A.J. Walker


Voice Activation 5: RMSM 127

It had snowed overnight in Liverpool and it looked all very Christmassy. Not much like. It was not like it ended up with estates full of snowmen or snowball fights breaking out everywhere. Just enough snow to comment on and cause consternation for walkers and drivers alike. Later in the day some snow was still here whilst I was trying to get to grip with this week's interesting 'ReadMeSpeakMe.' RMSM 127 comprised a poem put together expertly by RMSM chief Meg @megwaff by slotting together first lines from dozens of poems from previous ReadMeSpeakMe poems and actually included poems from 44 writers.

As previous few poems I've put it up on the
YouTube channel. Had one annoying issue as I got to the end of a recording the device informed me it was full and just stopped recording. I very nearly shouted out 'Flipping heck!' or something akin to that. But I stayed strong and only minor work will be required to fix the head shaped hole in the wall's plaster. Got the recording done with only a couple of stutters and one wrong word (I think). Don't be too critical.

ReadMeSpeakMe 127

Read more about the poem on Meg's web page
www.megwaffling.wordpress.com/2020/12/27/the-rmsm-beast-of-a-poem/ and you'll realise what a big job she had on her hands to compile the poem. Great work, Meg. Kudos.

As ever my lovely pewter tankard makes its appearance. This time it has a bottle of '
Platform 6.1' from Wickwar Brewery. A decent pint at a decent price from B&M (£1.60).





The Last Flash Dash

Well it's a bittersweet day. It's the last day of Flash Friday Fiction. So get your head switched on; it's time to write a story. It's the best type without a minimum (or worse 'exact') word count. A story of fewer than 200 words - and don't do what I did a couple of months ago and be word blind… yep, I wrote a 200 word story. Idiot. Deep breath and read the question like you're back as a teenager doing an exam.


Of course it is a shame to see it go, but it's been good while it lasted; and there's not much in 2020 we can say that about (unless you're a Liverpool fan, then there's a couple of other good things to have enjoyed).


The photo prompt for the final Flash Friday Fiction is this shot of the Torii Shrine but don't just use the phone - read all the prompt before writing (and remember that it is fewer than 200 words, not up to 200 words).

It goes without saying that all the best vibes and wishes should be sent to Rebekah and Deborah for bringing back the institution this year. Kudos!


A Solo Christmas - Ho Ho Ho

Well in Liverpool we are in Tier 2 at the moment and that should be the same until at least the New Year. This means there are some places open that aren't in Tier 3 like museums, galleries and some hospitality. Which is good, but then again not that great for many people. If you are going to meet someone indoors it is a maximum of six people and they should be from your household and/or bubble. Now I've not been in a bubble until last week, when I went to my mate's house. Unfortunately I have not had the chance to go back to see him as he's ended up being in hospital since then (nothing to do with me being there, he's just quite ill). I must have one of the shortest tenured bubble.

So if I want to go to a pub or restaurant I have exactly zero people I can go with - in accordance with the regs and guidance. Great. I haven't even been to the pubs in Liverpool since they reopened a couple of weeks ago tomorrow. On any day I've had off from work I just have not had the desire to go into town to spend money and time eating something in a pub just so I can have a couple of pints. Normally if I went into town I'd go to three or four pubs and at the moment that would mean three or four things to eat. Even where there are 'cheap' options you can be looking at a fiver for a pie & peas or a ciabatta. So straightaway you can add that £15-20 to the price of your beer - as well as the calories to your waistline and the anguish of the whole experience.

You can think, well hey this is great for the virus. I mean I ain't gonna catch or spread a virus if I just don't go out. So well done with this legislation. Then again, that business and its suppliers won't be selling any beer to keep themselves going either. How many people haven't the money to spend or the inclination to go out in the current circumstances? The real ale pubs in Liverpool have all gone the full mile to provide Covid safe environments and the whole NHS track thing. I've never felt anything but safe in them (even when I didn't have to eat food). But I just don't have the money to spend on three multiple meals or the desire to eat them either. It is a nonsense for the individual and the business. The pubs that are trading aren't doing what they could be doing in terms of custom (especially at Christmas).

The virus is still here and we need to be doing the best we can to control its spread: I completely agree, but with distancing, cleanliness and masks then we can do a fair bit just being sensible. The virus is still here and if we do things wrong or relax it will grow in the community without a doubt.

And then we have Christmas. My god, the government in their wisdom tell us not to mix and keep alert etc but for five days at Christmas we can throw our caution to the wind and not be in any danger: of contravening any law. But it's not a football playing WWI truce, the virus isn't putting its weapons down for the event. So the virus can do nothing but spread more over that five days. How can they justify this? I mean if I can't safely meet with a couple of the family or friends indoors this weekend then how can I the following weekend? It is a bad decision. Of course we'd all like to meet up with whoever we want at Christmas, and every other damn day. But we understand why we can't at the moment. It is just one Christmas. It'll be nice next Christmas if everyone could look back at this one and think that they hadn't caused people to get ill - or die - due to the need pass out a few presents, eat a roast dinner, play a sill game or two, and then fall asleep in front of the tele.

The weeks around Christmas last year were bad for family reasons, but the actual day itself - at my sister's - was really nice; and she did a fabulous job. But this year I'm not going to go around. Because the right thing to do is not risk spreading the virus. My sister works hard in a food environment and has not been ill this year, and has been very conscious of the risk, and me similarly. If I went I'd be there with at least five people all of who have friends or family they bubble with, and people they work with, which soon makes the risk substantially higher. We all see people on the TV or via Social Media who are a little more relaxed (or don't give a damn about the whole thing). I'm sorry not to be going, and I do feel pressure to go because the government says we can. How many people will be pressurised this year to go to houses and meet with people who may be infected and two or three weeks down the road be 'a statistic'? And of course after the inevitable rise in cases in January how long till everyone is in Tier 3 again or even a full scale lockdown for the sake of a stupid decision made about Christmas?

Don't feel pressurised to go. Do what's right for you at this time. And also don't pressurise your friends or family to do things that they don't want to do this year, or is outside the regs and guidance - shit I'd love to go down the pub with me mates. But I'm not going to. Boy I can't wait until we can.

So on Christmas day I'll be watching a boxset, or a film or two, and making a roast dinner for one - Ho Ho Ho! But I know it is the right thing to do. I will be trying to get a mini-keg or two of local beer in for Xmas and Boxing Day too to make it feel at least a little better - and to support the local breweries (it's a true win-win).


West Midlands Again

Had another day in the West Midlands yesterday. It was longish but not as long as last week - got back in daylight. And the van is - in theory - sorted now (or at least has its MOT). At the garage and then the MOT garage there was nowhere to stay with Covid. In the case of the former I had a few hours to kill and with Covid closing everything from museum and libraries to cafes and pubs there was nothing to do but walk. I ended up walking from the garage to the West Brom stadium. It was an urban walk through the middle of West Brom past the shops, the town hall and library etc. I was surprised at some of the places open in Tier 3 - hadn't realised the barbers and betting shops could still open. Unfortunately I didn't need a haircut or a bet. The weather was nice though.


I did a walk around a couple of sides of the Hawthorns, but couldn't do an adjacent circuit as it was largely closed off with the current situation. It is not a lovely setting right next to a busy dual carriageway and an industrial estate on two sides and residential and a bizarre standalone Greggs on the other. As I was walking around it a local said, "Yow walk quickly." Not sure whether he'd seen me earlier or whether he said it to everyone, but the accent confirmed where I was in case I hadn't known. Never been to a game there. In fact the only stadium I've visited in the area was to watch Liverpool in the away end at Villa Park back in the 1980s. I should get down there sometime for a match - if we ever get to full stadiums again.


Like last week I also took some pictures of some pubs. No idea which ones were any good (one looked dodgy, one was a Wetherspoons (former Billiard Hall), and the other two looked more promising (the Wheatsheaf and the Old Hop Pole, which were opposite each other).

TheWheatsheaf OldHopRope

The return walk from garage to stadium was 7.5 miles and some 16k steps. This is not dissimilar to the steps I do each day with work, where I normally do between 12 and 16k. So basically I cover 6-7miles with work each day. No wonder I'm so bloody tired each evening (though early starts and dodgy sleep patterns may be at fault too). By the time I got back to the garage after just over two hours (I didn't stop as there was nowhere to stop!) my legs were surprisingly tired. Anyway, shouldn't have to get down there again for a while: certainly not this side of Christmas anyway.

Of Canals and Discovered Writing

Had a strange day yesterday. Long and boring story about van hire which I wont go into, but I needed to get it down to Birmingham for a new windscreen and clutch and MOT. Long story short, I got the windscreen and a new clutch, but didn't have time to get the MOT done. So I need to go down again next week.

Birmingham is in the middle of a Tier 3 area, so I couldn't pop in a cafe or a museum to fill time up. I went for a couple of walks along various canals in Smethwick and Dudley and other than a few nice, if post industrial, views and photos, the main thing I got was cold.


I'd set my Kindle aside to take down and went into my bag only to find I'd not put it in the bag. With the amount of time I was down there I could have finished the book I'm currently reading ('The Koh-i-Noor', by Dalrymple & Anand). I also didn't have the keyboard with my iPad. And there reception in the clutch place wasn't exactly set up for typing anyway.


I did go back to my Scrivener and found a couple of pieces I was working on a while back. One in particular, which had no name but for now I've called 'Close to the Wind', I read and couldn't recognise it until I read most of it. It was ridiculous as I only wrote it about a month ago. I'm yet to decide whether to continue with it, but I do like it at the moment. Take a look and see what you think.

If I'd had a keyboard I may have felt like writing Thursday Threads from Siobhan Muir, which I used to do from time to time. Unfortunately I got around to writing it tonight; the challenge is just on the day itself (rather like Flash Friday). So I couldn't put it up. For the hell of it I've put it ('Gintastic') on the website. Largely because it reminds me of somebody and it's just a bit of fun.

Anyway, next week when I'm back in Brum I'll definitely be remembering to pick up my Kindle. Though I hope I'll have already finished the current read. In any case it should be a lot shorter day down there. In theory.


Twitter links

Voice Activation: 4

Sunday is rapidly becoming 'ReadMeSpeakMe Day'. And this week's Sunday was no different, at least from this perspective. If you are not aware of it (and I wasn't until a few weeks ago) it involved @readmespeakme posting a weekly poem every Sunday with the request for people to record themselves reading the poem and posting it on - or via - Twitter.

For the last three weeks I've recorded vids short enough to put within a Tweet but this week it was about ten seconds too long and I didn't want to edit the start or ends of it. This meant the obvious option was to put it up on YouTube. So that is where it has ended up. I may well put all future ReadMeSpeakMe efforts up on YouTube even if they are short just so there is a one-stop-shop for it.


This week's poem was from @sojourner97 titled 'The Storyteller'. It was just three verses and as I was setting up my phone and iPad to do the recording I was messing about with my guitar and it came to me to read the poem over a few chords, which I did. I of course read it as a poem too. All in one take as well - no editing required. After the day I had, or maybe because of it, I was remarkably relaxed. Due to playing and reading it the vid was over the length permitted on Twitter which is why I had little choice but to put it on YouTube.

Anyway, if you click on the photo it will take you through to the YouTube vid and you can see for yourself.

And why not get up on to @readmespeakme and check out the poems and the readings from the many talented people who get involved?


Twitter links:


Dragon Kind

It was good to judge with @voimaoy for Flash Friday Fiction once again this weekend. It was the third and final time for this incarnation of Flash Friday. Some nice stories using both the Ice and Fire prompts - and so many bananas. Good to get a new winner for the challenge too - I was worried we kept picking Flash Dogs.

There are just three more weeks of the weekly challenge and I can relax and write for it now and not worry about the judging. Just three weeks… real shame. Get involved writers while you can. See you Friday over at Flash Friday.


And a big thank you is owed to the wonderful dragons for bringing this community together for a time, particularly during this most turbulent of years. Such lovely dragons.