A.J. Walker

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What Is It With Thursdays?

Last Thursday the second Open Mic of the post lockdown era was on at the Sanctuary and I decided to go down again. The last one was packed, but this time there was only five of us there. But I enjoyed it as much – maybe even more – than the last one. Not because of not being busy but because the host, Barry Sutton, was good to talk to – and some of the evening was as much a guitar lesson as me playing a few songs.

To be fair they only announced on Twitter that they were having an Open Mic the evening before, which ain’t much notice for people who may need to organise anything or just plan their week. Hopefully next time there will be a bit more notice and it will be a bit busier. It's either that or I'll end up with another lesson.

SanctuaryOM1
Open Mic in the Sanctuary

Incidentally it is great to see that there are other places starting Open Mic events in the coming fortnight in – and in a couple of my favourite real ale pubs to boot: the
Head of Steam, and the Denbigh Castle. At the moment I understand that the Head of Steam one will – at least initially – just be a monthly event on the first Thursday of the month i.e. first one will be on October 7th. And coincidentally the Denbigh Castle one will also commence (downstairs in the pub) on the same date. The intention is that this one will be each week.

I’m not sure how often the Sanctuary one is intended to be. But just like the two upcoming ones it is on a Thursday too. What is it with Thursdays?
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Sofar

On Wednesday I went to my first Sofar gig in Liverpool. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them, that's not the name of a band, but the name of the events. It is a nice idea which has spread world wide and includes a few cities in the UK. The ethos is to go and have a nice time and actually listen to the music and not chat all the way through it about what’s been on the TV or the latest football: watch and listen to the band. And talk and get your drinks in between the sets, rather than disturbing the gig for those around you. Boss.

You pay your £10 for a ticket, and then the day before you get an email telling you where it will be. In this case the event was held in a place I hadn’t been before called ‘
Slate’ which is within Tapestry – a large building up behind TJ Hughes. There’s apparently always a bar onsite (unless they tell you otherwise) so it’s not a BYOB gig.

Met someone I knew who likes live music – and it turns out helps out with the event – and then went up the stairs to Slate, which turned out to be a nice space for some music – with a small bar at one end of the room and the area for the bands marked out with some simple lighting, and the instruments and amplification all laid out at the opposite end.

Sofar_Mix
The three Sofar acts - Liverpool 22.09.21

There were three acts who played, who I hadn’t seen before. Namely,
Christie a local singer songwriter and Ahmed Khwata a songwriter from London, with the last act being The Heavy North – a local five piece bluesy outfit. I really enjoyed all of them. Christie and The Heavy North were both playing the Smithdown Festival at the Handyman on Friday (with Heavy North being the headliner).

HeavyNorth
The Heavy North

The whole gig wasn’t that long (first act on around 8pm and last song finished around 10:15pm – okay for a school night) with the acts each only playing five or six songs. But it was a really intimate gig with an attentive and respectful audience and I really enjoyed it. And I’ll definitely be there again, well, not
there as I don’t yet know where there will be.

Rock on.

_____________

sofarsounds.com/liverpool
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Nearly 40 Miles

This week’s summary (ending 26/9): I hit 91,870 steps equivalent (i.e. adding the cycling to the walks), which is good going. And I can very much feel the difference between how the muscles are affected by riding compared to walking - and I’m getting faster. My thighs on Friday and Saturday were still feeling the effects of nearly 40 miles of cycling. Not bad work last week after going from no cycling for thirty odd years. Ultimately I may end up having days when most my ‘steps’ are equivalent ones from cycling rather than actual walking. This week the cycling made up about a third of my leg work. The actual steps last week were 28.4 miles (60,965 steps) and the cycling was about 39.5 miles.

Canal 1

Been riding along canal pathways mostly and trying to limit the roads, which at the moment has been okay. I dare say it'll be less attractive soon as the morning and nighttime extends. Haven't done wet weather yet. Some of the cobbled surfaces could be a bit fun on a wet or frosty day. May end up combining some rail soon.

CanalBridge1

Week’s details (steps equivalent with walking and cycling combined):
Distance: 42.8 miles
Steps: 91,870k
Average Daily Distance: 6.1 miles
Average Steps: 13.1k

One nice thing about the cycling – apart from added fitness – is seeing some nice countryside and wildlife.

Maghull Bridge1

Onwards and Alongwards.
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Back to Gigs

The Magic Numbers gig on Friday was just brilliant. Oops, I’ve gone straight to the end there. First things first: I walked into town to get my steps in (without my usual rucksack for a change) and listened to the Numbers all the way - on my really crap headphones. Had read so much about how poor the beer is in the venue: the Arts Club, on Seel Street – operated by O2 Academy (not to be confused with the Arts Bar on Hope Street) - and how expensive it is too. I hadn’t been in the Arts Club since it was the Masque, many moons ago.

So I walked the 4.8 miles from mine to the
Keystone first with the aim to get a nice pint and fill myself up with a burger from Boffo Burgers (who operate out of the Keystone from Friday to Sunday). Sat outside in the garden cooling down from the long walk and had a couple of pints of Chapter BrewingThe Hay is Waiting’ and a cheeseburger and fries from Boffo. Top choices both.

Whilst I was in the Keystone I discovered I needed to prove either a negative
Covid test or that I’d been double vaccinated. I haven’t had a test for a while, but I have been double vaccinated. Unfortunately I’ve never checked whether the NHS App was up to date with that - I’ve heard many people have gone on and found one or both of their vaccinations not showing. I had a fear therefore that if that was the case I wouldn’t be seeing the Magic Numbers at all. In the end I gave my app the appropriate answers so that it could find my results and hey presto both vaccines were showing so I was good to go. (I was a bit perturbed that this ‘all clear’ is only valid to sometime in October!?! What happens then with any gig going?

Said my farewells and headed for one in the
Coach House. Ended up rushing a second (hey, the gig venue was going to be crap for beer). The walk took me past the Grapes so I had to go for a quick pint of NeptuneEzili’ in there, didn’t I?

And then finally, after my pre-loading with beef burger & fries and some mighty fine ales, it was time to head to the
Arts Club. There some people queuing outside, some of who were going through the process I’d gone thru trying to dig out their ‘I’m relatively safe’ proof before showing a ticket too. Then I was in. Huzzah! This was my first post lockdown gig with a non-socially distanced requirement (I’d been to the post-lockdown gig of Frank Turner in Top Rope Brewery, but that was with a socially distanced exclusive ‘crowd’ of 60 people). I was unsure how it would be.

Obviously it felt a bit strange (somewhere between good and ‘oh should we be doing this?’). The fact that everyone has to show their vaccination or latest test status though is at least a bit reassuring. I walked straight past the queue for the bar and headed for a bit of space on the left hand side to watch the stage (my fullness with quick beers and meat & fries worked!). Ren Harvieu was playing with Romeo and Michelle from the Numbers. I caught three of her songs before they left and the Numbers came on. The atmosphere was lovely.

The atmosphere just grew and grew and became eye poppingly good. The vibe perfect. Chatted to a few people who were along a straight line measurement between sober and not so sober - but all were in an equally mighty fine place. I couldn’t wait for the Numbers. Which was handy as there wasnt long to wait…

The tour was arranged to celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of their first, eponymous, album which was released in 2005. As the gig was on its third iteration due to covid cancelations then it was really the 16th anniversary. But if we can have the 2020 Olympics and 2020 European Championship this year then I dare say another event with a stretched out date is neither here nor there. In any case it was very much a celebration of their first, much loved, album. In fact they played the songs from the album in the order of it.

The audience loved it. Raising hands, glasses and voices along with the all of the songs. It was joyous. And I’d forgotten to be ‘not quite sure’ about being in a crowded indoor venue. I’m not sure whether it was sold out or not. It seemed pretty full to me, though not too bad to get to the bar when I finally decided I was in need of hydration again. Choices for an ale drinker were limited (and they didn’t even have any
Guinness – my go to drink where ale is not about) so I ended up drinking Somersby pretend cider. Which did a job.

The music and atmosphere hardly took a dip; the album is one classic after another after all. And I enjoyed everything about it (if not the bar). They ended the gig (which included the hidden song at the end of the album) with a saxophone player joining them to play ‘
Sweet Divide’ which was a beautiful epic song to end with.

Yes, all in all, a mighty good night. Can’t beat live music, can you? That’s rhetorical. You can’t.

___________

Talking of live music I ended up getting a ticket the next day for a gig next week in Liverpool. It’ll be my first time going to a
Sofar gig. They don’t tell you who will be playing or where! All they say is that it’ll be arrive for 7:15 and it’ll be in Liverpool. Then 36 hours before the gig they inform you about the venue. You only find out who is playing when they step up to the microphone. An interesting concept. For £10 it is not much to gamble with and I am looking forward to this week’s event: and yes I know now I have a record of my double vaccination status. Huzzah!

If it sounds up your street (it is a worldwide thing) then take a look at the website to see if there is anything coming up where you are:

www.sofarsounds.com
www.sofarsounds.com/cities/liverpool
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Walk On & Ride On

Well last week became a bit different for me; because I started riding a bike as well as walking. First time in a saddle for decades. In any case I exceeded my weekly goal of 56k steps with just the walking, but together with the riding did even better. I had four days walking into Liverpool and those four days equated to between 12.8 and 13.9k steps per day. And there were three days when I did not get up to the 8k steps average goal. I’ve found a fudge factor to address the equivalent for cycling to steps so I could add the numbers up (I’ve used 110 steps/minute at this point).

This week’s summary (
ending 19/9) I hit c.74,589 steps, which is pretty damn fine. And I can feel the difference between how the muscles are affected by riding compared to walking - and day on day I’ve got faster on the bike without trying (though this may also be that the tyres were better inflated too). Initially I’m going to try going out on the bike three times a week. Let’s see how that goes. Ultimately I may end up having days when most my ‘steps’ are equivalent ones from cycling rather than actual steps. We shall see.

Week’s details:
Distance: 34.7 miles
Steps 74.6k
Average Daily Distance: 4.96 miles
Average Steps: 10.7k

Onwards and Alongwards.
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Magic Numbers Gigs

Tonight I'm going to a gig – the Magic Numbers at the Arts Bar in Liverpool. First time at a normal (not socially distanced) gig since Covid lockdowns.

Michelle_Angela_1
Michelle & Angela – and an interloper – in an Amsterdam bar

Romeo_2
Romeo and the same interloper (and a band member from Shout Out Louds) in an Amsterdam bar.

I've been to several Number's gigs in Manchester, Kendal, and even Amsterdam – as well as seeing them at music festivals like Glastonbury. I also went to see
Romeo Stodart at the Music Room in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, which was just two days before all gigs got cancelled due to lockdowns. I wrote a review of that gig for a website.

Romeo_1


Got some great memories – and stories – from all my gigs involving the Number's and am looking forward to tonight. Not looking to forward to the bar in the Arts Bar though. Truly horrendous prices for crap drinks. Ho hum. Not sure how it'll be in a none socially distanced environment either. But saying that, the music from the
Stodarts & Gannons – and from Ren Harvieu – will no doubt be fabulous.

Rock on.
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First Try Out on ZevonOne

A Bike

One of the items I picked up from my parents house was my dad's old bike. It's nothing special it's a BSA
'Westcoast' if it means anything to you. But it's not called Westcoast any more it is now officially ZevonOne. It has straight handlebars rather than road racing type which is better for me from a riding position perspective, as I'm not going to be doing anything for speed, and It has five speed gears.

ZevonOne_and_Me
First daylight ride on ZevonOne

I bought a set of lights, a pump and a lock; and yesterday I got the chain back on and oiled it. Sure it needs a bit a clean and more oil on the gears next, but it worked fine. The brakes are okay but not brilliant. Probably due to the cables not being moved much for many years as dad hadn't used if for a few years.

I'll have to get a
hi-vis belt or sash or some such next; I am not intending to get much (any) in the way of the cycling clothing – at least at the moment. I suppose I'll have a think about a helmet.

Last night at 11pm – after watching '
Help' (a great drama featuring the wonderful Stephen Graham & Jodie Comer on C4) – I went out for my first ride on a bicycle for something like thirty years. Only went on a circular route of 2.85 miles. It took me a bit under 22 minutes; around 7.8 mph i.e. not fast.

WHPgate
Pain in the neck gates at park

This morning I went out and rode on the route I've been walking previously around Walton Hall Park via the Loop Line. The main things I've noticed are that the legs get pretty tired, pretty damn quickly compared to walking. And my god, even short slopes were a killer. The movement of the legs is very different of course to walking and it is exercising them in a different way. The gates around the park are a damn pain to deal with too. Anyway it'll take a few weeks I'm sure for these legs to get used to this new thing.

Steps

Noticed of course that the exercise doesn't get picked up by watch, which means I'll have to turn the rides into steps by some factor or other. There's no clear cut way of doing it. I found several way of doing it on a writer's website (
link here) and am going to go for the lower one initially: namely, 130 steps per minute for a low intensity ride. But initially I'll lower it further as I'm going to be damn slow to start with. They have 'easy pace' as ten miles an hour and on my first two outings I've been closer to 8mph. So for the sake of argument let's say 110 steps/min for now and I'll up it to 130/min once I've got up to 10mph (assuming I ever do).

Once at Lake Toba

I say that it's been thirty years since I've been on a bike and that's almost true. But I did hire a bike on one day when I was in Indonesia at the stunning Lake Toba. The lack of practice and the hilly nature meant I didn't really cycle
per se though – I basically walked up the slopes and then freewheeled down them. Not really cycling at all then.

Going forward

Getting on the bike this morning I found the front tire had gone down since last night. So it seems I'll have to get new inner tubes next – along with the
hi-vis. It'll be first time changing a tyre for over thirty years too then. The other thing is that there are areas of rust, most obviously the handlebars. So at some point I'll have to de-rust and paint the affected areas. It's all a learning curve.

RustyHandlebars
The handlebars (and indeed the bike) needs some TLC/paint work.

Assuming I record the bike rides on
Runkeeper (which doesn't just do running, despite the name), then I can convert the cycling to steps and keep up with monitoring overall exercise in a consistent form.

Onwards and along wards.
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Spot On Walk On

Not quite as good as last week for the walking. But got one long one sorted on Saturday with my walk to Neptune brewery so overall I only just got to 56k steps for the week. The Saturday walk of about 18k steps made all the difference. Started slowly this week too but should get there again this week with two or three four miles plus walks.

This week (
ending 12/9) I hit c.56k steps.

Week’s details:
Distance: 26.3 miles
Steps 56.5k
Average Daily Distance: 3.8 miles
Average Steps: 8k

Onwards and Alongwards.
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A Walk To Neptune

Neptune Brewery opened up their taproom on Saturday for the first time this year. And so I had to go up to show my support and to get a great beer. As I’m behind with the walking this week I decided too that I would kill two birds with one stone by walking there from my house. It was 5.5 miles. It proved a good walk and actually despite being slowed down by having to doubling back at one point where a path wasn’t clear and then having to cross the infamous Switch Island (where the map was trying to direct me on a footpath which didn’t exist).

There was a footpath shown both on the map and on signage by the A59 too for a cross country bit (former railway line) but this proved to be not as nice as it could be as the path was periodically inundated by brambles and other vegetation. And the narrow cut of the path meant it would be very easy to twist an ankle or two. Anyway I persevered with it and got through to a better path and then roads less than half a mile to the brewery. And then I was there!

Walk55
A nice afternoon stroll

As I walked up to it I was overtaken by a couple who I know and then when I got in I bumped into several friends and acquaintances. The taproom’s reopening was definitely something that people had been really looking forward to. They do so many great beers and the service from the staff is boss too.

Ezili
Ezili time

They only had one cask on, but it was Ezili which is an easy drinking favourite so I had a few of those. But I had some keg too. Shocking but true. Had good chinwags with several friends and the last few beers with Neil (who I last bumped into when I’d also walked to a brewery (Liverpool Brewing Company - how spooky). We walked to Maghull Station and caught a train, in Neil’s case to go to my ‘relatively local’ Jaxons Micropub and in mine to town for the Head of Steam so I could watch Emma Raducanu win the US Open. And how fabulous was that!

In summary though it was great to see Neptune reopen their bar and to see so many familiar faces. And it was great for the brewery too as I’m sure they weren’t too sure what to expect on the first opening. Well played, people.

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Clearing

This week we had a house clearance company in to clear my parents old house. We’d spent a lot of time selling stuff and taking some things to charity as well as picking a few bits for the family: mainly paperwork and photographs. Originally the clearance was supposed to be on Saturday morning but the van had a major breakdown meaning it couldn’t be done until Wednesday evening after it had some major work done on it. I’d agreed to their 6-9pm estimate not thinking that meant they would be piling crockery into bins and breaking up old wardrobes and sawing bits and bats quite late into the evening. As it happened they arrived half an hour late and worked through until 10pm! Good job we’re not staying - the neighbours must have really enjoyed the racket.

I asked them to take the small sofa in the back room last so I had somewhere to sit for the three hours they were ploughing through the house. It was quite depressing hearing it all going on. They piled stuff up in the front garden so that they could decide how best to fill the van later on. I’d picked up a litre of cask Neptune beer from the Tap & Bottles which I enjoyed getting thru. But soon realised I should probably have picked up two litres.

I did a little video of my last walk through of the house before the company had arrived. It’s a big semidetached like a lot of the interwar ones are. It’s made for a family and I hope the family who have put in the offer for it enjoy many years there. The mortgage companies surveyor was in there on Friday. So assuming they are happy with things then it could move pretty quickly now it’s all but empty. Fingers crossed.







At least it’s something we wont need to go though again. And assuming I pop my clogs earlier than my sis there is probably just the three guitars and couple of amps to keep or sell on. And maybe not much more (but for lots of CDs and some books - how quaint these days).

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