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Blog Archive: December 2014

A Merry Christmas To All Our Readers
It's that most marvellous time of the year when those of us lucky enough to have jobs STOP doing them, those of us lucky enough to have food and drink eat and drink it to excess, and those of us lucky enough to have tellies sit down and WATCH them non-stop.

I may not have an actual proper job (take THAT, The Man) but I do have the others and so intend to get on with DOING them, and hope that you, dear reader, have access to much of the same.

Thanks very much for listening to me banging on over the course of the year - have a lovely (easy) Christmas everyone, and see you on the other side!

posted 24/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Winding Down For Christmas
I'm familiar with the way that MUSCLE MEMORY works - if you do something enough times then your HUMAN BODY works out how to do it without bothering the BRANE - but I never realised it worked on an ANNUAL basis too.

This year, for the first time in EVER, I'm not at school, college or work, and so I don't have any kind of official Christmas Break to prepare for. However, although I am consciously aware of this fact the rest of my BEING refuses to accept it and so is remorselessly Winding Down For Christmas.

I haven't even got to do an Out Of Office Auto-Reply, and yet every time I look at my list of Things To Do I think "NAH, I'll leave that to the New Year." As I sit here at the kitchen table typing away I keep looking over at the telly thinking "I could watch that instead - the boss" (me) "is getting a bit Christmassy, it'll be FINE." I'm already mentally preparing for Wednesday lunchtime when I fully expect the boss (me) to come round the office (kitchen) saying "It's Christmas! Go home" (here) "early!" (now).

It's all a bit confusing, and likely to get more so now that I am in full-on CHRISTMAS mode. This was ceremonially switched on yesterday when The Congregation In My Pews and I went to CAROLS in Leytonstone. We've been doing this for years as it is LOVELY but this year there was a hint of NOSINESS as we knew there was a New Vicar. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't one of those fashionable new Lady Vicars, and then DISCOMBOBULATED when it turned out to be a YOUNG vicar instead. I've almost made my peace with footballers, policemen and MPs being younger than me, but Vicars? That can't be right, surely?

Apart from that the whole thing was GRATE - we sang all the HITS, the lights were beautiful, there was a HORN SECTION, and it reminded me what I like most about the Church Of England i.e. it is a MESS. All the way through the service there was a RACKET of scraping chairs, coughing, screaming children, babies crying, conversations and tellings off, sometimes getting so loud that it all drowned out the feedback-riven PA that the vicar was talking through. The (dead good) choir shared the stage with a bunch of kids shaking shakers, the aforesaid HORN SECTION and some schoolchildren on double bass and keyboard. The sermon (or "talk" as listed in the programme) was a mixture of STAND-UP and HARD THEOLOGY, and the prayers were all mushed up with pretending to light the huge tacky/gorgeous Christmas Tree with a CANDLE. It was a fine example of Disorganised Religion.

The best bit, as ever, was in "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" when my BRANE suddenly flooded with memories of all the other Christmases I'd sung it, at school and with family, and I had my traditional Christmas Cry. It felt like Christmas had properly begun, a feeling only increased when we popped over the road to The Red Lion, a BRILLIANT pub which we hardly go in now that we don't live near it. There was warmth and chat and beer and decorations and it was all round DELIGHTFUL. How am I supposed to concentrate on my work after all of that?

posted 22/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Making Movies
I spent most of yesterday in London town with Mr J Dredge making a MOVIE! It was precisely as GLAMOROUS as you might expect.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start the night before when, approx. 18 hours before we were due to start filming, I found out that we had lost our cameraman. I immediately LEAPT into action, digging out my old camcorder which promptyly BROKE, leading to about an hour of frantic googling to try and fix the, apparently notorious, "Error C:32:11". It turned out I COULDN'T fix it, so was forced to fall back on that old piece of folk wisdom: "Throw money at the problem".

It just so happens that I live 6 minutes away from one of the largest shopping centres in Europe so, after a further hour of RESEARCH I strolled over and, after a bit of wandering about, managed to buy myself a new digital camcorder. Throwing money at problems, it does tend to work! It'll also probably end up being rather handy, as it means I can now film OTHER stuff. Call me crazy, but I think this whole "internet" and "video" thing could well be big in the future.

Next morning I arrived at our location laden down with props and tripod and camera and general STUFF, and found John arriving at precisely the same time, similarly laden. I'd managed to book a room at my old Alma Mater, City University, through the LOVELY people at the Alumni Office so, after quite an ADVENTURE through darkened corridors and Other People's Offices, we found ourselves in the meeting room we'd asked for. Cristina from the Alumni Office was there to meet us, and we thanked her for doing such a GRATE job - the film was set IN an office building, so this was perfect!

Cristina left us to it and we commenced two hours of FILMING. It all went surprisingly smoothly - it's only a very short film but it has several locations, some with quite complicated set ups, but through a combination of pre-organisation and John being A Proper Actor we managed to MOTOR THROUGH until just after noon when we found ourselves doing the final shots outside. These were the most difficult to do as PEOPLE kept wandering past. It was noticeable that nobody batted an eyelid about what we were up to tho - this was LONDON, where everyone Pointedly Ignores anything even vaguely unusual!

We packed up and went up the road for some a) LUNCH b) SCHEMING. We'd written this film so we could enter the Reed Short Film Competition but we've got an idea to make a whole SERIES of them. Lunch was thus soundtracked by excitable CHAT about how we are going to conquer THE UNIVERSE through the medium of online sketches, and also some rather ODD (for me) ideas about casting. I'm not IN this film at all, which usually would bother me as (SPOILERS) I do tend to want to be THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION, but for this I found I was quite happy NOT to me. This is either MATURITY or me realising that I am NOT a Proper Actor, but either way we agreed that we'd look into using some of John's other Proper Actor friends to fill in parts, with me maybe doing HITCHCOCK-ESQUE small parts!

When I got home afterwards I was quite excited about all the possibilities ahead of us, and also a bit worried in case it hadn't actually worked. The camera had run out of battery - FIVE SECONDS after we'd done the final shot, weirdly - so I was a bit AFEARED in case nothing had been recorded, but it was all there and so I spent the evening going BOGGLY EYED doing a first edit. I sent it to John, received NOTES, and am now working on the NEXT version. We don't need to have it all done until mid January but I'm hoping to get it online well before then - i shall CERTAINLY let you know when it is!

posted 19/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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The Season Finale
On Thursday I strolled through a rather Christmassy London Town towards the King & Queen, where we were having the Season Finale of this series of Totally Acoustic. I was RIGHT looking forward to it, but was a little taken aback to arrive and find the downstairs of the pub RAMMED. I suppose it WAS "little Friday" in Office Party season but still, it was a STRUGGLE to FITE my way through to the back of the room, where Mr and Mrs Hewitt were squished up by the door.

It didn't take long for us to move up to the less steamy, more spacious upstairs area, which was MUCH nicer, though it did mean that I had to keep going back downstairs to get a) people b) BEER. Every time I went downstairs two things happened - I FOUND somebody just coming in, and BUMPED the people standing in front of the door. I felt a bit guilty about this latter the first few times it happened, but eventually thought "Hang on, you're standing right in front of a DOOR. Being bumped is pretty inevitable."

Our ACTS, Frankie Machine and Chris T-T arrived in good time, as did the audience, and by about 7:45pm I was ready to go on and do THIS:
  • Totally Acoustic
  • Easy Christmas
  • Thank Goodness For Christmas
  • Mental Judo
  • The Flashing Santa
  • I Got You What You Want For Christmas
  • The Advent Calendar Of FACT

  • It was, according to all informed sources, slightly ramshackle. Normally I am TOTALLY PROFESSIONAL so the only explanation for this is that I did mostly Christmas songs which, for some reason, I only seem to do about once a year and so don't know very well. I'd printed out the words but had done so in a much too tiny font size, so had to keep stopping to look! The only non-Christmas song, Mental Judo, was done as a request, so I needed the words even MORE. The highlight of the set though was The Flashing Santa. I've never done it live before because it features HARD CHORDS which were written and performed by Mr FA Machine so, as he was in the room, I got him to play for me. It was rather nice!

    After a short break Frankie himself came on, and was BLOODY MARVELLOUS. It felt like AGES since I'd last seen him play and he informed me later that that's probably because it's been AGES since he's played at ALL - his last gig was 18 months ago! He did a TONNE of gorgeous, thoughtful, funny, emotional songs including my favourite "How Great Thou Art" (which I'm totally nicking for The Validators if he doesn't record it soon) and some GRATE new ones. It was brill!

    And then we closed the show, the series, and indeed the ROCKING YEAR with a fantastic set from Chris T-T. He's dead good, is Chris, as soon as he starts playing you know you're in safe hands for a STIRRING set of thought provocation and, occasionally, bears of little brain. As I said in my intro, he's one of the few ARTISTES that I still happily pay Actual CA$H to go and see of my own volition, and it was an honour to have him back.

    With all that done we headed downstairs for the traditional post-gig CHAT and also WHISKY. It had been a beautiful, Christmassy evening - there was a Christmas Tree upstairs, we had mince pies and everyone took turns wearing the SNOWMAN HAT I'd bought on the way - and it continued in a similar vein until closing time, when we strolled up to Kings Cross with Frankie, who was hotelling nearby.

    It was a rather SPARKLY end to a rather delightful, if occasionally stressful, series of Totally Acoustic. We're back for the next series in February, with a SMASHING line up of acts, but in the meantime you can listen to the podcast for THIS show HERE, and we'll have an extra show of highlights next month!

    posted 16/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Diverting The Train
    Rehearsals for me and Steve's new show 'Hey Hey 16K' reached a MILESTONE last week as we made our first RECORDING of the whole show. Steve likes to have this done so that he can LEARN it and so we spent an enjoyable hour or so rollicking through and, especially, DELIGHTING in the segues. Man, there are a whole lot of dialogue into song SEGUES in this show, and we LIKE them!

    After we'd finished THAT we spent 20 minutes or so doing DANCING - there's going to be DANCING in the show too - which was a whole heap of a) fun b) DIZZINESS. Despite all this we still ended up finishing ahead of schedlule so I had high hopes of getting an earlier train home. There's only two trains an hour direct from Tottenham Hale to Stratford but, after the travel disasters trying to get home from our last rehearsal, I thought I'd wait for the next one of THESE rather than try anything CLEVER.

    When I got to the station I was alarmed to find that there'd been all SORTS of problems, and that pretty much every train was delayed. My service was only a few minutes behind, however, so I settled in to watch train after train go through to Liverpool Street until, ten minutes before expected, an announcement came over the PA saying that the next train was for Stratford. I was SURPRISED but PLEASED and prepared to head home even earlier than expected.

    The board said "Stratford", the announcement said "Stratford" again but when the train came in IT said "LIverpool Street" on the front. I got on and all the signs inside said "Liverpool Street" too so, after my previous experiences, I WORRIED. Other people getting in were unsure so I dashed down the train and found an On Train Assistance Facilitator. "No sir, Liverpool Street" he said, pointing at the internal sign. "Yes, but the announcement said Stratford and that's what it says on the board outside" I replied and, after going round this a couple of times, eventually he looked out of the door and realised I wasn't making it up.

    He promised to check and I suggested MAYBE he could make an announcement so that all the other people who'd got on didn't go to the wrong place. People who work in trains always seemed ASTOUNDED when you suggest this sort of thing, and he was no exception, but at least he did seem to be calling someone.

    At this point a pompous prat with a lanyard stalked past, and deigned to glance at what was happening. The first chap I'd spoken to WHISPERED something to him and pointed at me so I said "Is this train going to Stratford or Liverpool Street?" and the prat SCOFFED at my IDIOCY. "Liverpool Street!" he said, pointing at the internal signs. I explained about the signs and the announcement and he looked at me as if I'd suggested the plane might FLY. I explained THREE MORE TIMES until eventually he too looked out of the window and saw the sign and then heard an actual announcement on the platform. He insisted it was for Liverpool Street so, again, I suggested he make an announcement himself, you know, for the passengers, and he looked at me as if I'd asked him to stir complimentary tea and coffees with his genitals.

    He INSISTED once more that the train was for Liverpool Street so I, and the other nearby passengers, got off and waited once more on the platform. Two minutes later, with the train still there, I heard a prattish voice shout "STRATFORD TRAIN". Looking round I saw our be-lanyarded friend leaning out of a door, looking MIGHTY PEEVED, waving an arm. He might have been gesturing at the train OR at another platform, so I called "Is this the train for Stratford now?" and he replied with a) no eye contact b) a vague gesture c) "STRATFORD TRAIN." He did not look pleased.

    I got on AGANE to hear an apology to anyone who was hoping to go to Liverpool Street and final confirmation that we were going to Stratford, then off we headed home. You might be expecting this story to end with the train supervisor AT LEAST coming along to shake me by the hand, more likely making an announcement that I had been awarded Passenger Of The Year for stopping them making a TERRIBLE ERROR but amazingly NOT. Instead I got off and wandered home, where I eventually realised that I may have HIJACKED A TRAIN for my own personal convenience. Who needs PLAUDITS when you can do THAT?

    posted 15/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Have I Got News For You
    After a KRAZY week of EVENTS I would very much have liked to have lain down my tired/cold-ridden body last Thursday and slept for the rest of the YEAR. This, however, was not an option, as I had Glamorous Showbiz Occasions to attend.

    The first of these was my usual Thursday meet-up with Mr John Dredge, during which several schemes were plotted, after which I headed off to The London Studios on the South Bank, where I was due to go and watch the filming of Have I Got News For You!

    This had come about from my LAB with Ged Parsons at the London Screenwriters' Festival last month. He'd invited us all to come along, one at a time, to a filming and this week was my turn. Unfortunately I had printed out only half the instructions about how to get in, missing the crucial Where To Go section, so had to ring The Runners In My Production company and get her to HACK IN to my emails to get the details, all while standing near a HUGE crowd of excitable people. Apparently One Direction were filming an appearance on The Graham Norton Show in the same building!

    Now fully informed I entered the building and began the long process of being gently shunted about. This seems to be the way with any recording I've been to, radio or telly, where you have to stand in certain places for a while before being moved on by nice young people to other places which tend to feature a BAR. It's very much like going to a Wedding, in fact, without the dancing at the end!

    After a couple of hours of shuffling I ended up in the actual studio itself, which was decidedly ODD. I've seen HIGNFY about 100,000,000 times and suddenly there was the ACTUAL SET, looking slightly cold and tatty, right there. The mind, it boggled! We sat around some more then a floor manager came on and then, for some reason, a warm-up man. He was very much in the Big Hair/Tight Jeans/Child Noticing Things genre and I don't really understand why they'd have such a thing. Everyone was EXCITED already, he just delayed things!

    Anyway, the show got started and almost immediately everyone just sat and looked at the screens. Again, we've all seen it SO many times that we fell into our usual "Oh, it's on!" mode. Occasionally I'd look down to the Actual Humans (including Mark Watson, Joan Bakewell and Jack Dee this time) and tell myself "Look at them, not the tellies!" but then the eye would wander back.

    It went on for two hours and, to be honest, felt LONGER. There were funny bits but long gaps of general talking, and they did lots of extra versions of all the rounds. It was fascinating to see - I mean, I've done a whole DEGREE about telly and that (MA Telly And That, in fact) but it's still a surprise to see how much it gets edited down. As I say, it was a bit boring at the time, but when we watched it on telly a couple of nights later it was HILARIOUS!

    When the show was finished there was more waiting as those of us on the guestlists sat around before being escorted upstairs to the BAR for the AFTER SHOW! I thus spent a very very enjoyable hour or so with Ged and various other people discussing comedy stuff while occasionally thinking "Crikey, that's Ian Hislop over there!" and then looking out at the AMAZING view over London from the 14th floor. It was brilliant and EXACTLY as glamorous as I'd hoped it might be.

    I set off home with brain FIZZING full of SHOWBIZ and the possibilities of being part of it, but also with one AIM left in my brain: to get to BED!

    posted 12/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    All Aboard The Enterprise Allowance
    It was lovely being on tour with Mr G Osborne last week, the only downside of it was that I was a bit too busy to fully enjoy the experience in my usual way i.e. by loafing around in bed until midday, relaxing on trains, and then getting drunk. All right, I did most of the second two, but ENGAGEMENTS meant I had to keep DASHING to places during the daytime.

    For instance, last Wednesday morning there was barely time to WOLF down a cooked breakfast (with oddly UN-cooked tomatoes - I mean, I like tomatoes as they are but surely cooking them is implicit in a "cooked breakfast"?) in Northampton before I had to trundle off back to London to attend a meeting about the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme. For LO! I'm going to try signing up for THAT in an effort to not have to go and Sign ON quite so often and/or launch the business of ME as a proper business. The general idea seems quite groovy, but GOOD LORD the company doing the "training" were APPALLING. All the information was half-arsed, we spent AGES just sitting in rooms with nobody telling us what to do (until certain Concerned Attendees HEM HEM got fed up and chased people along corridors demanding to know what was happening) and the "business talk" was TERRIBLE. The guy giving the talk didn't have a clue what he was on about - I'd GOOGLED the scheme for ten minutes and knew more than he did, especially when he answered people's questions WRONG - and then when it was all done I had to wait ANOTHER hour for a "one to one mentoring session" which involved him saying "Have you got a network?" me saying "Yes" and... er... that was it. It was utter bollocks, but having spent over 20 years working in a University I am ideally equipped to cope with byzantine idiocy and hoop jumping. It's a transferable skill!

    With that all finally done I headed home once more to pack and re-pack, by which time i was KNACKERED (not much sleep the night before PLUS an incoming COLD) and, to be honest, would not have been DEVASTATED if the gig had been cancelled and I could have just gone to BED.

    Luckily this didn't happen as (*SPOILERS*) the gig was AMAZING. I rolled up at The Rose And Crown expecting a stinky old Camden pub that would either be a) grotty and scary b) poncy and expensive c) all of the above. Instead it was DELIGHTFUL - lots of nice beers, friendly staff, a mix of people, pleasant seating and all round GOOD TIMES. I found Gav sat with a whole bunch of pals, featuring The Hewitts also, and things continued in this RATHER PLEASANT style. I did worry that the basement, where the gig was happening, would be a DANK HELLHOLE but it was perfectly pleasant, and we even got to set up the PA system ourselves. This might sound counter-intuitive as a Plus Point but i actually LIKE it when you get to do this as a) it's another transferable skill and b) it meant that I got the best seat in the house for Gav's sections of the gig i.e. by the side of the stage at the sound desk!

    We'd somehow manage to SELL OUT of our alloted 40 tickets, much to the surprise of us AND the landlord, so when the doors opened all I had to do was stand there with the list, ticking off names. Gav and I came up with a plan to do two sets each, a short intro and a proper long one, and so I kicked off the proceedings THUS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • I Come From The Fens
  • Back For Good

  • Man, I have GOT to do Back For Good more often! I usually decide not to because I forget the chords for the middle bit, but this time I simply pointed it out before beginning and everyone SANG ALONG acapella. It was GRATE! Gav then came on and answered with a ROUSING rendition of "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" which continued the singing along and before we knew it that section was DONE, with just time for some more BEER purchasing and then my return to the stage THUS:
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • That Guy
  • In The North Stand
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • I've said it many times but it bears repeating - the healing power of ROCK is an INCREDIBLE thing, as my cold temporarily disappeared for the duration of the above. It was a lovely audience who went along with everything I had to say and - continuing the plan the day before of saying new, non-age-obsessed, things between songs - I felt ten feet tall talking to them. And once all THAT was over Gav came back on and STORMED the room. Hoorah!

    Afterwards several people came over and said variations of "I had a LOVELY time", which pretty much summed up the evening for me. The landlord even bought us a drink, that almost NEVER happens!

    A little while later there were more hugs and, as we left, an agreement to tour again in the New Year. When you're having this much fun, why stop?

    posted 11/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Change In Direction
    Last Tuesday morning The Pillows On My Bed and I had to DRAG ourselves out of our lovely comfy Premier Inn room in Norwich in order to make our way back to That London. As we readied ourselves I asked the aforesaid Times On My Timetable what she'd thought to the gig the night before. Some might say I was actually saying "Please tell me I was BRILLIANT" but obviously nothing could be further from the truth. She reported that John and Gav had been EXCELLENT, which of course they had, but offered some THORTS on my set which gave me, well, pause for THORT.

    For the past year or so I've been basing a lot of my between song chit chat on the fact that I am over forty years old (no, I am, don't be so amazed) and how that makes me feel, especially pertaining to the fact that I've met people recently who are significantly younger than me. I've thought this was a delightful accompaniment to the themes inherent in some of the songs, but it was pointed out that I'm now BANGING ON about it pretty much THROUGHOUT, combining it with a) telling the audience they're really old too and b) scratching my head and stumbling around like a Weird Old Man. Now, that final point is partly due to me wondering what I'm going to do next and being naturally DISORIENTED when faced with BOOZE, but I knew from experience that I had to take this opinions on board and analyse them. I thought I was just being DELIGHTFUL, but might I now be going too far? This was something to PONDER!

    Mind ABUZZ we got home and I swiftly de-packed, re-packed, and headed out again to NORTHAMPTON. On the train there I sat in front of two AWFUL people who sat talking loudly saying INCREDIBLY THICK and/or offensive things, laced with swearing, WITHOUT STOPPING. As a veteran of train travel I knew what to do, and just went and sat in a different carriage, from which vantage point they became quite funny, as they managed to get confused by toilets, doors, and signs telling them where to leave stations. Years ago I would have sat and FUMED, shifting seats is much easier!

    I arrived at The Langham Hotel to find it was much as advertised and reviewed online i.e. VERY old fashioned but perfectly nice. "Your friend is already here!" said the Eastern European NAN who greeted me, and so a few minutes later I was reunited with Mr G Osborn, TOUR BUDDY, and we were heading into town.

    The day before in Norwich I'd pointed out that it was TRADITIONAL for at least one of us to visit a castle when touring together, so Gav insisted that we follow another of our traditions i.e. have our tea in Weatherspoons, before heading off to the NN Cafe where we met Tamsyn and Joe, our hosts, and got set up for the evening. It's a dead nice place, the NN Cafe, the sort of place where, as I found out, they have many kinds of tea and Soya Milk available on request.

    The gig wasn't HUGELY packed but was a lovely crowd who enjoyed our chums Chris and Charlie performing "Jurassic Park: The Musical" very much. As did I - they have expanded the show since last I saw them by adding in more BICKERING. Some may have thought more SONGS might have been a priority but actually this worked really well. They were talking about making it a fully fledged show, though I have to say, a musical about dinosaurs sounds KRAZY.

    Gav went on next to a room of people most of whom had never seen him before, and WORKED it to the point that everyone was singing along to "Closing Montage" at the end, which was a JOY to witness. Then, after a brief break, it was my turn to get on and do THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • The Perfect Love Song
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • We Did It Anyway
  • In The North Stand
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • I had an absolutely LOVELY time. I was very aware of the "going on about being middle-aged" thing so very determinedly did not mention it at ALL, and found the results REVELATORY. I'm sure observers might well not have noticed any difference, but I felt TALLER, STRONGER and felt my BRANE fizzing away as I had to re-route well worn intros and find new things to say. It was EXCITING!

    Afterwards we sat around for a chat and Tamsyn got out THE CHEESE BOARD. This is the highest accolade that I believe the NN Cafe can give, complete with crackers and some pretty amazing WALNUT CHUTNEY. Thus our evening concluded with discussion and zinging taste buds before a COLD COLD hike back to our hotel. The tour was into its final leg!

    posted 10/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Power In The East
    Just over a week ago The Features On My Map and I headed to the distant East to a land I had only read about in books or seen on TV: NORWICH!

    I was booked to play there on Monday as the first leg of myself and Mr G Osborne's "Trains And Automobile" tour, but decided to go a day earlier to have a look round, as neither myself not The Dates On My Tour had ever been before. You might think "But Hibbett, you are from Peterborough, how could you NOT have been to a huge city not very far away?" and I would state that you have answered your own question i.e. "I am from Peterborough".

    We went on the train, utilising our local transport hub to go via Colchester, and arrived at the (lovely) Premier Inn just in time to unpack and head straight out again to the Cathedral. Being Rock And Roll we do like to go and have a look and a local Cathedral when on a mini-break, and while planning this trip I'd noticed that we'd be arriving just in time to go for the ADVENT PROCESSION. We thus arrived to a PACKED, also DARK Cathedral to be greeted by an elderly chap at the door who nodded, and gestured "Come with me". We followed him along to some side seats to watch the show I mean SERVICE. It was GRATE - it started with the choir down one end of the building then moving gradually along, lighting lights as they went. By the end the Cathedral was FULLY LIT but the choir had moved so far along we could hardly hear them.

    It was DELIGHTFUL. I find Church services are much like The Football - when I was small I'd be DRAGGED to them and they seemed to take FOREVER. Now I wander along every now and then and have a perfectly lovely time which seems to FLY by. This one was also full of incidents - a passing chorister nearly CAUGHT FIRE when a candle Over-Flickered and was saved by a the Nice Lady next to us LEAPING up and patting them down. There also appeared to be a POLICE VICAR who SWEPT along the corridors throughout. NO idea what he was doing, but it seemed jolly important.

    When it was over we shook hands with the Bishop, as one is wont to do, and went for a wander round town. Norwich, it turns out, is FULL of Churches. You cannot MOVE for them, it's like the ancient yeomen of Norwich bought a job lot. It was only a day into the trip when we realised that there's actually TWO Cathedrals - they're Church MAD!

    Next day we had a GINORMOUS lie-in, only dragging ourselves out of bed in time for LUNCH, which we had at the Wild Thyme Vegetarian Cafe. It was BLOODY GRATE - not only was the grub delicious but I THINK we saw International Film Star Kristin Scott Thomas (talking to a THEATRICAL DAME who we couldn't work out who it was) in there too! FANCY!

    Fully fed we walked round to the CASTLE and chanced upon a BRILLIANT guided tour of the KEEP. It was ACE but we then rather overdid it by going into ALL the galleries - it's a Traditional Local Museum, much like the one we went to recently in Canterbury and, indeed, the one in EVERY medium British town, so there were local painters, World War One exhibitions, Something To Do With The Romans and, of course, a METRIC TONNE of BADLY STUFFED ANIMALS!

    After a revivyfying coffee we went back to the Premier Inn, re-adjusted packing, and then it was SHOWTIME! The gig was round at The Bicycle Shop, where I discovered Gav had already arrive, along with our other participant Mr John Osborne. It was only half an hour or so into our acquaintance that I realised I had seen him ages ago in his GRATE show "John Peel's Shed". Much to my delight he turned out to be exactly as nice a chap as the show would suggest i.e. a LOT!

    Some of Gav's pals from his University days in Norwich came and took us to a nearby pub for a bit after which we returned to a respectable and COSY audience for the gig itself. John went first and did POETRY which was actually more like storytelling, and was FAB. I'm hoping to get him over for the next season of Totally Acoustic in the New Year, as it was moving, funny, and also INSIGHTFUL - three of my favourite things!

    Next it was ME and I did THIS:
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • I Come From The Fens
  • Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • In The North Stand
  • That Guy
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • I had a FINE old time with a whole lot of LARFS, although I wasn't to know until later (the next day, in fact) that ASPECTS of it would persuade me to change my "act" FOREVER! Actually, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find that out too, as not long after I came off stage it was time for Gav to go on and be GRATE. It's lovely doing tours like this with Gav as I get to see him do GIGS, which he's really really good at. This time he premiered a new song about a) May 1 1997 but mostly b) his friends from Norwich. It was beautiful!

    To top off the evening he dragged (well, "asked") me back onstage where I fulfilled a request for Boom Shake The Room. With all that done we finished off our beers and headed off - Gav and John in search of curry and us back to the Premier Inn. It had been a MARVELLOUS start to the tour, but a whole lot more was still to come!

    posted 9/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Yesterday we wrote the last of our Christmas cards, listened to Bob Dylan's Christmas album, had stuffing with our dinner, put up our miniature Christmas tree and watched 'Planes Trains And Automobiles'. It must be Christmas!

    And if it's Christmas that means it must be time for the MJ Hibbett & The Validators Christmas single, which is right here, right now, and called Easy Christmas:

    The video was filmed by Edie and Lola Pattison a couple of weeks ago when we were at the Snug in Derby doing some recording, and features some of the finest effects that MovieStar can offer - if you ask me it has come out as a GENUINELY PSYCHADELIC movie! The song is available directly from us via our bandcamp site either as a single download or as part of our ever expanding Christmas Selection Box album.

    As ever, any passing of the WORD would be much appreciated. We hope it brings festive joy and a very Merry Christmas to one and all!

    posted 8/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Big Comedy Conference
    I went to another CONFERENCE on Saturday and, like the London Screenwriters' Festival a few weeks ago, it started at KRAZY O'CLOCK in the morning. I thought WRITERS were meant to get up late?

    This was pretty much my only complaint about the event, as otherwise The Big Comedy Conference was GRATE. It was a whole day of panels and talks about COMEDY STUFF, taking place in Clerkenwell, and I nearly hadn't gone as we were booked to see Morrissey later that evening. A couple of nights ago I'd mentioned it in passing to The Delegates At My Session, saying "If Morrissey ends up cancelling there's a conference I'd like to go to instead". She pointed out that the conference was in the DAY and Morrissey was in the evening and that I therefore could and indeed SHOULD go. So I did!

    They had a really good line-up of guests, including David Quantick, Vicki Pepperdine, Andy Hamilton and especially Graham Linehan, one of my all time HEROES of HILARITY. My favourite part of the whole day was during a Q&A with him. I put my hand up towards the end hoping to ask the following ERUDITE question: "I noticed that 'Count Arthur Strong' featured several emotional scenes which, unusually for a British sitcom, were not immediately undercut. Was this intentional, or did it emerge from the character?" GOOD EH? I managed to sort of ask the first part (though I did start with "HIYA! I love Count Arthur!") but before I could ask the actual question at the end Mr Linehan said "Thank you!", looked REALLY pleased, and went into a reverie about being inspired to make it that way through a memory of the pilot episode of "Hi-De-Hi". It was all rather heart-warming, and even nicer when I bumped into him later in the corridor and he thanked me for mentioning it and we shook hands in a MANLY fashion. It was lovely!

    The other high point of the day was a SCRIPT SESSION with Hayley McKenzie of Script Angel which came free with the ticket and was pretty much worth the price on its own. I'd sent her the first ten minutes of a sitcom idea I've been working on, hoping she could help me sort out the opening. What actually happened was half an hour of INCISIVE THOUGHT and EXCELLENT POINTS which made me realise I could drop a whole character, move others around, and make the whole thing MUCH MUCH BETTER. It was brilliant - she also LARFED at some of the jokes and said she liked it, which helped, and I came away full of THORTS.

    Apart from those HIGHS there was another significant aspect which could be either a high or a low - only TIME will tell. At every session I went to, solo or in the company of Mr John Dredge, one theme shone out at me: the best way to get work as a comedy writer in the current climate is to do stand-up comedy. It's something I've wondered about and WRESTLED with in the past, but nearly EVERYBODY who talked about getting actual WORK mentioned it, and nearly ALL of the younger writers there had at some point DONE it and got breaks that way. I have no wish to pursue stand-up comedy as a career but it does seem like the main way of meeting comedy agents, producers and commissioners these days.

    One of the main reasons I have NOT pursued it any further is that I hate the idea of rolling up at comedy nights and begging for an open mic spot - goodness knows I have done enough of that in the world of ROCK - as I would have no idea where to start. However, Mr Dredge has recently done a 10 week course in stand-up which a) showed him how to do it b) gave him writing exercises to do and c) ended with a couple of showcase nights. I am thus pondering the wisdom of doing the course MYSELF next year. I mean, I have done enough GIGS not to be scared of it and it would at least be INTERESTING, but I'm not sure how much I want to have to go to lots of comedy nights afterwards. File this under PENDING!

    So all in all it was an EXTREMELY thought provoking day which also featured many LARFS and Enjoyable Remarks. I left full of THORT and IDEAS and headed over to the O2 arena where I met The Audience In My Stadium just in time for... well, a couple of beers and THEN Morrissey, who was GRATE. He was in TOP FORM, especially for the first and last 20 minutes of the set. In between there was rather a lot more of the new album than I would have asked for (i like it, but I also like the back catalogue!) but after reading and hearing stories about his health it was fantastic to seem him being SO AMAZING. And crikey, the new chap he's got in the band has improved it NO END.

    Also of note was how SURPRISINGLY NICE the O2 Arena was. It's YEARS since I last went to a gig that size, and was impressed by how good the sound was, how easy it was to get in and (especially) out, and how well I could see. Maybe I'll book it next year for my stand-up tour!

    posted 4/12/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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