A.J. Walker


September Sofar So Brilliant

Was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Liverpool September Sofar Sounds night which was a quite lovely bijou affair in Prohibition Studios on Arrad Street just behind Hope Street. It is just a few doors away from the Keystone, which was just about my favourite Liverpool hostelry for a year or so. It was a sad day when that passed away. I did go a few times and play at the Keystone open mic, which was hosted by John Witherspoon (who I didn’t know prior to these sessions). One of the singers I met there was the gentle fingerpicking John Lindsay. A good guy and a fab singer, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was one of the acts on the night.


He’s definitely come on as a performer and had good line in top banter. He’s playing Jimmy’s this Saturday to celebrate a) his new album (it’s on a credit card/USB combo), and b) his leaving of Liverpool. He’s only in town for a few weeks before heading back to the far east. Anyway have a listen to his lovely tunes and if you are near Jimmy’s on Saturday then pop in and see him (playing upstairs with Ali Horn amongst others); he’ll love you forever if you do.



Second up was a singer from slightly further afield: Mae Krell from New York. Again playing an acoustic guitar (a small old one (hey, I know my guitars)). Her singing voice was lovely to listen to and belied her origins and her speaking voice. I don’t mean there was anything wrong with Mae’s speaking voice, it just didn’t tally. Of course accents usually don’t come across that strongly in songs. Her songs were nice stories and enjoyable to listen to. Definitely give 'Garden' a listen to (it's on Spotify link below). I also particularly enjoyed the song featuring her dog, Apollo. She’s played a few Sofar Sounds around the UK and I guess she’d have gone down great guns at every one.


Finally it was the return of Saije to Liverpool. They apparently plaed at a Sofar gig in the city in June. I didn’t make that one. The band comprise a guy and a gal from even further afield than New York who both play acoustic guitar. Saije (pronounced Sage) are from the east coast of Australia and have been touring all over Europe this summer. Their voices compliment each other brilliantly, with the first song in particular giving me a Of Monsters and Men vibe. I liked the way the guy played cymbals by having a drumstick tied to the guitar stock. Haven’t noticed anybody else playing percussion like this on stage before. The final song in French was an instant classic. Bon-bon indeed.


I’ll definitely be giving all three acts a listen on Spotify (links below). If you do get the opportunity to see them (or purchase their albums (in CD, Vinyl or Credit Card form) do so.

P.S. Jen did a mighty fine job hosting the night.


John Lindsay spotify
Mae Krell


El Chichon: The Photos

Was reminiscing about an epic trip to El Chichon in Chiapas back in 1996. I've previously written a travelogue about it: click here. But on reflection whilst talking through the whole thing it became clear that it really warranted some photos to go with it. So, here they are. Titles to follow.

The arriving team of intrepid vulcanologists.

A gentle start towards El Chichon luring us into a false sense of security.

And then the climbs into and out of the ash valleys (which is why need a guide, lest you get trapped up a dead end).

Some of the ash valleys are pretty deep.

A few are wider.

The guide's wee brother acting as a decent scale (well, he would be if I knew how tall he was (not very)).

The hill becomes more climbable as you get closer to the top. You can at least see where you're going (or where you've been).

Kev and me celebrating getting to the top of the volcano (very hot work).

Me spoiling a view of the caldera.

Our lovely guides.

Mark before he descended into the volcano.

The beautiful alkaline lake in the caldera.

Can you spot Kev coming down into the volcano?

By the lake. Looked a nice place tp go paddling but thought better of it.

Sitting down to soak our feet and manage some blisters on our return down the volcano.

Liverpool Sofar Gig, August '23

Wednesday last I went to my first Sofar Sounds for quite a few months. Couldn’t find my email confirmation or the day before an email telling me where the venue was. Luckily I know someone involved with Sofar and they confirmed I was indeed on the attendee list. It was a bit of a mystery why I hadn’t received a confirmation or details email. I subsequently found that because the booking site had defaulted to Apple Pay, rather my usual, the email had gone to my Apple email account. Glad to get that solved. I’ll know where to look for such messages next time.

I was told the venue was Scale, which is above Tapestry on the streets behind the former TJ Hughes. I’d been there for a Sofar gig once before, a couple of years ago, and it was a lovely venue. No draught ale, but they did have some cans. Could be worse.

Last time I saw an excellent laid back acoustic performance by the Heavy North. It was the first time I’d seen them and I loved them straightaway; I’ve been lucky enough to see them a couple of other times (and have tickets for their December ‘23 gig). This time there were three acts—as usual—and I loved all three. Links to the music and/or websites are at the bottom of the page.

First up was
Motel Sundown, who aptly played their set as the sun went down and played on the wall behind them. They were an acoustic guitar (and soft percussion) three piece as melodic and harmonic as you could hope for. My kinda Americana roots style.

Motel Sundown (with the sun going down behind them)

After the sun went down it was the time for the very pink
Wax-Tree-Cast. They played as a duo, with a female lead singer and a rockabilly guitarist. Like I said, both very pink. Don’t think it is a Barbie thing either—but what do I know. Played some great songs, with not much chat. But they did say the band (they are not usually just a duo) were to support Johnny Marr, and The Charlatans in their hometown gig at the end of the month. That sounded cool. They mentioned they were giving away a couple of tickets in an Insta competition which sounded good. But unfortunately their hometown is Halifax. I took the time to look it up and the day’s trains are affected by strikes, so I didn’t try for it. Would love to hear them with a full band—and I guess if they are supporting the Charlatans they must have a good sound.


Incidentally the strange band name made me wonder if it was down to a
What Three Words location. I downloaded the App just to check. And guess what… it wasn’t. It was a nice few songs and I definitely wish them the best for their gig at Piece Hall; oh, and their song out this week, which they played on the night, ‘Oliver Reed’.

Last, but not least, was
Ruby J. I’d never seen her live before but have seen her several times on some decent footage before via Twitter and YouTube. A fabulous act. She played her acoustic guitar accompanied only by her distinctive voice. She’s gonna be a star. Get on over to YouTube—or even better find a gig—and see for yourself. I’m lucky enough (as were a few people who were at the Sofar Sounds gig) to be able to look forward to seeing her again pretty soon; as she’s supporting Casino at their Hangar 34 gig in October. Result!

Ruby J

All in all a damn good evening.

Since then I’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket for the next Sofar Sounds gig, which is apparently a highly limited venue (I think there were 70 at Scale and there will be fewer than 40 at the September one). Intrigued to see where the venue is and who’s playing. I’ll have to wait until 36 hours before the gig to find out where I’ll be bound for.

Ruby J



Sofar Sounds website
Motel Sundown Spotify
Wax-Tree-Cast Spotify
Ruby J Spotify

Live Music '23

Barring unforeseen Twitter wins of a pair of festival tickets - hey, it’s happened before - I will go though 2023 without going to any music festivals, which is a bit of a shame. But I’ve been to some good gigs this year (Frank Turner, Robert Cray, Casino, and Lottery Winners, and a Sofar gig or two included). I’ve some more to come with a wee bit of repetition: I’ve a day at the Future Yard in Birkenhead this Sunday with the Lottery Winners, The Kairos, and others playing; then the August Sofar Liverpool gig; Guise and Hannah Rose Platt at EBGBs; Professor Yaffle in September at the brewery (Neptune); Casino at Hangar 34 in October; and, The Heavy North in December at the Camp & Furnace. Looking forward to them all; whilst not wishing the year away.

Frank Turner - Saw at JJ Steel Mill in Wolverhampton

Robert Cray, saw at Olympia in Liverpool

Lottery Winners - Saw at Phase 1, Liverpool

Had a good chat about bands and music in general with a couple of blokes over a pint the other day. But was a bit surprised when one of them said he wasn't into live music - he just preferred the records. Don't get me wrong, I do love the recordings but there's something about live music which is joyous and compelling. In the moment you are taken out of yourself and the memories live long too (and it's usually cheaper than a footy match too). You honestly can't beat live music (in my opinion; but apparently not everyone). Obviously seen a lot of boss people at open mics - and will be seeing more - too. All in all not a packed gig year, but then again not a bad one either. It does appear like I’m watching the same four or five bands a few times (Frank, Casino, Lottery Winners, Heavy North et al), and maybe I largely am. But then again, why change a winning formula? And as an added bonus it’s good to see that so many are local bands too.

Rock on! Or is it folk on? Well I guess it’s defo not folk off.





Glasgow '23

Had a week booked off from work but I had no significant plans for the bulk of the week. The first weekend was to be taken up by a few days for the annual Bishop’s Castle camping trip of course. I ended up going to Lytham and St.Annes on the Monday for a little ale trip to places I haven’t been to for many years. It was a nice day out.


On the Tuesday I decided I would plan a few days away. I spent a couple of hours surfing the net and the AirBnB App and went through all sorts of scenarios in my head. At various points I was going to London, St. Ives, Ilfracombe, Torbay, London, Arran, the Isle of Mann, well everywhere really. I basically was just going away anywhere for a few days.

In the end I saw a few options in Glasgow and decided that I’d go there. The price on the train to Glasgow and London were okay, but the costs to Devon & Cornwall were double those rates. In any case whilst I would love to have been on the south west coast or in the Lakes etc the main things to do there involve a fair bit of walking and not many other options. If my newly arthritic knees were to play up I may have been a bit confined to barracks. At least if I went to London or Glasgow I’d have plenty of options of things to do without the stress of walking up and down hills - and some pub options too of course.




I booked a Britannia Hotel in Glasgow. With some knowledge of a few of the hotels (like the Adelphi, Scarisbrick and the Manchester Midland) I did a few checks first. As it happened it turned out to be really quite good. The room was big, the bed was comfortable with nice clean sheets etc, there was a TV & a kettle with coffee, it was en-suite, and there was a fab view over west Glasgow. I was very happy with it. In reality a hotel for me only ever need be a nice bed and clean sheets.



Anyways, it was a good base for a few days up there. On the arrival day it was just a wander with some reading in some pubs and bars. And a Too Good To Go burrito! The following day started with a massive Scottish Breakfast at the Crazy Chefs before walking to the brilliant Kelvingrove Museum. Went on to the Riverside Museum (transport museum) by the Clyde afterwards and then there were some more pub visits across the city including a trip on the subway (apparently the third oldest underground in Europe behind London and Budapest).

The following day I went to Dumbarton. I can’t remember when I last visited the town, but it can be measured in decades not years. My dad was from Dumbarton and was working in Denny’s shipyard up until its closure in 1963. He came down to England looking for engineering work after the closure and apparently it was quite an exodus south looking for work following the shipyard closures. He made it down to Preston and found a job there for a while, before then moving on to Southport and joining the police. And the rest is history.

In the 1970s (and maybe the very early 80s) we went up to Scotland to Dumbarton and Loch Lomond & the environs from time to time. But after that Scotland for me was more likely to be due to geological mapping when I was at University. Denny’s though is a very famous shipyard and dad was proud to have worked there: the Cutty Sark was mainly built and finished there (it was started in a different yard, which went out of business); several well known paddle steamers (even ones which found their way to the Yangtze); the first hovercraft; and a very early helicopter (prior to WWI).

There is a Maritime Museum in Dumbarton which I thought I’d go to. It is on the site of the Denny Experimental Ship Tank which was the first of such sites in the world. So I had to go there. I also had to go to the castle (on the famous volcanic plug) and to see the new Dumbarton FC stadium next door to it. I only went to one of the Son’s games (‘the Sons of the Rock) back in the day. It was at the brilliantly named ‘Bog Head Park’. The match was against Ayr United and it finished 0-0 (which sounds better than it was). The only thing I remember about the match was the half time Scotch Pie. I held it by the sides and the bottom fell out on to the floor. I ended up just eating some pastry, which I remember as being okay. Ho hum. I wonder if the pies have improved since.





So it was a morning train from Charing Cross to Dumbarton in the rain showers (and a lovely breakfast BLT in Miller & Cook in Dumbarton). I largely dodged the rain when I was out and about. The Maritime Museum was only small (if incredibly long) but was an interesting place. I walked slowly from there (my knees!) to the castle. Unfortunately most of the Rock was closed off as they were working on the buildings and the rock itself, so I wasn’t able to climb to the top (given my knees that may have been a blessing).

On my last day I took my bag to a storage place near the station (the costs at Central Station were astronomical) then headed on another train, this time to Pollockshaw West, to go to the famous Burrell Collection. A lovely building in a beautiful setting - and of course an outstanding collection. It was a fab choice and I’d recommend anyone who gets the chance to go, to do so; and it’s only a ten minute ride or so from Glasgow.




All in all I had quite a busy and cultural stay in Glasgow. I did get to a few pubs too of course (and have a couple of Too Good to Gos). But that will go in a separate blog in the Real Ale section. Suffice to say though that I went to some famous, and some not so famous, hostelries. Unfortunately I found that Glasgow is quite short of ale options. Very short really. But like I say, that is for a different blog.


The Boss Bish Bash '23

There's a group of us that go every year to Bishop's Castle around the first weekend of July - usually for the Real Ale Trail. Last year I missed it as it coincided with the one week I contacted Covid19. It wasn't the best timing for that pesky virus as it also meant I missed the Felice Brothers gig at Liverpool Leaf. Happy times, hey.

Not a bad view from me tent.

First pint post tent erection (fear)

Anyway about twelve of us booked again for Foxholes campsite this year, which included three people who hadn't been before. Unfortunately although the pubs had intended to hold the festival once again this year (for the first time post Covid) they had to cancel it due to what was described as excessive costs and bureaucracy associated with the road closures and associated items. Ho hum. At the end of the day though there was a good size group of us camping and there were five pubs in the village anyway. One way or another we'd still have a festival of sorts.

First time drinking this one of brew from Neptune and First Clsss.

Not having a vehicle of my own I had to rely on lifts from Steve and Tony. And we got there in good time, with no major issues. I think the biggest hold up of the day was actually getting out of Costco, the roads there were absolutely packed. The four amigos went in two cars and we (Ste, Tony, Jeanette, and myself) were the first of the crew to get to Foxholes. The weather was dry with sunny intervals when we were putting up our tents, but it was hampered a little by quite strong gusty winds. But any day not putting up a tent in the rain is a good day. Again, like the drive down, we got the tents up without any major issues. As our tents were getting erected others of the group started to arrive. and we commandeered a corner (partly assisted by an enthusiastic dog making one of the campers already there move on). Well done that dog.

Three Tuns. At the top of the village always makes it the first and last pub.

As usual as soon as the tent is up, the beer was poured. And that was it for the next couple of days really. There were no big stories this year. No lost people or visits to A&E. We just had a good time with good people - and mostly fair weather apart from late afternoon on the Saturday, when like most of England we were hit by a couple of thundery wet storms. We saw a couple of bands play at the Castle, but we missed the ones at the Six Bells. The usually great Vaults had no live acts on the Friday or Saturday this year. As tradition dictates we started at the Three Tuns on the Friday night, and ended there on the Saturday evening. In between we took in all the other pubs, drank and chatted, laughed and reminisced. We didn't really miss the festival much to be fair. Though a few more beer, BBQ, and band options would always be welcome I suppose.

The rain came. So we went inside the Six Bells for a time.

Lovely sky between storms. Outside at the Castle.

The stage at the Castle just as the storm subside.

Special mentions must go to Jeanette for the chilli on the Friday night and the breakfasts too! Good work. And to Sue too, who wasn't really sure about camping and hadn't been before. She seemed to enjoy it muchly. So maybe we'll see Sue there again next year.

The Bishop's Castle Crew end of weekend photo (including Dexter)

All in all a top weekend. Roll on the next boss, Bish', bash, it's always a blast.

Don't Mention Me Knees

For the last month or two I've been having problems with my knees. Swollen and sore. In fact painful would be a better word. And I've been a right sight struggling to get around as a suddenly old man. Hard work.

A couple of weeks ago I managed to get an appointment at my GP practice after a couple of failed attempts. There wasn't a GP available but I saw the practice nurse. She took a look at my knobbly knees and after talking to the GP she told me to get down to a walk-in (I don't think she was trying to be funny) for an X-ray and to get some blood tests too.

Couldn't get anywhere in decent time for the blood tests (next week now), but I went to the walk-in at Aintree Hospital the next day. I'd penciled in my diary an hour or two. But I turned out to be vey pleasantly surprised when I got in and out in about twenty minutes (yes, with the X-ray done). Brilliant.

A few days later I got a call from the practice and they told me that they could see 'moderate' arthritis in my knee. In the meantime of course my other knee had worsened - and that hadn't been x-rayed, but it's obviously the same. An appointment was made for later in the week and I went in to see doctor on Friday. She went through the diagnosis and chatted about a few things (like knee exercises etc) and then offered me a steroid injection into the knee. I went for it. They could only do one knee, of course if there turns out to be an issue having two legs out of action would potentially be a bit of an issue.

Had it done there and then. The steroid is injected directly into the area behind the knee cap. Didn't have any problems at all. The knee quickly became less painful and the promised '
it'll probably hurt a lot later and you'll be cursing me' moment never came. Result.

Now I just have to see if the other knee gets less painful on its own or whether I'll need a second jab into that knee. Hopefully it'll resolve itself enough on its own. The GP and the walk-in were both pretty fine and efficient once I got the appointment.

Not exactly skipping yet. But perhaps if I get on with these knee exercises I will be soon.

Lovely News

Microcosms has been back for a while now, but a month ago they introduced a new judged element. So currently there may be two winning stories: one voted for by the community and one by that week's judge. The first week of the judged stories was taken on by yours truly, I judged the stories blind of course. And the winning story I selected turned out to be by Eden Solera. After sending the results and comments I discovered who I'd chosen and found that her story was also the 'Community Pick' which kinda suggested I wasn't too wide of the mark then (which was a relief).

Obviously I couldn't pick my own story - and I ended up not submitting one that week, or indeed the following week. So my first week entering the challenge since it has been sponsored was
Week 191 with my story 'Potentially Better Than An Oat Milk Skinny Latte' (which I've now posted on to this site here). And you know what? Yes, I only gone and won it. Huzzah! It too was the community pick so it wasn't too bad then.

Week 191

Made up - and nice to get my hands on some book tokens. I mean that's at least one book I'll have to get on and purchase. Oh, I may have to sort that out… now. Anyway folks, thanks for reading it. And especially to Stephanie for her time and comments in judging the week's stories.

Get writing folks. Reckon I'm gonna get on this week's challenge later today.


A Lotta Lotto

Went to Phase One for the Lottery Winners gig on Friday and it was wonderful. They gave such a joyous performance, very much still on the No.1 album high of Anxiety Replacement Therapy (ART). Thom announced that they were no longer at the top of the charts as someone called Ed had taken their place. I guess Mr Sheeran is a well known chap, but it won't be forever before the Lottery Winners are a lot better known. As an 'album launch' (a week or so on) it wasn't a full gig but still went to beyond an hour. I spoke to the band members afterwards congratulating them on the album and its success - and the performance that night. They were all exceedingly happy all round. Thom's chat between songs was never less than entertaining and it put me in mind of seeing Pulp back in the day and enjoying Jarvis between songs as much as the songs themselves.


There was probably fewer than one hundred people at Phase One - in the middle of the Eurovision chaos at Pier Head. So many people are yet to hear of the band but they are getting out there with the success of ART, and more and more people will be discovering their songs shortly I am sure. On Sunday I went into a pub in Liverpool when there was no-one else there. I asked the bar manager (nicely) if they could put Lottery Winners on Spotify and she did. Needless to say she was new to them. The next customers in were a couple and before buying a pint they were struck by the music, 'Is that the Lottery Winners?' they asked. Turns out that they were big fans and had seen them lots of times, including at Phase One. Spooky!



Talking of spooky, I bought a lottery ticket on the Friday of the gig and... yes I won! Not sure how the win will change me. But maybe I'll put the £4.80 towards aToo Good To Go or a kebab.


(Not) A Lad & Dad Night

Spookiness, lad and dads

It’s been a funny week in more than one sense of the word. I’ve not laughed so much on a bus for a long while when last Monday I was on a 17 back from town. I’d been watching the potentially interesting (it was)
Leicester v Everton match (it finished 2-2). I bumped into a few people, including a Canadian couple, and a couple of local guys who have similar interests: music, ale, festivals, and football and the like. One of them I’d met a couple of times before and we carried on talking about ale, music festivals, books and writing. Well all sorts really.

Homeward bound we carried on the chit-chat on the bus (he lives around half way along my bus route). Part way into the journey a young fella (twenties, I guess) sat on seats across the great divide leant into our conversation as it veered between writing and music. He came to the conclusion (understandably) that we were talking about songwriting (we were not). It turns out he is a guitarist and writes his own songs sometimes. I asked whether he ever did open mics and if so he should try the Dizzy. He said yes he has a few times, including the Dizz. Apparently he was told he couldn’t play there when he went ‘
as they don’t allow covers.’ That made me laugh, as I only ever do covers (even if they are not well known ones). I suspected from the way he was talking that there was something else behind the reason he was stopped, or discouraged, from playing - which may or may not have had something to do with mates and/or drunkenness. It wasn’t clear.

Anyway, as the conversation between the three of us continued it took an hilarious turn when the fella asked us if we were on a ‘
lad and dad’ night out - I think he’s only about 12 or 13 years older than me. Much laughter ensued and every comment, question and bit of banter subsequently was explained by my occasional drinking buddy being me dad. Who knew!?

Later in the week I was delivering some ale to a place that requires a password to drive out. I asked what it was and it turned out to be 1968. ‘A good number.’ I suggested. The guy who’d let me into the cellar agreed. ‘I was born in ‘68.’ I said. So was he apparently. ‘Hey Jude was No.1.’ He said. ‘That’s spooky, me too.’ Etc etc. Anyway, it turned out that not only were we born in the same year, we were born on the exact same bloody day. That was some spooky shit. And laughter again ensued.

He looked quite a bit older than me and I’d never have thought he were born in the same year yet alone the same day. Not quite in lad & dad territory though. To be fair when I’d arrived he was having a fag break. And in hindsight that there explains it. Just don’t smoke people. It ages ya. It truly does.

I’ll never be able to go on a real lad and dad day again. But maybe I’ll be on some more ‘
could be lad & dad’ days. These events are evidently outside of my control.