A.J. Walker



Several months ago I lost my old Kindle Paperwhite. I'd had it for years. I prefer physical books - I have trouble not walking past a charity shop and checking out the bookshelves. But during lockdown, when all the bookshops and charity shops were closed, I used the Kindle quite a bit to get my reading fix. With the shops open again I haven't used the Kindle as much and so I guess I haven't missed it terribly. However for writing larger pieces of work I find the Kindle very useful for reading and reviewing compared with trying to review on a computer screen. And so this weekend thanks to Liverpool beating Man Utd 7-0 the other week and a couple of Cheltenham flutters this week (from the reinvested ManU winnings) I gained more than enough pennies to invest in a new Kindle and so I picked it up yesterday.


It is the small (just 6''), cheapest one and I don't find it as nice as its older (larger, but missing) sibling. It feels a bit delicate, but that should be helped a little when I get a cover for it. If my old Kindle suddenly reveals itself to me, perhaps from beneath a pile of books or washing, then I'll possibly return to that one. But maybe I'll get used to the smaller version in the end. It has better definition and larger memory that the older versions. For reading books I don't think the definition matters that much, although if there are any images or maps then maybe it will help in those cases. In terms of the memory, again I don't think this is critical for me. I'd not be filling ye olde Kindle let alone this one. It was certainly great though how easily and fast all the books previously held on my Paperwhite suddenly appeared on the new one. Very nice to see.

I'll see how it goes in the future. And I'll see how fast I find the old one now I've flashed the cash for this one.

Good To Be Back

After a month without doing an open mic I returned to the Dispensary last night. It was good to be back. I didn't do any new tunes, but did a couple I don't to that regularly; 'Somewhere Down The Road' and 'Down By The Water.' I did start with the more commonly played 'Couldn't Get Arrested' though.

It was great to see a few of the regulars play, including Dave, Muzz, and Laurence. It was especially good to see John there once more playing his wonderful Hand Pan. All those of us taking part in the open mic could get a free pint, and this week they had Neptune on so I ended up with a free Ezili. Nice. In fact it was good to see both Wooden Ships and Ezili on.


John playing his magical hand pan.

Wooden Ships and Evil on in the Dizzy. Excellent.

Casino Royale

Been a bit tardy with getting a blog together for this one, but hell I’ve been busy & lazy at the same time (a blisteringly uncomfortable excuse sandwich). But last week I was lucky enough to snag a couple of free tickets for the Casino gig at Phase One, Seel Street, Liverpool. It was just my second time at Phase One, with the previous gig being the Heavy North in early March. As a nice coincidence/circularity the last time I saw Casino was supporting the HN up the road in the Arts Club - which had been a fabulous gig for all involved: just a shame about the Arts Club’s current status. Ho hum.

I had the electronic tickets on my phone (obtained from a great gig buddy: thank you JC), but there was no-one on the door to check tickets anyway. I think the rather dodgy weather (cold, breezy, and sleety) had put some off coming out and the venue was not at capacity. I went with a colleague from work - where we sometimes hear Casino and their contemporaries - playing through the speakers; if Alexa feels like it.


The gig itself was great. We caught a bit of Ellis (a Dylanesque singer songwriter complete with harmonica) first and ‘treated’ ourselves to some keg beer; it wasn’t fabulous but then again gig beers are rarely that. And I have had a lot worse (and let’s face it anyone attending the Carling Academies of this world has too). The guys of Casino (who inexplicably have only four songs up on Spotify and no albums to sell us) gave us a gig in two sets. For a free gig we had indeed paid a more than fair price for their time & artistry.

Depending how they want to, or can, progress their career they really should do brilliantly. They are already a really tight (and, in some cases, decidedly tall) unit. Their song writing is beautiful and their musicianship is spot on. The songs are all presented with panache and consummate ease. And the hats must go off to the sound guy in this regard too. I will definitely be going to see them again if and when the chance arises.

IMG_0551 2

Check ‘em out on Spotify (even though there is not much there yet it is all good stuff and shows you what they are like), and go out and see them when you can. Nice one.

New Songwriting Challenge

A couple of months ago Ben Whitley, a local singer songwriter, came up with a songwriting challenge. I’d been toying with the idea myself but never got one going, so it was nice of Ben to take up my slack - even if hadn’t realised he was doing that for me. o a couple of weeks ago I took the challenge up and quickly wrote a few words to go with my usual three or four chords. It was good to get something down; as other than a silly little lockdown song (Pasta Packets and Beans) I haven’t written something for ages (well, I do have a half completed one I wrote with a mate, Sam Lee - but that hasn’t seen the light of day for the public quite yet).

Anyway, last month’s challenge was to write a song about “Trains” featuring the words: Track, Ticket, and Platform. I was easier to write some words than to do a Microcosms story to be fair. Not that it’d win any prizes as it stands. I put ‘To Get Home To You’ up on YouTube in its first incarnation, which is posted below. May get around to hitting it again and giving it a revamp at some point. Needs a catchier rhythm or chorus at any rate.


It was great to see Sal write a poignant song using the prompt and memories (and paperwork!) from her brother. I know she enjoyed the challenge and Sal’s song is here:

This was the second of the songwriting challenges, the first one from January was on the theme of “Roads”, with the song to include: Street, Concrete, and Park(ing). I may go back and do that one next. The third one is yet to surface and I think Ben is a little unsure of whether to carry on with issuing the challenge; not because of my effort (I think, but because not many people have done it yet. I did say that my experience with the flash writing challenges is that it takes a good while before people a) find out about and b) get in the habit of doing it. I hope he perseveres with it for a while. If he does I promise I’ll try to write a song a month to go with prompts. Honest!


The two sets of prompts from January and February are below. Watch this space to see if I update the Trains song and/or write a song for the older prompt. And also to see if a new prompt comes along. I hope so. And if you play an instrument why nit give it a go yourself? It would be good to see you. We’ll have an album’s worth in no time.

And while you’re at it give Ben a listen over on Spotify and a follow on Insta, if you are that way inclined.


The Return of the Beard

Currently reading the excellent biography of Terry Pratchett: ‘A Life With Footnotes’, by Rob Wilkins. Terry was of course famously quite beardy for much of his life, me for much less so. But I did have a beard for several years* (hell, look at my Home page), but have been clean - or close to clean - shaven for about three years now. I have been considering going back to being a bit beardy for a while, and now I think I will. It does not have anything to do with my current reading; it is a pure unabashed coincidence.**


* I think around seven years (2013-2020)
** Honest Guvner.


A Month Off, But Not Off

On Tuesday (not Monday) it was the third Dispensary open mic of the year. I’d been to the first two and played four of my usual songs. And that is why I decided not to go this week. There are so many great players each week and I keep playing the same songs from a list of about eight. I’ve decided to take a month off playing at the open mics on the basis that for those hours I’m not taking to get down there I can use some of that time to practice some new (or new old) stuff. The aim being that the next time I play at an open mic I play a few songs I don’t usually play AND I’ll have hopefully improved my playing a teeny bit by stretching myself by playing different things. And maybe, just maybe, there may be a song or two of my own too the next time I turn up to play at one.

I have been playing some different songs t home this last week or so and been practicing a few riffs (very un-me). It really will be a month off, but not off. So who knows? Changes really could happen.

Fingers crossed; and plectrum poised and raring to go.

AJ On Writing (A Bit)

Have been getting into a bit more writing again lately after a bit of a hiatus. I can thank the return of Microcosms for helping me find my re-find that mojo there. Currently my go to Flash Fiction challenges are the returned Microcosms and Miranda’s Mid Week Flash Challenge over on the Finding Clarity website (some example photo prompts are shown here). For those of you interested the Microcosms prompt is given every Sunday and you have all week to put a story together of up to 300 words. The prompt are three “elements” that should be included in your story. For example last week’s prompt was: ‘Makeup Artist / Kitchen / Horror” and from those three elements you concoct your story. Of course sometimes the selection of elements my not get your creative juices going and so there is the handy option of spinning the elemental wheel and getting three other elements as your story spur. I always try to use the elements given as a challenge, but I dare say if one week they are cuddly cats / sofa cushions / love story, then I may well give that wheel a spin.


At the moment there are not too many people entering the challenge but it can be way to believe that a lot of people that used to do it back in the day haven’t seen that it has returned - what with Twitter being flakey at best currently. If you can, give it a look and if it’s up your street then give it a go.

The 300 word limit is difficult and certainly will make you focus. You can definitely write a four of five hundred word work and then have to get your knife out.


Example photo prompt (Week 277))

Week 278

Week 279

Week 281

If 300 words is too tight then there’s Miranda’s challenge, which gives you up to 450 extra words to play with. Yes, 750 words. The prompt is a photo and there ain’t no wheel to spin if the photo doesn’t work for you. I do it fairly regularly and post the stories on this website (under Fictions), but sometimes the photo doesn’t work for me and I do end up giving it a miss rather than struggle to get a story out that I don’t adequately get behind. In general though 750 is a lot more freeing for you than 300 words. Why not give both a go and see how they compare for you?

Anyway, it’s nice to flex your writing muscles a little if you’re not currently working on more substantial pieces. Maybe see you over there.


To that end I picked up a great little portable keyboard to go with my iPad. It's really freed me up to write more whilst on the hoof. I've written several stories this week and some blogs (including this one) using the keyboard and iPad option. For less than £30 it has been fab: much better and quicker than typing on the screen and t'll get me writing significantly more. This is a MoKo foldable Bluetooth keyboard but there are plenty of others to choose from. If you are out and about a bit I can thoroughly recommend getting one - and it's lighter and safer than lugging a laptop around.






Finding Clarity

Multi (Social) Media


So how many Social Media accounts do you have? I’ve got too many to keep on top off at the moment. This is largely down to Mr Musk periodically and all too often setting fire to Twitter. My core social media accounts (once I deleted Facebook a few years ago) have been Twitter and Instagram for my personal general use and for the real ale one (Reale). As Twitter seemed to keep announcing their very public desire to self immolate I registered my accounts for several of the new kids on the block or those who seemed to be positioning to step into the Twitter shaped hole should they succeed in no longer working for their users. o I’ve got apps and accounts for Mastadon, Hive, Discord, and Telegram. And now I’ve a Spoutible account too.

I’ve used Mastadon and Hive sparingly, whilst I have tried to continue with Twitter. It seems daft to use so many to post or search for content - and time is eaten enough as it is. In the last couple of weeks Spoutible, headed by Christopher Bouzy, has arrived and within that sphere I’m there once again with my @zevonesque username. I’ve only been on it since February 1st of course, so it’s very early days. So far I have been on it most days (okay, there’s only been 9 days in that time) and I must say it seems to work pretty damn well. I’m not sure how many Brits are on there yet - it seems to be mostly bods from the US. I’ve not found any of the Flashdogs over there yet. But I’ve put the flag up for them with a hashtag in my bio. I’m sure if Spoutible does become a success it wont be too long before I see some of them joining in due course.


Haven’t used it yet to search for flash fiction challenges but I will do soon. I’m busy enough with the weekly Challenges from Miranda (Mid Week Flash Challenge) and Microcosms at the moment anyways, but it would be good to see if there is a seed of a community over there. It’s difficult for everyone to know where things are up to with people on or off Twitter and Facebook (I ain’t ever going back there). It maybe that a website somewhere would be a better point of contact rather than shouting into the voids and hearing nothing bounce back to us.

There’s not much to learn for Spoutible if you’ve used Twitter you’ll be fine with it in no time. In fact the main terms can be summarised as:

Spout = Tweet
Echo = Retweet
Making Waves = Trending
Spout off = Send Tweet

And that’s about it. If you’re over there already give me a
shout (or spout even). If you're over there later then I look forward to seeing you. Come to the party, people, when you can. It’s an open invite for all the good people. That said, I registered my interest early so I could create an account early doors. I'm not sure when they are open to new registrations as they get the gubbins of the system up and running.


Two Returns

On Thursday I returned to the first place I played at an open mic: the Sanctuary. The pub closed around the time of the initial lockdowns and eating & distancing requirements. Since reopening last year it hadn’t restarted the open mics. A couple of weeks ago, when I was at the Sofar gig at Leaf, they put their first toe back in the water with it. So I decided to go last week as a return to the place it all began for me with this fun hobby.


Unlike the earlier OMs this one was held on the ground floor. The old one used to be upstairs usually (occasionally downstairs if there was an event on), but now upstairs there is a restaurant – Momo's for Nepalese scran. There were only four of us who played so I ended up going up a couple of times, playing my usual stuff of course – about eight songs. Not sure how often I’ll be playing there again, but it was good at least to revisit the place it all started.


Then on Monday the OM at the Dispensary restarted after a bit of break since before the new year. I was running late and did well to get there for 8pm. The brilliant Ben Whitely was playing as I walked in and I was surprised to find that a couple of people – both newbies – had already played.


Laurence came up next before I went up. Played four of my usuals. Despite a bit of a sore throat my voice did surprisingly well – for me. Next up was a Polish guy (sorry I didn’t catch his name) who was stunningly good (just playing instrumentals with exquisite and ridiculously fast techniques). Muzz was up last, who was also glad to be back again. The Rat Brewery 'Cheating Rat' was lovely and it was nice to have a change from the ubiquitous White Rat or Citra. They are both great beers of course, but a change is as good as a rest.


All in all Monday proved to be a very good night. And I’m glad I made the effort and the buses worked for me (mine had been ridiculously late, which meant I could catch it. Others on the bus had been waiting for 30-40 minutes apparently – oh dear).

Onwards & upwards.

A Three Gig Week

A rare week indeed. Three nights of live music. Three. What could be finer? Links to all the acts are at the bottom of the page (or click on the highlighted name to go to their Spotify pages). First up was Christie Bratherton, who I'd previously seen at the Sofar gig in October 2021 where she played alongside the Heavy North. She'd put on Instagram that she was playing at the White Lion from 3-5pm on Sunday 22nd Jan and I spotted the post. I got down there around 3 spotted the guitar and gear propped up by the back door. Christie walked past me and I spoke to her to find out what time she was on. Turned out she had been mis-sold her gig as she was covering for someone who couldn't make it and she'd been told the time wrong. Turned out it was 5-7pm. I downed my pint and took the opportunity to go down the road to the West Kirby Tap and then the train for one stop to Hoylake for the Black Toad first before getting back up to the White Lion. Christie was fab, singing on her own at the front of the bar. I got off a little before she finished to catch a train. It had proved to be a lovely afternoon and evening.

Christie playing at the White Lion

Then on Thursday it was time for the Sofar Sounds gig. For those of you who don't know about it, the gig is £10 a ticket - and the deal is you don't know where the venue is (other than the city centre) until 36 hours before kick-off or who is playing until the actual evening itself. I was made up to find out it was upstairs at Leaf - the last time I was supposed to be there was for the Felice Brothers last year, but unfortunately that coincided with my Covid week.

Sofar stage ready at Liverpool Leaf

I went to sit right at the front (where most of the empty seats were anyway). First up was Mike Ryan, who informed us he was playing hooky from school before playing a really nice set. He was a thoroughly nice chap too.

First up Mike Ryan who was skiving of school (and well worth it too)

After the ten minute break for a a beer top-up the next up came up to play after a kind introduction from the host. Marvin Powell proved to be a shy chap who was excellent.

Second up, Marvin Powell. Lovely stuff.

Finally the one group to play was a four piece Ask Elliot. They were bloody excellent. All three acts were indeed excellent and well worth looking up on Spotify or wherever you find your music. And, like Christie on Sunday, I'll definitely keep an eye out for a chance to see them again.

And last but not least, Ask Elliot. Not sure what to ask him, but do.

Then came the highlight for me. Yes, Frank Turner (again) . The gig was down in Wolverhampton in KK's Steel Mill. This gave me an excuse to get down for a few beers in Wolverhampton and Birmingham too. It really was a win-win. Unfortunately I missed the support act (the Lottery Winners) as I'd gone for a curry around the corner, which was a bit of a wait due to it being slightly slow arriving (cos the curry house was so popular). At the venue I got myself a KK's Dark ale which was nice to have in a large venue where you are usually faced with a Carling or a cider of one description or another.

Frank Turner doing what he does so fucking brilliantly with the Sleeping Souls, at KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton

Frank and the Sleeping Souls came on before 9 and played until 10;50 or so - he just cracked on with one brilliant track after another. He's got such an extensive catalogue of songs he could play a different two hour set each night these days. You can't be disappointed if he doesn't play one of your favourites cos he'll play another three of them instead. For me he the best act out there at the moment and he has certainly become my most seen act taking over from Ryan Adams who I'd seen a lot in years gone by. I dare say I'll see him again and probably again in the years ahead. I don't know how he does it day after day. This gig was No.2725 for him and he doesn't half go for it. How does his energy last, let alone his throat?

Frank's playing and I'm a happy chappy (with KK's Dark ale).

Hell yeah. Frank.

See you later, Frank. Thanks.



Christie - Spotify - Instagram -
Mike Ryan
- Spotify - Instagram -
Marvin Powell
- Spotify - Instagram -
Ask Elliot
- Spotify - Instagram -
Frank Turner
- Spotify - Instagram -