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Blog Archive: October 2016

Kenwood Culture
On Saturday The Route Of My Walk and I headed over to scenic Hampstead Heath to finally fulfil a long-held ambition to see the ART in Kenwood House. We've been STROLLING on Hampstead Heath many many times over the years (it is Quite Nice) but never actually managed to get inside and see the aforesaid ART, so this time we were determined to make it.

Thus we found ourselves STOMPING up Parliament Hill at the Ungodly time of LUNCH time on a Sunday (we really were determined) and into Kenwood itself. As soon as we entered the building we were accosted by a volunteer who told us THE LOT about the house and very handily told us the four main things to look for: two paintings, the library, and Dido Belle. This was all news to me - the cafe was the only thing I was aware of previously - but I did not wish to appear VULGAR so nodded knowleadgably.

We wandered round into another room and were again ACCOSTED by a volunter. The place was FULL of them, all very keen to tell you stuff. I asked about THE REMBRANDT and he pointed it out behind me, tucked casually behind a door. It was amazing - it's a REALLY REALLY REALLY famous self-portrait (this one) and there it was in a FREE museum in a public park! We waited a minute or so for a group to move away and then the two of us stood right up close to it having a good old PRIVATE VIEW. It was amazing!

Also in that room was The Guitar Player by Mr J Vermeer, which was fab, but both of us liked the painting by Frans Hals of his PAL the best. It was LOVELY - it looked like an old CHUM grinning at you! The Paint On My Brush said "It's like the Laughing Cavalier", and LO! it turns out it was done by THE SAME GUY. Shortly afterwards we saw another painting where i said "It looks like that bloke, whatsisname of Derby" and LO AGAIN! it totally WAS by Joseph Wright of Derby. WOT a pair of CONNOISSEURS we are!

We also saw the LIBRARY (posh, smelt a bit like my Nan's old spare room), more GRATE ART, a lot of paintings of Posh People pretending to be Shakespeare characters, and a display about Dido Belle. It was all VERY interesting and, as I say, amazing to see all for free in a building in a park, but when we'd circumnavigated the ground floor I was glad to be able to STEER us out and round to the cafe before The Pictures In My Gallery realised there was a whole other FLOOR to look at. I think it is wise to STOP looking at art before you go completely BOOGLY eyed, and we can always go back another time!

It was dead good though and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone. I would also recommend popping into The Garden Gate where I had TWO of the nicest pints of Ubu I have ever had!

posted 31/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Take Me Home Croydon Road
Last night I was back in Croydon, walking the old familiar route that I used to take on the way to the MANY MANY gigs I have done at The Green Dragon. This time however I stopped just before I got there to go into The Spreadeagle instead, a pub I had LOOKED at all those many times but never gone inside. It was NICE!

I was there to do a gig with Ms J Lockyer and Mr G Osborn, the latter of whom I discovered chatting to Mr S Hewitt as soon as I went in. It was DELIGHTFUL to see them both, and we went upstairs to the THEATRE/Gig Area where we found Jenny and Mr T Eveleigh. There was further CHAT, setting the tone for a really REALLY pleasant evening of YACKING.

Steve and I went in search of some GRUB back downstairs again, where we found Mr W Pilkington. We ordered food and were told we couldn't take it into the actual performance ZONE but COULD utilise the upstairs "balcony" area nearby. We agreed to this arrangement and it was only when we went back up again that we discovered the balcony was a tiny space just next to the entrance to the room, cordoned off with a VELVET ROPE. Our tea arrived as people were going in, so we sat their DINING like DISPLAYED PRINCES, waving to customers as we ate our chips.

It was from this vantage point that I heard Tim go on stage and say "It's five to eight, so we'll be starting in five minutes." This was INCORRECT - it was only ten to - so I put my head around the corner of the stage and told Tim the TRUE time, and pointed out that he'd got his WRONG time from the Pub Clock which, as Pub Clocks traditionally are, was set to be five minutes ahead. "It's a thing", I said. He had never heard it before so asked the audience, ALL of whom knew of this Traditional Arrangement. It felt like we were doing a BIT, but I was just wanting to make sure I had time to eat my tea!

It all worked out perfectly and Steve and I got back in JUST at the right moment to see Gav who was, of course, EXCELLENT. He always seems to be doing NEW STUFF and not relying on his Old Standards which a) means I get to HEAR more of his stuff but b) makes me feel bad because I'm doing basically the same set every time. I mean, I'm writing a new song at the moment, but it's taken me a week so far and I've only just got to the first chorus!

Anyway, he was GRATE and then it was my turn to go on and do THIS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • That Guy
  • In The North Stand
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • We Did It Anyway
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths

  • See what I mean about it being the usual set? It didn't seem to matter tho - approx 40% of the audience seemed to know the WORDS (better than me in a couple of cases) and SANG ALONG, while the 60% who didn't LARFED at the places where people tend to laugh if they've not heard me before, which was all in all a pretty much PERFECT mix! My favourite bits were a) nearly getting the WHISTLING right for In The North Stand b) dedicating part of My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once to Mr Spoons and c) NOT getting the words wrong when Steve and Gav did the "La La La" bit in It Only Works Because You're here. I enjoyed it IMMENSELY.

    Finally it was time for our headline act, the aforesaid Jenny Lockyer. She was FANTASTIC. I have seen Jenny LOADS of times but this was pretty much the BEST - she COMMANDED the room and the stage by basically being VERY SILLY throughout, messing around in a way that made everyone feel entirely SAFE, also AMUSED. There was, for instance, a section about PLUGS which was mostly very bad PUNS, but it was done in such a DELIGHTFUL way that the whole room was GIGGLING throughout. She was excellent!

    After all that there was time for more CHAT backstage. We all offered PRAISE for Mr Eveleigh's development of his Unique Compering Style - he TALKS at LENGTH but, again, in a way that makes you think "This is all good - I don't know where he's going with this story (NB he may not know either) but I am quite happy to go along with it" - and got a bit excited about Jenny's plans for a piece of THEATRE about Amy Johnson, which sounds FASCINATING, also FAB.

    Soon though it was time for Steve and I to head back to old East Croydon station and home. It had been yet another LOVELY NIGHT to add to the long list of such nights had in Croydon. I'll be back again soon hopefully, perhaps this time playing a gig on a TRAM!

    posted 28/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Cultural Studies
    I am now IMMERSED in the world of PhD Research and am thus reading ACADEMIC TEXTS. I have, over the years, read MANY of these in my day job but they have always been on DULL things like child care, health expectancy or elderly psychiatry - I mean, who's bothered about any of THAT? BORRRRING! NOW, however, I am reading about CONTINUITY and FAN CULTURE and Wot Is A Superhero, and it is ACE!

    I am mostly enjoying it because it is INTERESTING, but I am also getting a generous side order of DELIGHT in how POMPOUS some of the writing is. If I didn't know better I would guess that half of it is written by SIXTH FORMERS such is the preponderance of multi-syllabular postulations and formulations intended to convey, express and counter-intuitively impede the efficieny of hypothesis dissemination. I have learnt a LOT more words this week! There are also even MORE Marxists than there were at my Induction weeks. They are like Coelacanths, once you've spotted one they're all over the place!

    The only downside to it all is an awareness of my own EXTREME SWOTTINESS. The days of sitting reading twitter on the sofa after tea are fading into distant memory, as these days I can be found DEVOURING Cultural Studies, occasionally MOCKING basic errors. "The fool!" you may hear me saying. "The episode 'Yesterday's Enterprise' was NOT set in The Mirror Universe. What a PLONKER!" My swottiness is also evident in the fact that I am making COPIOUS NOTES, tho surely this is only SENSIBLE as it means that I won't have to go and read everything again, and can watch TELLY on Sunday night safe in the knowledge that all my homework is DONE. I just have to remember that lots of my books are actually from the library so I can't write ON them - for LO! that would be to create PALIMPSESTS*!

    (*It's one of the words I have recently learnt and describes a manuscript what has been written over. I cannot WAIT for a chance to say it out loud, casually!)

    posted 26/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Gig In The Park
    On Friday night I did something that I haven't done for over NINE YEARS - I went to and from a gig ON FOOT!

    The show was at Moka East at The ViewTube in The Olympical Park. I'd been asked to play at the last minute by Mr G Gargan and Mr S Hendry to fill in when another act on the bill had dropped out the night before. They knew I was free because the gig that I'd been SUPPOSED to be playing on Friday, at Scaledown (co-organised by Shaun) at The King & Queen, had been CANCELLED a few days earlier!

    I thus found myself stomping across the park, going at quite a pace because I knew gig kick-off was at 6:30pm, but I'd had to come home from work and pick my guitar off on the way. I arrived just after the official start time to find the first band, Splintered Man, on stage soundchecking. I got a beer and then they started, which certainly answered my question about who was going on first! I sat out in the CONSERVATORY area of the cafe (i.e. a bit added onto the side of the shipping container which forms the main building) and could hear BIRDSONG outside, which joined in BEAUTIFULLY with the music they were playing, it was ace!

    Then it was my turn to go on, and I did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • That Guy
  • In The North Stand
  • We Did It Anyway
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • I'd been worried beforehand about a) being out of practice and b) having a horrible COLD, but it actually all went pretty well. My voice was certainly no WORSE than usual and I didn't forget any words (well, apart from the first line of (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock, which I thus abandoned) so all was well, although I did get the feeling that this was Not Really My Crowd. A clear indicator of this came early on when I told an AMAZING JOKE what I had thought of. While introducing me Shaun had told the audience that I was a last minute booking, so I said that I was actually on stand-by for ALL entertainment venues in this area. Here is the GRATE JOKE what I then laid on them:

    "I'm was actually asked to be on the bench for West Ham tomorrow, but I said no. I don't like doing comedy gigs."

    I'll give you a moment to recover yourselves from that - that is surely INDISPUTABLY a BIG LARF right? However it got pretty much NOWT - some people smiled politely, but that was about it. I guess it was just one of those occasions when people had come out expecting folk/country music rather than EXTREME HILARITY and so had adjusted their mental receptors accordingly. Similarly songs which usually get the odd LARF or at least STRONG AGREEMENT just sorted wafted by in an entirely pleasant way, just not QUITE in the "ALL ATTENTION ON ME" way that I have sort of got used to doing mostly my own shows for the past year!

    The main act of the evening was Tom Brosseau who was MUCH more - ENTIRELY in fact - the sort of thing people were there for. Country songs in a VERY laid back American accent, self-effacing and all round rather lovely. He did a GORGEOUS version of "Goodnight Irene" at the end with us all singing along which got pretty darn SPINE TINGLY!

    So yes, it was a lovely night, very different from the gigs I've been doing lately but all the better for it, with great other acts and, perhaps best of all, only a twenty minute walk to get home. WINZ!

    posted 24/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    All In The Same Boat
    Yesterday I wrote a BLOG for Platforma Arts + Refugees Network about All In The Same Boat, the new group show what I have written alongside my various chums from the Lost City Writers Group. It was only when it went LIVE that I realised that I hadn't really talked about it much HERE, so let's put that right!

    I did mention it several weeks ago when we were discussing the TITLE, but things have moved on APACE since then. We now have a fully agreed and completed SCRIPT which has been handed over to an Actual Director who has recruited some Actual Actors with whom she is doing Actual Rehearsals! This is the third time we've done a show like this, but it still feels really WEIRD to think that there's a whole bunch of people getting ready to put on a show which they will think of (correctly) as THEIRS, using a script which I think of (correctly) as OURS, even though the two groups have mostly never even MET. I rather like it this way - I know I COULD elbow my way into rehearsals or just go and MEET the cast, but after DECADES of doing nearly everything SOLO I really enjoy the idea that somebody else is doing all the work now, and I can just roll up on the night and see what they've come up with.

    I must admit that I have quite high hopes for this one. The script is, I think, the best one we've done. The first show was seven completely separate short plays all based around the idea of SEXINESS, which worked really well (especially as our Producer, Mr A Dawson, CUNNINGLY scheduled it around Valentine's Day), while the second had the plays sort of about London and loosely linked by the idea of a radio station, which didn't (I think) quite work out as well as it could. This new one is FIRMLY linked by having the six main characters all sitting in a boat together, telling their stories, and I think the linking DOES work... though I would say that, as it was me what wrote the linking bits! Five of the six plays were written by the other five writers, the sixth was done as a joint effort, and then I stitched it together and, as it says in the Platforma Blog, I was surprised by what came out at the end. The BRIEF was to try and write something that WASN'T just handwringing, and I think we managed it, arriving at an UNEXPECTED and, hopefully, MOVING conclusion. It is, not to sound like DONALD TRUMP or anything, Quite Good.

    But hey! You don't have to take my word for it, you can come and see it for yourself! (CLEVER MARKETING) The show's on at Oxford House in Bethnal Green on Friday 11 November and Saturday 12 November, and you can buy tickets via WeGotTickets (tickets HERE for Friday or Saturday). I'm planning to be there both nights, so do come and say hello and let me know what you reckon!

    posted 21/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    First Supervision
    I've got a right stinky old cold at the moment, all sneezing and sniffling and generally BLEH. The last time I had one of these was EXACTLY a year ago, so maybe I am somehow ALLERGIC to new jobs?

    I thus spent most of yesterday sat at work annoying everyone around me with my Nasal Palaver, until approx 4:20pm when I set off for UAL where I was due to have my first Phd Supervision Meeting. Before I did THAT though I went to the LIBRARY to get some Inter Library Loans what I had requested. "Inter Library Loans!" Even typing that phrase takes me zooming back to Leicester Poly Scraptoft Library, where Librarians were FOREVER going on about Inter Library Loans, but nobody ever seemed to want them. That library, like all of Scraptoft campus (and pretty much all the pubs I used to drink in in Leicester) isn't there anymore, but the YEARNING for people to do Inter Library Loans clearly still is, as the UAL lot kept talking about them at Induction, so I thought I'd FINALLY give it a go.

    It worked! My two books were on a SHELF with a very politely caligraphied LABEL saying there were for me. That was quite old fashioned, and thus contrasted sharply with the actual act of BORROWING - I swiped my card in a machine, put the book ON the machine... and that was that, LOANED! Amazing!

    That done I went round the corner to meet Roger and Ian, my supervisors. I had learnt a NEW WORD on the way in to work that morning - HYPERDIEGESIS - so was keen to use it, and ended up saying it A LOT. We had a LENGTHY chat about what on earth it is I'm going to do, the three of us coming to the eventual conclusion that, actually, we weren't quite sure. It could be a fairly straightforward cultural analysis of Marvel Comics in the Bronze Age, it could be nothing to do with Marvel at all but an EXPLORATION of the nature of performance and collaboration, it could be an EXPERIMENT with SERIALISATION. It was all a bit head-spinning really, so we agreed that my HOMEWORK would be to prepare a presentation detailing all the different options so that we could then work out which bits we wanted and find a way to fit them together. It's a PLAN!

    I have since given this presentation a LOT of thought. Not ALL of that thinking has been "What Bronze Age characters can I used to represent these different themes and which one would Howard The Duck be?" but it has been quite a large proportion.

    Afterwards we went to the STUDENT BAR for a STUDENT PINT, which was very nice indeed, and discovered that one of Roger's chums is a stand-up comedian who I have SEEN and briefly SPOKEN to, when Steve did his BEER talk at Bright Club in Edinburgh, back in 2013. It may not actually be a small world, but the bit containing COMEDY PERFORMANCE and People Interested In Comics definitely is!

    posted 20/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Wilko Johnson
    Friday night found me celebrating the (hopefully) successful conclusion to the first week in my new job by heading to CAMBRIDGE, where I was due to meet Mr P Myland in order to go and see WILKO JOHNSON.

    We'd agreed to meet by the NCP Car Park outside the station, which seemed simple enough until I discovered that the NCP Car Park outside the station no longer existed. That part of Cambridge seems to be Build New Stuff CENTRAL at the moment, also the headquarters of the International TRAFFIC Association's AGM, so we spent a good twenty minutes or so involved in TELEPHONE KERFUFFLE trying to find each other. Eventually I tracked him down parked round the corner, where some helpful tabard wearers, there to manage congestion, had suggested he wait for me. We then set off and... er... got a bit lost, eventually making it to ANOTHER car park in the middle of town.

    The bit of Cambridge we were in didn't seem to have any obvious Eating Pubs in it, so we went and had some SUSHI. Now, this may surprise regular readers who are used to my GADABOUT lifestyle, full of connoisseurship and fine dining, but I have never actually EATEN Sushi before. It always seems to be FISH, which I don't eat, but I found a VEGGIE box and had a go. FOOD REVIEW: it was all right. It still tasted a bit fishy, but I understand that that's the seaweed. I can still TASTE it, several days later, but perhaps that is the effect of a NEW THING. Or maybe it was just slathering it with soy sauce.

    That done we went and had a pint of CRAFT LAGER (BEER REVIEW: quite nice) in The Corn Exchange, DELIGHTING ourselves by noting that we were pretty much the youngest people there, then went in to the gig itself. It was scheduled to start at 8:30pm and Mr Johnson and his band (a very excitable, slight varnished, lived-in looking bass player and a young looking, in the circumstances, drummer) came on at EXACTLY 8:30pm. I was most impressed! They then proceeded to play about EIGHT songs all in a row with NO talking in between, and it was PRETTY AWESOME. Wilko did not give the impression of ever having been anywhere NEAR death's door, and GOODNESS ME but they were a ROCKING outfit - they made a RIGHT old racket, it was VERY exciting.

    After a while, with song after song and NO chat it also started to sound a LITTLE BIT the same - my brain has only one slot for "BOOGIE WOOGIE (GENERAL)" in its Filing System - but it was never boring. My favourite bit was about halfway through when Wilko SPOKE to us to say he was pleased about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize, and then did a cover version of "Can You Please Call Out Your Window?" It was GRATE!

    We had right good seats down the front so had a FAB view, only party occluded by loads of people taking pictures and VIDEO all the way through. The chap next to me was PARTICULARLY keen on taking loads and loads and LOADS of pictures of the same three old men in black shirts playing the same instruments in the same way - I can understand taking a couple of photographs but it's not like there were COSTUME CHANGES - and also JIGGLING ABOUT like mad throughout. I started to get PEEVED by this, but then decided to join in and GUESS WHAT? Not only was it a lot of fun, but it also made him stop. I, however, continued to JIG to the end!

    I'd been worried about catching the last train home, so when after (almost exactly) an HOUR of SHOW they announced their last number I was Quite Excited - I thought I might even be able to catch the last QUICK train! I hadn't counted on a) it all going a bit JAZZ so that the last song lasted ten minutes and b) the two, well deserved, encores, but STILL we were out not long after ten o'clock and all was looking well.

    What I hadn't counted on NEXT was the fact that it would take us AGES to get out of the multi-storey and then... well, we got LOST again as we were too busy YACKING and not listening to SatNav lady. In the end I made it with MINUTES to spare for the last but one SLOW train, said my farewells to Mileage, then spent a DELIGHTFUL 90 minutes reading the new Squirrel Girl Graphic Novel. COMICS REVIEW: it was GRATE!

    And thus ended week one of being in my new job. NEW JOB REVIEW: So far so good!

    posted 17/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Professional Development
    It's very nearly the end of the first week in my new job, and I find myself full of INFORMATION. All week I have been cramming in new FACTS and PROCEDURES and it feels like my BRANE is one giant mush of chewy GOO. Hopefully it will all calm down and reset into individual FACTOIDS soon but at the moment it feels like the inside of my head is a single mushy GLOB like a whole pack of fruit pastilles all chewed up together.

    Several THEMES have manifested though, even if individual POINTS may take a little while longer. One is the realisation that Brexit is going to make the next few years of Medical Research really really REALLY really complicated. Everything we do here - and indeed nearly everything I've been involved with in ALL my jobs - is based around European Directives and Guidelines, often submitting material TO European bodies in order to ensure that trials (of all types) are carried out properly and safely. I know that the idea post-Brexit is that all European Law will remain in UK law, but how are we going to replace all the bodies that administer it at the moment? And who's going to pay for it? Why, it's almost like the people proposing Brexit had given no thought at ALL to any of this, but that can't be right can it? I'm SURE they've budgeted for the HUGE amounts of CA$H to work it all out.

    Another THEME has been CANCER itself, which I now know a LOT more about that I did before I started. I usually consider myself quite a STURDY and STRAIGHTFORWARD fellow, but I must admit that being presented with the FACT that the human body is a big squishy bag full of BLOOD and BONY MARROW and VEINS and all sorts of ICKY STUFF has right given me the HEEBIE JEEBIES!

    And then there's the LEARNING itself. I've already attened a TONNE of talks, seminars and courses and have approx 15,000 more lined up over the next few months. It's all GRATE - I'm in line to get more training during the rest of this year than I've had in the preceding two decades - but it's ODD to be thrown into yet more new LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS. A couple of sessions have been ME in a room full of Post-Graduate Medical Students who all appear to be SURLY TEENAGERS. I was sat there being DILIGENT, smiling and nodding at the Learning Co-Ordinator, but everybody else was looking OBVIOUSLY BORED, staring at their phones, or CHATTING. I was surprised that the TEACHER didn't start throwing CHALK RUBBERS!

    I've also done DIVERSITY training, FIRE SAFETY, DATA CONFIDENTIALITY and... well, you get the idea, all dancing around my BRANE mixed up COMICS too. If it doesn't get separated out by HOME TIME today I think I may have to prescribe myself some LIQUID LEARNING to help with all the MIND FILING!

    posted 14/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Consortium Of Scholars
    On Monday night I finished my first day of my new job at UCL and headed across town to the very slightly differently titled but very VERY differently inclined UAL, where I was due to attend a meeting of The British Consortium Of Comics Scholars.

    This is a bunch of people pursing Comics Studies Research at Postgraduate Level who a) meet about once a month to discuss Comics Stuff and b) appear to be ENTIRELY DELIGHTFUL. Later on in the evening a guest said that ALL "Comics People" seem to be really nice, and somebody suggested that this was because there was very little prestige and absolutely no money whatsoever for anybody to fight over, so most of the usual academic conflicts were pointless. All my experiences so far point to this being CORRECT!

    As I strolled from one University to the other I noticed a distinct change in the people involved. My bit of UCL is very much Standard University Employees i.e. casually dressed and indistinguishable from the population as a whole. The nearer I got to UAL, however, the more I noticed ART STUDENTS. By the time I got to the main campus at Granary Square I was SURROUNDED by swaggering teenagers, trousers that didn't go all the way to the floor, challenging haircuts, brave colour choices and A LOT of HATS. I couldn't help GIGGLING, especially when I passed someone brandishing a PAINT BRUSH with a PAINED LOOK in a Cafe.

    My lot were much more like The Usual Academics, also FRIENDLY. We gathered in the reception area then went upstairs to a meeting room where we were helping out with an experiment in Graphic Facilitation. This is basically where illustrators listen to a group discussion and create a mixture of graphics and text to reflect what people are saying and thinking. It's a THING, apparently, that is used a lot in public consultations, and two academics from Australia had come over to try out some new methods with us.

    It was really interesting - we were talking about people's feelings and experiences around Social Media, and everyone launched into a BIG TALK about it. As per I found myself getting a bit evangelical about the JOYS of Social Media and the way The Internet has broadened our social circles and made keeping in casual contact with each other SO much easier. I think it's lovely how, nowadays, we can have EXTREMELY trivial conversations with our oldest friends without having to travel miles to see them and then going through UPDATES for hours before getting to the bit you actually enjoy.

    Anyway, while all this was going on two members of the group drew loads of illustrations on two flip boards, then at the end these were placed on the floor and discussed in order to see how accurately they reflected what we'd been talking about. Being a COMICS group there was also discussion of EMBODIED METAPHORS (which I now almost know what they are) and PROCESS and stuff - it was GRATE!

    By 8pm, however, my BRANE was KNACKERED by all this on top of the whole First Day At A New Job, and I thought it best to leave. I tried to sneak out but then everyone said "Bye!" and waved, PROVING, I believe, the whole thesis about comics people being lovely!

    posted 13/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Paradise Of Lists
    On Monday of this week I started at a NEW JOB! And it was FINE!

    This time last year, almost to the day, I was ALSO starting a new job, and that time I was FRAUGHT with anxiety and found it took me a while to settle into it. This was for various reasons, not least that it was the first time I'd started a whole new job in almost 13 years! ALSO it was miles away over in West London, I was based at two seperate sites, and it was largely left up to me to sort out what I was going to DO.

    THIS time around the experience has been very different. Not only had I been through it all just ONE year ago (and actually four months ago TOO when I started at a THIRD location) in my old job, I'd ALSO done much the same a fortnight ago when I'd started the PhD. In addition I'd got an ACTUAL DESK all to myself this time (with DRAWERS!), I was back in a part of town I knew VERY well (Tottenham Court Road, about 5 minutes from Birkbeck where I worked from 2003 to 2014) and there are LISTS that tell you EXACTLY what to do.

    I do like a list and this place has TONNES of them for pretty much EVERYTHING. There was a list of things I needed telling on my first day (to be dated and signed), a list of things to talk through with my line manager, a list of courses to go on, and best of all a MASSIVE list of OTHER LISTS (or "Standard Operating Procedures") which tell you how everything - EVERYTHING - has to be done. For someone like me who enjoys getting organised it is pretty much heaven!

    And then of course being back in Central London is BLOODY BRILLIANT. Every day when I go out for lunch i find myself GRINNING at the CHOICE of places to go and all the EXCITEMENT that's happening around. Today I even went to the COMIC SHOP, just like I used to, on a WHIM rather than squeezing it in around other jobs like I've had to for the past year.

    Having a DESK is also pretty wonderful. I was never able to just LEAVE stuff at the last job, because I was never going to be in the same place two days in a row, and for two of the three locations I didn't have a DRAWER that I could put things in. Now I have SEVERAL drawers, also FILING SHELVES. Oh baby, I am FILING like nobody's business!

    Apart from missing the nice people I used to work with, there's only really been TWO downsides to the whole thing. The first was the fact that my desk appears to have been left vacant for about A HUNDRED YEARS and so was FILTHY when I first sat down at it. Luckily, being slap bang in the middle of town means there is a Tesco round the corner so I was able to pop out and get some anti-bacterial wipes to sort it out with. I used most of a pack!

    The other downside is, of course, HR, who took nearly three days to put me onto the system (plus the two months since I accepted the post, I guess), and seem to have got my log-in details a bit wrong so I can register for stuff. Still, having a HR Department that managed to get everything right first time would surely be like having a KITTEN that caught balls of string too easily - where's the fun in that?

    So, in conclusion: Having lots of changes over the past year or so has both PREPARED me for another new job but also made me delighted in returning to an old area. I hope I can stick around now for AGES!

    posted 12/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Crossroads 2
    After spending most of the week in Weymouth I was back into London Action on Saturday morning when I rolled up at Somerset House to attend "Comics Crossroads 2", an CONFERENCE. I'd had to get up EARLY (on a Saturday!) so was feeling a little bit grumpy when I arrived, not helped by the usual Somerset House TOTAL LACK OF SIGNAGE, but eventually I tracked down the room the conference was happening in and things improved mightily.

    For LO! it was a day of VERY INTERESTING talks. As I've said many times before, the cruel hardships of my professional life (hem hem) have led me to be TRAUMATISED by all the Stats Conferences I've been on, so I ALWAYS sit down in conference environments expecting to be BORED far beyond the boundaries of human endurance. Adjustment to my changed circumstances was QUICK on this day, however, as it was PACKED with Fascinating Topics, including the ZEITGEIST of 70s comics in the UK, Roy Lichtenstein, how colouring used to work, lots of talk about methodology, embodied concepts in metaphor and enclosed panels/bubbles. All right, I know that may not sound particularly THRILLING but honest, it totally was!

    The best bit for me, however, came early when I had a cup of (POSH! DELICIOUS!) coffee with my supervisor and told him my ideas about combining all my VARIOUS PRACTICES to EXPRESS my THESIS. Rather than chucking the coffee at me and saying "Stop being silly! You have to do a Big Essay!" he was actually Quite Keen and even suggested ways it could be done. HOORAH!

    So LIFTED was I that I was even BRAVE enough to go to the DRINKS after. Another thing I know from the aforesaid YEARS of Conference Attendances is that the DRINKS is where the main business happens, though in this case the business seemed to be just saying hello to some more members of my new PEER GROUP. Comics Studies is an EMERGING FIELD so there aren't THAT many people doing it, but they all seem to be very nice and willing to chat, it was good!

    I swayed home where The References In My Paper was delighted - DELIGHTED - to get an hour long report about the whole thing, concluding with the idea that maybe, just maybe, this might actually WORK!

    posted 11/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Midi-Break To Weymouth
    Last week The Days Of My Leave and I took a MIDI-BREAK (that's what we're calling it - remember where you heard it first when MADONNA or someone is claiming to have invented it) for four nights down in Weymouth. Short Version: It was BRILLO.

    We stayed in a delightfully chic little boutique hotel called THE PREMIER INN on the seafront which turned out to actually really BE near the seafront. The nice thing about staying in one of these chain hotels is that, if you've been before, they feel HOMEY. Also, with the best will in the world, you're NOT risking a stay in a funny smelling pokey Traditional B&B run by LOONIEZ, as I have had occasion to do occasionally On The Road. ALSO also there is guaranteed to be a Brewers Fayre next door which, in this case, was perfectly delightful with a surprising range of BEERZ.

    We were there for three full days which we filled by doing a TONNE of things. On our first day we ventured into Weymouth itself to try and find the Tourist Information Centre. There is NOT a Tourist Information Centre in Weymouth and my advice would be to avoid mentioning this to the locals as they are NOT happy about it. "There used to be one..." they say, looking AGGRIEVED. We went and got a map from the nearby Pavilion instead and then went on The Skyline, which is a big POLE with a ring around it that you sit in, go up, do two revolutions looking at the view, then come down again. It was Quite Good.

    We then had a BEER in The Ship, which I was excited to discover was a Hall & Woodhouse pub selling BADGER beer i.e. My Favourite. That done it was time for the main business of the day which was a might HIKE across country (via a castle, a cove, and quite a lot of crows) to Chesil Beach which was AMAZING. It's ENORMOUS! And full of PEBBLES! I'd read about it beforehand (and read the Ian McEwan book too) but nothing had prepared me for the AWESOMENESS of it all. It's HUGE! And made of PEBBLES!

    We got the bus back to the hotel that night, and I must say I was RIGHT impressed by the buses of Weymouth. There were LOADS of them, going SUPER regularly and featuring SMILING bus drivers who even SPOKE to us. After so many year of London bus drivers this came as a bit of a shock!

    The second day found us having a DEAD nice breakfast in a cafe perched atop beach huts before walking in the opposite direction to the day before, away from Weymouth and out to Bowleaze Cove, which was RIGHT nice. We saw a Roman Temple, a LOT of the seaside, an oddly MEDITERRANEAN Art Deco Hotel called The Riveria (which looked VAST from miles away but was tiddly up close) and then discovered a charming little artisanal pub called THE HARVESTER where we had GIGANTIC Salad Bowls. It was TASTY, despite/because of it looking very much like "Chef" had gone to M&S and bought a JOB LOT of their salads. It was actually rather nice there, sat on a cliff, with little BEACH HUTS to sit in in the beer garden.

    On the way back we watched the Kite Surfers ZOOMING off of waves and FLYING through the air and went for a quick look at RSPB Lorton Meadows which was INCREDIBLE. I've been to nature reserves before and have got use to seeing, basically, three ducks and a pigeon, but this was PACKED with all SORTS of BURDS what I'd not seen before. It was, as I boldly stated at the time, "The best bird reserve EVER". I stand by that statement!

    We got home in time for some CLASSIC Chain Hotel ACTION i.e. watching "Pointless" while drinking Coffee Sachets then almost falling asleep. Luckily we woke up in time to go our for a SWANKY MEAL (which The Items On My Bill TREATED me to, including AFTERS, for LO! I am A Lucky Guy!) then WHISKIES back in The Ship. Oh yes, we DO know how to holiday!

    Our last full day was full of FUN but also DRAMA. We'd booked a place on Jurassic Safari and had arranged to be picked up in town at 13:45, leaving us PLENTY of time to go for lunch at The Hive Cafe. It's a veggie cafe, so it would have been RUDE not to! It was LOVELY but also suddenly very BUSY just as we wanted to pay and go, so in the end I had to pretend to be catching a train so we could DASH. I felt a bit bad about fibbing but then the woman in front gave me a RIGHT Evil Stare so I felt much better about it! We RAN through Weymouth, missed being picked up, got SAND BLASTED by the wind WHIPPING in off the sea and then... well, Gary the tour guide arrived about two minutes later in his mighty landrover to pick us up and everything was fine. Maybe calling it "DRAMA" was going a bit too far.

    We then spent four hours being driven around by Gary in the aforesaid Landrover, along with two other people, having an UTTERLY BRILLIANT time. It was like being on an open top bus tour with a constant running commentary of FACTS, HISTORY, and PERSONAL GAGS that you could join in with. Ooh, we saw all sorts of things, both on and OFF ROAD as the landrover crossed FIELDS to get better views and also went through private land to see stuff like Heaven's Gate, an ASTONISHING viewpoint that you'd otherwise have to walk MILES to get to. Also, there was a break for CAKE!

    Honestly, it was totally brilliant and I'd recommend it to anyone down that way - there are pictures of it all over on my Flickr Page where you can MARVEL at me looking REALLY HAPPY in various locations, often while sporting a floral shopping bag!

    The four hours of the tour FLEW by and was so much fun that we had - HAD - to go back to The Ship for a PINT to calm down from it all. Exhausted by all the excitement we bought ourselves an PICNIC, bussed it back to the hotel, and continued the Chain Hotel Experience by drinking BOOZE in bed while watching Grand Designs. See above: TRULY we are HOLIDAY experts!

    And that was that really - next day we strolled back to town, got yet more GRUB, hopped on the train and ZOOMED back to That London. Four nights was EXACTLY the right length of time, for us, to be there, not least because it meant we had a couple of days of hols left at the end of the week to get ready for going back to work.

    In conclusion then: Weymouth! It was ACE!

    posted 10/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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    Art School
    I spent most of last week at the INDUCTION WEEK for my PhD and it was, to say the least, a mixed bag. Some of it was GRATE, thought provoking, informative and really helpful at focusing my BRANE on what lay ahead. Some of it, however, wasn't. I spent one particular afternoon listening to two pillocks tell my why Climate Change is A Bad Thing (who knew?) and how they were AMAZING because they were fighting it by subverting the white cube gallery. To prove it one of them showed a series of photographs of uneasy looking female students who they were "collaborating" with on direct action schemes. After decades of Statisticians and Medics I'd forgotten that there were University people like that!

    HOWEVER all of it - RUM bits included - made me realise that I am now an ART STUDENT! For the past few months I've been thinking of this course mostly in terms of ADMIN I had to do - paying the fees, filling in forms, turning up for events and so forth - but over the course of this week it was impressed upon me that I am at ART COLLEGE! Maybe it was all the people saying "there's no right or wrong answers" or all the Actual Marxists around (PRO TIP: Marxists don't like it if you suggest that Marx was a science fiction writer. They don't like it at all) or the FASHION STUDENTS standing in doorways, but at one point I suddenly thought "Hang on, this is Central St Martins like in The Pulp Song! And I'm doing a Phd here! ZOINKS!"

    It also made me realise that - GIRD YOURSELF - I am a TRANSMEDIA ARTIST! The proposed title of my thesis is "The Bronze Age Of Marvel Comics As A Model For Multiple Author Shared World Transmedia Projects" (I KNOW!!!!) and I'd originally thought of EXPRESSING this through PRACTICE (see above re: I Am An Art Student) by writing a 12 issue mini-series of comics like the original 'Secret Wars'. HOWEVER, the more I've thought about this the more I've realised it would be a LIVING NIGHTMARE, if for no other reason that it would take An Actual Artist at least a YEAR to draw such a thing. How on earth would I be able to afford that?

    A possible solution arose when we had to give five minute presentations of our WORK. After I'd done mine someone asked if I'd thought of doing TRANSMEDIA (i.e. telling one story through lots of different formats) COLLABORATIONS as the Practice Element which really got me thinking. "I'd need to do WORK in lots of different formats" I thought, then realised that I ALREADY DO! "I'd need lots of people to collaborate with," I added, then realised that already do THAT too! br>
    This was AMAZING NEWS to my Waking Mind because I'd been really worried about how I was going to fit everything in around the PhD, and was trying to face up to the fact that I'd have to GIVE UP some stuff, but suddenly it seemed that maybe I wouldn't. Instead of abandoning gigs, fringe shows, videos, plays and recording sessions (TRANSMEDIA!) with The Vlads, Steve, Lost City Writers or Mr J Dredge (COLLABORATIONS) I could surely FOLD it all into the Phd itself! IMAGINE!

    Obviously I have to talk to my SUPERVISORS about all this... and probably actually The Vlads and Steve and everyone, but still, that could work, couldn't it? Then I too will be able to impress TEENAGE GURLS with my activism, for LO! I will be a DOCTOR OF ROCK!

    posted 7/10/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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