A.J. Walker

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A Wee Bit More Pratchett

After my weekend purchase at Henry Bohn's I've now only three books to get to complete my Terry Pratchett 'Discworld' novels:

  • Soul Music
  • Witches Abroad
  • The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

Wee Free
Wee Free Men

I'll no doubt sort these out later this year, which will be awesome and a shame at the same time. I mean, not having any more to read will be very sad. In the meantime I am reading a
non-Discworld Pratchett novel 'Nation' - I'm only about a quarter of the way through but I am loving it. He was such a smart writer and produced such stories that are so easy to read ever time.

Nation

Bohns
The wonderful Henry Bohn's
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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).

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.

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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Tony's Bus Pass Party

Of out later to go to my mate Tony's Bus Pass Party. Should be a blast with all his mates and the beer flowing.

Thought I'd dig out some photos of the lovely lad. Not many without a beer in hand, or Steve, or a rye smile.

Happy Birthday Fella!

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Cheers!
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Bite Marks

One of the nicest parts of delivering stuff all over the place is the lovely scenery and nice places I get to see. Also lots of lovely dogs and animals (not cats). Of course though not all dogs are lovely, often due to their owners and the way they are or have been treated. Sometimes they are just doing their job as they see it - guarding the property and/or owner, albeit it over zealously.

I've been quite lucky really as getting bitten by a dog kinda goes with the territory of the job. Whilst we are not paid to take risks we can't hide every time a chihuahua
barks at us. Sometimes the issue can be unforeseen other times all too obvious.

The other day I arrived at a farm and two border collies circled the van whilst I sat in it. One going clockwise, one anticlockwise. Meanwhile a third dog sat impassive, watching. What do you do? You have a delivery to make. Are the dogs going to be okay when you get out of the van? Are they ALL okay or is one a bit of a nutter? You can see these three, are there more around the corner? In the first instance I beeped my horn to see if anyone was about. No one was. Then I tried ringing the customer to see if I could ask them about the dogs. No answer. In the end I risked it with a bit of trepidation. They were okay. Although as soon as I got back in the van two of them tried to bite my rear tyres and it made manoeuvring risky: 'You're parcel's in the shed–beside the run-over dog. Sorry…'

This kinda thing happens every day. I got bitten over a year ago on a hot day when the customer had left his front door open to cool the house. The customer was on the sofa and as I opened the gate I saw him let his dog run out. It ran straight out and bit me on my thigh. He asked if it bit me, whilst I walked around in circles crying out 'It bit me, it bit me. Fuck, it bit me.' – which I thought should have been a giveaway. The man shooed the dog (a border collie) into the house, asked if I was okay and whether I needed any water or antiseptic etc. I said yes please, at which point he realised that he'd closed the door after the dog and of course after being sat on the sofa who wears their keys on them? Yep, he'd locked himself out of the house. I limped away, leaving him to is and sorted wound cleaning in the local co-op car park.

There but for the grace and all that, it could happen every day. But it doesn't. And most dogs are great–If you follow my Twitter feed or Instagram you'll know I regularly put up pics of dogs I see whilst I'm out. I didn't take one today. Yup, I got bit.

It was a strange one. I went up to the house and they didn't use to have a dog (I've delivered there before). The dog was on a long leash (basically the length of the garden) and was sat by the door. I hardly noticed it until I got near the door. The dog (another border collie) lay down disinterested. I knocked on the door. It is sometimes then, when you go to the door, that they do get bothered - protecting their entrance and all that - but no, the dog remained disinterested. The customer came to the door. I chatted with him. The dog stayed lying down. I even said I'd managed to get past his guard dog and he laughed. It was sometime after this that the dog darted up (perhaps he was offended by my 'guard dog' jibe) and bashed into my knee. It came out of nowhere, the speed was rapid. I swore a bit and felt my knee bashed and bitten. As it happened he'd at least gone high enough that it went through my shorts, which would have afforded a little protection. Only one tooth got through and pierced the skin. It could have been worse - there was no clamping of jaws! The customer had only had the dog three weeks, it was a rescue dog and they were 'just getting to know it' – I guess they learned a little more today. All I got for my troubles was a baby wipe to clean the wound and a bit shook up.

Needless to say for the rest of the day when this happens you remain a bit more concerned around dogs than you are normally. At one farm a dog which does have an attitude was being a bit too close at one point - I'd mentioned the incident to the farmer and he said the only one he worries about if that one - it then snapped at my arse. I could feel the nose against me. Luckily the teeth missed thought they gnashing together audibly. The farmer shouted at the dog. Personally I think maybe if he worries about it, then maybe he should, at the very least, hold on to him whilst visitors are there doing him a favour! No? In future I will bring the parcel into the front at this farm and stay in the van.

Then on my last delivery a house with an open door. When I was half way up the garden a black dog came careering down the stairs outside and straight at me. I used the parcel as a defence between me and his snarling mouth before backing out of the gate. I'm not sure whether that one was going to bite me or not. But I wasn't going to take a chance. The woman said 'don't worry he doesn't bite' but they all say that before they follow up with 'well, he hasn't done that before' or 'it's the hi-vis' (not sure how they see that from upstairs).

Hopefully I won't get bitten for another year - or, even better, ever again. Maybe #DailyDeliveryDog will be back tomorrow. Fingers crossed (whilst I still have all ten of them).
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goodreads

I haven't got a goodreads author page yet. Well, not exactly. If you click on some of the books there are links from my name to an author page for A.J. Walker, and there are five or six books which I am featured in, but it's not my author page. It appears to be an amalgam of at least three A.J. Walkers–I have not written a book on 'Retirement Strategies' or 'The Timeless Empire Series'.

I have emailed goodreads and hope that they can disentangle my books from the other A.J. Walkers out there.

In the meantime if you want to check out what I've been reading and what I've got lined up you can check out my (non-author) goodreads page at: www.goodreads.com/Zevonesque

Think it may be time I updated my photo on there, or maybe I should just go baby face shave again?





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I've Opened the Door

On Friday 'Don't Open the Door' was published on that there Amazon. The horror anthology, edited by Cory Mason, comprises thirteen stories from ten authors (including me, of course), namely;

  • Augie Peterson
  • Yawatta Hosby
  • T.H. Willoughby
  • J.A. Sullivan
  • Cory Mason
  • Kimberly Wolkens
  • L.M. du Preez
  • A.J. Walker
  • Johvan Calvo
  • Luke Elliott Alphonso Jr.

DOtD

I've finished the book now, and enjoyed it. Three of the authors had two stories in the book, the remainder one each. I haven't counted the words but they are probably mostly between 3000 and 6000 words, I reckon. There was a mix of styles, some cerebral and some decidedly more gory. My favourite stories were: 'Chalk' (T.H. Willoughby), 'The Locks' (Cory Mason), 'The Dark Room' (L.M. du Preez), and the 'Ten Fingered Man' (Luke Elliot Alphonso Jr). But don't take my word on it, there are some reviews up on Goodreads already, click on the book and take a look.

I enjoyed being involved in the book. The authors have all been active behind the scenes, thanks to Discord. Most of the authors are from the western side of the Atlantic, with six Americans and two Canadians. The Old World was represented byTH Willoughby from south western England and myself from the North West. Goes to show that there's trouble behind doors everywhere. Maybe we should get rid of them. Looking forward to reading some more reviews and seeing the blogs from other authors; as well as hearing a podcast about the book–I'll let you know when it comes out. Particular thanks goes to Cory, who devised and edited the anthology; give him a follow on Twitter @TheBestTomo

If you read the book please remember to give it a rating and/or a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Thanks, in advance.
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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.

Kit


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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Shrewsbury Pub Walk

As I was down in Atcham, just outside Shrewbury for the wedding, I thought it was a nice idea to stay for another day to spend a day wandering the streets of Shrewsbury popping in a few decent boozers – I\d been to the town a few times before but it had been a while.

I walked from the Ishmore to Shrewsbury, which is around a five mile march, but I had a pit stop at the Mermaid and had a farewell chat (and cider) with the Lee's (and newly named Rachel Higham) before plodding on.

I ended up visiting eight pubs, which in order were:

  • Wheatsheaf
  • Three Fishes
  • Coach & Horses
  • Albert's Shed
  • The Armoury
  • Shrewsbury Hotel
  • Salopian Bar
  • King's Head

The best pubs were the Three Fishes, Coach & Horses, and Salopian Bar – though I enjoyed watching a singer-guitarist in the King's Head, called Luke Day.

First up after the somewhat sweaty walk in was the Wheatsheaf. At least I could sit outside to cool down. Had a pint of Ringwood (can't recall the actual beer unfortunately). It was okay, then again after the walk in anything would have been.

Wheatsheaf
Pub 1. Wheatsheaf. With a Ringwood. A little hot and bothered.

ThreeFishes
Pub 2. Three Fishes with a pint of Thornbridge 'Twin Peaks'

CoachHorses
Pub 3. Coach & Horses with a Salopian 'Oracle'.

AlbertsShed
Pub 4. Albert's Shed with a Salopian 'Lemon Dream'.

Armoury
Pub 5. The Armoury with a Three Tuns 'XXX"

ShrewsburyHotel
Pub 6. Shrewsbury Hotel (a Wetherspoons) with a Tring 'Colley's Dog'.

SalopianHappy
Pub 7 (and 9). Salopian Bar with an Oakham 'CItra' and HappyToo and HappyTwoToo

I may have had a five mile walk in, but I was always going to get a taxi back to Atcham. It didn't break the bank at £7.40.

All in all a relaxing and rewarding afternoon.
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Did I mention the cheese?

Just had a cracking weekend down in Shropshire once more. I'd booked a camping spot in a National Trust site at Atcham (Ishmore Camping Site) and got down there about 8:30pm thanks to the high volume of deliveries on Friday from Prime Week. Having set up the tent last week for Bishop's Castle it was an even quicker process this time and it was sorted by 8:45pm when I had my post-put up pint of BrewDog 'Instamatic'. There was only one other tent there when I arrived and another started putting up their family sized teepee whilst I was finishing off. Turned out the first tent there was for a couple also going to Rachel & Paddy's wedding the next day. I followed them down to Atcham to go to the Mytton & Mermaid pub – it's the only pub in the village and many of the bride's side were staying there. The walk was about a mile through grassland first then along a busy A-road. Fifteen minute walk and a nice pint awaited. Or did it?

Not initially, no. The Mermaid had a Summer Ball on and in their wisdom was closed to the public; only the people of the Ball or guests could get a drink. We were told that we could sit in their garden, but we couldn't buy a drink. The other two set about finding where the nearest alternatives might be; over a mile further on. I called Chris, the father of the bride, who was staying there. They were on their way (they'd had to drive elsewhere to get something to eat of course, 'cos the kitchen was focused on the Ball). Bit of shoddy treatment for a wedding party really. In the end they arrived on mass and finally I got a deserved drink about half an hour later than anticipated. The staff were then happy to take our money once w'd been served with the guests – *sigh*

Left the Mermaid around midnight after a most pleasant evening with many of the Lee's, including the bride, parents and Sam, and some of the lads who had been at Bishop's Castle the week before.

Thankfully the wedding was relatively late on the Saturday (2:30pm) so there was plenty of time to relax before getting ready. The campsite was very basic – two composting toilets and a sink with a cold tap. Washing my hair in the morning was very cold and surprisingly refreshing. I can't believe how many people thought I'd have trouble getting ready in a tent – I mean, why on God's earth would I take my suit into the tent. I dressed in the car park of course. The weather proved to be better than anticipated, in so much as showers were forecast but seemed to miss us. The rain on Friday daytime had been very heavy but the campsite showed no evidence of it at all, thankfully.

ColdWash

Shropshire Camping

Ste and Tony were staying in a Holiday Inn east of Shrewsbury, quite close to Atcham and they headed to the Mermaid (which handily is adjacent to the church, St. Eata) and I met them there for one pint in the sun before going to the church. The bride looked stunning in her dress and the bridesmaids weren't put in the shade either. All the boys in their tails looked very different from the week before in Bishop's Castle. Some of them scrubbed up surprisingly well. And of course there is always someone in a kilt – I'm half Scottish so I just wear tartan underwear for the occasion. Or do I?

The service was lovely – although the digs at the scousers by the local vicar felt a little uncomfortable (to paraphrase 'put something on the plate, don't take the money off it' – I ask ya!), but overall he was fun and largely a hit. The Lee's had kidnapped their own priest to come and do a cameo, which was nice (and he didn't have a go at the locals in retaliation). After a bit of miming to hymns I didn't know, with occasional bursts of words coming forth by accident, and then the vows getting done without incident (no mobile phones went off at all) I managed to get a shot of the couple after signing the book, then it was time for throwing some confetti and taking some photos before heading up to the house for the reception. It was a bit disorganised about how people who weren't driving were to get up there (the ushers need some retraining), so myself and the other two amigos headed up on foot. Thankfully Chris and Sue were driving past and picked us up.

The Ladies

vows

signing

confetti

I won't talk about the house – I'm sure it's not the done thing – but boy, what a house and grounds (end of). The reception was in a massive marquee (I think there were 128 guests) and on arrival we were attended in the grounds by a myriad of lovely ladies and gents who plied us with champagne and canapés. It's hard to pick a favourite canapé - the monkfish was nice, the cheese and asparagus thing was beautiful, the mini-beef and Yorkshire puds were lovely and the wee Scotch Eggs (quail, I assume) were spot on. Meanwhile the harpist was playing cool pop songs, but acoustically the harp isn't really made for outdoors gigs. It was then an hour or two of canapés, champagne, ales and chatting to friends from Bishop's Castle and friends we hadn't met yet and all that malarky. The Higham's had laid on a couple of casks of local ales from Salopian: 'Oracle' and 'Darwin's Origin'. The Higham's, with the Lee's, basically put on a perfect event.

Three Amigos

Harpist

Ales

RachelChampers

The speeches were great from the three boys – all funny, with no meanness. Then the meal was spot on - no starter - just main course, a venison Wellington, with second servings ('Want some more?' 'Er, go 'ed.') and a dessert of Eton Mess. Tony liked that so much he decided to eat Sue's. I rescued his and did a swap. Oh my, I almost forgot the wedding cake. CHEESE, CHEESE, CHEESE and some pork pie. Did I mention the cheese? The blue cheese from the Lakes (not Shropshire Blue, surprisingly) was lush. Let's say that again… they laid on real ale and cheese. If I should ever meet the right person and one thing leads to another, it will be ending in ale and cheese too.

cheese

Marquee

Then that was almost it bar the shouting, avoidance of dancing (apart from 'Sweet Caroline') and lots of good natured chats and banter. The three piece band were excellent. Oh, and there was the small matter of a mahoosive fireworks display before getting the minibus back to the Mermaid and a happy stagger back to the tent.

In summary: Congrats to Rachel and Patrick Higham. It was a truly wonderful wedding. Did I mention the cheese?


That's enough for now, I'll do a small follow up blog about Sunday and the pub crawl in Shrewsbury.
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