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A POEM ABOUT PEACE.

In the writers’ group I attend (watfordwriters.org) we were asked to write a poem on the topic of peace. One immediately thinks of Ukraine and other war torn places in the world. On the other hand, peace could mean a moment of reflection, an idyllic country scene or even – as some saw it – the ultimate peace.

As you will see from the poem below, I decided to write about a different kind of peace – one that might resonate with many of you reading this.

Please let me know what you think. I would love to receive your comments.

3 am

Outside

the sky

is littered with stars.

Everyone in the world

is asleep.

I walk the floor

singing, soothing, rocking

jigging, chanting, dancing.

And still you cry

as if you have

all the world’s troubles

on your tiny shoulders.

I feed you again

just to get some rest.

Your tiny fingers

curl and uncurl at my breast.

Your vest is wet

from your tears

and mine.

A line of milk

dribbles down your chin.

I kiss, I jig, I soothe, I sing.

And still there are your cries

ripping me apart.

I close my eyes

praying you will close yours.

How can someone so small

cause so much grief and joy?

I walk my baby boy

up and down

and round and round.

I sing the songs all parents sing.

You feel so heavy in the sling.

In desperation

I lie you down in your crib.

You sigh as if to say

that’s where I want to be!

Your eyes close fast

I cry with relief.

Peace at last.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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LOOKING BACK.

I barely kept a diary growing up. But I always wrote poetry. Like most teenagers, my poems were full of angst. It’s interesting to look back on them now and see myself as I was then.

Here’s a poem I wrote way back in 1963 when staying at a favourite aunt and uncle’s home. My uncle would get cross with me for playing loud music and then leaving the room. I would immediately go into another room and do the exact same thing! Something all kids probably did then. And, no doubt, still do today.

MY UNCLE SAYS

My uncle says I am a whirlwind.

He says I do not know

what it is like

to sit still for one second

and that todays’ youngsters

are all the same.

They can’t abide peace

or solitude, he says

but live to a background

of constant noise, pop music

blaring out of radios.

I argue that we just enjoy living.

Life is short

and there is so much of it.

I want to cram each hungry second

with books and noise

and music and people.

I want to live all the time

before I die.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #259. JUST AROUND THE CORNER.

About twelve years ago a close friend phoned to tell me her daughter was pregnant. After giving my congratulations I said:

Everyone I know has children who are married and many of my friends are grandparents already. My three kids have yet to find someone!

Don’t worry, said my friend soothingly, it’ll happen. One day you’ll get a surprise. It’s just around the corner.

A few minutes after our call finished, the phone rang again.  It was our older son who said, I have something to tell you both. He then announced that not only was he getting married very soon but that the date and venue were all arranged. All we had to do was turn up!

I phoned my friend back.  Did you know, I asked. You must have known! But of course she hadn’t known. It was just one of those amazing, fortuitous coincidences – a story that I have enjoyed recollecting over the years especially now my dear friend is no longer here.

Not long after that our daughter became engaged, followed by our younger son soon after.

A year after our daughter married, grandchild number one arrived, followed seven weeks later by our older son’s firstborn.   Babies, like buses it seems, all come along at once!

Grandson number four arrived six weeks after grandson number three.  So within the space of a few years we had four grandchildren. A few years later a granddaughter. And most recently, our younger son became a father.

So here we are in our mid 70s with six grandchildren who continue to bring joy and laughter into our lives.

We have always been very hands on grandparents and, until Covid, saw all our grandkids regularly. BC – before Covid – we often had them to stay.  The only downside being that all our grandkids like to get up a few hours before we do!  They’ll send an emissary into our bedroom to ask, is it morning yet?  Not yet, I’ll reply half asleep, go back to bed. This happens at ten minutes intervals.

One night when they were sleeping I had the idea of putting toys into their room so instead of waking us up they would awaken to find something exciting to do instead. Nana Nana! A little voice yelled excitedly, waking me up at five in the morning.  Nana – guess what? There are toys in our room!

During lockdown I did baking with them via Zoom – they on one side of the screen while I simultaneously led the way on the other.  OH (other half), gave science lessons. They – and we – grew crystals. 

Now life is getting back to normal, we are able to see one another again, enjoy their company, their love and cuddles and – hold our newest grandson.

Nana, said one of the grandchildren not long ago.  You’re very old aren’t you? But grandpa is older than you so he will die first. And then you will die. He said this in a very matter of fact voice and we had to smile. But it’s a sobering thought.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #258: ROYAL PROTOCOL

Here’s a piece of flash fiction I wrote in response to the writing prompt of the word “wave”.

ROYAL PROTOCOL

One has had to learn so much in such a short time.

One was thrust into things, so to speak. One had never gone to school, never mixed with other children. One knew nothing about life other than what one had gleaned from the governess and the nanny. Mummy was always far too busy. One had a hard enough time learning how to curtsey to her. And then one had to have elocution lessons – one thought that one already spoke the King’s English but there you are.

“Lilibet”, mummy used to say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister? She is so elegant. Look how she stands and walks. Try to be more like her, poppet.” 

And even now, all these years later, Philip will still tease, “Stand up properly cabbage! You are the Queen you know.”

The hardest thing one ever had to learn was how to wave properly. One just couldn’t get the hang of it.

Daddy said, “Don’t worry poppet. It’s not as if you’ll ever be queen.”

But mummy, nanny and everyone in the Royal Household just kept on and on. You do it too vigorously, they all said.

“Gently does it your Royal Highness”, they would say, “or your arm will tire with all that waving.”

One wanted to be out riding or walking the corgis. Instead one had to waste morning after morning learning to wave.

One despised all the protocol. One doesn’t want or need to have one’s hair styled every day. And wearing make-up was an anathema to me. Who needs lippy when mucking out the horses? Philip agreed. He was so understanding. “I love you as you are cabbage”, he used to say – and still does.

In the end one had to have this ghastly manicure because one was going to be seen at some awful function somewhere. The beastly varnish wasn’t bloody drying so I waved my hands about a bit.

My valet jumped in the air excitedly. “By George she’s got it,” he shouted. “Her Royal Highness is waving!”

And after that one never looked back.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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PLATINUM JUBILEE POEM

In my writers’ group (watfordwriters.org) we were asked to come up with a poem or story that encapsulated the past 100 years.

My idea was to write a poem about some of the inventions that had taken place between 1918 and 2018.

This weekend many of us will be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – 70 years of her reign. On Saturday 4th June, my fellow Watford poets and I will be taking part in the Jubilee events which are being held at the historic bandstand in Watford’s Cassiobury Park.

We shall be reading poems and stories appropriate to the occasion and I shall be reading this.  Let me know what you think!

Ode to Invention

Who would have dreamt at the end of the war

what wonderful things we’d have in store?

In 1918, although unintended,

the radio circuit was invented.

In 1919 what do you know –

we then had short wave radio.

And at breakfast, what did we love most?

A cup of tea with pop up toast.

If your Tommy gun, invented in 1920,

went off for fun – we had Band Aid in plenty.

In 1923 cars on the road were a very rare sight,

but they still invented the traffic light.

Cinema goers were in seventh heaven

When the talkies arrived in 27.

Antibiotics in 28 –

sadly, for many, came too late.

But thanks to Fleming and penicillin

most of us can carry on living.

From 39 to 45

we were lucky to survive.

Who was to know when the war began

the evil that man would do to man?

1947 made parents happy

with the invention of the disposable nappy.

Health care was in a very bad state

till the NHS started in 48.

Hardly an invention, but nevertheless,

where would we be with no NHS?

1950s rock music would not have gone far

without the first electric guitar.

And with your transistor in 52

you could take your music along with you.

In 53, Watson and Crick they say,

discovered the secret to DNA

and there was colour TV in the USA.

If  your heart was dicky in 59

the Pacemaker was invented just in time.

Sex had never been much fun

till the pill came along in 61.

And things were moving on apace

with Yuri Gagarin – first man in space.

In 67 you could have fun

eating your microwave dinner for one.

And then what joy in 69 –

man walked on the moon for the very first time.

That was also the year of Concorde’s first flight,

and at that time its future looked bright.

In 73 we heard a new tone –

the ringing of the mobile phone.

No more having to sit in the hall,

waiting to get that longed for call.

Now you could get that call in a show

or anywhere you happened to go.

1n 78 the Browns got their wish –

a daughter conceived in a petri dish.

The CD player in 82

replaced vinyl records for all but a few.

In 1990 we won’t forget

the invention of the internet.

Thanks to Timothy Berners-Lee,

the World Wide Web changed history.

In 91 we could go far,

thanks to satnav in the car.

In 98 the world had a thrill,

with the invention of the little blue pill.

In 2010 Steve Jobs made us glad,

with his invention of the Apple iPad.

Facebook too deserves a mention,

voted the most favourite invention.

100 years of history –

without these inventions where would we be?

And now it’s 2022

With celebrations for me and you.

Time for the Platinum Jubilee

70 years for her Majesty.

Everyone here please give a cheer

for our wonderful Queen in her Jubilee year!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE.

If, like me, you have more years behind you than you have ahead, you may find yourself looking back from time to time and remembering things past. As they say, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be!

In our writing group we were asked to write about a location and I found myself thinking about the street where I grew up.

Here’s what I wrote.

The home of my childhood was in a little close on the borders of Cricklewood and Goldersgreen in North London. Our house was a small rented semi with, what seemed to me at the time, a vast back garden.

Our next door neighbour’s garden backed on to the Handley Page Airplane Factory and every day we would hear the strident sound of the factory hooter summoning the workers. Until the late 1920s the factory site was extensive. I have found out through researching this piece that our road and the adjacent roads were actually built on the site of the original factory. The nearby streets, which were my route to school, were once the site of a huge aerodrome.

Like all children growing up in the 50s we played in the street, often not returning home till dusk. In the middle of the close was what we children called, “the bushes”.  A tangle of undergrowth and unkempt shrubs where we would play hide and seek, fairies and witches, cowboys and Indians. We would also dig for ‘treasure’ coming home with shards of pottery – that’s probably where I first became interested in collecting blue and white china!

At the start of the close was a red phone box where, when we had nothing better to do, we would make random phone calls to strangers telling them to expect us for tea – and then put down the phone. Near the entrance to the close was where the teddy boys gathered on their two wheelers, spinning the bike chains in their hands. To my 9 year old gaze they appeared very scary and threatening. That’s where I first heard the F word. When I asked its meaning I was simply told it was ‘the king of all the swear words’ and they diplomatically left it at that.

We knew all our neighbours.  Mr and Mrs Evans in the house attached to ours had a budgie and cat that sent each other Christmas cards. Every bedtime I would hear Mr Evans calling their cat, “Joey” and I did not settle down to sleep until I knew that it was safely indoors for the night. 

On the other side of our house, separated by a shared driveway, lived the Taylors. Most of the tradesmen – the milkman, coal man and rag and bone man – still used horse drawn vehicles.  After their visits, Mrs Taylor would shovel up the horse manure for her flower beds.  I liked to peer over the fence and admire their garden. In the middle of their lawn sat a bird bath, something I always coveted – and a bird bath was one of the first things I purchased for our garden once we had our own home.

Every November 5th the street would have its own firework party. For days beforehand the men would pile up the wood in preparation for the huge fire they lit on bonfire night. At the top sat a lifelike guy which had been put together by the older kids.  My parents would not allow me to be at the bonfire so I ended up watching the fireworks from our front room window.

In the summer the girls would meet on one another’s front porches. Our favourite game was ‘schools’ where we would take it in turns to play the role of teacher and pupils. At the side of our house was a derelict garden shed and this is where anyone pretending to be naughty would be sent to stand in the corner. One such day when everyone had gone home for the night and I was about to go indoors, a little voice called, “can I come out now?”  I had completely forgotten one of the girls and she had been quietly waiting all this time!  I felt terrible.  Even more so when she died some months later. I always felt that somehow I had something to do with her death and the guilt stayed with me for a long time.

About 25 years ago I was passing through my old neighbourhood and couldn’t resist driving into the close.

The bushes in the middle were still there but not as a remembered them. They were neatly manicured and spaced well apart. Nowhere for hide and seek, I thought sadly.

I bravely knocked at the front door of our old house and the owners kindly let me in round the side to look at the back garden. To my disappointment it was nothing like as big as I remembered.

Sometimes it’s best to stick to your memories.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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Remembering lockdown 2020.

I’ve been looking back on some of the posts I wrote during lockdown.

This one was intended to be a parody on the famous speech by William Shakespeare, “Once more unto the breach dear friends once more” , from Henry V, act 3, scene 1.

OH (other half) and I were taking the one hour of exercise we were all permitted at the time and walking round our neighbourhood. I said jokingly, “Once more around the block …” and that’s how this poem came to be written.

I try not to bring politics into this blog. But now, knowing what we all know about party gate (number 10 Downing Street partying while the rest of us were doing our utmost to follow the rules) one can’t help feeling that we were all taken for fools (no rhyme intended)!

Once More!

Once more around the block dear friends once more

Or close the hospitals with our Covid dead

This virus does not care about us man

It thrives on selfishness and stupidity

And when the joggers breath blows in our faces

Then cover up your nose and mouth

Hold hard the breath until they have passed by

And you good politicians

Who serve for us in England

Show us here the mettle of your thinking

Why we should ever vote for you again

Let us know that you are worthy of the job

For there is none of you so mean and base,

That would let the British people down

Follow your instincts

Be proactive, don’t react

With science at the forefront

Swear we will beat this virus!

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #254 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Tiny Israel (seen marked in red on the map below), the only democracy in the Middle East, is 74 today.

I wrote this poem, The Wailing Wall, on my very first visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. 

The Wailing Wall

A wall like any other wall

you might say.

Way above us in the cracks

the doves of peace are sleeping.

Look down and you will see

the scraps of paper,

messages left for God.

For this is no ordinary wall

and these are no ordinary people.

When you put your face

close to the wall,

it is warm

and smells of all those

who have stood here before

and done as you are doing.

For this is no ordinary wall

and these are no ordinary people.

By my side

a woman sobs and prays,

caressing the wall with her hands

like someone blind.

I stand a little lost.

How do you pray

if you’ve never prayed before?

The air is sweet

and scented and warm

and filled with the sound

of singing and sobbing.

Suddenly

I find myself crying.

For this is no ordinary wall

and these are no ordinary people.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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LIES, DAMNED LIES AND STATISTICS.

Today I looked back at this post which I blogged at the start of lockdown. It is interesting to be reminded of what lockdown was like then.

It’s also great to see that more people are viewing my blog. Over 14,000 since I began. There were 55 views of “51 Years” which is heartening. Most viewers hail from the UK or the USA but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that my blog has also had visitors from India, Romania, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Philippines, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Turkey, Kenya, Spain – even France! If you are one of those – thank you!

HERE IS THE BLOG I WROTE BACK IN JUNE 2020.

When your own OH (other half) is curious enough to ask what are you going to be blogging about today, you know that you must be doing something right.

A few blog statistics for you.

23 people viewed my last blog.  The breakdown was 13 people from the UK, 4 from Uganda, 2 from the Netherlands, 2 from the USA, 1 from Austria and 1 from Romania.

Yesterday I also gained two new followers which makes the number of you who have actually signed up to this blog around 200. So thank you! And an especial thank you to those of you who take the trouble to email or comment on the blog page. It’s very motivating to know that people are actually enjoying reading what I write!

I have actually been blogging my poetry since 2011. Those were generally irregular blogs – a handful a year. Since I have been blogging every day my viewing figures have shot up. From 2013 to the start of lockdown, 8306 people had visited my blog. Since lockdown that number has increased by well over a thousand! I’ve also been astonished by the number of people on LinkedIn who are reading my blogs. If you are one of them – thank you!

Then there are the Facebookers who “like” my blog post but don’t actually read it.  What’s the point of that?  I’d much rather they’d go to the blog and like it there where a “like” actually means something. But that’s Facebook for you. Full of people liking fluffy kittens, cute babies, twee sayings and photos of other people’s holidays – in the days when there were such things as holidays.

We are now told that we are coming out of hibernation.  Like my blogger friend Mel, I think BJ is doing far too much far too soon much in the same way as he did far too little far too late. Time will tell. I’m not in any hurry to get out there just yet.

I have to admit that there have been aspects of the lockdown I have enjoyed. Relished even.  Not having to think about what to wear is one  – or at least only having to think about the top half for my Zoom appearances. Not wearing make-up – not that I ever wore much before. Not caring about the streaks of grey showing in my now long hair.  Like Boris’s ideas for coming out of lockdown, it has all been quite liberating.

Another thing I loved about the lockdown was the empty roads and lack of traffic. For a few weeks families reclaimed the streets and it was a joy to see children being able to cycle again in the road just as they had done in my childhood. Seeing photos of London empty of traffic was eerie and at the same time thrilling.

At the start, like everyone else, I was savouring the birdsong when I could hear it above the sound of building work. Where we live, the lockdown seems to have liberated all those people who had been wanting to have work done on their homes. For the past few months we have had to put up with the noise of drilling, banging and hammering. In this beautiful weather it would be lovely to be able to have the windows open but all this building work has sometimes made for an unpleasant experience. A neighbour down the road has building work noise so loud that it has set her dogs off barking so we have that to contend with as well.

And now we’ve all been given permission to sit in our gardens with friends it seems such a shame that this pleasure will be blighted by the sound of work going on. Whenever we go for our walks we count the number of skips. Interestingly, there are two houses now for sale in our road and two more just round the corner.  More noisy building work to come no doubt!

On a good day, lockdown has sometimes felt like the Sundays of my childhood. The only activity would have been the sight of men mowing their lawns or hosing down their cars. The highlight of the week then would have been the Sunday drive out into the country.  Very little traffic except for what my dad would contemptuously call the ‘Sunday drivers.’  One could whizz through towns and villages because all the shops would be closed – just like it has been for the past few months.

But now the traffic is back to normal. Not a new normal. But, sadly, the old normal.  Traffic jams. Fumes. Pollution. And with drivers who are – if anything – a little bit more inconsiderate than they were before. Another thing we have to thank the lockdown for.

The hammering has stopped and I’m off to sit in the garden while I can. See you again soon.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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THIS CANDLE

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day. I did not want to let it pass without some kind of acknowledgement from me. So in the early hours of yesterday morning I wrote a new poem. Here it is.

THIS CANDLE

This candle I light because we are without power. I nurse our new born son in the dark. 

This candle I light because it is a birthday. Make a secret wish. Don’t tell a soul or else it won’t come true. 

This candle I light just for fun. And because I like its fragrance.

This candle I light for romance. Candlelight is flattering in the dark. 

This candle I light in a student bedsit and listen to the gravelly voice of Bob Dylan for the very first time.

This candle I light in a village church asking for prayers for someone gravely ill. I’ve never done this before. 

This candle I light is a centre piece at our first born’s wedding feast.

This candle I light at the opera in Verona. A giant amphitheatre lit by a thousand candles glowing in the dark. 

This candle I light to light all the other candles on the eight branched Chanukah menorah that belonged to my mother.

This candle I light to welcome in the Sabbath. We break bread, drink wine and count our blessings.

This candle I light in memory of a loved one on the anniversary of their passing.

This candle I light for the dead souls of Ukraine. May their memory be a blessing.

This candle I light is a symbol of love and peace and hope and grief and remembrance.

This candle I light as a Memorial for the 6 million men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust just for being Jewish. This candle I light tonight. 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

© Photo – StandWithUs

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51 YEARS

Sadly, not my age but the number of years OH (other half) and I have been married. Today is our wedding anniversary.

We met on the day of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race in 1969. Ever romantic, we became engaged on Valentine’s Day, 1970 and wed on the 25th April, 1971. A lifetime ago.

Some months before my wedding my mother showed me the headband she had worn when she had married my dad, way back on 15th June, 1936. She had kept it all those years hoping that, in the future, her daughter would wear it on her wedding day.

The headband looked stunning in my mother’s wedding photo. As did she. But now, sadly, it had rusted and could no longer be worn. Instead, my mother contacted her niece, Irene, in Chicago and recounted the story. Irene was going to be coming to my wedding and brought with her the headband her daughter (also called Andrea) had worn for her wedding day. My cousin Andrea (hello Andi!) and I have been in touch through airmail and email since we were thirteen. She is like the sister I never had – albeit nearly 4000 miles away.

Our wedding, true to Jewish tradition, was held under a Chuppah (a wedding canopy) in a London Synagogue. Afterwards, my dad, so happy and excited, rushed to be the first to kiss the bride. And, in so doing, dislodged my headband so it became wonky!

Last week my writers’ group (watfordwriters.org) held a poetry competition. The idea was to write a poem on the theme of The Ornament. After some thought, I came up with the idea of writing about that day when my mother had showed me the headband she had worn at her wedding.

Here is the poem. Do let me know what you think of it in the comment box below.

The bridal headband    

My mum unwrapped
the yellowed tissue paper
Here it is, she said
I kept it for you 
There it was
A band of pearls
and silken flowers
with a hint of gold
She picked it up
Oh so gently
in her careworn hands
and held it out to me
Pearls dropped on to the carpet
one by one
and rolled away.
I kept it for you, she said
For your wedding day
I was crying softly
Mum, it’s broken
I know, she said sadly
But keep it as a token. 

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

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WHO REMEMBERS BRIAN JONES?

The 1960s was a fabulous time to be growing up. Student revolution, flower power, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Spurs winning the ‘Double’.

And with the death of  President Kennedy, his brother Robert, Martin Luther King, Marilyn Monroe and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, a time ripe for poetry.

This poem, written shortly after the death of Brian Jones, was published in the poetry magazine, Enigma. I also sent it to the radio  DJ John Peel. I still have the postcard he sent me with his reply.

To Brian Jones

I dreamed your death

before it was conceived

Acid on your mind

Held your hand

limp and flaccid

skin upon skin

whites of eyes staring.

Acid on your mind

stopped your ears with chlorine

feet twitching

in a mad dance of death.

The watcher turns his back

A generation weeps

And I who never wept or cried

I will not dream again.

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

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POST #249: FREEDOM

This evening – Friday 15th April – will be the beginning of Passover, when Jewish families all over the world will be sitting down to the Passover Seder.  Every year, the Passover story is told.   How we, the Jewish people, were once slaves in Egypt and are now free.

Jesus, who of course was Jewish – as were his disciples – was celebrating the Passover meal (Seder) at The Last Supper.

PASSOVER DITTY

When you’re celebrating Easter,

it’s Passover for me,

no bread or cake or biscuits,

just matzos for our tea!

We have to eat unleavened bread

that’s matzo don’t you know,

they’re rather tasty crackers

but for eight days it’s a blow.

We cannot bake with flour

so use substitutes instead,

coconut and ground almonds

because there isn’t any bread.

It’s the festival of freedom

when we fled Egypt long ago

but just as relevant today

with what’s going on you know!

If you would like to know about Passover, here’s an excellent link from the British Library: https://www.bl.uk/learning/cult/inside/goldhaggadahstories/goldenhagg.html

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

© Photo by Andrea Neidle

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HOW WE BECAME CAT OWNERS.

It is said that you don’t choose a cat but that it chooses you. This was definitely true in our case.

The story of Jason

When we were first married, a lifetime ago, we lived in East London. Our next door neighbours had a handsome ginger cat called Jason. We mistakenly thought this was after Jason of the Golden Fleece but he was more prosaically named after the Blue Peter cat Jason!

Jason would visit us on a regular basis and our flat became his second home.  We made the cardinal mistake of feeding him which meant of course that he visited us frequently.  We could never understand why our neighbours had bothered to get a cat because they clearly weren’t cat lovers, often leaving him out in the rain where his piteous mewing would mean that we would rescue him and bring him indoors. Sometimes they forgot to feed him altogether (or at least that’s what Jason led us to believe but he might have been enjoying double rations) so we were often doing that too. It was easy to imagine that he was our cat and not theirs. 

Our kitchen had a small breakfast bar overlooking the communal garden. One lunchtime we were sitting at the counter enjoying our tomato soup. It was a bright sunny day and we had left the window wide open. All of a sudden Jason jumped in through the window landing paws first in my bowl of soup. With a yelp of pain he leapt right out again.  He sat outside on the patio frantically licking and licking at his once white paws which were now stained bright orange.  It was weeks before the orange colour disappeared and many months before we ever thought of having tomato soup again!

When our first child was born we began looking to move and found a new home in Hertfordshire.  I could not bear the idea of leaving Jason behind and would lie in bed at night thinking of different ways of taking him with us.  It even crossed my mind to kidnap him. After all, I reckoned, they didn’t appear to care anything about him and he deserved a good home. 

The day came for us to move and I summoned up the courage to speak to our next door neighbour.  I knocked timidly at her front door. “I’ve come to say goodbye Kathy,” I said. “We are really going to miss your cat. I wish we could have him,” I blurted out.  To my amazement she replied: “You can. We don’t want him. We’ve always wanted a dog and now we’ll be able to have one.” So there it was. Just like that. We were cat owners.

The following day, OH (other half) returned to our old address to collect Jason and bring him home where he became a much loved member of our family for many happy years.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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THE POWER OF POETRY

With everything else going on in the world, I somehow managed to miss International Poetry Day on 21st March.

I feel I should be saying or writing something profound.

I don’t have a new poem to offer you. But some interesting news.

It seems that people who have dementia respond to poetry – sometimes with just a smile or a flicker of recognition. Sometimes even joining in with the words.

This does not surprise me. Those of us who learned poems as kids can often still recite them – even when we can’t remember the title of the book we last read – or even what we had for dinner the night before!

I  remember how at our daughter’s wedding ceremony we were all moved to tears when my son-in-law’s grandfather, who had dementia, seemed to respond to the familiar words and melodies. I had also seen it when prayers were said in the synagogue at his nursing home. Elderly people – many of them with dementia – joining in with the songs and the familiar prayers. Sometimes mouthing the words or even saying them out loud.  It was amazing to see.

So yes, there is power in poetry, prayer and music. To these things that we all hold inside us.

When it’s my turn, I want Robert Louis Stevenson,  Wilfred Owen, Leonard Cohen and also to hear the cherished voices of my own children and grandchildren.

So, to celebrate National Poetry Day, let’s all learn a poem by heart today – and tell it to our children tomorrow.

Here’s an easy one to remember from Robert Louis Stevenson:

The world is so full of a number of things

I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Or how about this one – from me.

Poems are very hard to write

I think about them in the night

I wish that I had time to play

Then I’d write poems in the day!

Happy National Poetry Day everyone!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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HAS OUR WORLD CHANGED?

“It’s a Wonderful World”, sang Louis Armstrong. I’m not so sure that’s true any more.

Yesterday I came across this poem. I wrote it just over two years ago, at the start of the pandemic.

Reading it again, I felt that this poem could equally well have been written about Ukraine.

What do you think?

Empty

The birds are still singing

No one has told them

No one has told them

Our world has changed.

The sky is still blue

The sun is still shining

But where are the people

Our world’s rearranged.

The flowers are budding

The willows are weeping

Weeping for us

And a world that has gone.

 Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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NEWS FROM MY LIFE IN POEMS

Are you enjoying reading my poetry? If so, you might like to buy a signed copy of my poetry book, Wonderland. It contains many of the poems I have blogged and also some you haven’t seen before. If you live in the UK, the cost is £5.00 plus £1.50 postage. If you are one of my followers from overseas, please contact me in the comment box below. Let me know where in the world you live and I will let you know the cost of postage and packing. With every purchase you make I will be giving a 25% donation to the refugees from Ukraine. Thank you!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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A POEM FOR MOTHER’S DAY

I first wrote this poem eleven years ago when I heard I was going to be a grandparent for the first time.  News that I would have loved to have been able to share with my mother. Since then there have been many moments when I have thought, mum/dad would have loved this. We don’t need a special day to remember our loved ones. Barely a day goes by when I don’t think of my parents or, for that matter, my in-laws.

Mother’s Day

On the train

No one is reading.

Everyone is on the phone

Sending important messages

Telling friends and family

They are on the train.

In the houses we pass

People are getting up

And starting their day

Planning surprise lunches

Flowers and family celebrations.

It is Mother’s Day

And I think of you

Just as I do on every other day.

I’m on my way

To meet your grandson

My firstborn

Now a married man

I wish you knew.

Outside the sun is shining

It’s the kind of day

That makes everyone smile.

I’m going to be a grandmother

I wish you knew.

I’m on the train

Travelling between

The life I have now

And my life to come.

Everyone else is still on the phone

And I’ve written this.

Happy mother’s day mum.

 © Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

My mother and me
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POST 243# – SAFE

I wrote this poem just a few days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

It is what is known as a specular or mirror poem. You will see what I mean when you reach the last line.

SAFE

I am safe

I am in the bath

Outside it is not safe

Fierce winds are tearing down the trees

People must not drive

They say

Stay indoors

There is a red weather warning

A storm is raging outside

A pandemic is surging throughout the world

Putin might invade Ukraine

At any moment

I am in the bath

I am safe

Now read the poem again from the bottom line to the top.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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MY KILLER BLOG

SPOILER ALERT – this was my submission to a local *competition where we had to write a crime story. It is a work of my imagination and is of course complete fiction. Let me know if you enjoy reading it.

MY KILLER BLOG   

1 October, 2021

If you are of a nervous disposition or take offence easily, please stop reading now. 

Everyone else – welcome to my blog!

For a long time now I have been thinking of getting rid of my old mother and this blog is all about my journey. I will be sharing my innermost thoughts and schemes with you.

Feel welcome to follow me. I am new to blogging so would be very pleased to receive your feedback and comments. Thank you!

ABOUT ME

I am a happily married (I will tell you more about that another time) middle aged man with children and grandchildren whom I love dearly. I live mainly in London and also enjoy a second home in the English countryside.  I enjoy walking and also spending time in my garden where I grow fruit and vegetables. I do not intend to post any photos of myself but suffice to say that I keep fit and I still have all my hair.

4th October, 2021

I think of myself as a kind and caring person. But that does not seem to count for anything any more.  All my life I have been overlooked. My own mother ignores me most of the time and my opinions are never taken seriously by anyone.

5th October, 2021

 I wish the old ratbag was dead so I could get on with my life. I am not getting any younger and she is standing in my way.

8th October, 2021    

I lie awake at night wondering what to do for the best. Dear mama is taking such a long time to die.  Would it hurt if I gave her a little bit of help?  I desperately need to think of some kind of ingenious way to hasten her end. I would be really grateful to receive any useful suggestions you might have in the comments below.

11th October, 2021

I have conducted a great deal of research online – where would we all be without Google?  It occurs to me that the safest way to do the deed will also, regrettably, have to be the slowest. I would prefer it to be sooner rather than later but, I am sure you appreciate that it is vital I find the most suitable method. Whatever I choose has to be the right kind of poison – odourless, tasteless and easy to obtain. Most importantly, of course, it needs to be undetectable.

14th October, 2021

I have conducted a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the various poisons that are easily available and here’s my list so far:

  1. Poisonous plants such as the Foxglove and Deadly Nightshade

Strengths – they are very easily obtainable

Weakness – far too quick and may have an acrid taste so they could easily be detected in food or drink

Opportunities – useful for quick results

Threats – they could pose a danger to me

  • Rat poison

Strengths – works well on rats

Weakness – works less well on humans. A very painful death

Opportunities – easily obtainable

Threats – easily recognised at a post mortem

  • Arsenic

Strengths – depending on the amount, it can be given over a long period so symptoms may take longer to develop

Weakness – can kill a person rapidly and painfully

Opportunities – can be consumed in small amounts over a long period

Threats – it can be easily detected in the system

  • Strychnine

Strengths – it is highly toxic and odourless.

Weakness – rather bitter in taste so easily detected

Opportunities – only a small amount is needed to produce a severe effect

Threats – a horrible and unusual way to die

And so on …

21st October, 2021

I won’t bore my followers by listing all the many poisons I have found.  Suffice to say that none of them are ideal as they all have their shortcomings. My conclusion is a really simple and straightforward one.  I don’t intend to use a “poison” as such.  Instead, I will make use of some of the pills my mother already takes on a daily basis. They have all been prescribed by her GP so it will be very easy for me to obtain them without anyone noticing anything out of the ordinary. In fact, I have already started doing this to good effect as you will see when you read my next blog.

29th October, 2021

Mama always enjoys a soothing hot cup of cocoa at bedtime so my plan is to slip one of her many pills (though not her sleeping pills as they would work far too quickly!) into her drink. This works very well as the chocolate disguises the taste. What’s more, she loves this nightly ritual and always drinks it down to the last drop.

You are probably horrified reading this. You might think she doesn’t deserve to die but you don’t know her as I do. When other people are around she is all sweetness and light.  But the minute their backs are turned she becomes this other hateful person. I think if you were in my position, you would do the same as me.

Life was much better for me when my father was alive because he would always speak up for me when I was being belittled. Sadly, dad died a few months back. It wouldn’t surprise me if the old goat had hastened his end.

I am so fed up with how she always undermines me in front of my children.  She is unable to spend even one minute in my company without telling me what to wear, how to stand, how to walk – even how to speak. What’s more, she has never liked my wife and makes sure that everyone knows it. 

5th November, 2021

Hello and welcome to those of you who have just joined my blog! Here’s just a quick recap to help you follow what is going on.

I am writing about how I began poisoning my mother earlier this year.  Little by little.  Not all the time but now and then. I wanted it to be gradual, natural. The pandemic has made it a lot easier for me because we have all been at home so much more – even my dear mama who, in normal circumstances, is hardly ever home. On the other hand, as many of you no doubt are discovering, being at home all the time with your nearest and dearest is not as much fun as you thought it might be!

10th November, 2021

For the past few months, as those of you who have been following my blog will know, I have been dissolving pills in my mother’s hot cocoa at bedtime.  However, recently, I have moved onto doing such things as hiding her teeth so she can’t go out. There is no way mama would want to see people without her teeth in!  She finds it a lot harder to eat without her dentures so has been asking for food that’s easier to swallow.  It’s been easy for me to grind up some of her pills into mushy food such as stewed apple and custard. I have been getting such pleasure in seeing her eat and knowing that every mouthful is slowly killing her.

19th November, 2021

When the poison first started working she began suffering from horrible headaches. Fortunately for me, the family just thought it was her old migraine problem and they took no notice.  Then, after a few months she began to visibly weaken. I could see that she developed a small tremor in her right hand. And, sometimes, to my great delight, her eyes twitched a little. In the end, her doctor sent her to hospital for check-ups but they haven’t been able to find anything wrong with her. Some of the family suspect that their dear old mother is turning into a hypochondriac but I know better. It’s really heartening to see how well the poison is working!

25th November, 2021

As the poison has taken its toll it has started to affect her mobility.  She totters about the place and sometimes even needs to hang on to my arm.  I really enjoy that. The one time my mother has ever shown that she needs me. Unfortunately, her dependence on me has not lasted and she has now been given a stick to aid her walking. I sometimes almost find myself feeling sorry for the old bat. 

3rd December, 2021

Hi everyone.  I don’t think it will be too long now.

8th December, 2021

The main effect of the gradual poisoning is that the old goat has lost confidence and has stopped wanting to go out. Unfortunately, this does mean that she’s around more than she was in the past which is a pain, but I can put up with it because I know it won’t last for ever.  I have successfully been stepping up the dose without her noticing. And no one else has noticed either! I am feeling very clever and proud of myself. I can’t help wondering why I didn’t do this years ago!

16th December, 2021

Mother has started to nap in the middle of the day – something she has never done before.

23rd December, 2021

The family think mama needs more help so I have employed some carers to help look after her.  We have to be very discreet because mother doesn’t want people to know that she isn’t her old self. 

There’s this agency – KARE4U. A stupid name – a bit like TOYSRUS – but they have come highly recommended. I have been able to hand pick all the carers from their photographs so you won’t be surprised to learn that I have chosen only the young, good looking ones. Female of course – I’m a red blooded male after all. I have selected their uniforms too, though my younger brother complains that they look like something out of a Playboy centrefold. Well, he should know! After all, he’s the only one in the family who would know anything about that kind of thing – if you know what I mean.  😉

26th December, 2021

Another rubbish Christmas because of this pandemic. We all have had to stay home. Dear mama has spent most of the time in bed. What a shame.

31st December, 2021

Things have turned a corner. Mother keeps being sick. She might have to go into hospital again. Hopefully she won’t be coming out this time.

1 January, 2022

Happy New Year to all my followers! Have you heard today’s exciting – though not entirely unexpected – news?  If not, make sure you listen to the announcement on Radio 4 at 7pm this evening. The BBC will be announcing the successor to the throne. Yes, that’s right. Remember you heard it here first. Mum’s the word! 

PS Of course Camilla can’t help wondering if I’m going to be getting rid of her next. But how could I? She is such a wonderful support to me. And, after all – as I am sure some of you must have guessed – the accident with Diana was pretty much all her idea in the first place!

2nd January, 2022

DAMN! BLAST! AND DAMN AGAIN! SH*T! BU***R!!!!!!!!!!!!!  After everything I’ve done for this country, the old goat has only gone and ignored me altogether and put William and Kate in my place!!!!!!!!! 

BLOG COMMENTS

I found your SWOT analysis really useful to help me choose what to study at university. Thank you!

I was enjoying your blog until I saw the swear words at the end. There is no place for this kind of language online. I will not be following you anymore.

Have you thought of going on the panel of Gardener’s Question Time? I think with your knowledge of flowers and vegetables – not to mention poisonous plants – that you would be a real asset to the programme.  

I am a really big fan of yours and think you have been very unfairly treated. I hope this won’t be the last we see of you or your blog.

BLOG WORD COUNT:  2003

(*And, by the way, pleased to tell you I won the first prize!)

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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HOME

This is a poem I wrote a number of years ago reflecting on a time when the world was different and when I felt safe.

I am home from school

I open the unlocked back door

and step in from the sunshine

The house smells of all things good

Mum I’m home

I call out up the stairs

It is 1958

and the ones I love have yet to die

Nothing shakes my world

My life is calm, solid, safe

I have yet to have my heart broken

or woken from nightmares

I have yet to see

people jumping hand in hand

from burning towers

No suicide bombers

haunt my dreams

I am surrounded by love

Goodnight, sleep tight

Sweet dreams

Mum, I’m home.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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REMEMBERING MY MOTHER.

My lovely mum, Freda Hetty Finn died 26 years ago today.

She and my father were happily married for almost 60 years.

My mum at 26
Mum in the 1940s.
My mum at 80.
Hoop Lane, London.

Remembrance Haiku

Scattered crocuses

Ashes scattered on the grass

Scattered memories

Freda Hetty Finn

13 December 1910 – 6 March 1996

May her memory be a blessing.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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BLOG POST #238 – CHANGES

This was written in a response to a challenge in my writers’ group to write a poem about ‘changes’.

9 MONTHS

At first 

the change

is imperceptible

A liking for something

you never liked before

Then the first flicker

Did you imagine it?

It feels like the flutter of

a butterfly wing

The clothes you wore     

no longer fit

and strangers 

pat 

your stomach

like they own it

Then

out of the blue 

one day

the first kick

takes your breath away

What a surprise

Your body is changing

before your eyes.  

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE VALENTINE’S DAY?

I have many memories but two in particular stand out.

One time we had chosen to dine at a French restaurant that had a really good recommendation in the Good Food Guide. OH (other half), phoned up a good few weeks beforehand and booked the table. 

Going out for a meal in those days could never be spontaneous in the way it is now because we had to book a willing grandparent well in advance to babysit for our three young children.

The restaurant was about twelve miles away. We arrived in good time and began driving up and down the road looking for the restaurant but couldn’t find it.

We parked and walked up and down searching. Where was it? By now we were becoming anxious because we were already late for our table and concerned that it would be given away to another couple.

Finally, we found what looked like to be the correct numbered building in the street but there was no French restaurant there. It was a Chinese take away!  We couldn’t understand what had happened. Then it dawned on us that, since our old copy of The Good Food Guide had been published, the French restaurant must have changed hands. What was even more galling (and with hindsight amusing) was that the takeaway had taken our reservation for a table! Whoever reserves a Chinese take-away? It’s not as if the restaurant even had any tables!

But at the time we did not see the funny side at all.  Frustrated, annoyed and hungry we tried to find somewhere else to eat but every restaurant we found was full. It was Valentine’s Day after all. We drove all the way back home and ended up eating at a local Indian restaurant that was walking distance from our house. We were thankful to find they had tables. And, to their credit, they hadn’t – as so many restaurants do – bumped up prices for Valentine’s Day!

Another memorable occasion was a few years ago when we were on holiday in Cannes and going out for a Valentine’s dinner. I had put on an elegant black linen dress for the occasion.  How do I look? Fine was OH’s answer.  It is his usual reply.  How was the dinner? Fine. How’s my hair? Fine. How do I look? Fine.  I think the only time he would not answer fine would be if I asked him, how’s my driving?

There we were walking hand in hand along the Croisette in Cannes where all the beautiful people go to see and be seen.  It was a mild evening and everyone was out strolling before dinner. I felt wonderful. All was right with the world. Then someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned. It was a young woman walking with her friend. “Excuse me, she said in a loud Australian accent, “but I thought you might like know that you have your dress on inside out”.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #235 -LIFE AFTER DEATH

I first posted this in the early days of this blog, back in 2011.

My poem is about the giant saguaro (pronounced sah-wah-ro), the largest cactus in the United States, which is found in the Saguaro National Park, Tuscon, Arizona. The saguaro can reach a height of 12 metres and an age of up to 200 years. Seen en masse it is like seeing a huge crowd of human beings.

SAGUARO

In Israel

they are known as Sabra

prickly on the outside

soft and yielding within.

Here in the Arizona desert

they are Saguaro.

The natives say

they are the spirits of our ancestors

risen from the dead.

They stand like sentinels

arms reaching outwards and upwards

sometimes clasping one another

as a parent does a child.

All the people

who have ever been

are here.

Not ashes to ashes

Not dust to dust

but enriching the earth

as we enrich

the lives of others.

This is our life after death.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST 234# HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY, 2022

Recently I was astonished to read in The Guardian, a British newspaper, that nearly two thirds of young adults in the United States were unaware that 6 million Jewish men, women and children were murdered in the Holocaust. Indeed, the Washington Post reported similar statistics in 2018 – that two thirds of millennials didn’t know what the Holocaust was!

I wrote the following post in July, 2021 and feel it is important to share it again – particularly as today – the 27th January 2022 – is Holocaust Memorial Day.

Earlier in the summer OH (other half) and I were on vacation in Windermere, in the Lake District.

We saw a sign which aroused our curiosity. It read, “From Auschwitz to Ambleside”. We discovered that an exhibition was being held at Windermere library which concerned the Windermere Boys, a group of Jewish children who were brought to Windermere in 1945. Unfortunately for us, the exhibition was not open for more tours until the following week.

Those of you who saw the TV documentary, The Windermere Boys and the follow up documentary where the survivors, now adults, were interviewed, will know that 300 Jewish children who had miraculously survived concentration camps, were brought to Windermere in 1945.

Having seen the documentary on TV, we were very keen to see this exhibition but we were leaving Windermere the next day. I sent an email to the museum asking if there was any possibility of our seeing it.  We did not require a tour, I wrote, but could wander around on our own. To my surprise I received a reply shortly afterwards saying that the museum could be opened up for us at 11am the following day.

The following morning, an unassuming man met us on the doorstep of the museum and let us in.  He spoke knowledgeably about the exhibition and then left us to wander round on our own.

There were photographs of “the boys” – although some of them were girls! News clippings from the time told how the children had been housed on what had been the site of aircraft workers’ homes – the Calgarth Estate. They were looked after by a Rabbi, a doctor, nurses, teachers and child welfare officers. The plan was to eventually find them permanent homes as none of their parents could be traced and were presumed dead.

It was only later on our way home, when reading a pamphlet we had bought at the exhibition, that we realised that the unassuming man who had kindly opened up the library for us was none other than Trevor Avery, the man who had been the impetus behind the exhibition and both TV documentaries.

It all began in 2005 when he was at an exhibition concerning the factory where the Short Sunderland “Flying Boat”, the largest aircraft of its time, had been built. There was a photo of the Calgarth Estate, where the workers had been housed, on display.  Trevor Avery happened to hear a chance remark, “Of course, you know, this is where the children from Auschwitz came ….”

Other than the locals, no one had known about this as it had been kept out of the press at the time. Avery made contact with the Jewish children who had been brought to the Lake District and talked to members of the local community who remembered them. He then set about documenting these stories and was instrumental in founding the Lake District Holocaust Project. The survivors still return to the Lake District for reunions and several of them have shared their experiences of the Holocaust with local schoolchildren.

In 2016 Avery was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for Services to Heritage in the Lake District. Without his painstaking research and inspirational work in reuniting the Windermere children, none of us would ever have known their remarkable story. We were privileged to meet him.

The next day, moved by what I had seen and learnt, I wrote this poem:

The Children of Windermere

Do you know the story of Windermere?

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

300 children in 45

All of them lucky to be alive

They’d witnessed terror, murder and hate

And were given refuge on the Calgarth Estate

A beautiful place, tranquil and calm

Was the setting for those

Who had suffered such harm.

Windermere, Windermere

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

Some of them were as young as three

How they survived just baffles me

What they only suffered, what they’d only seen

Can’t be imagined, it’s far too obscene.

The Windermere children were all united

Hoping one day to be reunited

With siblings, parents and all they loved dear

And meanwhile they lived in Windermere.

Windermere, Windermere

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

Here they were safe to run free and play

Escaping the hell they’d left far away.

They were nurtured, comforted, schooled and fed

And began to heal from the lives they’d led.

The nightmares they had, began to recede

They were children again

From that life they’d been freed.

Windermere, Windermere

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

By the side of the Lakes

They flourished and grew

Began to plan for a future too

They learned to live

And live without fear

The 300 children of Windermere.

Those children grew up

And moved away

Had children of their own one day

Yet they still tell their story today.

Yes, the children grew up

And made lives of their own

But they never forgot their Windermere home.

Windermere, Windermere

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

Written after a visit to the “From Auschwitz to Ambleside”

Exhibition at the Windermere Museum

24/7/2021

READ THIS ARTICE ABOUT WHEN PRINCE CHARLES MET SOME HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS AND ALSO WATCH THE VIDEO.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-10447691/The-incredible-Holocaust-survivors-escaped-Nazi-regime-Prince-Charles-met.html#newcomment

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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FLASH FICTION – ROYAL PROTOCOL

I find this short story, which I wrote in 2019, always goes down well with audiences when I read it in public. If you enjoy it, please let me know.

ROYAL PROTOCOL

One has had to learn so much in such a short time.

One was thrust into things, so to speak. One had never gone to school, never mixed with other children. One knew nothing about life other than what one had gleaned from the governess and the nanny. Mummy was always far too busy. One had a hard enough time learning how to curtsey to her. And then one had to have elocution lessons – one thought that one already spoke the King’s English but there you are.

“Lilibet”, mummy used to say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister? She is so elegant. Look how she stands and walks. Try to be more like her, poppet.”

And even now, all these years later, Philip will still tease, “Stand up properly cabbage! You are the Queen you know.”

The hardest thing one ever had to learn was how to wave properly. One just couldn’t get the hang of it.

Daddy said, “Don’t worry poppet. It’s not as if you’ll ever be queen.”

But mummy, nanny and everyone in the Royal Household just kept on and on. You do it too vigorously, they all said.

“Gently does it your Royal Highness”, they would say, “or your arm will tire with all that waving.”

One wanted to be out riding or walking the corgis. Instead one had to waste morning after morning learning to wave.

One despised all the protocol. One doesn’t want or need to have one’s hair styled every day. And wearing make-up was an anathema to me. Who needs lippy when mucking out the horses? Philip agreed. He was so understanding. “I love you as you are cabbage”, he used to say – and still does.

In the end one had to have this ghastly manicure because one was going to be seen at some awful function somewhere. The beastly varnish wasn’t bloody drying so I waved my hands about a bit.

My valet jumped in the air excitedly. “By George she’s got it,” he shouted. “Her Royal Highness is waving!”

And after that one never looked back.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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FLASH FICTION – DREAMS

My writing group was challenged to come up with ideas for a short story around the theme of “dreams”. We were restricted to 350 words.

Here’s what I wrote:

REALITY

George felt himself perspiring under the hot lights.

“What’s the crowd like tonight?” he asked Jenny, as she dusted his forehead with powder.

Jenny made a face. “I was making up tonight’s contestant earlier and she asked me to make her beautiful. I can’t perform miracles my dear, I told her.”

A roar came from the audience behind the curtain.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

The show’s theme music began. George stepped forward as the curtains parted.

“Good evening folks. Welcome to Tell Us Your Dream. Tonight we’re going to make someone’s dream come true. Who’s it gonna be?”

The arc lights swept over the studio audience, many of whom were standing and waving their arms in the air.

“Me! Me!”

The music pulsed louder and louder and then stopped as the cameras zoomed in on a bespectacled middle aged woman.

A disembodied voice yelled, “Audrey Fisher from Luton. Tell us your dream!”

Audrey’s face lit up as eager arms propelled her forwards and up on to the stage.

There was an uproar from the audience who were all on their feet.

“Tell us your dream!”

George smiled at Audrey.  She was a plain old thing, he thought. A trifle nervous, but that was to be expected.

The music pulsed again. And then fell silent.

George smiled. “Welcome Audrey to Tell Us Your Dream.”

“You know the format. You tell us your deepest hopes, desires and wishes and the Dream Team here will help make them come true. Now don’t be shy.”

“Well George,” responded Audrey, not at all shyly.  “I’ve had a secret passion for a long time now. Someone I really fancy.  I know that if he only had the chance to meet me, to spend the night with me that he would realise that I am the one for him.”

“OOOH!” shrieked the audience. “Audrey! Audrey! Audrey!”

George turned to the audience.  “You know we have no prior vetting of dreams. We never know what’s going to come up or who is going to come up on to the stage.” Then, turning to Audrey he said, “Now tell us more about this chap of yours.”

“Well George,” volunteered Audrey, “he’s not conventionally good looking but he‘s got something. That certain je ne sais quoi.”

“OOOOOH!” screamed the audience not understanding a word.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

“After the break,” George announced, “we’re going to let you in on the lucky chap’s name. Back in a mo!”

“Audience please don’t leave your seats!” someone shouted. “The show will be starting again in three minutes.”

Jenny came back on stage to dust George’s shiny, sweaty head. And whispered something in his ear.

George continued to smile at the audience but he turned pale.

“That’s crazy,” he murmured. “I’ve been set up. It’s just not possible. I can’t do it.”

Audrey looked up at him and smiled adoringly.

“Are you ready George to make my dreams come true?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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HOMELESS

Recently a local charity asked for poems on the theme of “Home”.

In this poem I’ve tried to express what it feels like to be homeless and invisible to passers by.

The sharp eyed among you will see that halfway down the poem is written in reverse.

This is called a mirror poem. Let me know if you like it.

HOMELESS

This is my home.

A piece of cardboard

An old duvet.

What do you see

When you see me?

You hurry past

Without a glance

I have feelings too

Give me a chance.

I am a person

Just like you

Say hello

Why don’t you?

I had a home

Kids and a wife

Until I was thrown

On the scrapheap of life.

Why don’t you

Say hello?

Just like you

I am a person.

Give me a chance

I have feelings too.

Without a glance

You hurry past.

When you see me

What do you see?

An old duvet

A piece of cardboard.

This is my home.

Thank you for following my blog and wishing you all the best for 2022.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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WILL CHRISTMAS BE CANCELLED AGAIN?

This is my post from October 2020. Who would have thought I would be saying it again this year?

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without presents.” So said Jo in Louisa M Alcott’s book,  ‘Little Women’.  “Christmas won’t be Christmas with Covid”, is what many people might be saying right now.

Politicians, press, commentators and public have been talking about Xmas since September. For all I know, Christmas decorations may have have been up in major stores since August but I haven’t been in a shop to find out. However, our shopping delivery packages are already featuring Xmas on their packaging and we’re still only in October!  

I understand the fuss about Christmas. Aside from the fact that you’re celebrating the birth of a nice Jewish boy who historically may have been born in the spring, it’s a time when everyone gets together with relations they don’t normally see. And let’s face it, don’t always like – which is probably why they only want to see them once a year!   Here’s an idea – you could see them on some other day. Or spread it out so you see a few on Christmas Eve, a handful on Boxing Day, some on New Year’s Eve and the rest on New Year’s Day.  Assuming you’re able to meet them indoors of course or outside under cover. Or better still, see them during the year so you don’t pin all your hopes and expectations on just one day.  

I’ve found people are often disappointed with Christmas. They want it to be like the Christmas we see in films and read about in books.  Instead, there’s stress over all the preparation, the cooking and hoping that the day will meet with everyone’s expectations.  Apparently (at least until the advent of Covid) more couples broke up immediately after Christmas than at any other time of the year.   It appears that we’re not really a Christian country any more. Eurostat’s Eurobarometer  survey in May 2019 (that’s a series of public opinion surveys conducted regularly on behalf of the European Commission)  found that only 50% of people living in the UK  considered themselves Christian –  ie 14% Protestants, 13% Catholics, 7% Orthodox and 16% other Christians. That leaves 50% who weren’t Christian at all. 

Speaking of polls, a recent one suggested 51 per cent of Britons would break ‘the rule of six’ on Christmas Day. Apprentice contestant Bushra Shaik (I hadn’t heard of her either) was criticised after admitting that she’s planning on breaking government rules on Christmas Day. It’s reported that she said in an TV interview on Good Morning Britain, ‘I’m going to be considering breaking the rule of six. I’m saying what half the population is thinking. This is a tough time, as far as I’m concerned. I know what is best for my family. I know how to apply the rules for my family.’ Hang on a minute. Surely, it’s everyone applying the rules for themselves that has caused the recent spikes and the government having to resort to tiers – or maybe we should be calling them tears.

All this fuss over one day!  We Jews had to celebrate the Passover Seder (that’s what Jesus was doing at the Last Supper) in April without our families this year.  We also had to celebrate the Jewish New Year and a number of other important festivals without our friends and families.  Not to mention every single Friday night. Some of you will have seen the TV sitcom Friday Night Dinner. So you will know there’s a tradition that, aside from festivals, there is a big family meal every Friday night throughout the year for the Sabbath. And that’s just the Jews. Of course there are also the major Muslim festivals of Eid and Ramadan. And the Hindus are having to miss out on Diwali. The 37%  who claim to be non-Christian in the Eurobarometer  survey (9% atheists, 28% nonbelievers and agnostics), 5% Muslims (3% Sunnis, 1% Shias, 1% other Muslims), 1% Sikhs, 1% Hindus, fewer than 1% Jews, fewer than 1% Buddhists, 4% other religions, 1% who didn’t know, and the 1% who refused to answer, all have all been deprived of their festivals and festivities since March.

Christmas Day aside, there are all the associated trappings of Christmas we are going to miss, such as office parties.  I like the quote from Phillis Diller, the American comedian who said,  “What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.” And how can you have a socially distanced Santa?  😦  

Alternatively, as Christmas won’t be Christmas with Covid, how about we postpone it this year and enjoy it some time in 2021 instead? Who knows we may even have a vaccine by then!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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PASSPORT TO FREEDOM

I have a little passport

I keep it in my bag

It tells the world that I am safe

That I have had my jab.

My granny’s in a care home

But me she cannot see

The carers there don’t want the jab

That doesn’t seem fair to me.

I want to go to the theatre

I’d like to see a play

Until everyone has had their jabs

I’d rather stay away.

I want to go on holiday

Fly off to the sun

Live the life I used to live

Well, doesn’t everyone?

So why not have a passport

that says I’m safe to roam

If safety isn’t guaranteed

I’d rather stay at home!

I have a little passport

I keep it in my bag

It tells the world that I am safe

That I have had my jab.

I hope you get yours soon!

Until then, stay safe and keep well.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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#224 – THE END OF SUMMER

We’ve all been there. The day you return from holiday. You’re pleased to be back – at least for a short while – and it’s great to see your own home again. There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed! Then you have to face all that washing. And, if you live in the UK, the return to British weather. It was these thoughts that led me to write this poem. I wrote it a month ago on our return from a vacation in France.

BACK

Today I awoke to a grey sky

And the sound of rain falling.

It glistens on the garden path

And hangs from leaves like jewels.

Last night I hung our washing on the line

And now it dangles limp and lifeless.

Tee shirts, towels and bathing suits

Drip drip dripping.

A sad reminder of our summer of sparkling seas

And endless blue skies.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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FROM AUSCHWITZ TO AMBLESIDE

Earlier in the summer OH (other half) and I were on vacation in Windermere, in the Lake District.

We saw a sign which aroused our curiosity. It read, “From Auschwitz to Ambleside”. We discovered that an exhibition was being held at Windermere library which concerned the Windermere Boys, a group of Jewish children who were brought to Windermere in 1945. Unfortunately for us, the exhibition was not open for more tours until the following week.

Having seen the documentary on TV, we were very keen to see this exhibition but we were leaving Windermere the next day. I sent an email to the museum asking if there was any possibility of our seeing it.  We did not require a tour, I wrote, but could wander around on our own. To my surprise I received a reply shortly afterwards saying that the museum could be opened up for us at 11am the following day.

Those of you who saw the TV documentary, The Windermere Boys and the follow up documentary where the survivors, now adults, were interviewed, will know that 300 Jewish children who had miraculously survived concentration camps, were brought to Windermere in 1945.

The following morning, an unassuming man met us on the doorstep of the museum and let us in.  He spoke knowledgeably about the exhibition and then left us to wander round on our own.

There were photographs of “the boys” – although some of them were girls! News clippings from the time told how the children had been housed on what had been the site of aircraft workers’ homes – the Calgarth Estate. They were looked after by a Rabbi, a doctor, nurses, teachers and child welfare officers. The plan was to eventually find them permanent homes as none of their parents could be traced and were presumed dead.

It was only later on our way home, when reading a pamphlet we had bought at the exhibition, that we realised that the unassuming man who had kindly opened up the library for us was none other than Trevor Avery, the man who had been the impetus behind the exhibition and both TV documentaries.

It all began in 2005 when he was at an exhibition concerning the factory where the Short Sunderland “Flying Boat”, the largest aircraft of its time, had been built. There was a photo of the Calgarth Estate, where the workers had been housed, on display.  Trevor Avery happened to hear a chance remark, “Of course, you know, this is where the children from Auschwitz came ….”

Other than the locals, no one had known about this as it had been kept out of the press at the time. Avery made contact with the Jewish children who had been brought to the Lake District and talked to members of the local community who remembered them. He then set about documenting these stories and was instrumental in founding the Lake District Holocaust Project. The survivors still return to the Lake District for reunions and several of them have shared their experiences of the Holocaust with local schoolchildren.

In 2016 Avery was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for Services to Heritage in the Lake District. Without his painstaking research and inspirational work in reuniting the Windermere children, none of us would ever have known their remarkable story. We were privileged to meet him.

The next day, moved by what I had seen and learnt, I wrote this poem:

The Children of Windermere

Do you know the story of Windermere?

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

300 children in 45

All of them lucky to be alive

They’d witnessed terror, murder and hate

And were given refuge on the Calgarth Estate

A beautiful place, tranquil and calm

Was the setting for those

Who had suffered such harm.

Windermere, Windermere

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

Some of them were as young as three

How they survived just baffles me

What they only suffered, what they’d only seen

Can’t be imagined, it’s far too obscene.

The Windermere children were all united

Hoping one day to be reunited

With siblings, parents and all they loved dear

And meanwhile they lived in Windermere.

Windermere, Windermere

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

Here they were safe to run free and play

Escaping the hell they’d left far away.

They were nurtured, comforted, schooled and fed

And began to heal from the lives they’d led.

The nightmares they had, began to recede

They were children again

From that life they’d been freed.

Windermere, Windermere

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

By the side of the Lakes

They flourished and grew

Began to plan for a future too

They learned to live

And live without fear

The 300 children of Windermere.

Those children grew up

And moved away

Had children of their own one day

Yet they still tell their story today.

Yes, the children grew up

And made lives of their own

But they never forgot their Windermere home.

Windermere, Windermere

If you would listen, come and hear

How love and kindness can conquer fear.

Written after a visit to the “From Auschwitz to Ambleside”

Exhibition at the Windermere Museum

24/7/2021

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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HEY LEONARD, THAT’S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE

Five years ago today, on 7 November 2016, Leonard Cohen died. 

I wrote this poem after seeing him perform at The Wembley Arena on his last concert tour in the UK. It is called Tower of Song after his song of the same name.

Tower of Song

He stands stiff and stooped,

legs buckling beneath him.

Back bent,

head bowed.

When he takes off his hat

we see an old man.

And then he takes the mic

and we hear that familiar voice.

Deeper, more rasping

but still with the power

to melt my heart.

And from the noise in the arena

thousands feel the same.

He stands quite still

almost in reverence

while his musicians perform

and his singers sing.

He speaks for a whole generation.

He lifts us

with his words,

his music,

his compassion.

When our time is up

no one wants to leave.

We stand and stamp

and clap and shout.

A huge roar

as he returns

to sing again

and again.

At the end

he speaks to every one of us

as if we are alone with him.

It is like receiving a priestly blessing.

His words move me to tears.

Hey Leonard

That’s no way to say goodbye.

Leonard Cohen

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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FLASH FICTION IN 500 WORDS – FREEDOM

A recent task in my writers’ group was to write a story on “The Key”. Was this going to be about the key to success, a hidden key, a music key, a key to hidden treasure? I racked my brains to try and come up with something original. Here’s what I wrote.

Freedom

Kila lifted her hand up to the door again.  Nothing.

She shook her head perplexed. Why wasn’t the door opening? This had never happened before.

When the Ministry of Security and Home Affairs had first mooted the idea of integrated keys there had been an outcry.

What next will they want to embed in our skin, people had asked.  But, as with the notion of vaccine passports, back in 2021, everyone had soon got used to the idea. And who nowadays used an old fashioned key?

Kila rubbed her hand and tried the door again.

What was she going to do?  Without her palm key she wouldn’t be able to activate anything. How was she going to make phone calls, write, bank, show her health record, her ID? This was the stuff of nightmares.

She looked around in case anyone she knew was passing.

“Kila!” It was Alik reaching out a friendly elbow in greeting.

“Alik! Am I pleased to see you!” She smiled happily at her neighbour and elbowed him back.

Alik wasn’t smiling.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

“My key’s no longer working,” he said.

“That’s odd,” she responded, “neither is mine. What do you think is going on?”

“So you haven’t heard the news?”

Kila shook her head. “What are you talking about?”

“There’s been some kind of security lapse. None of the palm keys are working. Not just yours and mine.  But everyone’s.”

Kila’s eyes widened in amazement.

“But that’s crazy. How are we going to do anything? The whole system will breakdown! It’s like they had back in the old days with the internet. What are we going to do?”

“We’re marching” announced Alik. “We’re marching on the Ministry. Listen!”

Kila listened and for the first time could hear the shouts of an angry mob.

She could just about make out the words, “freedom from the key” being repeated over and over again.

“But I don’t want freedom from the key.  I like my palm key. It gives me freedom to do everything I want to do.”

“But it gives them control over us,” answered Alik. “We want freedom from control.”

Now Kila could hear the mob chanting, “Freedom from control. Freedom from control!”

Alik elbowed her again. 

“Come with us Kila.  Join the protest.”

Kila stepped back.

“I can’t Alik. Keys give us freedom. You must see that.”

Alik scowled. “Keys belong to our colonial past.”

Kila shook her head and elbowed him away.

“NO!”

“Kila – wake up! Happy birthday my darling! 21 today!

 Her mother was leaning over her. She was laughing and dangling something in her face. A large silvery beribboned cardboard key.

“Happy 21st birthday! Today you get the key of the door! That’s what we used to say when I was young.   But it’s all change now. The Prime Minister was on TV just before announcing a new idea. They’re going to impregnate keys into your hand. Can you imagine! Whatever will they think of next?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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NEW WORDS TO AN OLD SONG

A recent exercise in my writers’ group was to write new words to an old song.

I chose the well known Beatles’ song, Yellow Submarine.

It’s quite a tricky task to accomplish because any words you write need to scan and work with the original tune.

Try singing along with mine and see if you think it works!

MIGRANT’S SONG (TO THE TUNE OF YELLOW SUBMARINE)

In the place where I was born

There lived all my family

And we tried to get away

Because we wanted to be free

So we sailed into the West

Till we found a sea of grey

And we rowed upon the waves

And we starved from day to day

We all sail in a tiny little boat

tiny little boat,  tiny little boat

We all sail in a tiny little boat

And we try to keep afloat, try to keep afloat

And our friends are all on board

Though sadly some of them have died

And the boat begins to sway  ….

We all sail in a tiny little boat

 tiny little boat,  tiny little boat

We all sail in a tiny little boat

And we try to keep afloat, try to keep afloat

And we live a life that’s tough

Because none of us have got enough

But there’s a land that’s far away

And we will get there some day

We all sail in a tiny little boat

tiny little boat, tiny little boat

We all sail in a tiny little boat

And we try to keep afloat, try to keep afloat

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #219 – HERE I AM AGAIN!

Hello

I’m back! Did you miss me?

I may have been away but there’s been quite a bit of activity in my absence.

Firstly I was contacted by the actor Illona Linthwaite who had seen my poem about the women of Greenham Common. She asked for my permission to read it at the event on 5 September which marked the 40th anniversary of Greenham.

In 1981 women had set up a peace camp at RAF Greenham in Berkshire in protest against the site being used to house nuclear missiles. The Greenham women, as they came to be called, lived there 24/7 under the most primitive conditions. Their non violent protest became news world wide.

In December 1983, 50,000 women joined hands and encircled the base.  Hundreds of women were arrested and one woman was killed. 

Nuclear missiles were finally removed from the site in 1991. However, a camp remained there until 2000 when the Greenham women won the right for a memorial on the site.

I was very pleased and proud for my poem to have been selected. It was read by Illona throughout the day with women joining in with the line, “Down on Greenham Common.” If you search my posts, you will find, “Dedicated to the Women of Greenham Common” on March 7 2011 – yes I have been blogging all this time!

The next lovely thing to have happened is that one of my poems, “A Martian’s View of Earth” (posted on 9 July, 2020)was selected for publication in, “When This Is All Over” an anthology of work written during the pandemic and published in aid of Rennie Grove Hospice Care. You can buy it here: https://amzn.to/3xi8iay

Round about the same time, my local writers’ group, WATFORD WRITERS, published an anthology of poems and prose written during lockdown, “2020 Vision”. My short story, “Touch” (posted on 15 March, 2020) and two of my poems, “The New Normal” and “The Lost Year” were all chosen for publication. If you’d like to support Watford Writers and also the
Watford Covid-19 Appeal, you can obtain a copy of “2020 Vision” from http://www.watfordwriters.org

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OH (other half) and I also recently visited Windermere in the beautiful Lake District. Some of you may have seen the TV documentaries on the Windermere children – kids who had survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps in the second world war were brought to Windermere where they were helped to recover from the trauma they had experienced. I was so moved by their story that I wrote a poem about it and I’m proud to say that it’s going to be published on the website of the The Lake District Holocaust Project.

I’ve also been busy writing some new poems and short stories which I will be sharing with you in the next few weeks.

It’s interesting how lockdown has released creativity in so many of us – whether it is in painting, gardening, cooking, baking, arts & crafts, DIY – or, as in my case – writing. I don’t think I have ever written so much as I have during these strange times!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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LIVING THE NEW NORMAL

I wrote this just over a year ago today. Little did we know then that our lives would, to some extent, still be on hold a year later!

Back in March 2020, when all of this started in the UK, none of us had any idea that it would last this long.

It smacked of a dystopian nightmare.  Life felt unreal. It was unreal.

Now I understand what they mean by “the new normal”. With the exception of some of those crazy people who would rather die than not wear a mask, we are sadly becoming used to all of this.  No longer does it feel strange to carry antiseptic, rubber gloves and masks everywhere one goes. Even keeping our distance from friends and avoiding people in the street has become second nature to us.

The last time OH (other half) and I entered a shop was in early March. Lockdown had not been officially announced but we knew it was coming. We were very impressed at the time because they were wiping down all the trolley handles with antiseptic – something many supermarkets did not do till many weeks later. And, some, for all I know, are still not doing now.

We went to Costco to stock up on loo rolls and other basics.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Costco, it is a huge warehouse piled high with goods, most of which you don’t need. But you’d be amazed what you see people buying there!

You have to be a member and this costs about £25 a year. This is to make you feel you are part of an elite club but it’s really just another way to get more money out of you. Judging from the other shoppers no one looks elite to me.

Many Costco goods are branded. Generally the cost is cheaper than for the same goods in a supermarket. However, you have to buy most things in bulk which doesn’t suit everyone. I think many of the people who shop there are in the catering business.  No one could possibly need that many boxes of fish fingers or chicken sate.  Costco also sells very large items. Hideous garden furniture (apologies to anyone who has ever bought any there), 60” screen TVs, children’s play houses and at Christmas – 10 foot high Father Christmases and snowmen. They also sell white goods. So you can easily go into Costco just to buy a few boxes of tissues and come out with a fridge.

OH and I have become almost self-sufficient during lockdown. We feel like characters in the Good Life, a popular BBC sitcom from the 70s which my older readers will remember well.

OH mows the lawn while I have been experimenting with seed sowing and even have the beginnings of some honeydew melons which I have grown from seed.  I can’t see them ever turning into edible melons but it’s fun trying.

We are also attempting to grow our own cauliflowers, raspberries, strawberries, radishes and rocket.  The cauliflowers have sadly been eaten by slugs, we have eaten the one raspberry, the strawberries have yet to appear and the radishes have disappeared. The rocket however is flourishing. The more you pick, the more you get.  Unfortunately, one can’t live on rocket alone so we are still relying on regular deliveries from Ocado. They no longer hold the excitement they once held for us.  It has become routine now to wipe groceries down before they can be put away. And then wipe all the door handles, surfaces etc.  If someone had told me six months ago we would be doing this I would have laughed hysterically.

Venturing outside the house, it looks as if the world has gone back to normal.  The traffic is bad – if anything worse than it was before lockdown. Not surprising as most people don’t want to risk using public transport if they can at all avoid it. Looking back I wonder if the people who survey this sort of thing will find that there was a huge reduction in car accidents from April-June.  Aside of course, from those poor people who have been run over because they’ve stepped into the middle of the road to avoid joggers! Now lockdown has been relaxed I am sure we will see an increase in road accidents.

And what about food poisoning?  Does the fact that we’ve all been assiduously and virtuously  washing our hands mean that there have been fewer cases of sickness and diarrhoea? I’m sure the incidences of these must have lessened during the months when people weren’t eating out.  Let’s hope that once lockdown is truly over people will want to keep up the habits they have learned of good hygiene.

Yesterday, after a walk, we bravely had a snack sitting outside at a park cafe.  It turns out that the people serving were either not wearing masks at all or wearing them with their noses uncovered. I only found this out from OH after we had eaten what passed for food.  If my blog goes quiet for a few days you will know why.

On the news we have heard people say that, if there is a new spike of cases, the over 50s will have to stay at home.  The over 50s!  In my experience, it’s the over 50s who are being careful and considerate.  It appears that it’s younger people who have been partying in the parks and open spaces, leaving behind their litter of bottles, needles, food packaging and poo. In the field near our home we have seen large groups of families holding children’s birthday parties, everyone huddled together as if they had never heard of the virus.

The big excitement for us this week has been the return of the lovely young woman who helps out with the cleaning. Half her face was covered by a mask but I think it was her!  The house is now sparkling. And it’s so good to know that we have one less task to do! Sad though that no one other than our good selves will see how clean the house looks.  We are still entertaining on the “outside”. Friends enter the back garden by the side gate.  We sit and chat – suitably distanced – over a cup of tea. And then they leave the same way they came in.

At the start of lockdown I told you that OH and I were attempting to sort out all our books.  It took weeks but we have ended up with only two boxes of books we can bear to part with. For me, throwing out books is like getting rid of old friends.  Many ended up just being dusted down and going back on the shelf. And although we’ve managed to reduce the number of books on our shelves we still don’t have enough room for the ones we’re keeping. OH has also been sorting out and cataloguing our collection of DVDs. Who has DVDs now I hear you ask? So old school.

As I write this, OH is visiting the dump. He spent time this morning clearing out our garage and loading up the car until it was jam packed.  He just phoned to tell me he is in a queue. There are only about twenty cars in front of him, he tells me.   Oh the joys of coming out of lockdown.  

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POETRY PLEAS

The title of this poem is a take on the BBC Radio 4 programme, “Poetry Please”. Back in the day I was invited to read some of my “found” poems on its predecessor, Poetry Now. The programme was hosted by the Scottish poet George Macbeth (1932-1992) who has been described as, “one of the most gifted, inventive, moving and entertaining poets of our time.” I was privileged to meet him.

The first line of this poem is intended as a reference to the so-called Banksy of poetry, Brian Bilston, one of whose poems begins the words, “spare me”. If you have never read his work, I recommend it.

This poem came about as the result of a recent poetry competition in my writers’ group. I am pleased to say it came second out of 22 entries!

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Poetry Pleas

Spare me please from poetry

From poems lovelier than a tree.

From poems with no rhyme or reason

Extolling autumn’s mellow season.

Spare me from poems that rhyme badly

And have to rhyme with words like sadly.

Or poems that do not scan

Of them I’m clearly absolutely definitely not the biggest fan.

Spare me from kids who rant and rage,

Who strut their stuff upon the stage,

Who’ve never read Auden, Byron or Brooke,

But have learnt all they know from off Facebook.

They swear and shout and cuss and curse

In the form of rhyming verse.

Spare me please from poets who

Write about going to the loo.

Poets who think they won’t be heard

Unless they shout out the F word.

Spare me from the English teachers

Whose poetry teaching always features

Learning every single line,

Which to me is waste of time.

Who really wants to learn by rote

All the sonnets that Shakespeare wrote?

Spare me please from the poetry cloners

And disinterested bookshop owners.

I do not want to follow the herd

And modern poetry’s quite absurd.

All lower case and alliteration

And don’t get me started on punctuation!

Spare me from words that are new to me

I have to look them up you see.

Spare me please from poets who shout,

Who bellow and yell and prance about.

A poem read in tranquillity

Is how a poem is meant to be.

A poem that soothes and strikes a chord

With empathy in every word.

A poem that helps us live this life

And cope with loss and love and strife.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN YOUR LIFETIME?

I wonder how many of you reading this grew up, as I did, with no central heating, one black & white TV channel, one phone (attached to a cord so you had to sit next to it), no washing machine, dishwasher or freezer? That was my childhood. The net was something we hit balls over and it would be many many years before today’s technology changed our lives. For the better? Or maybe not?

Looking back, it’s astonishing to think what incredible things have been achieved in our lifetime.

In fifty years’ time will our children and grandchildren look back at today and witness the kind of changes in their lives that we have seen in ours?

In my writers’ group (watfordwriters.org) we were asked to come up with a poem or story that encapsulated the past 100 years. I decided to write a poem about all the inventions that had taken place between 1918 and 2018. Not quite all – but all of those that I could fit into the word count!

Here it is. My Ode to Invention. Which of these inventions has made the most difference to your life? Let me know what you think!

Ode to Invention

Who would have dreamt at the end of the war

what wonderful things we’d have in store?

In 1918, although unintended,

the radio circuit was invented.

In 1919 what do you know –

we then had short wave radio.

And at breakfast, what did we love most?

A cup of tea with pop up toast.

If your Tommy gun, invented in 1920,

went off for fun – we had Band Aid in plenty.

In 1923 cars on the road were a very rare sight,

but they still invented the traffic light!

Cinema goers were in seventh heaven

When the talkies arrived in 27.

Antibiotics in 28 –

sadly, for many, came too late.

But thanks to Fleming and penicillin

most of us can carry on living.

From 39 to 45

we were lucky to survive.

Who was to know when the war began

the evil that man would do to man?

1947 made parents happy

with the invention of the disposable nappy.

Health care was in a very bad state

till the NHS started in 48.

Hardly an invention, but nevertheless,

where would we be with no NHS?

1950s rock music would not have gone far

without the first electric guitar.

And with your transistor in 52

you could take your music along with you.

In 53, Watson and Crick they say,

discovered the secret to DNA

and there was colour TV in the USA.

If  your heart was dicky in 59

the Pacemaker was invented just in time.

Sex had never been much fun

till the pill came along in 61.

And things were moving on apace

with Yuri Gagarin – first man in space.

In 67 you could have fun

eating your microwave dinner for one.

And then what joy in 69 –

man walked on the moon for the very first time.

That was also the year of Concorde’s first flight,

and at that time its future looked bright.

In 73 we heard a new tone –

the ringing of the mobile phone.

No more having to sit in the hall,

waiting to get that longed for call.

Now you could get that call in a show

or anywhere else you happened to go.

1n 78 the Browns got their wish –

a daughter conceived in a petri dish.

The CD player in 82

replaced vinyl records for all but a few.

In 1990 we won’t forget

the invention of the internet.

Thanks to Timothy Berners-Lee,

the World Wide Web changed history.

In 91 we could go far,

thanks to satnav in the car.

In 98 the world had a thrill,

with the invention of the little blue pill.

In 2010 Steve Jobs made us glad,

with his invention of the Apple iPad.

Facebook too deserves a mention,

voted the most favourite invention.

It’s 2018. Let’s shout hooray

for another invention – this poem today!

100 years of history –

without these inventions where would we be?

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #212. 350 W0RDS ON DREAMS.

Watford Writers were challenged to come up with ideas for a short story around the theme of “dreams”. 

We were restricted to 350 words.

Here’s what I wrote:

REALITY

George felt himself perspiring under the hot lights.

“What’s the crowd like tonight?” he asked Jenny, as she dusted his forehead with powder.

Jenny made a face. “I was making up tonight’s contestant earlier and she asked me to make her beautiful. I can’t perform miracles my dear, I told her.”

A roar came from the audience behind the curtain.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

The show’s theme music began. George stepped forward as the curtains parted.

“Good evening folks. Welcome to Tell Us Your Dream. Tonight we’re going to make someone’s dream come true. Who’s it gonna be?”

The arc lights swept over the studio audience, many of whom were standing and waving their arms in the air.

“Me! Me!”

The music pulsed louder and louder and then stopped as the cameras zoomed in on a bespectacled middle aged woman.

A disembodied voice yelled, “Audrey Fisher from Luton. Tell us your dream!”

Audrey’s face lit up as eager arms propelled her forwards and up on to the stage.

There was an uproar from the audience who were all on their feet.

“Tell us your dream!”

George smiled at Audrey.  She was a plain old thing, he thought. A trifle nervous, but that was to be expected.

The music pulsed again. And then fell silent.

George smiled. “Welcome Audrey to Tell Us Your Dream.”

“You know the format. You tell us your deepest hopes, desires and wishes and the Dream Team here will help make them come true. Now don’t be shy.”

“Well George,” responded Audrey, not at all shyly.  “I’ve had a secret passion for a long time now. Someone I really fancy.  I know that if he only had the chance to meet me, to spend the night with me that he would realise that I am the one for him.”

“OOOH!” shrieked the audience. “Audrey! Audrey! Audrey!”

George turned to the audience.  “You know we have no prior vetting of dreams. We never know what’s going to come up or who is going to come up on to the stage.” Then, turning to Audrey he said, “Now tell us more about this chap of yours.”

“Well George,” volunteered Audrey, “he’s not conventionally good looking but he‘s got something. That certain je ne sais quoi.”

“OOOOOH!” screamed the audience not understanding a word.

“Tell us your dream! Tell us your dream!”

“After the break,” George announced, “we’re going to let you in on the lucky chap’s name. Back in a mo!”

“Audience please don’t leave your seats!” someone shouted. “The show will be starting again in three minutes.”

Jenny came back on stage to dust George’s shiny, sweaty head. And whispered something in his ear.

George continued to smile at the audience but he turned pale.

“That’s crazy,” he murmured. “I’ve been set up. It’s just not possible. I can’t do it.”

Audrey looked up at him and smiled adoringly.

“Are you ready George to make my dreams come true?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #210 – “MEN!”

I last posted this piece of flash fiction in 2018. At that time writing short stories was a new thing for me so I was really out of my comfort zone!

The writers group I belong to (watfordwriters.org) regularly runs a flash fiction competition where we have to write to a specific topic and word count. The subject here was “The Party”.

If you enjoy reading my story, please let me know. Your feedback really means a lot to me. Thanks!

SOMETHING IN COMMON

The party music was deafening.

“I can’t hear myself speak above this noise,” Jenny said to no one in particular. Then, turning to the woman nearest to her, “I hate works parties don’t you?”

“Makes a break from home” yelled the other into Jenny’s ear.

The music stopped for a second and the two women smiled at one another.  “I’m Jenny”, said one, “from the Hertford office”. “Donna,” volunteered the other, “Camden branch.”

They moved into the adjoining room where it was quieter and found some seats.  “Can’t wait to get these off”, said Donna slipping off her high heels. Jenny nodded in agreement.  “I’ve given up killer heels. It’s trainers for me from now on.  Much easier for school runs with our three.  You got kids Donna?”

“We have a dog. Hubbie doesn’t want children. Trouble is he’s away so much on business that I’m the one that has to walk it every day.

“It’s the same for me” Jenny sighed. “I do all the work – mine’s never around!”

“Men!” they exclaimed in unison.

“Yet we can’t live without them can we?” smiled Donna. “And mine’s not so bad.  He still knows how to give me a good time.”

“You’re lucky”, Jenny responded. “It’s different once you have kids. At the first hint of anything that needs doing, mine’s off.  Disappears for days!  Even at Christmas! Sometimes I feel like a single mum.  Even when we’re away it’s the same. Always self-catering and it’s all down to me. I might as well be at home.”

Donna nodded sympathetically. “Yes, I am lucky Jenny. We’ve had some fantastic holidays. Ever been to the Maldives?”

Jenny shook her head dismally. “The most we’ve ever had is a day trip to Calais.”

Donna was busily scrolling through her photos.

“Look – this was taken outside our holiday bungalow last Christmas.”  Jenny looked at the photo. Took off her glasses, cleaned them and peered at it again.  “I must have had too much to drink – your bloke looks just like my Dennis”.

“Dennis!” shrieked Donna. “My husband’s name is Dennis!”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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IN BED WITH LEONARD COHEN

Those of you who enjoy my poems may like to know that a new book of my poetry has been published, “Wonderland”. The cost  is £6.50 including postage within the UK.  If you’d like a copy, please contact me through this blog. Thank you!

As much as I am a fan of Bob Dylan, I think that Leonard Cohen should have been the one to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Do you agree?

This poem is not so much about Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan but more about a nostalgia for the past.

In bed with Leonard Cohen

I want to be back.

Back sitting on someone’s floor

at a party I’ve gate-crashed,

listening to some gorgeous long haired guy

singing, ‘Suzanne takes you down’.

And I want to see again

those photos of Elvis

having his hair cut for the army.

And I want to be again

sneaking into my first X film,

hiding cigarettes from my parents,

holding hands with someone I’ve only just met

dancing obscenely close in some Soho cellar.

I want to be kissed again

for the very first time.

I want to hear Buddy Holly on a juke box.

Sip my first coke in a Wimpy bar,

my first rum and coke in a real bar.

I want to be hearing Dylan,

The Beatles,

The Everly Brothers,

Leonard Cohen

for the very first time.

I want to be hugged by my mum and dad.

I want to be back.

Take me back.

But here I am

in bed with Leonard Cohen

and his ‘Book of Longing’.

Longing to be back.

this-leonard-cohen-pic-for-blog

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

“In Bed With Leonard Cohen” was first published in “Wonderland.”

( 2019, The Woodland Press)

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY USA!

This is for all my friends, family and followers in the States who celebrate Mother’s Day today.

I know I have posted this before. Of all the poems I have written it is one of my favourites. I hope you will like it too!

Every Day is Mother’s Day

First smile, first laugh, first sweet embrace

The tender way they touch your face

Every day is mother’s day.

First sit, first crawl, first tooth, first walk

The joy when they begin to talk

Every day is mother’s day.

The fun when they begin to play

The cries when they don’t get their way

Every day is mother’s day.

The day they start to question why

And ask what happens when you die

Every day is mother’s day.

The climbs, the falls, the hurts, the tears

As they learn to overcome their fears

Every day is mother’s day.

The very first day you’re on your own

You take them to school, come home alone

Every day is mother’s day.

The very first time they stay out late

And you remember your first date

Every day is mother’s day.

The love, the joy, the guilt, the pain

The more you give, the more you gain

Every day is mother’s day.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

My mother and me

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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THOUGHTS FROM A BABY BOOMER

Interesting to read again this post I published at the end of March 2020. Now we (in the UK at least) are thankfully coming out of this nightmare pandemic – albeit tragically with 128,000 deaths to date – it is interesting to reflect on what I wrote over a year ago. Who then had any idea how long this would last? And none of us could even begin to imagine that we would have a life saving vaccine before the year was out!

I know we are among the lucky ones. Most of our generation of boomers – as we are called – those of us born immediately after the war (I imagine there will be corona boomers born one day too – what else is there to do when one is locked in and self-isolating?) own our homes or have almost paid off our mortgages and many of us have savings to fall back on. Until Covid-19 hit us we all had holidays and theatre trips planned. Many households own more than one car. And, until now, we had experienced some resentment from the young, particularly those who thought that everyone over 60 had voted for Brexit. We didn’t by the way but that’s all academic now as catastrophic world events have made everything else insignificant.


The younger generation forget that when we were their age we had to put up with extraordinarily high interest rates. When OH (other half) and I bought our first home (a two bedroom flat in South Woodford, East London, since you ask) my job counted for nothing as far as a mortgage was concerned. Women’s salaries were not take into account at all – even though, at that time, as an advertising copywriter, I was earning far more than my husband. As a result couples could only spend what they could afford on one person’s salary. At the time that seemed ridiculous (not to mention sexist – though that word wasn’t in use then) but it did mean that one was forced to live within one’s means. It also meant that when I became pregnant with our first child, we did not miss my salary – because it had never been taken into account!


Sexism was rampant then. I was accepted for a copy writing job at the Reader’s Digest only to be told that I had to sign to agree that I would not get pregnant (I assume they meant by OH) for two years. Being a woman of principle I didn’t sign. Afterwards I realised I could have signed and then got pregnant anyway. What could they have done – sued me? Today, of course, we have Twitter and I would immediately have shopped them to the world.


I digress. I wanted to talk about us comfortable middle classes who in this turmoil of lock-downs and self-isolation are able to relax in our gardens. In normal times (and these are definitely not normal times) people like us would have had a cohort of people to do our “work” for us – house cleaners (tick), window cleaners (tick) and gardeners (tick). OH and I gave away our lawnmower some time ago after it had spent many years languishing in our garage as we had a gardener to do all the work for us. Now, of course, we need to cut the grass ourselves. OH ordered a lawnmower from Amazon and it was delivered a few days later. Almost as exciting as when our online groceries arrived (see yesterday’s blog). OH had great fun assembling it and then immediately setting out to mow our lawn. At an angle – because that’s how he normally parks the car! Covid-19 is teaching us all new skills which hopefully we will retain when life gets back to “normal” – whenever that is and whatever that will be.


I hope I am not coming across to you as a smug and self-satisfied boomer. I am more than well aware how appalling things are now (our daughter only recently having recovered from the virus) and how difficult (if not impossible) they are for most people. We are also finding it hard but not in the same way as many families are. We have the aforesaid garden, our writing, our families (thank goodness for WhatsApp), our friends on the phone (thank you BT), our TV (finally signed up for Netflix) BUT we are missing (as all of you reading this no doubt are) seeing our loved ones face to face (other than on Face Time, Skype etc) and being able to hug our beautiful grandchildren. For me, that is the hardest thing of all. I find the idea that I may not see our fabulous five grand-kids for many months far too unbearable to contemplate.


Happily, after nearly 50 (!) years of marriage, OH and I still find plenty to say to one another and we still enjoy our time together. Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if AC (after Covid) there will be many more marital and cohabiting break-ups. An increase in divorce, suicide, mental health issues and undiscovered deaths. However, I also think and hope that something positive has to come out of all this if humanity is to survive. We’ve already seen how so many people from all walks of life are coming together to support one another – friends, neighbours and strangers.

I am hoping that AC (after Corona) we will all appreciate, love and care for one another more than we did before and – boomers or not – never take our lives for granted again.

© Text and photos – Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #200 – THOUGHTS

Here are two poems I wrote when I first started this blog.

Odd

Odd isn’t it

How the kids you knew at seven

Always stay in your mind

And you can still count every freckle

And measure every pigtail

And isn’t it strange

How the ones you really liked

Never did grow up

To be housewives and mothers in suburbia

They’re still there

Hiding and seeking

Jumping over the drain covers

Playing all the games in your past

That you’d still like to play

But have forgotten the rules

Odd too that you can

Still name every face

In your old school photo

Yet you can’t remember

What you did

This time yesterday

Growing up

When you are young

you think you have

all the time in the world.

When you are older

you have all the world

but no time.

An old boyfriend once said to me: “The trouble with you is that you think too much!”

Maybe that’s why I write poetry?

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems