A.J. Walker

writerer

open mic

More Pub Distancing

The last Open Mic got cancelled and I was away camping at Bishop's Castle for the one before so I was looking forward to this one. Picked up some excellent ‘White Rat,’ ‘Cold Stone Cream Austin’ and ‘Aiwass’ from Craft on Smithdown on the way home and that was my preparations done –apart from some quick strumming for fifteen minutes. As it happened OM was to prove a low key affair with only four of us on it; with Bobo and Nette, Matt and myself.

There wasn’t too much in the way of singing. Matt started of with a story then Bobo did a couple of songs. I did three in the end and having decided to do new (or very old) ones I went for ‘Half A World Away’ (always contentious doing Oasis - sorry), ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘Wild Rover’. Bobo did another and Matt gave us a longer story.

Said to Matt he should try and write for the Seedling Challenge and use all seven of this weeks prompts -  a tough one this week - and that we could then read the resulting stories out at the next OM. We agreed to give it a go.

Then after lots of interlinked chitter chatter about all things travel, pubs, and Covid-19, we went on Jackbox to play some games. Suffice to say funny as fuck – but you would have had to be there (and probably have had a few beers) to appreciate it. Apparently OM is going to go to fortnightly now, which is a shame but I guess a sign that now that things are opening up a little bit people have less time or need for it. Anyway, I am looking forward to it; whenever it is. At least two weeks gives me more time to learn some more new old songs.
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There Is No Sanctuary Anymore 

Well this weekend brought the news that the Sanctuary on Lime Street is to close its doors permanently. One of the first confirmations of pubs in Liverpool to be closing as a result of the damnable pandemic: it won't be the last.

It goes without saying that I wish the owners and all the staff all the best at this time.

It has been a great little boozer for the last few years for me. One of my most regular haunts. Often I would pop in at the start or the end of a wee crawl–or even both ends of one. It was always laid back. There was always music on (I’m not saying it was always to my taste, but hell yeah. Music!). The decor was ‘interesting’ if built-in distressed is your thing. From outside if looked like it could be a wine bar with the logo on the window, whilst inside it was spit & sawdust. It was a contradiction in many ways.

Beer choice could be a little up and down, but usually there was one or two–sometimes even three–that were worth staying for–or else I wouldn’t have, would I?

There wasn’t a big turnover of staff. And all of them were friendly and outgoing. Going out of their way to look after the customers (even giving me control of the music on several occasions. Yeah, an evening of Frank Turner, Wilco or Magic Numbers anyone?). One of last year's highlights was going in there for a few pints whilst waiting for the parade for the European Cup. We watched the progress of the parade on my phone so knew exactly when to leave to catch the buses, got some fab photos and then went back into the Sanctuary within about twenty minutes or so. A perfect afternoon, which unfortunately we won't be able to repeat for any parade for winning the league.–more's the pity.

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Best of all I was in one Thursday evening reading a book when I noticed someone walk upstairs with a guitar and found out it was Open Mic. I popped up to watch, telling myself if they weren’t all shit hot I’d get up and play a song–partly on the basis that I didn’t know any of them and I need not show my face again if it all went tits up. I nervously strummed a couple of songs in super fast time and sweated like a pig… and since then I’ve hardly missed any. I hadn’t played in front of anyone for about twenty years. Unfortunately I hadn’t been practicing much either. But rediscovering the guitar was great and it has been the highlight of many a week since.

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The continuation over recent weeks of the Open Mic online has been a lovely way to break up the week, especially the monotonous evenings (so much TV watched). Our little Zoom Sanctuary has been great, but it’s not a pub. It’s not the same.

It won’t be the last pub to go and I’m fearful for which of my other favourites may not survive this most painful of years. I’ll miss meeting up with the Open Mic crew at the Sanctuary. I’ll miss the banter with the staff and customers. I’ll miss sitting there reading or writing. Hell, I’ll just miss the Sanctuary.

RIP The Sanctuary. It was good to be in you.
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A Very Good Evening

Last night was Open Mic #4 of the Sanctuary Zoom Open Mics. It was the oddest one. Lots of people couldn't be there due to life commitments and/or watching Chelski v Man City. So as it was there were only three of us online rather than the usual nine or so. In addition to myself there was Matt Holland (.author.com) and Rebecca. Matt does stories and Rebecca does audience–and does it very well. Yeah, I was the only 'musician'. At least until the end of the night.

It was almost nine when I logged in. Despite the low attendance there was never the question of cancelling it and we had a good night. Matt read a couple of old stories and gave us a trial run of a new one he's working on. And I did at least eight songs, which I'll list below. Other than that we reminisced about pubs and drunken exploits and talked about if and when we'd go back to the pub again.

All this with one eye on our phones to see how the footy was going. When I left the commentary after twenty odd minutes City had been on top. But football is a funny old game and if they failed to win Liverpool, after their 4-0 thrashing of Palace the day before, would be Champions for the first time in thirty years. As the designated old git at Open Mic I'm one of the only ones who was alive and going to watch Liverpool back in the 1980's when we won all that came before us. I could understand the excitement of the youngsters not there at the evening's possibilities.

As it was, of course, Chelski scored first and it was 1-0 at half time. City equalised with a worldy free kick… and then a sending off and a penalty gave Chelski the game. Liverpool were fucking Champions of absolutely everything (currently holding the European Cup, the Super Cup, the World Club Cup and now the Premier League Champions): it's not been a bad year. If you discount the coronavirus (or indeed only count the footy).

At this point the Zoomers all left to go to their doors or windows to hear the singing, watch the fireworks and hear the street noise. It was brilliant. I just wish my dad was here to have shared in it. A day so long in the waiting. Back in the early 80s before I had a Season Ticket myself my mum and dad would take it turns to take me to the game with the parent and child ticket. As well as going to several games with both mum and dad. Mum was a red, dad was a fans of the Sons (Dumbarton to you). He'd have enjoyed the day and celebrations immensely.

Getting back onto Zoom it was time for another bottle of beer (I was drinking Platform 6.1 and Oakham Citra) and I played another song or two.

Niall came on from Dublin looking suitably very happy and gave us a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone–which the rest of us did our utter best not to wreck, but probably failed. The night ended after much talk about football, beer, celebrations, fireworks, car horns and the wish to be able to celebrate it properly at some point.

Open Mic 4

We all decided 1:30am was late enough and called it quits. We'll probably change the day next week as next Thursday it is the Man City game–guard of honour and all that. So maybe it'll be on Wednesday or Friday. Either way I'm sure there will be more than three of us (with a late a guest appearance). We shall see.

My setlist (for it must be as set once you're over five songs, surely?) comprised:

  • Homeward Boud
  • You Ain't Going Nowhere
  • Down By the Water
  • Congratulations
  • N17
  • Hotel California
  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Sweet Carolina
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Boom! We Made It On Zoom

For the last couple of months (yes,  it’s only been than long) I’ve had to listen to so many people on the radio and TV complain about working form home and then extol the possible long term virtues of it thanks to getting used to using Zoom from everything between Zoom Work Meetings to Zoom Quizzes.

Zoom Session

Working, delivering shit all day to the masses, I had not used Zoom and most my mates would have no interest in calling into a remote quiz or drinking session. For me communication remained phone calls, texts and WhatsApp group messages.

But finally on Sunday, after two aborted attempts, the guys and gals who sort out the fortnightly Open Mic at the Sanctuary arranged a Zoom Open Mic session. It had been a long day at work for me in the sun and I was bushed, but called in at around 9pm. It took a bit of messing about as I got a WhatsApp message with the connection link and couldn’t enter the details on my iPad, which I was going to use for the event. In the end I had to copy and paste the invite into an email to myself and then open it up on my iPad from there. Already there were five or six logged in when I joined.

Being the first time I’d used it I had just propped up the iPad on my desk in the spare room. There was still some natural light to begin with but as evening fell I  had to use the desk light. Considering I hadn’t put too much thought to it the set up worked okay. I  had plugged the  Blue ‘Snowball’ mic into the iPad. It’s difficult to know how much that helps with the sound as you count hear how it goes out. Suffice to say that some of the others had problems with the mics in their complex terms/devices and the sound came and went some rather randomly. On the positive side for me that meant some of the others were brought down to my level in terms of results. Hurray!

Despite sound and stuttering issues and the effect of replying not quite in real time, the event went really well. Nine or ten of the regulars came in and played or told stories, and the time and beer flowed quickly. The main issue was having to serve your own beer and not getting our loyalty card stamped. But at least at the end of it I didn’t have to get the last bus home (particularly as I would have missed it - I left the ‘meeting’ at 12:30). I’d had five beers, played four songs, went for three toilet breaks, wore two different tops, and had one big grin on my face.

Zoom Meeting


Many thanks as ever to Bobo and John - and their better halves - for the organisation and time involved in events - both online and in the Sanctuary. Everyone who attended it really enjoyed the opportunity to meet up again. It's not the same as down the pub, but needs must at this strangest of times.

We’re hoping to have another Open Mic in the next week. And I’ll definitely be phoning in.


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The songs I played were:
‘Mostly Water’ - Bap Kennedy
‘Homeward Bound’ Simon & Garfunkel
‘Somewhere Down the Road’ - Chuck Prophet
‘Sweet Carolina’ - Ryan Adams



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Planning on Planning

The last few months - and longer - have been difficult one way or another. And I have not bothered with New Year's Resolutions. Then again, there shouldn't be a time for resolutions. If you decide you need to do something don't wait til January 1st to get it into motion. Anyway, it's the well into the second half of January and I ain't doing resolutions, but I am doing planning. In that I am planning on planning with respect to all sorts including; work, writing, reading, guitar, and fitness.

Will put some of the planning up here and then track progress as the year goes on.

But now I've got to get some of these plans down. Catch yer later…
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No Singing, or Dancing

Missed four Open Mic nights on the trot in October and November due to work and a dodgy throat on the last occasion. I finally got up an running again a couple of weeks ago when I made it and played four songs at the Sanctuary. It was the first time I've played on the ground floor. Did four of my usual songs: 'Sweet Carolina', 'Somewhere Down the Road', 'Couldn't Get Arrested', and 'Whiskey in My Whiskey.' And so it was that I was looking forward to getting back up again yesterday.

I got back quite late thanks to a rather heavy work load in and around Denbigh (officially 126 drops, probably 140 in reality). Most of the town is okay but the ones around the old town centre are horribly slow with the narrow streets and little one ways and the like. Wasn't sure I'd get home in time to get out again, but in the end I was home for 7.25pm. After a quick change I was out and at the bus stop for 7:45pm, then into town and in the Sanctuary for 8.30pm. Huzzah! I could see plenty of people downstairs, but no guitarists or PA. I was happy to see it would be upstairs or downstairs then…

But no. There were no guitarists there 'cos the Open Mic had been cancelled. Apparently it had been heralded on Facebook, which is all well and good but I don't do FB, do I? So it was a couple of beers and home without giving the singing muscles a go. Ho hum.

I suspect the next Open Mic will be cancelled. As in two weeks time it will be Election Night. Hopefully get one or two more Open Mic's in before the end of the year.
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