A.J. Walker


Welsh Place Names

Starting work on a new short story and it's to be set in an isolated village in North Wales. The kind of place I drive through regularly. But in all this time I've been going there I haven't really bothered with the language, which is a shame. I mean, if I was going on holiday abroad I'd try and learn a few of the words at least for pleasantries, but I haven't for Wales. And that is my bad.

Anyway, for this story I am setting it in a fictitious place in the countryside where clearly it would have a Welsh name, not an English one. So I've had to look up some place name words. I know a few like pont for bridge, aber for river, coed for wood, and capel for chapel (of course). And Isaf and Uchaf is lowest and highest. Other than that I'm a bit at a loss or rely on guesswork. With this limited vocabulary I'd be a bit stuck for a place name. I mean Capel Aber Uchaf is not going to cut it.

I've looked through a lot of the place name segments and have come up with my fictitious hamlet now. Looking through the list it is clear how many places are named so simply on such geographical descriptions (and why with so few names used Isaf and Uchaf has to be used so often (or bach and mawr for little and big) to differentiate places).

allt - hillside, wood bach - little bedd - grave
betws - chapel bwlch - pass caer - fort
carnedd - cairn cefn - ridge clogwyn - steep cliff
coed - wood craig - rock cwm - valley
divas - city dwfr - water dyffryn - valley
eglwys - church fford - road ffridd - mountain pasture
ffynnon - spring llan - parish maen - stone
mawr - big moel - bare hill mynydd - mountain, moorland
nant - brook ogof - cave pistyll - waterfall
plas - hall, mansion pont - bridge pwll - pool
rhiw - hill, slope rhos - moor, promontory rhyd - ford
sarn - causeway stryd - street tafarn - inn
traeth - beach tref - village, town wyddfa - burial mound
ynys - island, river-meadow ystrad - valley floor

There's not going to be any conversations in Welsh so this may well be all my language research required for this story.

Hwyl fawr.


In the last week I've discovered The Expanse, on Amazon Prime in the UK. I started watching it after a recommendation from a guy in the Tap & Bottles in Southport who made good noises about it. Funnily enough I'd already bought two of the books 'Cibola Burn' and 'Nemesis Gates' from a second-hand book shop not knowing at the time that the SF series was based on them.

Rocinante Crew
Crew of the Rocinante: Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton, Alex Kamal and James Holden

Unfortunately now I've binged watched over one and a half series of the Expanse I now want to read the books and the order becomes important. These books are books 4 and 5 out of the current 8. Earlier in the week I found (and bought) book 3 'Abaddon's Gate' in the same bookshop. So now I'm either gonna have to root out the first two books in a shop, or maybe I'll just go on Abebooks for them. In the meantime I'll carry on watching the series. It is already up there in my Top 3 SF series now alongside 'Battlestar Galactica' and 'Firefly'. Don't ask me to put the three in order. Please.

The eight full length books to date (2011-2019) and in order are:

  • Leviathan Wakes
  • Calibans War
  • Abaddon's Gate
  • Cibola Burn
  • Nemesis Games
  • Babylon's Ashes
  • Persepolis Rising
  • Tiamat's Wrath

The ones in orange are the ones I've got on my shelves. They are all meaty tomes and when I've got them all they will fill a decent sized shelf.

Incidentally, James S.A. Corey the author of the series is not a person–in so much as it is two people. Namely Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, check out Wikipedia.

In the meantime I've started reading another SF book, coincidentally written by another duo, 'Nightfall' by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg.

Winner Winner Not Chicken Dinner

Been a few months since I've won something on Twitter but this week, which has been pretty crap in other ways, has been made better by TWO wins with a book and a CD winging their way to me.

Once Upon A Time

First I won the soundtrack for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood from FACT in Liverpool. Only listened to half of it so far, but it is fab. Then today I won a brand new book; 'Bottled' about alcohol and its relationship with English football (players and teams). Looks like it'll be a good read.


Now they say things happen in threes. So I better find another Twitter competition or two.

Yesterday I was waiting for a replacement van to be delivered (don't ask). Cleaned the van out, took photos and all that then waited. Expected them to come in the morning or maybe lunchtime–I mean who wants to be working late on a Friday? What time did it arrive? 8:30pm. FFS. I hadn't gone out, having to wait, and was starving. With all the KFC coverage yesterday I fancied some fried chicken but by the time the van arrived that mood had gone. Ended up with a beef green pepper and black-bean sauce. Wasn't the best. But no doubt better than the KFC.

Anyway, I'm of to Twitter to look for another comp.

The Once Poised Pen

I've officially left the Poised Pen writing group, in so much as such a thing can be official when there is not a membership per se–basically you go to a meeting and you pay your dues, that's your membership. I haven't been going for the last 20 months, so I've asked to be taken off the mailing list, as it gets frustrating reading the apologies. I stopped sending them in as it seemed superfluous when people aren't expecting me to be there. There are PP members now going who I have never met.

I think I went to one, maybe two, meetings once they changed from having the meetings in a real ale pub (the Fly in the Loaf) to the backroom of a restaurant (Porto).
HalfBaked AllThings

It's a shame to cut the ties in some ways but I've just not been going and can't see me going back in the short to medium term. Ultimately I know where they are if I find I want to return in the future. The PP was my first and only writing group where I read out any of my stories, following my few appearances reading poetry at the Dead Good Poets. It also gave me my first opportunities to be published with the Poised Pen anthologies and I can't thank them enough for that: these were 'Half Baked' (2014) and 'All Things Considered' (2016).

I used to be a very regular attendee, pretty much ever present after I started going in 2013. I helped produce Half Baked including sorting it out for the Kindle and using my photo for the cover: unfortunately I was also responsible for a typo on the spine. I enjoyed meeting at the Fly as it combined two of my loves (ale & writing) and cutting one out was the driver for me stopping. Time is a finite resource and something had to give. The writing community outside of the group from, amongst others, the Flash Dogs and VSS365 guys and gals, has given me the confidence and pals I can call on for reading queries or writing advice–albeit without the pint in hand and a post reading chin-wag.

So I'll take this opportunity to say thanks to the Poised Pen for the friendships, the opportunities, the experience, for meeting a lovely group of writers, and for some of the best meetings ever. Good luck to all who sail with her and I look forward to reading your work in the wild–or hearing it on the radio or seeing it on the telly-box. I expect I'll still bump into you; be that in the Fly or at some book or screenwriting extravaganza.

Keep writing.

The Writing Habit

It's so easy to come up with reasons not to write sometimes. I mean there is always a film to watch (sometimes again), a box-set to finish or a new one to start, then again there's that once in lifetime (or once in a week) sporting occasion. These damn essential unmissables. Then there's the whole shopping, cooking and eating thing. And don't even mention that washing and ironing thing.

Do you want to fucking write or not? Well let's not fall at the first hurdle, let's just assume you like writing a bit. You're doing some, probably not enough of course. But then again where are you finding the time and how much time do you need? On the face of it not that much if you get into an effective habit. Just get an envelope out and write out a few ideas. If you can find half an hour to write 350 words every day that's over 127,000 words a year. There is your first novel with words to spare. And if you could do 500 words in a day then you're up to 187,000. That could be two books–five hundred words.


So if you want to get to a book's worth of words in a year it could be about finding just half an hour a day and getting into a habit, could't it? Pick a time, in the morning before work, at lunch time, or at the end of the day–maybe over a beer. Whatever works. I will if you will.

Okay, I will anyway. Will have to keep some sort of writing diary and see how it goes.

I'm sure it's all about good habits.


Better Be: A Retune

Been a while since I've done any recording of my guitar practising so I've done one today which is a reattempt at the classic Crowded House song 'Better Be Home Soon'.

This is actually my third attempt. My first one was an open chord version which I struggled and failed to get to the highest notes, so for the second one I played with a capo. This was deeper and easier to hit the high notes but in some ways less lively to sing. So for the third version I've gone back to the open chord version.


Still struggle with the highest notes but hell it's better than it was and is a livelier version than the capo one. I may not have a good singing voice but it's improving with practice.

The other thing I am trying to do now is practice strumming patterns. Eek! Think that should be the quickest way to get better to be honest. Do wish I'd had some lessons when I was younger. Anyways, onwards and upwards. And whilst I'm practising I've got the aim to write three songs before the end of the year. Perhaps I'll choose a theme from a VSS365 prompt.


Two Thirds There

This year's reading plans have been progressing well against the plan to read forty books this year. That said it feels like I've read more somehow. Go figure. Struggling to see how people read one hundred plus - then I think of the box-sets I've seen and think okay, fair enough (I've just binge watched Gomorra, which was excellent).

Two thirds of the way through the year and I've read twenty eight books. Next few books are lined up 'Last and First Men' by Olaf Stabledon, 'The Subtle Knife' by Philip Pullman and 'The Invisible Library' by Genevieve Cogman. Yep, lots of SF and Fantasy then. Standard.

Will I make it to forty with other constraints on time ahead, we'll see? You can follow my reading progress on GoodReads at zevonesque.

Books_Aug Books_Aug2

Neptune Saturday: Beer & Footy

Saturday was a nice day weather-wise, beer-wise and footy-wise. First up I went up to the Neptune Brewery Tap in Maghull, for the first time since going on the opening weekend, for a couple of beers with my good mate, Tony. It was Tony's first visit.

King Jester
'Jester' and 'King of the Sea' in the Neptune Brewer Tap

Started with a couple of cask ales, which were 'Jester' and 'King of the Sea' (they have two cask lines and then the rest in keg) and then I went for their collaboration beer with Brass Castle 'Bozza Don't Surf'. So that's why there's a rare pic of me with a half pint glass. The ale (7.3%) is gorgeous and I thoroughly recommend getting your mitts on some if you see it around.

A rare event for me… a half AND it's a KEG! (don't tell anyone)

Pump clips for some of the many beers Neptune brew - one of each please…

Merchandise, branding and snacks in the Neptune Brewery Tap

As it was a Bank Holiday weekend they had food on from The Great British Chip Shop on the Sunday and Monday - not on the Saturday. Nice to see companies working off each other that way. Les and Julie and the rest of the crew have done a fab job creating the tap and I'm sure it will be a brilliant success. If you are ever in the Maghull area over a weekend you should check if the Tap is open and get your chops around a few of these guys beers. You won't be disappointed. The brewery is at Unit 1, Sefton Lane Industrial Estate, Maghull, L31 8BX. Easiest way of getting there is usually just to get the train to Maghull Station and from there get a taxi - Blueline taxis have an office opposite the railway station.


Had a problem waiting for a taxi to return back to Maghull Station (should have booked it earlier: I blame the taste of the beer making us want to stay longer). Julie very kindly volunteered to run us down to the station. A star!

Got the train back to town and went to meet Ste in Fly in the Loaf where we watched the Liverpool v Arsenal match. Well, what can I say. Another nice ale or two in the Fly and a fab win from Liverpool (3-1). Happy Days!

Like I say, it was nice weather wise too. But largely it was spent indoors. Enjoyable nonetheless.

If you wanna check out these guys on Twitter they are:
Neptune Brewery - @neptunebrewery and neptunebrewery.com
Brass Castle Brewery - @BrassCastleBeer

Fly in the Loaf - @FlyintheLoaf


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.


The wonderful Henry Bohn's

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.

Alex Gavaghan in the Caledonia