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Blog Archive: May 2013

Like A Braunstone Cowboy
As subscribers will already be aware, next month sees the 100th edition of our monthly newsletter, The Last Working Day Of The Month. To celebrate this momentous event we're going to be giving away a FREE ALBUM of cover versions to all subscribers, called "Like A Braunstone Cowboy". Here's the cover:



You can read the full tracklist over here, but the short story is that it features all the cover versions I've recorded (SANS VALIDATORS - that's a collection for another day!) over the last fifteen years for compilations, blogs, or because it seemed like a good idea at the time. There's songs by Bon Jovi, George Formby, Eminem, Dolly Parton, and much MUCH more!

As I say, it'll JUST be available to people subscribed to the email newsletter as a download from a SECRET PLACE - it WON'T be listed in the archives, so if you'd like to get a copy you need to sign up.

Since mentioning this last month I have had a grand total of ONE new subscriber... and four people unsubscribing!


posted 31/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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10 Years - Top Of The Pops
I was hoping to be able to BUNK OFF EARLY from school last night so I could go and see Keith Top Of The Pops and co at The Scala. However, we ended up having an IN DEPTH discussion about 90's New Zealand soap "Shortland Street". It's not quite what I was expecting from my Postgraduate Education, but it was JOLLY interesting.

I dashed out and LEAPT into a taxi as soon as we'd finished but arrived at The Scala just in time to see people LEAVING the main gig room, just as Keith had finished. It's SUCH a long time since I've managed to see him and his Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band that they've got a whole new (GRATE) album out of songs I've never heard live!

Disappointed I wandered the many areas of The Scala, getting slightly lost as usual, also AGHAST when I bought a can of Red Stripe and got TEN PENCE back in change. Ah! Big venues! I bumped into Mr S Macallister on one side of the room, then spotted Mr S Hewitt on the other. I sent him a text saying "I am on the other side of the room, waving" and WAVED, at the same time as someone to my left did EXACTLY the same thing. Combining one of the oldest and one of the newest forms of communication, all to say "HOLA!"

I hardly ever go to Big Venue Gigs anymore, and was ALARMED by how RAMMED the room was - SOLD OUT, in fact - but CRIKEY if you're going to go to a Big Venue Gig then you might as well see one of The Best Live Acts In The World while you're at it, for LO! that is entirely what the night's headline band ART BRUT totally ARE. Right from the very start of the show it was a BIG SHOW - not in a fake, trying to be clever BACK PROJECTION sort of way, but in an actual ROCK AND ROLL BIG SHOW way, with the whole room LEAPING ABOUT ECSTACIALLY to HUGE TUNES, also REMARKS. I don't think there's anyone else who manage combine being a FANTASTIC ROCK HUGE ROCK BAND who make you feel as if you're in a ginormous amphitheatre with a million other people, with on-stage chat that makes it feel like you're in a tiny club with the rest of the audience in single figures. Obviously people talk about how EXCELLENT Mr E Argos is at The Chat (and by heck there was a lot of it last night), but it's allied to a band of SHEER CLASS, who joyfully go along with everything he does with the audience, and then comes straight in and ROCKS OUT.

It really was very very very good indeed, and GRINS were plastered over the faces of everybody, ESPECIALLY the band themselves. I always think it's a sign of a GOOD BAND when you can see non-singing members mouthing the words, and with Art Brut last night it looked like EVERYONE was BELLOWING ALONG in every song. Other GOOD BITS were in evidence all over, though my favourite was the ENTIRE CROWD singing "10 years - Top Of The Pops" (they've just released a Best Of to celebrate a decade of ROCK) without prompting. ACE.

I think that, for the sake of the future of ROCK, all young bands should be obliged to attend at LEAST one Art Brut gig in order to realise that it is perfectly feasible to mount a perfect rock and roll extravaganza AND maintain a sense of humour which ADDs to the abounding joy. I liked it a lot!

Afterwards me and Steve joined with some of the aforesaid Minor UK Indie Celebrities and toddled down the road for the AFTERSHOW - or, as it is also known "a sneaky late drink". Once again, GLEE was very much in abundance, and it was especially nice to get to hug a couple of - STILL GRINNING - Art Bruts and tell them how AMAZING they had been, for LO! they totally HAD been!

posted 30/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Now We Are - Day Two
The second day of the Now We Are weekender in West Brom began at a leisurely pace, and it was just before NOON when I sloped out to meet The Hewitts. On the way to the lift I bumped into someone who asked about my G String (off my GUITAR you naughty person, I'd BROKE it the day before), then found Meg and Steve in the lift, and said hello to another PAL standing outside. It seems that The Premier Inn was the hotel of CHOICE for festival goers!

We went down the road to Weatherspoons for breakfast, which was... very much like you would expect a Weatherspoons to be at noon on a Sunday. We then strode up to the venue and took part in the QUIZ. This was an EXCELLENT quiz, run by Paul Guided Missile, which featured Incidental Music, Jokes, LIVE keyboard playing, Cunning Picture Rounds, and all round made me feel ever so slightly ashamed of the SLAP DASH effort we put in at Popfest - it was CLASSY!

I should also add that my appreciation was only increased when it turned out our team had TOTALLY WON! HA!

Duly invigorated by VICTORY Steve and I took to the stage, got everything prepped, and then... did a aoundcheck! We've never done Total Hero Team plugged in before, but we thought it BEST as we were playing in SUCH a GINORMOUS building with people coming and going hither and thither. That is PROBABLY DEFINITELY the reason why the start of the show was, to say the least, a bit shakey - that's the ONLY reason - but, as usual, after the first ten minutes or so we got into the swing. It didn't help that at the beginning I was getting CONFUSED about which VERSION we were doing - the CURRENT version, or the new, dialogue-reduced version that we start practicing soon!

Everyone seemed quite happy to accept our, let us say, ENTHUSIASTIC ATTEMPT to do it one way or the other, and as we POWERED UP during the second half it all seemed to work out pretty well. Astonishingly, agonisingly, however that was pretty much IT for me for the weekend - I had my train home BOOKED so once we'd packed up and I'd hugged my farewells I found myself trundling back down the road to the tram station to commence the journey home.

It had been a LOVELY weekend at a fantastically well RUN and excellently BOOKED festival - I do hope it happens again next year, it was GRATE!

posted 29/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Now We Are - Day One
I headed off to the West Midlands on Saturday for what would be - INCREDIBLY - the FIRST Validators' gig of 2013! What is that sound you hear? It is the GODS OF ROCK, WEEPING that such a thing should be allowed to happen!

(NB I mean they're crying because we HADN'T done any gigs this year yet, not because we were about to. That would be KRAZY)

I arrived at the new Birmingham New Street and got CONFUSED - the platforms are exactly the same (HORRENDOUS) but above they seem to have abandoned the old (HORRIBLE) concourse and are building a new (ALL RIGHT) one next to it. It's not exactly St Pancras or anything, but it IS at least a bit better than the old, WORST EVER, station. It was all, as I say, a bit confusing because I had to leave through the back. When I emerged I found all SORTS going on - there was a table of Muslims with a stall saying "Islam isn't terrorism", some Hare Krishna having a good old sing song, loads of Crowd Barriers, and a few men wandering around in DRESSES. At this point my phone rang, telling me that Mr F A Machine had arrived too, so I went back to meet him. He told me that his train had been FABULOUS, full of people heading off to a Gay Pride march of some sort. He'd been sat next to some serious looking lesbians. "Were they sat to the left of you?" I asked. "No, to the right." Shame.

We got a tram and then strolled into West Brom, where Frankie popped to look at a shop and I checked into The Premier Inn, where I was staying for the night. It looked like it had been converted from an office block, as it was BIG and the rooms were ODDLY SHAPED, also MASSIVE. I re-arranged my STUFF and headed back out, reconvening with Frankie and heading to The Public, where things were NOT QUITE underway just yet for the Now We Are Weekender. We were due on FIRST - it's this new "Reverse Headlining" that seems to be ALL THE RAGE, especially with gigs we play - but the venue was open normally until 3pm, so we had to wait to soundcheck. The time was filled by greeting, VARIOUSLY, Emma The Organiser, Mr A Hale and August Actually, Mr & Mrs Hewitt, and THE VALIDATORS in full. What joy it was to be all together again after SO VERY LONG!

We soundchecked, ceremonially left the stage, then hopped back on again to do THIS:
  • The Gay Train
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • Leave My Brother Alone
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed

  • If you listened VERY CAREFULLY it's possible that you MIGHT have been able to detect the fact that we hadn't played together for six months, but apart from a few* (*a lot of) MINOR errors it all went rather well - there was a good, LOVELY, crowd who sang along throughout, quite a LOT of CHAT and LARFS, and even some SEXY KISSING between myself and a certain Bass Player when I mentioned the fact we'd passed through a Gay Pride march on the way. It was DELIGHTFUL (NB the gig, tho the kissing was dead HOT too, obv), and it was a happy band who afterwards compared ERRORS.

    We enjoyed some of our BEER RIDER and then also enjoyed August Actually, who were on fine form, before heading off EN MASSE for the traditional CURRY. There were ten of us all together STRIDING through West Brom, finding shop after shop CLOSED and, similarly, the TWO possibly curry houses that we'd identified earlier BOTH out of business. I nipped into the Premier Inn again to drop off my GEAR and emerged to find that Tim had asked a group of Sikh chaps if they could recommend anywhere. "The Sportsman", they said, and so off we set.

    When we arrived at The Sportsman we were surprised to find that it was a PUB, and a pretty SCARY looking pub too - one of those big HOUSE pubs, plain yellow without windows, and just a "The Sportsman" sign, a tattered England Flag, and a "Sky Sports" on the outside. It didn't look good, and when Tim put his head round the door he reported that it looked just like a pub inside too - big screen TV, pool table and all.

    CONFUSED we walked back in the direction we'd come, until, a few minutes later, Steve started reading out REVIEWS from his phone saying how GRATE The Sportsman was and how DELICIOUS were their curries. This was all VERY STRANGE, so we went back once more. When we got back I ventured deeper into the building and saw a big white board of MENU CHOICES. The back room was a CURRY CANTEEN!

    We got seated, ordered, and then sat NERVOUSLY as the BELL kept ringing to say SOMEBODY'S meal was ready. When ours arrived it was... FANTASTIC! The whole place was rather wonderful really - it was an ACTUAL INDIAN PUB - the majority of people in their were British Asian, with everyone else being a rough mix of other backgrounds, and it was DELIGHTFUL. Whenever I'm in that sort of environment it always reminds me of growing up, both in Peterborough and Leicester, and that COSY feeling was helped along no end by the West Brom accents all around us and also CURRY. ACE!

    As we left the group broke up - Validators mostly heading home and Meg going off to watch football, so much of the rest of the evening was me and Steve WANDERING AROUND talking to people back at The Public, enjoying the BEERZ, and watching some bands. We saw a very HAIRY, THIN, bunch doing a Proper Rock set, which was quite charming, but the BEST band was Allo Darlin' who were on nearly last. They were GRATE - I mean, they always are, obviously, but seeing them in a LARGE, but not OPPRESSIVE, crowd with excellent sound was wonderful, and the new songs are sounding BRILLIANT - I staggered home afterwards singing one particular new one, "History Lessons", all the way back.

    It was a lovely day, and there was more to come in Day Two!

    posted 28/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    LOL Writers Day
    On Saturday I headed into London's Fashionable Covent Garden area of London for the "Writing Comedy L.O.L. Lots of Laughs" Scriptwriters' Day. It was organised by one of our lecturers this term, Jim Hill, as part of his DAY JOB on the DMU Television scriptwriting MA. There were five of us from my course there for what turned out to be a GRATE day.

    I met one of my COLLEAGUES outside at 10am, thinking we'd be the first there, and so were surprised to find the theatre bit of The Actors Centre (where it was held) nearly FULL. The first session was run by Keith Lindsay, talking about the kind of characters needed for a successful sitcom - he did a DIAMOND diagram, which I found TERRIBLY exciting as my favourite lecture last term was by Laurie Hutzler who made some VERY INTERESTING POINTS with a diamond diagram, it was GRATE. This too was dead interesting, especially as he used about a MILLION examples of different sitcoms to make his points, ALL of which I knew. It's a times like that that I think "Yes, I think trying to write for TV would be a MUCH better idea than theatre, as I at least WATCH telly."

    Next we had a keynote from Laurence Marks, which was a) interesting b) FUNNY c) dead impressive, as he REELED off a list of HUGE shows he's written and also shared SMALL GOSSIP about some of the people in it. After lunch they did an interview with Jesse Armstrong, which was Quite Interesting and then they had a panel which featured Trix Worrell (who wrote DESMOND'S!!) and James Cary (who wrote Bluestone 42, which we LOVED in our house). It was all very exciting - here were ACTUAL TELLY PEOPLE who seemed Quite Normal and/or full of FACTS.

    Afterwards we had a bit of a LURK, but didn't have sufficient nerve to go and network properly, and then it was time for me to FLY HOME to do some serious TELLY HOMEWORK i.e. "Doctor Who". Here is my review of it: "COR! EH? WOW! ZANG!"

    Telly! It's BRILL!

    posted 22/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Cardiff
    Steve and I ROLLED into Cardiff last week to continue our pre-Edinburgh touring of Total Hero Team. Once we'd checked into Our Usual Suites at the Ibis we popped round the corner to the Trader's Tavern to meet Mr Chris Evans (not that one), famed proprietor of GoFasterStripe. We'd been trying to actual meet in person for AGES, so it was lovely to see him and also his KIDS - Steve and I went into FULL UNCLE MODE, as CARD GAMES were explained, heads were RUFFLED, and we marvelled at the ageless joy of Kids Running Round A Pub. The only thing we both forgot was to pick someone up and turn them upside down - NEXT TIME!

    We then popped over to Gwdihw to meet Mr J Morris, promoter for the evening, to reassure him we were in town, then went out for TEA. Unable to find a curry house we instead went to a Fairly Posh Italian Restaurant which, apparently, it THE FAVOURITE of The Stereophonics. GLAMOUR!

    That done it was back to the venue to see the first of the two supports for the evening, Francesca's Word Salad, who turned out (after much THINKING) to be a.k.a. Fran From The School. She was GRATE, and now sits at the top of my list of People Who I Want To Get For Totally Acoustic When I Start It Again. After her was Shiny Tiger, who I enjoyed also, but at a different angle - he was really serious about DOING his songs, had a lovely turn of phrase and very DISTINCT kind of song all his own, with traces of other people sometimes - it felt like he was STARTING to find HIS VOICE, and was determined to get there. I liked!

    And then it was time for me and Steve to hit the stage. In all honesty, it was Quite Hard Work - we weren't using microphones, and the room was steadily getting people coming in for the CLUB NIGHT later, so there was a bit of chatter and wandering around - this was of course FINE, as people had come for the later thing, but it didn't half make it difficult to maintain THE SHOW. The LULLS - which the live Dinosaur Planet experience suffered so much from - were back, and as we were doing it I kept thinking "There's SO MUCH we can cut!" To be fair to US, we DID carry on and enjoyed the songs especially, but this was the first Slightly Difficult gig we've done for this show. It's VERY GOOD INDEED to do one, as it serves to TIGHTEN UP, and I'll be doing some re-writes over the next couple of weeks!

    That done we RELAXED and had CHAT with some delightful people, also DRINK,including some dead good WHISKY from nearby Penderyn. It was NICE!

    Next morning we headed back to the station, passing the Motorpoint Arena where Eddie Izzard had played the night before. We were astonished to see he had THREE massive articulated LORRIES - why on earth does a solo stand-up need THREE massive articulated LORRIES for his tour? Steve suggested maybe he brings his own CHAIRS, I looked down at the Big Bag Of Props and was grateful that we don't need to - they'd never fit on the train!

    posted 21/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Death In Essex
    Myself and The Engine Of My Train headed off to distant (not that distant) ESSEX the other night. The evening started well with us managing to meet on the platform at Leytonstone, and continued in that vein when we got to Loughton and hopped straight into a TAXI. The gig was at The Gardener's Arms, which is HIGH UP on top of a great big HILL. I don't enjoy GRADIENTS at the best of times, let alone when it's tipping with RAIN.

    We arrived to find Mr Charlie Flowers and Mr George Death arriving simultaneously. George was booked to play at the Stand And Deliver acoustic night, and we all went in to find a large room ready to ROCK. Well, I say ready to rock - those of us who are VETERANS of running this sort of event DID spend some time saying "oh no, I wouldn't arrange the tables quite like THAT" but before we could get too far into PLANNING the host came over and said "anyone know how to work a PA?" We'd been in the building less than a MINUTE before Charlie was working the PA - a new record! I was surprised NOT to find myself immediately doing the DOOR!

    The evening was a good old do, very similar to ALL acoustical "singers night" gigs i.e. some people did their own material Quite Well, but it was those who did cover version in ANY format that did best. One chap did a couple of Simon & Garfunkel numbers, not particularly expertly, but it was ACE to have a bit of an old singalong. The only trouble was that I spent the whole evening REALLY NERVOUS - I've been to so many of these sort of things I'm always convinced that I'm going on next!

    The first half ended with The Act We Were There For, George Death himself, who we'd not seen in AGES. He was ACE - I've usually seen him play at MY nights, where the audience is a bit LEFTY, so seeing him in deepest ESSEX, where it's usually safe to assume people aren't QUITE as lefty, was interesting, hearing the jokes work in slightly different places. He went down GRATE though - I think some people down the front were A Bit Serious, but at our end of the room there were GUFFAWS aplenty, especially for "PC Girlfriend", which is GRATE.

    We retired to the BAR, where George ended up talking to someone who performed operatic versions of popular songs, changing the words to make them a) comedic b) about the political situation in Israel. I think that's the most NICHE act I've ever encountered! We also covered further DIVERSE SUBJECTS, not least ARTHRITIS as a) Charlie has it b) it looks like I might too. Our conversation was liberally interupted by going "EH? WHAT'S THAT DEAR?" and LEANING IN to hear properly. OLD AGE FUN!

    Charlie and George went back in for part two, but we decided we'd earnt enough ACOUSTIC CREDITS to be able to be excused, and set off home. I asked at the bar for a taxi number, but they just rang FOR me, so within minutes we were heading downhill again for the TOOB. It all felt faintly decadent, I must admit, but at MY AGE it's probably for the best!

    posted 20/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Dodgy Individual
    At the weekend The Hours In My Day Off did an online order, to be delivered to our house. This happens fairly often without INCIDENT - these particular orders of Nice Things are delivered by DPD, who have a very efficient system for re-arranging delivery dates AND tell you what time they're coming to within an hour. It's GOOD.

    However, for some reason (probably the REN Cosmetics [for it was they] ordering system) we noticed on the evening before delivery that it was being delivered NOT to our house but to my OLD OFFICE, where I worked until a couple of years ago. We've had stuff delivered there in the past, but goodness knows why it had suddenly reverted to THERE after all this time.

    The DPD system is good for rearranging times, but changing anything else relies on you GETTING a non-delivery card, which would be difficult if it was going somewhere we would never be. Emails were sent, but I sent off to work A Bit Worried.

    As luck would have it I happened to be passing the old office JUST at the start of the alloted delivery hour, so DEBATED whether or not to just POP IN. It's owned by an entirely different organisation, so has no connection to us, and I changed my mind MANY times as I wandered round Bedford Square before finding myself at a DOOR I had passed through a couple of THOUSAND times over the past decade. I rang the bell and GALLUMPHED in, where I tried to explain the situation to a very SURPRISED young man in main reception.

    "I used to work here", I said, "and there's a parcel coming for me. Have you had it yet? What would you do with it if it came?" I was conscious of how EXTREMELY DODGY it all sounded even as I said it - surely this was the start of a CRIMEWATCH reconstrucion about Identity Theft and INTERNATIONAL DIAMONDS/DRUGS SMUGGLING?

    After making us ALL feel A Bit Uncomfortable I thanked them for their time and headed for the door... just as the doorbell rang. It was the DPD Delivery Man. "Mark Hibbett?" he asked. "That's me!" I said, and signed for my packaged, thanked him, and closed the door. I went back into reception, waving the box. "Got it!" I said, and wandered out again.

    It was all a BIT WEIRD and so, when I got to the NEW office, I thought I ought to send an email from my Work Email Address just to show I WAS a Birkbeck employee, and to a) reassure them I WASN'T an evil crimelord using them as PATSY for an Evil Scheme and b) not get myself referred to THE COPS as a possible evil crimelord (see above).

    Thank goodness for DPD and their excellent adherence to the hour-long delivery window - without that the entire SCHEME would have failed!

    posted 17/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    Net Profit
    Sorry for the lack of UPDATES lately, I'm just coming to the end of a rather HECTIC chunk of Life Activity at the moment - it's all jolly good, but has left me a bit KNACKERED!

    One ASPECT of this was a course I went to on Monday, called Net Profit: Making Your Own Web Show. It caught my eye because I've been thinking for a while that it might be fun to have a go at actually FILMING something myself, though goodness knows what. It was a RIGHT fun day, full of interesting stuff and THORTS. The most interesting thing had nothing to do with the title - they advised that, when filming out and about, make sure to record a minute's "silence" in the location, to use as background noise for different takes - but the TIPS and HINTS were many.

    I hadn't realised that part of the day would be working on our own, existing, ideas for shows, so was taken by surprise when they went round the room getting everyone to PITCH their shows. Luckily I was LAST, so had a couple of minutes to come up with an idea for a 90 second puppet show about MONSTERS featuring a new song each episode, played on ukelele. When I explained it it actually sounded like a pretty good idea, and I've been MULLING OVER IT ever since!

    I also got to meet some very interesting people, not least Mr J Dredge whose podcast, "The John Dredge Nothing To Do With Anything Show" is a) available at Comedy Chords and b) GRATE! I have been listening to more episodes this morning, and LARFING!

    It was a REALLY interesting day, which I think they're going to be doing again. I would RECOMMEND, but if you do go try and think of a SHOW before you go, otherwise you might end up seriously considering ways to make SOCK MONSTERS!

    posted 15/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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    What A Week
    PHEW! You find me today Physically And Emotionally Exhausted after a week of STUFF. My super smashing brother (who I have previously asked people in general to leave along) and his family were over from AUSTRALIA, so we had numerous GOOD TIMES a) lolling around in my parents' back garden b) PADDLING c) going to the PUB and d) sitting around YAKKING with. It was all rather lovely, SO lovely in fact that when we said a merry cheerio on Monday evening it was only after shutting the front door that my INNER MIND went "You know you're probably not going to see them for AGES now, don't you?" and my HUMAN EGO went "WAAAAAH!" in response. It was WEIRD, like my FORE BRANE had been so busy having fun it had FORGOT, and my BACK BRANE had been lying in WAIT to UPSET it.

    And then yesterday i went to a FUNERAL, for my "Auntie" Olive, who'd been my Nan's best friend since SCHOOL. This was a funeral where people said "She lived a FULL LIFE" and MEANT IT - crikey! The vicar had to go through SEVERAL SHEETS OF A4 to list ALL the organisations she had set up/run/organised/sat on the BOARD of, and the church was RAMMED with people. My Dad did a Eulogy too, i BEAMED with pride!

    It's all be lovely but, as I say, a bit KNACKERING, so it's quite relaxing to get back to WORK today, both Actual Work and The Work Of ROCK. One item on today's agenda was to start the ball rolling thinking of a name for the COVERS COLLECTION I mentioned last time (UPDATE: after saying that ONLY people subscribed to the newsletter would be eligible to recieve it i got ONE more subscriber... and THREE requests to unsubscribe!). I asked The Vlads... and within minutes Mr F A Machine came up with a GENIUS suggestion. I think I'll try and wait until the next newsletter to REVEAL it, but I may not be able to contain myself, as it is SO GRATE!

    posted 8/5/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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