A.J. Walker

writerer

Not Enough Words

So far this year there have not been enough words in my life in terms of reading or writing. I am aiming - and hoping - to improve on both counts in the second half of the year (yes, I know we are already over a month into the second half).

In terms of writing I REALLY WILL finish
The Wobbly Odyssey soon; hopefully within August. I WILL! I’ve got about 18k words to finish it in my estimation so surely I can find 18 days out of the next 28 days to write 1000 words. Surely.

I know. Not surely. But like aiming to do 8k steps a day, 1k words a day is not undoable if I put my mind to it. The only writing I’ve been doing regularly really is the weekly challenge called #MidWeekFlash that Miranda puts up on her website
‘Finding Clarity.’ Each of the last two weeks I’ve written them in one sitting and both ended up being over 1000 words then needed to be edited down. So a thousand words a day is well within my compass: let’s see.

The other side of this ‘
Not Enough Words’ equation is my reading. I set myself my usual target of around 40 books this year (42) and so far I’ve only read 18. This means I’ve got to read just over a book a week to achieve my goal. It’s not exactly a stretch goal but - like the steps - playing catch up has made it more difficult.

Books_4
Four nice books picked up in a second hand shop

I know. It’s not exactly like an Olympian trying to get a medal, but I they are goals I should go for. My current read after finishing Gareth Powell’s ‘
The Recollection’ is one of the few Terry Pratchett’s I haven’t read: ‘The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents’ which I bought on Saturday during my first visit to a second hand bookshop since all the lockdowns began. Went in needing no books and came out with four: so far, so predictable. Made up also to find a copy of an Unseen University edition of 'Reaper Man’. Will have to find a nice home for my old paperback copy now I’ve go my hands on that. Not sure how many books were printed in these UU editions but I’ve now got four anyway.

RM_map
Map of Discworld in the Unseen University 'Reaper Man'

Getting back into a second hand bookshop was excellent. Finding myself new (and old) Pratchett’s even better. Now I need to get me reading and writing going. I can do it.

Yeah, but will I?
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Steps

After my blog last week saying that I intended to return to doing at least 8k steps per day average in a week (i.e. 56k) I smashed it last week. Every day was above 8k which makes it easy to keep on top of. In actual fact last week my figures were:

Distance:
43.77 miles
Steps:
93,923
Average Distance:
6.25 miles
Average Steps:
13,417

Smashed it. Easy hey?

Route2Liverpool
Recording the walk into the city

Liverpool_Vista1
Cloud and sunshine above Liverpool

LoopLine_1
A quiet Loop Line on my Sunday walk


Well, on Monday this new week didn’t start quite as well (by a long chalk) with a paltry
1.3k steps. I’d said I’d walk a mile and half to a bus stop but I ended up with a lift home instead: while it was good in terms of getting home quickly it ballsed my walking up a bit. But on Tuesday things have improved. It was over 15k steps, which has got my average back up at the 8k over the two days. But it goes to show if you miss it with one nothingy day then you will be requiring some decent catch up on subsequent days - and if you had two quiet days (or, god forbid, more six day isolation requirements) then it’d be easy to really struggle to achieve the goal - unless you really forced yourself. It’s easier not to do than do, but really it’s not that difficult to do either if you really want to.

Onwards and Upwards… or at least Onwards and Alongwards.
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All Hail

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

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

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

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

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

Watch this space…
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When Gravity Goes Wrong

When Gravity Goes Wrong, or How Gravity Tried to Kill My Computer

Been in isolation since last Friday. Been really busy doing stuff in and around the house and the garden - to be fair I have so much here another month of isolation may be just about enough time to sort it all out. One of these things was a hole in the ceiling of the living room that came about as a result of a water leak before new year. The leak was fixed by a plumber back then, but a hole of a few inches across had remained. I bought a kit a while back but have only decided to spend the time on it when my time was kinda open ended by the requirement to isolate.

So on Tuesday I actually fixed the hole in the ceiling! Bloody hell. Not too difficult I suppose but due to being ceiling and not a wall there was a lot of unwarranted reliance on the glue on the backing of the pad used to cover the hole. The damn thing fell off whilst I was putting the filler on it. The patch proceeded to fall sideways as gravity was seemingly randomly broken at the time. If fell fully six feet horizontally away from where it fell: right bang on top of the keyboard of my open laptop (which was charging on the floor some way away from the sofa). You could not have hit it so perfectly if you had tried.

I raced to rescue the patch and filler and to clean the screen of the laptop - whilst simultaneously attempting to turn the laptop off. Then I had to deal with the keyboard. The easy thing was cleaning the trackpad and the larger edges of the computer. The biggest problem was the keyboard. I had to quickly but as safely as possible attempt to clean the keys from all the filler that seemed to have miraculously splattered across multiple edges of about two thirds of the keys. I had to clean as best as possible the larger area before it had set. Whilst waiting for it to get a bit firmer to scrape off each side of the key one at a time: whilst trying to avoid the dust of the stuff getting into the gubbins of the computer. In short I was worried that the keys would jam up, and/or the filler from the ceiling would end up inside the computer and cause serious damage to it. I mean for fuck's sake it was stressful.

I did as good a job as I could with the laptop. But have left it untouched since Tuesday lunch time when it happened until late Wednesday night. I wasn't sure if it was severely damaged, lightly damaged or had survived. And tonight I turned it on and… so far so good. The buttons are all working and there's not obvious signs of issues with the laptop. I think at the weekend I'll open it up and give the internals a check and clean. Better safe than sorry.

In summary, it is god's way of saying DIY is dangerous and beware gravity: it does not always pull down vertically - annoying bugger.


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What A Fudge Up

With Sajid Javid feeling “groggy” and then testing positive for Covid-19 the guys and gals who work with him (and presumably his wife and children) are at risk of contracting (or maybe already have) the virus from him. This morning we find that the PM and Chancellor have been contacted by Test & Trace as a close contact. Of course Twitter has gone wild saying variously that they’ve been “pinged” and contacted by Track & Trace. As it stands it seems to have been the latter and not the App.

According to the stuff I’ve read this morning getting the Ping from App is “advisory” - although having been pinged myself it doesn’t seem that when you get the notification: it seems a rock solid requirement. Now it seems getting contacted by Track & Trace which does equate to a legal requirement to self isolate doesn’t exactly if you know (or can get around the system).

It’s all so woolly. Is it any wonder people ignore rules/guidance when they don’t know what is required legally, what is advice, what’s sensible and what’s just nonsense. And this is far from helped by the PM and Chancellor saying they are going to carry on working and meeting people - on
essential things whilst having to “self isolate” for the rest of the time. I don’t think any of us really have belief that they would do the latter. This is the time they should stand up and say exactly how they are doing things this coming week (ie in accordance with requirements of law and/guidance). They need to show they are doing things correctly in order that others do too. *

They wont.

But of course it may not be the most important thing. Javid has contracted the virus having had two jabs (Astra Zeneca: like me and most oldsters). Apparently AZ is roughly 60% effective against the current Delta variant after both your jabs. From tomorrow if you get pinged having had two jabs you are no longer
required (whatever that now apparently means) to self isolate. How much more will the virus take off with these rules/guidance being loosened?

As I’ve said before I’ll continue to mask and largely social distance for the next months until the virus is under some more control. It’s not 100% effective but 60% (or 80% if you’re offered other vaccines) is better than 0%. Get vaccinated but carry on with being sensible. Assuming you are capable.


* Since writing this the PM & Chancellor have stepped away from their cunning plan to sidestep their legal requirement and have now said they will self isolate. Could mixed messages be any more mixed and fudged? The answer is No.
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Pinged!

Oh Happy Day. Yesterday me and a friend were both pinged by the NHS App to say were near someone a few days ago who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. We were both told to self isolate for six days from yesterday (which means I can’t leave the house/garden until midnight on Wednesday. I’m not sure if that will change on Monday with the new guidance. That is anyone’s guess.

With it being six days and not ten it indicates that the contact was sometime last weekend. Which to be fair is the last time we were out together so that makes sense. That means it was either somewhere in Bishop’s Castle, where we were camping, or in the
Head of Steam on the Sunday watching the footy final. Ho hum.

Isolate6
Pinged to self-isolate for 6 days

The ridiculous thing though is that it is a legal requirement to self isolate (which I’m fine with: it’s a health issue for all). And I now know multiple people who’ve either had a similar notification or actually caught the virus this week. BUT from Monday no one will need to use the NHS App to sign in and scan as they visit hospitality venues. If they then subsequently test positive there can be no backwards tracing of their contacts - other than their personal recollection, home and family and work etc.

The App notification suggests I’ve been near to someone with a positive test and that has got to be a useful thing to know. I mean what if I was planning on visiting a vulnerable person this weekend? To be given the information is very desirable. I’ve now tested myself at home using one of the kits and reported the Negative result to the NHS website (not sure why you can’t use the App to report it?). The notification page states that I should continue to:
wash my hands, socially distance and wear a face covering. All of which I’ve been doing. But from Monday apparently I won’t need to. And because we won’t be scanning in to places no one will be able to back trace any close contacts we’ve all had any more. People won’t be getting told they’ve been near anyone who’s just been shown to have Covid, ‘cos no-one will know. This is straight out of the Donald Trump method of reducing instances of the virus by not testing for it. Led by the science, my arse.

Negative-
Negative Test

So in a similar situation next week I wouldn’t know about my close contact and then I could happily pootle off to see a vulnerable person none the wiser. The mind boggles.

The changes just as so many people seem to be testing positive again is a ridiculous act. Since the notification and testing myself the Health Secretary himself has a tested positive (also after having two jabs). The App should be happily pinging his colleagues as you areas this. If he’d just got it a few days later they’d not be getting notified and would have happily been spreading it around their colleagues. Hope it makes them think (I suspect it won’t). Apparently in the last week half a million people have been pinged. FFS. Half a million!

Good luck to everyone trying to stay safe. We our having the tools of knowledge removed from us. And we are being left with common sense (which too many people have little of) and luck. Be good and stay safe, people. Understand the science (but good luck finding the details).
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The New Normalish

So on Monday the times are changing - apparently. Things are returning to normal-ish. And to be fair it really is a bit of a mess. I can’t tell whether it is by genius design or manic ineptitude. I mean the Government have all the data and advice they could possibly ask for. So you’d have to think it is more by design than accident. Next week restaurants, bars and nightclubs can open “as normal” (along with everything else like theatres and cinemas etc) and not require scanning in, table service and the Rule of Six: just as the UK have the highest rate of Covid-19 infection in the world. Due to the opening up next week this can only accelerate.

It looks like the Netherlands will briefly overtake the UK tomorrow. And why? Because they'd opened up fully a few weeks ago and this damn Delta Variant has done its thing.

Covid-Cases

The vaccinations have been going well, which is great. But many of the people who have been vaccinated seem to think it gives them 100% protection and that once you’ve had it you’re okay to carry on as if the virus doesn’t exist; that they are walking around as if in some Iron Man protective gear. It doesn’t protect you 100% and you wouldn’t expect it to. Estimates of protection of the different vaccinations range between 60 and 80%. To put it another way if your group of four people at the bar or in the club on Monday are all exposed to the virus then one of them could be anticipated to contract the disease. It should make you think.

Of course the vaccination should make it much less likely that you would contract it with
serious effects and you are less likely to pass away or end up in hospital. Whoopee! That is great news. And all the data shows the deaths have continued to be low despite that major rise in the virus.

It is nice to know we are less likely to die. But the complacency about the virus now seems to be endemic. Cultivated by the Government’s attitude and push to open up. I of course can’t wait to be able to buy a pint at the bar rather than the whole “wait to be seated” and then be served at the table thing. And it’ll be great for the businesses not to have to employ more people to do the table service - just when there are fewer people in the place than they’d normally have.

Hopefully as everyone gets vaccinated the disease will fall away substantially, but that is not going to happen next week. In the meantime a lot of the younger people - including many of the staff who work in the hospitality sector - wont have had two jabs yet so will be more exposed than us old uns.

Then there is Long Covid. I actually don’t directly know that many people who’ve had the virus. But of the few I do know there are two who have bad Long Covid symptoms involving either losing their taste completely or worse still having an awful taste & smell replacing what they should be sensing. Neither of these two had severe Covid at the time (six months ago) but have now been suffering for months - and one is in their twenties.

Apparently other symptoms of Long Covid includes brain and heart damage. I mean both of those sound like things you don’t want. The Government seems not to want people to avoid the virus. They don’t want you to die (always good for a government I guess), but they are happy for you to go out and catch something which could be permanently life damaging (apparently okay for a government and seemingly okay for the majority of the electorate - go figure).

I for one don’t want the disease. And I don’t want anyone else to get it either. I’ll continue to try and drink outside or in the better ventilated or larger rooms of the pubs: and in the quieter pubs. I’ll be continuing to use a face mask too. Of course, wearing a mask is supposed to reduce the chance of you passing an airborne disease on; it is not the point of it to protect you
per se. So if I’m the only one in a mask then it really won’t be much use. But I’m expecting a lot of people will continue with them despite not needing to legally.

I really feel for the business owners and managers themselves. They've got horrible decisions to make now that they can legally not wear masks or ask others to. They are responsible for the health and safety of their staff - and themselves - and the government has now said legally they don't need to wear them, but the advice is on ever shifting sands. Being told you should but don't need to do something is a nonsense. How is a manager of a restaurant or bar going to feel exposing themselves and their staff right now to the virus when it's rising so precipitously? It's very much a Catch-22 situation for them with the Government washing their hands (or not washing them) of the whole thing.

Personally I think the Government should continue to persuade people to reduce exposure through wearing masks on public transport and in small and/or busy venues (especially in places of poor ventilation). I don’t want Long Covid and the Russian Roulette of what it can deliver to you. That said I'll be glad that all venues will have a better chance of getting a few more people through the door: a better chance to survive. I'll continue to venture out as I have been. But I'll also continue to try and make appropriate decisions too.

In the meantime get vaccinated as soon as you can AND remember it is not a 100% effective barrier to you getting the disease. Maybe think about wearing a mask - especially if you're ever on the No.17 bus into Liverpool. You don't want a damaged heart or brain damage because Boris and our representatives don't care. Stop and think a little.

Good luck to everyone for the duration of this medical emergency/experiment. Be good. Be careful. Support your local businesses as best you can.
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Frank Turner at Top Rope

Last week was busy. There was a semifinal and final of the Euros for a start and our annual camping trip to Bishop’s Castle to fit in-between. But the highlight had to be Thursday’s Frank Turner gig at Top Rope Brewery. I mean my favourite current singer songwriter playing in a local brewery. I couldn’t have really designed a much better idea of a perfect gig if I tried.

There were to be two support acts from the same label appearing as well. When I was told who they were (Berries, and Pet Needs), I didn’t know them, but of course I looked them up. They were both punky alt rock types (sorry if that is an incorrect classification). I enjoyed a couple of the songs I heard from both of them when I saw their vids on YouTube. Not completely up my street, but music is elastic and it is not one size fits all. I was pretty sure they’d be good. I wasn’t to be disappointed.

I’d met my friend earlier who was coming to the gig too. She’d tried to win tickets on the basis of if she’d won she’d have given me a ticket. So when I ended up with two how could I not reciprocate? We had a bit of scran down South Road at the Liver, then headed to her guest house so she could sort that out. Then we went straight to the brewery.

With the Covid rules in place it was one way in to the brewery and one way out. It was of course inevitable I headed for exactly the wrong side of the brewery to get in first off. Sod’s Law is the strongest of the Laws. I’d headed to the side where I’d previously picked up the beer rather than the fire exit at the back. But to be fair it made sense in hindsight. We only had to go through that door the once to get our wrist bands and then we were in. It was such a select bunch of people that were there: apparently over 3000 people had tried to win tickets for the gig (there were no paid for tickets available) and there were only 60 tickets available. Every one of us felt extremely excited and privileged I’m sure - bloody hell I’ve been spouting on about it for weeks (even before I found that I was lucky enough to be one of the lucky ones).

We picked a table on the second (of two) rows directly in front of the middle of the “stage.” It was a spot on position. But even if you had the worst seat in the house (no idea which that was), you’d have been fine with just 60 people there.

The first thing to negotiate was scanning in a QR code and then go through some painful registering process before being able to purchase a beer. But at least once that was out of the way it became easier. I just stuck to the keg stuff that was on, though plenty of others (including the bands) were downing plenty of cans. I went for The Gathering (of course, it was the Frank Turner beer after all) and a Papa Mango; basically, why change a winning formula?

Berries
Berries

The first band who played were Berries. A threesome from London who signed to Xtra Mile in January this year. The three members of the band were Holly on guitar and vocals, Lauren on bass, and Lucie on drums. They were all brilliant. There was only Lauren playing on her usual instrument (electric bass), with Lauren on acoustic guitar and Lucie on a box drum (cajon). Their usual punky songs translated surprisingly well to the night’s acoustic performance. Holly was absolutely brilliant on the guitar covering an impressive territory of the fretboard from song to song. As someone who just strums open chords from time to time I was in awe. The trio looked like they really enjoyed it. Let’s face it gigs have been such a major miss over the last year or so; and they were playing a brewery in Liverpool - so how could they not?

PetNeeds1
Pet Needs giving it some welly

Not long after they finished the second act of the night arrived on stage:
Pet Needs. Again it was largely acoustic bar the bass (including another cajon). The four lads threw everything into the gig; and that was a lot. A really enjoyable performance from the four piece punk outfit from Colchester.

FrankAndI-1
Frank and a grinning loon

Then it was time for Frank Turner. He gave us little time between the last chords from Pet Needs until he played. In fact I had to listen to the first song and half from the small queue for the two toilets. It wasn’t far away so I didn’t miss a note. I don’t know what to say about Frank’s gig to be honest. It was just perfect. He has such a back catalogue of songs I could have picked a different twenty songs than he did and been just as happy - that said I’d have probably have picked many of the same songs too.

FrankT-1
And so it begins

There was no backing band. It was just Frank and an acoustic guitar. For the majority of the set he followed a chronological catalogue. In fact sod it; it’d be easier to just provide the set-list wouldn’t it? So here it is. Let’s face it if you know Frank and read this list you’ll nod and be a) happy to see it and b) really really wish you’d been there. Like I said, it was perfect:

The Ballad
I Knew Prufrock
Long Live the Queen
The Road
If I Ever Stray
Plain Sailing Weather
The Way I Tend To Be
The Next Storm
Love 40 Down
1933
Be More Kind
Sister Rosetta
The Lioness
Punches
The Gathering (it’s a beer and a song)
Get Better
Recovery
Photosynthesis
I Still Believe
Polaroid Picture


Finale1
Finale

Members of
Berries and Pet Needs came on to join him for the finale which was fun and beautifully chaotic - just like an encore should be. The first time I saw him was in the Wembley gig in 2012 he got himself a tattoo between finishing the set and coming back on for his encore. When I saw him at Glastonbury he had to make a sharp exit to play a fete at his old school after going against his mum by getting a tattoo on his hand. This time, in sunny Bootle, there was to be no tattoo action. Which is funny… because I said I’d get a FTHC tattoo if I won a ticket. I haven’t so far. But I have many more weeks in my life to get that sorted - all things being equal.

After the gig I managed to get to talk to the maestro himself after a quick elbow bump. He was an absolute gent. My friend Ken, who passed away in January, had given me the book, '
The Road Beneath My Feet' and he kindly signed it for me too. I couldn't have asked for a better memento for the day.

ElbowBump
Elbow bump

FrankAndI
Meeting the man himself.


I really don’t know what more to say about the gig. I DO feel marvellously lucky to have got a ticket to go and to be there with a friend. I was smiling for days before and for days afterwards about it.

FrankSignature
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Bishop's Castle 2021

Bishop's Castle '21

What a busy week. Started of doing stuff down at me dad’s old house. Then there was the semifinal game on Wednesday, which I watched in the Head of Steam in Liverpool with Ste and Toe. This was followed on Thursday by an epic - and much looked forward to - day at
Top Rope Brewery watching the brilliant Frank Turner gig with my Twitter/Flash Dog buddy, Sal (will report that in a separate blog piece). And to almost top it off it was the annual pilgrimage to Bishop’s Castle on the weekend that would normally be the home of the annual Real Ale Trail. The camping in Foxholes campsite at BC on Friday and Saturday night was then to be followed by a return to Liverpool - and back out to the Head of Steam - to watch the Euro Final with many of the usual crew: yes, we did get six who managed to make it on the same day at the same time. Miracles do happen even after a tiring few days.

Didn’t leave Liverpool on Friday until almost one and the roads turned out to be a bit of a nightmare with roadworks aplenty - and several accidents as far as I could tell (four ambulances passed me at one point). But I got to BC before 3:30pm, so not too bad in the grand scheme of things I guess - about twenty five minutes longer than it should be.

BC1-21
Bishop's Castle being Bishop's Castle and the last of Steve's pants

All me buddies were already there, either with their tents up or working on them. I ended up doing a pretty rare thing: I sat down with some of them and had a beer BEFORE putting my tent up. A most unusual occasion. It was perfect start with it being dry but the ground softish. I didn’t even require my mallet (which this time I remembered to bring with me). The tent went up pretty quickly and once Carl had turned up on his motorbike (his tent already kindly erected for him) then everyone was there.

We listened to some tunes and headed down to BC in piecemeal fashion. We weren’t sure what the situation would be in the village. There was obviously not going to be the festival due to the restrictions and the inherent doubts about things coming up to this month. Last year as we came out of one of the lockdowns only two pubs were open on the same weekend: The Three Tuns and The Castle, and both were trying to get to grips with what the H&S rules were at the time.

This year all the pubs were open. Of course it was still constrained by the current Covid-19 rules. There’s still the scanning in or writing out your contact details at each pub, the six per table rule and the table service. There was no festival. Some pubs had three or four beers to choose from - as opposed to the usual festival of choice. One pub just had the one beer on. And of course there was no music. On Friday we managed a pint or two in each of the
Three Tuns, The Vaults and The Six Bells.

There were twelve of us there on the Friday and eleven by the Saturday - due to one of the lads having a ticket for the Men’s Final at Wimbledon. Not sure whether that’s lucky or unlucky; depends how much of a tennis fan you are I suppose. With the six person rule we couldn’t all sit together which meant the get together in the pubs was not quite the same; and the possibility of flitting between groups was limited. But at least we had more options than last year AND it remained dry during the hours we were out. There was some rain over the two days but it thankfully relented to just appear while we were in our tents in the early hours.

A lot fewer photos were taken than in the usual years as the socialising was more constrained. And we got together more back at the campsite than in the village. We had tunes playing each evening and got some scran down - including an epic chilli provided by the hostess with the mostest (that’d be Jeanette). It had to be calm in terms of spice as Steve doesn’t do hot chilli. But it was tasty nonetheless - and needed. I managed to snaffle a second portion a day later. Yes, two of us had the cast iron stomachs to deal with three day old chilli without refrigeration.

Some of the guys were a little lost without the usual pilgrimage to the chip shop at the top of the village. The owners were apparently away for a week or so for a wedding apparently. So the usual fish or sausage & chips was swapped for a Chinese - not far away down the road. I never made it to the Chinese and can’t say how good it was, but there didn’t appear to be any complaints.

BC2-21
Cool day in Bishop's Castle

The morning butties were provided by the
Hungry Fox within the campsite. The bacon & egg butties are a lovely start to the day.

The drinking as far as I could tell - and certainly from my perspective - was a lot less extensive than usual. You are not drinking with the same kind of group or whilst watching bands, and you are waiting for everyone on the table to be ready before putting in an order. The result was a pretty sedate affair compared to some years (especially in The Vaults).

It wasn’t as dynamic by necessity in the village. Around the fire pit and stereo at the end of the day there was some more relaxed fun and a little wobbliness from certain people - and even the apparently now annual
Burning of The Shorts: last year it was Tony, this year it was Steve's turn. Despite some unsteadiness and an incident with Dexter the Dog's sharp incisors there was nothing that quite necessitated A&E, which is always a bonus. There were some surprising moves on to shorts in the form of whisky (Haig Club and Glenlivet) no names, no pack drill: don’t worry Jeanette I wont tell anyone about you two timing gin with a night on the whisky. And separately a bottle of rum also seemed to evaporate on Saturday night - despite no one admitting drinking it.

BCteam3-21
At the end - The BC21 Team

Sunday was dry again when we got up. There was a quiet, orderly start to the day: just a butty and tents down then an early dart to get back home to catch the football. Before that Jeanette suggested we had a team photo. It was a good call. We normally have one at the start of the weekend down in the
Castle or the Three Tuns but that was impractical this year. So this year’s team photo was a more raggedy affair as an early morning “After” as supposed to a lunchtime “Before”. But it is good to have the photos to look back on. For the years ahead when we can’t remember who was there and who wasn’t as much as anything else.

Everyone got back in one piece. And six of us got back into Liverpool and the
Head of Steam in plenty of time for the football. We had a good evening there. We shared a couple of pizzas just before the match. Maybe we should have picked something a little less Italian. Sorry.

In summary, it was a busy week topped off by the as usual excellent
Annual Bishop’s Castle Bash. It was a lovely and most welcome affair. Roll on next year. Hopefully by then we may even be able to go into a pub and buy a pint at the bar. How mad would that be!?
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Eng-er-land

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

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

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

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

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

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