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Rock Maze
  • Writer's pictureNeil


I’m not 100% sure I have any real skill or knowledge but I get away, sometimes, with the illusion. If asked a question and I think I know the answer but I’m not too sure I simply answer with the most conviction I can summon.

Sometimes, in a previous life, I was involved in the tendering processes for new contracts. These contracts almost exclusively regarded the provision of advice and guidance regarding employment and training for people who were unemployed plus. I defined unemployed plus as unemployed people with an extra barrier. These barriers could be a physical disability, mental heath issues, ex-offenders, lone parents in fact almost anything you can put your finger on. These contracts were almost always with large government departments and the tendering process often included a presentation followed by a Q & A session. The presentation was always timed. My skill was to speak last and, regardless of the time my colleagues took or didn’t, I had to finish dead on time. So, sometimes, my part of the planned presentation could be 3 minutes or 10 minutes. I would have no idea how long I might have to fill but I still had to finish on time. Is that a skill?

I recall one particular occasion in Truro. I was asked to help with a presentation to the then Cornwall Probation Service. I was to present with my colleague and outstanding friend JW. The presentation went well. The Q & A session was frank and to be honest a bit of an inquisition (very probation). Around that time psychometric testing was very “on trend”. All new contracts had them in there somewhere. So when a question about what “tools” we would use was asked, it was asked specifically to draw out one particular answer; psychometric tests. I was well qualified to use them and therefore could eloquently talk about them. But I took a chance that all the other organisations competing for the contract would give the answer they expected. So I said, unplanned, to the astonishment of my colleague “we probably won't use Psychometric Tests, they’re cumbersome, time consuming and would offer poor value for money". When asked what alternative plan we had I said with conviction “I haven’t a clue. We'll talk to the clients instead". That day we won a very lucrative contract.

All of the above could be pure fabrication but if I’ve said it with enough conviction and eloquence you’ll never know.

I blame Euchre. Playing cards helps with your poker face, misdirection and memory. In fact playing your cards close to your chest. There is some evidence that card playing improves mental health, improves personal development, enhances maths skills, develops logical thinking and helps with concentration and patience.

Euchre is a card game, an offshoot of Juckerspiel, a game that became widely popular throughout Europe during the Napoleonic era. In the 1800s, it became one of the most popular card games in America and Australia. But we’re in Cornwall, and in Cornwall we walk to the beat of a different drum. (I like that little phrase, I’ll use that again).

It seems in Cornwall, unlike the rest of the world we play with a slightly different deck. I’ll not bore you with the rules but variously the game is played with 32, 28 or 24 cards unless in Cornwall when the pack is increased by one. A joker or the 2 of spades, I think. This card is called the Benny. It scores higher than the Right Bower and Left Bower. Confused? Me too. I’ve largely forgotten. But the original game Juckerspiel is thought to be the reason for the existence of jokers in a pack of cards at all. You choose.......fact or fiction?

Anyway what’s interesting about the Cornish version of Euchre? Well I got good. My brother Richard and I got good. We played on the top deck, in the back seats of a double decker bus every school day morning for about 5 years. We played against two opponents. They got good as well. I’m a little concerned that I only have a fuzzy memory of who our opponents were. It may have been Keith and Nigel, ur no.

If you play constantly with a sibling I think messages are constantly passed between you through nuanced moves both consciously and un-consciously. So we became very good.

Throughout Cornwall there are and always have been Euchre leagues in pubs, and occasional Euchre tournaments; consequently there are some extremely competitive players. I remember Richard and I, while still kids, being challenged to a game by two apparently experienced players and they were good, but we were better. Good or not I don’t think either of us have played since we finally stepped off the bus. But knowing you can become adept at something through practice was a good lesson. Euchre’s a bit boring for me and the Euchre social scene had no appeal at all.

So think about the above.

Have I written it all with eloquence and conviction? Is it plausible? Does it all ring true?

You decide.

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