A.J. Walker

writerer

August 2021

Close: But Not Quite A Cigar

Not done as well with my walking over the last two weeks. My aim for 8k/day (56k/week) has not been achieved over this fortnight.

Last week (ending 22/8) I hit c.53k steps.

Week’s details:
Distance: 24.7 miles
Steps 52.9k
Average Daily Distance: 3.5 miles
Average Steps: 7.5k


This week has been quite similar. That’s partly been due to some constraints from dealing with personal things like the sale of our parent’s house and whatnot that have stopped some of the walking.


This week’s details (w/e 29/8):
Distance: 25.6 miles
Steps 54.9k
Average Daily Distance: 3.6 miles
Average Steps: 7.8k

Okay, the last two weeks have not quite been up to the average I have wanted but then again it is all a question of perspective. If I step back and look at the entire month of August then I hit a quarter of a million steps for the month (117 miles). That sounds quite good all things considered. It also equates to 8.4k steps per day which is above what I aimed for: and is more than I achieved in May, June or July.

So you know it still is: Onwards and Upwards (and Alongwards).
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Sanctuary - The Return of the Open Mic

Out of nowhere - with just one day's notice - the Sanctuary announced they were having an Open Mic the following day. The event was to be hosted by Barry Sutton - one of many former Las. He is a brilliant guitarist.

So I went along a bit (read:
very) nervous about playing with a different group of people. The usual crew were absent of course as were the people who usually turned up to play there: the ones I was comfortable playing in front of because they knew me and my limitations. Playing in front of really good musicians who I didn’t know at all had my hands really shaking. I played and sang okay though but my nervous shaking was obvious.

Barry said if'd been shite he’d let me do one song then pull me off (as it were) but in the end I did four songs. So it couldn’t have been as bad as I feared it was. At the end several people shook my hand and said they enjoyed it. I’ll take that. And next time - if there is a next time - I will be a lot more relaxed appearing in front of a new audience.

OM1-22
One of the excellent young guitarists who I warmed up for.

I didn’t catch the names of the people who played other than Barry. It’s not like I’m writing a review. But bloody hell there were some fabulous (young) performers. It was a really good night. I had to leave early (if 11:30pm is counted as early) so missed Matt Holland Author Dot Com - the one other representative of the former Open Mic crew - read his stories out. Next time; if there is etc etc.

It did feel strange playing there with a different organiser than the previous Open Mic events. I’m hoping to get along to the OM from
Bobo & John once they are up and running (I expect in the Outpost, a little further down the road). I could end up playing more often, learning more stuff, and getting more confident. Well it could happen…

____________

Incidentally my four songs on the return were:

'
Sweet Carolina' - Ryan Adams
'Couldn’t Get Arrested' - Green on Red
'Whiskey in my Whiskey' - Felice Brothers (accompanied by a Highland Park 12YO: thanks, Josh)
'
One I Love' - REM

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Football and Bloody Technology

Forget VAR as the bane of a football supporter's life, sometimes it's something all together everyday and more personal. And this week it's bloody mobile phones. I was offered a ticket for the Liverpool v Chelski game at the weekend. A great game to go to. I used to go to all the home games but haven't been for a few years now, so the offer was gratefully received. But my oh my, what a waste of my time it has proven to be.

Tickets are no longer issued, nor
LFC fancards etc. Nope, you need to scan in with your mobile phone with the ticket in your Google Pay or Apple Wallet. And that means your phone needs to have NFC capabilities. I didn't even know what NFC stood for: it's Near Field Communication, which is for transferring information to nearby phones or affiliated devices - which includes using your phone for payments and/or holding tickets on. Inevitably my phone doesn't have NFC; despite the technology being out for years before my phone was made (I've got a Motorola G8 Power Lite). I was really keen on going to the game and have tried multiple attempts to get other older phones working, one of which was a Blackview 5500. It had NFC on it but the phone wasn't very well. The battery was virtually dead and the programs on the phone were no were near as rich and encompassing as the ones on my current phone. I'd have had to have days struggling with it and at least half expecting it not to work properly; not ideal when I am trying to sort stuff out.

I even considered buying a new phone with the NFC on. However I've also broken the screen on my iPad which will require changing at some point: there goes the mobile phone then. All in all I must have spent three or four hours messing about with things and have basically achieved nothing and still won't be going to the game.

It's the third time that me and Liverpool FC have struggled due to technology and/or ticketing changes. The first two were worse in the long term - rather than costing me the chance to go to just one game. One was removing my name from the waiting list for a
Season Ticket: I was overseas when the wrote to me (why the hell not email?!) and only gave a short time when you needed to reply to the letter and pay a nominal fee (as I remember it) to remain on the list. I think I had been on the waiting list for about 8 or 9 years at the time. Taking me off the list when I was overseas for a month or two and couldn't react to a letter was very poor; and since then people I know who were on the list after me have now got season tickets - so I'd be going to every game right now if it wasn't for that. * Deep breath… relax *

The other time was when they stopped the
Priority Ticket Scheme. My friend and I got to nearly every game (league and cup) when that was operating. Once they stopped the scheme the opportunity to get tickets was reduced to minuscule chances. Argh.

If only you could just have a season ticket like in the old days. Until this week I didn't even know what NFC was, so if nothing else I've learnt something.
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Watching The Watch

Earlier on in the year I saw that the BBC/BBC America were producing a show called ‘The Watch’ based loosely on the characters in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I can’t say I was that excited by the idea. It would be substantially easier to mess it up than hit a bullseye.

It was only at the weekend that I noticed it was already available on
iPlayer and that you could watch the entire series of eight episodes. I downloaded the first one but took a while to get around to pressing Play. I mean it could make me angry - or at least a little annoyed.

TheWatch
The Watch (BBC America)

On IMDB the average rating is a not very impressive 5.3 at the moment (out of 10 if you don’t know IMDB). However such ratings can be misleading. And in this instance I would expect it to be very much down to proper personal preferences and pre-exisiting views. I mean it’s Discworld and it is not easy to make in the way Terry has told it to the millions of us fans.

I am a big fan of Discworld. And The Watch (the wacky police force in Ankh Morpork) include some of the best characters across the entire series: especially
Samuel Vimes. It would be easy to mess up bigly - many people think they have from what I’ve seen on Social Media and the IMDB rating. But the rating will also be pulled down by people who just don’t get Terry’s ideas and the world.

Personally I’ve somehow ended up being in the minority who enjoyed the thing. So much so that I binge watched the series over two days. At the end of the day it is not Ankh Morpork as in Terry’s books. It is a different - parallel universe - place. Vimes is nothing like I pictured him reading the books and the other characters are somewhat skew-whiff, but they are still as mad and diverse as in the books. It’s not overbearing how their histories or nature are described and maybe some people watching it who have never read the books would wonder what the fuck is going on with the werewolf, goblins, dwarves and an orangutan (and the Guilds) but hell they can’t be expected to explain and set the scene for everything. They don’t even go into the whole Discworld on the back of elephants and a gigantic turtle thing.

Discworld-TheWatch
The Watch (from Discworld Emporium)

At the end of the day it isn’t Discworld per se and it isn’t supposed to be. But the characters themselves are great and the story is good. If you haven't been able to bring yourself to watch it yet I can understand some reticence but i'd recommend you give it a go. Just enjoy it for what the story and characters are and don’t worry that it is not Ankh Morpork (or Discworld) as you envisaged when you read the books. If you haven’t read the books then sort yourself out - you need to read a few forthwith.
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Time and Times

Time and Times: A Farewell

Strange week. My sister and I have put my parent’s house up for sale. It’s been put off for a long time; mainly by the whole pandemic thing mashing our collective heads. It went on sale on Monday and there were viewings today and more programmed for the weekend. We have kind of half cleared the house but still need to get rid of some of the big furniture including the beds et al and all the silly stuff like cutlery and pots & pans (and whatever is in the shed). Will get a clearance company in to do that. Probably get a quote next week after this week of viewings come to an end.

It’s odd to think that today multiple strangers have been walking through
our old front door, through the living room and kitchen, our bedrooms and our garden (let’s not say anything about the bathroom) with a view to taking it on for their own family. It is a great house. A fabulous location. Made for a family. Neither of us could justify taking it on really. It needs a family there. It needs to become a home I guess. We may have grown up there (both of us went through our secondary school years - at least) there). Technically it may be our house, but I suppose it’s no longer our home; however difficult it is. And it is.

In the meantime lots of books & CDs and whatnot have been taken to charity shops. Furniture, ceramics, and pictures have been sold, or given away, whilst Bits & Bobs are retained by the family; largely photos and all sorts of written bits have been put in boxes. I know I’ve taken too many of the books myself, including those I had as a kid (and two bookcases). The books that were mine when I was growing up in particular were very much of their time and I loved them, but many are dated and not really worth putting in a shop - or even me rereading. It’s really hard throwing away things (and I’ve always struggled with discarding - or selling - books). Outside of the books thing it is strange what gets left behind us and what means something/what doesn’t - and worse: what has been forgotten - who is that in these photographs? Are they friends or relatives of my parents or our grandparents? Should we know, or can we find out, and does it not matter? God, it is a strain.

Anyway we are getting there. At some point in the coming weeks I guess we’ll get an offer and we’ll say 'yes' perhaps and we’ll have to get a clearance guy in to sort out the detritus. Jeez. Deep breath. Relax.
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More Alongwards

Continuing with my goal of 56k steps per week and actually hit the other arbitrary 10k steps per day. Well done me. This was largely through walking into town on four days of the week. Won't be hitting any kind of target like that this week I am sure.

Week’s details:
Distance:
32 miles
Steps
70.6k
Average Distance:
4.7 miles
Average Steps:
10,095

Onwards and Alongwards.
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The Tooleys and the Local Historians

The Tooleys and the Local Historians (and Pringles)

Met some lovely people the other day in the Lion Tavern including a couple of old regulars and we talked about so many topics. Three others followed who sat next to me. One of the guys asked if it was okay to earwig as he was enjoying our conversation. Of course. Pubs are social places where interactions of all sorts occur both with strangers, acquaintances and mates. It turned out the three of them were on a wee pub crawl, though not a beer one (well not in the sense of ale anyway). They’d used a book to outline a walk around some historic pubs. They’d already been in the Poste House, walked to Ye Hole in Ye Wall (which was closed) and found themselves in the Lion. I was to leave them to walk down to the Pig & Whistle next.

Everyone was really laid back and enjoying a couple of hours (even with their chosen glasses of lager and wine in the case of the historians). They were all relatively local; coming from areas between Crosby and the Wirral. It was nice to talk about local history and the lovely pubs and breweries in the area - and music too as one of the guys was a session bass player with some excellent acts. Cool conversations all round.

I went on to meet a couple of mates half a mile across Liverpool in the Bridewell. They’d chosen to sit inside and were in one of the cells. As well as my two mates on the table at the back of the cell there were three others on the second table. We didn’t know them but chatted to them a little as it was impossible to get in and out of the cell without dislodging at least one of them so conversation always has to break out a little other than pleasantries. Then the power went out for a couple of minutes (I know not why - maybe there was a jail breakout) and we got talking a little more as you usually would. Lots of toilet humour in case the lights were down for too long. We wondered if there was bucket in the cell and I pointed out that a packet of Pringles would do the job too. They were nice people - and I’m sure they’ll always carry an empty packet of Pringles with them in future just in case. It was just the usual chit chat and banter we’d get involved in (or I would at any rate). They left not too much longer after that (probably to get to the Tescos before it shut for a certain cylinder).

Wouldn’t normally mention such chit chat but what came next was a bit of surprise to all three of us: the barman came around with a tray of drinks for us. ‘It’s from the Tooley’s.’ ‘ Who?’ ‘The people who were in here before wanted to buy you a drink.’ Well blow me down. It was the Pringles that did it I am sure.

So thank you, The Tooley’s. We raised a glass to you.

Anyway, pubs are social places. Treat them as such. They are not places to just drink and get drunk. Get involved if you are in the mood to. Put a song on the jukebox, chat to the barman, chat to the people on your table - or sharing your cell. And just enjoy it. Cheers!

——-

PS if you are camping and using the Pringles packet to avoid heavy rain and mud during the night don’t do the trick my mate did the following morning and knock it over in the foyer of your tent (or worse inside!). It was he who told me about the handy trick and then showed my the hazard too. Such a teacher! (The lad will remain nameless)
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A Liverpool Brewery Stroll

A Liverpool Brewery Stroll

Was very lucky on Saturday that after the wettest morning I can remember in a long time somebody suddenly turned off the tap. And it coincided with a day that Liverpool Brewery were having one of their open days with beer and BBQ. So I decided to risk a walk to Bootle.

It was about 3.5 miles and a bit of a risk in terms of fluid in the clouds if not the glass. I put it on Google Maps and set off. I was soon provided with an issue as a mile and half from my house it took me to a path at the edge of a housing estate which was no longer a path and fenced off. Argh! So had to have a bit a detour to find another access point to the path into Walton Hall Park. Oh well, more steps was positive; even if I was worried about the additional time giving rain more of a chance to catch up with me.

It was an interesting walk going along roads I’ve never walked along. A mix of semi-detached and terraces, but largely the latter. Bit rough in some places with lots of waste spilled along the street and others spick & span. Ended up in the industrial estate where the brewery was located and got there without a drop of rain falling on me. Result.

As I got to the brewery I bumped into Neil, a fellow ale fan (it is a brewery after all) and we spent a pleasant couple of hours together with three casks from
Liverpool Brewery (Big Juicy, Tropical Pale, and Modern Bitter) and even one keg (Armstrong Avenue) from Team Toxic. Even managed to sit outside for three of those before the rain returned.

They had a BBQ on whilst there, which smelled good - though I didn’t partake. There had been music planned but the awful weather which hit the most of the day put paid to that. Next time!

Recommended to pop down there when you can: and maybe mix it with a couple down at the
Top Rope Brewery if they are open at the same time. Then again it’s next to Bank Hall so a visit to nearby Waterloo or town could easily follow too.
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Walking: Keeping It Up

Walking: Keeping It Up and 80,000 Bodies

Did alright with my steps last week after a very short Monday. My quest for an average of 8k steps per day (56k a week) was hit with four days above 8 and 3 below. The week hit a little over 60k despite a few off-puttingly wet days at the back end of the week.

The luckiest days was Saturday when the deluge seemed to be constant for hours and set in. Suddenly stopped and I got a 3.5 mile walk in: to a brewery. Win-win. Second only to the ale was staying dry for the entire walk. Oh and bumping into some friends. Win-win-win.

WildFlowers
Wild Flowers at Walton Hall Park

CootAndAlgae
Green Algae and a Coot

BankHall1
Bank Hall Station

One of the things about making sure I get the distance in is that I am walking down roads or in areas I wouldn’t normally go. Once this week I got off the bus five stops early as I could see the rain and stopped and it looked like it would stay dry for a bit. I took the opportunity to walk onto Grant Gardens for the first time. I only discovered relatively recently that the small grassed park was actually formerly a massive cemetery called Liverpool Necropolis and that within it’s relatively small confines 80,000 people are thought to have been buried. There is little evidence of its history there now. There is one small monument which states “In Memory of James and Mary Johnson’ but doesn’t have dates on it or any information in relation to the ‘Gardens’. As a flat grassed area with a road through the middle of it ‘Gardens’ harks back to a past when it really was. If I wasn’t trying to walk more then I wouldn’t have got off the bus at the point and wouldn’t have walked onto the park. Does make you think about what we don’t know about the areas we drive or walk past every day.

From what I’ve seen on Wikipedia and a couple of other sites Liverpool Necropolis occupied about 5 acres and operated between 1825 and 1898. It was reopened 16 years later (1914) as a park: ‘Grant Gardens.’ It was closed in 1898 as it had reached capacity (80,000 bodies) and was creating ‘unsanitary conditions’ to the surrounding area: Victorian terraces backed straight up against it. It was named Grant Gardens after the Alderman for Parks and Gardens Committee at the time of its creation. A bit egotistical if you ask me.

GrantMemorial
Memorial at Grant Gardens

GrantGardens2
Grant Gardens

Anyway, where ever I am walking it does give me the opportunity to take some photos - always a bonus. And maybe learn more about the places I walk through.


Week’s details:
Distance:
28 miles
Steps
60.3k
Average Distance:
4 miles
Average Steps:
8,600

Onwards and Alongwards.
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A Surprisingly Enjoyable Olympics

Really quite enjoyed the Olympics with regard to some of the competition. As ever the cycling was particularly good from the UK (sorry, Great Britain & Northern Ireland) perspective. Not so great from the track & field side, but even there some success did come our way quite surprisingly (to me anyway).

Thought the GB did really well with their medal haul considering. And some of the reporting about it being lower than the previous two Olympics (at least in terms of Golds) were a bit too negative. The 2012 was a home one where all the stops were pulled out to win and the subsequent one in Rio obviously had the residual effect from the London one. But being fully nine years later the London Effect can no longer be expected to be quite as relevant.

I’m not a fan of the Lottery per se. I mean it seems to largely take the responsibility of funding from the government and put it in the hand of a company making money by encouraging gambling. It is morally dubious at best. But all that said the lottery funding of sports people and organisations has certainly provided a good lift to sports that otherwise would struggle to get funding.

The biggest difficulty with any Olympics is the time zones that impact on when events occur. But there’s not much that can be done about that (unless you are American and the big corps can encourage times that suit their advertisers). Sport is all about that moment. You want to watch it as it happens. I love watching a live footy match at a weekend (and the Premier League starts this weekend: Yippee!) but I wouldn’t sit through ninety minutes of a game that had finished earlier in the day; apart from re-runs of Istanbul 2005 or Barcelona, ‘Corner taken quickly, Origi!’

I managed to see some of the Olympics stuff live. But over half the stuff I watched wasn’t love. To be fair the BBC did a cracking job with their coverage IMHO. Apart from the cycling there was great stuff from the triathlon, boxing and swimming pool. Some of the middle distance male and female runners did a cracking job too.

Really hope the athletics can improve for the next Olympics as I grew up enjoying watching that with my parents. Dad was an enthusiastic middle distance runner in his youth and always loved watching the greats in the past - not just the British ones either. There’s something about the mile (or 1500 meters) and 800m, and the years of Coe, Ovett and Cram would be wonderful to repeat. Maybe one day.

Perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket to support(ish) a future middle distance great.

At least the next one is in Paris so time zones are not going to be an issue for this one. I can watch it all live (bar the sports that inevitably clash of course). Roll on, 2024.
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Not Enough Words

So far this year there have not been enough words in my life in terms of reading or writing. I am aiming - and hoping - to improve on both counts in the second half of the year (yes, I know we are already over a month into the second half).

In terms of writing I REALLY WILL finish
The Wobbly Odyssey soon; hopefully within August. I WILL! I’ve got about 18k words to finish it in my estimation so surely I can find 18 days out of the next 28 days to write 1000 words. Surely.

I know. Not surely. But like aiming to do 8k steps a day, 1k words a day is not undoable if I put my mind to it. The only writing I’ve been doing regularly really is the weekly challenge called #MidWeekFlash that Miranda puts up on her website
‘Finding Clarity.’ Each of the last two weeks I’ve written them in one sitting and both ended up being over 1000 words then needed to be edited down. So a thousand words a day is well within my compass: let’s see.

The other side of this ‘
Not Enough Words’ equation is my reading. I set myself my usual target of around 40 books this year (42) and so far I’ve only read 18. This means I’ve got to read just over a book a week to achieve my goal. It’s not exactly a stretch goal but - like the steps - playing catch up has made it more difficult.

Books_4
Four nice books picked up in a second hand shop

I know. It’s not exactly like an Olympian trying to get a medal, but I they are goals I should go for. My current read after finishing Gareth Powell’s ‘
The Recollection’ is one of the few Terry Pratchett’s I haven’t read: ‘The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents’ which I bought on Saturday during my first visit to a second hand bookshop since all the lockdowns began. Went in needing no books and came out with four: so far, so predictable. Made up also to find a copy of an Unseen University edition of 'Reaper Man’. Will have to find a nice home for my old paperback copy now I’ve go my hands on that. Not sure how many books were printed in these UU editions but I’ve now got four anyway.

RM_map
Map of Discworld in the Unseen University 'Reaper Man'

Getting back into a second hand bookshop was excellent. Finding myself new (and old) Pratchett’s even better. Now I need to get me reading and writing going. I can do it.

Yeah, but will I?
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Steps

After my blog last week saying that I intended to return to doing at least 8k steps per day average in a week (i.e. 56k) I smashed it last week. Every day was above 8k which makes it easy to keep on top of. In actual fact last week my figures were:

Distance:
43.77 miles
Steps:
93,923
Average Distance:
6.25 miles
Average Steps:
13,417

Smashed it. Easy hey?

Route2Liverpool
Recording the walk into the city

Liverpool_Vista1
Cloud and sunshine above Liverpool

LoopLine_1
A quiet Loop Line on my Sunday walk


Well, on Monday this new week didn’t start quite as well (by a long chalk) with a paltry
1.3k steps. I’d said I’d walk a mile and half to a bus stop but I ended up with a lift home instead: while it was good in terms of getting home quickly it ballsed my walking up a bit. But on Tuesday things have improved. It was over 15k steps, which has got my average back up at the 8k over the two days. But it goes to show if you miss it with one nothingy day then you will be requiring some decent catch up on subsequent days - and if you had two quiet days (or, god forbid, more six day isolation requirements) then it’d be easy to really struggle to achieve the goal - unless you really forced yourself. It’s easier not to do than do, but really it’s not that difficult to do either if you really want to.

Onwards and Upwards… or at least Onwards and Alongwards.
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