Play Your Cards Right

Higher or lower?

Written for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), gamble.

Tick Tock Tuesday (31 March 2020) – The Undertones

I thought I’d create a new challenge. It is a challenge primarily for me, because I’m new to this platform, and because you don’t really know me yet, nor I you. As my name suggests, I am recovering from a stroke, and I like to push myself in all kinds of little ways… including getting to know the Wonderful World of WordPress. Although this is something I will be doing, I invite you, if this idea takes your fancy, to play along with me and share with me some of your own selections.

My plan is: each Tuesday, until I run dry, I shall post some piece of art with which I have some connection – which has helped to mould me, which makes me tick. Okay, a piece of art is a bit vague – it might be a piece of music, a movie, a book, a painting, or ???? – so my phrasiology is deliberate. It might be anything – I will play this post by ear, so I’m not sure what I’ll think of each week. And, I’ll keep posting on the theme weekly until I run out of ideas.

My rules? Well, I’m not big on rules! My choice will be something with which I feel a connection. That’ll be the important thing, just having some kind of fleeting affection for something probably won’t be enough, unless I’m using my choice as an example of something bigger.

It will be one choice per week – I’m aware that long posts can be quite onerous to read, and I’m in no hurry to complete this so if I have two ideas, I’ll probably hold the second until the next week.

In that same vein, I’ve created this block as a Reusable Block, which I intend repeating for every post on this theme. The block ends with a full-width separator, so if you want to skip ahead each week it doesn’t really matter.

I probably won’t post any lyrics, or any kind of analysis – if you like my choice, the information will be out there for you. But I will try to briefly explain why I feel a connection to my choice, just to try and enhance readers’ understanding of what makes me tick.

I will tag my posts TTT and I will go looking for other posts with that tag. If you’d like to join in, please do the same, or comment, or pingback to this post, and feel free to reproduce my graphic. Lastly, I look forward to reading about what makes you tick.

These last few weeks I have talked about my roots in Liverpool, and this week I wanted to jump across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland and Derry. I’ve already mentioned my love of Irish music, and I wanted to spend the next couple of weeks introducing a few Irish acts, which you may or may not have heard of.

My featured band this week grew out of the ashes of punk, and were certainly a well-known fringe band when I was at university, with several chart hits. In my last year, my flatmate was unexpectedly gifted some money for his 21st birthday, and decided to buy himself an amp, a turntable and three LPs.

And, boy, did he plat those records LOUD! Which would have been fine, if it were not our final year.

Those three records? Well, there was Survival by Bob Marley, I could not argue at that album. Something by Jimmy Somerville – I’m not a massive fan, but he was bearable. And lastly, there was Cher O’Bowlies by The Undertones. The Undertones were a band I started off liking, grew to hate, and now like all over again. That’s a guy called Feargal Sharkey singing, who later had a couple of solo hits, including a big #1 hit in the UK.

So today I present a track from that album, complete with a memory of my final year at uni.

Mister Man

For Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), tickle.

When my daughter was young, this was one of her favourite characters:


I’m kinda reluctant to share this link because I don’t know how good the information is. I’m wary of sharing stuff which we will subsequently find to be wrong. As a plus, I have been looking at this site for the last week and the numbers have been pretty consistent with what I am hearing from other news sources.

It might be optimistic for the UK – in the last few days the number of new cases has bucked the recent trend. We’re still at breakneck speed but maybe somebody started to put the brakes on? Fingers crossed.

I just posted about international readers an hour ago, and this site gives some idea what different countries are going through. And if anybody can tear themselves away from Corona, there is another section (link below) where they’ve collated data about the world’s populations.

Numbers are fascinating.

or, your country:

or, populations:

If anybody thinks these numbers are unreliable, please share your thoughts.


I’m feeling quite positive about WordPress at the moment. Just from that one global community perspective.

Maybe eighteen months ago, I found links on Facebook posts to a couple of people who happened to blog on WordPress. One English and one French. I created a WordPress account just to allow me to like and comment, and some time later I must’ve started exploring my Reader.

I found a US blogger. In fact it was one of Fandango’s Provocative Questions. Something to do with religion, an interesting question, one that I happened to have thought about myself, so I jotted down a short comment. I saw other people’s comments and realised that there was some kind of a community going on. At the time, I had been blogging in isolation on Blogger for a couple of years. In fact, one of the major drawbacks with Blogger was there was no such thing as a Reader, that it was nigh-on impossible to browse other people’s blogs – the most obvious of things – unless you actually started off with a link to the person’s blog.

I followed Fandango by email. I saw he not only had prompts of his own, but took part in one called Song Lyric Sunday, where I had ideas for my own songs, too. Of course, seeing his post was the tip of the iceberg on that particular prompt – I’ve since discovered twenty or thirty other regular respondents to that prompt. I started writing posts on my own Blogger blog in response to triggers I read on WordPress. Not responding to prompts, but if something sowed a seed… My overriding impression was that it was a pita living with both a Blogger login and a WordPress login. I could see the value straight away of having just a single sign-in, so the seed was sown.

It still took a few months mulling it over, but eventually I decided to switch my own blog to WordPress. Once I was opening WordPress every day I found out more about things like notifications, how relatively easy it is to follow other people’s blogs. And I discovered that blogging, perversely, is 90% reading, not writing. I wonder how many people know this before they jump in? That’s why I think that fundamentally, Blogger have the wrong idea.

Which brings me to the international feel of WordPress. I met a Belgian blogger early on. I guess in part because I have spent many happy times in Belgium myself, we have since become friends – I think so, anyway. It helps, of course, that their English is better than mine! When they post, I feel very out-of-my-depth, a world away from my own background, but at the same time the subject matter is usually something I’d like to understand better.

At the same time, I have met people from Africa, Asia and Australia – a far wider net than ever in real life! Just in the last two weeks, I’ve had brief, enjoyable conversations with somebody from Poland (thank heaven he could speak English) and somebody from Turkey (what a pity she couldn’t, but we had a little chat thanks to Google). Yesterday, my statistics tell me that I had sixty hits from Romania! Sixty hits from one place in one day is noticeable. If you stop by again, please comment and say Hi.

One of the things I used to like about working in London was just that melting pot of different nationalities. I happen to live in a place (now) which is very white, very English, it is not uncommon to meet people who have lived just in this village their whole lives. So it was good to go to London every day and meet people from … everywhere! I guess this site is like that.

Who (almost) won the week – 29 March 2020

I do like Fandango’s Who Won the Week post, and liked to join in with some quirky stories from my own newsfeeds. I pulled the last couple of posts because Corona tended to dominate the news, but I have still found a few interesting stories, with the Corona backdrop.

I know a lot of you guys don’t like Vladimir Putin, but which of us cannot look at this story and just think, what a good idea?

Such a shame it is fake.

Song Lyric Sunday (29 March 2020) – Senses

Last week, Jim (NewEpicAuthor, A Unique Title For Me) set a theme of oaths (my selection). This week, he gives us the theme of senses.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jims-sls.png

Soon as I heard the prompt this week, I had my choice.

I have no great tale today. I suppose in my formative years, I figured that I liked soul music, and as I listened to more and more of it, this was a track I really liked.

My choice today is by Jackie Wilson (1934-84). I heard Jackie Wilson on some of my cassettes, and just assumed he was a soul singer from the Sixties/Seventies (which was true), but I never heard his name around any more, though, so I wondered what happened to him. In fact, he spent his last years performing in Las Vegas – alongside people like Elvis – where he suffered a heart attack while performing. He never recovered and died shortly afterwards.

But Jackie left us with some sweet, sweet music. He was active right the way through the late 1950s (remember Reet Petite?) right until his death, and my choicee today comes from 1969. I Get The Sweetest Feeling, written by songwriters Van McCoy and Alicia Evelyn, was only a modrate hit, charting at #34 on Billboard (#12 on the R&B chart) and #9 in the UK. By the time I heard the track, Jackie was already gone.

In recent years, Jackie Wilson has received acclaim from various sources, for example his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but of course these were mostly postumous honours.

Anyway, the tune. Always one I enjoyed.

The closer you get
The better you look

The better you look
The more I want you

When you turn on your smile I feel my heart go wild

I’m like a child with a brand-new toy.
And I get the sweetest feeling

The sweetest – sweetest feeling –
The sweetest – sweetest feeling – loving you

The warmer your kiss
The deeper you touch me

The deeper your touch
the more you thrill me

It’s more than I can stand
When you hold my hand

I feel so grand that I could cry.

And I get the – sweetest feeling
The sweetest – sweetest feeling
The sweetest – sweetest feeling – loving you.

The greater your love
The stronger you hold me

The stronger your hold
The more I need you.
With ev’ry passing day I love you more in ev’ry way

I’m in love to stay and I wanna say.

I get the – sweetest feeling
The sweetest – sweetest feeling –
Honey’t the sweetest – sweetest feeling – loving you.

Van McCoy, Alicia Evelyn


I was going to post this one anyway, but the first bit, for sure, fits into Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (FOWC). belligerent. I was going to update you on my current audiobook, called Renia’s Diary.

As it happens, Renia was about fifteen, a Jewish girl from Poland, in 1939. Of course, we know what happened, in fact we are told up-front that Renia was murdered by the Nazis in 1941. But because it is a diary, she writes so present tense – we know what is ultimately going to happen, but Renia, as she writes, has no idea.

She starts off, in January 1939, mad because they have had to uproot the family home. She has been packed off to live with grandparents, somewhere I can’t pronounce. Her mother is in Warsaw, for reasons I haven’t discovered yet.

In the first few entries, she also talks about school, for school terms in Poland ran absolutely normally in 1938-9. She even goes on her summer holiday at the end of the school year.

When Poland is actually invaded, in September, only Warsaw resists for any length of time (a week!). Again, thinking about the present and the future. We will win, she writes. Poland was invaded by both the Nazis and the Soviets, as a result of their pact at the start of the war. Renia even talks about Stalin’s occupying army, how one of the soldiers was sweet on her.

That is where I’m up to. So far it is pretty much what a teenage girl would write, I guess, but I am expecting Renia to get older very quickly.

Because it is a diary, everything is contemporary, which gives the book a unique perspective. It’s not written as a history book, where the end is known all the way through, where the author is leading us through to some end point. We do, of course, know what finally happened to Renia, but she didn’t. I’m expecting the account to end quite abruptly. And, I wonder if she’d have been so worried about being sent to her grandparents if she’d have known all the things that would happen subsequently?

And it makes me wonder about us. We often have immediate worries and concerns, but only hindsight allows us to know whether we were part of history.

This girl was living through something which ultimately changed the world, although she wasn’t aware of the sheer scale in her diary. And I look at this virus, and can’t help wondering whether we are too? We’ve already been in a situation where a roll of toilet paper is a better bargaining chip than a five dollar bill, where governments are handing out billions and trillions in order to keep their citizens solvent. Governments will presumably want to to claw all that money back one day? I wonder how much joy they will have? Maybe a few hundred years more austerity? How do they think populations will react to that? Maybe we’ll get to the point where a society is not just defined in financial terms, where money is not the be-all-and-end-all?

You guys have probably heard by now that both Prince Charles and BoJo [Boris Johnson] are being reported in the media as positive. I have to say that my immediate reaction was to wonder how they knew? Why they have been tested when even front-line nurses have not been tested yet, although in BoJo’s case presumably he is quite central to the co-ordination effort, so periodic testing is probably justified.

My second thought was a little more positive. If these public figures can pick the virus up, then it wouldn’t surprise me if many others of us have picked it up, too. And we don’t know, because the symptoms happen not to have been particularly bad (in us. They are obviously bad in some people.) And we’ll never know yes/no for sure, because we’ll never get to a hospital and therefore never be tested?

It is just a thought.