A.J. Walker

writerer

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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Time To Plant A Tree

In these days of multi social media hangouts creating a place where the links to all of them are in one place is a neat idea. I’m not sure how late I am to the Linktree party but I’ve arrived and I’m glad I have. The set up is quick and clean. No messing about. As simple as it should be.

Set it up on Thursday night and put the link in the Bios in my two
Twitter accounts and my two Instagram pages - one each for my personal Zevonesque account and for my Real Ale Liverpool (Realeliverpool) accounts. As well as having links to both sets of Twitter and Instagram it of course has a link to the website (i.e. here) and to the YouTube Channel.

ZevLinktree

Haven’t yet linked it to Goodreads or anything else and I may well not. Goodreads seems to have become a more problematic place these days. And obviously I’m not on TikTok or Facebook. These Linktrees must be pretty tall trees for some people. Anyway, in short, you can find me more easily than you could before. ‘Hurray!’ I can hear the cheers from here.

If you’ve got multiple hangouts on the internet thing then I can thoroughly recommend getting on Linktree and connecting those buttons.

One thing I’ve noticed on my
YouTube Channel is that it is predominantly me reading poems at the moment: I’m going to call this my ReadMeSpeakMe period. I need to get strumming some new songs to rebalance the channel.

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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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Short Stories: A Lot of Words

Several years ago I had a document where I copied most of my short stories over from various Flash Fiction challenges. Unfortunately I got out of the habit when I slowed down on the flash front along with many of the disappearing challenges. I decided to update the document and import it into Scrivener so it can be imported on to my Kindle and have an active contents page.

I had to import the more recent stuff like stories from the
#MidWeekFlash and #SeedlingChallenge. None of these had been saved in the original document. There's still about sixty stories from the latter to copy over. But even without them just these added up to 20,000 words. By the time I copy the remaining Seedling Challenges over the whole record of the flash stories will amount to something like 130k words. That is a lot of words for tiny fictions. It goes to show it all adds up. And thats the same for your latest novel: just keep adding bits and you'll get there.

Challenges
Contents page for the amended Scrivener document

It is amazing how many of the challenges have been and gone, some of them are like friends I've forgotten about. I know too there will be loads of stories I've missed from not keeping up with this originally. But I guess I've got the bulk of them, which is nice both as a record and a compendium of ideas. I'm sure most of you writing guys are more methodical and better at keeping a good record than me, but if not then I recommend putting all your short stories in one place. You never know what you may find in there.

One thing I couldn't believe when copying the Seedling Challenges over was how recently the challenge stopped: and I stopped it! In my head it was well over a year ago not bloody August. This pandemic year has done some masterly work fucking up how time flows.
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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.
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The Very Wobbly Odyssey

Hoping to be back at work over the next couple of weeks. My head’s been a bit mashed for the some of the last six weeks with the out of nowhere medical issues. Have done some flash writing, such as Miranda’s #MidWeekFlash, and a bit of blogging, but nothing more substantial during these weeks. Have been trying to keep active in terms of steps and all that, but not got into writing more substantial pieces. If the whole staying at home thing hadn’t been because of head mashing diagnoses and issues then I could have written more, couldn’t I?

BlueGuitar-1
Miranda's #MidWeekFlash

As I’m nearing the end of being off and the doctor's appointments have been more positive than the inevitable early fear that hangs over you in Limboland then I've become I’m more up than down: and writing for more than 500 words seems more doable. One of the things I long to do is finish one of my two NaNoWriMo drafts: I’ve two partially written novels from previous NaNo years. Both are around two thirds or more complete. For my own balance I need to finish at least one novel length book this year and if I can work on one one of these two stories it is very doable. Even if a) it’s just the first draft and b) it never sees the light of day other than to a few mates.

But it’s not just a case of starting from where I finished. Well it is, obviously, in some ways. But these are several years old and at this point may as well have been written by somebody else. Going back to where they are finished it feels like trying to start from the last chapter you’ve read from of any famous author's book. Like starting from scratch...ish - or at least starting a race in a different car and not knowing the track.

To that end I have been rereading my second NaNo story, which is currently called "
The Wobbly Odyssey", to get back into the zone so I can (at least try) and hit the ground running. It’s been really interesting. I like how the story has gone so far but dropping on to it now it would be so easy to take the story a rather random way and get the characters acting out of character from what's been presented so far.

Other than some geography nothing much about the story was planned. It’s been very much a "pantser" exercise. Maybe it’s just a bit more so now.

The current story is at
56k words and up to Chapter 6.5 of an anticipated 11 or so. I’m estimating there’s about 30-35k words to go to finish. If I set myself to do 1600-2000 words a day that’s only three weeks or so. So no excuse, A.J. Walker. Get writing and get it done: at the very least I want to know how the story ends!

Onwards and Upwards.
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A Reading From 'The Ormering Tide'

I accidentally made a rod for my own back for this one. In a potentially throw-away tweet I said that 'The Ormering Tide' was so beautiful I felt like I should be reading it aloud rather than reading it to myself. I think maybe that morning I hadn't had my second coffee by the time of the tweet and wasn't fully awake. I was certainly very much in the #ReadMeSpeakMe way in any case. Anyway's I ended up saying I'd read the prologue aloud after I had my haircut sorted.

So true to my promise this is the Prologue to the lovely book by Kathryn Williams.








Follow Kathryn on Twitter and get into her music, her art or her books - or all of it.


Kathwilliamsuk
@kathwilliamsuk

Get yourself a signed copy of 'The Ormering Tide' at Forum Books:

TOT_KW



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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.
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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.
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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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