A.J. Walker

writerer

liverpool

Keystone Two Twenty Three

Yesterday I made a later call to go to the open mic at the Keystone. This is just the second one, run by John Witherspoon, and only one week after the previous open mic too. The Keystone has so many events on during the week that there needed to be some changes as there was a Cinema Club upstairs (showing the Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart/Kim Novak’s ‘Vertigo’ I think) so instead of the front room of the bar we were sent into the depths of Bar 23 to avoid noise cross over between the two events. The downstairs proved to be a great space for an intimate performance.

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This week there were possible a couple fewer people up for playing but not significantly (I think it was 8 or so after about 10 last week). Several of the guys (including me) were repeat offenders from last week but it was good to see a few new guys too (including a great guitarist who I’d previously seen at the last Head of Steam open mic). There was a great mix of folk, blues, jazz and pop (and all points in between) and plenty of humour too. Many of the performers were doing their own songs rather than covers and thus showed off their talents even more.

I stuck with tried and tested songs (though somehow I still managed to fook one up):

‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ - cos it always gets me going in the right mode/mood
‘Somewhere Down the Road’
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
‘Heart Breaks Like the Dawn’
and
‘Splendid Isolation’

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Out of all those songs the easiest - and the one I’ve probably played the most - is Warren Zevon’s ‘Splendid Isolation’ and yet somehow I got lost for words in it. Yet it has so few. I’m not entirely sure what happened to be honest. Anyway I did between 4.5 an 5 songs; which is more than I usually end up playing. Maybe I should stop at 4 in future though.

It was a really lovely night with great songs and camaraderie between everyone there and I’m glad I made the rush effort to get into town to show up again. Not sure whether I’ll make it next week but having made two appearances now at the Sanctuary, Head of Steam, Angus and now the Keystone then I’ve gone above and beyond anywhere I’d have thought I’d have made it to. I still have to thank the beer makes for the Dutch courage provided is a necessity: I always need to be on my second beverage beverage before getting up. The lovely cask on last night included ‘Taller Than A House’ Chapter Brewery, ‘Forecast (Bullion)’ Neptune Brewery, and ‘Kandata’ Chapter Brewery (which came on when Forecast was drunk dry). Nice beers all.

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So thanks again to the Keystone and John Witherspoon for a cracking night all round.

_____________

The next day we found out that whilst we were having such a good time on Hope Street a young life was ending when a 12 year old girl – Ava White – was being murdered by children barely older than her just 0.7 miles away from where we were. There really are no words.
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The Tour Continues...

The Tour Continues… The Keystone Leg

Yesterday the lovely
Keystone on Hope Street held it's first Open Mic event, hosted by John Witherspoon. It's always difficult to know how the first event will go and how people find out about it. Not everyone is on social media all the time (apparently – hard to believe I know). And even if you are it is easy to miss announcements. Pubs often rely on word of mouth and people learn about events through chat in one pub or another. This one wasn't saturating social media, but that means nothing. It's down to who knows and how many are motivated to leave the house (along with a guitar or a plectrum).

KeystoneOM-1

I've been to the Opening Open Mic now at the
Angus (fronted by Ali Horn), the Head of Steam (fronted by Jack Malone), and now the Keystone over the last two months or so (I also went to the first one of the reopened Sanctuary fronted by Barry Sutton). I am definitely getting to the point where I'll be getting a tour t-shirt before too long. This one at the Keystone was so well attended with musicians that John, the host, barely played himself because there were so many volunteers there was no time to fill in!

WalkerAndLee
Sam & I in the Keystone – cheers!

This time my drinking and music buddy, Sam, came along to play too – he hadn't played live in a pub for years. We spoke to John at the bar before it kicked off at 8pm and said we'd both play. John played two or three songs and then I went up (so I was the first one at the Opening Open Mic or should I say I opened for the opening open mic?). Anyway, it was definitely nice to play first after being last man standing last week at the Angus as I could then relax and watch everyone else. First up after me was Sam with three of his own songs. Damn cool. Maybe I need to pen and perform a few myself. It definitely did not appear like Sam hadn't done it in years. He was excellent – and I now he'll be back again soon. After that there was performer after performer after performer – who were all too bloody good. Wish I had everyone's names so could namecheck them. But kudos to everyone who played; and I wasn't even the only one in a red-checked shirt.

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I'm sure it was as big a success as it could have been. No more could have played really. Everyone was allowed no more than three songs and everyone kept to that. There wasn't even anyone bending that rule by playing American Pie, Telegraph Road and an extended version of Two Tribes. Not that I could do that if I wanted to. Though I've got a longer list of possible songs to do these days I went with three of my now standard standards: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' (Ryan Adams), 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' (Chuck Prophet), and 'You Couldn't Get Arrested' (Green on Red). This time I actually had a list of eight songs to pick from in case there was a shortage of performers. Such a list was definitely not required.

Anyway, congratulations to the Keystone and to John for an excellent night and roll on the next one(s).
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Second Angus Open Mic

Went to the second Angus Open Mic Night last week. That makes me an ever present. There were more performers this week. I got there after it had started and there was already a list of people to play and I added my name to the bottom. Every performer seemed to have bought their own guitar rather than use Ali's. Just me then that turned up with only a plectrum.

As I watched the performers play one by one I had a couple of Cross Bay '
Zenits.' I was hopeful that one or two would be poorer than they turned out so my playing wouldn't stand up next to them too badly. I was disappointed as each was bloody excellent and briefly considered going to cross my name off the list. In the end I did play and was the last one on (bar Ali).

Ended up playing three of the songs I did last week at
Head of Steam:

AngusTakeTwo

‘Somewhere Down the Road’ (Chuck Prophet)
‘Down By The Water’
(Decemberists)
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
(Felice Brothers)

It went pretty well really despite not being up to the standard of the other guys and gals. Roll on the next one.

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Cycling in the Dark

This cycling malarkey has continued. So far I've not yet had to go back to the cycle shop to get the gears readjusted (I was told they would need it a few weeks after getting them sorted). The cycling is a lot easier that it was on ZevonOne – not that much faster but easier and more comfortable at the moment. I dare say speed will improve with practice. I'm getting fitter in any case and have had to add another hole in to my belt. Not bad after about two months of cycling (especially as it's a by-product not an aim). A Brucey Bonus.

The other day I commuted in a van and it took over twenty minutes and cycling it is taking me as little as 32 minutes. So the time aspect is not really critical. The issues really are the impact of weather (a cold, wet, and windy day is a lot easier to face in the front of a van listening to your favourite music) and safety. Yesterday was my first time riding home all the way (i.e. not using the train to take any of the strain) and at this time of the year (especially after the clocks have changed) it means the later afternoon requires cycling in the pitch black. It was my first time so I thought I'd go with the same route I do in the morning – i.e. along the canal. Riding home in the pitch dark was exciting and it went fine – amazingly even in total darkness it only took me 3 minutes longer to get home than on the reverse of the trip in fine daylight. However in the long term I feel maybe that it is an accident waiting to happen: I was stopped the other day on a cycle path by a fallen tree for example. There are no lights at all along the canal path and whist my lamp on the bike is good it cannot replicate daylight. I'm thinking that I need to find a route on roads (or at least to make the trip a bit more on the road) as the roads are lit up and less susceptible to issues like holes in the ground, running dogs or swans, fallen branches and the severe wetness and deepness of a canal.

It seems a little counter intuitive to think going towards roads and drivers is safer but i think maybe the advantage of some lighting outweighs the fear of damn drivers…

I'll have to look at some maps and see what options reveal themselves.
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HoS Take Two

Last night I went to Jack's second Head of Steam Open Mic. It was a rush to get down there after a cycle ride home in the cold dark, but I made my way there; helped by the anticipation of a few pints of the Thornbridge/Neptune collaboration American Brown Ale ‘Beacon.’

Was a different crowd than the first one and probably a bit busier. The position of the musical gear was the other side of the room from last time. So I ended up, after moving from one table to another, sat in my usual corner of the pub to watch and listen to the music.

There was top music from multiple guitarists and singers. And then I was asked if I was going to play. I agreed that I would. It was after all my initial aim: even if everyone else was more accomplished than me. I’d said over the intervening month since the first Open Mic that I would play different songs than I did at the first one. Not sure it was an entirely good idea. After all it was an entirely new crowd from the first one so I could have played the same songs and (other than Jack (the host)) no-one would have been any the wiser.

Anyway – as promised – I ended up playing different songs than the previous Open Mic with:

‘Somewhere Down the Road’ (Chuck Prophet)
‘Down By The Water’
(Decemberists)
‘The One I Love’
(REM)
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
(Felice Brothers)

HoSTake2

It largely went okay with the exception of fooking up Down By The Water. Need to ensure I play and play these songs at home so that they become almost muscle memory. I ended up messing it up a little and instead of playing through the mistake I got a bit flustered. I could have tried again from the start but made the decision to move on to a definite muscle memory one (The Swan Song).

I considered playing another song but volunteered to leave after the fourth. There were better people to follow after all.

Later on two Americans told me as they leaving that they really enjoyed my set. It was nice to hear, even if it was just down to my Americana choices. I’ll take that.

Oh and the Beacon was lovely and flowed very easily.

Of course this morning I got up and played Down By the Water straight through a few times without even trying.
C'est la vie.
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Tour T-Shirt

Up until last week I had only ever done Open Mic in one venue – the Sanctuary – on Lime Street. As of this week I have now played in THREE venues. Amazing really. Last week it was the great Head of Steam on Hanover Street when Jake hosted had their first OM event and this week I strummed through the same mumbled songs as last week (Oh My Sweet Carolina, Heart Breaks Like the Dawn, and You Couldn’t Get Arrested) at the Angus on Dale Street. This was the first Open Mic at the pub and I was keen to show support to it. It is always difficult starting new stuff in venues as so much is down to word of mouth and repetition. Well I’m okay with chatting to people sometimes and all too good at repetition too – so it’s easy to do my bit.

The night was hosted by a brilliant singer –
Ali Horn – who plays there regularly (on Friday nights if I remember rightly). He’s got a great knowledge of songs and those he doesn’t know he’s happy to use Doctor Google to find the lyrics then launch into it. Jealous of both his knowledge and ability. He writes his own stuff to. Definitely worth popping in to see him when you can. The sound system at the venue is really nice. They’ve set it up so the sound goes all around the pub without the need for speakers and amps to be lugged in by the performers. So Ali has an easy night in that respect anyway.

I made the mistake of going back up and playing a second time as there were not many volunteers this week (I missed the start of the OM but I think there were just four or five people who went up). This time I went with
Splendid Isolation (which went okay) and then Van Diemen’s Land (which was not). I don’t know what was happening, but my fingers wouldn’t get into the right position for the B minor (Bm) chord – every time. It was all very odd and maddening. Not sure what was the cause of that as I don’t usually have a problem with it. Don’t think it was MS related but I guess I’ll have to keep and eye on it: and keep playing the damn Bm chord as often as I can. I was lugging heavy weighted things around all day so maybe it was my hands saying enough is enough fella, give it a rest.

Anyway I had a nice evening, and on a school night too. Chatted to some people I know and some I didn’t know before. Survived standing on the stage (and even the Bm debacle). Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger they say – but
they know fuck all. But I had a boss night and hope to get back sometime. As people learn it is on (apart from on Liverpool Champions League nights of course) then it will become more popular definitely.

Now I’ve played in three venues I’m pretty much wondering about sorting out a Tour T-shirt:

Sanctuary
Head of Steam
Angus


What’s next? Maybe the
Denbigh Castle who have recently put their toe in the water with OM too. To think that until I played the Sanctuary – shit scared – that once a few years ago when I thought that maybe I’d give it a go and do it once…

I do need to do a few things going forward, namely; learn some different songs, and some strumming patterns. Oh, and see if I can play the Bm chord again. That’d all help.

Onwards and Strumwards.
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New Open Mic Voyage

Well in the last month or so Open Mics have returned – a little erratically – to the Sanctuary and I have gone to both of them for a wee strum. This week new ones began in two other excellent Liverpool pubs; the Denbigh Castle on Hackins Hey and the Head of Steam on Hanover Street. Both started on the same night - Thursday 7th October.

The Denbigh Castle OM wasn’t starting until 10:30pm after three or four bands played apparently. I opted for the less late (and stressful) idea of going to the Head of Steam. I’d got back home late so didn’t get in to early this time, so I missed some good performances (from clips I’ve seen) from several artists. The room was busy with nearly every seat taken. It’s the area of the pub I usually gravitate to when I’m there – and in fact is where I am writing this now. So it felt like everyone was in my front room. Jack, the organiser of the Mic, asked if I was going to play and I confirmed I would. At least once I’d bought a second drink.

He played a couple more songs on his semi acoustic and then I stepped forward to play. The set up was actually in the corner I usually sit in too. It must explain why I was relaxed enough to chat a bit on the microphone; I rarely chat between songs when I’ve done Mics before. Weird. So with my glass sat on the carpet I proceeded to play four songs. Usual suspects for me – I really need to get a new set or two – and they were, in order:

Oh My Sweet Carolina (Ryan Adams)
Heart Breaks Like The Dawn (Chuck Prophet)
Splendid Isolation (Warren Zevon)
You Couldn’t Get Arrested If You Tried (Green on Red)

HoS-om
Playing in my usual corner of the HoS - who'd have thunk it?

A couple of mates came in and caught me playing which was nice. Hadn’t seen either of them out for a while, and they’d been to a show down the road and popped in on the off chance. Went down okay for me I think. First time I've played an Open Mic in a different pub and therefore with a totally new crowd. Was nowhere near as nervous as when I played the first new Sanctuary one the other month. Got the usual comments I get with my use of these songs, along the lines of “Did you write those?” My CD collection must be a bit different from other peoples I guess. Still, as I said whilst I was playing, the use of songs that people don’t know is a good call as they can’t tell how badly you’ve interpreted them (or what verses you’ve inadvertently missed out).

The party for the Head of Steam moved off not long after I’d finished. So maybe I can become the official bell ringer for time gentlemen please? Me singing could be one way of emptying a place out.

Well done to Jack for arranging, playing and hosting the event. Think the next one scheduled for a months time (first Thursday of the month) and I hope I can make it again. Maybe with more of my excellent (apparently) obscure songs.


Onwards and Strumwards.
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What Is It With Thursdays?

Last Thursday the second Open Mic of the post lockdown era was on at the Sanctuary and I decided to go down again. The last one was packed, but this time there was only five of us there. But I enjoyed it as much – maybe even more – than the last one. Not because of not being busy but because the host, Barry Sutton, was good to talk to – and some of the evening was as much a guitar lesson as me playing a few songs.

To be fair they only announced on Twitter that they were having an Open Mic the evening before, which ain’t much notice for people who may need to organise anything or just plan their week. Hopefully next time there will be a bit more notice and it will be a bit busier. It's either that or I'll end up with another lesson.

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Open Mic in the Sanctuary

Incidentally it is great to see that there are other places starting Open Mic events in the coming fortnight in – and in a couple of my favourite real ale pubs to boot: the
Head of Steam, and the Denbigh Castle. At the moment I understand that the Head of Steam one will – at least initially – just be a monthly event on the first Thursday of the month i.e. first one will be on October 7th. And coincidentally the Denbigh Castle one will also commence (downstairs in the pub) on the same date. The intention is that this one will be each week.

I’m not sure how often the Sanctuary one is intended to be. But just like the two upcoming ones it is on a Thursday too. What is it with Thursdays?
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Sofar

On Wednesday I went to my first Sofar gig in Liverpool. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them, that's not the name of a band, but the name of the events. It is a nice idea which has spread world wide and includes a few cities in the UK. The ethos is to go and have a nice time and actually listen to the music and not chat all the way through it about what’s been on the TV or the latest football: watch and listen to the band. And talk and get your drinks in between the sets, rather than disturbing the gig for those around you. Boss.

You pay your £10 for a ticket, and then the day before you get an email telling you where it will be. In this case the event was held in a place I hadn’t been before called ‘
Slate’ which is within Tapestry – a large building up behind TJ Hughes. There’s apparently always a bar onsite (unless they tell you otherwise) so it’s not a BYOB gig.

Met someone I knew who likes live music – and it turns out helps out with the event – and then went up the stairs to Slate, which turned out to be a nice space for some music – with a small bar at one end of the room and the area for the bands marked out with some simple lighting, and the instruments and amplification all laid out at the opposite end.

Sofar_Mix
The three Sofar acts - Liverpool 22.09.21

There were three acts who played, who I hadn’t seen before. Namely,
Christie a local singer songwriter and Ahmed Khwata a songwriter from London, with the last act being The Heavy North – a local five piece bluesy outfit. I really enjoyed all of them. Christie and The Heavy North were both playing the Smithdown Festival at the Handyman on Friday (with Heavy North being the headliner).

HeavyNorth
The Heavy North

The whole gig wasn’t that long (first act on around 8pm and last song finished around 10:15pm – okay for a school night) with the acts each only playing five or six songs. But it was a really intimate gig with an attentive and respectful audience and I really enjoyed it. And I’ll definitely be there again, well, not
there as I don’t yet know where there will be.

Rock on.

_____________

sofarsounds.com/liverpool
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Back to Gigs

The Magic Numbers gig on Friday was just brilliant. Oops, I’ve gone straight to the end there. First things first: I walked into town to get my steps in (without my usual rucksack for a change) and listened to the Numbers all the way - on my really crap headphones. Had read so much about how poor the beer is in the venue: the Arts Club, on Seel Street – operated by O2 Academy (not to be confused with the Arts Bar on Hope Street) - and how expensive it is too. I hadn’t been in the Arts Club since it was the Masque, many moons ago.

So I walked the 4.8 miles from mine to the
Keystone first with the aim to get a nice pint and fill myself up with a burger from Boffo Burgers (who operate out of the Keystone from Friday to Sunday). Sat outside in the garden cooling down from the long walk and had a couple of pints of Chapter BrewingThe Hay is Waiting’ and a cheeseburger and fries from Boffo. Top choices both.

Whilst I was in the Keystone I discovered I needed to prove either a negative
Covid test or that I’d been double vaccinated. I haven’t had a test for a while, but I have been double vaccinated. Unfortunately I’ve never checked whether the NHS App was up to date with that - I’ve heard many people have gone on and found one or both of their vaccinations not showing. I had a fear therefore that if that was the case I wouldn’t be seeing the Magic Numbers at all. In the end I gave my app the appropriate answers so that it could find my results and hey presto both vaccines were showing so I was good to go. (I was a bit perturbed that this ‘all clear’ is only valid to sometime in October!?! What happens then with any gig going?

Said my farewells and headed for one in the
Coach House. Ended up rushing a second (hey, the gig venue was going to be crap for beer). The walk took me past the Grapes so I had to go for a quick pint of NeptuneEzili’ in there, didn’t I?

And then finally, after my pre-loading with beef burger & fries and some mighty fine ales, it was time to head to the
Arts Club. There some people queuing outside, some of who were going through the process I’d gone thru trying to dig out their ‘I’m relatively safe’ proof before showing a ticket too. Then I was in. Huzzah! This was my first post lockdown gig with a non-socially distanced requirement (I’d been to the post-lockdown gig of Frank Turner in Top Rope Brewery, but that was with a socially distanced exclusive ‘crowd’ of 60 people). I was unsure how it would be.

Obviously it felt a bit strange (somewhere between good and ‘oh should we be doing this?’). The fact that everyone has to show their vaccination or latest test status though is at least a bit reassuring. I walked straight past the queue for the bar and headed for a bit of space on the left hand side to watch the stage (my fullness with quick beers and meat & fries worked!). Ren Harvieu was playing with Romeo and Michelle from the Numbers. I caught three of her songs before they left and the Numbers came on. The atmosphere was lovely.

The atmosphere just grew and grew and became eye poppingly good. The vibe perfect. Chatted to a few people who were along a straight line measurement between sober and not so sober - but all were in an equally mighty fine place. I couldn’t wait for the Numbers. Which was handy as there wasnt long to wait…

The tour was arranged to celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of their first, eponymous, album which was released in 2005. As the gig was on its third iteration due to covid cancelations then it was really the 16th anniversary. But if we can have the 2020 Olympics and 2020 European Championship this year then I dare say another event with a stretched out date is neither here nor there. In any case it was very much a celebration of their first, much loved, album. In fact they played the songs from the album in the order of it.

The audience loved it. Raising hands, glasses and voices along with the all of the songs. It was joyous. And I’d forgotten to be ‘not quite sure’ about being in a crowded indoor venue. I’m not sure whether it was sold out or not. It seemed pretty full to me, though not too bad to get to the bar when I finally decided I was in need of hydration again. Choices for an ale drinker were limited (and they didn’t even have any
Guinness – my go to drink where ale is not about) so I ended up drinking Somersby pretend cider. Which did a job.

The music and atmosphere hardly took a dip; the album is one classic after another after all. And I enjoyed everything about it (if not the bar). They ended the gig (which included the hidden song at the end of the album) with a saxophone player joining them to play ‘
Sweet Divide’ which was a beautiful epic song to end with.

Yes, all in all, a mighty good night. Can’t beat live music, can you? That’s rhetorical. You can’t.

___________

Talking of live music I ended up getting a ticket the next day for a gig next week in Liverpool. It’ll be my first time going to a
Sofar gig. They don’t tell you who will be playing or where! All they say is that it’ll be arrive for 7:15 and it’ll be in Liverpool. Then 36 hours before the gig they inform you about the venue. You only find out who is playing when they step up to the microphone. An interesting concept. For £10 it is not much to gamble with and I am looking forward to this week’s event: and yes I know now I have a record of my double vaccination status. Huzzah!

If it sounds up your street (it is a worldwide thing) then take a look at the website to see if there is anything coming up where you are:

www.sofarsounds.com
www.sofarsounds.com/cities/liverpool
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A Walk To Neptune

Neptune Brewery opened up their taproom on Saturday for the first time this year. And so I had to go up to show my support and to get a great beer. As I’m behind with the walking this week I decided too that I would kill two birds with one stone by walking there from my house. It was 5.5 miles. It proved a good walk and actually despite being slowed down by having to doubling back at one point where a path wasn’t clear and then having to cross the infamous Switch Island (where the map was trying to direct me on a footpath which didn’t exist).

There was a footpath shown both on the map and on signage by the A59 too for a cross country bit (former railway line) but this proved to be not as nice as it could be as the path was periodically inundated by brambles and other vegetation. And the narrow cut of the path meant it would be very easy to twist an ankle or two. Anyway I persevered with it and got through to a better path and then roads less than half a mile to the brewery. And then I was there!

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A nice afternoon stroll

As I walked up to it I was overtaken by a couple who I know and then when I got in I bumped into several friends and acquaintances. The taproom’s reopening was definitely something that people had been really looking forward to. They do so many great beers and the service from the staff is boss too.

Ezili
Ezili time

They only had one cask on, but it was Ezili which is an easy drinking favourite so I had a few of those. But I had some keg too. Shocking but true. Had good chinwags with several friends and the last few beers with Neil (who I last bumped into when I’d also walked to a brewery (Liverpool Brewing Company - how spooky). We walked to Maghull Station and caught a train, in Neil’s case to go to my ‘relatively local’ Jaxons Micropub and in mine to town for the Head of Steam so I could watch Emma Raducanu win the US Open. And how fabulous was that!

In summary though it was great to see Neptune reopen their bar and to see so many familiar faces. And it was great for the brewery too as I’m sure they weren’t too sure what to expect on the first opening. Well played, people.

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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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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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All Hail

I still haven’t decided whether to put up a section on the website on Real Ale or (more likely) or Real Ale in Liverpool. It needs a little bit more thinking about.

I think it would be quite nice, and would be quite easy for me to do. It would fit well with my second Twitter account “RealeLiverpool” too. But I am conscious that I don’t want to create much work for myself. Ideally if I was going to do it then I wouldn’t want it to take much more than an hour or so a week to keep updated (it’d obviously take longer to set it up originally, but that’s okay if the later thing works). So I would need to think about the form of it to make it work. I write flash fiction regularly e.g. for #MidWeekFlash every week and that is a circa 750 word fiction story based on a photo prompt. In some ways if I set myself a similar target purely in terms of word count it should be easier (i.e. I would not have to go through the process of coming up with a fiction story from scratch in my head and then moving it onto a page).

But then if it was to just be a weekly 750 words what would it be about? What would it take for me or a reader to be invested in it? I mean I wouldn’t want to read (much less write) that much about any particular week of mine. So it would have to be about the pubs, the breweries and the beers - and even more something about the people. It couldn’t be something like a Pub of the Week or Beer of the Day. It’d need to be sincere yet fun, and not a monologue or diatribe. So maybe it would be closer to a diary - or at least influenced by it - than I currently think. Arhhhh, what would it be?

Okay, basically it needs some thinking about. I also need to consider what it does to my website. The most obvious thing would be to get rid of the “Class Song of the Day” pages and replace it with the “ale” page (but not Class Beer of the Day: promise). That’s a crying shame for me, but it’s not like those pages are getting visited anyway. It’s so sad that the effort and my heart that went into creating CSOTD can simply be dispensed with by the act of pressing the Delete button once. It will be a sad day. And ultimately if no-one is any more interested in the Liverpool real ale scene (or my version of it) than they were in brilliant songs maybe it’s a waste of time.

But it will not be a complete waste of time as if I do go for it then every act of writing something new will be a creative act and help me (if not the reader) in becoming a better writerer; and I didn’t do that with the CSOTD. Maybe I’ll write the fucker, even if you won’t read it. Well that’s the theory.

Watch this space…
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Eng-er-land

Very much enjoyed the England v Ukraine match on Saturday. Had a brilliant table at the Head of Steam, on Hanover Street, for the match. On Tuesday there had just been the two of us watching the Germany match in there (i.e. I was with a mate, not that there were just two of us in the place). This time, for the Quarter Final against Ukraine, there were the maximum of six of us sat together. Seeing England score early goals in both halves was great - and highly unusual. So roll on Wednesday and the semifinal vs Denmark. The other semi on Tuesday between Spain and Italy will be fascinating too.

I have a strange relationship with England. I mean I’d rather they won than lost but ultimately it would be water off a duck’s back when they lose too. Basically I think the correct term is ‘
not that arsed.’ Some people around here wear it as a badge of honour not to support England - the “we’re not English, we’re Scouse” thing - but it’s not a Liverpool thing for me - at least I don’t think it is. I think it is a mixture of growing up as a kid in the 70s and 80s and seeing so many dire (or just uninspiring) performances under Don Revie and Ron Greenwood years (especially when compared to the mighty Reds of course); and seemingly a generation of players not showing that much pride in pulling on that shirt. It's also all the friendlies. I mean who cares? A player may be happy winning a cap, but ultimately what does the result in a friendly matter to anyone? - and if you can't get excited why even tune in to watch it. At least we did have the British Championship back then which gave players some fear of losing - and desire to win. It was a shame when that had to go. The feeling is exacerbated by the whole hooligan and associated nonsense vibe too particularly back in the day. Football violence and racism and all that doesn’t really get me all gooey inside.

I understand jingoism but it’s not a nice thing when it’s channelled as it is towards anti-this and anti-that. I mean at the same time as not being that arsed by England football team I'm mad for England cricketers winning in the Ashes. And winning the World Cup against New Zealand a few years ago was one of the best things that I’ve seen on TV. Sport at its very best. I love the Brits doing well in the Olympics or when Murray won Wimbledon. And the Brits doing well in the Tour de France. So yeah, it’s not the supporting England thing (or Britain or UK) it’s the way jingoism in relation to the national sport has been corrupted for years by people who actually love the shit that goes with it more than the football itself.

I’ve never seen England play - and I don’t really have the desire to. I had tickets for an International match once: Italy v Russia at Euro 96 at Anfield, but ended up working on a project in Mexico so missed it (as excuses go that’s a fine one ). On our first night in Villahermosa (Tabasco) we went to a night club (we’d been told to keep a low profile prior to going - and we did) but the locals all knew about us and rumours spread like wildfire; it says it all about our nation’s sport and how we are viewed overseas (or were in 96) that on the giant screen in the club it suddenly flashed up “Villahermosa Welcomes Los Hooligans.” I mean FFS. It transpired that the limited view of the UK at the time involved three main things: The Beatles; Lady Di; and Mad Cow Disease. I am only remotely interested in the band. We were presented with a wind-up dancing plastic cow - or La Vaca Loca - as an apparently funny and sympathetic joke. It was good job
Los Hooligans were thick skinned. In the nightclub they obviously also knew about football hooliganism as a famous export to rank alongside these luminaries.

At least if we can play a few decent matches now, and win something, then the years of bore draw nil-nils can fade a little into the distance of my youth. Maybe we can bring back the British Championship too and not play so many pointless friendlies (which is another thing that puts me off England - I mean I have no interest in watching any team play friendlies!). Ultimately it would be nice if they won something in my lifetime and they can get that 1966 monkey of the back.

So come on England. I'll shout at the screen if you score. I'll probably just shrug if you lose.
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Stood Up

Stood Up, Deffed Out and Desperate

Well I was stood up, deffed out and desperate when I met this girl from Tuam. That’s how it starts. But how does it go after that?

Good question. I was going through a file with some music in the other day. And when I used to play a few songs in a band of mates in the early 90s I always needed some notes to remind me (if not the full lyric) to play through the song without bailing early. In ones I knew I would just put a key word or so from the start of the verse or the last words of some lines. That is what I found for the song “Stood Up, Deffed Out and Desperate.” This was a fun song written by your’s truly, so you’d think it I’d know the words. Well, I did. In 1993. Having found the sheet last week with the keywords on it I could only remember a couple of the verses completely. The other bits were fragments.





So it was that on Saturday I sat down with my guitar and notes and tried to fill it out. Needless to say, as well as not having the words written down I didn’t have the chords either. Yeah. Lost in the mists of time and all that.

Picked a few chords and worked on some lines and Hey Presto (or something like it), “
Stood Up...” was back. There was no #ReadMeSpeakMe this weekend so I decided to strum and sing these ancient (if amended) lyrics once again. It was the only song we did that wasn’t by someone else. Amazingly sang it at a Christmas gig we did at the Irish Centre where my mum and dad came. As well as singing Fairy Tale of New York with my cousin “You’re a bum.. you’re an old slut on drugs...’ etc I wonder what me mum thought?

Assume this is Stood Up’s last stand - after a 28 year break - and it won’t see the light of day again. Dare say it shouldn’t. But it was fun to see an almost familiar face again - even if it “
looked just like me mum.”

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Glory Hallelujah

Glory, Hallelujah!

Well bloody hell, I got a great email: won tickets to see
Frank Turner in Liverpool. Now as you may well have spotted, or if you know me even a little, he’s been my favourite singer songwriters for heading towards ten years now. And I’ve been lucky enough to see him several times including the sold out Wembley Arena gig in 2012, Liverpool Academy, Bath, and two sets at Glastonbury Festival.

Strummerville-FT
Watching Frank at Strummerville, Glastonbury (day before his Other Stage appearance)

And this gig in Liverpool is at a top local Brewery. Literally top:
Top Rope Brewery. They have a beer out now with Frank Turner all over it. It’s called ‘The Gathering’ which is Frank’s recent release celebrating all things about the end of lockdown and singing and getting together and having a good time and all that. It’s honestly the first time I’ve drunk a beer out of a can: and then kept the can. Hell, I told you I’m a fan.

It’s a gig by my top singer songwriter playing at a brewery. I mean come on “If Carlsberg did gigs...” well, not Carlsberg. But you know what I mean. Funnily enough last time I saw him in Liverpool it was the Academy i.e. the Carling Academy and there was a Frank Turner beer out then: '
Believe' a wheat beer brewed by Signature Brew. Because it was the Carling Academy they wouldn't stock it, so we were directed to Mojo to grab a bottle there before the gig - which I did of course (and it was Movember).

MojoBelieve_FT
Believe (Signature Brew) in Mojo (with a Movember tash)

The Gathering is about the end of lockdown and we’re not quite there. Things won’t be normal until all restrictions are gone. Not sure when that will be now. But hopefully we are heading that way. The location and the restrictions means there will be fewer than 100 people at the gig. I mean that will mean I’ve seen him play at a packed Wembley Arena first and my latest time seeing him will be in front of 100 people. How bizarre is that? He loves gigging more than any other band or person I’ve seen. He itemises all his appearances: yesterday’s show at Download Festival was show No.2562. That is A LOT of shows. And it must have been such a release for him to perform in front of a crowd again.

TopRope-FT
At Top Rope Brewery with a can of 'The Gathering'

Wonder how many bands and singer songwriters have winked out of existence because of not being able to play live for over a year? In an industry where time is of the essence we could have lost a lot of seriously good artists. They don’t make money from plays on
Spotify or YouTube, they need gigs and merchandise to survive in these days of no longer selling physical albums.

This will be my first gig since seeing
Romeo Stodart at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room in March 2020 (I’ve also got tickets to see The Magic Numbers in Liverpool in September), and I can’t fucking wait!
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A Kilo of Beer and The Auld Enemy

Watched the England v Scotland match at home last night. Usually with a big game like that there would be a few of us out in town to watch the match. But with the current situation we were of the opinion not to go in as there was too big a risk of getting into town and then not finding anywhere to watch it. The current restrictions mean that all customers have to be seated and it’s table service etc. So most pubs were anticipating quite a high demand for the game (let’s face it, in normal times they would have been packed - especially on a Friday night) and they therefore operated a system where many, if not all, tables were bookable from earlier in the week. A few had ‘some’ walk-in availability too. But it’s a Friday night and the walk-ins could easily fill up quickly from people coming out of their offices and making a decision on the night to stay out.

I did consider popping into town and going with the flow, then coming back home if I hadn’t found at place to watch it by 7:30. But going into town for 2 hours only to come back with 30-40 minutes each way waiting for buses didn’t make sense to me. So i was that the England v Scotland match became another victim of the Covid-19 situation for me. At least all the Euro games in the UK are on terrestrial TV - that makes such a difference. That said it was on ITV, not BBC. But beggars can’t be choosers.

2 pints

As it transpired a) The Fly were calling out for ‘walk-ins’ at 7pm, so I could have got a seat to watch it, and b) it was a shite game. I was simultaneously disappointed I hadn’t gone into town for the game and happy that I hadn’t gone into town for the game. Oh, yeah... it finished 0-0. And the Scots celebrated the 0-0 like Everton would do against Liverpool.

I had a couple of beers at home including a mega (1000ml) can of
Faxe Royal (5.6%) beer I’d picked up from B&M, which I drank from my dad’s old 1 litre German glass. Dad was a Scot and he’d have been up for the match against the Auld Enemy, of course. And on a Friday night he'd have been watching it down 'the club' with his usual posse. Though I suspect my dad never actually drank anything out of this glass. He must have picked it up in one of the trips he had with my mum over to that neck of the woods. He was more likely to drink a pint of mild than two pints of lager. A litre of mild sounds a bit heavy in all respects. Not sure he’d have been too happy about the result (or the game itself). But I suppose being a Scotland fan is like supporting Everton: it’s not about winning anything, it’s about taking two points of your biggest enemy.

Faxe

There's been a few good games in the Euros so far, but personally I can’t wait for the Premier League and Champion’s League to be back. Also I need to do some work on my arms if I’m going to be drinking a kilo of beer again. It's Father's Day today, so maybe I'll drink out of his old glass again; then again I also have his old tankard too - a much more manageable size.
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Covid, Bars, Risk and Reward

As many of you know I do have as couple of Twitter accounts, namely: @zevonesque and @RealeLiverpool. And the latter one is almost entirely Liverpool and Real Ale related (there’s a clue in that name I think) whilst I mention beer and beer related trips on this website from time to time I haven’t really blogged about it much for years. Though if you look in the previous couple of months I’ve done a couple of blogs on the pubs that were open in Liverpool City Centre, both when it was outdoor opening only and just afterwards. I’m wondering whether to do a more regular blog, however short, on related subjects. Perhaps it’d need another section heading on the site to keep things all together; like my Health section - which I only introduced after my MS Diagnosis earlier in the year. We shall see. Could get a bit “samey’ though unless I come up with an effective list of subjects and plans for it. Or if samey turns out to be called for.

We are living in strange times and there appears to be such mixed views and reaction to the virus and all that it entails. This range of lockdown and post lockdown strategies has been messy. And of course it is warranted. There are too many people who happily write off ‘only the old’ or ‘at risk’ in the community. Bloody bastards the lot of them. And of course in reality we still don’t know what the actual long term affects of the disease will be - we can’t know what damage
Long Covid will leave us: people of all ages. Incidentally I know a couple of people (including fit people in their 20s) who got over Covid-19 in a few days: then Long Covid came out of nowhere around the corner and hit them and has left them with severe currently life affecting issues. But we can’t know how long these effects will last, nor if the current impacts will go away and then be replaced with different ones. The NHS could very well be dealing with this impacts of this pandemic for decades. In short, whatever age you are you don’t want to catch it and risk your long term health (including as yet unidentified impacts); or risk passing it on to one of your friends or family members

In the UK the currently rife
Delta variant has rapidly changed the situation here from one of finally being all sunshine & light to one of doom & gloom. The opening up of shops and bars & restaurants and the improvement on options for other social occasions beyond your single “bubble” has surely been a positive thing for people in terms of the return of some normality. But things haven’t returned to normality - and looking at how the current stats have been going (in the North West of England in particular) nor should they. Each step does need to be risk assessed on a global level right down to the individual person. You don’t cross a road without assessing the risks and addressing them and nor do you stand in traffic. And if you cross the road without doing what you should it’s not the government’s fault: it’s yours. Much of this is not “rocket science” but common sense. And while much of the UK has been vaccinated - particularly the older bastards like yours truly - not everybody has.

The opening up has in particular been good for the oldies who have been isolated to one extent or another: finally they can go out and meet & chat to other people (not everyone had or wanted to use Zoom). Meanwhile the youngsters who feel indestructible (we all did once you know) are certainly meeting in larger groups and without socially distancing AND without masks. I’m not saying that to get at the youngsters. I was young once and there are things I did when I was younger that I would think (and were) risky now (racing up scaffolding anyone?). But it is these very “indestructible” people who are told they don’t need to wear masks at school and then go on public transport without masks, then go shopping in Primark or in Next, then head to Maccy D’s and hang around town for a few hours before heading home on public transport unmasked again. Honestly I’m not getting at them. They’ve been told they don’t need masks in school with hundreds of people in: why would they think that they need one in an airy bus with twenty people on it?

Now the graphs for Covid-19 in Liverpool (for example) look horrendous in some ways - the very illustration of “exponential.” This largely comprises the younger people and either unvaccinated or “only vaccinated once” peeps. Us oldies aren’t getting it anywhere near as much - thanks to vaccination - but maybe also because we’re still trying to keep doing the distance thing and are following masking rules too (less so the over zealous sanitising hands and all that: it’s airborne and it’s indoor air, people). Hopefully these youngsters aren’t going to get too ill from it - either right now or in the months or years to come (but we can’t know). We should do all we can to limit the potential for this damnable virus to spread, whilst at the same time allowing companies to survive and ultimately flourish (or at least allow people to make a living out of it). Which leads me to pubs (yes, this was supposed to be a blog about pubs)...

My experience since pubs have reopened indoors has been good and bad in very different respects. Firstly the good: it’s good to go back to places that have been shut for five or six months and see (some) familiar faces. Been great to drink some nice beers; both local and national/familiar and unfamiliar. Been nice to increase the options of going to other places and having the different experiences on offer from them. And boss to have increased the options for meeting mates. All the real ale pubs I have been going to in town have been brilliantly run in terms of getting people to scan in to the NHS App or fill in contact details; wear masks when traversing around the pub; not letting too many people congregate or stand up in groups; and decent table service under difficult circumstances.

The bad: people... in terms of some robbing bastards either running away at the end of the night having accrued a bill on their table (horrible bastard chancers) or even lowlifes stealing glasses; these businesses (in your local community) don’t need another expense due to your obnoxious thievery. Then there’s the not letting too many people congregate or stand up in groups, and decent table service etc. Hold on, that was above in the positive bit, wasn’t it? Well yeah, it’s been good from a risk and fear factor and all that for potential customers. But the other side of that coin is that these things (just as much as stealing bastards) have significant costs for businesses just when they don’t need them (or can’t survive them):
you won’t be catching a virus in an empty pub, but they won’t be making money to survive either.

Quiet pubs may be good for me and others in the short term at least in terms of risk and getting served, but these hostelries and their suppliers can’t survive on almost empty “
but safe” rooms. The virus needs to be beaten by vaccination and short term sensible, risked-out, options, and ventilation (and maybe even masks for kids hey!?). But surely in the short term hospitality businesses need to be FULLY supported by the Chancellor. A business that can’t open fully can’t survive for long without it. There is no business model for an empty pub.

I can’t have a car accident if I don’t have a car, I can’t get a virus in an empty pub: I can’t get a drink in a pub that no longer exists: and the people who own the pub, the people who work there, and all their suppliers are out of a job too. That’s not risk management: that’s insane.

The government needs to support all these businesses. Meanwhile if you can, and are happy to, get yourself down to one of your favourite hostelries - or at least give them with good messages about going back when you are comfortable to do so. They need every bit of support you can give. Cheers and beers, people.
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Kudos

For the first time in an age I submitted a story somewhere. I’d started writing it for a previously mooted anthology which later passed away, as so much has in the last year or so. I was late seeing the call for this anthology but I thought the story I’d started may be an appropriate fit and would therefore save me writing something from scratch. I did a little work on it, but not much, and sent it off. I’m not anticipating an acceptance but it was good to finally submit something I’d written again. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for other opportunities over the coming months.

One of the positives that has come out of it already is that a recent acquaintance volunteered to read and comment on it. He’s got a book published himself and has worked on screenplays and the like - and also has another book out for review at the moment. His review of my piece would be too late to impact on the submission but it was a lovely offer and he has now fed back comments to me. I’m not going to name him as a) I haven’t asked him if I can, and b) I don’t want him to be inundated with other works - as I may want to use his time again!

His feedback was great: asking a few questions and making some suggestions; including extending the story from the current ‘short’ (5k words) to a Novella length piece. I certainly think the story would be much better with more depth and some extension of the ideas within it. So at some point I think I will indeed extend the story. I’ll let you know if and when I do. In the meantime I think I will re-edit the first two or three chapters of my current novel (
The Wobbly Odyssey) and see what my lovely new reviewer thinks of it. The story he’s read was a horror short so seeing how the comic novel compares will be interesting. The reviewer himself deserves my grateful thank yous (and many of them). One day I may name the gent. Kudos!
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Long Long Covid and All That

As we aim to get out of this virus nightmare and we see things trying to get back to some sort of normality it leaves us in a strange position of being cognisant of the risks whilst continuing with life. As someone who along with a third of the population or so who is ‘double jabbed’ up (a member of the AZ Club) it is strange. I mean this protection has been afforded to us yet we must continue to wear masks and sit in smaller groups – and not hug uncarefully.

I am happy to do this. I bought more masks this very week (and will have to get more as the ones I got were shit) and am going to wear them everywhere that I should i.e. in enclosed environments when walking around and on public transport etc. And don't get me started on the
Covidiots and Plandemic people.

When you are out and about, especially on public transport, it is clear that many people - particularly the young - do not wear masks at any time and are not attempting any kind of distancing: be it outside or on the train or bus. Of course these are the people who are almost entirely unvaccinated at the moment. There are multiple reasons for this attitude and allowances that are made, but now of course as schools are back and there is a more virulent variant of the virus (and whatever ones are coming next) it should not be presumed that these young people around us are free to catch the virus if they want, or they don’t care. There definitely is complacency in a variety of groups of people.

We should be trying to protect everyone not just the old, who are more likely to suffer dire consequences of catching it, but the young too. The catch all term of ‘
Long Covid’ is an unfortunately bland and almost meaningless name. Of course it is early days and it is impossible to know what the myriad range of issues Long Covid may leave on people: both young and old. If a youngster gets the disease now and may not even know they have it, then they could pass it on to someone who very much does get impacted, but they themselves could end up suffering consequences not now but in the years to come. These unknowns should not be shrugged off. We owe it to the children, indeed everyone, for their well being - but also what will be the long term costs of dealing with these unknowns for the NHS? It is impossible to know.

The more virulent Indian/
Delta Variant currently doing the rounds and winning in all the big statistics leagues may or may not be of genuine concern but who’s to say the next variant wont be worse still. Complacency can only make the potential impacts on us worse.

My feeling is that while there has to be a ‘life goes on’ reality that doesn’t mean that it goes on without consideration of what we do to reduce the risks for one and all; we don’t light cigarettes up on a petrol forecourt and we dont smash up asbestos cement sheets in our homes. Everybody needs to be vaccinated as soon as it can be done - and that is the one and only thing we seem to doing okay at in the UK - but it’s not a matter of clicking our fingers and it happens, and in the meantime risks can continue to be mitigated. Clearly the main issues are not the cleaning surfaces rigmarole: there is next to no evidence of anyone picking up
Covid19 from a contaminated surface. It is an airborne pathogen and mitigation is through ventilation, masks and distancing. So please continue to wear your masks, open the windows & doors, and keep up with the distancing. AND get vaccinated as soon as you can, both for you and your fellow humans.

Things ARE getting better but that should not mean you are free to get complacent. Stay safe and don’t be stupid, people.
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So Many Things

My sister and myself have finally got around to trying to clear my parents old house: our own family home we grew up in. It should have been done many months ago but this horrendous Covid year seems to have took the winds from our sails for it. But we are where we are and we are slowly getting stuff to do.

Of course it is an horrendous thing to have to do. The time it takes to look through everything. The time that stops you progressing anything - looking through old photos and documents both brings back old memories and highlights things that we really don’t know. I mean who is it in this photo? Where is this? Is this a relation or a friend or anything to do with us at all.

Thankfully back in the days before Smartphones and Digital Cameras photos were rarer and were often treated with care. The handwritten notes on the back of many of the tiny black & white photos are priceless. There will be so much to got through at some time. I’m thinking we need to box up all the photos and documents and go through them in detail at some later time: AND get scanning.

As well as the documents there are the possessions from massive tables and chairs, sofas and beds, to porcelain services, glasses, paintings, and even a grandfather clock and all the general bits required for life from cutlery and cooking gear to TVs and computers. There is a lot isn’t there? It’s time consuming and you question yourself about every little thing that you look at binning. It’s a brutal nightmare. I guess most people go through it at one point in their life and I envy not one of them.

xhair

The saddest thing this weekend was saying goodbye to my dad’s old Chesterfield chair. I think it has found a good home. I certainly hope it has. But the space it has left in the house seems to shout at us now.

Anyway it is onwards and upwards getting the other stuff out of the house - one way or another - and then doing whatever we end up doing with the house.
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In and Local

Well the pubs are open now for people to sit inside. Still waiter service and max of six and all that but it’s better than none at all I guess. May had been cold and wet so anyone having an option to get inside to survive the onslaught is positive. Now we’ve had some good weather this week so the inside or outside question can be asked for those few Liverpool pubs that had outdoors as an option. And in the meantime pubs that didn’t have outside as an option have had the chance to open their doors for the first time this year.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve called in at the
Sanctuary, Lion, Denbigh Castle, the Angus, Head of Steam and the Fly in the Loaf. It is good to have them all back: walls, roofs and all.

One of the best things in this reopening has been seeing how many of the pubs are selling beers from the local breweries. There’s been plenty of excellent cask ales on offer from
Neptune, Top Rope, Chapter, Carnival, Brimstage, Black Lodge, and the like. This has to be good for the local breweries after this horrendous year; and it’s also good for the customers.

It’s amazing how the local beer scene has changed in the recent years. It really wasn’t that long ago there was Cains and nothing much more in Liverpool. And while the mild, FA, and raisin may be missed they have been more than replaced by the options from these breweries.

So whenever you’re back in (or out) the pub then raise a pint of local beer and drink to the brewers as well as to the pubs (and all those that work at them).

Cheers.
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Vaccine #2: The Return

Vaccine #2: The Return

It’s a been a strange bitty week for me. Got some things done and got some things to do. But the highlight was very definitely getting my second jab. As I said in one of my last blogs I had the first (Astra Zeneca) jab a couple of months ago so I was anticipating getting the second any time within the next four weeks.

The way I was allocated the first jab was just a text from the GP through to a link to book it. It wasn’t the NHS website one where you booked both the first and second jab so after having the first it was a question of waiting for the second invite to come through. I was hopeful I wouldn’t have to wait the whole month. As it happened it came through at 4:49pm on Wednesday afternoon and when I clicked through five minutes later I found that they had availability the very next day. I can’t tell you how happy and surprised I was at that. Anyway I was happy and surprised at that.

So at lunchtime on Thursday I was back in to Aintree Community Centre for my second vaccination. My appointment had been booked for 12:50 and I’d arrived at 12:45 with not one person in the queue. I was quickly processed and ushered through and after a quick jab at my left arm and, without a drop of blood or the need of a plaster, I was straight out the door again. Incredible. Apparently in the morning they’d already vaccinated around 400 people in the small centre. Hats of to the guys and gals there. Great organisation. Smooth as a very smooth thing that’s been through an extra smoothness process.

So now I’m fully vaxed up. Well until they decide we need boosters in the autumn. As I’ve said previously I’m still very much in the ‘use a mask and keep your distance’ camp. Not so much because I’m worried about myself, but because until the vast majority of people are vaccinated–and we won’t know on public transport or in a bar or restaurant who is–the message to everyone should be that the virus is still here and can do you. or someone you come into contact with damage.

From tomorrow we can go into a pub or restaurant which is great, but they are not going to be right and fully comfortable until we can go about establishments without too much consideration–or worry about other people taking liberties with the rules (well basically doing what is morally right for everybody). It will continue to be a difficult time for these businesses. The business model for a pub kinda expects people to be stood around in groups and at the bar buying drinks and packets of nuts (or better still Snyder’s Jalapeño Pretzels), they are not based on people sat down in groups of a maximum of six requiring table service. Not to mention requiring herding around and being talked to for not following the rules on mask wearing or numbers sat a tables etc. Just be kind to the people working at these places. And remember, even if you are jabbed up, the majority of the people working in the bars are lucky enough to be so young they haven’t even had their first jab yet.

In summary, I’m made up to be fully vaccinated but I’m looking at buying some more masks–maybe with nice logos of pubs or breweries or some bands on– for the coming weeks and maybe months. We need to continue to act correctly, be nice–and avoid the dicks (unfortunately there always be some). Hopefully the vast majority of people will be vaccinated sooner rather than later and the NHS can go back to treating other people for other conditions and our world can go back to some sort of normality..

Onwards and Upwards.
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'In'

Are we ready for 'In'?

If there’s one thing the last couple of weeks has shown us it is that we have neither the weather nor the infrastructure for year round outdoors drinking in the UK. Okay that’s two things, but I’ve bundled them together like a beer with a scotch egg.

AJW Cheers
Cheers! from the Key Stone

OutOut
Cheers! Cheers!! at the Coach House (nee Hard Times & Misery)

Of course the virus is still here albeit happily currently decreasing. It’s just over a week until the pubs can actually let people inside. Oh happy days; a beer with friends without feeling unduly uncomfortable. When the pubs and restaurants first open it is with restrictions in place: seated at tables, and table service, and the fabled Rule of Six and all that. But at least we’ll be protected from the vagaries of the British weather.

NeshSte
Bring your own insulation if the sun's not round your way

TheBridewellWritersGroup
The Inaugural Meeting of the Bridwell Writerers and Twitterers Group
(under cover and with a heater)


I am a little concerned that people in general will be too relaxed about the rules. Not just in the hospitality sector but with public transport in particular. Yesterday when I went into town on the bus it was school kicking out time and the driver let far too many people on the bus. He didn’t seem bothered that all the seats with the crosses and Not In Use signs were well in use. I’ve already witnessed several people close bus windows whilst they watch their TikToks and Facebook too.

Stagecoach17X
The Stagecoach #17 was a little overcrowded at school chucking out time

Like most of my mates I’ve had just the first (AZ) jab so far. It was about seven weeks ago so I should be getting my second jab in the next few weeks - I can’t wait.

Yesterday the CDC in the States finally announced what most people suspected/knew; that the virus is airborne and can be passed through the aerosols i.e. way in excess of 2m. It is not just close contact that results in passing on the virus: it is Enclosed Spaces that it loves. While we are outside getting soaked and wind blown we’re more likely to get a chill and a little annoyed rather than pick up Covid. But indoors is a different proposition. Most pubs though are fairly breezy affairs with doors opening and closing and people moving about. Air changes/ventilation really shouldn’t be a major problem, particularly while the pubs not at full capacity. Come the end of June though it is expected that the brakes will come off and the pubs can be full once again.

PhilharmonicDoor
Philharmonic pub door. Won't be shut much longer

I’m cautiously optimistic in the main. Hopefully come June the figures will continue to be low. But the sooner everyone is vaccinated the better for everyone. Yeah, what I’m saying is: Get Vaccinated when you can, people. And in the meantime ‘Don’t be a tit.’ Wear a mask, follow the rules (even if the bus driver doesn’t shout at you), and keep your distancing. We’re so nearly there it would be a shame to fook it up now.

TheUsualTable
My current usual seat in the Key Stone is Table 7. Perhaps soon it will be inside…
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Ale M. Banks

It’s a little bit beyond Limboland for some hostelries now. Well for those that have outside areas to utilise - and in cities that is not many. That said the weather for the last few days has not been inviting to all but the hardiest punters and on Monday the rain and wind was so bad many bars and restaurants sensibly decided to shut up shop for the day. During the last few weeks some places have been able to provide heaters which is nice - as the sunshine has been intermittent at best and not exactly cracking the flags. It’s a shame heaters have been needed from the point of view of the bills for the bars (like they need another bloody expense right now) and from the environment. But it’s England not the Mediterranean Riviera so heaters it is.

I’ve managed to get to many of the very few city centre places that sell cask and have outdoor spots. When I say many it is a relative term with so few real ale places able to open at all. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag in some ways but largely those that have opened have been very good. My particular favourites have been the
Keystone (on Hope Street), the Coach House/Hard Times (on Maryland Street) and The Bridewell.

If I’ve been on my tod I’ve been happy to let someone come to sit at the table of course: who wouldn’t? And I’ve met some lovely people either as ‘guests’ on my table or others on adjacent tables. To be able to have a chat and a laugh has been quite liberating for a lot of people I am sure.

One of the most surprising outcomes over the last couple of weeks is how many
Iain M. Banks fans, and fans of SF in general, I have met. I have been attempting to read a book of essays and interviews about the Iain M. Banks SF books in these places and the amount of people who have commented on the book and then about their love of the books has been incredible.

Banks and Ale

Obviously fans of real ale are discerning individuals anyway, but it turns out they are even cooler. I’ve not managed to finish the book yet partly due to ending up being in happy conversations about The Culture (and none Culture) books. Looking forward to finishing the book and reading re-reading some of Banks’s books. But I may have to carry this book around with me just to see how many other fans come out of the woodwork.

Here’s to real ale outside of a pub: and even better IN one. And here’s to Iain M. Banks and the fans. You rock!

In the meantime if you don’t know Iain’s books or only know
The Wasp Factory, the Crow Road or Whit or anything from the telly then do yourself a favour and dip into The Culture - apparently all the best ale drinkers are (and me too). These are his Culture books in chronological order. But there is no need to read them in order:

  • Consider Phlebas (1987)
  • The Player of Games (1988)
  • Use of Weapons (1990)
  • The State of the Art (1991)
  • Excession (1996)
  • Inversions (1998)
  • Look to Windward (2000)
  • Matter (2008)
  • Surface Detail (2010)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (2012)

Happy reading.
Comments

Got a Haircut for the ReadMeSpeakMe Party

Haircut

This week was the 3rd Anniversary of ReadMeSpeakMe which meant it was party week. As I said last week I wasn't going to do RMSM until I had my hair cut - as the barbers finally were allowed loose with their scissors on Monday 12th April. Huzzah. My last haircut was in the first week of November so I'd gone fully five months - and some - between cuts. Even if RMSM wasn't having a party, getting a cut felt like I deserved one. Happy days.

HaircutBefore
Before the Haircut

I'd got on the 17 from Fazakerley full of hope if not expectation. As it happened I managed to get in the barbers I've used for the last three cuts (which lets face it is most of a year now):
Istanbul Barbers on Dale Street. It didn't require booking or anything so strange for us of the 'boy' persuasion. Just turn up and wait in turn.

HaircutAfter
All light headed: Haircut after shock!

With haircut done there were three things to do 1) see if I can get in the other newly permissible places (pubs) 2) attend the #ReadMeSpeakMe Party and 3) do a reading of the prologue from Kathryn Williams' 'The Ormering Tide.'


Outdoor Beers

I managed to do 1) pretty much off the bat with being one of the first two getting a beer at the
Dispensary and also being one of the first served at the Coach House (Hard Times). Read the blog on Pubs to find out more on my feelings about this and on pubs in general.


ReadMeSpeakMe Party

Next up, a few days later, has been attending the
ReadMeSpeakMe Party. The call was to read a recipe for food or drink. Well as I always have a beer with my wee recordings then it had to beer really for the party. Unfortunately from a reading perspective four basic ingredients didn't make for compelling reading:

Malt Barley
Water
Hops
Yeast


It'd be short and sweet, which may have its attractions but it ain't suitable for our party.

Anyways whilst I was reading a book about alcoholic drinks, '
Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks' jam packed with great recipes and details, I found the first part of a poem about beer written by Thomas Warton in 1750. Two hundred and seventy years ago and they were still extolling the virtues of a nice pint over the, 'Riot stirring wine. Unwholesome draught!'

RMSM Invite
#ReadMeSpeakMe 3rd Anniversary Party Invite

Thomas Warton was an Oxford Don lecturing and writing on poetry and became the Poet Laureate for a time. He liked his beer and smoking too. Cool poetry dude. So I decided I'd read the first section of his '
Panegyric to Ale' (originally 'Oxford Ale').







The Ormering Tide

So that was 2 of 3 sorted. The third part I had pencilled in to do was a short reading from '
The Ormering Tide.' Kathryn Williams, who hails from Liverpool, is a brilliant singer-songwriter who I last saw her perform on her Anthology Tour at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Rooms. She performed some great songs and told some excellent anecdotes. I couldn't not buy her book when it came our this year. When I tweeted it was so lovely that I felt like I should be reading it aloud rather than to myself she tweeted back 'Do It' (although I may be paraphrasing there). So I have to, don't I?

OrmeringTide
'The Ormering Tide' by Kathryn Williams

Hope I can do justice. But hey, I'm ain't a professional. It's a beautiful book and I loved every page. I can wholeheartedly recommend you getting into the Tide and finding yourselves on the cliffs or beaches of the Channel Islands - or even in the pub. You won't regret it. And don't miss listening to some of her songs. Like all the best people Kathryn is on Twitter too @kathwilliamsuk so give her a follow.

KWHumanContact
Kathryn Williams 'Monday Morning' from Crown Electric

I will record my reading of the prologue tomorrow and get it up on the YouTube thing - I bet you can't wait. Watch this space: or better still just listen to some of Kathryn's songs.
Comments

Pubs Pubs Pubs: Closed/ Outside/ Inside

Pubs. Pubs. Pubs. Closed pubs - outside pubs - inside pubs. God, they are such an integral part of my life. It’s not a daily thing or anything like that. And it’s not bad ones - these days anyway. No, it’s real ale pubs. I suppose many youngsters would call them “old men’s pubs”. Hell sometimes I do too. Generally though it’s just pubs that sell real ale. Ale on hand pulls. So the last year has been a wee bit disappointing on that front.

They’ve been closed several times over this pandemic year. The last time they were open the rules rather (completely) arbitrarily required you bought a main meal with your drink. Like the virus would go for you if you didn’t have a burger, but would avoid you if you did. Ludicrous ill thought out concept. Of course at one point that was partly in conjunction with the “
Eat Out to Help Out” idea too. I’m sure there were good intentions there somewhere. But maybe not much in the way of thought.

During those strangely open/not really open time I was out every so often. And asking questions of whether the guy or gal serving me thought a) was a plate of chips classed as a “substantial meal” and b) how slowly could I eat them from a legal perspective i.e. could I get in two or three pints with one plate of chips. Nonsense of course. If you watch any "end of the world" dystopia films there’s never been a scene in it when people are seeing how little they could eat in order to get a pint in. But hell, it was dystopian.

CloserToThePub
One step closer to normality. So close but so far.

That ended on the run up to New Year when the pubs were closed for the next lockdown. And here we are over three months later before they could open again. This time the requirement for eating with your drink has been removed. Instead the rule is that you can only drink outside a pub. With April weather that is full on roulette territory. On April 12th this limited opening came in, with the next change pencilled in for May 17th. At that point the inside of pubs can open, but still with restrictions like the ‘rule of six’/two household thing and such like. The unrestricted opening is lightly HB pencilled in for June 21st. Oh my, how good that will be?

As I say, I like pubs and pubs and pubs. It’s a social and aesthetic thing. Drinking at home for me doesn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong I do buy beer regularly. It’s just that I’m more inclined to have one or two bottles or cans rather than the pintage I would get to whilst out and about. I’ve lost weight during this pandemic and that’s partly down to work being mad but I mainly down to fewer beers passing my lips and getting to my hips.

Dizzy1
First pint up was an Oakham 'Citra' at the Dizzy

Ale for me is very much a mix of the taste of the stuff, the environment and the people I’m drinking with - including the sometimes fabulous staff (hey, I'm not gonna say they all are). Maybe the ale will get me drunk, or happy - or into whatever mood it wants to get me to - on a particular day, but getting drunk is not the be all and end all for me. I’d rather read a few chapters of a book with a couple of pints in one place, then chat to someone in another place, than get drunk. If I just wanted that I’d be happily drinking cheap plonk or vodka at home and not going for mini pub crawls in town. It would be less hassle too without messing about with buses.

But no, for me, having a pint is about going on a wee pub crawls to take in various beers available in different places and seeing a few people. I’m quite happy whether I meet people I know well or not: happy to do a spot of a people watching with the best of them. Most real ale drinkers I know prefer to visit three or four pubs on a night out rather than go to one. But flexibility is key. After all if the first pub you’re in has your favourite beer on and some of your fave people in then there’s no need to roll that dice for the next place. Like going to a music festival you've got to enjoy where you're at and not worry about what you're missing.

CoachHouse2
Not so Hard Times at the Coach House with a Neptune 'Mosaic'

Can’t wait to get back to doing a few mini crawls. The Fly, Roscoe Head, Dispensary, and Grapes. Oh yeah! Then there’s the Lion, Rigby’s, Denbigh Castle, Excelsior, and the Ship. Or how about Baltic Fleet, Bridewell, Head of Steam, Hard Times, Belvedere, and the Caledonia. Or how about the… well you get the picture.

We’re going to have to wait until June until we can do these properly. The May reopening will be constrained in terms of numbers and therefore the ability to wander between pubs and expecting to get in. I mean the demand for the Grapes... it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Right now the reopening this week has allowed pubs with outdoors to give it a go. For city centres this means many pubs can’t even try or those that can have severely limited options for customers. In Liverpool many of the best pubs will not be reopening until May.

I made it to a couple on Monday after first getting a rather crucial haircut. First up was a pint of
Oakham 'Citra' sat outside the Dispensary, which had a nice circularity to me. My last pub pint was in the Dizzy between Christmas and New Year where I was rung at 7:30pm in the pub by my GP to be told to go to A&E to get an MRI scan; it was not the usual night out. As it happened I wasn’t to get an MRI for another couple of months. I’d had to eat a portion of Scouse with my drink that time, this time no food was needed - but a coat was definitely required: the early afternoon sun doesn’t get to the outdoor area. Brrrrr.

CHcheers
A pint in the sunshine at Hard Times

Second pub up was the Coach House. I’d seen the managers working on it on Saturday when I walked into town. I’d sat outside with them in the cold - without a beer. I suppose it was a dry run. It’s the third name for the place and like anyone I dare say I’ll stick with the original name: Hard Times & Misery. In between it was called Dickens and King. They’ve created a nice seating area outside and I think the capacity out there is more than inside the place. I was one of the first customers and it became busy in no time - but not overly so with the whole rule of six thing at the tables and all that. Had Neptune ‘Mosaic’ on which meant nice options all around - especially as there was sunshine on me too.

HotchPup
Hotch having bar snacks - even though now they aren't a requirement of entry (beware those sharp teeth)

Met some people I knew and chatted to some I didn’t too (and met a puppy I’ll see again over the coming years). It was great. But it’s not normality yet. It won’t be until all the pubs and bars are open and you can get inside without significant restrictions. I can’t wait. Though I rather suppose I must. Roll on June 21st -
HB pencil notwithstanding.
Comments

Last Zoom Open Mic?

We last had a Zoom Open Mic on New Years Eve, which is apparently about three months ago but definitely feels like a year or so. At the time we said it’d be a regular event especially with the lockdown which just arrived the day before. As it happened it did not become a regular thing at all. I’m out of the loop as I don’t have Facebook so I miss the chat about it and get a handle on whether it’s almost taken place a couple of times or not. And can’t really help in the organisation of it if I don’t have FB.

Finally last Saturday we did have our first Open Mic of the year. And hopefully the last one to be done using Zoom - if the lockdowns have finally worked their stuff along with the vaccinations. In theory the pubs will reopen indoors from May 17th, although events like the Open Mic won’t be permitted until another month or so after that (21st June). Fingers crossed for that.

The Open Mic was accompanied by a good portion of a mini keg of Mosaic that I’d picked up at Neptune Brewery the day before. I took the keg out the fridge and brought it into the spare room so I didn’t need to go up and down all the time to top my glass. Certainly helped with getting through a few pints.

Cloud Mosaic
Cloud Strife watching over the Neptune Mosaic

In the end I was on the Zoom call from about 7:45 through to 1.00am. So it wasn’t much of a wonder that a few beers were breached.

As it happened there were quite a few missing regulars, who’d kind of indicated that they would/may be there but didn’t turn up. It was a bit of a shame really not to see everyone’s familiar faces - and hear their songs. There were only three of us playing songs using guitar or keyboards, and Matt telling us stories. I only sang four songs as if I’d done any more I’d have felt like I was taking it over a bit. I’d have happily sung six or seven if others had been doing the same. Never mind.

Open Zoom
Not many of us online this time. Think there some good repeat on the telly.

I sang Chuck Prophet’s ‘Somewhere Down the Road,’ Ryan Adam’s ‘Sweet Carolina,’ Bright Eyes ‘Landlocked Blues’ and Barenaked Ladies ‘It’s All Been Done.’

It was good to see the familiar faces that were there - on what may be the last weekend of the year that we couldn’t be in (or at least outside) a pub. Roll on the next Open Mic: wherever and whenever it may be. It’ll be a while, I dare say, but it will be fucking great.
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Doing the Loop

Living in the north of Liverpool walking options with nice vistas or architecture are decidedly limited. If you are trying to walk daily do you really want to circle the same park multiple times just to have a nice environment? It would get a bit much to walk the same walk all the time. I’ve been walking to and around Walton Hall Park quite regularly lately. And it’s nice enough, but it’s nice to switch it up.

From the direction I come from I walk under an old rail bridge and enter the park at the corner beside it. The bridge, over the East Lancs road, is part of the old Loop Line. Like so many railways in the 60s it closed down (in 1964). The way it sweeps from the south from Hunts Cross north to Aintree it in some ways mimics the Queens Drive circular (or quarter circle in reality). It has been turned it to a footpath/cycle way which forms part of several routes. Work started on the path in 1988 with the last section by Aintree finished in 2000.

LoopLineSelfie
Walking on the Loop Line (remain vigilant for bikes when taking selfies)

Part of the northern section (which I am yet to visit) goes through railway land where I used to walk with my grandparent’s dog, Patches, in the 1970s. There’s probably a blue plaque for that somewhere there.

Anyway, on Friday I went for a walk starting at home with no real plan of where I would end up. But I did think I’d take a look at the Loop. Really glad I did. Makes such a refreshing change in North Liverpool walking around so much greenery and away from busy roads or housing estates. I kept walking and walking, eventually getting to a point where it would have been as far to walk back as it would to finish the whole thing. Of course I could have got off somewhere and worked out how to get (multiple) buses home. It was lovely day though, the sun was out, there were lots on people on bikes and a running event. It was Good Friday.

WestDerbyPlatforms
Platforms at West Derby Station

It was lovely to see the trees and greenery, to see the sandstone cuttings of the railway and the old station and platforms at West Derby. In the end I got to Hunts Cross which was a 9.2 mile walk from my house without getting hit by any of the bike riders (although there were a couple of close calls) or runners (many of who were running at my walking pace). Pretty good few hours.

WestDerbyStation
West Derby Station

The age old problem with linear walks of course is getting back. From the end of the walk it would be a minimum of three buses (as far as I could tell on maps) or a train and a bus. I went for the latter option as a train was just due in as I got to the station. A train to Liverpool Central and then a No.17 back. Sorted. When planning (or in this case not planning) a walk the time built in to get back is potentially important. All in all that 9 miles with transport back took me around 4 hours, which is a fair chunk of anyone’s day. But it was a Bank Holiday: and it was definitely worth it. I’ll be in the Loop again soon. I'll have to do the bit to the north too at some point. It's shorter than going to Hunts Cross and while I wouldn't anticipate it being as nice an area to walk I can turn the walk into a circular and save on the wait for trains and buses.

LoopLinePath
The path is long (just under 11 miles from start to finish). Rare is the moment there's no-one around.

________

Subsequent to doing the walk I read some things about it online. The path forms part of the National Cycle Network - Route 62. The whole route goes from Fleetwood to Selby. That would take a few pairs of socks. The worst thing I read was that in 2012, somewhere near where I got onto the walk by Walton Hall Park, a body was found on the embankment by a dog walker. The body was of a missing woman, Paula Hounslea and the murderer has never been found. The case remains open. I only want to find bluebells, crocuses, butterflies, and mushrooms, please. No bodies.
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Gardens: Homes and Festival

After going out to do a shop down the Asda today I decided to go around to a mate’s for a coffee - now that we can go around to people’s gardens. Tried calling and didn’t get an answer, but I knew if he wasn’t in there was a good chance he’d be back in a while. And in any case, even if not, I could go for a nice walk through the Festival Gardens to Otterspool Prom. A nice change of route. Turned out my friend wasn’t in so the walk option was a good call.

FlyawayHairMerseyAJW
Flyaway pandemic hair

It was a very nice walk. Bit wind blown with my hair being a little bit much at the mo. But it was a blue sky day. Lots of people about especially at the Otterspool end. The queues for the cafe were mad! Grabbed a coffee at a van half way along. - on the edge of the Garden site.

GardenSculpture
Sculpture in the Garden Festival site

FestivalHeron
Heron contemplating lunch
Picked up a few nice photos along the way.

MerseyOtters-1
The choppy Mersey

Ended up being a 3.62 mile walk according to Runkeeper. So I blitzed my 8k steps by lunchtime. Result.

FestivalGardensAJW
End of a nice walk in blossoming trees

It was good to the car at my mate’s. They had just returned. So I got a couple of cups of coffee and a butty and had a good chinwag. It was good to see my mates for the first time this year (not counting Zoom). And good to show them I’m okay so they hopefully aren’t over worried by my situation. No doubt will do it again soon. Great to have the option. Onwards and upwards.

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Rather Random Target

Over the last few weeks I've been off work. Work is a very intensive day and involves lots of walking, some stairs, some panicking and a lot of thinking 'how the hell can I find another job'. So not being in work makes it dangerously easy to stop the exercise inadvertently.

With the issues with my health at the moment being a little unknown I'v set myself the rather random target of
8000 steps per day. It's lower than the arbitrary 10k steps cited by multitudes of people. Of course those targets are as made up and pretty useless as the 5-a-day nonsense. Basically you know if you are doing enough each day or you're just pushing the sofa indentation to its limits, just like you know if you've only eaten crap all day. So I am happy with my current unscientific Rather Random Target.

Canada Goose WHP
The Canadian Geese like Walton Hall Park too

Over the last twelve days I've achieved this each and every day. In fact my average daily steps are over this time has been 11k steps - which in old money equates to about 5 miles a day. I've been lucky with the weather in this time. There's not been any days with incessant rain, and some days have been lovely. Taken to walking to Walton Hall Park, where I used to do my 5k jogging practice, which is my nearest at about a mile away. If I do just one lap of the park my walk to and from the park is longer than the walk in it. But if I feel like it I can do a couple of circuits, which gets the numbers up whilst giving me nice vistas of trees, and water and the sound of birds - which has got to be better than walking around housing and industrial estates - for the head if nothing else.

Back in the day when I used to do the 5km Park Runs and whatnot I started using
Runkeeper. I've gone back to this now. Handily, whilst it's called Runkeeper it is great for any activity which may involve you moving from A to B - including walking. It's great to keep track of the bigger activities with it mapping out where you went and giving you your time and splits etc. Could help some people with motivation but in this instance it is just a recording tool really (which makes nice maps). On top of that for the entire day record my £40 smartwatch shows me what my total daily steps are too.

RunkeeperMapWHP

I've also been going to the B&M and Iceland around the corner on foot. It's a round trip of a mile and in the past I'd (sadly) have driven it rather than walk it. Though I'd have put off going until I need a few things. Now I'm happy to walk all the way to B&M for a loaf of bread, just to keep the legs going and get the fresh air (that said I can also pick up bottles of Oakham 'Citra' or Wickwar 'Platform 6.1' too).

SpringSprungWHP
Spring has sprung in Liverpool

Podcasts have accompanied many of my walks, though my last couple I've gone without the headphones. Though with my flyway hair yesterday it was worth putting the headphones on just to control my hair a little; I was seriously considering
Brylcream or gel yesterday - God, I can't wait for the barbers to reopen. Thankfully it IS only three weeks until they can return. Hallelujah!

Flyaway-WHP
Flyaway hair aka Pandemic Hair - one side effect of lockdown

Anyway. May my 5+miles per day continue. It will be interesting to see if I can force myself to do it in the rain. Though I suspect I may just wear a hole in the carpet walking up and down. In the meantime feel free to use my RRT if you think it'll be more useful to you than that 10k nonsense.
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Cool Club to Join: Vaccination #1

This morning I had my first COVID-19 jab: like a lot of people I know this week seems to be the week for getting jabbed. A few of my older mates, or those with other medical issues, have already been done, but this week so many of my mates, acquaintances, and Twitter buddies seem to have been marching around with one arm of their shirt up, whilst marching through doctors' surgeries and community centres up and down the country.

My vaccination place was just 3 miles away in Aintree Community Centre. I got up there in under 15 minutes and was in and out even quicker. The whole process was quick and seamless. I was told they were vaccinating 450 people there in the one day, which is pretty impressive for the wee place.

AJW AZ2

It was an Astra-Zeneca jab of course. I think most of them are at the moment. After all the bloods taken in the last couple of weeks - and the COVID tests up the nose & through to the back of my brain - the jab was nothing. Not had any issues with pain or flu type issues yet, but guess it’s only 8 hours ago and that’d be tomorrow if at all. Given my other problems at the moment a bit of temporary flu would be neither here nor there. That said, I’d prefer the issue to bypass me if it’s feeling kind.

AJW-AZ1

Next up for me will be the second dose, which will be due some time over the next twelve weeks - which means by early June. In some ways that doesn’t seem that far off. Time is playing some mighty strange games at the moment though.

Good luck to those of you who haven’t had it yet. Hope you get it soon (apart from those idiots who were celebrating Paddy’s Day in Sefton Park yesterday. Fucking idiots, the lot of them).

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Walk into Town: Onwards Downhill

Since my diagnosis of MS less than two weeks ago I have been conscious of my movement and the requirement to keep some miles in those legs to keep them going - even if I've nothing in particular to do. My standard aim for those pesky 'steps' prior to MS was 8000 a day. With work I was always doing between 12 and 17k steps, and on days off in these Covid days a lot lower (no pub crawls to walk). The average though would be well over 10k. I'm going to keep the aim at 8000 now and I don't feel any reason to change it. Indeed it may be more important than ever.

I decided to go on a walk yesterday with the aim of exceeding 10k and I did easily - finishing on 15k. The main thing was a long walk into Liverpool from home taking in Anfield Cemetery, Anfield Stadium and the walk down to the Adephi via Everton Valley Park. The walk was about 5 miles.

Anfield Cem2

The walk took me along the East Lancs and Walton Road before I ducked into Anfield Cemetery, as it's always nice to walk through where all the dead people are, and then on past Anfield. I was a season ticket holder back in the 1980s and in more recent times a Priority Ticket Scheme member, but I haven't gone to a match at Anfield since they built the fantastic new stand. God it's enormous.

We Are Liverpool

Anfield Stad1

After Anfield I decided to walk on, trying to get some more miles in. Thought I'd go to Everton Valley Park for the vista over Liverpool. The skyline along the Mersey looks great from there. In the end I decided it was al downhill from there into town so I'd continue and get the 17 or 19 back. It was a good call. Met a nice bloke walking his dog who chased after me to tell me my laces were undone on one of my trainers. I couldn't hear him with my headphones on. I thanked him, as there was no way with my current lack of feelings in my legs and feet I'd ever have felt them being loose. Got chatting to him, and despite his Everton hat he was a sound bloke. Explained about my numbness and he told me about his son dying at 19 and daughter at 24. Bloody hell. There is always someone else worse off out there isn't there. Had a good chat about all things cheerful, and football (which is a mixed bag for both of us at the moment).

Liverpool Skyline

Town was an absolute mess with so many roadworks around the centre. Hope they are timed to be sorted by the time everything has opened up - if not it is more disaster for the companies that have been shut for months. Sod's Law and bad planning dictates that the works won't be completed in the next couple of weeks. I saw hardly a workman anywhere along the hundreds of metres I walked past. Fingers crossed though.

Adelphi 1

Didn't fancy walking back - it's uphill. So hopped a No.19 and I was sorted. It was a nice day and a good walk. It's good to know I can walk five miles with no ill effects. Though my feet were sore.

Onwards and upwards.


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A Solo Christmas - Ho Ho Ho

Well in Liverpool we are in Tier 2 at the moment and that should be the same until at least the New Year. This means there are some places open that aren't in Tier 3 like museums, galleries and some hospitality. Which is good, but then again not that great for many people. If you are going to meet someone indoors it is a maximum of six people and they should be from your household and/or bubble. Now I've not been in a bubble until last week, when I went to my mate's house. Unfortunately I have not had the chance to go back to see him as he's ended up being in hospital since then (nothing to do with me being there, he's just quite ill). I must have one of the shortest tenured bubble.

So if I want to go to a pub or restaurant I have exactly zero people I can go with - in accordance with the regs and guidance. Great. I haven't even been to the pubs in Liverpool since they reopened a couple of weeks ago tomorrow. On any day I've had off from work I just have not had the desire to go into town to spend money and time eating something in a pub just so I can have a couple of pints. Normally if I went into town I'd go to three or four pubs and at the moment that would mean three or four things to eat. Even where there are 'cheap' options you can be looking at a fiver for a pie & peas or a ciabatta. So straightaway you can add that £15-20 to the price of your beer - as well as the calories to your waistline and the anguish of the whole experience.

You can think, well hey this is great for the virus. I mean I ain't gonna catch or spread a virus if I just don't go out. So well done with this legislation. Then again, that business and its suppliers won't be selling any beer to keep themselves going either. How many people haven't the money to spend or the inclination to go out in the current circumstances? The real ale pubs in Liverpool have all gone the full mile to provide Covid safe environments and the whole NHS track thing. I've never felt anything but safe in them (even when I didn't have to eat food). But I just don't have the money to spend on three multiple meals or the desire to eat them either. It is a nonsense for the individual and the business. The pubs that are trading aren't doing what they could be doing in terms of custom (especially at Christmas).

The virus is still here and we need to be doing the best we can to control its spread: I completely agree, but with distancing, cleanliness and masks then we can do a fair bit just being sensible. The virus is still here and if we do things wrong or relax it will grow in the community without a doubt.

And then we have Christmas. My god, the government in their wisdom tell us not to mix and keep alert etc but for five days at Christmas we can throw our caution to the wind and not be in any danger: of contravening any law. But it's not a football playing WWI truce, the virus isn't putting its weapons down for the event. So the virus can do nothing but spread more over that five days. How can they justify this? I mean if I can't safely meet with a couple of the family or friends indoors this weekend then how can I the following weekend? It is a bad decision. Of course we'd all like to meet up with whoever we want at Christmas, and every other damn day. But we understand why we can't at the moment. It is just one Christmas. It'll be nice next Christmas if everyone could look back at this one and think that they hadn't caused people to get ill - or die - due to the need pass out a few presents, eat a roast dinner, play a sill game or two, and then fall asleep in front of the tele.

The weeks around Christmas last year were bad for family reasons, but the actual day itself - at my sister's - was really nice; and she did a fabulous job. But this year I'm not going to go around. Because the right thing to do is not risk spreading the virus. My sister works hard in a food environment and has not been ill this year, and has been very conscious of the risk, and me similarly. If I went I'd be there with at least five people all of who have friends or family they bubble with, and people they work with, which soon makes the risk substantially higher. We all see people on the TV or via Social Media who are a little more relaxed (or don't give a damn about the whole thing). I'm sorry not to be going, and I do feel pressure to go because the government says we can. How many people will be pressurised this year to go to houses and meet with people who may be infected and two or three weeks down the road be 'a statistic'? And of course after the inevitable rise in cases in January how long till everyone is in Tier 3 again or even a full scale lockdown for the sake of a stupid decision made about Christmas?

Don't feel pressurised to go. Do what's right for you at this time. And also don't pressurise your friends or family to do things that they don't want to do this year, or is outside the regs and guidance - shit I'd love to go down the pub with me mates. But I'm not going to. Boy I can't wait until we can.

So on Christmas day I'll be watching a boxset, or a film or two, and making a roast dinner for one - Ho Ho Ho! But I know it is the right thing to do. I will be trying to get a mini-keg or two of local beer in for Xmas and Boxing Day too to make it feel at least a little better - and to support the local breweries (it's a true win-win).

Cheers.
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Liverpool: Reopening Crawl

So over three months after all the pubs, bars and restaurants (and hairdressers) closed pubs were finally allowed to open again to sell beer to people to drink at their establishments. This has become a thing of dreams to some, but no doubt a thing of nightmares to some people. I wrote a piece previousl about the closure of pubs back in March which you can read here.

The media called it Super Saturday along with other crass headlines. Personally I was looking forward to it with the understanding that it would not be the same and I was intrigued how it would work. But more importantly my hair really needed seeing to as I was looking like a cross between Michael Hestletine and Alan Partridge. I hadn’t booked anything. As I go to a little barbers I wasn’t sure how they’d do it.

PPEROC
Ready for the bus

First up after putting up the Seedling Challenge page was to get ready to go. I had my bandana of course. It was strange putting jeans, a shirt and my leather on. I don’t think I’ve left the house not in shorts and T-shirt for a couple of months (though recently with hoody or other top due to all the wind and rain). Then it was of to get the number 17 into town. It was my first time on a bus since March 19th.  From the seven people on the bus the only two who didn’t wear masks was what appeared to be a granny and grandson. She seemed mortified as we got on and she realised they had nothing and she told the boy to pull his hoody down over his face.

With stickers on the window indicating which seats were open for use and which weren’t it was interesting to see. I saw a couple of women sat next to each other which wasn’t in accordance with the rules. But in the main it wasn’t too bad and the windows were ajar too.

Got some cash out at a machine on London Road with the intention to walk down the hill past my usual barbers. If it was quiet my aim was to get a haircut. It wasn’t and the customers waiting were sat elbow to elbow in there: not for me!

With a haircut put on hold I was ready to head into a pub or two to see what was going on and to support them. I walked past the Crown towards the Dispensary first. There was a last minute adjustment being made to a rope barrier by the front door, and I asked when it was opening. I was told “Now” if you want. And so it was that I went into the Crown as my first pub for reopening. But as I looked across the floor to see the markings on the and was guided to where I should go and sit I couldn’t see any cask on. “Any cask on, mate?” “There’s only Doom Bar–you’ll be lucky to find any cask in town today, mate.” “I think I know a few places...”

And so it was, my first pub post reopening was left before I got 2 metres from the door, let along 2 metres from another customer. 

I reverted to my original plan to head to the Dispensary, but had to pause to take a photo and genuflect in front of the Sanctuary. Very depressing.

First thing at you spot at the Dispensary are the smart new (and large) tables and umbrellas. A great addition for an outdoor drink or two compared to the ad hoc wee table and chair arrangement they had previously. Indoors I was directed to a single chair to sit at near the fireplace and told before I could order I needed to text a phone number and then when I got a reply text my name. For groups of people only one person in a group would need to do it. It was an interesting way to do it and I wondered how much texting I’d be doing after another few pubs. Service was at the table.
Dizzy1ROC
New Dizzy Seating

There were only three cask on, which is fair enough given the unknowns and the smaller number of people they can get in the pub–with no standing. So my first reopening pint was an
OssettSilver King’ and my second was a RatWhite Rat’. Other than the signing in the only issue I had was the seating. Drinking alone as Billy No Mates you of course don’t get offered a table but a standalone chair without a table. The chair was rickety, so I moved to a second chair. A group of three sat on a nearby table which eventually became six. Once there were six there then they were right on top of me (not 1 metre) so I had to return to the first chair again. Ultimately everyone is on a learning curve. The landlords, the service staff, and the customers. 

DizzyROC
First Reopening Pint: a Silver King in the Dizzy


Bumped into a couple of CAMRA guys who were similarly looking to support the pubs and see what was happening.

Next up I’d decided to head down to the Bridewell. The service is always great with Dom works so table service would be right up their alley anyway. And his ale is always good too. This time the pub was pretty full and I ended up sat outside in the mizzly rain. Not ideal but not the end of the world either. This time there was no texting. Just write down your name and phone number on a record sheet by the door. Less messing about.

BridewellROC
Bridewell Pint: note damp (and long) hair

Read a couple of pages of a book on my Kindle but the rain wasn’t helping. Ended up with two pints once more, this time KirkstallThree Swords’ and ‘Pale’.

Third up was another pub I knew from Twitter/Instagram was open: the Baltic Fleet. Here I picked my beer at the bar and then it was brought around to me. I didn’t fill in any sheet or text anything. At least I got a table inside this time. Had a BrimstageTrapper’s Hat’.

BalticFleetROC
The Baltic Fleet

I decided I’d head into town. I knew the Ship & Mitre, Rigby’s and Dr Duncan’s was open which were all worth a go. But as it happens I saw a couple of people walk out of the side street by the Cornmarket and found it open. Here I bought the beer at the bar and took it to a comfortable leather sofa by the window. Again I wasnt asked to fill anything in. The pub was quiet, the moment: nice.

CornmarketROC
Cornmarket beer, Alan Partridge hair

Just had the one and headed next to Rigby’s. Incidentally I’d heard earlier that they’d laid of the manager of the Fly in the Loaf which I was incredibly disappointed to hear. The Fly has always been run very well since Dom and beyond. Not sure who or when the Fly is reopening, but it is strange that one of the Okell’s pubs was opening and not the other.

As it turned out I had a mixed blessing at Rigby’s. I was told to wait by the entrance while they found a table for me. I could see an empty table with one chair in front of me. The pub was quite busy though. Whilst I waited some guy came in and walked straight in and sat at the table (there was a couple behind me too). I was then told there was no room at the Inn. I was not a happy puppy. After a bit of a harrumph I left only to find it had been a wonderful conjunction of events, for I walked past a barbers a few doors down which was large and empty. I ended up being the last person in getting a haircut. No issues with social distancing: in and out, and a bloody great haircut. Hallelujah!

HaircutROC
Forget Accidental Partridge, I got an accidental haircut!

Having calmed down I thought I’d try Rigby’s again. I failed to get in again (and the bastard who’d taken my table was still there reading some crap tabloid... grr). Like I said; we’re all on a learning curve. Deep breathe.... ahhhhhh.

After finding Cornmarket was open the next one I found that I hadn’t spotted on Social Media was the Vernon–I knew the Lion wasn’t open yet. Was directed to an uncomfortable position in the back room. Definitely an issue for solo drinkers: if you don't get the choice you’re gonna get given the worse places to sit.

Nearing the end of my Reopening Crawl I headed into the Excelsior. It was pretty quiet. Picked an okay seat and had a Titanic 'Plum Porter'. It was dearer than the last time I was in there–when they were selling it off at £2 a pint on the last day I’d been out before the lockdown closures. It felt symmetrical. The Ship & Mitre had an early closing (and was closed on Sunday to evaluate how it went) so I never made it in there.

Excelsior1
Titanic Plum Porter once again in the Excelsior

When I’d gone out that day (19th March) Dr Duncan’s had been closed. It may have been a bit early closing but it was open again the first chance it could. Hence my last pint, back by Queen’s Square buses, was Dr D’s. Had a nice chat with the staff and a couple of customers. Suitably distanced off course.

All in all a nice crawl and good to see so many pubs open.

Key findings (other than the actual beer):

  • Everywhere is doing the name taking (or not) differently (it is currently guidance, not a legal requirement).
  • Fewer beers on (fewer customers and fewer beers available so no issue with that).
  • Prices had gone up considerably in one pub (I’ll let you discover which one). That may be a difficult balancing act with drinkers used to drinking at home now, but these guys have been shut for ages and need to make money with a smaller number of customers allowed in.
  • A bit random getting seated. And being on your tod, or maybe in a group of two, you can anticipate being hidden in a corner or in an awkward area of the pub where they cant fit a group.
  • It’s not the same having to be seated and not roaming around as and when. But you can still socialise a little with the nearby customers and anyone you spot from your seated positionwhich after over three months not seeing anyone is bloody marvellous.
  • Everyone is on a learning curve - us–the drinkers– and them–the guys and gals serving the stuff. Be good, be calm, be patient.

I had no issues with social distancing other than having to move myself away from a group in the Dizzy, but that was easily dealt with. Everywhere staff were cleaning regularly and there was hand sanitizer available.

Great to find these pubs open–and for me to drink in seven of them:

  • Crown
  • Dispensary
  • Bridewell
  • Baltic Fleet
  • Cornmarket
  • Rigbys
  • Vernon
  • Excelsior
  • Ship & Mitre
  • Dr Duncans

Looking forward to the Grapes, Head of Steam, the Lion and the Fly reopening: when they are ready.  Still absolutely gutted about the Sanctuary

And the best thing about Super Saturday? Accidentally getting a haircut. Get in!
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A Pilgrimage To A Real Sanctuary

Note: This article was featured on the GetIntoThis website which I've reposted here following the closure of that website. It is about the last visits to the Liverpool pubs as closure approached in late March and a dream of a crawl after reopening. It is made even more poignant following the news that the Sanctuary is to close:

A Pilgrimage to a Real Sanctuary

I don’t know about you, but I rarely remember my dreams or my nightmares. Sometimes I wish that I did. You know those cinematic ones that you can kinda control in some way? It’s like going to the cinema for free - and with you as one of the main characters. Still, if it’s a nightmare maybe it’s best not to remember, hey? But in all my dreams I have never had one where all the pubs were closed for days, then weeks on end. I mean I’m not sure I could sleep if I knew there was a risk of that. 
And here we are. In that real life nightmare. The pubs are shut. The beers are getting flushed down the drains. And it’s already weeks in. Forget the lockdown bollocks, I want lock-ins.
Of course we could see it coming. Each day, each meeting, the Government reeled out their stats and their methods: how we’d beat Coronavirus. Meanwhile Italy, Spain and the like all closing down. It couldn’t happen here, could it? Damn straight.

Crown1

In the final week of open hostelries, as the inevitable approached, I had to go out to support them: to see them one last time. So it was that on the Wednesday and Thursday, before Boris and His Boffins said social distancing needed to be extended to the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants, I went into Liverpool for beer. I really did go out without wanting to, just so I could say my farewells; and cry a little into a pint glass in-situ. On the Wednesday evening I went into the Head of Steam. It was only 9pm and tellingly they’d already rung last orders to the six people there. I headed up Bold Street next to the Dispensary - for a White Rat of course, then a quick one in the Roscoe Head before heading up to the Fly in the Loaf. The Fly was already shut for the night; it was ten o’clock. My heart was heavy. I ended up with two pints in the Caledonia before the bus home. As crawls go it felt a wee bit painful. It was like someone was lying in bed for their last hours and we were waiting for the inevitable (sorry, bad analogy, but it was).

Roscoe1

I’d only visited a few pubs and there was a couple of telling omissions. I wanted to go into town even less on the Thursday. But felt duty bound to show my support. Or was it to hold the hands of the grieving? I headed a different way this time, around Dale Street. The Ship was quiet, with barely double figures in there: social distancing was not going to be a problem and the Excelsior was quieter still, despite selling their cask off at stupid pence a pint. I helped them out by getting rid of one of their pints of Titanic Plum Porter I’m nice like that. I chatted to the bar man as he wiped the bar with disinfectant. The pub was pristine. Too clean. Any worse and it’d have stung your eyes. Third up was across the road to Dead Crafty. Now I’m a cask man, but I recognise good beer and good people, and Dead Crafty have both, so it had to be visited. Besides, it was clearly open and there was no telling how many other bars would be. The Lion Tavern was open but deader still; Liverpool’s only just crowned CAMRA Pub of the Year - what timing for the award. I had a pint but wasn’t even in the mood for the free juke box. I needed to head to the Sanctuary on Lime Street. It’s one of my regulars and I didn’t want to miss it in case the pubs would be closed before I made it out again. The staff and regulars are friends; even if I do my best to put them off with the odd open mic performance. On the way I noticed Dr Duncan’s was closed, so I popped in the Crown instead. All this talk of social distancing and responsibility was getting to me. Was I being reckless going to pubs in a time of the virus? It’s less than four weeks - aka ‘a lifetime’ -ago and I didn’t feel so, though I still felt a bit guilty. They kept saying the youngsters were ignoring it and would get the oldsters killed. Well hell, I’m in my 50s and in the Crown I was the younger demographic that night (apart from the stoic bar staff). And so it was that I made it finally to the Sanctuary for a couple. There were three of us there, plus two bar staff. A suitable end to my two day wake.

Lion1

And so iIt came on Friday. The 20th March: the announcement that all pubs and bars would be expected to close that night. It still sends shivers down my spine. All those lovely days and nights; the great people who work in the bars and make the beer. All those empty buildings. It’s haunting. I didn’t go out on the Friday, I’d done my bit. One landlady contacted me via Twitter to ask if I wanted a cask which would otherwise go to waste. I turned it down. I couldn’t drink it in a week - not without taking the week off anyway. Me turning down a cask of beer? Strange times indeed.

The two day pilgrimage around some of my favourite (and even the not-so-favourite) pubs of Liverpool was an unusual affair. Not exactly uplifting. But I was glad I’d done it. It was like my own version of ‘Last Chance to See...’.

I’ve hardly mentioned the beers. And of course they are integral to the way of life of a real ale fan, but they are not the be all and end all. I’m not a ticker. I love the pubs, the ambience, the people - customers and staff alike. AND the beer. I’m of the view that if I’m spending a few quid on a beer it’s got to be nice. Like many ale drinkers every time I go out it is not to go to one pub, it is to got to three or four. And boy, I am missing them. I’m still working as usual. My job has not been affected by this virus yet, but my social life obviously has. Jeez, I feel for anyone who is properly locked down. At least I get out five times a week to work. I’m going crazy just missing the damn pubs.

As I say I love beer. Anyone who knows me probably has that as a (the?) defining feature of me - I’ve got a damn Twitter and Instagram account devoted to it. But it’s not the beer I miss. It’s the pubs. I don’t drink much at home at all. A bottle here - and sometimes these days - a can there. It’s not the same drinking at home. It’s probably a good thing for me that I feel that way. 

SanctuaryAJW1

Well that was my pre-closure pub pilgrimage, what will the return be like? Firstly, let’s really hope that all the pubs survive this. Margins are tight at the best of times, and this is as far from the best of times as I could have dreamt. But when they do reopen I for one will be taking a couple of days off to undertake the return pilgrimage. It’ll be difficult as I’m sure they’ll be heaving - though many will be nervous about being in crowds again. And of course, when they first open it could be a 2m distancing thing. And a one in one out. Who knows? But all things being equal my first days back will take in the Head of Steam, Dispensary, Roscoe, Grapes, Fly, Dickens & King, the Caledonia.... and the Sanctuary. I can’t wait. Then maybe on the second day I’ll return to the Dale Street for the Ship, Excelsior, Dead Crafty, Vernon, Lion, Hole in the Wall and Rigby’s. They’ll all need supporting when they come back and I for one will try and do my bit. 

Look I can but dream - I just wish I could remember them.

Finally, that’s just the pubs, what they sell to us is the beer and we are lucky in Liverpool now to have so many good breweries on our doorstep. If this had happened a few years ago we’d only have had a couple to miss, but these days there are so many great little ones around Merseyside and the Wirral. My favourites are Neptune, Chapter, Top Rope, Black Lodge and Peerless, and then there’s; Brimstage, Love Lane, Melwood, Rock the Boat, Scrapyard, Southport, Parkers, Red Star. I mean with these breweries you are spoiling us. Sorry if I’ve missed yours off, but you get what I mean, we have so many good options to keep it local - beer and pub wise. 

So whilst I don’t drink much at home I will do a little bit and there are local supplies of local beers for lockdown. So whilst you are waiting for our locals to reopen, if you want to go beyond Oakham Citra from your B&M (which ain’t a bad option though), there are some options out there to slake your thirst. It’ll have the bonus of supporting local businesses too, so you can feel good twice. Here are a few: 


Black Lodge - Delivery only. Online order: www.blacklodgebrewing.co.uk

Carnival - Cans via online store: www.carnivalbreweing.me

Cask micro pub - Bottles and Cask cartons. (Deliveries 5-7:30pm). Check out their Twitter feed: @LiverpoolCask

Craft Taproom - Online store: crafttaproom.myshopify.com

Dead Crafty - Online order for delivery. Check twitter and Untappd for menu. Orders via email: deadcraftybeer@gmail.com

Londis, Penny Lane - Shop. Get yerself down there. (Check stock updates on their Twitter account: @LondisPennyLane

Love Lane - Online shop for delivery or click and collect: lovelanebeer.com/

Red Star - Range limited: www.redstarbrewery.co.uk

Rock the Boat - Boxes available for delivery: www.rocktheboatbrewery.co.uk

Scrapyard (Wallasey) - Beers in a box (£20 for 5l). Check out their Twitter feed @scrapyard_bar

Top Rope - online shop for deliveries: www.topropebrewing.com 



Happy drinking. See you on the other side. Sweet dreams.
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The New Normal (Not So Much)

What's the new normal going to be like? Clue: it’s not.

So this weekend, on the 4th July, a normality is to return. With pubs and restaurants to reopen. And almost more importantly... barbers. I for one can’t wait. 

Or can I? It’s been over three months since the pubs closed the door because of Covid-19 and one of my major pastimes was given the heave-ho. Have I got into drinking at home instead? Will I stay in and save money with a few bottles rather than going down the pub for a couple? Will I hell.

I love my beer, don’t get me wrong. But beer comes with the pub, it's not for watching the TV. Not in my book at any rate. Can’t wait to get back to doing little five or six pub crawls around Liverpool city centre. Or getting on the train for the Southport run, or a CAMRA coach trip to Derby or Leicester (?).

Apart from it’s not going to be normal yet at all. If you live in a village with a lovely old coaching inn with big gardens then you’ll be okay, maybe you won’t notice much difference at all. But for the 99% of us who live in an urban area–particularly a city–we are going to be buggered. Or, more importantly, the pubs are. 



The rules are such that there can’t be more than 30 people in a pub–however big it is. I mean one size does not fit all. Asking pubs to serve outside where it is safer is all well and good, but how can a little pub on a city street accommodate that? Taking names and details from all the customers is going to be fun. Minimise contact with the staff, but take their life story (okay, not life story–and it does make sense). No live music, or football to be shown: nothing to get the customers excited lest they spit out their germs everywhere. Then there's the PPE, the hand-washing and the one way system and one in/one out to the toilet. No standing at the bar chatting to the staff. No... well no anything.

So pubs are reopening and normality is returning. Apart from the pubs can’t attract enough people to survive. Can’t generate atmosphere. Can’t entertain. Can’t make their customers feel comfortable. Oh yes, definitely back to normal.

How can the pubs survive with so few customers? Without the joy of a group of friends out for the evening? How can the music economy (the proper gig economy) survive this? It's all a matter of time before more and more establishments fall at the wayside. This will damage individuals who work or own these businesses and harm the towns and cities we live in. The impact of this virus is going to go on for years even if a cure falls into our laps this year.


We put a lot of faith in everyone not to catch and spread this most strange of viruses. And seeing the recent footage from parks, beaches and of course our Pier Head, that faith is not held tightly. If we look at what happened in the US where hardly anyone wears masks, and they opened up businesses as if there was no virus, it is rampant like never before. Trump's inability to say 'Wear a mask' has fucked them. They opened bars like they were normal in many respects so it was no surprise what has happened, and we are not doing that so maybe we will be a lot better of in terms of the virus. But in terms of the business it is untenable without government support.

Whenever you do go out, be sensible. Follow the guidance. Because if the Covid-19 numbers get out of control or even just take longer to come down then it'll be a longer time before the new normal becomes the old normal. It's simple folks:
keep your distance; keep your hands clean; limit touching your face; wear a mask in enclosed areas or in close proximity to others. That's it. It ain't rocket science. Be calm and patient and be very, very nice to all the staff looking after you.

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So far I’m not sure which if any pubs are open on Saturday–obviously when I say pubs I mean real ale pubs and not the Concert Square or Wetherspoons variety. I want to give my custom to my favourite pubs that I used to go to: they deserve it, even if I don’t. I am going to head into town first thing though to see if I can find a barbers to deal with my problem and then I’ll see if I can find a pint in an environment that doesn’t make me want to cry.  I may well come back with no luck on any front at all. Watch this space.
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There Is No Sanctuary Anymore 

Well this weekend brought the news that the Sanctuary on Lime Street is to close its doors permanently. One of the first confirmations of pubs in Liverpool to be closing as a result of the damnable pandemic: it won't be the last.

It goes without saying that I wish the owners and all the staff all the best at this time.

It has been a great little boozer for the last few years for me. One of my most regular haunts. Often I would pop in at the start or the end of a wee crawl–or even both ends of one. It was always laid back. There was always music on (I’m not saying it was always to my taste, but hell yeah. Music!). The decor was ‘interesting’ if built-in distressed is your thing. From outside if looked like it could be a wine bar with the logo on the window, whilst inside it was spit & sawdust. It was a contradiction in many ways.

Beer choice could be a little up and down, but usually there was one or two–sometimes even three–that were worth staying for–or else I wouldn’t have, would I?

There wasn’t a big turnover of staff. And all of them were friendly and outgoing. Going out of their way to look after the customers (even giving me control of the music on several occasions. Yeah, an evening of Frank Turner, Wilco or Magic Numbers anyone?). One of last year's highlights was going in there for a few pints whilst waiting for the parade for the European Cup. We watched the progress of the parade on my phone so knew exactly when to leave to catch the buses, got some fab photos and then went back into the Sanctuary within about twenty minutes or so. A perfect afternoon, which unfortunately we won't be able to repeat for any parade for winning the league.–more's the pity.



Best of all I was in one Thursday evening reading a book when I noticed someone walk upstairs with a guitar and found out it was Open Mic. I popped up to watch, telling myself if they weren’t all shit hot I’d get up and play a song–partly on the basis that I didn’t know any of them and I need not show my face again if it all went tits up. I nervously strummed a couple of songs in super fast time and sweated like a pig… and since then I’ve hardly missed any. I hadn’t played in front of anyone for about twenty years. Unfortunately I hadn’t been practicing much either. But rediscovering the guitar was great and it has been the highlight of many a week since.









The continuation over recent weeks of the Open Mic online has been a lovely way to break up the week, especially the monotonous evenings (so much TV watched). Our little Zoom Sanctuary has been great, but it’s not a pub. It’s not the same.

It won’t be the last pub to go and I’m fearful for which of my other favourites may not survive this most painful of years. I’ll miss meeting up with the Open Mic crew at the Sanctuary. I’ll miss the banter with the staff and customers. I’ll miss sitting there reading or writing. Hell, I’ll just miss the Sanctuary.

RIP The Sanctuary. It was good to be in you.
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A Very Good Evening

Last night was Open Mic #4 of the Sanctuary Zoom Open Mics. It was the oddest one. Lots of people couldn't be there due to life commitments and/or watching Chelski v Man City. So as it was there were only three of us online rather than the usual nine or so. In addition to myself there was Matt Holland (.author.com) and Rebecca. Matt does stories and Rebecca does audience–and does it very well. Yeah, I was the only 'musician'. At least until the end of the night.

It was almost nine when I logged in. Despite the low attendance there was never the question of cancelling it and we had a good night. Matt read a couple of old stories and gave us a trial run of a new one he's working on. And I did at least eight songs, which I'll list below. Other than that we reminisced about pubs and drunken exploits and talked about if and when we'd go back to the pub again.

All this with one eye on our phones to see how the footy was going. When I left the commentary after twenty odd minutes City had been on top. But football is a funny old game and if they failed to win Liverpool, after their 4-0 thrashing of Palace the day before, would be Champions for the first time in thirty years. As the designated old git at Open Mic I'm one of the only ones who was alive and going to watch Liverpool back in the 1980's when we won all that came before us. I could understand the excitement of the youngsters not there at the evening's possibilities.

As it was, of course, Chelski scored first and it was 1-0 at half time. City equalised with a worldy free kick… and then a sending off and a penalty gave Chelski the game. Liverpool were fucking Champions of absolutely everything (currently holding the European Cup, the Super Cup, the World Club Cup and now the Premier League Champions): it's not been a bad year. If you discount the coronavirus (or indeed only count the footy).

At this point the Zoomers all left to go to their doors or windows to hear the singing, watch the fireworks and hear the street noise. It was brilliant. I just wish my dad was here to have shared in it. A day so long in the waiting. Back in the early 80s before I had a Season Ticket myself my mum and dad would take it turns to take me to the game with the parent and child ticket. As well as going to several games with both mum and dad. Mum was a red, dad was a fans of the Sons (Dumbarton to you). He'd have enjoyed the day and celebrations immensely.

Getting back onto Zoom it was time for another bottle of beer (I was drinking Platform 6.1 and Oakham Citra) and I played another song or two.

Niall came on from Dublin looking suitably very happy and gave us a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone–which the rest of us did our utter best not to wreck, but probably failed. The night ended after much talk about football, beer, celebrations, fireworks, car horns and the wish to be able to celebrate it properly at some point.

Open Mic 4

We all decided 1:30am was late enough and called it quits. We'll probably change the day next week as next Thursday it is the Man City game–guard of honour and all that. So maybe it'll be on Wednesday or Friday. Either way I'm sure there will be more than three of us (with a late a guest appearance). We shall see.

My setlist (for it must be as set once you're over five songs, surely?) comprised:

  • Homeward Boud
  • You Ain't Going Nowhere
  • Down By the Water
  • Congratulations
  • N17
  • Hotel California
  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Sweet Carolina
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Footy is Back (and I need to watch some)

Well hello, it’s 17th June and it’s been so many long days since the last Premier League game (they say it’s been only three months but bloody hell it seems much longer). This morning I was thinking I’ll get Sky Sports for the month. Liverpool are on Sky a minimum of three times and at the moment just the first one - the derby on Sunday - is Free to View. 

Assuming that there will be at least four Liverpool matches on Sky over the month and then there are other interesting matches so I may end up watching six to ten games for £18 not bad; so £2-3 is a no brainier really. I’m not one for using dodgy streaming sites unless I’m full on desperate.

It’ll be strange to watch without an atmosphere from the fans. But we are in a strange place in all walks of life. I’d rather the league continued this way than  it be sorted by Points Per Game.  

We’re going to win the league one way or another but not being able to celebrate it like we did last year for the Champion’s League will be the strangest thing. Having a parade when it is safe to do so will be well weird. Can you postpone euphoria?

So it’s not going to be normal but boy I can’t wait for the build up, the matches and the post match autopsies of every game. Bring it on.

FirmSal

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Update: looked up offer and it’s £18 for Sky Sports and then
another £18 for the football. And the website is so damn unclear about it all. Grrr. Maybe I’ll just for for a Now TV pass when I want one instead. Umm,,, then again that’s £10 for a day pass, or £25 a month, but for that you need a three month subscription. Grrr… Maybe I’ll go for the NowTV mobile phone option, which is £6. Can only watch on phone - and not cast it anywhere.
______

Decision made. Went for the phone option. Went smoothly enough adding the pass and app to my phone, so I'm good to go. It'll be just like being there… not. Better than nowt and all for the price of a pint and a half. Wonder whether the sound will play through my bluetooth speaker. That'd be a bonus.

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Calexico and Iron & Wine Gig

Calexico-1

Went to the third gig of the last month. Wow! I say wow because it's also the third gig of the year too (discounting pub bands). Following Kathryn Williams in the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room and Rival Sons at De Montford Hall at the Liverpool Uni a couple of weeks ago it was time for another class act (or two really): Calexico and Iron & Wine.

I'd last seen them together years ago but seen them separately several times in Liverpool, Manchester and at festivals. And I have even seen Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall before with my sister several years ago. The album they are touring with is Years to Burn and is absolutely beautiful. If you haven't got it, what's stopping you? (Okay, stream it if you must)

Calexico-5

I had an eventful time getting to the gig. Having a late start at work meant I didn't get home until 18:58. I managed to get showered, changed and out of the house by 19:10 and to the bus stop for 19:14, with the bus due at 19:17. Brilliant. Come 19:30 still no sign of bus and me getting anxious. What this time? It wasn't like there was a big footy match on or anything. Oh no. Theres always something with the infamous No.17. What could it be this time? Well a lady got of a 62 and asked us if we were waiting for the 17, for if we were we'd be waiting a long time as the woman driving it had crashed into A&E at Fazakerley Hospital. I mean, WTF? How do you not see a hospital? Still, I suppose dispensing any injured passengers would be handy and wouldn't tie up any ambulances.

So I had to get to the next bus stop to double my chance of getting a bus - with both a 19 and 17 a possibility. The next 17 was late so I ended up on a 19 and running about 45 minutes late. Meaning I'd get to the Phil about 20:20. I checked on Twitter for stage times… Calexico and Iron & Wine due on at… yep, 20:20.

Calexico-3

Dispensed out of the bus at London Road and took the ten minute walk to the Phil. I realised I was parched after the long wait and realised I hadn't drunk much at work either. I decided I'd throw myself into the Pen Factory for a very speedy pint. Took me about three mins, including ordering, to get a pint of Dark Star 'Hophead' down. It hit the spot. I speedily passed on down Hope Street arriving at 20:20. Get in! The bar in the foyer had a queue but was handily placed. I needed one to last through the 1.5 hours of the gig (as the bar was closed during the performance (shocking state of affairs). A security guy said 'Sorry, the bar is shut' - my face fell and I blurted out the tale of woe getting there and the hospital jumping in front of my bus and a lovely lady (the loveliest) said 'Go on, get in the queue.' Woo hoo! So five minutes later I had a pint of Love Lane Pale Ale and then went through to my seat. As it happened they didn't start until about 20:35 or so, so I didn't miss a note (though I missed the support, Lisa O'Neill).

Calexico-2
Sam, Joey Burns and Lisa O'Neill performing 'Dreams'

I was sat downstairs in the stalls on Row L. Not a bad spot to be in; that said to be fair anywhere in the Phil would be a good place to see a gig. Of course, I'd much rather stand than sit through music but sometimes you don't have a choice. From the first notes of Father Mountain through so many of their songs, and some of the Calexico's and Iron & Wine's, and several great covers; including the Everly Brothers' 'Dream' (sung with Lisa McNeill), and Echo and the Bunnymen's 'Bring on the Dancing Horses', it was musicianship of the highest quality. The level didn't drop.

Calexico-4
Accordion Solo

Only slightly negative thing for me occurred when three late arrivals, all guys in their sixties, sat down and talked through parts of several songs. And then did some American style Whooping. I mean, NO! I was half expecting a 'Get in the hole'.

They played around an hour and half before I plodded of with a large grin on my face to the merchandise where I got a tour T-shirt and a signed poster. Bit odd this, as I never used to buy merchandise at all - despite years and hundreds of gigs I only have tour T-shirts from Ryan Adams, Wilco, and Frank Turner. I think a Calexico and Iron & Wine T-shirt is a mighty fine addition to the not-even-collection.

If you can get to see them: do so. If you don't know them and are interested in finding out what they are like here's a link to a live performance of 'Bring on the Dancing Horses'.

DancingHorses

Finally I got back home on the No.17 and it managed to get back without hitting any buildings, well not so you'd notice anyway.
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The (New) Dispensary

HaircutMe

It's been an interesting couple of weeks seeing how the Dispensary transitions after the long reign from Pauline and Dave came to a quite abrupt end. It is understood that the tenancy came to an end on the 15th September and they decided not to renew it. The Dispensary under their stewardship won the Liverpool CAMRA branch Pub of the Year on multiple occasions and the beer choice and quality was never less than exceptional. They kept their decision to leave pretty quiet and it was only in the last ten days of their rule that it became common knowledge. Wherever they end up going and whatever they end up doing I wish them the best of luck.

In the meantime the new managers of the Dispensary require luck and hard work to maintain the tradition of the excellent cellar here, lest it become just another pub. I've been in a few times since the change of the guard and although it's very early days things are looking good. There have been a few changes which are mostly positive or at least neutral. The board with the beers on now has prices on it which is always handy in decision making and getting your money ready at the bar. And talking of money they have entered the 21st century and like many of the other nearby pubs now take card payments. Yay!

The beer choices so far comprise the same breweries that Dave and Pauline took, including Titanic, Ossett and Rat. Definitely a great big plus. Got to be good to have White Rat still available.

DizzyBoard

WhiteRat

There is now no fear of the answer at the bar if you ask for a coke (not that I ever would) but sometimes people require a soft drink. Here is my mate with half a coke…

Coke

They still have TVs and the footy channels (BT and Sky) for those interested. And Liverpool are still winning. They've retained the bar staff too.

They also now sell Guinness. It is a drink from my past, but I have often heard people ask for it here and been disappointed not to find it. Not a big fan these days but hey, at least they've got themselves a nice old school pump display for it. They also have a small heater perched at the end of the bar for pies and whatnot. Food in the Dizzy! What next…?

Guiness

… well, toilet roll in the toilets for a start which is nice.

In the last few days there have been returning customers who were previously banned or at least felt unwelcome. No doubt the customer base will settle down in the coming weeks when the novelty value has ended.

So, in summary, a positive start for the new guys. The key to its continued success will be all about the cellar and the bar staff.
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Eight Pubs

On Saturday, as I mentioned on my previous post, I decided in the absence of the North Wales CAMRA coach trip to go on a local jaunt around many of the Liverpool hostelries I enjoy. Here is how the afternoon transpired.

I got the infamous No. 17 into town and got off on London Road. My route for the day was undecided at that point, but it was best place to get off and get some cash out by the Tesco. I took out thirty quid and then made the happy mistake to go into Henry Bohn's - a wonderful second hand bookshop at the bottom of London Road by the Empire.

Twenty minutes later I came out with a much heavier bag (and eleven quid lighter) having bought two Terry Pratchett's: The Wee Free Men and Nation, and an Olaf Stapledon: Last and First Men. However the day transpired this would make it a good one.

8 Pubs1

I was in the process of reading 'Moscow Drive' by a local guy, Mark Porter, who I'd met on the aforesaid infamous 17, in which he name checks lots of Liverpool hostelries I have been know to frequent, including the Raven at Walton Vale, and in town the White Star, Lion, and Ma Egertons (which I'd just got up to in the book). Ma Egerton's is behind the Empire so it seemed the obvious place to start in a way. Unfortunately it hadn't crossed my mind that it was only around an hour or so before kick-off and Everton had their first home game of the season at 3pm. Egerton's was an obvious meeting place, being next to Lime Street Station and a taxi rank. So it was packed. I walked in and then out. Ma, I'll catch you another time. Instead I went to the Crown. It too was busy with a fair few fans, but I'd timed it to perfection as far as service was concerned. Sizing up the selection I went for a beer (and brewery) I hadn't had before, a 'Sunshine IPA' from Wooha Brewing Company. A decent, hoppy, low abv pint for the start of a session. I drank it in the backroom, the only place I could find a seat, and perused my new old books surrounded by people eating massive coronary inducing platters (looked good).

Next up was only a hundred metres down the road and one of my regulars, The Sanctuary. Here I bumped into a Twitter friend I've never met before, but knew was a regular at the Sanctuary, Stephen Ackers aka @beefynets. He has got into doing VSS365, which - as well as liking ale - makes him mighty fine. Here I went for an Adnams 'Mosaic'. Whilst it is a bit of a large brewery for me I do like the single hop brews, and it was a nice (hoppy again) choice. After bidding farewell to Ackers, whose bags were heavier than mine thanks to Lidl's 'beer festival', I went on to number three. The area of attack was now clear - I couldn't be out for too long (having work on Sunday) and I never want to miss the Grapes, when I have the choice, so basically I knew I was bound to continue around the Hardman group of hostelries. Therefore next up was the Dispensary.

Say what you like about the Dizzy (and boy people do) the cellar is the best kept there is. They had White Rat and King Rat on from Rat Brewery. Whilst not ideal for a session I went for the stronger (5%) King Rat for the extra oomf. Was not a mistake. Gorgeous. Got into conversations with Dave, the landlord's husband, about things football and CAMRA related. We agreed to disagree on some and agreed to agree on others. Liverpool scored against the run of play whilst I was there (not on telly) whilst Archer was beating the daylights out of Steve Smith (also not on telly).

TheEightPubs

Next up was the Roscoe Head, one of only five (who knows, maybe fewer now) pubs in the entire country to have been in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. I'd bumped into Carol (the landlady) on Wednesday in the Fly and said I'd pop in soon. She wasn't in, but I bumped into a couple of people I knew. After the heavier abv. in the Dizzy I went for another light one and the Red Willow Brewery 'Effort Less', whilst I continued to read some more of Moscow Drive.
8 Pubs 2
(the Strawberries and Cream was from a different day - these images are from my @realeliverpool Instagram account)

Got a quick bite of something and nothing from the Co-op before heading on to The Grapes. It's a wonderful pub and one of the most improved over the last couple of years - just be careful if you are visiting Liverpool not to mistake it for the aberration (at least from a beer perspective) for the Grapes on Mathew Street. Here it was time for a local brew from Neptune Brewery (I think the best brewery on Merseyside, but there are lots of great ones these days) and another new beer for me, the Cabo Baja Sur. Sat in the bar on the right I got chatting to another reader (she was reading the Time Traveller's Wife, but was not over enamoured with it). Good beer, nice chat. Excellent. But I couldn't be resting up, as I'd intended to make eight different pubs and time and beer was of the essence.

I headed next back over Hardman Street and up to the Hard Times & Misery, which is now called the Dicken's and King. I was happy to see they had another Mosaic on and, even better, it was from Neptune. It was lovely. Probably my Beer of the Day, if I was handing out awards. Again bumped into a couple of people for chats about things beer, football and writing related.


EP_cover

The late kick off was Man City v Spurs and as a Liverpool fan I had a little interest in it, even if it is so bloody early in the season (Liverpool had beaten Southampton in the 3 o'clock kick off, after apparently playing pretty poorly). Anyway, it made sense to head next to the Fly in the Loaf and catch a beer and the end of the game there. It was 2-2, then Man City scored in injury time to get the winner. A big cheer went up as there were Evertonians in the house post their game and they already want City to win the league - can't think why. Thankfully VAR stepped in (ridiculously) and disappointed blue noses of several persuasions. I enjoyed it muchly with an Ilkley Brewery 'Summer Golden Ale'.

That was pub number seven. So where for eight? There were plenty of good local options including the Pen Factory, the Belvedere, even the Phil, but I went for the Caledonia. They've had an Americana festival on all month, and there was a chance I could catch some music. As it happened I did catch a couple of tunes from Alex Gavaghan all accompanied with another local brew a 'Session IPA' (words that really shouldn't go together in my view) from Liverpool Brewing Company.

Good beer, fine music, interesting conversations and reading. All in all a damn good crawl.

AlexGavaghan
Alex Gavaghan in the Caledonia
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Pub Crawl

Time has been a bit short this week, with the new routes in Wales I've been given one of the short straws with Llanwrst and Trefriw. Bugger of a route with narrow roads, one ways, wrong geocodes, named houses and some very isolated properties – even deeper into Snowdonia, past old lead mines, deep in forest and into hiking territories. With up to 80 drops a day a single drop that takes 30 minutes is very frustrating - however beautiful the locality. I was lucky to just get back in time to watch the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday, which has been the highlight of the week.

Isolated
Isolated walking territory, Snowdonia

Hafna
Hafna Lead Mine, Snowdonia

Maenan
Maenan Hall Folly

Gwydir
Gwydir Castle, Llanwrst

Was originally hoping to be on a real ale trip to Conwy and Colwyn Bay today with the Wirral Branch of CAMRA, but the coach was booked up. Meanwhile my usual couple of cohorts went on a last minute holiday up to the Isle of Bute, which looked lovely. So I have been left to my own devices. Um'd and ah'd about going to Manchester, or doing the Southport Run or maybe Chester or a Wirral trip. But hell I've opted for closer to home and a go-with-the-flow wander around Liverpool hostelries. Will try to get to a few more than usual, which means shorter stops and quicker drinks. Unfortunately I'm working tomorrow, which means I can't be out this evening.

Will see how it goes. Will try and take some photos and make a few notes to turn into a blog - partly because I haven't done any blogs this week. I'll also try and do my
Seedling Challenge.

Have a good weekend folks.
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Fantasy Footy's Nearly Back

The football season is almost upon us–I know, it already is for some none Premiership footy fans, but I'm talking Liverpool. Anyway, I'm also talking Fantasy Footy. I've done it the last few years. Generally the better Liverpool do, the better my team does. Stands to reason with the reliance on three players from Liverpool every time. Just put up my provisional team and the most difficult thing was picking which Liverpool players to pick (on the Fantasy Footy League I'm in you can only pick a maximum of three from any one club; I do the fantasy.premierleague.com one).

How could I not pick Robertson or Allison? I ended up going for Salah, Firmino and Keita. I wanted Mane but couldn't afford him, and maybe Origi is worth a punt or Ox; this football management lark is quite difficult.



It asks you to select colours for a kit. Of course you could ignore it. But then again you could just select: red, red, red, red.

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May set up a league for VSSers. But not sure how many would be interested. Need at least eight to make the league look like a league and not just a match.

I've selected a crap team name. And defo need to change that before the season starts–now that's not a problem a manager usually has (unless he's at Hull). Something based around Six probably.
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Some Parade!

Well, what a weekend. Had to go to the parade, of course, to soak in some of the colour and noise, but most of all to welcome the boys back. Town was heaving with something like 750,000 people out to see them, so it was a bit of a headache to decide where best to watch them. The last time me and the lads went to greet them was after we beat West Ham in the FA Cup Final in 2006 and I decided (for it was my call) to watch it around the same place again. That time we had quite a long time waiting around, but this time we the advantage of being able to watch the stream of the parade live, so we could watch it to see where they were up to and leave in good time to watch them.

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As it was up behind the Walker Art Gallery it was only up the road from the Sanctuary, so it was a no brainer to get a nice couple of ales in there then walk up when they looked about ready to make it down the road. My only fear (being the one making the call) was there was a delay on the stream and as we walked up past Lime Street Station I did think it seemed remarkably quiet and wondered for a moment. But I needn't have worried. As it happened we walked off the closed fly-over on to the dual carriageway, where there were plenty of people about but lots of room too. We were only there for a couple of minutes before the motorbike police came down to clear the way, followed by police on foot - we could not have timed it better. We were close enough to touch the buses as they went past. Brilliant.

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The Liverpool boys were all up for it, swinging their scarves, singing, banging the side of the bus. Milner and Robertson looked particularly energetic. Maybe it's the Ribena (or lime and soda) but I don't know where Milner gets his energy. All the guys were obviously loving it - especially Klopp.

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Got some fab photos. Shouted and sung a bit. Followed the bus down to the bottom of the road. And basically loved it.

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Then was back in the Sanctuary within about 45 minutes of leaving it! Win-win-win!!
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Number Six - On The Fly

Oh Happy Days! Yep, yesterday Liverpool got to Number 6 with that loverly cup which we have that love affair with. Not the bestest match but who the hell gives a toss about that?

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I've been lucky enough in the past to go the UEFA Cup Final in 2001 in Dortmund, which Liverpool won 5-4 on a Golden Goal against Alaves, and then again in Istanbul for the miracle, 3-3 and then winning on penalties v Milan. In 2007 I went to Athens but didn't get a ticket (or get in) but had a great time with the build up and watched the match in the Craft Beer Bar (where else?). I also went to Paris for the European Cup when Arsenal got beat by Barcelona as I'd booked flights and a hotel 'in case' Liverpool got there, which I had done for Athens.

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Anyway, I am not in a situation now where I can currently follow Liverpool like that (money - I'm not banned from travelling or anything) so for the last couple of years I've been following Liverpool in the pubs and bars of Liverpool. Usually this is in the Dispensary or the Fly in the Loaf, and this season it's largely been the latter. For the second leg of the semifinal versus Barcelona there was just me and me mate on a table in the Fly. The pub was not heaving at all. Not enough belief in our brand of European brilliance! But yesterday it was bound to be mad in town, and it was. Needless to say we had to get into town early and grab a spot to watch it, whilst leaving enough time to find somewhere else to go if it was already full. As it happened me and Ste got in the Fly for 4pm and grabbed the last couple of seats. Yes! Other mates risked it getting in an hour or so later and we all managed to watch it together perched on tables or against the walls.

In summary, the atmosphere was great. The beer was great. The result was great. And the Fly was great.

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Managed a celebratory pint in the Sanctuary after the match and more incredibly got the last bus home!

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Now got to go off into to town for the parade. There will be oceans of beautiful red everywhere. Bring it on.
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We Are Liverpool

On Wednesday I had to put the van in for servicing. Was a little painful in terms of waiting and finding it wasn't done on the day. In the end I walked bloody miles all the way from Stanley Dock to the Baltic Triangle and back then back again. A lot of walking. Still, it was a beautiful day and I had my camera with me so took a few nice shots around the city. Including talking the opportunity to get the Klopp mural and angel wings in the Baltic Triangle. With beautiful architecture throughout and public art around it's a very photogenic city at any time - but on a blue sky day it's even better. And the start of the this week, including Wednesday, was an absolute belter.

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Klopp, our wonderful manager.

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I put quite a few on Instagram the other day (as you can see above). I also put photos up there from my travels around the north west and Wales - as well as Liverpool. Click on the photos and take a look.

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Former Adelphi Bank Building, Castle Street, Liverpool.
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Liverpool Beer Fest

Made it to the Liverpool Beer Festival last night after work - a little later than I would have liked. Thursday night is the opening session and has the advantage of being the cheapest ticketed session (a bargain £3) and of course all the beers are available - come Saturday afternoon and evening the cask choice will be getting limited.

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It was a nice session, busy but not so much that you couldn't walk around. Didn't have any beers that made me go "Wow!" but certainly had some nice ones. Liked a couple of the local ones including the Ad Hop 'Robusta' and the Liverpool Brewing Co/Team Toxic 'Koheutek'. The Hawkshead '5 Hop' went down well. But I was disappointed with my beloved 'Jaipur.' There was some talk that the beers were not at the best and that that maybe partly because of the unseasonably warm weather (it was T-Shirt weather yesterday, which is ridiculous for February). There is no entertainment on the Thursday which is a bit of a shame (particularly with me missing the Open Mic night). Still, it was a good night. And anyone heading there will no doubt have a great time.

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No guitars, but a Liverpool Supergroup.

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Of Mics and Men

Open Mic at the Sanctuary last night actually had a mic and multiple guitars. Huzzah! There were multiple singers as well as poetry and short story readings. Excellent, as ever. Not sure why but all the open mic'ers are men. Come on ladies, bring your plectrums.

I didn't play Shed a Tear, which I was working on this week, in the end I went for my current favourites:

  • You Couldn't Get Arrested
  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Sweet Carolina, and
  • Heart Breaks Like the Dawn

I sing most each song with my eyes closed. Don't know why or how I stop that - or even whether I should. That said a brief video has emerged on Instagram showing that maybe they're not quite as closed as I thought they were... click on the photo.

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Couple of mates turned up, including one who doesn't have a musical bone. Not sure he'll be back often unless it's just for the beer (didn't like the stories or poetry either). It takes all sorts to make a world.

I was made 'spare' on Friday so at least it meant I could have a couple of drinks. Unfortunately there weren't extended drinks in the bar so had to settle for one in the Fall Well (Wetherspoon) here I had a lovely Peerless Oatmeal Stout whilst I waited for the bus (not even the last bus).

Plans re the guitar playing include in order: work on strumming patterns; write some songs! Then maybe get into scales and riffs. Strumming and songs very much first though.

In other news I have a beta reader of my first six chapters of the 'book' I wrote for NaNoWriMo in November and it's getting to the point where I should get on with writing the rest of it. I reckon it should be another 30-40k words. If I did 50k in one month then I should be able to do that in a month too should I? It's all about motivation and getting in the groove again with it. Having not touched it since getting to the 50k at the end of NaNo I need to finish reading where I'm up to and get writing.

I'll give myself six weeks (I have the guitar to work with too - which I wasn't playing until the second part of November). So watch this space. Could I finish my first whole book?
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Open Mic 2

Yesterday I went to play a few songs at the Open Mic in the Sanctuary Bar on Lime Street. It was the second time after playing three songs there a couple of weeks ago. Last time there were fewer people in attendance which made it easier to play after I'd heard a couple of people playing. This time there were more singer guitarists I'm not sure if I hadn't played the other week whether I would have got up in front of them.

I was second up and played three songs: Van Diemen's Land, the One I Love and Better Be Home Soon. Struggled a bit with the One I Love which is daft, because its the easiest one to play - or at least the one I've played the most. I think the nerves of like playing probably made me play it too quickly. Still I managed to force myself into the high notes and then did the Crowded House number. It's the first time I've played that in front of anyone and it wasn't too bad.

Following me on to the mic was Dave Glyn Jones, who I've never seen before and bloody hell he was good. If he'd come on before me there is no way I would have gone up and played. Very very accomplished. Great guitar and a gravelly blues voice and funny with it. Damn talented. The next two came up, who I didn't catch the names of, and they were great too. It was an enjoyable night and my mate who had never seen me play before had come along. Surprisingly he really enjoyed the night as he's not really into bands that much, but he found it all excellent (especially Dave).

Dave spoke to me afterwards and kindly told me not to be so self deprecating up there and that I had a nice voice (?) and good musical taste. I'll take that. Just need to play the guitar a lot more often and learn some new tunes. I know if I keep at it and keep throwing myself in front of an audience I should get more confidence and with that get better at the whole thing. It's been a nice distraction to start doing this and I'm looking forward to seeing where it will go.
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Giant's Farewell

I was off on Friday so took the chance to go hunting for Xolo and the young boy Giants in Liverpool's 2018 Giant Spectacular: Dream.

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These humongous marionettes are something else. It's difficult to describe how good they are if you haven't seen them for yourself (a bit like trying to describe what Glastonbury Festival is like to someone who's only ever been to V or Reading). The point is they are incredible and the who shebang that goes with it makes it seem more than the sum of its parts. Liverpool is lucky enough to have had three visits now from these wacky French guys and of course we had La Princesse (the amazing spider) too.

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Last time they were here was the summer and a ridiculous hot opening day, which meant that they ended up running very late. This time the weather was cool, grey and overcast and so the running was not delayed at all. My tardy arrival meant that I got there with a requirement to play catch up and I did over toward the Anglican cathedral. At that point I only caught the rear end of Xolo bouncing up the road and then waiting for the young boy who was travelling up in an open car. He only started walking again further up the road on the way to Prince's Park. After that it was breakfast, reading and writing and a couple of beers before catching them back on the way down.

In the afternoon I caught up with them on Duke Street. I stood on a bit of street furniture for a better view and this time caught Xolo and the lad. Xolo at one point running past before going to investigate a group of people sat atop a container. The controllers of these marionettes do a brilliant job of animating the character out of them. It does really do the movements you'd expect of a dog (giant or otherwise). Once more the boy was sat in the back of a car, but just after he passed me he was hooked up on the following contraption to begin the walk down the lower half of Duke Street.

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The crowds were enthralled and I met and chatted with people who'd travelled from all over the UK to see them. The hotels and restaurants must have had a boss weekend.

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Yesterday I was working (and had a horror of a day). The pictures of the crowds on the Strand looked incredible, but have made me have second thoughts about going down to see them this time - I'll never get a spot like I did last time they were here and in any case I'd have to pop away pretty early to get to a pub to watch the Man City match. So unless I have a last minute change of heart (or the company does and they return) then on Friday I saw the last of these wonderful creations. Incredible art and entertainment for the young and old. Thanks to all involved for this year and all the previous ones. Wonderful.

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The Weekend Starts and Ends Here

I've got me a one day weekend. Back in tomorrow. So will be out for beers later in Liverpool for a wee crawl, after buying a few bits and bobs, then it'll be time to catch some footy. Should be another great game between Liverpool and that Chelski shower with a quick retribution in mind following Wednesday night. May even catch some of the Mancs match. Expect I'll get to five or six top hostelries - you'll have to check out Twitter to see how I do.

Started beta-reading a FlashDog novel this morning. Up to the third chapter and it's really good so far. I shouldn't be surprised by now that there are such accomplished writerers within the FlashDog community. After meeting everyone via the very short stories we composed in Flash Fiction Friday and Angry Hourglass it is with great respect I see all these guys stepping on up and out to novels. Hoping to finish the book this week and get my comments out by next weekend.

In the meantime it is anticipated that 'DeadCades' will be released this week. Exciting stuff. And releasing a horror book in October... seems like it's almost by design. Many thanks to Steph and David in advance for all their work on getting to this point. Definitely top dogs (in a good way).

Went to the PO earlier to pick up a parcel from a couple of weeks ago. Er, I'd been sent me some cheese and biscuits. I wish I'd known I'd have made an effort to pick it up earlier. Not sure if the cheese is supposed to be this stinky. Will report back later... many more thanks for the surprising gift! You know who you are ;-)

Apparently it's World Guitar Day - who the hell makes all these things up? - perhaps I'll strum a little later. Made me think who are some of my favourite guitarists. It's a tough call, and if I thought longer or on a different day, my top picks (no pun intended) would no doubt be different and just as defendable. Here's today's top four anyway: Ry Cooder, Chuck Prophet, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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Jimi SRV


As for guitars, I have two; a lovely dark green Telecaster (I know three of the four above are on Strats, but hey I love a Tele) and a Takamine 363 semi-acoustic.

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Museum of the Moon, Liverpool

On the morning of the European Cup Final before popping to Southport for a couple of beers with me da I took the opportunity to go and see the Museum of the Moon which was in the Anglican Cathedral. I'm glad I did.

Really impressive considering it's just a big balloon. Made from the Nasa photos it is the whole moon in glorious detail at 1:500,000 scale It is lit from within, which obviously works well in the enclosed space of the cathedral. The 'art' was created by Luke Jerram and has been touring the country and indeed the world. Looking at photos from other locations it has been in it clearly is a knockout wherever it goes.

It's on in the Anglican until the end of the month, so you've a few more days to catch it if you fancy it. Take your camera!

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On the Shoulders of Giants

There was fab news this week in Liverpool about the fantastic French Giants returning once more. Who'd have thought 'big puppets' could be so enthralling and illicit such emotions. But if you haven't seen them live then you'll be in for a treat if you do get to see them this time. We were lucky with the weather in June 2014. In fact it was so hot the puppeteers had to keep stopping to keep hydrated (it is heavy manual work moving these lovable monsters).

Took lots of shots and some came out okay. But it is difficult getting a good position with such enormous crowds. I was made up to get one of my photographs in the official book about the event 'On the Shoulders of Giants' (the fourth photo below).

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Winter(ish)

Not managed any writing this week yet. Been reading Calendark though - it's excellent! Should finish it tomorrow and aim to get a review on to Amazon and/or Goodreads during the week ahead. In the meantime I've been reading Sal's chosen sentences from each story on Twitter. These extra 140 characters are giving her more options aren't they!

The week at work has been a mixture of fences and ditches. Well, cold weather and breakdowns. Was fearful of the snow and ice in Snowdonia today when I was handed that route, but it didn't turn out to be the hospital pass I thought it would be. Ye haw! Just a wee bit of snow and no slip-sliding away into ditches or trees - always a bonus!

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Last night the forecast for tomorrow was heavy, heavy snow across Liverpool and the north west, and whilst I am off for the day I had two concerns 1) it better not bloody mean the Liverpool v Everton derby gets called off and 2) better charge my camera so I can get some nice pics of Liverpool in the snow.

That said, Snowmageddon has now been un-forecast and Liverpool is forecast to be a bit nippy but not under feet of snow. At least that means the game will defo be on, but the chance of getting some nice snowy photos looks to be postponed.

Really looking forward to the match, will get a few choice beers in Liverpool too - and finish off Calendark. At some point I need to do this week's FlashFeed; haven't even checked out the photo prompt yet.

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Photos from a Liverpool Day Off

My one day off this three day weekend and I went into a sunny Liverpool on Sunday to catch a bit of Folk on the Dock around the Albert Dock and popped into the Baltic Fleet to catch some singing there.

Glad I remembered to take my camera with me as it was a lovely day and there was loads of great stuff to see. It helps because this fair city is so photogenic. Here's a few of them. Many more on Flickr of course...


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And then I got to watch Liverpool smash a bizarrely poor performing Arsenal 4-0 in the Dispensary with a couple of pints of Rat Brewery 'Lab Rat'.

All in all a cool day on a warm day.




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A Different Day Today

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Last week I picked my Day to attempt to write a story for, for Shakes' CalenDark and then came up with a germ of an idea - I even wrote some words (really, I did). Today I've changed my mind and chosen another day. As soon as I picked it an idea formed more completely in my mind and it should be easier to write it with the story arc pretty well defined. Of course now I have 'just ' to write the fucker. A month to go: No problem. Err... anyway the aim is to get a couple of thousand words done over the next week - as a minimum. Will report back by this time next week.

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Of course this weekend it's a Bank Holiday and that means more time for writing with a three day weekend, right? Wrong. Worked Saturday and working Monday. So only off today. May get a few words down, but main thing was getting this idea sketched out - an achievement in itself. Liverpool being Liverpool there is loads on at the moment. Disappointed to miss the Mad Hatter Brewery Yard Party yesterday, but today I think I'll go and check out the folk festival at the Albert Dock and/or the shanty groups down at the Baltic Fleet for a bit this afternoon.

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Then of course there will be a few choice ales watching the Liverpool v Arsenal match. Come on you mighty reds!


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