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Blog Archive: September 2015

It's Nithe In Neath
On Sunday morning The Wheels On My Wheelie Suitcase DIVERGED and I, her heading home and me to NEATH where I was due to attend The Sandalle Five 'n' Ten Writing Competition. This was an afternoon featuring the winning entries for a monologue and duologues competition, and I was IN it!

Also in it was Ms N Racklin, fellow Lost City Writers' Group CHUM. We met up in the foyer of The Gwynn Hall in Neath for a RIGHT fun afternoon which started off with one of the organisers ORDERING us to go upstairs for CAKE where we met some of the other organisers, actors and writers before sneaking back downstairs again. The cake was nice, but downstairs there was BEER!

The show itself was really good - lots of different stuff and I was EXTREMELY pleased with how nicely mine was done. It was a monologue called "Marjories Meets Gareth, Gareth Meets Marjorie" about a pensioner who gets a call from a phone scammer and very gently changes things around. I loved the way that people CHUCKLED during the first half as they got what was happening, then did so again in the second as they realised how it was turning round. I was very pleased!

We had to do an Audience Vote at the end which was slightly odd as we did it by a show of hands, which meant that you knew EXACTLY how many people, and who, had voted for you! It was all part of the general FUN of the afternoon though, which was done very PERSONALLY by the organisers, not slickly but in its own unique way. At the end the JUDGES came on, talked about which ones they'd enjoyed and then announced that there were TWO winners, one serious (and very good) piece called "Etta's Letter"... and MINE!

"That's mine!" I whispered to Nikki, sat next to me, who did actually KNOW that! I had to go to the front and shake the judges' hands, it was like being on telly although, MERCIFULLY, there were no speeches. Afterwards I went and reported to the chief organiser while she wrote me a BIG FAT CHEQUE for 250 i.e. more money than I have made out of writing - by a LONG way - in the past entire year! "Would you like the congratulations card?" she asked. "It's no trouble" and then went out to her car to fetch it, gave it to me to unwrap from its cellophane, and then wrote it. Like I say, the day had it's own unique way about it!

FLUSHED with success Nikki and I went in search of somewhere to have a VICTORY meal. "It doesn't have to be Weatherspoons" I said but, inevitably, the only place open in town WAS a Weatherspoons. Nikki had never been in one before (at least not to eat) and they pulled out ALL the stops - drunk people asleep outside, plenty of lonely men at tables, uncleaned tables and some screaming kids. It ALSO, to be fair, had quite nice food AND cheap beer, also Excellent Conversation so all was well!

Soon it was time to leave the delights of 'SPOONS and head home, something which took FLIPPING AGES. It was already nearly a four hour journey and it became MORE so with delays - it was like Olden Times, in fact, when trains were ALWAYS late without any announcements. Well, I say there weren't any announcements, one EVENTUALLY came after, as far as i could hear, one of the other staff giving the train manager a RIGHT bollocking about the lack of information. "Manage the bloody train!" he shouted -it was ACE! I could hear all this going on because we were travelling in STYLE in First Class - as it was such a long trip I thought we might as well upgrade, but the ticket inspector never came. HA! Take THAT, The Man - in the words of Keith Top Of The Pops, we Could Not Stop Winning!

posted 30/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Wedding Singer
On Saturday The Trains On My Rails and I were out and about AGANE, this time heading to BRISTOL for the wedding reception of Markie and Vinnie, where I was due to perform a SET.

During the course of the day several people asked if we were staying at The Ibis, almost as if I have gone out about it or something, but as the two of us were going rather than just me we decided to take a step up in the world and booked The Holiday Inn. It was Quite Swanky - we were on the top floor, with a BALCONY!

The DO was happening at The Cube and was EXCELLENTLY signposted, and we arrived to find a venue THROBBING with delightful people, not just the bride and groom but also Mr G Osborn and Mr John Hare, the whole band Bodyheat (also playing), a large slice of The Sheffields, and a whole BUNCH of chums. It was lovely!

Things kicked off with a FILM - this had been a BIG MYSTERY as nobody knew what we'd be watching, but it turned out to be "A Mighty Wind" which was GRATE because a) I'd never seen it b) it was VERY good and also c) IDEAL for being watched by a large group of people who had been involved with BANDS for a long long time. I guess there may usually be MORE LARFS tho, as most audiences wouldn't see it as an ACTUAL documentary!

We then had a BUFFET (done by Gopal's of Indietracks fame!) and some BOOZE and CHAT then filed back to see Gav and John do an EXCELLENT set. When they'd finished I thought "I wonder when I'm on then?" and discovered I was on RIGHT NOW as Vinnie's brother Luke, Master Of Ceremonies, announced me. I DASHED on and did a set which, perhaps fooolishly, had (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock near the start so I got a bit CROAKY with ROCKING OUT. It was all fine apart from that, although I DID have to spend large parts of the rest of the evening RESTRAINING myself from SHOWING OFF. "Yes," I said to myself, "I *have* done a gig this evening, but that is NOT what the whole evening is about - don't start swanning around!"

For LO! what the whole evening was about was The Bride And Groom who made LOVELY speeches, also SONGS and there was much EMOTIONS. Luckily Bodyheat were on hand to ROCK OUT afterwards and they were GRATE, and attracted a crowd of DANCERS (hem hem) who definitely WANTED to get up and dance around and were not just forced to do so by Mr David Leach GRABBING people and making us do it.

The evening gently closed with a DISCO during which I was DELIGHTED that The Songs On My Playlist got the chance to experience some PROPER indie dancing to "Where's Me Jumper?" We said our goodbyes and strolled out, having had a LOVELY evening, only to be PIPPED by a passing car. As it passed we looked round and saw Mr John Hare leaning out of the OsbornMobile holding up not one but TWO bottles of beer - it was THE PARTY CAR!

posted 29/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Crab And Winkle Way
Last Thursday was a most AUSPICIOUS day for LO! it was the BIRTHDAY of The Signs On My Route! We decided to take a day off and go and DO something so we went and did The Crab And Winkle Way, a walk from Canterbury to Whitstable which (mostly) follows the route of an old railway line. We'd heard about it while researching previous trips to Canterbury and it looked like fun, so we thought we'd have a go.

Things got off to a nervous start as we weren't sure where the walk actually BEGAN - the online documentation was a bit hazy about it and, as it turned out, so was a lot of the signage en route. If I'm doing a Named Walking Route I would IDEALLY like it to have signs every ten feet or so, but The Crab And Winkle Way (or "Crab And Winkle Link" as it was sometimes called) had some pretty massive GAPS in it.

Still, we found the start point and set off towards The University Of Kent At Canterbury where we were DELIGHTED to find ourselves walking right through the middle of Freshers' Fayre! It was WONDERFUL - all around us Third Years were trying to cajole Freshers into signing up for their SOCIETIES while nearby signs exorted them to come to the POSTER SALE. All was full of HOPE and POTENTIAL and also FREE PIZZA which we definitely didn't get back in my day, also a BIG WHEEL for some reason, but other than that it was much the same as it ever was.

We strode on, full of joy, and then got lost due to the aforesaid SIGNAGE GAP. After a bit of wandering about we found a route to the actual path of the railway and then spent a couple of hours STOMPING along it, through what turned out to be PRODUCTIVE countryside full of farms, hop plants and poly tunnels, and also BLACKBERRIES. Man alive but there were a lot of blackberries, and they were bloody DELICIOUS. It's a long long time since I last encountered a ripe BRAMBLE and I'd forgotten how BRILLLIANT wild blackberries can be!

Eventually we made it to the edges of Whitstable, which turned out to look like DUDLEY until we reached the sea when it became INDUSTRIAL then more seaside-y as we walked along the seaside towards The Old Neptune pub. Here we sat down for a VERY well deserved pint. Getting UP again was a bit difficult though, as we were KNACKERED.

We staggered into Whitstable Actual, the town centre, which was DEAD chi-chi, full of delightful little shops which, we guessed, were there for the "DFL" (Down From London) set who apparently fill the place. For us two DFL-ers it was time to head home, which we did via Whitstable station where a VERY on the ball young woman at the ticket office sold us the cheapest tickets possible to allow us to go straight home rather than having to go back to Canterbury (a single to Faversham, then we could use the rest of our return to Canterbury Stations: TOP TIP for anyone who's got here via Google!).

It was a BRILLIANT day out but a HECK of a walk which I felt in my legs ALL the next day. This exercise business doesn't half hurt!

posted 28/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Shoe Shop Guys - Politics
Myself and Mr John Dredge have UNLEASHED another video into the world today, and it is THIS one:

It's another one starring The Shoe Shop Guys - i DO like The Shoe Shop Guys, and not just because it involves me shouting "HELLO!" at the top of my voice. Although that is quite a big part of it.

We've got THREE more videos ready and waiting to go over the next few weeks, and we have this very day booked ourselves in to go and film a load more, so with any luck we will be continuing to DELIGHT one and all on a weekly basis for most of the rest of the year. If you'd like to keep totally up to date with them as they EMERGE you can go and LIKE our facebook page or, I guess, just keep checking here every Friday!

posted 25/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Job Hunting
For the past 18 months or so I have had a DELIGHTFUL time Not Going To Work. You know when people (Tories) claim that work is good for you? They are talking out of their arses - NOT going to work is BRILLIANT and you get TONNES more done!

The only downside to not going to work, I have found, is that you don't get PAID. At the start of my sojourn into Basically Retirement this was FINE - I had my REDUNDANCY money (I worked for Birkbeck for 11 years, so I got a LITTLE bit of CA$H) and then those fine folks at the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme gave me sixty five quid a week for a few months for, let's be honest, turning up to a meeting on time, filling in a form, and then not appearing on the unemployment figures. You know when George Osborne goes on about "new businesses" forming? One of those was ME!

However, that has all come to an end now and I am left with my SAVINGS, or rather I am left with what's LEFT of my savings after SPENDING them at a fairly rapid rate. I don't MIND spending savings - after all, having time off to do The Writing was pretty much what I was saving it FOR - but I'd rather not spend the LOT of it and so I am JOB HUNTING again.

"But Mark!" I hear you cry, "What of this The Writing of which you speak? Surely THAT is an income stream?" Theoretically yes, but in actuality: not so much. I mean, I've got loads of The Writing done and I'm very pleased with how it's all gone (see my writing site for EXTENSIVE showing off about it) but it hasn't actually led to much in the way of CA$H. INDEED the most lucrative thing I've done is re-writing the words to popular songs for satirical purposes occasionally for Newsrevue - one time they used one of my songs for three weeks and I got over eleven POUNDS!

THUS I am interrogating, the Universities job site, on a daily basis. I want to go back to academia partly because it's what I know but MOSTLY because the thought of re-starting my USS pensions fills me with EXCITEMENT. Actual, genuine EXCITEMENT - what have I become?!?

I've applied for a few jobs and even have a JOB INTERVIEW next week, so hopefully I'll be able to get something sorted quite soon, and in a funny way I'm kind of looking forward to getting back to it. Filling in applications and re-writing my CV has reminded me of all the interesting stuff I used to do - there's nothing quite as satisfying as getting a multi-layered SQL query to return EXACTLY what you want, right kids? - and I think it would actually be fun to have a reason to do it again. The money, also, would be quite nice, and there's the whole meeting new people, seeing new places and LEARNING new things.

Mostly though it's re-starting my pension, OBVS. Oh BABY!

posted 23/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Welly Stomp
A little while ago we got a flyer inviting us to go to something called "The Welly Stomp". This turned out NOT to be a 70's DANCE revival but instead an invitation to all local residents to join a procession through East Village, where we live, over to The Olympic Park (which we live near - have I mentioned that before?) following a pair of giant WELLIES to what was, basically, a harvest festival. How could we refuse?

So it was that on Saturday morning The Feets In My Shoes and I put our wellies on (the flyer suggested we all wear them) and heading over to nearby Victory Park where things were due to begin. We assumed that ALL residents had received the flyers and so expected a reasonable crowd, so were a bit surprised to find that, apart from the organisers and volunteers carrying the big green papier mache boots, we were the ONLY people there! A few more rolled up just before things got started, but NONE of them were wearing wellies.

And so it was that the two of us ended up at the front of the procession, just behind the giant boots, carrying a Welly Stomp BANNER through the village, across a road, and then into the Olympic Park. Does this make us COMMUNITY HEROES? I rather think it does. Our little procession got to the harvest festival area and the "march" (it did feel like that - I struggled inwardly to stop myself calling for an end to the badger cull throughout) ended in that traditional British activity: a group of adults trying, and largely failing, to remember how The Hokey Cokey goes and then carrying on doing it for a bit too long. The pair of us did our best to join in, but it's a bit difficult when you're holding a banner!
Rupert's Street Vegan Food Van.

Things were going DELIGHTFULLY well, so we went and sat on some hay bales to eat whilst on a nearby stage a "local singer songwriter" (according to the running order) performed a bunch of cover versions. It was all very pleasant and STANDARD, with stuff like "I'm A Believer" and "Here Comes The Sun" and nobody really paying any attention, but then it all went a bit WAYWARD. "Here's a song by the Velvet Underground" he said, and launched into a version of "Who Loves The Sun." It was GRATE! Clearly he had decided that nobody was listening so might as well do what he LIKED - as The Songs In My Set said, he had GONE ROGUE. He did a Smiths song to great acclaim (NB from us) and then an Elliot Smith song, three MORE Smiths songs in a row and finished with "Vegetables" by The Beach Boys (!) and Star Man. It was HILARIOUS and WONDERFUL - we sang along throughout, especially on the Smiths. I think more entertainers should cover The Smiths - most of the other people watching were joining in too, it's the same for people of OUR generation (who are largely the ones dragging kids around such events these days) as it was for our parents singing along to The Beatles when they took us as children. Jamies Whelligan, his name was, as I later found out. He was BRILL!

The sun was out and it felt like SUMMER - I even had a GRASSHOPPER land on me, an actual real-live Grasshopper - and all was well with the world. More of this sort of thing please!

posted 22/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Back to Luxembourg!
Sorry for the interruption in Me Going On About Luxembourg last week - I'm sure you were DYING to know about my lovely holiday and wondering if it would stay AMAZING.

Saturday morning certainly started off that way as we sat in our hotel room drinking our way through the mini-bar (it was various JUICES, not alcohol - we are not SAVAGES) and watching the Jeremy Corbyn news. It was BRILLIANT! I will not ADD to the huge pile of WORDS what everyone has said about this whole business... except to say that I am enjoying the irony of millions of political pundits confidently predicting what will happen next when UTTERLY NONE of them had ANY clue that something of this magnitude was going to happen AT ALL. And also that it's a bit bloody rich saying someone can't possibly be electable when HE JUST HAS BEEN.

ANYWAY. We eventually got out of the hotel and popped round to SUBWAY to get an Emergency Back-Up Sandwich for possible Breakfast/Lunch. We found ourselves queueing behind that marvellous breed of person i.e. Someone In A Specific Kind Of Shop Who Doesn't Know How That Specific Kind Of Shop Works. In Subway there are MANY SIGNS (in different languages) telling you HOW IT WORKS. "Pick a bread! Pick a sandwich! Tell us what size!" After five minutes of the people in front of us saying "What is 'tuna'? What sizes do you have? Is it just sandwiches?" I was ready to GO BERZERK.

I didn't go berzerk, which was probably for the best, and eventually we managed to get out and wander into town with our emergency sandwich, in search of the Open Top Bus Tour. As anyone who has EITHER travelled with me OR spoken to me about travelling will know, I am a HUGE exponent of the Open Top Bus Tour - it's a delightful hour in which you get to know how a new city works from the comfort of a BUS. We found the stop but another QUEUE meant we missed the bus, so went back to BEET for a proper breakfast... of... er... BEER. Well, it was gone NOON even in continental time and we WERE on holiday, and did have some COFFEE too. It's healthy!

We went back but missed the NEXT bus too due to a) eating our sandwiches b) looking at the VIEW c) looking at the bus loads of tourists getting off for a FAG and to look at the VIEW, but did eventually get the NEXT one, and it was well worth the wait for LO! it fulfilled all our expectations of showing us where things were and, often, WHY.

That done we went back to Beet for the THIRD time ("Hello again!" they said) for LUNCH and then strolled along what I like to think of as Europe's most beautiful balcony hem hem (OK maybe I am not the first to say that), The Corniche. Luxembourg is basically an island surrounded by a valley all the way round with huge bridges across it. The Corniche goes round the edge with delightful VIEWS across and then at the end of it you can (eventually, after getting lost a bit) find your way back to The Grund, which is the old town in the valley. It was very nice INDEED and we celebrated with MORE BEER.

After that we headed home, our thoughts turning to TEA. One of my main worries about going somewhere NEW is that I don't know where the veggie-friendly places to EAT are, so I'd spent a while before setting off researching restaurants. One place I'd found was The Nirvana Cafe, which appeared to be a veggie friendly Indian restaurant. We went for a look and it turned out to basically be INDIAN VEG i.e. the fantastic place in Islington with a HUGE and DELICIOUS vegan buffet EXCEPT in this case two minutes from our hotel!! We thus filled up plastic cartons with take-away GRUB and headed back to CONSUME it at "home".

It had been a fantastic day and one which, surely, could not be improved. So I thought anyway, but I was wrong - not only was POINTLESS on again, but it had a guest appearance by BASIL FLIPPING BRUSH! Amazing scenes!

Sunday was very much the same - we had a MASSIVE kip, went out to Beet for breakfast (BEER for breakfast! ROCK AND ROLL!) and then decided to do a spot of sightseeing. Many people have said that you can see Luxembourg City in an afternoon and, to be fair, you could very much DO that, though you wouldn't be able to spend quite as much time drinking BEER. We'd been given a tourist WALK leaflet on our first day, so followed that a little while before reaching the STRANGEST part of our trip: The Petrusse Express aka The Train Of Shame.

This was one of those lovely street trains that you always seem to see at RESORTS abroad and we hopped on and plugged in our earphones expecting the usual gentle audio tour describing the sites what we were seeing. What we GOT however was a deeply ODD monologue which, we worked out half an hour in, was narrated by a WATER NYMPH who had married Prince Ziegfriend who (we think) "discovered" the area in 963 and settled there. It was all a bit confusing as she kept saying "Oh my Ziggy! What would you have thought of this had you known?" while we looked around desperately trying to work out what she was on about. It was like a long FRINGE SHOW of POETRY which would occasionally veer into travelogue ("Oh Ziggy! To your left it is the river.") but then more often turn into a weird historical version of EASTENDERS. Large chunks of it featured medieval villagers going "'Ave you 'eard the latest about 'er and 'er soldier fella? 'E's only gone and shot 'imself ain't 'e?" We kept expecting to hear the DOOF DOOFs!

After an hour of that we staggered off BEMUSED and went in search of more THRILLS. These included a BRASS BAND doing a medley of Eric Clapton hits and a miniature railway - the sort you could SIT on. This did NOT have a weird soundtrack AND was free, so we went and had a go. It was three minutes zipping round at HIGH speed and was BRILL!

We finished our tourist walk by going round a big PARK (where the miniature railway was) then up the side of some CLIFFS before heading to the full-size ACTUAL railway station to look at its ROOF, thus completing ALL tourists sights which the tourist office had officially sanctioned. TICK!

HUNGRY from our exertions we went to Luxembourg's ONLY supermarket. Yes, I said ONLY supermarket - we had been walking round for nearly THREE days and though we had seen many bars, cafes and other shops we had seen only ONE shop selling actual food, a dinky little supermarket near the station. Do people in Luxembourg go out all the time like in New York or something? We never found out, but DID buy some crisps and a BEER (HEALTH) before getting ANOTHER Subway sandwich for emergency eating.

Our healthy lifestyle concluded that evening with a trip to the WELL SWANKY hotel bar where we had LUXEMBOURG WINE because we are dead posh. It was lovely and, as well as being sophisticated, we also became Quite Tipsy.

Monday rolled around FAR too quickly and, with a few hours before our flight, we set out to find ANOTHER Veggie restaurant, got a bit lost, discovered it was CLOSED (Luxembourg is MOSTLY closed on Sunday and PARTLY on Monday, it seems), had a bit of cake and coffee somewhere else (NO BEER!) then went and caught the BUS back to the airport. Like pretty much everything else on this particular trip it all went FINE and a couple of hours later we found ourselves back at home, NO PROBLEM.

In summary then: Luxembourg was GRATE, it was PEASY to get to and from and we had a LOVELY time. Put THAT on your posters, Luxembourg Tourist Board!

posted 21/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The History of The World in 2,786,402 Items
As threatened last week, Mr John Dredge and I are today unleashing another new video onto our Facebook channel, the first in a THRILLING new series entitled "The History of The World in 2,786,402 Items". This episode looks at that important historical item, The Five Pound Note, and you can also view it on YouTube, THUS:

This is actually the PILOT episode - we start filming the rest of the series this weekend in fact - and as such we have entered it into the Raindance Dailymotion Web Pilot Competition. It's one of those competitions where people vote for their favourites i.e. everyone SPAMS their chums and says "VOTE VOTE VOTE!" You may notice from the current results that some people have very clearly done exactly this and, while I would of course never dream of trying to rig a competition in a similar way, I WOULD be very grateful if you could VOTE VOTE VOTE and let us win! You can do so by going here and VOTING VOTING VOTING!

VOTE! Please!

posted 18/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Ada Lovelace
We interrupt our planned broadcast ("What I Did On My Holidays Part 2: More Beer") to bring you an exciting EXCERPT from that there Hey Hey 16K musical that I have been going on about so much. It's a video featuring Steve and I performing our potted biography of Ada Lovelace, THUS:

Believe it or not, that's actually me and Steve in wigs, and NOT vintage footage of Actual Ada Lovelace and Actual Charles Babbage! AMAZING but true! We've put it out today (Thursday) because there's a documentary on telly tonight which "tells the story of Ada's remarkable life" and takes an HOUR to do so. It was INDEED a remarkable life but, I thought, one which you can tell perfectly well in just over 2 minutes and STILL have time for some interpretive dance.

I imagine BBC4 will get slightly more viewers than we do, but still, here's our go. We hope you enjoy it - especially the DANCE!

posted 17/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Moien to one and all, and apologies for the lack of MUCH on here over the past few days. The reason for this is simple - i have been to LUXEMBOURG!

A little while ago The Dates In My Diary and I were discussing the idea of going on a late summer HOLIDAY. We went to Majorca for a week back in May but had been planning to go away again in September. Various ideas were suggested (including going back to Majorca because we LIKE it there) but eventually our minds fell upon the idea of LUXEMBOURG because a) neither of us had ever been there, so it would be an ADVENTURE b) it looked pretty do-able in a couple of days c) it turned out to be PEASY to get there. And so, we booked!

Getting there did indeed turn out to be MASSIVELY peasy. Ridiculously so, in fact - we walked approx 4 minutes down the road to our local DLR station and within 20 more minutes were checking in at the airport! We were flying from London City which is TINY and thus a DELIGHT. Most of the other people there appeared to be Professional Business Travellers so we blended in by eating CHIPS and drinking BEER. I think we got away with it.

The flight was with Luxair, making this the first time in YEARS we'd flown with a Proper National Carrier rather than, well, Easyjet, so we were surprised when things like FREE DRINKS turned up. We'd enquired beforehand about GRUB and were told that "there will no be a vegetarian meal". We thought this meant there WOULD be non-vegetarian meals, but actually it meant there were just SNACKS i.e. a bag of pre-sliced apples and a big box of tic tacs! It was LOVELY, especially as we accompanied it with my favourite kind of BEER - the FREE kind - and we even got some BOILED SWEETS for landing. Boiled sweets! It was like taking a plane when it was FANCY!

Luxembourg airport was much the same as City airport i.e. TINY and Luxembourg itself started being nice to us when a lady came and gave us a FREE bus ticket while we were working out the ticket machine. SPOILERS: this was to pretty much set the tone for our whole trip in that it was GRATE!

One very pleasant bus ride and brief stroll through the streets of Luxembourg City and we were at the Sofitel, what we had booked because it was WELL POSH. It got even posher when we went in as they UPGRADED us - it turns out that there IS an advantage to having an Accorhotels Member's card! I've spent the past DECADE using it whenever i've booked into the various Ibises (Ibii) what I have stayed in whilst on the road and never got NOTHING. Clearly my mistake was in not staying in posher hotels.

Once we got in the room we put the telly on and, as it is traditional, discovered that POINTLESS was on. Year ago it used to be "The Weakest Link" that was ALWAYS on when I entered an Ibis, the arrival of Pointless instead has been very much a positive. We spent some time putting things in big cupboards, staring in AMAZEMENT at the huge fancy shower cubicle in the middle of the room, and looking our of the window at the VIEW before deciding to venture out. I'd done some RESEARCH beforehand and found that there were several veggie restaurants in town, so went and found one called BEET which sold falafels, veggie burgers... and that's pretty much it. So that's what we had - also BEER. It was thus a full and very very happy couple of adventurers who wandered back to our hotel, wondering whether things would carry on in this vein. Only TIME (and the next blog entry) would tell...

posted 16/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Back To Badgers
Yesterday The Policies In My Manifesto and I headed to The Houses Of Parliament for a Badger Cull protest. What's that you say? You thought that was all sorted out ages ago, and that the massive public outcry coupled with the absolutely huge volume of scientific evidence demonstrating that killing badgers for several thousand pounds a pop in incredibly cruel ways was completely ineffective against TB meant that it had all been stopped? Well yes, yes it had, but the evil shits who are now in full control of the government have decided to bring it back. Why, it's almost as if they actively enjoy killing things or something!

I've been to several of these demoes and they've tended to be the usual slightly haphazard mix of good people doing rambling speeches that other people with diminished hearing (through, say, decades of ROCK) struggle to hear which starts late and massively overruns. THIS one, however, was a cut above, largely because (it seems) it was run by Mr Brian May From Out Of Queen. He ran the whole demo like it was a GIG, COMPERING with extreme effectiveness, getting people up to the microphone for SHORT and PUNCHY speeches and, incredibly, finishing BANG ON TIME! This has never happened before, it was amazing! The Speakers At My Rally suggested that maybe the fact that it was Mr Brian May From Out Of Queen running the show is what MADE people stick to their scripts and speak up. "Crikey!" they must have thought, "I'd best not mess with HIM!"

It was also interesting how HIGH POWERED the Badger protests have become - there were representatives from groups like PETA and Lush as well as the Hunt Sabs and Badger Trust people who've always been there. During the speeches somebody talked about it being one of the biggest animal protection alliances that have ever come about in this country, and it was certainly VERY impressive. It's almost everyone's annoyed about an utterly ludicrous, basically evil, scheme being run entirely contrary to all sense, decency and economics or something.

The funny thing for me, seeing Brian May speak, is that I've never really liked Queen, partly because they were all such massive Tories. However now Brian May seems to have had a complete political turnaround. He talked - rather excellently - about how the Badger Cull is one facet of this shitty evil government, who don't care about anybody or anything else except for their rich friends and are quite happy to destroy the lives of people and/or animals at every turn. "This isn't a niche interest" he said, "it's very much part of the bigger picture."

All the speakers also made the point that us being there DID make a difference - I do always wonder about this, and have tended to favour the view that demoes are more of a MORALE BOOSTER for people who care about the issues - but it seems that in This Social Media Age people TALKING about issues like this is an effective way to counter the apathy and/or lies of the establishment media. Maybe they're right, I certainly hope so , but it definitely acted as a morale booster in political times when GOODNESS KNOWS we need it. As several of them said, we won this fight before and we can win it again. Let's bloody hope so!

posted 9/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Last friday morning was a terrifying reminder of what it's like having an Actual Job in That London. I had to get up at the UNGODLY hour of 7:00am, do my ablutions at high speed, and then get on the TOOB at 8:20am. I have never forgotten how HELLISH it is going on the tube during rush hour in the morning, but many of the HIDEOUS details had escaped me. They all returned during the forty sweaty, bumpy, standing up minutes of GHASTLINESS.

SIDEBAR: in an entirely unrelated matter I am currently job hunting. Does anyone have loads of money to pay someone to sit in a room from aprox 10am to 3pm, looking out of a window? Good pension scheme preferable!

ANYWAY, the reason I was doing all this was that I was booked onto a CONFERENCE for the day - Fantasy/Animation 2015 taking place at Kings College. I'd been ALERTED to it while applying for my PhD as there were several talks directly relevant to my subject matter and as it a) was cheap b) was handy c) looked interesting I thought I'd give it a go.

I was glad I did for LO! it was VERY interesting! It ran from 9am to 7pm and the day mostly FLEW by. I've been to a LOT of conferences in my working life and pretty much ALL of them have been to do with Medical Statistics i.e. one of the very very very LEAST interesting topics you can possibly imagine. Spending a day in the familiar environs of a University Lecture Hall surrounded by academics listening to talks that were often FASCINATING was a really weird experience. I had to keep reminding myself that this WASN'T yet another discussion of applying Baysean methods to analysing compression of morbidity amongst the over 75s (NB I fell into a coma three times typing that sentence) and LISTEN!

When I got home I told The Papers In My Programme about it and it took TWO HOURS to do so as there was so much that was THORT PROVOKING. There were talks about audience perceptions of CGI and animation as different things, world building in the extended Star Wars Universe, the history of computer landscapes, TRANES as a non-space, the politics of CGI zombies, the use of positioning in 3D animation as part of storytelling, feminism and evolutionary theory in "Tangled", and using quantum ideas of the multiverse to define "fantasy". It was GRATE!

There were also some talks that were a little LESS fascinating - some people seemed to think "Oh right, I shall just READ OUT an essay wot I wrote, that will DO" - and I was reminded that academics seem to think that the more multi-syllabular words they can get in a row the BETTER. MOREOVER they all say MOREOVER at the start of every sentence.

Despite that (and partly because of the fun of realising that ALL academics do these things) it was a BRILLIANT day that more than made up for the AGONY of having to get the tube there. It even made me a bit excited about getting back into academia at some point - quick! to!

posted 8/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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The Dredge/Hibbett Facebook Conunundrum
Today Mr John Dredge and I are launching the latest facet of our mighty collaboration - it's The Dredge/Hibbett Conunundrum Facebook Channel!

The idea is that this'll be the central point for all our new videos as they come out, along with a regular supply of the OLD ones what we've already done. We're planning to release something new every week and we've already got five weeks worth of stuff in the bank ready to roll out, with a bunch of other stuff to be filmed soon. This is basically what I've been up to in all those filming blogs over the past couple of months, storing up HILARITY ready to UNLEASH it this month, once John had finished his latest series of excellent podcasts and Steve and I had got back from doing Hey Hey 16K in Edinburgh.

The first new video on the channel is one of my favourites - The Shoe Shop Guys!

This is also available on our YouTube channel, but it's the Facebook Channel that we'll be concentrating on for updates and so forth. As I say there's a TONNE more stuff to come over the next couple of months, so stay tuned for DELIGHT!

posted 7/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Another Final Night
After all the excitement and emotion of the last night of Hey Hey 16K at The Camden Fringe on Saturday, Sunday found me heading out for ANOTHER last night at The Camden Fringe. This time it was the grand finale of London Calling", the portmanteau/sketch show what me and some of my chums from Lost City Writers had written.

As mentioned the other day I am RIDDLED with guilt about this show due to not having been around to do much to help make it happen, so was hoping to be of USE on this particular evening. However it turned out that I was pretty much surplus to requirements as, five days in, everything was working pretty smoothly. All there was for me to do really was to set up my video camera to record proceedings and sit back and watch.

It was QUITE a thing to see - months ago a bunch of us had sat in a meeting room and discussed slinging a few short plays/sketches together into something about a London radio station and LO! now here I was watching it actually happening, with proper actors and director and tech guy and EVERYTHING. It was all hugely SWISH and I felt delighted to be part of it. It's always fascinating to see how things change from when you (or indeed someone you know) sat down and typed it out to a bunch of completely other people performing it. It's a bit weird really - loads of things happen that you never expect, and some don't happen that you did!

Once it was all over there were congratulations and drinks but mostly there was tidying up and dashing for trains - we're having a get together in a few weeks time when, hopefully, I can get the full debrief on everything that happened and What We Have Learned from the experience. I learnt a metric TONNE just from watching it, so goodness knows what everybody else got from actually DOING it!

posted 2/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Return To Camden
This weekend found Steve and I back in Camden. It's an area of London I don't particularly like very much but it DOES contain something I enjoy very much - the Camden Fringe, for which marvelous organisation we there to do our traditional post-Edinburgh lap of honour of two more performances of Hey Hey 16K at The Camden Head. Here is the executive summary: it went quite well.

Friday night got off to a good start with various delightful people turning up, and us playing the ever popular game of "Who's here for our show?" I spotted a man in a ZX Spectrum jumper who I correctly guessed was one of ours, but then later spotted Ms A Nunn in a "Your Sinclair" t-shirt and assumed she was coming as well. It turned out that she'd just so happened to wear it that day but, as she is so POLITE, decided to come and see the show anyway. Hoorah!

It was a GRATE crowd who were so VAST that we had to put some extra chairs out! It included some people from Peterborough, so for the first time EVER there was a CHEER when that city was mentioned, and somebody SQUEALED with excitement when I said "Stamford". It was also an audience containing people who a) were very familiar with ZX Spectrums but b) had never heard the song "Hey Hey 16K" before. I can always spot them because they laugh at the "R:Tape Loading Error" bit!

It was a lot of fun to do, but it all felt a bit quiet - maybe this was because I was only just emerging from POORLINESS, but I resolved to be LOUDER the next day. Come Saturday we both WERE louder, possibly because we were playing up to THE CAMERA, as we were filming it for our traditional Record Of Events, ready for if we ever need to re-learn it. It wasn't as big a crowd but they were just as lovely, and it was a very enjoyable one to - for now - go out on.

I say "for now" because we had a DEBRIEF afterwards during which Mr Hewitt and I agreed to see if we could book a few more shows. It's SUCH a delightful 50 minutes to perform that I feel it would be a terrible shame not to do it a bit more, especially now that we've nearly learnt it!

With that done we gathered our Significant Others and went over the road to fulfil another tradition - the end of run curry at Maharani. It was BRILLIANT!

posted 1/9/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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