A.J. Walker


The (New) Dispensary


It's been an interesting couple of weeks seeing how the Dispensary transitions after the long reign from Pauline and Dave came to a quite abrupt end. It is understood that the tenancy came to an end on the 15th September and they decided not to renew it. The Dispensary under their stewardship won the Liverpool CAMRA branch Pub of the Year on multiple occasions and the beer choice and quality was never less than exceptional. They kept their decision to leave pretty quiet and it was only in the last ten days of their rule that it became common knowledge. Wherever they end up going and whatever they end up doing I wish them the best of luck.

In the meantime the new managers of the Dispensary require luck and hard work to maintain the tradition of the excellent cellar here, lest it become just another pub. I've been in a few times since the change of the guard and although it's very early days things are looking good. There have been a few changes which are mostly positive or at least neutral. The board with the beers on now has prices on it which is always handy in decision making and getting your money ready at the bar. And talking of money they have entered the 21st century and like many of the other nearby pubs now take card payments. Yay!

The beer choices so far comprise the same breweries that Dave and Pauline took, including Titanic, Ossett and Rat. Definitely a great big plus. Got to be good to have White Rat still available.



There is now no fear of the answer at the bar if you ask for a coke (not that I ever would) but sometimes people require a soft drink. Here is my mate with half a coke…


They still have TVs and the footy channels (BT and Sky) for those interested. And Liverpool are still winning. They've retained the bar staff too.

They also now sell Guinness. It is a drink from my past, but I have often heard people ask for it here and been disappointed not to find it. Not a big fan these days but hey, at least they've got themselves a nice old school pump display for it. They also have a small heater perched at the end of the bar for pies and whatnot. Food in the Dizzy! What next…?


… well, toilet roll in the toilets for a start which is nice.

In the last few days there have been returning customers who were previously banned or at least felt unwelcome. No doubt the customer base will settle down in the coming weeks when the novelty value has ended.

So, in summary, a positive start for the new guys. The key to its continued success will be all about the cellar and the bar staff.

Judging Malarkey

It's been a while since I've done any judging, mind you it's been a while since I've entered a challenge where winners are chosen. Last week I entered Microcosms for the second successive week after a long hiatus and was given the win by the judge (thank you, Dana) who evidently has a similar sense of humour to me. Anyways, as a winner you get asked to judge the following weeks entries which this week I agreed to.

There were seven entries this week (week 172) which covered a wide variety of subjects based on the fun range of prompts. Judging is always an interesting process and it was as enjoyable as ever to do this time. Good to get it done and dusted by Tuesday too. Hopefully the results will be up on the website soon–once I've found out who I should be sending my review to!

If you haven't tried Microscoms before I can recommend giving it a go. It's a weekly writing challenge for Flash Fiction of up to 300 words posted on their site: microcosmsfic.com It's always a fun challenge. And maybe when you win it you'll can lay your rule over the following week's stories–and find that just as much fun (or at least interesting) as writing for it.

Go on. Give it a go. In the meantime have a look at the site and see how it all works.

VSS365: The Anthology (Volume 1)

Today is the publication day for the first ever VSS365 anthology. Huzzah! And I've already bought and downloaded the book on to my Paperwhite as I am sure many VSS365ers have.


Congratulations to Mark and the VSS365 Ambassadors for their work in getting this done. It's been turned around in super quick time, especially considering how many people they had to deal with in proofing the pieces. Great to be featured in it, within the bonus section, and there's a nice shout out for the Seedling Challenge too. Thanks.

It's the sixteenth book that I've featured in which is nice. I know that for many of the contributors in this anthology this will be their first time in print. It will no doubt be a great feeling for them and I am sure it will give some new writers the confidence to write more AND put themselves out there for more opportunities. Go get 'em folks! Onwards and upwards.

If you haven't got it yet, click on the book and follow the link to Amazon for your copy. All proceeds to charity (The Book Bus) to give you a bonus warm fuzzy feeling included in the price.

Welsh Place Names

Starting work on a new short story and it's to be set in an isolated village in North Wales. The kind of place I drive through regularly. But in all this time I've been going there I haven't really bothered with the language, which is a shame. I mean, if I was going on holiday abroad I'd try and learn a few of the words at least for pleasantries, but I haven't for Wales. And that is my bad.

Anyway, for this story I am setting it in a fictitious place in the countryside where clearly it would have a Welsh name, not an English one. So I've had to look up some place name words. I know a few like pont for bridge, aber for river, coed for wood, and capel for chapel (of course). And Isaf and Uchaf is lowest and highest. Other than that I'm a bit at a loss or rely on guesswork. With this limited vocabulary I'd be a bit stuck for a place name. I mean Capel Aber Uchaf is not going to cut it.

I've looked through a lot of the place name segments and have come up with my fictitious hamlet now. Looking through the list it is clear how many places are named so simply on such geographical descriptions (and why with so few names used Isaf and Uchaf has to be used so often (or bach and mawr for little and big) to differentiate places).

allt - hillside, wood bach - little bedd - grave
betws - chapel bwlch - pass caer - fort
carnedd - cairn cefn - ridge clogwyn - steep cliff
coed - wood craig - rock cwm - valley
divas - city dwfr - water dyffryn - valley
eglwys - church fford - road ffridd - mountain pasture
ffynnon - spring llan - parish maen - stone
mawr - big moel - bare hill mynydd - mountain, moorland
nant - brook ogof - cave pistyll - waterfall
plas - hall, mansion pont - bridge pwll - pool
rhiw - hill, slope rhos - moor, promontory rhyd - ford
sarn - causeway stryd - street tafarn - inn
traeth - beach tref - village, town wyddfa - burial mound
ynys - island, river-meadow ystrad - valley floor

There's not going to be any conversations in Welsh so this may well be all my language research required for this story.

Hwyl fawr.


In the last week I've discovered The Expanse, on Amazon Prime in the UK. I started watching it after a recommendation from a guy in the Tap & Bottles in Southport who made good noises about it. Funnily enough I'd already bought two of the books 'Cibola Burn' and 'Nemesis Gates' from a second-hand book shop not knowing at the time that the SF series was based on them.

Rocinante Crew
Crew of the Rocinante: Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton, Alex Kamal and James Holden

Unfortunately now I've binged watched over one and a half series of the Expanse I now want to read the books and the order becomes important. These books are books 4 and 5 out of the current 8. Earlier in the week I found (and bought) book 3 'Abaddon's Gate' in the same bookshop. So now I'm either gonna have to root out the first two books in a shop, or maybe I'll just go on Abebooks for them. In the meantime I'll carry on watching the series. It is already up there in my Top 3 SF series now alongside 'Battlestar Galactica' and 'Firefly'. Don't ask me to put the three in order. Please.

The eight full length books to date (2011-2019) and in order are:

  • Leviathan Wakes
  • Calibans War
  • Abaddon's Gate
  • Cibola Burn
  • Nemesis Games
  • Babylon's Ashes
  • Persepolis Rising
  • Tiamat's Wrath

The ones in orange are the ones I've got on my shelves. They are all meaty tomes and when I've got them all they will fill a decent sized shelf.

Incidentally, James S.A. Corey the author of the series is not a person–in so much as it is two people. Namely Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, check out Wikipedia.

In the meantime I've started reading another SF book, coincidentally written by another duo, 'Nightfall' by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg.

Winner Winner Not Chicken Dinner

Been a few months since I've won something on Twitter but this week, which has been pretty crap in other ways, has been made better by TWO wins with a book and a CD winging their way to me.

Once Upon A Time

First I won the soundtrack for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood from FACT in Liverpool. Only listened to half of it so far, but it is fab. Then today I won a brand new book; 'Bottled' about alcohol and its relationship with English football (players and teams). Looks like it'll be a good read.


Now they say things happen in threes. So I better find another Twitter competition or two.

Yesterday I was waiting for a replacement van to be delivered (don't ask). Cleaned the van out, took photos and all that then waited. Expected them to come in the morning or maybe lunchtime–I mean who wants to be working late on a Friday? What time did it arrive? 8:30pm. FFS. I hadn't gone out, having to wait, and was starving. With all the KFC coverage yesterday I fancied some fried chicken but by the time the van arrived that mood had gone. Ended up with a beef green pepper and black-bean sauce. Wasn't the best. But no doubt better than the KFC.

Anyway, I'm of to Twitter to look for another comp.

The Once Poised Pen

I've officially left the Poised Pen writing group, in so much as such a thing can be official when there is not a membership per se–basically you go to a meeting and you pay your dues, that's your membership. I haven't been going for the last 20 months, so I've asked to be taken off the mailing list, as it gets frustrating reading the apologies. I stopped sending them in as it seemed superfluous when people aren't expecting me to be there. There are PP members now going who I have never met.

I think I went to one, maybe two, meetings once they changed from having the meetings in a real ale pub (the Fly in the Loaf) to the backroom of a restaurant (Porto).
HalfBaked AllThings

It's a shame to cut the ties in some ways but I've just not been going and can't see me going back in the short to medium term. Ultimately I know where they are if I find I want to return in the future. The PP was my first and only writing group where I read out any of my stories, following my few appearances reading poetry at the Dead Good Poets. It also gave me my first opportunities to be published with the Poised Pen anthologies and I can't thank them enough for that: these were 'Half Baked' (2014) and 'All Things Considered' (2016).

I used to be a very regular attendee, pretty much ever present after I started going in 2013. I helped produce Half Baked including sorting it out for the Kindle and using my photo for the cover: unfortunately I was also responsible for a typo on the spine. I enjoyed meeting at the Fly as it combined two of my loves (ale & writing) and cutting one out was the driver for me stopping. Time is a finite resource and something had to give. The writing community outside of the group from, amongst others, the Flash Dogs and VSS365 guys and gals, has given me the confidence and pals I can call on for reading queries or writing advice–albeit without the pint in hand and a post reading chin-wag.

So I'll take this opportunity to say thanks to the Poised Pen for the friendships, the opportunities, the experience, for meeting a lovely group of writers, and for some of the best meetings ever. Good luck to all who sail with her and I look forward to reading your work in the wild–or hearing it on the radio or seeing it on the telly-box. I expect I'll still bump into you; be that in the Fly or at some book or screenwriting extravaganza.

Keep writing.

The Writing Habit

It's so easy to come up with reasons not to write sometimes. I mean there is always a film to watch (sometimes again), a box-set to finish or a new one to start, then again there's that once in lifetime (or once in a week) sporting occasion. These damn essential unmissables. Then there's the whole shopping, cooking and eating thing. And don't even mention that washing and ironing thing.

Do you want to fucking write or not? Well let's not fall at the first hurdle, let's just assume you like writing a bit. You're doing some, probably not enough of course. But then again where are you finding the time and how much time do you need? On the face of it not that much if you get into an effective habit. Just get an envelope out and write out a few ideas. If you can find half an hour to write 350 words every day that's over 127,000 words a year. There is your first novel with words to spare. And if you could do 500 words in a day then you're up to 187,000. That could be two books–five hundred words.


So if you want to get to a book's worth of words in a year it could be about finding just half an hour a day and getting into a habit, could't it? Pick a time, in the morning before work, at lunch time, or at the end of the day–maybe over a beer. Whatever works. I will if you will.

Okay, I will anyway. Will have to keep some sort of writing diary and see how it goes.

I'm sure it's all about good habits.


Better Be: A Retune

Been a while since I've done any recording of my guitar practising so I've done one today which is a reattempt at the classic Crowded House song 'Better Be Home Soon'.

This is actually my third attempt. My first one was an open chord version which I struggled and failed to get to the highest notes, so for the second one I played with a capo. This was deeper and easier to hit the high notes but in some ways less lively to sing. So for the third version I've gone back to the open chord version.


Still struggle with the highest notes but hell it's better than it was and is a livelier version than the capo one. I may not have a good singing voice but it's improving with practice.

The other thing I am trying to do now is practice strumming patterns. Eek! Think that should be the quickest way to get better to be honest. Do wish I'd had some lessons when I was younger. Anyways, onwards and upwards. And whilst I'm practising I've got the aim to write three songs before the end of the year. Perhaps I'll choose a theme from a VSS365 prompt.