A.J. Walker

writerer

February 2020

Not Exactly Prepping

I regularly buy what I am going to eat on the day. Only cooking what I’ve got in the cupboard as and when. I don’t have a freezer, just a small fridge. So if I do cook a meal with more than one portions I either eat it over two days - or worse over one extended night. Bad Boy! Cooking for one can be a pain; particularly if you don’t have a freezer.

The other day I noticed the only food I had in the house was a tin of peaches and some crackers (but no cheese!). A bit bad. But usually not an issue. At least I still had some coffee (but only enough milk for one coffee). I am out and about every day and often just get myself whatever is in the mythical section of the fridge of the Co-op or Asda: the Yellow Sticker bit. Usually I end up eating very well for not much money.

I am aware though that my eating has gone a bit haywire. Particularly since my dad passed away and I’ve had far too many take outs, which I didn’t use to do all that often. Clearly with an empty cupboard it is all to easy to justify getting a takeout on the way home. 

With the Coronavirus coinciding with my particularly empty (don’t think it has ever been that low) cupboards I decided I needed to get some food in. Stuff that will last weeks or months, just in case the shops do get empty for a day or two - or close. Of course, I’ve kept this quiet as I don’t want to be seen to be part of the problem by panic buying a load of shit. 

So today I went to a couple of shops and have got 80% of my planned stuff together now. Including pasta, rice, potatoes, tinned veg, tinned tuna, cheese, spices, cordial, cheese (for the oatcakes and everything else). And some Ibuprofen - always handy. And, accidentally, far too many sausages: I will be eating sausages for every meal this coming week. 

Of course the purpose of having this is partly not to have to rely on Yellow Sticker shopping, and cut back on take outs, whilst also leaving me not to worry about going hungry for a day. So I need not eat much of it, or if I do I need to backfill with the same. 

It sounds like I’ve gone mad, but I haven’t. I really did have empty cupboards. At the end of the day it was only two and half bags of shopping. Some people get that every week anyway. I’m not exactly digging a bunker yet. But I know I can have a decent pasta meal or a corned-beef hash - and I have some painkillers to boot, if required. I’ve got loads of reading to do and writing projects too. Bring on the end of the world (for a couple of days anyway).
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Have tech, will travel: and write

For ten years I’ve had a MacBook Pro and it’s a lovely bit of kit (I’m still using it ten years later and use it for my website and writing). But let’s face it at 5.5 kilos it’s not designed for walking around on the off chance you may want to pop a few words down. For that you need a notebook and a pen. Yeah, but then you need to type it up when you get home. That’s some double handling you can do without, surely. As well as being large and heavy a proper laptop like that is very attractive to thieves. It’s not like you can have a coffee or beer and walk away and leave it without worrying about it not being there when you safely got back with a lighter bladder. No: not conducive to carrying, opening, running software, writing and saving, closing, packing away, bringing back and repeat.. etc. For the sake of the odd hundred words or so you just don’t take it out in the end.

iPad2

I’ve finally bit the bullet and gone for the cheapest of the standard iPads and got an integral case with keyboard. It is brilliant for me. A friend offered me a none Apple tablet (which he didn’t want , nor could think of anyone else that might either) but as I mainly wanted it for writing it had to Apple so that I could link it with Scrivener on my Pro. Not knowing anyone with the same set up it was a little bit risky in case it didn’t work. But I did plenty of online research. Now I have it... what was I worried about? It is perfect.

If you’ve got a Dropbox account, it’s flawless. If you haven’t, just set one up. It doesn’t take long. Then save your Scrivener projects into Dropbox and you’re away. An iPad is 5 kilos less than your laptop; it’s like carrying a small book.

iPad1

Smaller and lighter and less obvious than a laptop. Easier to open, close, save etc. Less of a risk and at the same time more likely to be used for your writing whilst you’re out.

I’m sure it would be great without Scrivener and Dropbox, but it’s just so seamless the way these two bits of software work if you already do.

iPad3

One of the first things I did, which I hadn’t planned to do , was create a diary using Scrivener, knowing I’d pick up the iPad once every day or two. It’s so much easier than guaranteeing doing that with a paper copy book. I simply created twelve folders for the months then the requisite number of pages for the days of the week. Then saved that as a Template I can use for later years. Now I find me typing out a simple diary each day - it’s been a few years, but I used to keep a regular diary and loved it. It’s nice to get back to it. So far I haven’t thought about adding anything other than words to it - but if I wanted I could add photos, links, anything to the diary. We’ll see how it evolves,

Anyway, in short, if you are away from home, your PC and (hardback) notebooks regularly then having the option of a tablet to put your notes or stories into can be a massive plus in multiple ways. I’ve only had mine for a week or so and reckon I’ve written at least 4k additional words than I would have without one. Even this blog post has been written in one sitting at a pub, with a single pint (of Oakham ‘Citra’, in the Dispensary). It certainly increases productivity and options - and I reckon writing habits.

iPad4
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Returning to Zevonia

It's getting close to holiday time. Yep, in a couple of months I'm returning to Zevonia and Zevonistan and I'll be taking a lot of you with me. I introduced the little known countries when I last held the VSS365 baton - and I'm getting passed it again shortly. Last time my prompts were all words associated with beer (hop varieties) and Liverpool pub names. This time…? Well, we'll see.

Obviously as the VSS365 train has been rolling for some time now there have been lots of words used. But there are plenty left out there running wild in the environment. So I have started choosing my words (have got my first twenty) and have checked that they have not been used in this challenge before. There's nothing wrong with reusing prompt words, but I really don't want Sal to recycle her old VSSs. For anyone prompting in the future it's easy to check whether your chosen words have been used before, just search in Twitter for: #VSS365 and #proposedprompt (where 'proposed prompt' is the word you are considering using).

Little clue on my prompts: I will not be using Liverpool pubs or hop varieties this time. That's all I'll say.
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Bloody Phones

Been a mixed week on the IT side for me. Whilst I am doing a delivery job the mobile phone is second only to the vehicle (or third if insanity is counted) as a requirement to undertake the job. Amazon stopped providing equipment years ago so drivers have to get their own phone that will run the delivery application. This saves Amazon money and time in caring and charging for equipment but means the drivers have to have a decent phone - but not too decent. Taking it out for deliveries all day, whilst carrying parcels and asking people to sign on it - in all weathers - there is a great risk of dropping the damn thing. Once there's even a tiny crack on it the phone becomes useless once it starts to rain.

Battery life is also important. My rule of thumb is that the app makes the phone use about 1% battery per delivery. This means if you've more than 100 deliveries (or start with less than 100% battery) you need to leave it connect to a power source as you go for a great deal of the day.

After dropping my previous phone several times (a Redmi one) the crazed screen meant it only really worked on dry days. After that the route was all in the lap of the gods. In addition to that one more little drop and it would no doubt be useless. So I had to bite the bullet and buy another phone. After a bit of research I went for the Blackview 5500. A reasonable price and very rugged. It worked well and survived several drops completely unscathed, with its inbuilt rugged cover and toughened glass. And the battery life was fine. It was ideal for the job.

Until Tuesday. Suddenly it went wrong. The battery didn't charge up fully overnight and then it was using the battery up rapidly through the day. Changed cables over the next four days and could get it to 100% charge, but the battery was dropping faster than West Ham in the league. Hadn't put on any new apps. Went through and deleted some - just in case - and made sure all the notifications and locations were turned off for everything but the work App. But to no avail.

Couldn't find any information online about current issue and in the meantime I could barely finish a day at work when I only had 63 drops - let alone a day when I would get over 100. I needed to sort it. Only advice I could see was trying a factory reset. This would be painful: having to reload all the apps (and fail to remember all those usernames and passwords). In the end this was not a problem I had to deal with… as when I attempted the reset it failed and the phone will not even boot up. I think they call this a 'soft brick'. So basically I have no phone to do my work. Arghhh! I may be able to fix it but it may take some time - and still may fail. A lost day for not being able to work due to phone is the same as buying a new phone. So, I'll have to bite that bullet.

So I'm off to buy another one. And then yet again another bloody case. I'm not going for the Redmi again as it was too full of bloatware that couldn't be deleted, or the Blackview as now I don't trust the software/firmware. Think I'm going to go for the Motorola G7 Play: good deal at Argos at the mo. Will have to get a case online.

Anyway, thanks goes to Amazon for not providing equipment, and to gravity for causing screen breaks, the weather for causing difficulties in the rain, and software issues for affecting batteries: thanks to all.
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Reading the Numbers

I love listening to podcasts about books - especially the New York Times Book Review (every Friday) and the BBC Radio 4 ones from Alan and Mariella - but when they talk about all the books they are looking forward to in the coming months (or year) I feel a bit bemused. I don't know what's coming from many authors at all. I don't follow them like I do favourite bands waiting for their next album. Maybe I should. It made me think though about my reading and I thought I read mostly older books. In no small part due to my frequent appearances in any Oxfam or British Heart Foundation (or other) shop browsing for little prizes.

So I thought I'd look at my reading for the last couple of years to see how old the books were that I have been reading. And I was surprised to find the majority are actually only from the last five years or so. In my head I was sure I was reading a lot more from the 50s and 60s. Just goes to show how much I know about what I actually do myself - what chance has anyone else. And yes I have even graphed it - didn't take long, don't shout at me. I've only broken it down into decades at this point, but if I were to do it by year the greatest numbers would be for 2016-2019.


Book Reading

The numbers of more recent ones are skewed a little by reading the anthologies that I have been featured in but not that significantly. I guess I'm more modern than I thought. Basically I just read what I want, when I want. May have to show some of those missing decades some love though.
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