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Blog Archive: August 2017

Hibbett's Hoover
Today is NEWSLETTER day - a day which is ALWAYS special but is even MORE so this month for LO! it is the ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTIETH edition!

When I started the mighty monthly missive that is 'The Last Working Day Of The Month' way back in the quaint olde tymes era 2005 it was basically a wrapping-up of gigs that I'd done, gigs I was going to do, and news on song writing and suchlike. Over the TWELVE YEARS of almost constant publication (I forgot to do one in March 2011) it has evolved to feature LESS of what HAS happened and more VARIETY in what will, growing to include all the shows and books and videos and wotnots that make up the FUTURISTIC MULTIMEDIA OUTPUT that is de rigeur here in the futuristic space year 2017AD.

Back in 2013, when we reached the one hundredth edition, I marked the occasion by unleashing Like A Braunstone Cowboy - a compilation of cover versions available ONLY to newsletter subscribers. In a similar stylee this time around I'm releasing Hibbett's Hoover, a selection of odds and sods from the past few years which is ALSO available exclusively to newsletter subscribers. I've been listening to the tracks on it this week, and they're definitely "interesting". Some of them are even "good"!

I always like sending out the newsletter (I do it by HAND, rather than using a mailing program, as PENANCE for bothering people with it) and this is my way of saying THANKS to those delightful people who have stuck with it all this time. If all goes to plan the next milestone will be number 200 in October 2021 - I'm expecting to be doing some dancing that year, so maybe I'd better get planning the compilation now!

posted 31/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Now For The News Where You Are
As part of the ongoing PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGN for Storm House (still VERY much available as a Kindle ebook or paperback, by the way...) I have been trying to think of EXCUSES to get myself mentioned by various outlets. A couple of weeks ago I had a BRAINWAVE: I could send a press release to my old local newspaper The Peterborough Telegraph and point out that they had spotted my MIGHTY TALENT several (32) years in advance when they had given me an award for Peterborough Young Writer Of The Year!

I thought that this would be EXACTLY the sort of story local papers like, and my suspicions were proved CORRECT as I ended up doing a WIDE RANGING telephone interview with one of their reporters and then last Tuesday got myself SHAVED and WASHED so that The Ads In My Classified Section could take some PICTURES of me. They'd specifically asked for one of me TYPING so we did that and a couple of other Local-Newspaper-type shots and sent them off, along with a scan of the original story, what I reproduce here for you in full:

On Thursday morning I got a Facebook message from an old SCHOOL CHUM to say they'd seen it, and then further similar tweets, emails and phone calls came through from various Peterborough Dwellers. It was all very exciting, made even more so a couple of days later when it popped up on their website, which led to FURTHER chums getting in touch and/or swapping SCURRILOUS stories of that time when through NO FAULT OF MY OWN I got really drunk at The Peterborough Beer Festival in 1989.

It was all HUGE fun, even though it has not given a PARTICULARLY huge boost to sales - I guess I shall just have to find it within myself to enjoy the fact that my GRINNING FACE has once more ILLUMINATED my home town for its own sake. Some people might enjoy this kind of showing off, for me it is just something to be BORNE with BRAVERY.

I wonder how I can get them to put me in again?

posted 30/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Long Weekend
You find me today back at work, WONDERING at how long it seems to be since last I was here, for LO! it has been a LONG, also DELIGHTFUL, weekend.

It probably feels longer than it was because a) it was a Bank Holiday here yesterday b) I worked from home on Friday and c) the EXCITEMENT kicked off even before that on Thursday, when I went to see some more ART with The Pictures In My Gallery. She was having a day IN TOWN looking at STUFF and so I joined her for her final port of call, a series of LIFE-SIZED paintings of endangered species by Omra Sian at The Royal Horticultural Halls. They were HUGE and VERY impressive - there was one of a TIGER which looked like it was breathing - as was the building they were in, the Lawrence Hall. There's two Royal Horticultural Halls, it turns out and this was the newest, built in the 1920s. It looked a bit like the sort of place Sir Roderick Spode might have held his rallies, but has apparently mainly been used for flower shows and horticultural meetings, so that's all right!

As I say, I was working from home on Friday which meant I got LOADS done, including the tiniest morsel of things that weren't directly work-based hem hem e.g. LAUNDRY and also editing the video that Mr J Dredge and I made last week. It looks good! Saturday found myself and The Events In My Area going to the Living Art Festival in the Olympic Park (it was good!) and then doing GROUNDING, which is basically walking around with bare feet and therefore FLIPPING LOVELY. There's all sorts of IDEAS and THEORIES about it but I mostly found that it was ACE striding around with the grass between your toes, especially somewhere as MOSTLY PET FREE as the Olympic Park, where it's a lot safer to do so without risk of UNPLEASANTNESS!

We also went out to the PUB on Saturday night, which was a bit KRAZY, but were back to normal behaviours on Sunday, when we did NOT go to the pub. We watched the first half of the first series of "The Trip" instead, which was AS funny as everyone who told me so said it would be! On MONDAY we were back out in the park again, strolling around barefoot some more and also having a look at the East London Waterways Festival, which was FAB. The best bit was seeing the specially created CHOIR down by the re-opened Carpenters Road Lock who were a total mix of ages, backgrounds, shapes, sizes and genders. I think ALL choirs should have a row of ten year olds at the front, it was ACE!

We also had a good look at the new lock (my family has a HISTORY of lock keeping... not a GOOD one, but still a history!), saw the Old Ford Lock STABLES, and generally had a wonderful time in the GORGEOUS weather. Flipping heck but it was lovely - today at work people have asked me where I've been on holiday, as I have an TAN.

It was a pretty GRATE weekend all round really. Whose idea was it to force us to go back to WORK after all that fun?

posted 29/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Promotional Video Activities
Monday night found me back at Theatre Delicatessen, an organisation I have utilised a LOT for VARIOUS creative endevours, but never in this precise location. I had been there LOADS of times with both Mr S Hewitt and Mr J Dredge when they were based in Farringdon, and then I went once for a rehearsal of 'All In The Same Boat' when they moved to Canary Wharf, but now they've moved again, to an office building near Liverpool Street Station. I was pleased to discover that they'd maintained their commitment to Not Really Signposting Very Much, which meant that John and I had to wander round trying to find an entrance and then taking an unmarked staircase next to a non-functioning lift before sneaking through a cafe to finally find the reception.

I do like Theatre Delicatessen though, it always feels TEMPORARY and CASUAL and you get to use rooms which have clearly very recently been OFFICES, which is especially good for FILMING things like what John and I were doing. The only downside is that they tend to NOT be very soundproofed, which can cause SOUND issues when you have THEATRICAL TYPES in next door rooms. They do like to PROJECT, these Theatrical Types, especially when they are saying HELLOOOO to each other and LARFING UNCONVINCINGLY, which they do a LOT!

We were there to film a short sketch which I'm hoping to use to promote Storm House some more. I've read TONNES of guides about How To Promote Your EBook and LOADS say "Do a video interview where you talk about the book." It doesn't sound hugely interesting to me, I must say, but I thought I'd give it a go. I spoke to John about it and we worked out an idea for something that would be a) INFORMATIVE about the book but also b) slightly AMUSING in and of itself.

The actual filming was PEASY, and we only used 35 of the 120 minutes I had booked for the purpose. We've done quite a few of these now, so we have quite a good routine i.e. do it in small bits, REPEATEDLY until it seems all right then do another take where one or more of us LARFS. It seems to work!

I was almost disappointed that it had all gone so quickly - I rather LIKE filming these films with John, but now that we know Theatre Deli is back (and also how to find it) who knows, we might do another! Either way, I'm planning to EDIT the video this bank holiday weekend, so it should be with you SOON!

posted 25/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Still Valid, Validated
After all our exploits EN FRANCAIS last weekend, part of me would have quite liked a relaxing evening chez nous. That was not to be, however, as there was important business of ROCK to conclude on Sunday night, with the final performance* (*unless we do another one) of Still Valid!

By COINCIDENCE my PARENTS were in London that evening, ready for heading off on their own trip to LE PARIS next day (we are dead continental in my family) so we picked them up on the way to CAMDEN where the show was due to occur. We were soon joined by The Hewitts and Mr P Baran and, while Steve went upstairs to check in with The Camden Fringe (who were running the GIG), I found myself getting NERVOUS. Maybe it was knowing there was an ACTUAL AUDIENCE, or maybe it was not having really THORT about the show since we last did it, but my stomach was A-WOBBLE!

This remained the case when we all went upstairs and approx half of the room filled up with people. As I looked round I discovered that nearly ALL of those attending were Totally Acoustic regulars. Clearly they were MISSING us after a week apart!

I was still feeling a bit AFEARED as we started, but once it all got rolling (and I remembered, again, that Steve has a CLIPBOARD so we can't go too far wrong) I really started to enjoy myself. Highlights included my MOTHER doing HECKLING, nearly everyone doing the Mildly Embarrassed Air Punching, and, funnily enough, four people walking out! When I said "nearly everyone" had done Air Punching I meant everyone apart from these specific four people, who had sat STONY FACED throughout. I don't know what they were expecting - to be honest I don't see why anyone would come and see this particular show if they didn't already know me and/or Steve - but they didn't get it, so left. Maybe they were fellow Fringe participants who had free tickets? Anyway, as mentioned in recent discussions of LILLE, I am fully in favour of WALKING OUT if you don't like something, and hope that this action pleased our audience leavers as much as it did me!

After the show there was some chat and some BEER and then, as is traditional, we went over the road to Maharani for a BLOOMING BRILLIANT curry. There was WINE and DISCUSSION and LARFS, it was all really rather wonderful!

Thus ended Still Valid, a show which we didn't do as often as I thought we might (we may have REHEARSED it more than we DID it!!!) but which was always really good fun to do and, who knows, may even inform what we do NEXT!

posted 24/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Nous Sommes Alles a Lille
At the weekend myself and The Tracks Of My Trains went to LILLE in The France, and it was TRES BON!

It all came about because the aforesaid Events In My Story fancied an ADVENTURE and had noted that Lille was a) somewhere neither of us had been before and b) thoroughly do-able. THUS we hopped on the Eurostar on Thursday night and ZOOMED off to FRANCE. The channel tunnel is flipping AMAZING, it was SO easy to get there, and the trains were the lovely OLD ones (which seemed SO MODERNE when they were first introduced) with lovely big seats and a proper BAR area. I also love the FACT that you stroll onto it with yr luggage and then just hop off at the other end without any hanging around. It's GRATE!

Once arrived EN FRANCE we went to our hotel, the Art Deco (it was nice) and then headed into Lille itself. We'd got a list of Veggie Restaurants off The Interweb so went to have a look at some, and ended up walking through WAZZEMES. This is the "student" district, which turned out to be a bit HACKNEY i.e. a bit stinky and full of BARS. We did FIND a bar which was supposed to be where The Vegans went, but it ALSO was not all that nice, so we upped and LEFT. This was a GRATE decision - as it usually is - as it led to us going back into the centre of town and having a drink in a bar called The Metropole, which was DELIGHTFUL. We would be going there again!

On Saturday we went to the Tourist Information Office to get ourselves a CITY PASS, which would allow us free travel AND a trip on that Holiday Essential, The Open Top Bus Tour. The lady in the office was LOVELY - she said it would take too much admin to get us our City Pass NOW and we might miss the bus, so she took us outside, had a word with the bus driver, and said we could sort it out later! We were amazed - we'd read in our guidebook that The Lillois are known for being FRIENDLY, but we didn't know they'd be so trusting too!

The bus tour was ACE (even though the roof was more see-through than open) and fulfilled its purpose of Giving Us Our Bearings (I ALWAYS recommend a bus tour, open top or otherwise, for getting the HANG of a new place, it WORKS), including showing us where an EXKI was. EXKI is sort of like Pret, but FOREIGN, so after getting our City Passes we went there and ate a TONNE of food and had some WINE. We then went to try and get into the Town Hall BELFRY, but it was closed, so went on to The Musee De Beaux Arts. This was PRETTY AMAZING - we followed a MAP around the galleries which showed us where the HIGHLIGHTS were, but were amazed to find it had a whole room FULL of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and all those lot which wasn't even mentioned! In the basement they had a whole FLOOR of antique RELIEF MAPS, which are scale models of entire areas that, apparently, were used for military planning. This BLEW MY MIND I must admit, as it was a whole THING that I never even knew existed. We finished off by looking at a bit of sculpture by Donatello. The gallery attendant talked to me in FRENCH about it at some length, with me smiling and nodding politely. At the end he paused and said "Did you understand any of that?" and I had to admit not, so he told me all over again. Apparently we were looking at the first ever example of PERSPECTIVE being used properly. COR!

After all THAT we needed some refreshment, so went to a bar... where nobody served us, so we walked out again. It was EXTREMELY liberating! Instead we strolled homewards and saw a VISION ahead as we came towards the Railway Station - a MARKS AND SPENCERS FOOD HALL!!!!! We fell upon it like WOLVES at... er... an M&S, and stocked up with GRUB which we took home for a PICNIC, before heading out again for BEER and CHIPS back at The Metropole. We know how to live!

Our final full day kicked off with a Walking Tour, which went all round the Old Town. It is a) LOVELY b) not really very French at all. As we said several times during the course of our MINI-BREAK, you'd really think you were in BELGIUM most of the time. It's in FLANDERS so I supposed that's fair enough, but has technically been FRENCH for a long old time, so it was quite surprising to find it so BELGIQUE. Anyway, we had a GRATE morning stomping round, being TOLD things, learning about the history of the area and looking at BUILDINGS. I thought guidebooks saying that the Cathedral "looks nicer from the inside" was a JOKE, but it really DID! When it was done we went back to the Musee De Comtesse, as we'd RACED through it on the tour, then went back to EXKI for more GRUB. It was nice!

In the afternoon we went for a walk around the Citadelle, which is a GIGANTIC star-shaped fortress hiding being a playground and zoo in a small forest. It's an Odd Thing made all the more ODD by the fact that it houses something called "The Rapid Reaction Corps", which claims to be some sort of elite force linked to NATO. It sounds, and indeed LOOKS, ENTIRELY like something made up (badly) for a super cheap half-arsed children's TV series, ESPECIALLY when you see its logo which is sort of a fist holding LIGHTNING in front of a star-shaped shield which is also in front of a SWORD. If THUNDERBIRDS had been based next door I would have believed it!

After all that stomping around it was all we could do that evening to go back for BEER and CHIPS, but we managed it because - HEY! - it is IMPORTANT to sample the local culture.

And then it was Sunday and time to go home, which happened at EXTREME SPEED - we later worked out that it was approx 2 hours and 20 minutes from our hotel room to our HOUSE! It really is INCREDIBLY quick, also PEASY, although with the Exchange Rate being HISTORICALLY CRAP it wasn't particularly cheap. Definitely worth it though - if you're after a MINI-BREAK and can get to St Pancras fairly easily I would HIGHLY recommend having a go at LILLE!

posted 23/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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It Was Ten Years Ago Today
Today is a GLORIOUS day in Rock History, for LO! it is the Actual Tenth Anniversary Of The First Totally Acoustic!

As you can see from the list of shows there HAD been a couple of shows which were dry runs for ACTUAL Totally Acoustic (and there'd been a couple of other ones that weren't INTENDED to be but DID end up being totally acoustic too), but this was the first OFFICIAL evening when it was BILLED as such. Reading my blog about it I am surprised to see how little has changed in the intervening decade - I usually find that Steve is already there, panic about having no people AND too many people, stand outside for a bit wringing my hands hoping that that'll magically produce acts/an audience, TALK far too much during my own set, and then am DELIGHTED to find that it's all finished with LOADS of time left for a chat afterwards!

There have been a few changes along the way though, notably the move from The Lamb to The King & Queen. I did like it at The Lamb but BLIMEY they were not very good at bar service (when people came down to get drinks at half time you'd often wait TWENTY MINUTES or so, even when it wasn't very busy) and they messed up our bookings more than once too. Going over to The King & Queen was a BRILLIANT idea as it is an ACE pub where they actually seem to quite like the fact we DO the show there - witness the special BEER they put on for us at the all-dayer!

The other big change has been the PODCASTS, which we started about three years in. This has been GRATE, if only because it means I don't have to worry if the audience is a bit sparse as we'll get several TENS of people listening to it later on! I think I should probably make a bit more of the PODCAST ARCHIVES, as we have HOURS of EXCLUSIVE material from some of the BEST people to traverse The Indie Scene over the past seven years. If you've not done so before i would highly recommend having a BROWSE!

Not everything has gone quite as I'd hoped with it, I must admit. I did harbour DREAMS of it becoming the start of a whole TREND for people putting on Totally Acoustic gigs every month up and down the country, as it is SUCH a good idea. Numerous delightful people have put on similar shows at various times, usually in THE MIDLANDS for some reason, but it never turned into the NATIONAL NETWORK of regular shows - the main reason I wanted this to happen was so that I could go and PLAY them all, so maybe it's for the best!

Apart from that it's been all rather DELIGHTFUL. We've had MULTIPLE brilliant nights, seen LOADS of GRATE acts, and met lots of LOVELY people who've become regulars over the years. I am EXTREMELY grateful to them especially, and ESPECIALLY especially to Mr S Hewitt and The Seats At My Table i.e. THE CHIEF REGULARS who have been at pretty much every show. Thanks everyone!

We're currently on HIATUS, while I try and get on top of various other things, but I hope we'll be back at some point in the near future. In the meantime, why not set up your OWN regular night of totally acoustic performances? It's BRILL!

posted 22/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Promotional Activities
Being a self-published AUTHOR is pretty much the same as being a DIY ROCKSTAR, especially in terms of PROMOTION. All right, you don't get to do quite as many ACTUAL GIGS, but you do have to spend quite a lot of time trying to find ways to tell people your output EXISTS.

As previously stated, I'm quite enjoying this particular aspect at the moment as BOOKS have loads of new and exciting Promotional Methods to try. Yesterday I did a PROPER ADVERT in Bargain Booksy and today I've got a GIVEAWAY starting over on Goodreads. If you're a member of Goodreads this is a pretty good thing to enter.. All you need to do is click the "Enter Giveaway" button and you get entered in the draw. A few weeks later it picks out the winners, and you get posted an actual real-live paperback copy of the book. It's ALL WINZ, and it's RIGHT HERE!

ALongside that I've been trying to think of Unusual Places that might be interested somehow, such as the old Peterborough Evening Telegraph - I won a competition with them 32 years ago! Again, it's good fun WRACKING the BRANE to try and think of reasons people might feasibly be persuaded to give me a plug!

The next thing after all THAT is a VIDEO what me and John Dredge are going to make, hopefully early next week, as most of the "How To Promote Your Book" articles say that that's a good idea, then after that... I'm not sure, to be honest. Everything ELSE seems to involve the book being FREE, which I can't do again until at least November, so if anyone has any OTHER suggestions (NB CLEAN/LEGAL suggestions) do let me know in the comments!

posted 15/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Ten Years Of Totally Acoustic
Oh what a glorious day it was on Saturday, for LO! it was the Totally Acoustic ALL-DAYER!

In the days leading up to the event I had been viewing it with some considerable trepidation. Would anyone come? Would too many come? Would my recorder cope with seven acts? Would my body cope with the BEER?!? However, when I get up on Saturday morning i realised that I was going to be spending the day in my favourite pub, surrounded by PALS, and found myself DEAD EXCITED!

My DELIGHT was increased when I rolled up at the pub and saw that they had prepared us a SPECIAL BEER for the day, THUS:

CJ at the pub had said he'd get in whatever BEERS we liked for the day, and we'd provided a LIST, but this was entirely unexpected. The King & Queen is GRATE!

I went upstairs to get the room set up and then enjoyed my usual WORRYING while I waited for people to arrive. The worrying was even greater than usual on this occasion, as I HAD to start on time at 2:30pm as I was DETERMINED to keep it all to time, not least because I wanted to be able to watch Mo Farah's last race at 8:20pm!

My worries were all for nought, as a steady stream of people arrived and the room was JUST RIGHT at start time when the first act (ME) came on and did THIS:

  • Mental Judo
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • I had a LOVELY time - it's a GRATE room to do a gig in, the audience were LOVELY, and I had a BAR to lean against whilst doing CHAT. I just about managed to keep to time too, which was good!

    The rest of the day rolled by at EXTREME SPEED. As I say, I'd been worrying about how I'd last through a whole DAY of ROCK, but it ZOOMED past. Eventually I realised that this was because I had picked some of my FAVOURITE people to play so of COURSE it was all going to go quickly! This did put me at something of a disadvantage for introducing the ACTS, however, as I found myself saying pretty much the SAME THING every time i.e. that they were each one of my FAVOURITES and were ACE. I find myself in a similar situation writing this here blog too - Mr Matt Tiller came on after me and was HILARIOUS, all-round LEGEND Mr Peter Buckley Hill was BRILL (doing his first gig without a gall bladder too!) and the Ms Jenny Lockyer closed the first half with a TOUR DE FORCE of HITS.

    See what I mean? Anyway, Mr Pete Green had suggested that we have a BREAK halfway through, as he's had some success with that at his OWN all-dayers, so at this point myself and The Acts On My Bill took full advantage of this by popping round the corner for some late lunch in Leon. I can confirm that having a break is a BRILLIANT idea, and enabled us to head back for MORE fun, with everyone enjoying a bit of SECOND WIND.

    The second half was much the same as the first in terms of everyone being ACE. We began with the PATRON SAINT of Totally Acoustic, the aforesaid Pete Green, whose ELEVENTH appearance was if anything even MORE ace than the preceding ten, then the always MARVELLOUS Mr Gavin Osborn ROCKED the house, as he always does. We CLIMAXED with Mr Keith Top Of The Pops, accompanied by His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band, BATTLING through what turned out to be a KIDNEY infection to bring THE ROCK.

    It was FANTASTIC, and when it was all over I felt a bit SAD there there wasn't more. Still, we had achieved my Organisational Objective of running PRECISELY to time throughout, which meant those of us who wished to could go downstairs and SHOUT at the TELLY for a bit while MO got his silver. With that done all that remained was to sit around for another pint and some further CHAT before heading home, where I arrived JUST in time to see the men's relay team win GOLD!

    It was a LOVELY day and I'm EXTREMELY grateful to everyone who came, everyone who played, and everyone at the PUB too. We're on HIATUS for a while now - there'll be at least FOUR more podcasts though, one for each half of this show and then two ROUND-UPs of extra tracks from this series. After that I'm not sure when we'll be back, but with GOOD TIMES like THIS available, I know we WILL!

    posted 14/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Get My Team GB T-Shirt Out Of The Cupboard
    The past few weeks in The Olympics Where I Live have been DEAD exciting, as we've had the World Para-Athletics and currently the IAAF World Championships going on at the stadium. It's been GRATE watching it all on the telly most nights then looking out of the window and seeing the corner of the Actual Stadium where it's happening. There always seems to be HELICOPTERS around too, and it was Inexplicably Exciting last night to HEAR one going by and then to SEE it pass over the top of the stadium on telly. It's HERE!

    It also means there's LOADS of people around going to and from the events, and this was EXTREMELY noticeable on my way into work this morning, as I forged my way through HUGE crowds of EXCITED people coming out of the station. Loads of conversations in all sorts of different languages were going on around me, and it was lovely to see how many people had come dressed up in national colours. I'm not sure what's going on today, but there's definitely at least ONE Swedish athlete involved!

    My favourite things is when someone's dug out their 2012 t-shirt to wear. There were LOADS of these - clearly people have been storing them away in the back of the cupboard to SAVOUR the memory, only bringing them out again for something special like this. It never ceases to amaze me how BLOODY WONDERFUL the Olympics and Paralympics were when they were here, it feels semi-MYTHICAL that there was that time when it seemed like a good idea to be PROUD of being British, to all be HAPPY and - strangest of all - to TALK TO STRANGERS on the Tube. Surely that must be a false memory, mustn't it?

    I guess that's why everyone's so KEEN on these Championships being here, and especially on getting the Para-Athletics in 2019. We want to have that OLYMPIC GLEE back again. I am VERY MUCH in favour of this sort of thing. After all, we loved the Olympics so much in our house that we went and LIVED there!

    posted 11/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Interim Sales Report
    As previously reported, the initial LAUNCH of Storm House was a WHIRLWIND of excitement, as it ZOOMED up the bestseller lists and HUNDREDS of new people decided to download it. It was a LOT of fun!

    Things quietened down SIGNIFICANTLY last Tuesday when the FREE window closed and it went back to costing 1.99 to download (or 8.00 for those who prefer an Actual Paperback), but that was fine. I knew that it would happen and, although I missed looking at the SALES inching up every time I looked, I was happy for things to proceed at a more STATELY pace. The PLAN had always been to use the five days of FREE availability to get it out initially to new readers, and that had succeeded ADMIRABLY. Now it was time to move on to other, less FRENETCI, methods of promotion.

    THUS I spent quite a bit of time devising an old fashioned PRESS RELEASE, heavily relying on th help of my in-house media team (AKA The Text Of My Release). We came up with something PRETTY GOOD I reckon, and I sent it out at the start of the week to some of my usual mailing lists. Most of these are INDIE types, so I'm not expecting a HUGE level of response, but you never know. I also put out tentative feelers to science fiction magazines and blogs, to see if they'd be interested in reviewing the book. Again, this isn't HUGELY likely to pay off, as there are RATHER a lot of people hawking debut science ficiton novels around, but, again, you never know!

    This bit of the PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN has felt quite nice and cosy. I've done this almost ANNUALLY for every album or show that I've done, so the mailing is dead easy to do and CRAFTING a press release is a familiar, and very satisfying, process. However, now the first stage of THAT is all finished it's time to get on with some NEW methods, including some ACTUAL ADVERTS, working out how to LEVERAGE Goodreads and Listopia (whatever that is), and attempting to squeeze myself into some BLOGS. It's actually rather good fun - like I say, I've done LOTS of the normal publicity over the years, but this is all new and exciting and - IMPORTANTLY - feels like it could actually WORK!

    Best of all, all this FUN has encouraged me to get ON with it and start the SECOND 'Storm House' book, which is probably going to be called "The Utopians" and STARTS almost precisely where the first book ENDS. So far I'm just on the second draft of the PLOT, so there's TONNES to go yet, but I'm really REALLY enjoying it. WRITING! It's GRATE!

    posted 10/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Sculpture In The City
    At the end of the working day yesterday I received a telephone call from The Birds On My Wire, asking if I wanted to go with her on an evening stroll around Sculpture In The City, a trail of sculptures scattered around The City. I did, so I did!

    It was really REALLY good fun. We met at Monument tube station and then navigated our way around the 16-18 (depending on how you counted them) sculptures. The map provided on the website LOOKED very nice, but didn't include tube stations, or most of the street names, or indicators of WHICH streets the artworks were usually on, so it was a bit of a CHALLENGE to find them all. This, however, actually made it more fun, like URBAN ADVENTURING. I do like a MAP and I flipping LOVE finding my way around the nooks and crannies of London, it was ACE!

    I don't know The City very well, so was pleased to find myself agreeing with The Roads On My Route that it is a KRAZY and FUN bit of town, where austere bank buildings from out of Dickens rub shoulders with the ruins of medieval churches and ENORMOUS towering new buildings. It's like one of those stories where TIME goes ASKEW and bits of the present, past and future all end up tumbled together. The GHERKIN stood in the middle of it all, as FRIENDLY and GORGEOUS up close as it is from a distance, with others (like "The Scalpel" - what a daft name for a building) significantly LESS so. The surprise was The Walkie Talkie though. As the aforesaid Bricks In My Wall said, it looks DREADFUL from a distance, but up close it's rather LOVELY!

    The ART was, as usual, a mixed bunch. Some of it did more for one of us than the other, though I think we BOTH liked "Black Shed Expanded" (a shed!), "The Black Horse" (a horse!), "'Envelope of Pulsation (For Leo)" (a chunk of granite), "Reminiscence" (a cross between a ruined wall, some rolled laundry, and a pile of tofu), and "Falling Into Virtual Reality" (er... a sort of wireframe umbrella in a ceiling with figures falling into each other). Some of them might have been more impressive if they'd been switched on (e.g. a NEON sculpture that, when we saw it, was just some curly tubes high up on a wall, so it took us AGES to find) and others just seemed a bit pointless, but HEY! that is ART!

    As with MOST of these sort of things there were minor annoyances, like the map not really being much use and the DESCRIPTIONS being GHASTLY (I am sure they must TEACH "Frustrating, Pompous And Tedious Use Of Pointlessly Long Words" as approx 30% of a Fine Arts Degree), but overall it was BLOODY GRATE. We got to see some really good lumps of SCULPTURE and also had a WHALE of a time exploring a bit of That London that I didn't know very well. I would HIGHLY recommend it - but make sure you take your "A to Z"!

    posted 9/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Day Trip To Dover
    On Sunday myself and The Top Of My Cliffs went out on a day trip to Dover. Southeastern Rail are currently doing an offer where you can get a day return ticket for a tenner, so she has been taking full advantage of this with various trips to Seaside Locations via the High Speed line that goes from Stratford International i.e. at the end of our road, and she had enjoyed DOVER so much she had decided to take me along for a look too.

    Our original plan had been to go on Saturday but the weather forecast looked rotten, so we went on Sunday instead and CRIKEY this was a good idea, for LO! Saturday was typical School Summer Holiday weather (GREY) whereas Sunday was GLORIOUS. I got sunburnt! In England!

    Upon arrival we stomped into town and went for a look at the Bronze Age Boat in Dover Museum. We'd seen something similar a few months ago when we went to Flag Fen so I was expecting something similar to that, and thus was ASTOUNDED when I entered the gallery to find a PROPER ENORMOUS BOAT sitting there. At Flag Fen you had to peer through a window to look at a TANK which, apparently, had a log boat in it somewhere, but here the boat was right there in the gallery, behind perspex but fully visible in all its glory. And COR what glory it was - it was deeply MOVING seeing something SO old (3,500 years old in fact) that had clearly been put together by human hands. Seeing where it had been carved out, hammered and tied together, it was MIND-BLOWING, to feel suddenly connected to people who had lived so very very long ago but were clearly so similar to us now. The other displays around it were brill too - I have, for instance, seen a LOT of Bronze Age Axe Heads on display over the years, but I never realised how they fitted onto the axe shafts before, or how the shafts were made. Children of KENT: you are BLESSED to have such things to be inevitably forced to see on school trips!

    No less impressive were the White Cliffs of Dover, which we walked to next and then UP. The paths along the clifftop were full of people from all over the WORLD, out on this lovely sunny day to see a) A Part Of British Culture b) some LOVELY countryside. It was beautiful up there, and the fact that over the edge you could see the FERRY port added to the whole feeling of DELIGHT. All day long, as we walked to the lighthouse and back, you could see ferries coming and going, and you could also see FRANCE off in the distance. Flipping FRANCE! We both got text messages from our respective phone service providers saying "Welcome To France" while we were up there, THAT's how close we were!

    Our walk took us to South Foreland Lighthouse where we stopped to have the picnic lunch which The Hummus On My Pitta had SOURCED. As we sat on the grass a Spitfire flew past. We, and all the other picnickers, looked up and smiled - yes, of course, we're on The White Cliffs Of Dover, why wouldn't we see a Spitfire? It was only when it had gone that I realised that this WASN'T necessarily something you'd see every day, so was very pleased when it flew back again so we could appreciate it properly!

    It was a GRATE day out, also containing TEA and CAKE in the Visitor Centre (provided by the aforesaid Jam In My Victoria Sponge, who was TREATING me the whole day!), PONIES on the clifftop, a paddle in the sea and TRAIN BEERS on the way home. Best of all, it took less than an HOUR to get back home and when we arrived at the station it was only 5 minutes from our house! What more could you ask for? HOORAH for the seaside!

    posted 8/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Sheffield Almanac
    Now that Storm House is officially OUT (and very much available to purchase!) I found myself in a very unusual situation on Saturday: Pretty Much On Top Of Everything. There's still the Totally Acoustic all-dayer to do and the London Premiere of Still Valid later this month, but otherwise most things are either DONE, UNDERWAY or AGES off.

    With unexpected FREE TIME I thus set about finding something to DO. I've got LOADS of books piled up in a queue for reading, so I thought that I might as well treat myself to a BATH and a READ. Top of the pile of books was Sheffield Almanac by Mr Pete Green, so I picked that up and headed for the TUB.

    I must admit that I've had a copy of this hanging around for several weeks. When Pete released it I naturally JUMPED to get a copy, but didn't get around to reading it for various reasons. Firstly, I do most of my reading on the TUBE these days, and a slender volume of POETRY (for LO! that is what it is) didn't seem appropriate for the rough and tumble of public transport. Also, to be honest, it's POETRY, which tends to feel like HOMEWORK (before you read it, anyway), and also I always worry about reading stuff my CHUMS have written. Logically this is DAFT - all my chums are CERTIFIED GENIUSES and their works are MIGHTY - but I always start reading/listening/watching with trepidation, ANXIOUS lest I have to dodge around the edges of saying I didn't like it.

    I need not have worried in this case because "Sheffield Almanac" was ASTOUNDING. I guess I should have known it would be - I've seen and THOROUGHLY enjoyed Pete doing poetry at gigs - but this was really something else altogether. It was MOVING, FUNNY, full of THORTS and really pretty bloody GRATE. As I say, I went in afeared that I would have to GRIND through Proper Poetry, but it was a breeze of a read which moved me to actual real-life TEARS at various points, and also made me say "HA!" out loud several times.

    My favourite thing about it was that it did that thing that RADIO is meant to do but generally doesn't i.e. created PICTURES in your MIND. I could see Pete driving a car, standing at Pedestrian crossings, or plodding up HILLS with a VIVIDITY that amazed me. I also loved the way he doesn't shy away from LIFE ASSESSING, and the bit where he thought back on his own life after seeing fresh new students arriving in September SPOKE to me especially!

    I also liked the RHYMING SCHEME he used, and the way you don't notice it's happening until there's a REASON for it, and the way that made me LARF out loud sometimes. AND I liked the way it got ON with it - it took me half an hour to read the LOT, and it felt like every line was PACKED OUT with meaning and ideas. With rhyming poetry it is EASY to get distracted and wander off topic in search of a Clever Bit or Good Rhyme, but Pete seemed to achieve that while still moving the whole poem forward.

    What I'm saying, basically, is that it was DEAD GOOD and I would wholeheartedly recommend getting a copy! Go on, it's only a fiver!

    posted 7/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Have A Drink With Us
    Last week at Indietracks The Validators were issued a CHALLENGE: to perform a version of the song Drink doch eine met by Black Fooss at a gig we're doing next year. What do you mean, you've never heard of it?!? Let's rectify that right now!

    When the challenge was first issued, by Mr Marcel Plaum and his associates, I was AFEARED because it had been issued via SHEET MUSIC. However, a bit of googling showed me that the song uses EXACTLY the chords that I always use (apart from having a B minor in the middle eight... because it doesn't have a middle eight) which was something of a relief. I also found a couple of translations of the lyrics, but I didn't really like them - they seemed very LITERAL, rather than like actual song lyrics, so I thought I'd have a go at doing a version MYSELF.

    I do have FORM for this sort of thing, as I'd not only done a German to English translation of 'Arbeit' by Manfred Maurenbrecher (as Work (Arbeit)) a few years ago but ALSO an American to English translation of 'Glory Days' by Bruce Springsteen. That version of 'Glory Days' had to be SUPPRESSED because of fears of LEGAL ACTION by the so-called 'Boss' (a revised version with 'correct' lyrics was issued on WIAIWYA's Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool album) but I had very much enjoyed the task in both cases. It makes songwriting a LOT easier when somebody else has worked out the structure and everything, and all you have to do is rearrange the words a bit so they rhyme!

    It was only after about half an hour of trying to find a rhyme for "Have a drink with us" that I realised I didn't even need to necessarily do THAT, as the original song doesn't rhyme AT ALL. It blew my tiny mind when I realised this and I had to listen to the song a couple more times to be sure. It FEELS as if it rhymes, but then it totally doesn't! I tried leaving MY version of the lyrics un-rhymed but didn't really like it, and anyway I DID find a rhyme ("Don't get yourself het up") which FITTED, so I kept it!

    Once I'd finished I found myself RATHER excited - it's a bloody BRILLIANT song which I had already spent the day singing in my head, and now that I had an English translation I wanted to share it, so recorded a quick demo and sent it to The Validators. In all the excitement I suggested that we could even record it for this year's addition to Christmas Selection Box, not realising that only myself and Mr FA Machine had already heard it, and had been talking about it on the emails. The others had not been so privileged, so may not be quite so keen, but one way or another I hope to UNLEASH this version on an unsuspecting world somehow someday. It's a GRATE song with a BEAUTIFUL sentiment, it can't just be contained in Cologne!

    posted 4/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Indietracks 2017
    Saturday was that most WONDERFUL day in the Indiepop year - INDIETRACKS DAY!!

    All right, for most people it was Day TWO of THREE of Indietracks, but I long ago realised that ONE day of a festival is pretty much enough for me, no matter HOW delightful it is, and for the past several years I have used this methodology to THOROUGHLY enjoy myself without fear of waking up at 6am in a soaking tent the next day and then having to POWER THROUGH a whole HUNGOVER rest of weekend!

    So it was that Mr S Hewitt and I met with with Mr T "The Tiger" MacClure at Tiger Towers just after noon and drove to the site, full of EXCITEMENT for the day to come. This turned to MILD PANIC in the case of Tom when he realised he'd forgotten his Special Earplugs so, once he'd dropped us off, he went all the way back to Leicester to get them. It meant that he DIDN'T spend the rest of the day worrying about his hearing, so it was entirely worth it!

    My first port of call at Indietracks is ALWAYS to visit the Merch Tent to give Mr J Jervis a hug, and this time I managed to combine this pleasure with BUSINESS, for LO! I was booked to do a READING of Storm House as part of the Merch Tent PROGRAMME. As the time for the reading grew closer I became more and more AFEARED. How was I going to do this? Would people be able to hear? Had I chosen the right bit to read?!? My NERVES continued once Jerv introduced me, as I stood in front of a group of very patient people and SHOUTED the start of the book at them for about 60 seconds. I realised that this was never going to work, as it was far too noisy in the tent and SHOUTING was not really going to work for CHARACTERISATION (i.e. funny voices), so I grabbed a chair and sat down, which seem to sort everything out a LOT - I was closer to the people sitting on the floor, and the people standing up formed a sound barrier at the back, so I was able to relax into it a bit. It seemed to go OK but it was TERRIFYING, and I think I definitely need to give a bit of thought to what section to read next time I do it (in Sheffield in October). I read the START of the book this time, and had to keep stopping to say "It's not just about filing and sneezing, honest!"

    The rest of The Validators arrived just in time for the start of THE READING, and after it was done we treated ourselves to some BEER. The next couple of hours - and indeed much of the day later - featured us EITHER wandering around individually, HUGGING people and not seeing bands OR sitting EN MASSE in The Train Bar. The Train Bar is the BEST bar - comfy seats and no queues!

    Soon it was time for us to go and get our gear and then get set up for our FULL BAND SHOW over in the BIG SHED. I was quite calm before it started, as we had a TYPED OUT SETLIST which was guaranteed to last exactly the right length of time. It even had notes about when I should introduce the band etc, so I wouldn't worry about it during the songs and get distracted. Unfortunately I couldn't FIND the printed setlists so ended up running to The Merch Tent to see if I'd left it there then running all the way bag to discover they were inside ANOTHER bag, with some flyers. PHEW!

    Mr Matthew Schwartz came and took our picture, which looked GRATE, and then we took to the stage with Frankie's SONIC MONTAGE, which seemed to work out OK, and waved to the - CRIKEY - VAST crowd of people who'd come to see us! It was fantastic looking at out such a THRONG, with friendly faces and NEW faces too GRINNING back at us. Here's what we ended up doing:
  • Payday Is The Best Day
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • The 1980s How It Was
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Mental Judo
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • I must say, PRACTICING a setlist doesn't half make it easier to play without mistakes! The whole thing went like a DREAM, I genuinely could have stayed there playing for HOURS, the only trouble was it went WAY too fast. So fast in fact that we had to cut our last song - I couldn't understand how we could have run out of time, but eventually we realised that we'd timed and practiced a 45 minute set... and our timeslot was only 40 minutes! It was a shame, as we were going to finish with We Did It Anyway, and I had a GRATE SPEECH to deliver beforehand, but we had just done at least THREE big hits, so I think we did OK!

    It was a wonderful experience - I always enjoy it when we play to big audiences, I don't know why we don't do it more often - and the BEST thing was afterwards when, over the course of the evening, VARIOUS people, some of whom I didn't even know, came over to say they'd really enjoyed it. A surprising number of people said they'd CRIED during the set, which I THINK is a compliment, but the best bit was later when we got a round of applause from the other customers as we re-entered the Train Bar. That was flipping lovely!

    With the show complete we stood around backstage feeling VERY happy. We did some SELFIES, which involved all other Validators trying to get away from my VERY SWEATY embrace. I didn't mind - it meant I got to stand RIGHT at the front! We also signed some AUTOGRAPHS for some small girls who, I think, were trying to get them from everybody, and then we STOMPED over to the Merch Tent where I solved the Sweaty Issue by buying myself an Indietracks T-Shirt. I'd forgotten my usual clean post-gig t-shirt, I must be getting out of practice!

    Last time we were in the Merch Tent we were MOBBED by people, but this time it all went a bit more gently. Partly, I think, this was because the Hayman Kupa band were on after us, and I imagine there's some OVERLAP between our audiences, and partly it was because we had SATIATED the market. Several people came over and looked SAD because they'd already GOT everything!

    Once that was all done much of the rest of the day was spent back in the Train Bar, although we did manage to see a CAN CRUSH. This is the MOST EXCITING bit at Indietracks - all it is is a steam roller (or similar) driving over and crushing some cans, but it all get VERY VERY exciting. When we saw it one can escaped the crushing, so a CHILD was sent out to STAMP on it. The cheer he received was bigger than for any of the bands!

    We all went to see The Wedding Present, with some band members spending the whole time down the front, and others of us sheltering beneath umbrellas at a picnic table, then we started to go our seperate ways. Emma and The Pattison Girls went home, Frankie went to get his bus, and Tim, Tom and I went for some more beers. Eventually we found our way to the DISCO in the Tram Shed. Ian How Does It Feel did a GRATE job on the DECKS, culminating in "Lazy Line Painter Jane". My EXTREME PLEASURE to be out dancing to it was only compounded when I looked up to see, running through the dry ice, STEVE dashing forward. It was like that episode of SPACED!

    And so ended our day at Indietracks. It was bloody brilliant - HUGE thanks to everyone who came to see us, and especially to the organising team who did an AMAAAAAZING job yet again. See you next year!

    posted 2/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Topping The Charts
    Friday was Launch Day for Storm House, and it was all EXTREMELY exciting. Not only did I have the knowledge that people could actually now READ the book at last, I could also see people downloading it via the magic of Amazon's Kindle reporting system. It draws you a graph - a flipping GRAPH - that shows you how many people have downloaded your book and it updates LIVE! I could have happily watched it all day, and nearly did!!

    I was so enjoying the graph so much that I didn't think to check the actual Amazon Page, so it was only when Mr W Pilkington tweeted about it that I realised the book was at NUMBER ONE in the Amazon Charts! Specifically it was at Number One in Children's Action & Adventure Literature and Science Fiction Adventure, and - AMAZINGLY - Number four in Science Fiction itself!

    This pretty much BLEW MY TINY MIND, yet MORE was to come. The idea to launch the book for free like this came from reading several 'How To Promote Your eBook' guides which said that this was a good way to get new readers interested. If you can get a boost into the CHARTS then much more people will see it and download it to see what the fuss is all about. I must admit I was a bit dubious, but BLOW ME it turns out it actually works! On Monday a tweet by Mr A Cartmel (my MENTOR when I wrote 'Storm House' as a screenplay) got a whole bunch of NEW people to download it, plus (I think) people coming home from Indietracks (where I'd given out a load of flyers) downloaded it too, which meant that it went back to the top of the charts, at which point things went a little bit crazy. Over the course of the day I got literally HUNDREDS of downloads and it ended up at number one for Science Fiction as well! Every time I looked at the GRAPH (and I looked at it A LOT) there'd be more downloads, so I can only guess that this was the legendary People Browsing The Top 100 Free Books that I had been told about, seeing it and giving it a go. It's all been VERY exciting!

    So what I want to say here is thanks VERY much to everyone who leapt aboard to download it over the weekend, as that was what got it out to THE WORLD. I never expected it to do this well so quickly, if at ALL! If you've not joined in yet there's still time to jump on the THRILL RIDE - you can still download it for FREE from Amazon today (Tuesday), and then after that it'll still be very much available for just a couple of quid. There's also the GORGEOUS Paperback version too, which costs a bit more but is worth it because it is AN ACTUAL BOOK you can HOLD and show off with on public transport!

    Whichever way you read it, thanks very much and I hope you like it!

    posted 1/8/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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