A.J. Walker

writerer

Pokémon Go

I’ve been playing Pokémon Go for a few years now after being introduced into it by several bar staff in different pubs. I am unsure whether I should thank them or blank them. But suffice to say I’m now at the mighty Level of 41. That’s largely down to me getting buses into and out of town. The number of Poké Stops I pass and Pokémon I see makes progress relatively easy. Of course whilst those 30 to 40 minutes each way have regularly been used for progressing on Pokémon I could have used to for reading. I mean it’s mind boggling how many books I could have read instead of this basically nothingy game. But hell, I like it. Every Perfect or Shiny I get makes me happy. Not insanely happy, but it’s a game isn’t it? And I enjoy doing well in games whether it’s Wordle, Connections, Scrabble, or Pokémon.

I deleted the online Scrabble game I used to play (Words with Friends) a few years ago as I couldn’t stop myself playing as soon as a move had been made by someone else—whatever time it was played. I realised it was eating my time up throughout the day. I suppose at least Pokémon is usually just eating time up when I’m on a bus commute. And I can confirm that the No. 17 bus I get into Liverpool isn’t necessarily the best place for book reading so I may not have read that many more books really: and I’ve reached Level 41 now—with 33 Perfect Pokémon and multiple Legendary and Mythical ones too. Bet your jealous. Or not.
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The Black Screen of Partial Death

My MacBook Pro—a 13" 2020 M1—passed away a couple of weeks ago. That’s not to say it has completely passed away as a computer, but as a laptop it has. I noticed as I walked past the spare room where the laptop was that the screen was flickering away with all too dodgy lines and blocks of mess. Before too long with some movement of the laptop the screen was suffering from the all too common symptom: The Black Screen of Death. After too many attempts of ‘Zapping the PRAM’ and all the other associated potential treatments of the Black Screen (i.e in case it was a software issue) it became apparent that the issue was a hardware one. Looking at the .net it is really crazy—and wrong—that this is not an uncommon problem and the issue should have been addressed by design over previous iterations of the MacBook.

Anyway the computer itself is still working when plugged into an external display so I guess I may have simply lost a laptop but been left with a desktop. Glad I bought the external screen a while back or else I would not have even known the computer was still working. To replace the screen on the laptop as far as I can see is around 360 quid—and that would still have the same physical issue as the original one so could fail just as easily over the next year or two anyway. I’m not spending that kind of money with that fear—or likelihood—waiting in the wings.

As far as I can see the issue is a hardware issue purely affecting the screen and there is no reason to deal with it; if I’m happy to use it purely as a desktop. Hope I’ve surmised the correctly. At the end of the day, when I’m out and about, I tend to use an iPad with a portable keyboard rather than take the laptop out anyway. And I use Dropbox to sync with my computer when I’m back home, so I guess I can continue doing that and just use the Pro in my spare room/office if I need to print stuff out and get stuff up on the website etc. I dare say I could print from the iPad if I set that up correctly too, but I wouldn’t be able to update the website (and use various other Apps that only work on the MacBook).

I’m leaving the laptop in clamshell form so I don’t have to face the miserable screen at all, but from time to time I will have to open it up—if I need to use the camera for iMovie and YouTube etc or maybe to use the thumbprint ID. I think I can use the iPad as a second screen if it comes to it, but in the main I guess it’ll just be used in a straightforward desktop configuration.

In short, I am gutted about the Black Screen of Death and my love of Apple leaves me thoroughly disappointed with them (in them knowing about the problem but doing FA about sorting it), but at least it is only a Partial Death and not a Death Death.
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You'll Never Walk Alone

A Fond but Sad Farewell Amongst the Social Media Mire

Jürgen Klopp’s era as Liverpool manager is shortly to come to an end—and what a fabulous ride it has been. It’s a wonderful club and we’ve had some long periods of winning lots and even in the worst of times we’ve still somehow continued to sprinkle in the odd trophy or two. We’ve had some really cracking players and brilliant managers—but of course we’ve had some bang average ones too. This current crop is a million miles away from those poorer times. Klopp brought a breath of fresh air to Merseyside when he arrived in October 2015 to replace Brendan Rogers. Fans from around the country (or indeed the city) were jealous of that the club managed to pull an absolute legend out of the hat. It has been a beautiful love fest between the club, manager, and the fans from day one. Winning the European Cup again was boss but of course finally winning the league again was the ultimate highlight—just a real shame it was during Covid time and not enjoyed by the fans in stadiums. Let’s hope it’s not a long a wait for the next one.

We’ve had a great season really and whilst it is gutting to not get another league or trophy to add to the League Cup it has far surpassed what could have been expected at the start of the season, after last season’s disastrous campaign. The way an entirely new midfield was put together this season, when it’s usually a question of tweaking with the odd new player or two, and then the injuries to central team players too meaning some youngsters had some relatively long term spells in the side—well it’s been brilliant to see. Most fans would have taken any cup and a Champion’s League place before the the season kicked off. But of course as every sports fan knows: it’s the hope that kills ya. And god damn it, they gave us hope until the last month of the season.

For much of the season the online keyboard warriors and self appointed experts in football finishing and winning titles have been nothing less than embarrassing, frustrating and—far too often—just vile. Be it about players from other clubs, or are own—or indeed Klopp himself. It has been beyond disappointing to see. Unfollowing, Muting and Blocking apparent fans of your own club is a ridiculous fact of life right now. The demise of Twitter has been accelerating, and whilst we can’t blame Musk for some of the dickheads on the platform the Social Media platform has become a toxic environment, which I find depressing after the better early years of Twitter. Now when you visit the place it feels like you’ve got a bus to the wrong end of town, and indeed in the wrong town too.

The clue is in the name, people: Supporter. You support the team, the club, the players. Through thick and thin. You’ll enjoy the ups that more if you’ve had a few lows. That’s not to say you can’t have opinions on players, far from it, but there’s no excuse for posting negative, derogatory, or vile comments on player’s Social Media feeds. What the fuck is that supposed to do? Grow up—and preferably find another club whilst you’re at it.

I for one will look back on the Klopp years, and his players, with a great fondness. The teams he has built, the relationships with his players—and the fans—has been superb to observe. There have been so many good moments, weeks, months and football campaigns. Klopp himself has been a wonderful import to the league and our club and he’s been something else to behold: he’s Liverpool through and through. A modern day Shankly for those of us—a bit—too young to remember. And I love him for that and all he has brought to our club. Thank you, Jürgen.
You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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Not Quite. Yet

Was good to play Open Mic at the Dispensary on Tuesday night. Think it was just my third time this year at Dave’s weekly OM. Really need to do it more often as it’s always a fun evening and good to meet the other guys and gals—as well as the regulars in the pub.

I ended up with a list of seven or eight songs that I’d pick from for the evening. Most of the usual suspects. There was no PA or speakers this week so it was singing without a mic—very Belvedere, but the Dizzy is a bigger space. The pub wasn’t too busy though so the sound of chit-chat wasn’t as loud as it can be there when a few bigger groups come in. Only issue was a bloke shouting down a phone in front of Dave whilst he was playing. All very Dom Joly.

There were just five of us playing this week and I ended up playing four songs: Sweet Carolina (Ryan Adams), Down By the Water (Decemberists), Heart Breaks Like the Dawn (Chuck Prophet), and Shed a Tear (for the Lonesome) (Green on Red). Was originally going to give Carolina a rest but with the lack of a mic I thought I better sing a song I know very well first just to get my voice out there and going for the rest of them.

Anyways I still need to update my song list and play some other ones at least from time to time. And of course I need to get a song or two of my own sorted too. Watch this space—but then again don’t get too excited yet. Still got to identify which songs to go for. A task for the month ahead.
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The Dawn of the Cheese Police

When I was younger my dad smoked plenty as most people did back in the day. He’d smoked from when he was in his middle teens and working at the shipyard through to his later years. He managed to give up surprisingly easily in the end after our GP told him that she quite enjoyed seeing him, but wouldn’t see him the following year if he carried on smoking. That seemed to get to him rather than all the school literature on how passive smoking was killing everyone around smokers. Roy Castle wasn’t quite enough to tip him over the edge.

Mum had been a social smoker with just a couple on a Friday night, but was never addicted. Back in my sixth form days and first year or so at Uni I partook of the odd cigarette when out, but despite the school taught ‘one smoke and you’ll be addicted’ it never took hold of me in that way, thankfully.

When the smoking ban came to public places including pubs and bars I thought it would be ignored by many, but it was surprisingly effective—ironically in getting the iller people to stand outside in the cold. The biggest effect in bars was that we could now smell people, which perhaps wasn’t a brilliant byproduct of the ban. An unintended consequence like the noise outside suburban pubs with all the people stood outside chatting and having up rather being sat around a table.

Anyone young enough to be out now who hasn’t spent evenings in smoke laden pub atmospheres wont know the simple joy we have now of not having clothes that stink of smoke in the morning after a night out. You never really noticed it whilst out, but the next day—oh boy. Roy Castle nights indeed.

I’m certainly glad I never found myself addicted to the weed. But I remember when I was younger telling myself that I would take it up if the government ever banned it. Never thought it would happen. Never hoped it would. I mean I’m quite against the government banning things unless they’re quite patently dangerous to everybody—guns, knives, bombs and things like that. But cigarettes? Plenty of people live quite happily well beyond the average expectancy whilst puffing away on twenty or more a day.

This thing they’ve come up with now is a bizarre mishmash of an idea. I mean it’ll be legal for people to smoke but not legal for them to buy (or be sold) them? WTF? The older people puffing away happily on the little white sticks whilst their younger counterparts look on in envy (well probably not). And once they’ve done that what’s next for the banning? Do I need to source a still or a home brewery now for when all the pubs are closed (by law, not just a financial crisis). And then they’ll come for my Pringles, fried chicken, and chocolate hobnobs. Or maybe cheese! Lord, imagine the parties we’ll have to go to so that we can eat below the counter cheddar and Stilton.

One of favourite short stories I’ve ever read is called, ‘
End of the Trail’ by Garrison Keillor (he of Lake Wobegon Days) which is the story of the last smokers in America being hunted down as criminals as they hide in the forest and caves smoking their last packets of fags in fear and desperation. It is brilliant. Perhaps we’ll have a British equivalent in years to come when we’re running around Snowdonia trying to grab our last taste of Stilton on oatcakes with some pickles—and puffing on a of pipe of imported weeds of dubious origin—and drinking a glass of warm bitter whilst the cheese police send in the drones to finish us off. Many a true word spoken in jest. Maybe I need to dig a cellar to hide my illicit cheeses and sacks of KFC coating.

In the meantime I am not going to take up smoking in reaction to the government’s zeal in protecting us from ourselves, as they haven’t banned it for me. Yet.


Link: ‘
End of the Trail’, Garrison Keillor
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Lottery Winners Play Blackpool

If You Won the Lottery Would You Head to Blackpool?
(photos to follow)

Had a wee trip to go and see the Lottery Winners play Blackpool Tower (‘The Fifth Floor’). It was a date added after their Friday gig sold out in no time. Obviously meant I’d be staying over night (as I don’t have a vehicle). Two days before the gig I became aware that there was a rail strike on the Saturday, which meant I had to book another night in the most alternative ‘Pool (I wasn’t going to miss the gig).

Unfortunately the B&B I was staying in didn’t have a room on the Friday so I needed to book a second B&B. It’s never straightforward is it. It was to get less straightforward too… On the train I checked the addresses of the two places so I could get around easily. The first place had sent me an email to say it was cash only, so I needed to get to an ATM on arrival at Blackpool North. Then I found I’d received an email from the Saturday B&B to tell me that due to emergency personal reasons the hotel was shut at the weekend. They said they’d book me into an alternative place a few doors down ‘if I wanted’. If I hadn’t seen the email (like if I’d already written down the details) then I wouldn’t have seen and replied to the email—and therefore wouldn’t have had a place to stay on the Saturday. So one was closed and one was cash only. Things could only get better.

Then I got the train. Oh god, the train from hell. The less said the better, but I had to put my earphones on full blast—which is not what I wanted to do: I wanted to read. Argh. I may be an atheist but I still prayed it would be better for my return trip. Pretty please, God..

Check-in was from 2pm so I had to go for a pint first, didn’t I? Yes I did. So I went to the Cask & Tap on Topping Street, which was between the station and the B&B. Nice micro which was very quiet when I arrived, where I had a ‘Watchtower’ from the not so local Bristol Beer Factory. Asked about any other ale places in town and was pointed to the Brew Room a couple of hundred meters away. Very handy—a bit closer to the B&B AND on the way too. Better still when I got there it had Jaipur on. Blackpool may be largely an ale desert but I’d found the oases. Just a shame that there aren’t any/many more. There was one place which looked okay on Google but it was a fair way away by Blackpool South and I reckoned if I was gonna get a bus down there then I may as well stay on one and go down to St Annes where I knew there are a few pubs in close proximity. And that is what I did.

Pier Inn

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First up I went to the Pier Inn where I had a couple of pints. Had a good chin wag with the landlord and the resident doggie. Bumped into a couple of people who were having a couple of pints before going to watch… the Lottery Winners—that night. Popped the few doors down to Number Fifteen which was busy with people—and dogs. It smelled quite doggie to be fair too, I dare say they were mostly quite damp after another day of damnable weather. Ended up chatting to a number of people both locals and those on breaks—and a few dogs too. Nice vibe.

It’s not a long walk up the road to the Hop Shoppe which again was quite busy—to be fair it was now Friday evening so it should be. I found that Neptune ‘Mantis’ was on—a pale of low ABV. Of course I had to get involved with that for pure QC purposes. Just had the one and then crossed the road to my final beer destination of the day, which was the Keg & Cask. That was heaving and I ended up sat outside (it was a little cold for that and I was the only none smoker out there taking that decision, but it was only to be for the one pint and I’m an occasional hardy soul).

I was keeping an eye on the bus app to see when my bus back was due and I managed to get back easily enough. After a bit of a wander around the promenade and around Blackpool Tower I eventually grabbed some dirty food around the corner from my hotel and then returned for a relatively early night. The trip was after all really about the gig the following day.

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After checking out of the hotel I headed out for a roundabout walk to a place near Blackpool Church (St Johns) where I got myself a decent—though a little disappointing—Full English breakfast near to Winter Gardens. Managed to eke out the time with more slow wandering so that I could time it to get in the Brew Room again. They have a small brewery in the back of the pub which they brew for the pub—and for some other Blackpool pubs ‘for swaps’. It was nice to chat to the brewer and it was even better when he said he’d been to watch the Lottery Winners on Friday night. It really seems that the Winners have quite a few ale fans amongst their followers. He said it had been a brilliant gig.

The Jaipur from the previous day had predictably been decimated and Vocation ‘Bread & Butter’ had replaced it. To be fair that would be better if I was to successfully negotiate the day before the gig. Got chatting to a few lads from Cambridge who were up for the footy as it was Blackpool v Cambridge Utd at 3pm. I had briefly considered going myself, but decided to give it a swerve. I had gone to a few Blackpool matches with my parents many years ago (early 1980s—I remember seeing Paul Walsh play there for Luton, which will date it). The blokes looked in various states of knackeredness as they’d come up the day before and it had been a bit of a hellish seven hour drive for the one younger lad whose job it had been to drive them all up. Poor fella was to drive them back too on Sunday. Hope he was going to be luckier with the road conditions on the return trip.

From there it was back to the Cask & Tap for one pint before checking in at my second B&B of the weekend and I bumped into more Cambridge ale fans, this time three sets of older couples. They seemed nice and into their ale. Blackpool were later to beat Cambridge making all these guys trips home feel even longer than they were.

My second B&B was just one street up from the first one and was much better. It was run by a nice couple who had only taken it over just over a week before. The room was nicer and shower didn’t threaten me before going in—always a bonus. I was hopeful that being a street further away from the promenade that the gulls would be fewer and quieter than the previous night (it was).

At the Cask & Tap I’d asked for any other recommendations on the ale side and they’d suggested Shickers closer to the Tower. There is another one beside Blackpool South Station too, but this one had only been open a couple of months or so. I headed down there of course. Besides these three independent ale pubs there were only a few national company pubs (poor ales, freezing lines, boring ales, tacky interiors, karaokes, hen-dos etc). Sadly ended up going into a Wetherspoons by Blackpool Tower for a bit of food. There were plenty of groups of Lottery Winner fans in there with T-shirts and scarfs. Some in whole family groups. The fans of the Winners are certainly not confined to one age group. After grabbing some pretty underwhelming food I was glad to leave and head into the Tower.

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There’s not much to say about the gig. If you know them and have seen them play before then you know how damn good they are live. It was a fabulous gig. Thom laughed at how many youngsters were at the front and joked that he’d have to change his performance to cover that which of course he wouldn’t do. Many of the fans I spoke to had seem them before and were well up for it. A bloke I spoke to from Fleetwood was seeing them for the first time and I told him it wouldn’t be his last. The mood of the band and the crowd was buoyant and they are masters at getting the audience going. Thom even got us doing a bit of Freddie Mercury call and response which was fun. He’d said that watching Queen as a kid had made him want to be a frontman like Freddie and when he came back on for the ‘inevitable’ encore (his words) he came on dressed in Freddie Mercury garb. He got everyone going pointing out a film camera and saying we’d all be on the telly. I’m not sure I’ll get my fifteen minutes of fame from it, but maybe I’ll be on it as a head bobbing up and down in the middle of the crowd.

LWinners1

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T’was brilliant and well worth two nights B&B in the strange mess strangeness of Blackpool.

BlackpoolTower1

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The next day I’d head back home to Liverpool relatively early to catch the Liverpool match against Manchester United (a rather depressing 2-2 draw which we should have won by a landslide). But first I had a lovely Full English at the B&B and say farewell and good luck to the owners of the place. I had some time to kill and headed down to the promenade to watch the waves pound in from Storm Kathleen, which was nice. It was blue sky for photos whilst windy and rough if you were actually in it. The two ale pubs between me and station (the Cask & Tap and Brew Room) didn’t open till 12 and my train was just after 12:30. Ended up going into a Greene King pub at 11:30 and having an underwhelming and cold pint whilst it filled up with the local Scots contingent for the Glasgow derby. It seemed a predominantly Rangers crowd with flags and all! I left before kick off for a quick one in the Cask & Tap then headed to the station. The train left on time and arrived in Liverpool on time, which for any Sunday is a surprising thing but even more so when it’s on a strike weekend. Oh and the train on the way back was nowhere near as hellish as the the one on the way there and I didn’t need to max out my headphones. Happy days (apart from the Liverpool result).
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New Writings, Old Problems

For too long I’ve not been in the habit of writing. I’ve just been dipping in and out of it haphazardly. Hell, even the blogs on the site seem to be influenced by rare freak weather events from the Sahara. I know I really need to get in the groove for it as it’ll be impossible to finish any longer form pieces if it’s not more formalised into my week. And I really do want to finish at least one novel, preferably starting with at least one of the two I’ve started and got quite far along with.

To that end I’ve got a couple of new writing projects on the go (short stories with my own derived prompts). There’s a possibility I suppose they may turn into something in themselves, even if it’s just a few stories posted on here. But really the main point is to get myself into the
habit of writing regularly and stretching my head with some random ideas. I’ll keep you posted as to whether this works and if it does lets see what comes out of it. Both in terms of the short stories and whether it gets me finishing off a novel or two.

Onwards and Upwards. Predictably and planned (or more likely pantsed).
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Upcoming Gigs

Looking forward to next weekend when I’ll get to see the fabulous Lottery Winners on Saturday at Blackpool Tower. Last time I went there for a gig it was for Radiohead. Very different music of course but both brilliant bands. And this week during a sleepless night I booked my accommodation not far down the road which looks pretty good. Whilst I couldn’t sleep I was looking up Frank Turner gigs hoping I’d just missed an announcement of a tour 'cos it seems like forever since I’ve seen him (it was 14 months ago in Wolverhampton, where he was supported by the Lottery Winners).

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Anyway he’s playing tours all over one continent and another but no UK tour just a few festivals. Not having a car to go to a festival and with the way my knees are at the moment I’m a bit unsure about going to a festival. But there was one gig that stood out where Frank Turner is playing in Cleethorpes at Meridian in an event called Docksfest. Somehow he’s not heading the bill, which is scandalous, however the primary thing he IS playing—he’s either second or third on the bill with Razorlight, Feeder, and the Lottery Winners! It’s a one day event, so just a train and a B&B then (and unfortunately overpriced crap beer). Probably end up with a place to stay in Grimsby. The main thing is I’ll be getting to see Frank do his stuff once again and with his buddies on the same bill too. Top. Bring it on!

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The Richmond - A New Open Mic

On Thursday it was the inaugural open mic at the Richmond pub in Liverpool city centre hosted by Muzz (Seafoam Green). The OM is planned to take place every Thursday co-hosted by Muzz and Jamie Roberts. She had messaged me earlier in the week asking if I was going to come along and I indicated that ‘I may do’. In the event after a bit of umming and ahhing I went for a couple of pints down the Neptune Beerhouse first where I drank slowly, which made the 'strumming Andy' more likely (if I’d knocked back a few in short order the usual result is a fair few missing lines and maybe entire verses and choruses).

RichmondOMad

The event was advertised as an 8pm start and I got there about 8:15 or so. There was a guy playing who I’d seen before, probably at the Dispensary OM, and Muzz asked me using long distance sign language from across the pub if I was going to play, which I nodded in answer. Another couple of people went up first playing a few well received singalong choruses (it was Oasis) and then I went up and played four of my usual tracks: ‘Sweet Carolina,’ ‘Couldn’t Get Arrested,’ Whiskey in my Whiskey’ and ‘Heart Breaks Like the Dawn.’ Went down pretty well to me and I think the people there—even if the only singing along would be as ever the lines ‘You couldn’t get arrested if you tried’ and ‘I put some whiskey into my whiskey.’ I’m not really a singalong singer am I?

RichmondOM1

I chatted to a Canadian bloke who had only been in town for a few hours and said he was made up to hear some live singing (and didn’t want to hear any more Beatles covers having already walked through Mathew Street). He said he enjoyed my ‘folk’ music. Which gosh dang I will take from a Canadian. Maybe next time I should throw in some Decemberists or Neil Young.

Glad I went along and joined in. Oh, and for my trouble I got a wee glass of Bells. Maybe I should have asked for some more. You know how it goes:
I put some
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A #ThursThreads Return

As I was off this week, and relatively unencumbered for some of the time, I managed to write a wee bit for Thursday Threads. It was Week 592 of the weekly challenge, which I haven’t entered for almost two years (I think the last time was Week 503). It’s a short challenge of between 100 and 250 words and is based around including a specific line from the previous week’s winning story. Hence the name of Thursday Threads and the tagline of to ‘Tie another tale.’

Usually I work Thursday’s and as it doesn’t go up until the afternoon I’d have to write it at some time on Thursday evening—which doesn’t always fit with me. I’ll definitely keep it in my mind though to keep an eye out for it now that I’ve reacquainted myself with it. This week the line that had to be included was, ‘
What if I don’t do it?

250 words is not a lot to get stuck into and it took me a while to come up with an idea that wasn’t too unwieldy to tackle. In the end though I got into it and wrote it pretty easily—even without the need for any editing to get down to size (which is not always easy once you’ve written something too long). As it happened my tale was tied before anyone else had tackled it. In the end there were a few entries by people I’ve not seen online for a while, but have evidently kept #ThursThreads in their diaries for as long as I’ve been away. It was good to see those names once more.

And the surprise for me the following day was that my tale was chosen by Mary Decker (another familiar name) to be this week’s winner. I’ve won a couple of times before in years past. I wonder if I’ve created some kind of record in terms of time taken to score a hat trick? Happy days, great to pick up the winners badge anyway.

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With Microcosms currently (or permanently?) stopped and #ReadMeSpeakMe off the schedule too maybe I’ll be popping into follow and create more threads soon. I do need to keep an eye out for challenges around the weekend me thinks.

If you fancy giving it a go the click on the Winners badge above or then again just
here, and get directed to the website at Siobhan Muir. Would be good to see you over there.
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