAL ALE plan, so was looking for Alternative Drinks. I started off with a couple of pints of WATER with LIME in and... well, it was quite nice really! When The Ice In My Glass arrived she bought me a bottle of LAGER, which would be the first BEER I would drink in almost three weeks. Mr S Hewitt queried when was the LAST time I had gone that long without a beer. I'm not sure, but I believe Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister! Weirdly, the lager tasted MEGA FIZZY and like how I remember beer tasting when I was a teenager - I later switched to WHITE WINE (because I am FANCY) and that was very nice indeed!

    Anyway, more importantly, the gig kicked off with me doing a couple of songs before introducing The Boy In The Cupboard aka Mr B Bailey, who I have known for MANY years via The Lovely Brothers. He was meant to be playing a few months ago but was FOILED by Southern Rail so it was GRATE to finally get him on. He said that one of his songs featured a line from one of MY old songs - I didn't notice it at the time and I've listened to the recording since and haven't heard it. It is going to BUG me until I work it out!

    Next up was Mr Nathaniel Metcalfe, who was the first stand-up comedian what we have ever had. I really like Nat, he is ACE, and any worries about how stand-up might work in this format EVAPORATED within seconds. He even did a REQUEST, doing his bit about his old flatmate Tony Lee ("an unreliable witness") which made us LARF a LOT!

    Then at the end we had the glorious return of Ruth From PO, this time with her band, PO! Ooh but it was lovely, and this time there were songs I'd not heard AND new songs too! It was GRATE when Ruth played solo before but it was even MORE brilliant this time as all the arrangements of musical bits in the songs what have lodged in my brain for decades came flowing out. I liked it a LOT!

    It was, all in all, a rather marvellous night. My only worry is that this reintroduction to pubs was so DELIGHTFUL that I fear other pubs will have to up their game!

    posted 2/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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