A.J. Walker

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Camping Weekends: Part 2

Of to Atcham today for a wedding tomorrow. Camping at a National Trust site beside Attingham Park, less than a mile from the church - St Eata - where the wedding will be; and handy for the one pub in the village (the Mermaid) where some of the friends and family of the bride will be staying; so all in all a handy location.

Weather poorer than last week with rain a lot of today and showers tomorrow. Ho hum. I've remembered to buy a gas lighter for my Triangia stove - just need to get hold of some more meths today.

May go and see the Roman ruins at Wroxter on Monday, or even tomorrow morning before the wedding? And a Shrewsbury pub crawl on Sunday if I'm up to it. A busy weekend all in all.

Van packed. Just need to get through a day's work first.

See yous later…
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Another Fab Bishop's Castle

The weekend brought my first camping trip of the year at the lovely Foxholes campsite in Bishop's Castle. As I said in the previous blog, it was my ninth Real Ale Trail here in succession - and I think sixth time camping.

Tent Up
Tent up: celebratory pint

Most of the gang got there well before me, setting up early afternoon, but I put in a day at work and travelled down straight after finishing. Got down there about seven and put up my (new) tent and, after the traditional celebratory bottle of beer (you can't drink a bottle until your tent is up, but you MUST have one after doing so), I headed down to the Vaults to catch up with everyone. Some were more well oiled than others, but it was not a night I needed to play catch up - the festival is officiallly the following day.

There were plenty of Bishop's Castle newbies (and young ones), as one of the Shropshire Lads was taking the opportunity to use the event as his stag do. There were many members of his old cricket club from Shrewsbury - I reckon a few of them will be back next year. Patrick (the stag) did sterling work keeping hold of his teddy AND his faculties over the two days and nights.

Had a few in the Vaults, listening to the music and enjoying the mood of the peeps, then popped down the hill to the Six Bells for a couple and some more live music. After that it was time to walk up the hill back to Foxholes, thankful that I'd remembered to bring my headlamp for the walk through the field of oats (which is split by part of the Shropshire Way).

In the evening there was a fire, which went into the early hours, where I brought out two things for such a moment - a bottle of Bowmore Islay Malt and a guitar. Ste and Tone had already gone bye-byes and Ste was providing his own background music, much to the amusement of the campers who hadn't witnessed such a noise before.

All in all a long and excellent evening.

3Tuns
The start, in the Three Tuns

In the morning the grass was damp from some light overnight rain - it was time a bacon and egg barm (the campsite brought in hot food last year - they must coin it in, but it is worth it). Before too long it was time to head on down to the Three Tuns, which is the traditional start of the crawl/trail. We always take it in order from there to The Castle, then down the hill via The Vaults, Kings Head and the Six Bells. This year the Boar's Head was staying out of it for the landlord's own spurious reasons and actually closed on the Saturday (an odd business decision, but hey). There was also a small addition, in the form of Mr Whittingham's Gin Emporium, which had three local casks on.

Big Group
Group shot in the Castle garden

It proved a dry day, often cloudy, but when the sun came out it was very warm and required some slapping on of sun lotion. There was music everywhere and it was a fab and (largely) uneventful day (I won't mention burning of stag-do hats or pants…). The Castle had a nice new stage in their garden and the beer was in a different place to accommodate the new layout. Apparently there is some concern from a planning perspective with it being in the area of some archaeological interest (overheard, I can't be sure - I'm no journalist), notwithstanding this it was substantial and looked good for its purpose.

Group Shot
Sun is out in the garden of the Castle

There were free bottles of water spread around the town, which was provided free to the festival by Montgomery Water. This was requested by the police during the meetings for approvals of the festival. It certainly seems a very good idea - especially how hot it often is when this festival is on. It must have helped as everyone lasted the day pretty much in tact (barring the burnt clothing) and much fun was had. Another one to add to the memory banks.

Oh, and I stayed for an additional day. Everyone got off by eleven and I wandered down to the Bish to see where I could watch the cricket World Cup Final. Turned out the the Three Tuns was shut. I didn't fancy the Castle for the match or the Vaults, really, so I headed down to the Six Bells. The pub didn't open until noon. I sat on the bench by the church and downloaded the Channel4 App and watched the match there until 12:20 before heading into the pub. They had no telly. But they had ale, and I got myself a pint of something local, light and pale: it was also £3.30 instead of £4 per pint, which was the blanket price the day before across the festival. I found a corner and set up my phone to watch the match in the company of the two dogs, who's space I was evidently invading. The pub was very quite, with the landlady basically moving the plastic glasses out and bringing back the glass ones. I was, happily, informed that the cask ales out the back were being sold off for £1 a pint to get rid of them. I was very happy to help.

Six Bells
Clearing the Six Bells. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it

I commandeered the corner for the game, and reported the incredible game progress regularly to the landlord, regulars and other customers, whilst continuing to 'help' the pub in the slow clearance of liquids. In the end I was in the same pub from 12:20pm until 7:30pm. Pretty much a full working day. Went back to the campsite via a pint each in the Vaults and the Three Tuns (where there was a relaxed Celtic session on). No whisky or more beer was drunk (there was a little guitar).

And bloody hell, that cricket match was one of the best sporting events I have ever watched. Brilliant stuff.
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Camping at Bishop's Castle (Again)

This weekend it is my now annual pilgrimage to Bishop's Castle, in Shropshire, for the Real Ale Trail Festival. I think it's my ninth in a row as ten years ago I was at T in the Park, in Balado, this weekend in 2009 watching bands including; Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol, Blur, The Killers, Regina Spektor, Mogwai and Squeeze (incidentally, looking at the band list I note that Mumford & Sons were playing in the King Tuts (first on, on the Saturday) though I didn't see them).

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Once I stopped going to T in the Park with my music festival buddies (after 2009) I began to go to Bishop's Castle Beer Festival with my ale drinking buddies instead. So basically this weekend has been a big one for fifteen years or so, albeit with very different festivals. Both involve camping though and I very much enjoy it. Every time I do it I wonder why I don't do it more. It will be my first camping trip of the year and will be swiftly followed by camping the following weekend where I am camping for a wedding! I dare say there won't be too many people leaving their tents suited and booted (although I believe there will be at least one more doing the same).

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Last year at the festival it coincided with England doing rather well in the World Cup. There was a lot of sunshine, lovely booze, boss people and all round good vibes (these peeps in the photo are all looking suitably in the pink). Incidentally, Rachel in the front there, behind her dad on the right, is the lovely lady getting married next week - and the groom is lurking there on the left too.

It's nice to get a new Eurohike tent for this year - even if it is the same design as I used to use. It served me very well (including back in T in the Park).

Roll on a couple of weekends of fun camping, lovely beers, decent bands (largely in the Vaults), and good people & times.
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Podcasts and Web Formatting

Created a page on Podcasts a few weeks ago and put up four of the podcasts that I currently listen to, namely;

  • Sodajerker
  • 13 Minutes to the Moon
  • New York Times - The Book Review
  • Blank

During the week I realised that whilst my blog was displaying fine on a mobile the Podcast and Publications page was not displaying correctly (they were all fine on the desktop). I've ended up having to double up what's in my website creator (Rapidweaver) then hide/display the relevant pages. Bit of a pain, but not the end of the world. It has however meant I haven't had time to update my blog (or the podcast page) whilst I dealt with it. Anyway, I'm getting there now.

I've taken the opportunity to update the Publications page with the link to the upcoming 'Don't Open the Door' anthology, which is due out on the 26th July.

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It's been a good week for podcast listening. Yesterday I listened to a couple of the Art of Process pods, produced by Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. Incidentally I have been a fan of Aimee Mann from the 1990s onwards. The album 'Whatever' (1993) is a wonderful listen and if you ain't got it then you must get on it. I was lucky enough to see her a few times in Manchester.

ArtofProcess Whatever

I can thoroughly recommend the Art of Process to any of you creative types. As the name implies it is about processes people use for the creation of their arts, be it writers, songwriters, comedians etc. The podcasts are around an hour long and involve discussions with successful artists. The two I listened to this week were Ian MacKaye (Fugazis) and Jean Grae (a multi talented hip hop, actress, comedienne etc). Whilst I knew little about the former I knew nothing about the latter. But both were fascinating podcasts and a great listen.

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The Blank podcasts fit well with the Art ones with conversations with artists (very much UK, whilst the AoP one is US) about periods that they may have suffered to get through, their Blank times. Sometimes in these podcasts there isn't actually that much about the blank times to be fair, and they can be just as much about their processes. Yesterday's pod was with the lovely comedienne Rachel Parris, of Daily Mash fame, who is most personable during her chinwag with the genial hosts. Equally recommended.

Of course earlier in the week my Podcasts included the unmissable 13 Minutes to the Moon and The New York Times Book Review. And needless to say my weekly Archers catch up (poor Jim).
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New Songs, New People

Open Mic again last night, so of course I was there again. Ollie arrived later so I went up first to be followed by Matt Author.Com. There was another poetry performance, which was funny. And a couple of the excellent regulars as well as a couple of Open Mic virgins.


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Started and ended with a few of my usuals, which sandwiched in a few new ones for me from the Waterboys and Green on Red.

Set list:

  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Heart Breaks Like the Dawn
  • Strange Boat
  • A Man is in Love
  • Shed a Tear (for the Lonesome)
  • Whiskey in my Whiskey

There was a bit of a CAMRA event on in the pub with Karl, the brewer from Liverpool Brewing Company there, so downstairs was busy with some CAMRA bods. I introduced a blue nose from CAMRA to the event and he enjoyed watching one of the newbies and a couple of classics from Dave Glyn Jones.

As I was off on Friday I even went on for a pint with everyone, in The Swan, before getting the last bus home. A predictably good evening.
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Approaching the Door

This week the cover for the upcoming horror anthology 'Don't Open the Door' was released. I love it.

Looking forward to receiving the book and reading all the stories. The book release is going to be soon; I dare say I may mention bits and pieces about it from time to time.

The anthology is edited by Cory Mason and has stories from:

  • Luke Elliot Alphonso Jr.
  • Johvan Calvo
  • Yawatta Hosby
  • Augie Paterson
  • L.M. du Preez
  • J.A. Sullivan
  • A.J. Walker (that'd be me)
  • T.H. Willoughby
  • Kimberly Walkens

I'll put some links through to the authors pages and/or twitter accounts - once I've got my shit together.


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The cover design is by Christine M. Scott - Nice job!

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Strange Love

Made some time to play some guitar this afternoon and went back to some oldies from The Waterboys.

StrangeBoat
Strange Boat

Went for Strange Boat and A Man Is In Love two classics. Next time maybe Fisherman's Blues and A Bang On The Ear. We'll see.

First time up I ended up with lots of background noise before I realised I had on my CD, amp and PS3. Turned these off and the noise disappeared. You live, you learn.

Anyways, now time to write something for the Seedling Challenge.
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Steeling Myself

Going on my second Wirral ale trip tomorrow. Back to the great Yorkshire beer city - Sheffield. Looking forward to it. Know my way around the city's boozers pretty well by now.

Yesterday I played at the Open Mic in the Sanctuary once more. I was back in a checked-shirt (green). As well as being back in a proper garb, we were also back were we were supposed to be upstairs with a microphone and PA. Huzzah! We were down one Bobo though, who was home with Delhi Belly or some such. Shame. Hope the evening's rest did him good.

I was first on (always good for me, as following Dave Jones is a killer!). Played six songs, including an encore (well the next guy had gone for a smoke) and got asked for a request ('Couldn't Get Arrested'), which I played. A request… that's a first!

Yesterday's set;

  • Sweet Carolina (Ryan Adams)
  • Somewhere Down The Road (Chuck Prophet)
  • Take Me Down to The Infirmary (Cracker)
  • Whiskey in My Whiskey (Felice Brothers)
  • Save It For A Rainy Day (Jayhawks)
  • Couldn't Get Arrested (Green on Red)

Couple more newbies turned up later on, who were both great.

Si supplied some nice beer including a new local one from Tyton Brewery and the famous Beartown 'Creme Bearlee'.

A good evening, as ever.
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Getting Close to the Door

Got sight of the cover for an upcoming horror anthology that I will be featured in: 'Don't Open the Door'. I can't wait to see the finished book. The cover looks ace and I am looking forward to getting it out in front of you soon.

I haven't read any of the other stories featured in it. But there are some great guys and gals involved and it will be fab. Really enjoyed writing my story, which has a nice setting and a bit of a folksy background. The brains, brawn and editor behind the anthology is Cory 'Tomo' Mason, who you can find on Twitter @TheBestTomo

Watch this space (and follow Cory) for details - and the cover. I'll no doubt be writing a few bits and bobs about the anthology on this blog and in numerous tweets.

In the meantime, if you're really not sure, well… don't open the door.
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Too Good TV

Part of the time problem lately has been because there has been so much good TV that I've not managed to avoid. Much of it on the BBC, ably supported by Sky Atlantic.

In the last couple of months we've had:

  • Game of Thrones (Atlantic)
  • Fleabag (BBC)
  • Line Of Duty (BBC)
  • Follow the Money (BBC)
  • Cardinal (BBC)
  • Chernobyl (Atlantic)
  • Gentleman Jack (BBC)
  • Inspector Montalbano (BBC)
  • Summer of Rockets (BBC)

and this week we've got the wonderful 'Killing Eve' returning to BBC. Oh, and there's 'Good Omens' too on Amazon Prime.

GoT1 LoD1

Chern1 KE1

SoR1 GJ1

We really are living in a time of some great TV. Whilst it's great to be entertained by such wonderful productions it doesn't half get in the way of your own creativity. It's too easy to get home and stick an episode, or four, on of any of these programmes. Damn you writers and producers! And I haven't even mentioned Blue Planet or Springwatch or any of the great BBC4 docs. Or the wonderful football season.

Whilst I am not suggesting missing any of these programmes, indeed I am suggesting the exact opposite, I think if you are watching anything less good than this lot then perhaps turn it off and do something creative instead. When there's so much good TV about there is no need to waste any time with dross.
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