A.J. Walker


A #ThursThreads Return

As I was off this week, and relatively unencumbered for some of the time, I managed to write a wee bit for Thursday Threads. It was Week 592 of the weekly challenge, which I haven’t entered for almost two years (I think the last time was Week 503). It’s a short challenge of between 100 and 250 words and is based around including a specific line from the previous week’s winning story. Hence the name of Thursday Threads and the tagline of to ‘Tie another tale.’

Usually I work Thursday’s and as it doesn’t go up until the afternoon I’d have to write it at some time on Thursday evening—which doesn’t always fit with me. I’ll definitely keep it in my mind though to keep an eye out for it now that I’ve reacquainted myself with it. This week the line that had to be included was, ‘
What if I don’t do it?

250 words is not a lot to get stuck into and it took me a while to come up with an idea that wasn’t too unwieldy to tackle. In the end though I got into it and wrote it pretty easily—even without the need for any editing to get down to size (which is not always easy once you’ve written something too long). As it happened my tale was tied before anyone else had tackled it. In the end there were a few entries by people I’ve not seen online for a while, but have evidently kept #ThursThreads in their diaries for as long as I’ve been away. It was good to see those names once more.

And the surprise for me the following day was that my tale was chosen by Mary Decker (another familiar name) to be this week’s winner. I’ve won a couple of times before in years past. I wonder if I’ve created some kind of record in terms of time taken to score a hat trick? Happy days, great to pick up the winners badge anyway.


With Microcosms currently (or permanently?) stopped and #ReadMeSpeakMe off the schedule too maybe I’ll be popping into follow and create more threads soon. I do need to keep an eye out for challenges around the weekend me thinks.

If you fancy giving it a go the click on the Winners badge above or then again just
here, and get directed to the website at Siobhan Muir. Would be good to see you over there.

The Reading Year '23

Last year I made a plan to read 31 books. Not because of anything in particular other than it would match the previous year's achievement. If achievement is what it was. I hit it on the head. I guess that's what goals are for as I suspect I wouldn't have read that many if I hadn't set the target. That said if I'd been over ambitious I'd probably have not shot for it.

Needless to say it was largely the usual mix of SF & F with plenty of Pratchett, Powell, Tolkien, Le Guin, Yoko Ogawa, Pullman, and even a George RR Martin that had nothing to do with Game of Thrones. I also read some great non-fiction with books about; the demise of the dinosaurs, mosses, and whole Otherlands (which took in even more history than the dinosaurs). Threw in a couple of interesting biographies for good measure (Agatha Christie and John Betjeman).



The target for 2024? Well I've made it more of a stretch goal by adding exactly 1 and making it 32 books. Two and half books a month. Come on, I can do that. Surely, Or maybe it'll be 31 again. Once more I'm going to try not to buy too many more second hand (or new) books as I try and tackle my TBR pile. And once again I will fail miserably and end up in Oxfam, British Heart Foundation, and Henry Bohns again before too long. It's inevitable.


Gigs of '23 and the Coming Year

Didn’t have a packed gig year in 2023, but I made it to a few favourites and found some new favourites too. It was great to get to Frank Turner again at the start of the year in Wolverhampton, but most my gigs were more local (okay, all were) with events at Phase One, Camp & Furnace, Future Yard, Olympia, and even at Neptune Brewery. Ended up with multiple Casino, Heavy North, and Lottery Winners gigs-Robert Cray after a long wait between appearances for me, and saw Professor Yaffle for the first time (at the brewery). All top bands. I went to a few Sofar gigs too introducing me to even more new music.

I’ll be happy if next year matches it. So far (not Sofar) I have two gigs booked and once again quite predictable and, no doubt, fabulous. I’ve got the Heavy North at the Arts Club at the beginning of February to look forward to and then a return to Blackpool Tower to see the Lottery Winners. The last time I went to a gig there it was Radiohead in 2006. Yes, Radiohead in Blackpool! Should be boss.

I’m gonna aim for a gig a month. That said I have a crap aim. At the end of the day though you just can’t beat live music, can you?

Happy Gig Year to you all for next year.

Anfield Memories

Last week Liverpool played Man Utd at Anfield in a less than perfect game. Plenty of ball and chances for Liverpool but nothing finished off. A goalless draw. One of the main things that the game may be remembered for was the opening of the expanded Anfield Road Stand. Another 7000 seats for Anfield. Brilliant for the club.

It led me to recall how things have changed there. I used to go to the Lower Anfield Road (near the away fans) with the Adult & Child tickets, where my mum and dad would take turns to go with me to the game. Mum was a lot more vociferous as a fan than dad. My first attendance at a match in the stadium though was with a schoolfriend and their parents in the Upper Tier of the Kemlyn Road Stand, which is now the Sir Kenny Daglish Stand. And it was a night match. Climbing the stairs tand then getting to see the pitch under the floodlights for the first time was something to behold and I can still recall it vividly now.

The match was a League Cup game between Liverpool and Ipswich in October 1982–I had just turned 14. Apart from the great players on show it is also evident how pitches have improved over the years. Bobby Robson had left Ipswich a few months earlier to become England manager, but they were still a team full of great familiar names (if you’re of a certain age): Osman, Wark, Butcher, Thyssen, Burley, Mills. As for the Liverpool team, bloody hell it was a cracking eleven:

Grobbelaar, Kennedy, Hansen, Thompson, Neal, Whelan, Souness, Lawrenson, Lee, Dalglish, Rush.

I mean, come on, what a team to see first up. I really was lucky to see some of the best legends of Liverpool when I started going to games. It was five years later that i'd get a Kop season ticket in the days of standing (yes, standing) and the season ticket cost? £80. Oh how times have changed.

Now there are 7000 more people who’ll be able to see the current stars. In years to come they’ll reminisce about the first time they went to Anfield-and what legends they saw too. Onwards and upwards. YNWA.

'I've Had Three Daughters'

On Friday night after a short visit to the city centre I caught the bus back to Fazak on the No.19. It was another wet day and buses had seemed on short supply on the way to and from town and the bus was packed.

I ended up quite near the front (helpfully in the seats highlighted as for people who have mobility issues - and I’ve definitely be suffering a lot in recent weeks (still feel guilty about using them but usually I’m the least mobile of those who do)).

For the first half of the journey it was fine, other than having to stop at each and every bus stop thanks to the day’s paucity of buses. But it took a rapid downward turn when a lad got on from a stop on Everton Road. There were no seats and he stood near the front of the bus along with others already stood there at which point a crinkly woman of indeterminate age started having a go at him standing there as a foreigner. She spat out filth and nonsense whilst the guy stayed calm throughout. As her shouting got louder the bus driver told her to shut up. She got heckled from multiple people at the back of the bus and even meek ole me told her to be quiet. She didn’t. She got more voluble and claimed she was in her rights and, most bizarrely, that she kept exclaiming that ‘she had three daughters’. I mean does that make you become a racist once you’ve past two daughters and get to the dreaded third? Is it a biological thing? I don’t remember being taught about that.

The guys and gals at the back of the bus got ever more agitated at the horrible woman. One shouted that she 15 years old and wasn’t a racist and what was the fact that the woman had three kids to do with anything. It was a mighty fine point.

Throughout this the bus driver repeatedly told the woman to shut up and threatened to throw her off. I suspect he would have if the bus hadn’t been as packed as it was—it would have cost a lot of people a lot of time I guess. The rows got louder and got semi physical for a while with friends of the girls having to hold them back as the foul racist finally got off the bus near Walton Hall Park.

It was definitely an eventful evening journey home (I have headphones and Spotify; I don’t need entertainment of any sort to be laid on for me). And while I had to listen to a horrible racist (apparently a mother of three, which counts for a defence or reason in some parallel world) it was good to see a whole bus against her and not one person (as far as I saw anyway) side with her.

Hope her daughters are all okay and not tarred or scarred by their upbringing. Kudos to the 15 year old ladies from Kirkby, you were fab.

Perhaps next time though I’ll wait in hope for the 17 rather than catch the 19.

Unopened Mic

Realise that it has been a while since my last open mic, but it was only when I looked up my old photos I found it was over three months. Bloody hell time is flying so fast this year. I'm sure the speeding up of time would be a major news item right now if it wasn't for all the other horrendous news stories. I'm trying to not spend too much time watching the news as it's all so depressing—mixed with horror and feelings of helplessness.

Sticking with books, binge watching TV series, and listening to & playing music as escapism. My last time out with a guitar I was wearing a smart white shirt instead of my usual checked ones. Reckon that is what has caused this hiatus. I'm definitely overdue a return to some open mic, so maybe I'll get back out there in the next fortnight or so.

Open Mic. I'll be back. But maybe not in a white shirt.


MC and the KSRs

MC Logo

A couple of weeks ago I won the Microcosms weekly challenge Judge's Pick for Week 211. The story, 'The Missing Days of Lorraine Little', is presented again on my Fictions page. There is a $25/£20 prize for the judge's pick which means I've gone and bought three more books (having recently said I wouldn't buy any more books this year). My To Be Read pile is more than a little excessive. Anyway thanks to the prize I now have three new Kim Stanley Robinson's to dig into at some point: 2312 ; Aurora ; and The Ministry for the Future.

Microcosms is a great free to enter competition, and with the multiple sections to the prompt it really stretches you to tell a story in so few words (<300). Why not get on over and give it a go sometime? Get writing. Speaking of which I think I'll try and do this week's challenge (#214) today. The prompts look quite appealing, either: Inmate / Secret Research Facility / Sci-FI, or, Firefighter / Ancient Library / Crime/Thriller. I'm torn which one to go for as I think both sets of prompts look very promising for a nice story. And who knows, if you go for it, you may first get a 300 word story that leads to an idea for an altogether different prospect for a longer story—as well as an entry for a free to enter competition. Where will your writing take you?

Microcosms website:

Andy Two Jabs; Or Is It Four?

On Saturday morning I had both a flu jab; in my left arm at my local medical centre (my GP’s)); and then my Covid jab in my right arm in my local hospital. The medical centre is all of 200m away from my house so I was back at home with a coffee within about seven minutes of leaving my house. Happy days (though shame my original booking two weeks ago was messed up).

My local hospital (where the Covid vaccination hub is) is within a mile and just one bus stop away. I was in and out of there in no time too. Think it was three or four minutes from registering my arrival, picking up my already filled in card to getting my jab and leaving. Brilliant.

The nurse said it was my fourth Covid jab. I’d kinda lost count to be honest. Glad I can get them too—one bonus of having MS hey!

Didn't notice any ill effects on the day either. Result.

Pacemaking Reading and Pokemon No

My reading is a bit behind schedule if I am going to hit the target I set myself at the start of the year: to read 31 books in ‘23. It was the number of books I read last year and I just didn’t want to read fewer than that. Clearly if I read at the same pace as I have for the first half of the year (okay, more like 75%) then I ain’t gonna get to my goal (which wasn’t exactly a stretch goal initially).

At this point I’ve read 21 books this year, which means I’d have to read a further 10 between now and the end of December. To be fair that’d be about a book every 8 days or so. That’s not really too difficult if I really want to. I mean maybe just reading more often on my bus trips into town rather than turning on Pokémon Go would take me a fair way to achieving the goal.

Having my predictable mix/fix of science fiction and non-fiction and I dare say that will continue. Just finished the
Agatha Christie biography by Lucy Worsley, which I found really interesting (I dare say it’ll be turned into a TV doc soon). I grew up reading plenty of Agatha’s books (usually over summer holidays)—my mum was an avid reader and loved them and Ngaio Marsh etc and I think she passed on the habit to the whole family.


My current read is ‘the Strange’ by Nathan Ballingrud. He’s a new author to me and it’s a book I picked up in Oxfam recently (not that I needed to add to my TBR pile). Set on Mars, which is suddenly and mysteriously separated from contact with Earth by The Silence, and while I’m only a few chapters in, so far I’m liking it a lot.


So if I can read a book every 8 days or so between now and the end of the year I’ll pass the New Year finish line with a win. I reckon I will do it, but we shall see. It’s not like I need to progress any further on Pokémon. Or do I?

A Slight Farewell to Poetry

Several weeks ago it was announced that the weekly ReadMeSpeakMe event was going to take a break, which may or may not be permanent. This was run on Twitter whereby a poem written by someone within the ReadMeSpeakMe community would be posted up every Sunday morning and people invited to read it out loud and record in which ever format they preferred. Some used Soundcloud or similar, or on the shorter poems would record directly to Twitter—generally I'd record using iMovie and post on YouTube.

The final poem (at least for now) was 'I Wouldn't Say I Was A Poet' by Sean Logue (@SeanCLogue on Twitter). I guess it wasn't a coincidence too that the week's event was a nice round and large number: 200. It's a good innings for any one person to arrange each week. One person undertaking to organise and post any weekly challenge must be thanked for their time and effort in doing it. Even if you may think 'it can't take much time' etc then ask yourself why aren't you are doing it? I remember what it was like when I was involved in CAMRA and people would ask why wouldn't we do such and thing. Nearly everyone involved had jobs and families and other things in their lives as well as doing whatever their role in CAMRA was at the time. People not involved in the organisation expected volunteers to volunteer again and again for more and more; or else be seen as inadequate, but ask them to get involved and the answer was always no. I used to put up a weekly challenge on Twitter myself called the 'Seedling Challenge' (tied in with the weekly VSS365 prompts). It was sometimes enjoyable but often thankless and in the end I had to let it peacefully pass away as few people really got involved and it got to the point I felt it was a waste of my time—even if it wasn't that much each week. I could use the time to do something else for myself; perhaps have another coffee, or strum the geetar a little. I don't regret it going. It may have been a small rod for my own back, but it was a constraint I really didn't need to carry on with.

And so ReadMeSpeakMe, like the Seedling Challenge, has come to an end too. Perhaps it'll be back someday, perhaps not. But it was enjoyable while it lasted.

Perhaps I'll get on a write and read my own poetry again. Or play some more geetar: with or without involving YouTube.

For the 200th poem I donned a celebratory hat, and even though it may have turned out to be a sad occasion in retrospect I do not think a black hat would have been more appropriate. Here was my final reading: '
I Wouldn't Say I Was A Poet'


I must take this opportunity to thank @ReadMeSpeakMe herself for the 200 times she's put it out there for us and to the people involved in it through the time I've been involved with it. Peace be with you all. Thank you all and good night.