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Blog Archive: August 2018

Transferable Skillz
Today I have been Working From Home and so have taken the opportunity to book a tour, set up Eventbrites links, make a comic, and write a press release.

And it has ALL been for WORK!!

It's all in aid of the LAUNCH of the new Computer System what I have been put in charge of. The TOUR will be me going round all 6 of UAL's Colleges to do Introductory Sessions in using the system, and we're using Eventbrite to manage attendance. The comic is something we've commissioned from the marvellous Mr John Miers to promote it in a "UAL-y way" and which I am trying not to spoil with some TEXT (I keep saying we are doing it "Marvel Style", which makes me STAN LEE and John JACK KIRBY!), and the press release is the text for our intranet and newsletters.

The whoe process feels EXTREMELY similar to ROCK, and the transferable skills are certainly coming in handy, ESPECIALLY with booking the gigs... I mean introductory sessions. It turns out that the bookers for training rooms at Arts Collegs are JUST as varied as Venue Owners, with some very swift to act and informative, and others... less so. It's JUST like tour booking too, as dates are booked, fall through, re-booked and moved, and then it's all VERY satisfying when it's all finally finalised. I am thinking of getting t-shirts made!

The TOUR starts in October, by which time I hope to be able to share the final comic with you. In the meantime I've got a meeting tomorrow with the record company... sorry, my boss. I wonder if I can persuade him that we need BADGES?

posted 30/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Full House At Rochester Bingo
On Bank Holiday Monday the Days of My Leave and I went off on a DAY TRIP. We'd had a look at various options and settled on ROCHESTER because it is dead easy to get to from our house via HS1 and it has a CASTLE.

It turned out to have SO MUCH MORE, for LO! it was bloody GRATE! Getting there was totally peasy, and as we crossed the road from Rochester railway station we saw the Tourist Information office straight ahead. It's always a good idea to find this first, as they tend to have Local Maps which you can NAB, and which come in VERY handy if you've, for instance, printed off a numbered self-guided walking tour of the city which doesn't come with a map of its own.

We then set off down the High Street consulting the map and guide and LOOKING at things. I flipping LOVE self-guided walking tours, as it gives you a route round a new place full of FACTS, and unlike a normal guided tour you can wander off as you wish. Our first major deviation from the route was to go STRAIGHT into the Cathedral rather than walk round it first - I do like a visit to a Cathedral, ESPECIALLY when they're higgeldy piggeldy with loads of different AREAS, and ESPECIALLY especially when they are full to the rafters with extremely (but not TOO) friendly volunteers who are eager to tell you even more fascinating FACTS. I say "you" but in my experience they always HOME IN on The Directions Of My Route and discuss local history with her, leaving me to stand in the background somewhere nodding helpfully. This is reportage, not complaint - if I was in their position I'd do exactly the same!

The best bit of the Cathedral was in the CRYPT where they had a copy of the Textus Roffesnsis, the first written down book of LAW in the UK, predating the Magna Carta by SOME YEARS. I'd never heard of it before, which seems odd, but it was dead interesting - it basically told all the local parishes which bit of the Roman Bridge they were responsible for keeping in good repair, but in the grand scheme of things was a precursor to WRITTEN LAW.

Outside the Cathedral you could see the GIGANTIC Castle, LOOMING. Cor, it is a BRILLIANT castle - the walls are pretty intact and VAST, and inside them is the GINORMOUS Keep. We paid to get in and it was totally worth it, as you are able to walk up the stairs right to the top, SIX STOREYS HIGH! We discussed it and don't think we've even BEEN in such a Castle-y Castle, it was WELL worth the admission.

After some refreshing refreshment we wandered on and saw some DICKENS places, such as the house that he based Mis Haversham's house on in Great Expectations. In the book it's called 'Satis House', which was a bit confusing as, ten minutes prior to this, we'd seen an ACTUAL house called 'Satis House'. Later on we saw Eastgate House which Dickens had used in another book and called 'Westgate House'. I do like Dickens - A LOT - but he does seem to have been a bit crap at thinking up names for things!

Later on we went to look at The Poor Travellers' House, which used to house Six Poor Travellers and which Dickens based the story 'Seven Poor Travellers' on (with himself as the plus one). It was lovely, especially the garden, and as with everyone in Rochester the staff were dead friendly. The only slightly odd thing, for me, was that people seemed to think that Dicken's story was REAL, despite the fact that the Information Boards inside said that the story was set at Christmas, but he'd visited and written it in MAY. This disparity was more than made up for by the fact that the garden behind it had a Curry Plant that REALLY smelt of Curry! It made me HUNGRY!

In between these two Dickens events we saw some more recent local history when we walked past a Cafe and saw Billy Childish, inventor of The Medway Sound, sitting outside it. I was explaining to The Strings On My Guitar who he was as we walked further down the street, and when she asked if I was sure it had been him I was able to say "Yes, look, there he is!" and point at a MASSIVE painting on the side of a wall with his face on it! Thanks, massive painting!

With Castle, Cathedral, Dickens AND a bonus Billy Childish under our belt it felt like we had scored a FULL HOUSE in Rochester Bingo, so took our leave of it, ZOOMING back to The Olympics in just half an hour. It was an all-round GRATE day out - if you have a chance to visit Rochester I would HIGHLY recommend it!

posted 28/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Still Here!
It feels like most of my blogs recently start (or should start) with "Sorry for the lack of news lately" because there's not really an awful lot of ROCK going on at the moment. It's not for lack of trying though - I've emailed about a dozen venues and promoters over the past couple of weeks, and had one rejection, two promises to have a listen, eight non-responses and, beautifully, one YES (a full band gig at The Gladstone Arms on Saturday 29 September).

OTHER stuff is very much happening, not least with my job which is not only INTERESTING but also FUN, which I am still finding a bit odd. There's also been some more ART, with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery last week with The Choices Of My Curation to see The BP Portrait Awards. We try and go to see it every year, but it's been a bit GLUM in recent times. THIS year, however, was GRATE - lots of dead interesting, and often quite moving portraits painted by artists who seem to actually LIKE the people they're painting.

I've also been squeezing in some of THE WRITING. As recently reported, I've embarked upon a re-write of the first Storm House book, and it went a) very quickly b) really well. I'd had a suggestion that if it was going to be accepted as a proper Children's Novel (it wasn't written to be one, but apparently it IS one) then it needed an actual child as the hero. I wasn't sure about this, but had heard it so many times I thought I might as well give it a go, so changed it so that the hero, Joanne, is the same age as her brother Shaun. To my amazement this turned out to be a BREEZE to do and made all SORTS of things MUCH better. The plan is to send this off to a few more places like agents and competitions, to see how it goes down, and then think about maybe changing the sequel to match.

Talking of which, I've just started a re-write of THAT too - I'm not planning to do ALL of it right now, but thought I'd take the opportunity to do at least the first few chapters, so that I can make sure the TONE carries on from the first one. So far I have done THREE PAGES (NB that's three Word pages, which I think works out at about 12 in Normal Book font) and have LARFED quite a lot at my own jokes. I think that's a good sign!

So that's what is occurring. There IS more music stuff coming, like The Plinths heading back into the studio soon and the aforesaid GIG, but I apologise in advance if the next update takes ages and is all about BOOKS and TRIPS again!

posted 24/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Friends Ends
A couple of nights ago myself and The Day, Week, Month and Even My Year completed an odyssey of cultural adventure. For LO! after EIGHT MONTHS of viewing we finally reached the last episode of "Friends" on Netflix!

We have been watching it EXTREMELY regularly ever since the earliest hours of the year, when Netflix announced that they had the streaming rights to it, and it seems we have NOT been ALONE. Apparently it is the MOST STREAMED show in the whole country, and thus there have recently been several Think Pieces about it in The Media, mostly consisting of pillocks saying things like "Oh it's nostalgia" and "How could they all afford such big apartments?"

These are both idiotic remarks, because a) a large proportion of the people watching the show were not BORN when it started and b) this is addressed IN CONTINUITY: Monica's NAN left her the apartment in her will! After all this time I was quite surprised to see the stupid kind of snobbery about "Friends" STILL going on, as if the fact that it had not only stayed popular after all this time, but was the MOST watched show on streaming, was all a coincidence and that it was actually tawdry rubbish and we should all be watching documentaries instead.

The reason "Friends" is still popular is because it has excellent writing, good acting, likeable characters, decent storylines and a LOT of jokes. It is, I think, the American answer to "Dad's Army", another show that idiots MOAN about because it's still more popular than NEW shows, but which people LOVE for exactly the same reasons as they love "Friends".

And yes ALL RIGHT I guess that analogy DOES suggest there's an element of nostalgia to it all for some of us. CURSES! One of the added DELIGHTS of watching it now, here in the futuristic world of the future, is spotting new things appearing for the first time and requiring New Jokes, like when Chandler suddenly gets a laptop, or EBAY of all things pops up towards the end. There's also the comfort of having watched most of them before too, and remembering how storylines end just before they actually do.

Mostly though it's because it's so well done that you don't even notice it. Maybe that's why DREARY sods think there's nothing to it, because they prefer to watch things that point out how CLEVER and IMPORTANT they are all the time, rather than having to work it out for themselves. It's so full of JOKES and nice character touches, especially as it gets past the first couple of series, that it's a joy to watch it develop. Watching it all again I especially appreciated the way that Rachel and Monica develop and get to have a whole range of stories about their own personalities, rather than just being the Attractive Women who are there when The Men are making jokes. I also, once again, came to feel sorry for Paul Rudd, who spends most of his time in the show Nodding At Other People's Remarks.

But now it is done and we are once more ADRIFT without a long-running sitcom to watch. Over the past few years we've done Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Community, Parks & Recreation and How I Met Your Mother, so we are RACING through the Great, Long, American Sitcoms. If anybody has any other recommendations for long-running (i.e. at LEAST seven seasons) FUNNY half-hour sitcoms that are on Netflix OR Prime, I would be very pleased to receive them!

posted 17/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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One From The Archives
Today I bring you a slice of ROCK HISTORY! For LO! Mr S Hewitt was recently MUSING on the fact that it's ten years since he and I first went to the Edinburgh Fringe with the show My Exciting Life In ROCK and remembered that he had a RECORDING of the time that we broadcast part of the show LIVE on 6music. Always a champion of making such vital historical material widely available he uploaded it to Soundcloud, which means you can listen to it right NOW, right HERE!

I vaguely remembered it being quite good fun, but CRIKEY when I listened back a decade later I was ASTOUNDED to find what a lot of TOMFOOLERY was going on, with me EGGED ON by what sounds like a HUGE audience - my records show it was 25 people, but they were VERY enthusiastic! At the time it seemed like tremendous LARKS but, as you will hear, a re-listen reveals poor Mr Steve Lamacq remaining STOICALLY PROFESSIONAL while I talk at some length about him leaving Radio One and planning his REVENGE on his former employers. A lesser individual might have got annoyed, but he dealt with it with APLOMB - next time he gets a Lifetime Achievement award I expect this to be part of the Strength In Adversity Montage!

The next morning, according to the blog of the time, I had a VERY different experience with ANOTHER live call to 6Music - I was polite about it at the time but I think it's safe to say now that this second occasion was AWFUL, as I was invited to ring into the Breakfast Show expecting to chat lightly about what we were doing, only to find that I was on some DREADFUL 'wacky' zoo-style thing with a twit who couldn't remember anything he'd been told who wanted to ask about sex with badgers while playing 'ZANY' sound effects. It was that period when they kept trying to make 6Music more like, I don't know, E4 or something. Thankfully that all went away in the end, yet Mr Steve Lamacq still has the same show - long may he continue!

posted 13/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Return Of The Stock
Yesterday a long running saga finally came to a joyous end, when the lovely people at Proper Distribution returned the last of our unsold CDs to us.

This was first MOOTED over a YEAR ago, but nothing really happened until they sent me another email earlier this week - it's almost as if they have more important things to do than return unwanted CDs from about a decade ago?!? - saying that they wanted to arranged sending our stock back to us. I immediately replied in the affirmative, and when I got home last night there was a BOX waiting for me full of Old Stock. I was delighted, especially when I found that several CDs had been LAMINATED by whatever shops originally took them!

"But Mark," you might say, "surely your aim is to disseminate yr ART wide and far, and thus the return of old stock could be seen as a symbol of failure? Also, do you have enough room for EVEN MORE CDs in your cupboard?" The answer to the second question is, thankfully, "just about", as I had a sort out last year when they first got in touch. The answer to the first question is a bit more complicated. I mean, YES, I do like the IDEA of selling every copy of every album, but the REALITY of that happening is not quite as much fun as one might think.

For instance, This Is Not A Library sold out AGES ago (largely because we didn't make as many as we did others!) which is all well and good, but I don't have any spare copies left to THRUST on people, and sometimes I'd quite like to. Similarly, we ran out of copies of Dinosaur Planet last year too - I say "ran out" because a LOT of them were given away by me and Steve during the Edinburgh run of Total Hero Team, as I got a bit over-excited and didn't do my stock accounting properly!

There weren't any copies of This Is Not A Library in the returns box (they sold out even before we did our deal with Proper!) but there WERE several copies of Dinosaur Planet! HOORAH! There's not enough to make it worthwhile putting them back on sale in the SHOP but it does mean I have a few to INFLICT on passers by if I need to, there WERE copies of a couple of other items that I thought were long gone.

THUS I am happy to say that the EPs Better Things To Do and It Only Works Because You're Here/My Exciting Life In ROCK are now BACK ON SALE! They're also part of the Postman's Back Breaker Back Catalogue Gift Pack Attack package which gives you EVERYTHING we have in the shop in one massive package (NB I'll update the list later, but if you buy it now you'll get the recently returned CDs AND 20 Golden GRATES all for the same price!).

I mean, obviously I'm aware that if you're reading this there's a high chance that you probably already HAVE most of this stuff, but you never know! For now I am delighted to have them back in the FOLD!

posted 10/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Literary Update
I feel I must proffer an apology to the Waiting World for the lack of information about my current Literary Endevours. I am fully aware of the eager multitudes BEGGING to know when the sequel to Storm House will be released, and I can only thank you all for doing so with such calmness and reserve that it might seem to an uninformed observer that nobody was asking at all.

To these and all interested parties I bring good news, for LO! on Monday I finally finished Draft TWO of what is now most likely to be called "Storm House: Minds Immeasurable"! It has taken AGES to do, partly because it is a bit longer than the first book, and partly because I now have an Actually Quite Interesting job so I've had to do the WRITING on my OWN time!

I think the final document is probably ALL RIGHT, but I have no way of telling at the moment. My PROCESS with this sort of thing is to PLOUGH THROUGH a draft and then leave it alone for several weeks, so that I can go back to it FRESH for the next go. That's what I've done so far with the various drafts of the plot and outline, and then with the first FULL draft that this second one was based on, and it seems to have worked OK. I did the same with the original book and then, the same as this time, the second draft seemed to take FOREVER. Doing the plot/outline is dead good fun because you're making up as much exciting stuff as possible, and then doing the first draft is ALSO fun because you get to put all the dialogue and JOKES in, but the SECOND draft is basically a near complete re-write as you try to make it all make some kind of SENSE and, in my case, make sure that you don't tell the same joke TWICE just because you forgot you'd already told it earlier.

The THIRD draft will, hopefully, be much quicker and involve me LARFING at the aforesaid JOKES because I'd forgotten them, as well as correcting spelling, grammar and so forth, before I try and find some willing chums to have a read of it to see what they think. After that it'll be drafts four (re-writing on the basis of their THORTS) and five (spelling and grammar again) before it gets near anyone else, so it's going to be a while yet before it's officially out. I'd hoped to UNLEASH it before Christmas this year, but that looks rather unlikely now!

In the meantime though I've got another job to do - a re-write of the FIRST "Storm House" book!! "But Mark," you might say, "Haven't you already published that one?" Well yes, I have, but the other week I got a rather brilliant READER REPORT from one of the competitions it got long-listed for, suggesting a couple of MAJOR but also VERY DO-ABLE changes to a) one of the characters b) some of the pacing. It made a LOT of sense, so going to have a go at DOING the suggested changes and then, if it works, re-entering said competition. There's nothing to lose by trying, and if it comes out rubbish I can forget about it!

Once THAT's done I'll be having a go at the second draft of the OTHER book I was working on earlier this year, which WAS called "Alpha Male" and then "Six Billion To One" but is now probably going to be called something else again. Doubtless that'll take a good long while too so it's going to be AGES before I have ACTUAL TEXT to show people - this does, I must admit, make it all a bit of a SLOG to keep going at, as my favourite part of this whole process (SHOWING OFF) is always AGES away!

Still, it's all moving forward, if very slowly, and hopefully it'll be worth the wait when they finally come out. In the meantime, thank you all for your STOICISM and patience!

posted 8/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Art Bollocks
On Monday evening The Culture In My Society and I went to look at Frieze Sculpture 2018 in Regents Park. We went to it last year and thought it was GRATE, so when the aforesaid Notes In My Guide suggested a return trip I was WELL up for it.

It was a lovely evening and the park was PACKED with people sitting around having picnics, but the ART itself was, overall, not as good as last year. There were some good bits - a PAVILION which reminded me strongly of the bird houses in Central Park in Peterborough (this MAY not be what it was meant to be like) and a sculpture made of various iron TUBES you could look through - but a lot of it was just Sort Of All Right. The MAIN problem, however, was with the descriptions, which were AWFUL.

This is a common thing in THE ARTS, where people who are dead good at SCULPTURE or PAINTING or INSTALLATIONS or what have you try to sound DEAD CLEVER in an area that they are really really bad in i.e. Writing Comprehensible English. I've seen loads of ART over the years which, when explained in HUMAN TALKING by The Actual Artist suddenly makes huge amounts of sense and becomes ALL THE BETTER, but are described in the accompanying notes using INCOMPREHENSIBLE NONSENSE which, frankly, makes you want to burn down all galleries with lit copies of the Daily Mail.

Luckily for my composure I am not alone in this frustration - it even has an official (NB not actually official) name: "Art Bollocks", relating to the multiply adjectivised, but also unnecessarily complicated, sentences, yet paragraphs, which play with the ideas around the subject which generate buzzwords and at the same time, though differently, say nothing useful at all. There's even an Arty Bollocks Generator for people who don't have time to write their own!

One example was a GIANT PENGUIN, which I liked a lot until I read the description. "Drawing on classical Hollywood tropes, (the artist) exposes the limits of our preconceptions. Both funny and destablizing, this work depicts the artist as a penguin, six feet and seven inches tall." We had a good look around the sculpture but it was JUST A PENGUIN, with no hint of it being the artist, and anyway, WHAT Hollywood tropes? If it's just the fact that there have been penguins in films, then doesn't that apply to ALL HUMAN ENDEAVOUR?

Elsewhere everything was "playing" with something and simultaneously exposing something else, while a reconstruction of some machinery was "confronting the precarity of technological desire, the progress of industry and automation, is set against biological evolution." Spoilers: It wasn't and it didn't.

The worst of all this is that it makes ME feel like a PHILISTINE complaining about PRETENTIOUSNESS in ART when, actually, honestly, I just want a bit of CLARITY. These artists clearly have THORTS and IDEAS and spend AGES manifesting them, so why ruin it by annoying the HECK out of CONNOISSEURS like what we are eh?

In summary then: not as good as last year but we had a lovely time and some of it WAS dead good - definitely worth a visit, just don't read the descriptions!!

posted 7/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Looking For A Horse To Get Back On
As those who received the latest issue of the newsletter will know, there's not an awful lot of ROCK going on around here at the moment. For instance, we have precisely ONE gig booked, for Tim's birthday, with nothing much else on the horizon.

The reasons for this are manifold and CLEAR. It's a Universal Truth that most gig promoters, like most bands, have a well-defined life cycle, starting full of enthusiasm, getting into it for a few years, and then eventually getting fed up and jacking it in. In much the same way that The Validators have passed through several cycles of Which Bands Are The Cool Bands over our DOUBLE DECADE history, we have also seen Gig Circuits rise and fall in the same way. It's always sad when a Promoters pack it in, but as they have tended to become CHUMS over time it's always nice to know they'll be getting a lot of their TIME, also CA$H, back!

However, this does mean that you have to keep an eye out for new mugs... sorry, promoters, coming through who might be willing to BOOK you, and for the past few years I must admit that I have rather taken my eye off the ball there. This is partly due to the fact that the various SHOWS we've done have an almost entirely seperate list of venues and promoters to GIGS, and partly because doing Totally Acoustic has been such a DELIGHTFUL way of getting to show off that I haven't felt much need to look elsewhere.

This was all lovely for a good long while, but now that the shows AND Totally Acoustic are on hiatus while I do my PhD there are YAWNING GAPS in my diary where any kind of GIG should be. So far I have dealt with this mostly by MOPING AROUND and SIGHING a lot, occasionally clicking "Refresh" on my email to see if there's any chance somebody who hasn't put a gig on for five years has suddenly decided to a) get back into it and b) do so by booking an act that is almost guaranteed to bring in an audience of up to 3 people. Last week though I had A Bit Of A Word With Myself and agreed that if I really DID want to do some gigs (I checked: I DO) then I should do probably do something a bit more pro-active about it!

My first idea was to go and do some Open Mic nights, but as soon as I started looking into it I remembered one very crucial thing about Open Mic nights, and that is that I don't really like them. They always start really early, you never know when it's going to be your turn, you only get two songs (and mine are dead short!) and then, if you are like me, you feel duty bound to sit through the rest of it, which tends to feature a LOT of Serious Men doing very long, very twiddly, largely tune free dirges.

THUS I decided that maybe I should try ASKING for some ACTUAL gigs instead. I have very little idea what's going on in the world of INDIE at the moment, but I have a vague idea that maybe a bloke in his late late LATE Thirties (SHUT UP) playing an acoustic guitar may NOT be what they're crying out for. HOWEVER, I then realised that there ARE "Acoustic Gigs" which are set up specifically FOR people playing acoustic guitars and, living in London, I probably had access to several such nights every WEEK.

A quick Google showed that my suspicions were correct, so I have spent several jolly evenings looking for likely places and then EMAILING them my DETAILS, asking politely if I could come and play. I am very aware that none of them will care about my MIGHTY ROCK HISTORY, but that doesn't matter as it's a Whole New Area what I am trying to get into. I don't even really mind if most of them don't want me to play, it's just quite nice to feel like something is actually POSSIBLE again!

So far I have had one Definite No and one Possibly Yes, with about EIGHT unanswered and a similar amount still to contact. It's really rather good fun - hopefully the NEXT newsletter will have a bit more in it!

posted 6/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Holy Island!
During our time in Edinburgh we were constantly updating the BBC Weather Forecast online. It was LUDICROUSLY HOT back in London, but UTTERLY GORGEOUS in Edinburgh, like Holiday Weather, but we had long been forewarned that it was going to rain for the entire duration of the second stage of our holiday, in Berwick-Upon-Tweed. As it happened, it rained for about five minutes during daylight hours, TIPPED it down overnight, but otherwise was lovely. We felt BLESSED!

We were staying in the Youth Hostel in Berwick, which was perfectly all right but very much NOT The Premier Inn. Call me SPOILT by fine living, but within MINUTES I found myself HANKERING for 24 hour news channels. It's a funny old place Berwick, like a small North Eastern town but one with MASSIVE bridges and GINORMOUS Elizabethan battlements. There's huge WALLS most of the way around it which are astounding, and make YORK look like somewhere with a fence, but neither of us had any idea they were there until we went. There's also a chronic over-provision of hairdressers (there were a LOT) and under-provision of places to STAY and/or to EAT - the YHA was the only place left with vacancies when we tried to book (several months in advance), and in the evenings the few restaurants/cafes that were still open had big FULLY BOOKED signs in the windows. What they need is a Premier Inn with a Thyme Bar!

There was also a LOWRY trail, which was dead interesting - we had a right good old stomp around the town looking at places that Lowry had painted, discovering along the way that he was very happy to change something to make it look better, irrespective of reality. That was the best bit about Berwick, I think. The worst bit was the 300,000 SEAGULLS outside our window all night!

The main reason for being there was to go to Lindisfarne, which we'd wanted to visit for ages. In my research beforehand I'd struggled to find a way to GET there - there seemed to be ONE bus which went at different times according to the tide, detailed on a timetable you needed a PHYSICS DEGREE to understand but, as far as I could tell, meant getting up at DAWN to catch. We decided to get a taxi, so headed off to the rank only to find all the roads closed for a MARCH by The British Legion! When that finished we waited AGES without any luck, until The Cabs On My Rank spotted a BUS at some nearby traffic lights, with "Holy Island" as its destination.

We dashed round the corner to a handy bus stop just in time to hop on. The Change In My Pocket asked the driver what time she'd be coming back, and was toldnthat the bus was turning round and heading back as soon as we got there. We got our tickets and sat down, and then approx 30 seconds later another couple sat in front turned round and said they'd booked a taxi for 7.30pm, and would we like to share it? We said "YES PLEASE!"

THUS we got to do the whole trip for CONSIDERABLY less than we otherwise would, and also met some nice people, James and Imogen, who we would bump into repeatedly for the remainder of our trip, for LO! neither Berwick nor Lindisfarne are particularly big!

The whole experience of being on the island was MAGICAL, right from the bus ride across the CAUSEWAY, with SEA on either side. As we approached the village of Holy Island the bus driver pointed out SEALS nearby, and then when we got there it was full of BIRDS. Man alive, I have never SEEN so many BIRDS being so TAME. At one point we sat outside for a cup of tea and were SWAMPED by them, flying around people's tables, nicking crumbs straight off plates, and feeding from hands. It was ACE!

The causeway was shut from approx 2.30pm to 7.15pm, which meant that most of the ATTRACTIONS closed by 2pm so that staff could go back. We hadn't realised this before we set off, so didn't actually get to go INTO any of them, but that turned out to be fine as we got to LOOK at them for FREE! HA! We looked at the Priory then went for a stroll up to the (ENORMOUS! IMPRESSIVE! ASTOUNDING!) Castle, before wandering along the beach until we found ourselves, accidentally, on a Nature Trail. This was AMAZING, especially when we saw a SEAL, and then a Mysterious White Pyramid which turned out to be a Mysterious White Pyramid That Is Also A Shipping Beacon and bumped into ... James and Imogen again!

It was all pretty idyllic, especially with SWALLOWS everywhere you looked (NB these are my favourite) and GLORIOUS sunshine. When we got back to the village we had the aforementioned, and well earned, tea, also GRUB, and then went off for another wander, this time finding ourselves in a series of sand-dunes that surrounded various AMPHITHEATRES, like naturally forming golf courses.

We ended up in THE PUB, where we once again bumped into James and Imogen, and sat feeling UTTERY KNACKERED. We had walked for HOURS!

Next day we headed home, though not before bumping into our new acquaintances AGANE - tho this time we were already in the cafe when they came in, so it felt very slightly LESS like we were STALKING them. The journey home was, again, a DELIGHT, although as it was a Sunday we did not get the BOOZE PLYING we had previously received. BOO!

In summary then: we had a lovely time and, despite all the BOOZE and GRUB consumed, I think all that walking meant I even lost some weight! RESULT!!

posted 2/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Edinburgh During Not The Fringe
Last week myself and The Train On My Tracks embarked on a sophisticated two-centre holiday to Edinburgh and Lindisfarne. The Executive Summary is as follows: One of the BEST bits came right at the very start, when we got the TRANE up to Scotland. I love this journey at ALL times, but especially when it is done in (very far in advance pre-booked) FIRST CLASS during the week, as it means that they PLY you with food and drink for HOURS. They started taking food and drink orders not long after we left, which meant that by noon we had already started our LUNCH (veg chilli: LOVELY) and also our DRINKING. By the time Edinburgh was coming into view we didn't want to get off!

We stayed in the Hub By Premier Inn, which is a slightly dinkier version of the regular Premier Inn, and also like a SPACESHIP as everything runs on ELECTRONIC PANEL DISPLAYS. We found this to be DELIGHTFUL! It was also SUPER HANDY - we are both used to being in Edinburgh during the Fringe, when you end up staying somewhere at least a good walk out of town, so I kept getting confused by the fact that we would leave the hotel and not only IMMEDIATELY be in town, but could also pop back for stuff whenever we needed. It was GRATE!

I'd thought Edinburgh would look really different outside of Fringe times, but it was already covered in posters, there were Venue Numbers going up everywhere, and it was full of people, so it all felt quite familiar. The only real difference was that the people were on average about 30 years older than I'm used to, and they didn't keep trying to give us flyers for shows.

We saw our nephew Felix on two evenings, enjoying some fine dining and some even finer WHISKEY drinking, and we spent a FAB day out with my sister, her husband and four MORE nephews (and a lot of ladybirds for some reason). It was a very NEPHEW HEAVY holiday really, and all the better for it!

When not engaged with nephews we managed to do a couple of things we'd never done before in Scotland's capital i.e. take the Open Top Bus Tour (HIGHLY recommended) and visit The National Museum Of Scotland, wherein The Exhibits In My Show went on a big explore of the galleries, and I went to look at Rip It Up: The Story Of Scottish Pop. This was Quite Weird, as there were loads of bands I LIKE and have seen, and think of as Modern And Groovy, but in a MUSEUM. There were also a LOT of Bass Guitars on display, almost as if the person most likely to have kept anything in a band is the bass player. Surely that can't be right, can it?

All in all it was a MEGA-BRILLO idea to go to Edinburgh during Not The Fringe, especially when the weather was so GLORIOUS. I would recommend it HIGHLY, as I would the NEXT bit of our holiday, which would take us to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and LINDISFARNE!

posted 1/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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