A.J. Walker


Ale and Poetry

I’ve been getting involved with #ReadMeSpeakMe since mid November last year. The first poem I read was ‘Arrival to the Sea’ by Juan Antonio Garcia, who is on Twitter @NoosferaMedia. My first attempt took me about eight takes. Since that time I’ve been recording the ReadMeSpeakMe poem almost every week - most are done on the first or second take now.

On the first poem I did chat a little before the poem - mostly to say it took me eight takes - and have continued to prelude the poem with a little chitchat; if nothing else just to say what drink I’ve got in my tankard. I recorded the early ones on my phone and posted it direct to Twitter. A couple were longer ones and harder to fit on a Tweet so I decided I needed to put the longer ones on
YouTube I decided I'd put them all on there, whatever the length. for consistency.

I've not had too much negative feedback from this way of doing it (that's not to say people are thinking such things of course) and it will probably continue. Even if it is just to say 'Cheers,' - and what I’m drinking that week.

ReadMeSpeakMe 136: 'Across the Table' by Rob Taylor

I’ve never tried embedding a YouTube video on my website... until now. I'm trying it now to see how it works, or if I can do it. So future poems could well be on here, but the YouTube channel will remain the primary place to find them. Consistency.

It’s amazing that it's only been four months I’ve been involved. In many ways it feels a lot longer. Love seeing all the community getting together for it each week: and it’s a mighty fine excuse to get out a bottle opener.

If you’ve never given it a go, and you fancy it then give it a try. Many of the poems are short enough that they can fit on a twitter video (particularly if you don't give it a preamble ramble like I do. But if you don't fancy giving it a go then just come over and say, 'Hi'.


The blog in the new Health section, on my MS diagnosis & travails, together with the poetry with beer thing has revealed that there is a gap in the market for a Health, Lifestyle, and Beer magazine. Am sure it could be a big seller. Then again it may just be pictures of beer and the odd limerick.

Incidentally I have updated the Health section so that
Disqus now works on it. So it is open for comments for anyone interested. Like the Comments in this section they are moderated so don't be surprised if they take some time to show up on the page. But they will eventually (assuming that they are appropriate of course).

Gardens: Homes and Festival

After going out to do a shop down the Asda today I decided to go around to a mate’s for a coffee - now that we can go around to people’s gardens. Tried calling and didn’t get an answer, but I knew if he wasn’t in there was a good chance he’d be back in a while. And in any case, even if not, I could go for a nice walk through the Festival Gardens to Otterspool Prom. A nice change of route. Turned out my friend wasn’t in so the walk option was a good call.

Flyaway pandemic hair

It was a very nice walk. Bit wind blown with my hair being a little bit much at the mo. But it was a blue sky day. Lots of people about especially at the Otterspool end. The queues for the cafe were mad! Grabbed a coffee at a van half way along. - on the edge of the Garden site.

Sculpture in the Garden Festival site

Heron contemplating lunch
Picked up a few nice photos along the way.

The choppy Mersey

Ended up being a 3.62 mile walk according to Runkeeper. So I blitzed my 8k steps by lunchtime. Result.

End of a nice walk in blossoming trees

It was good to the car at my mate’s. They had just returned. So I got a couple of cups of coffee and a butty and had a good chinwag. It was good to see my mates for the first time this year (not counting Zoom). And good to show them I’m okay so they hopefully aren’t over worried by my situation. No doubt will do it again soon. Great to have the option. Onwards and upwards.


Rather Random Target

Over the last few weeks I've been off work. Work is a very intensive day and involves lots of walking, some stairs, some panicking and a lot of thinking 'how the hell can I find another job'. So not being in work makes it dangerously easy to stop the exercise inadvertently.

With the issues with my health at the moment being a little unknown I'v set myself the rather random target of
8000 steps per day. It's lower than the arbitrary 10k steps cited by multitudes of people. Of course those targets are as made up and pretty useless as the 5-a-day nonsense. Basically you know if you are doing enough each day or you're just pushing the sofa indentation to its limits, just like you know if you've only eaten crap all day. So I am happy with my current unscientific Rather Random Target.

Canada Goose WHP
The Canadian Geese like Walton Hall Park too

Over the last twelve days I've achieved this each and every day. In fact my average daily steps are over this time has been 11k steps - which in old money equates to about 5 miles a day. I've been lucky with the weather in this time. There's not been any days with incessant rain, and some days have been lovely. Taken to walking to Walton Hall Park, where I used to do my 5k jogging practice, which is my nearest at about a mile away. If I do just one lap of the park my walk to and from the park is longer than the walk in it. But if I feel like it I can do a couple of circuits, which gets the numbers up whilst giving me nice vistas of trees, and water and the sound of birds - which has got to be better than walking around housing and industrial estates - for the head if nothing else.

Back in the day when I used to do the 5km Park Runs and whatnot I started using
Runkeeper. I've gone back to this now. Handily, whilst it's called Runkeeper it is great for any activity which may involve you moving from A to B - including walking. It's great to keep track of the bigger activities with it mapping out where you went and giving you your time and splits etc. Could help some people with motivation but in this instance it is just a recording tool really (which makes nice maps). On top of that for the entire day record my £40 smartwatch shows me what my total daily steps are too.


I've also been going to the B&M and Iceland around the corner on foot. It's a round trip of a mile and in the past I'd (sadly) have driven it rather than walk it. Though I'd have put off going until I need a few things. Now I'm happy to walk all the way to B&M for a loaf of bread, just to keep the legs going and get the fresh air (that said I can also pick up bottles of Oakham 'Citra' or Wickwar 'Platform 6.1' too).

Spring has sprung in Liverpool

Podcasts have accompanied many of my walks, though my last couple I've gone without the headphones. Though with my flyway hair yesterday it was worth putting the headphones on just to control my hair a little; I was seriously considering
Brylcream or gel yesterday - God, I can't wait for the barbers to reopen. Thankfully it IS only three weeks until they can return. Hallelujah!

Flyaway hair aka Pandemic Hair - one side effect of lockdown

Anyway. May my 5+miles per day continue. It will be interesting to see if I can force myself to do it in the rain. Though I suspect I may just wear a hole in the carpet walking up and down. In the meantime feel free to use my RRT if you think it'll be more useful to you than that 10k nonsense.

The House of Shazam

Been watching a lot of House over the last month or so. Will have binge watched the entire eight series by April I think. I’ve seen every episode before over the years it was on. It was made between 2004 and 2012. I think Hugh Laurie was the highest paid TV star in Hollywood for a time then. The series were long compared with many series these days. I mean over twenty episodes per series is epic fir a fifty minute programme. I could only dream of twenty episodes of The Expanse per series. That's a wapping 176 episodes. Wow! And throughly bingeworthy too.


Going back to
House though has been good. Such great characters throughout the show and nice long threads throughout it. House is such a tragicomic flawed individual, that gives laugh out loud moments with his ill thought out (or quite brilliant) schemes, and so sad with his addictions and fear of love and getting close to people.


His various team members are always fascinating characters too with plentiful flaws that make you hate or pull for them whenever they go off piste or get back on their inevitable rails.

One of the best things about it for me is the music. Whoever picked the songs can select my music playlist any time. In fact I wonder whether they’ve been through CD collection at some point.

The end of each episode always brings a song in while they show the various characters doing their thing; usually thoughtfully and/or with drink, drugs or sex. These songs are always great. ‘
You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ by the Rolling Stones is one of the most famous ones, that gets referenced several times, that most people will know. But they use lots of artists that are less well known - and straight out of my CD library - like Iron & Wine, Josh Rouse, Bon Iver, Ben Harper, Richard Thompson, and Wilco.

Several times I’ve had to use
Shazam (a smartphone App) to identify the end song. I can’t believe now how quickly that Shazam can identify the track and artist from the tiniest of listens. It is great to have that ability, but I find it a bit scary how tech can listen and regurgitate the information to you.


If you haven’t used Shazam, or have no knowledge of it, it’s a free app that will listen to music around you, be that in a film or TV programme (though not whilst characters are talking through it of course), or while you’re listening to the radio after you’ve missed the intro, or in a pub etc (when they are back open). You just ‘Shazam’ it - which just means pressing the button in the App - and it will listen and report back to you the answer. It won’t be able to do it if the music is too quiet or there is too much background noise, but if the volume’s right my god it so good and mighty, mighty quick. And so far I’ve never seen it throw out a wrong answer.



If you’ve ever heard a song somewhere that you’ve liked but never hear what it was then this is the answer to your dreams. But like I say, a little bit scarily good. What else are your phones and apps listening to and regurgitating elsewhere? Best not think about that - or at least don't verbalise it in listening distance of your phone.

Strolling Podcasting

Whilst I've had a few weeks off I've had to keep up with keeping some level of fitness up - especially in my legs. To that end I've made sure I've been getting 8000 steps+ a day into them for the last week. Last week I was doing 5000 a day on average. This week I've been up beyond 10000, which I'm happy with.

I've a little circular walk around mine along Long Lane and back down Lower Lane. It works out around 4.7km, which is a nice (almost) round number. It's not the prettiest route, but it's straight out of the house without any travel required. I've done it three times now and will no doubt be doing it quite a few times more. The time is not important, it is not a race.

There's not to much photogenic on the Long Lane Circuit.

But I'll try and take some shot when I can.

Whilst it is not a pretty walk the location straight out the door and the distance is spot on. And best of all it has been great for getting back to podcasts. When I was working in Wales I'd listen to a podcast or two with the commute time on the way there and back. I've been working more locally lately with no time for any podcasts. These fifty minute walks have got me back on my old favourite podcasts. It's been great to catch up with some of the New York Times Book Review Podcast. If you like books and intelligent discussion about all types of them then I can do nought but thoroughly recommend it.


I've got loads of the NYT Book Reviews to dip into as and when. And I'm looking forward to listening to more Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry and Something Rhymes with Purple. The fifty minutes of walking will be good for my legs and good for my head.

Flash Dogs and The Updated Website

The website rejig was definitely the right decision. I didn't want to put another page up there to go on the top menu, as it would get a bit too squashed up with the current layout. When I looked over the layout I found that one of the pages I had was on 'Writerers' which I haven't updated for years and was well out of date - in fact not entirely relevant. The only items on it I wanted to retain were the Flash Dogs website links, so I've copied those over to here rather than lose everything in one fell sweep.

I haven't checked yet whether these are all still live or not. But I will do over the weekend.

Flash Dogs Website Links:

Mark A. King - Recent UK based novelist with 'Metropolitan Dreams'
Liz Hedgecock - Another UK novelist and novelleta.
Beth Deitchman - Yep, another US Flash Dog writerer from the lovely Luminous Creatures Press.
Emily June Street - California based noveller, including the Velocipede Races.
Casey Rose Frank - A freelance writerer and voracious readerer from the east coast of the US.
Tamara Rogers - Writing and Images from the wonderfully talented Flash Dogs cover artist.
Holly Geely - US based writer of novels, novellas, and short story collections.
Steph Ellis - the prolific and wonderful Steph.
Tamara Shoemaker - fab writerer and wonderful editor from Virginia, US of A.
F.E. Clark - Great artist and writer from up in the north east of Scotland
Emily Livingstone - Fictionalist from New England

Removing my writer's section gives me room up top to put my 'Health' Section. A win, win or something like that. Sorted.

Redesign Time. Probably.

Contemplating a wee redesign of the website. Nothing too major, and I’ll probably retain most things. But I’m conscious that I have been blogging about health related issues over the last few weeks. Depending on how things go for me with the MS this could continue to be a topic I feel I have to keep coming back to. But at the moment it is sandwiched with all the blogs about writing, music, beer, Liverpool, and even poetry.

The health stuff could be a mighty turn off for some people and if there is a run of blogs on it then other of my usual witterings could be hidden in the avalanche. Equally if people are interested in the MS stuff (don’t let me ever call it a journey) then they may not be interested in my latest beer experiences - and certainly not my singing. So to that end I think I will create a new Health section and do all the related blogging within that.

I think it makes sense - though not sure how quickly I can turn that around. Watch this space - or that space: who knows?

Cool Club to Join: Vaccination #1

This morning I had my first COVID-19 jab: like a lot of people I know this week seems to be the week for getting jabbed. A few of my older mates, or those with other medical issues, have already been done, but this week so many of my mates, acquaintances, and Twitter buddies seem to have been marching around with one arm of their shirt up, whilst marching through doctors' surgeries and community centres up and down the country.

My vaccination place was just 3 miles away in Aintree Community Centre. I got up there in under 15 minutes and was in and out even quicker. The whole process was quick and seamless. I was told they were vaccinating 450 people there in the one day, which is pretty impressive for the wee place.


It was an Astra-Zeneca jab of course. I think most of them are at the moment. After all the bloods taken in the last couple of weeks - and the COVID tests up the nose & through to the back of my brain - the jab was nothing. Not had any issues with pain or flu type issues yet, but guess it’s only 8 hours ago and that’d be tomorrow if at all. Given my other problems at the moment a bit of temporary flu would be neither here nor there. That said, I’d prefer the issue to bypass me if it’s feeling kind.


Next up for me will be the second dose, which will be due some time over the next twelve weeks - which means by early June. In some ways that doesn’t seem that far off. Time is playing some mighty strange games at the moment though.

Good luck to those of you who haven’t had it yet. Hope you get it soon (apart from those idiots who were celebrating Paddy’s Day in Sefton Park yesterday. Fucking idiots, the lot of them).


Walk into Town: Onwards Downhill

Since my diagnosis of MS less than two weeks ago I have been conscious of my movement and the requirement to keep some miles in those legs to keep them going - even if I've nothing in particular to do. My standard aim for those pesky 'steps' prior to MS was 8000 a day. With work I was always doing between 12 and 17k steps, and on days off in these Covid days a lot lower (no pub crawls to walk). The average though would be well over 10k. I'm going to keep the aim at 8000 now and I don't feel any reason to change it. Indeed it may be more important than ever.

I decided to go on a walk yesterday with the aim of exceeding 10k and I did easily - finishing on 15k. The main thing was a long walk into Liverpool from home taking in Anfield Cemetery, Anfield Stadium and the walk down to the Adephi via Everton Valley Park. The walk was about 5 miles.

Anfield Cem2

The walk took me along the East Lancs and Walton Road before I ducked into Anfield Cemetery, as it's always nice to walk through where all the dead people are, and then on past Anfield. I was a season ticket holder back in the 1980s and in more recent times a Priority Ticket Scheme member, but I haven't gone to a match at Anfield since they built the fantastic new stand. God it's enormous.

We Are Liverpool

Anfield Stad1

After Anfield I decided to walk on, trying to get some more miles in. Thought I'd go to Everton Valley Park for the vista over Liverpool. The skyline along the Mersey looks great from there. In the end I decided it was al downhill from there into town so I'd continue and get the 17 or 19 back. It was a good call. Met a nice bloke walking his dog who chased after me to tell me my laces were undone on one of my trainers. I couldn't hear him with my headphones on. I thanked him, as there was no way with my current lack of feelings in my legs and feet I'd ever have felt them being loose. Got chatting to him, and despite his Everton hat he was a sound bloke. Explained about my numbness and he told me about his son dying at 19 and daughter at 24. Bloody hell. There is always someone else worse off out there isn't there. Had a good chat about all things cheerful, and football (which is a mixed bag for both of us at the moment).

Liverpool Skyline

Town was an absolute mess with so many roadworks around the centre. Hope they are timed to be sorted by the time everything has opened up - if not it is more disaster for the companies that have been shut for months. Sod's Law and bad planning dictates that the works won't be completed in the next couple of weeks. I saw hardly a workman anywhere along the hundreds of metres I walked past. Fingers crossed though.

Adelphi 1

Didn't fancy walking back - it's uphill. So hopped a No.19 and I was sorted. It was a nice day and a good walk. It's good to know I can walk five miles with no ill effects. Though my feet were sore.

Onwards and upwards.


Boss People, Good Food - Don't Mention the Coffee

This week I was in Fazakerley Hospital for two nights/three days, and then in The Walton Centre as an in-patient. I was looked at by some great doctors and nurses. The nurse who looked at me at A&E was particularly excellent. The Covid brain skimmer was eye wateringly scary, but efficient. Even the food and drink was really good: with the exception being the "coffee" - and maybe the portion size ;-).

Fazak Hosp2
Fazakerley Hospital - the return to the 9th Floor

The nurse who performed my Lumbar Puncture in the Walton Centre was brilliant, and the initial involvement from the Centre has been really good - and I'm sure that will continue.

Met a really nice woman who worked at Fazakerley and the Royal who has written a book, due out soon, on her experience with breast cancer. Had a nice chat with her. I'll definitely be buying her book when it comes out; '
Bald, Brave & Bloody Beautiful' by Danielle McDermott. And better still she's related to a former Liverpool great too: Terry McDermott. Cool.

walton centre1
The Walton Centre

The biggest negative issues I had was; 1) sleep, which was incredibly difficult due to myriad issues with other patients and the noise from a variety of machines, and 2) my phone - I brought multiple plugs and a full battery pack with me; but I picked up the wrong cable for the phone. A true schoolboy error on my part. Can't really complain about either of these things; particularly my schoolboy error. The wrong cable mistake will never ever happen again. Hopefully.

Not sure whether I'll be writing more than the few blog things about this new part of my life, but maybe I'll get some new storylines for some fictional stories. Hopefully this blog will continue to be much about music, writing and beer rather than becoming a health log. That's my intention anyway; that said if you want to read about this last, very eventful, week then look no further that the
previous post.

- PS I'm hoping not to have a reason to write another 'health' only blog for the next week or so. Fingers crossed.

Tests and Tests and M&S

After four days of either being in hospital, or going back for tests, I’ve got a doctor free day. Yippee! So what’s been happening folks?

This week has been a bit of a kicker. After two weeks of numbness and tingling in my legs and feet the only test result I had come in was a low folate in a blood sample last Friday. By Monday I had not been able to speak to my
GP so did not know whether this was supposed to be the reason for the issues with my legs, or something else completely unconnected. On Tuesday I tried again with the GP, on the phone from 8:30am but didn't get through until 9:30am - of course the doctors were all fully booked up for calls or actual appointments by then. Sometimes calling for a GP appointment can be as exciting and as fruitless as trying to get a festival ticket. The receptionist suggested that I try the eConnect method, where you fill in an online form and they reply by email to your query. Unfortunately when I tried filling in the form it wouldn't let me submit as it said that it said my issue was urgent and I must call 111 (it also does not send the information on to the GP at that point).

On 111 and after twenty minutes or more chatting to them it got to a point where they said they would call me an ambulance. Eek! Meanwhile I had the plumber working on my pipes (not a euphemism). The woman on 111 then told me the waiting time for an ambulance (which I was confident I didn’t need) was hours. She suggested getting a neighbour to take me to
A&E (a neighbour during a pandemic?), and told me not to get a bus (it’s just two stops to the hospital).

Needless to say, after the plumber finished with my pipes (still not a euphemism), I packed a wee bag (again not) - just in case I’d have to stay over - and headed up to A&E... by bus.

After a long time looking at me - scratching and not scratching my legs, and taking multiple bloods - it was time to get a
Covid test. I think she took a piece of my brain out with the sampling. It was the quick test: Negative. After the nurse consulted with a doctor or two it was decided I needed an MRI (which I was supposed to be getting after the Xmas issue and was sure would answer some questions). It couldn’t be done until the following day though, so I needed an overnight (if I’d not stayed in I was told they would be unable to put me forward for an MRI for quite a few weeks). As I was straying in I required a second (laboratory) Covid test. so another lump of my brain was pulled out though my nose.

Hospital Bed1
I've found there's wifi (though my phone is dead. REM: take right cable next time)

Oh god, I’m rambling, and only a few hours into my three days in the hospital. At this rate it’d take ages to go through my three days.

Let’s rush it out then: on Wednesday evening I was subjected to the horrific experience of an
MRI scan of my head and then my spine. Loud doesn’t come close. I think it was circa 50 minutes of hell. At one point I became worried about the titanium rod in my right arm being at least part steel and therefore getting ripped out of my arm. Scary. And did I say it was loud? It was VERY LOUD!

Because it was late in evening of course I wouldn’t get the feedback until Thursday. So it was another night in. I was worried about a brain tumour or something. I mean my legs are doing what I want them to. If I want to move either leg or foot it’ll go where I tell it. They just doesn’t send the clear feedback on to my brain as to how they feels. Something has cut through a cable and is disrupting clear communication.

I didn’t get the MRI results until Thursday afternoon (though before the report came in a doctor tried to mislead me in the morning. I don't now why he came to talk to me before the report was out!? - I’ll leave that there though). The neurologist,
Dr Mills and two of his young colleagues, came to talk with me: it was almost a Gregory House four man team.

Long story short, the diagnosis: MS. Or, as I’ve mistakenly said a couple of times,

They suggested that they could do a
lumbar puncture (or Spinal Tap if you prefer) the next day if I was up for it. As that could firm up the diagnosis: unfortunately there is no simple 100% test for the disease. It is a combination of clinical diagnosis with probability analysis and fingers to the wind. Or something like that. With the LP they take spinal fluid and can look at what’s in it, including viruses, macrobac, and lots of bits & bobs that can act as indicators for MS. In the meantime there was no need to remain in hospital thankfully.

lumbar punc
At the bus stop on the way for my LP

So I got home on Thursday evening - so, so nice after two nights in hospital (how does anyone get any sleep there?). Got the call on Friday at 9:30am to come in to the Walton Centre for 11am for the LP. I was in and out in no time. I actually left home at 10:30 and was back having a coffee by 12:30. I’d been a bit nervous about the whole syringe in the back procedure, after seeing far too many bad examples of it on the telly. But the LP was undertaken without me feeling a thing; I've given bloods which have been more painful, and I've never had an issue with bloods (ie. that ain't painful either). The nurse was obviously bloody good at Lumbar Punctures - and the patient was obviously amazing too.

M&S: not good news at all. But ultimately it is better to know than not to know - I wish I could have had the MRI earlier: I mean I don’t need to worry about a brain tumour now, do I?

I’ve got a big learning curve. MS is an odd disease. It is one of those auto immune things where your body attacks itself. The MRI showed various bright points on my spine and in my brain where there was inflammation. These are spots where the nerves are being attacked and stripped of some of the myelin coating. It is these damaged nerves that stop doing their job and sending my brain bits of handy information (like is it hot or cold, hard or soft, sharp or smooth?). It's pretty difficult to know how things will progress and what treatments can work for different aspects of it. I mean once this episode is over and I'm dancing again (ok, not dancing) it could be months, or longer still, until a following flare up. And next time it may not be my legs. It could also be very soon. It could be something and nothing, or something worser. Basically the way it impacts seems totally random.

I'm quite ancient for the diagnosis: normally it first shows up in people between the age of 20 and 40. Maybe I've had it for decades and it hasn't done anything to me until now? Maybe I've been lucky in that respect. Of all weeks, what a week to get the MS diagnosis. Yup, March is MS Awareness Month. Well I guess I'm aware now.

The crazy thing is I actually feel very well - and long may that continue. It's going to be a case of taking each day as it comes and seeing what M&S has in store for me. This is not just numbness, it's M&S numbness. This is not just freaky, it's M&S freaky. For now though I have to wait a couple of weeks until I hear back from Dr Mills on the findings from the LP. The Walton Centre have already been in touch to say their MS nurses are there for me if I need to talk to them at all. It was nice and reassuring to hear from them without me calling them.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. And I really can't wait for the first real ale pub crawl of 2021.