Featured

MY 218TH BLOG POST SINCE MARCH 2020 – TIME FOR A BREAK!

I’m taking a break from blogging for a while but I plan to be back later in the year.

In the meantime, here’s a piece of flash fiction I wrote for a competition set by my writers’ group – watfordwriters.org

The subject matter was, “The Mistake”. This story can be read on a number of levels – where do you think the mistake – if there was one – was made?

Thank you for following my blog and for all your feedback over the past months.

I am always pleased to receive your comments and likes. See you again soon!

FLASH FICTION – THE MISTAKE

Cathy could hear the happy shouts of the children playing in the garden.

The phone rang.  “Mrs Collins?” It was an unfamiliar voice.

“Yes?” Cathy tentatively replied. Not another cold call!

“Your husband has been having an affair with my wife.”

Cathy laughed in disbelief.  “You’ve made a mistake. You must have the wrong number!” She put the phone down.

It rang again.

“I’m sorry if I’ve given you a shock Mrs Collins, but this is not a wrong number. There’s no easy way to put this. Your husband Gary, who works at Ridgecombe School, has been having an affair with the teaching assistant Janice, who happens to be my wife.”

Cathy was shocked into silence.  Outside she could still hear the children playing but she felt that her world had stopped.

She remembered how Gary always seemed in such a hurry nowadays to get to work. He’d also been quite short with her of late.  Was it possible? Could he be unfaithful?

 “Are you still there Mrs Collins?” said the voice.

“Yes, I’m here”, she replied weakly. “How do you know this?”

“I received an anonymous letter. I confronted my wife and she confirmed it was true. I thought you’d want to know.”

Cathy put the phone down. She was shaking.

Gary would soon be home from work. Should she confront him? He’d be bound to laugh it off. And she would laugh with him. Just some silly prank caller. Maybe a former student who had a grudge against her husband?

Cathy threw herself into household tasks. Somehow she managed to give the children tea, get them bathed and into bed. 

Not long after she heard Gary’s key in the door. What should she do? Should she say anything at all? Why should she believe someone she’d never met?  Yet, the more she thought about it, the more convinced she was that it could be true.  Gary had changed towards her in the past months.  And he’d been coming home late quite often – staff meetings he said.

After dinner, over the mundane task of stacking the dishwasher, she casually asked,

“Do you know someone called Janice?”

Gary looked startled.

“Why do you ask?”

“I received an odd phone call today. A guy who said he was her husband. He seemed to think the two of you were having an affair.”

Gary took his phone out of his pocket and began fumbling with it. His eyes did not meet hers.

“Are you having an affair Gary? Are you?”

Cathy gripped the steak knife angrily in her hand.

“Look at me!” she screamed.

Gary looked up and she could immediately see from the guilty expression on his face that the caller had been right.

*************************************

ONE YEAR LATER

Cathy Collins visibly trembled as she was escorted into the crowded courtroom.

“Catherine Elizabeth Collins – do you plead guilty or not guilty?”

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Featured

TIGERS IN TANKS, NESCAFE, TV CHAT SHOWS – REMEMBERING THE 1960s.

This is one of my earliest poems from the 1960s. I was reminded of it at a recent poetry reading I gave when someone in the audience requested it – thank you Howard!

The poem was written after visiting a colleague’s home in Sidcup, Kent. Afterwards, someone said, “I wonder why they chose to live in Sidcup.”

I often used to get inspiration travelling to and from work on the tube. I’d look at the people around me and imagine their lives and loves.

THEY CHOSE TO LIVE IN SIDCUP

They chose to live in Sidcup

Semi-detached – even in bed

They chose the rhythm method

and bred two bilious children

A well spaced boy and girl

After church on Sundays

they chose to watch

the Eamonn Andrews Show

from the pseudo leather sofa

where they nearly

conceived a third child

out of boredom

They chose to plant

rose bushes in the garden

Got more pleasure from the flower

than they did the marital bed

They chose to drink Nescafe

but roasted coffee beans

under the grill

to deceive the Women’s Guild

Tuesday coffee mornings

They chose to die in bed

Staking their claim

to a plot side by side

in the local cemetery

A birthday present to each other

But death chose them

one Monday morning

when their family size Sedan

with the tiger in its tank

and vote Tory on the windscreen

wrapped itself around

the shared drive lamp post

they had always meant to move

They chose to go to heaven.

  • The rhythm method – a popular form of birth control before the advent of the pill!
  • The Eamonn Andrews Show – a popular TV chat show in the 1960s
  • “Put a Tiger in your Tank” was a successful advertising campaign slogan for Esso petrol.
  • Shared drive – two houses sharing the same driveway to their garages – a recipe for disaster!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

POST 209# FLASH FICTION

Yes. I’ve posted 209 poems, thoughts and short stories on this blog since March 2020. Quite a feat even if I say so myself!

The task in our writers’ group this week was to write 500 words on the topic of “The First”.

Here’s what I wrote. Please let me know whether or not you like it. Thanks!

DIPLOMAT

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a peace loving guy. 

I’ve always been the diplomatic sort. Whenever there’s been a confrontation of any kind I’ve turned my back and walked away.

It’s harder when you have kids.  You want to take sides but I’ve always tried to be fair. This has led to the children thinking that their mother, Sally, is a cow and that I’m a saint. But there you are. Can’t be helped. Best not to get involved.

It was different for me growing up. We all lived in fear of my dad once he got going. I would run to my room and hide under the bed until the screaming stopped.  I couldn’t leave home fast enough.

I kept my head down at uni, studied hard and obtained a good degree. 

At work I kept my distance from colleagues.  The boss liked me because I never took sides so I soon achieved promotion.

Now they’re grown up, my children still keep in touch. It’s been difficult in the past year with Covid but I’m hoping they’ll still visit me whenever they can.

It was this time last year that the wife and I were in the car on the way to her sister’s on the Sussex coast. Sally had wanted to go on her own but I insisted on driving.

Like most men, I like to drive in peace.  I prefer to concentrate on the road but Sally does go on and on talking.  I normally ignore her but this time it was different. She just didn’t know when to stop.

All these years, she was saying, you’ve never supported me. You’ve always taken the children’s side against mine. Why? They adore you and they hate me and it’s all your fault.

I found this hurtful and said so. In fact, I told her to shut up. But she didn’t. Just kept on and on, going at me.  You did this. You did that. She was a saint of course. Never said boo to a goose. At least, that’s what she’d have you believe. 

We were getting close to her sister’s house and I did something that I’ve never done before. I pulled off the road thinking I would have it out with Sally once and for all. She sensed something was wrong and undid her seatbelt before I’d even stopped driving. Next thing I knew she was out of the car and running away from me. Such a stupid thing to do when she knows I’m so much bigger and stronger than her.

I chased after the silly bitch and caught up with her right by the cliff edge. You’re not a real man, she sneered. Well that was it. I saw red. I kicked her as hard as I could and she sailed over the cliff edge like an inflatable ball. I didn’t look down. Just got back in the car and drove off.

It was the first time we had ever argued.  

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Featured

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)

Featured

POST #204. THE PLAY’S THE THING.

And now for something completely different from me!

My writers’ group set a task to write a 10 minute play which we then had to perform in front of one another on Zoom – where else?!

I have written poetry, short stories, flash fiction, a book – and even TV and radio commercials – but I had never before written a play – unless you can count the panto I posted just before Christmas.

So here it is. Hope you like it. Let me know what you think.

GIRL TIME

IT IS SEPTEMBER 2019. EMMA AND ROSIE ARE OLD FRIENDS WHO MET ONE ANOTHER AT ART COLLEGE. ROSIE IS SINGLE. EMMA IS MARRIED TO JAKE. THEY WERE ALL STUDENTS TOGETHER AND HAVE REMAINED FRIENDS.  EMMA AND ROSIE ARE HAVING SOME GIRL TIME. THEY ARE SITTING OPPOSITE ONE ANOTHER AT A TABLE IN A BAR ENJOYING A GLASS OF WINE IN THE EARLY EVENING. THEY ARE BOTH IN THEIR MID 30S, CASUALLY DRESSED, SLIM AND FAIR.

Rosie (SMILING AT EMMA): It’s great that you could find some time to get away from home for once. (THEY CLINK WINE GLASSES)

Emma (SMILING BACK AT HER FRIEND): The kids have after school activities and Jake’s busy with work. (SHE MAKES A FACE) He’s always busy with work nowadays.

Rosie: How do you mean?

Emma:  You’ve no idea what it’s like Ros – my time is not my own! When Jake’s busy with work, more falls upon me. He never helps around the house and he’s barely ever there for the girls. They miss having their father around.

Rosie: But you’re so lucky Em …  

Emma: I know I shouldn’t complain but I would really like to see more of him. And I’d like him to pull his weight more around the house too!

Rosie: (SYMPATHETICALLY) I expect he’s busy with his work.

Emma: Too busy if you ask me.

Rosie: And you do have the girls.

Emma: As if I need reminding! Kids are really time consuming. You have no idea. This is the first moment I have had just for me in ages and that’s only because the girls have a drama class tonight  I can tell you I certainly wouldn’t mind enjoying the single life for a bit!

Rosie: (LAUGHING BUT MEANT SERIOUSLY) And I want what you have – kids, a partner, a home – you don’t realise how fortunate you are!

Emma: I know. But I would like to see more of Jake. (SHE LEANS FORWARD CONSPIRITORALLY) You know Rosie I sometimes wonder if he’s having an affair …

Rosie: (QUICKLY) That’s silly!

Emma:  I know but he has changed towards me. He’s a lot snappier with me for one thing. Finding fault with this and that. Picking on me for no reason.  And he’s started showering in the mornings before he goes to work and wearing after shave – he never used to do that!

Rosie:  You’re imagining things Em. He’s just probably got a lot on his plate.

Emma:  I hope you’re right. I would like to see more of him though. The girls need him. I need him – if you know what I mean.  What about you? What have you been up to?

Rosie: Nothing much.  The usual dating apps. You know what they say – you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince and I’ve had more than my fair share!

Emma: Sounds like fun to me.

Rosie:  Believe me it’s not.  They’re nothing like they say when you meet up with them. They’re either too old, too bald, too short – or all three! And if they’re not too old, too bald or too short, they’re married!

EMMA LAUGHS

Emma: One day you’ll meet someone you really like.

Rosie: I expect so.

Emma: So what else have you been up since we last met?

Rosie: Well, I’m thinking about having a tattoo.

Emma: Really?  That doesn’t sound like you!

Rosie: I’ve been thinking about it for some time. Maybe one like Jake’s?

Emma: Jake’s?

Rosie: Yes.

Emma: How would you know Jake has a tattoo?

Rosie: You told me about it. Remember?

Emma: I never. He only had it done in the school holidays and I haven’t seen you since then. How do you know about Jake’s tattoo Ros? You can’t have seen it because … (REALISATION SUDDENLY DAWNS)

… oh my god. It’s you!  You’re the one that’s been seeing Jake when he says he has to work late. You’re the one he’s been showering for. How could I have been so stupid? You cow. (REPEATS WITH MORE EMPHASIS)You cow!

Rosie (PLACATING) Hang on Emma. Give me a chance to explain!

Emma:  There’s nothing to explain. How could you?  You’re meant to be my best friend! “I want what you have” you said – looks like you got it! And you can have it! And you know what – here’s something you didn’t know. You’re not the first and you probably won’t be the last.  But I’m not taking him back this time. You’re welcome to him.  You can be the one to wash his smelly socks and his soiled underpants.  I don’t suppose he picks his nose when he’s with you. Wait till he starts pushing you around. Wait until you’re lying in bed waiting for him to come home and when he does he smells of another woman.  You wait!

Rosie: Emma …

Emma: Call yourself a friend! How could you? (REPEATED MORE VEHEMENTLY AND WITH A SOB IN HER VOICE) How could you?

EMMA PICKS UP HER GLASS OF WINE AND THROWS IT IN ROSIE’S FACE.

SHE GETS UP, ANGRILY PUSHES HER CHAIR AWAY FROM THE TABLE AND STORMS OUT OF THE BAR SLAMMING THE DOOR BEHIND HER. EMMA CLIMBS INTO HER CAR WHICH IS PARKED RIGHT OUTSIDE AND COLLAPSES SOBBING ON THE STEERING WHEEL. HER PHONE RINGS FLASHING UP THE NAME JAKE. SHE IGNORES IT AND REMAINS SOBBING IN THE CAR.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Featured

IF YOU CAN REMEMBER THE 60S, YOU WEREN’T THERE!

At least, that’s what they say!

This quote has been attributed to a number of people including Robin Williams, Pete Townshend (The Who) and Timothy Leary.  It implies that the drugs/alcohol/sex/love-ins and general insanity of the period permanently impaired the memory of those who actually experienced the 1960s!

I remember the 60s all too well. 

I worked in London and hated the daily commute from my home in the suburbs where I still lived with my parents.

One day I spotted a notice in a shop window advertising a room to let in a road called Kinnerton Street. I asked around at work and a colleague said it was a fabulous posh turning behind Harrods and that I should definitely take a look. Today it is better known as the road where Ghislaine Maxwell lived and where, it is said, she entertained many high profile celebrities including you know who.

The street, in the heart of Belgravia, was charming. It was lined with mews houses and even a tiny pub.  As I arrived at the house, four good looking young men carrying guitars were coming out of the front door. A band. Wow! Without even seeing the room I knew that this was where I wanted to live! 

The room to let was a bedsit just a few steps up from the front door. It was smaller than my room at home and barely furnished. Hidden behind a sliding door was a small sink. Upstairs there was a shared bathroom and kitchen. The cost would be almost what I was earning every month.  But I was so smitten with the idea of living there that I decided to take it.

My father helped me move in. When I had told my parents I wanted to move out they had seemed disappointed but had not tried to dissuade me.  It’s not home, was all my father said when he saw it.

I met my neighbours.  On the ground floor lived a balding bachelor, whose room smelt of damp washing and socks. On the first floor there was a chef who worked in a London restaurant. I salivated to the smell of his steak cooking as I tucked into my nightly meal of yoghurt and grated apple – all I could afford after I had paid my rent. Nothing would persuade me to enter the kitchen after I had seen a mouse feasting on cheese in the fridge. The bathroom wasn’t much better. Years of grime had stained the bath and no amount of elbow grease would remove it.

On a sunny day, if one felt inclined, it was possible to climb into the bath tub and then out of the bathroom window in order to sit on the roof and sunbathe.

On the other floors lived a gay couple and a spinster – which is what single women were called then. I envied the other residents their large rooms – mine was a closet in comparison. I was on the same floor as the telephone which meant I was always answering phone calls for others.

Where was the band? Where were the four young men I had seen on my first visit?  Gone. Kicked out for loud and lewd behaviour. I was devastated. Also, where had they lived? Surely not in the cubby hole that had become my home.

Living in a bedsit did not live up to my dreams. It was great to be able to walk home from work along Piccadilly and around Hyde Park Corner to Knightsbridge. But there was no one to enjoy it with me. I was alone and lonely.

In the end, I could bear it no longer and phoned home. My dad came to collect me. You were right, I said to him. It’s not home.

Now here we are in 2021 when so many young people – and the not so young – have moved back home to live with their parents. Some of it as a result of the pandemic but also because it is so hard to get onto the property ladder. The money required for a deposit on a home today would have bought a detached house back in the day!

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

“I’VE HEARD OF LOCKED UP BUT NEVER LOCKED DOWN.”

A conversation with Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh was sitting on a tree stump waiting for me.

“Don’t you think,” I asked, “that the words you use are sometimes a bit convoluted for children to understand?”

“Tigger and Eeyore understand me,” he answered, “and so does Christopher Robin.”

I raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“I mean what I say and I say what I mean,” he added.

“That’s from Alice in Wonderland.”

“I know that,” he replied, “but I was hoping you wouldn’t know. It’s hard to come up with words all by myself. This interview isn’t going very well is it? Why don’t I interview you instead? Do you like honey?”

“Bears eat honey,” I told him. “People eat other things.”

“Some bears eat people,” volunteered Pooh. “Christopher Robin told me that.”

“What else has he told you?” I asked.

“That I’m the fluffiest cuddliest wonderfullest bear in the whole wide world.” Pooh announced proudly.

“Apart from that?”

“Er – um – I don’t know. I can only think and say what I’m told. If A A Milne were here he’d be able to help me.”

“Do you know why you were called Winnie the Pooh?”

“Ah! I know the answer to that one!” exclaimed Pooh eagerly. “I was called Winnie after a black bear Christopher Robin saw at London Zoo – which is a zoo in London.” he added importantly.

“And Pooh?”

“I was coming to that. You humans are jolly impatient.”

“Sorry.” I said trying not to smile.

“And so you should be. Pooh – if you still want to know – was a swan Christopher Robin met while on holiday.”

“Not that you can meet a swan.” I volunteered.

“If Christopher Robin said that’s what it was, then that’s what it was,” said Pooh sulkily.

“Christopher Robin called me a bear of very little brain,” he went on, “which was very unfair of him because my brain is much bigger than Owl’s, Piglet’s and Eeyores.”  He swelled proudly. “I am a big brained bear.”

He looked at me sternly as if waiting for me to disagree with him.

“If I was on Twitter,” he added, “I’d tweet that I am the bear with the most bigly brain.”

Then, out of the blue, he asked, “Would you like to hear a song?”

Before I could answer he sang:

” How do you do?

Tiddely poo

And how are you?

Tiddely pooh.”

“That’s as far as I’ve got. It’s hard to find things to rhyme with Pooh. It would be far easier if I’d been called Winnie the Bear.  There are loads of rhymes with bear. Hair, dare, care, lair … “

And then suddenly – I noticed that he kept doing this – changing the question before I’d even asked one.

“What’s a lockdown? I’ve heard of locked up but never locked down.”

Fortunately, before I could answer him, Christopher Robin came along to tell Winnie that it was time for tea. So off he went without even a goodbye.

“Pooh.” I said.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Featured

FISH HOOKS AND BARNACLES

If you are easily offended, look away now.

I lived on a quiet road. There was no traffic and the kids all played in the street as was normal in the 1950s. One time, at the top of the road there was a bunch of teddy boys standing around their bikes. And I mean cycles, not motor bikes. Teddy boys were the forerunners of rockers.

There they stood in their leather gear, swinging their bicycle chains (truly), smoking and trying to look cool. They said the F word a few times. I was about 9 or 10 and it was the first time I had ever heard it used! What does F *** mean I asked. Looking back they were really decent in their response. They could have said something really shocking but all the leader of the gang said was, “It’s the king of all the swear words.”

I’m old enough to remember the first time the F word was said on TV. It was said by the UK writer and critic Kenneth Tynan during a satirical discussion show in 1965. It caused great consternation at the time. Amusement too because he had a stutter so it was a long time before he said the whole word – just ffffffff  followed quite a few seconds later by the remainder of the expletive – thus reducing its shock value! The F word is so ubiquitous now that no one is shocked by it any more.  Comics only have to say the word to get a laugh from the audience, whereas when I was younger the use of the word would have received a horrified gasp. 

At my grammar school I can remember us all reading D.H Lawrence’s book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover under our desks during lessons. Well, not really reading. Just looking for all the swear words and what we then would have called ‘the dirty bits.’

In our school library there was a well thumbed copy of the Dictionary of Slang. I volunteered as a librarian at lunch time so spent a great deal of time in the library, mainly poring over the Dictionary of Slang seeking out the meaning to many of the words that were unknown to me.

Before lockdown I became addicted to the online word games, Upwords and Words with Friends – both very similar to Scrabble. The American makers of the online games are quite prudish and often impose censorship on the words that we try to play. For example, one cannot use the word, ‘slut’ which, although not a nice word, is not a swear word. I would not expect the games to allow words that are truly offensive but  … slut? Oddly, if you play offensive words in Yiddish they’re allowed – but not if you give their English equivalents!

During games one can ‘chat’ with one’s opponents.  Here is a conversation I recently had with an American friend online (hello Kathy!) during a game of Words after she played the word, ‘rectum’ which was allowed in the game but not in the chat where it appeared as “r****m”!

Me: Your word has been asterisked. Whatever next?!  (Interesting aside –  asterisked.)

Me: Bum. Just testing. 

She: Laughter emoji.

Me: A**e   (asterisked by the game not me)

She: Laughter emoji.

Me: Ooh. Not allowed. Bottom? (was not asterisked)

She: Tooo funny!!!!!!

Me: Tuches – just testing  …  

… That fooled them. Is Yiddish* for all of the above. 

Me: They let me use the word Trump. A very bad bad bigly bad word. TR**P.

She: Now that’s funny!

Me: My own censor at work. T***P.

She: Hahahahaha!!

Me: What about Tampax?

She: That came through.

Me: Ooh. They allowed that. But not s**t for some reason.

She: Ha!!

Me: Not saying the Sh.. word. Saying the slu* word.

She: Oooohh now that’s interesting.

She: W***e

She: Ha! Who*e!

Me: Have never been able to play sl*t (their asterisks not mine) yet it (slut) is a pretty innocuous word.

Me: Maybe it has another meaning in the USA?

Me: w****r. I feel like a naughty schoolgirl. 

Me: I’d quite like to blog this but will probably end up with a page of asterisks!

********

So, here we are.  As you can see, I did blog it. My take on swearing.

And why fish hooks and barnacles? Those are the words I used when our children were growing up and I didn’t want to swear in front of them.  They are so much a part of me that even now I sometimes find myself saying “fish hooks” when I miss a vital shot in a table tennis tournament, much to the amusement of the other players.

The worst word I ever said in front of my children when they were growing up was ‘bloody’.  One time when I collected our younger son from nursery, the nursery teacher told me that she had  been having trouble doing up the zip of his anorak.  She had said to him, “I just don’t know what’s the matter with it” to which he, who was four years old at the time, replied, “The bloody zip’s broken, that’s what! “- clearly repeating what he had heard me say at home. I was able to laugh it off but I think I would have hung my head in shame had he said anything worse!

*Yiddish – a language used by Jewish people in central and eastern Europe before the Holocaust. It was originally a German dialect with words from Hebrew and several modern languages. It still has some 200,000 speakers mainly in the USA, Israel and Russia.  The Yiddish language has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years and can now be studied at many universities including Oxford and London. There is a Yiddish Book Center (which OH and I have visited) on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.  It is a cultural and educational institution, dedicated to the preservation of books in the Yiddish language, as well as the culture and history those books represent. eg theatre, film, newspapers, photographs etc. 

http://www.yiddishbookcentre.org

Many Yiddish words are now familiar everyday words used in English. For example, schlep, chutzpah, nosh, schmooze, spiel, tuches and many others. Yiddish has words to describe things that there are no words for in English – for example the parents of the people your children marry are your machatonim. 

                     .  

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

© Photos taken by Andrea Neidle at The Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, Massachusetts

Featured

TO BE SAFE OR NOT TO BE SAFE? THAT IS THE QUESTION.

There’s discussion right now online, on radio, TV and in the press as to whether or not jabs against Covid-19 should be mandatory.

I think they definitely should be for anyone who has face to face contact with the public. 

 

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

Featured

SCOOP. MY LIFE IN POEMS MEETS DONALD TRUMP

My meeting with the President

Because Donald Trump is in quarantine in the White House with Covid-19 I was able to arrange to meet with him on Zoom.

The famous orange hair was now grey and suited him much better. His face was thinner and he looked more normal, if that is a word that could ever be applied to him. 

I noticed that his fingernails were bitten right down to the quick and that there was a food stain on his normally immaculate shirt front.

He sounded a lot less cocky than usual.

“Good to meet you Agatha. Where are you from?

Watford? What State is that in?”

I didn’t correct him on my name or his geography as I wanted to be able to continue our conversation.

“My aid tells me you like poetry,” he continued.  “I do too. Bigly. I know more poems that anyone else. You know this one? The boy stood on the burning deck, eating a threepenny Walls, a little bit fell down his neck and paralysed his ….  My English nanny taught me that one.

Don’t believe all that that stuff you read about me. It’s all fake news.  Like that stuff about Melania not living at the White House.

She wanted to paint the house pink but the aids said it couldn’t happen.  You can’t call it the Pink House, they said. So she had a bit of a huff. And that’s why she went away for all those months. But we’re very close. If we weren’t close how is it that she also got this Chinese flu? Tell me that!

“What do you think of Boris?” I asked him.

“Boris who? Your guy in the UK? I like him. He’s just like me don’t you think? Same hair and everything. I preferred Theresa May though. Did you see how I got her to hold my hand by pretending I needed support going down those stairs?” He sniggered. “I don’t suppose she’d want to hold my hand now!”

“So what about you Agatha? Tell me about yourself. Do you see my tweets?  I bet you’re thinking how does he get to tweet when he’s so ill? I have a team of course. Or as I call them my tweem.  Just like all those programmes you watch on TV – they all have teams of writers so of course I have a team.

That’s not to say I don’t write the odd tweet when I’m taking a dump in the middle of the night.

Did you watch the debate? I really kicked Biden’s ass. Did you see how he kept interrupting me all the time? I couldn’t get a word in. Stupid man with his stupid mask but not as bad as that nasty Clinton woman.

Hey Agatha I gotta go.  They want to take me to some hospital to make it look like this is a lot more serious than it is. Reckon it’s going to win me a lot of sympathy votes.

 It was good listening to all you had to say. And don’t forget to vote for me on 3 November. Bye now.” 

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

© Photos – Andrea Neidle

Featured

CHICKEN SOUP JUST LIKE MAMMA USED TO MAKE

Vegetarians look away now.  Here’s my chicken soup and knaidlach recipe just in time for the Jewish New Year. Enjoy!

As I wrote in my last blog, it’s not for nothing that chicken soup is known as Jewish penicillin. It helps ease sore throats, colds and flu.  If you’re under the weather and don’t feel like eating, a bowl of chicken soup will buck you up and do you the power of good.  Highly recommended by Jewish mothers everywhere!

First and foremost, you must use boiling chicken which can be obtained from any kosher butcher. You can try making chicken soup with any other sort of chicken but it just won’t be the same.

I normally use half a boiling fowl. The more chicken you use, the tastier your soup will be.  Kosher butchers also sell off cuts from the chicken (wings, neck, feet) which are very cheap to buy and make just as good soup.

Place your chicken in the largest saucepan you have and completely cover it with cold tap water. Do not put a lid on the pan.

Bring to boil and then let it simmer.

While it’s simmering use a large spoon to skim off all the scum that floats to the top. Keep doing this until most of the scum has gone.  You may find you need to top up with a little more water.

Add 2-3 medium size onions roughly chopped, a bay leaf (not essential), a few chopped carrots, one or two roughly chopped potatoes and some chopped celery.  Do not chop your veg too small. They still need to be recognisable! Some people also like to add parsnips or other veg.  But don’t get carried away. You want your soup to taste of chicken not of parsnip!

Add salt and pepper. You can, if you wish, transfer your soup to a pressure cooker if you have one.

Alternatively, leave to simmer for a very long time until the chicken is soft and cooked through.  Taste the soup. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

If your soup does not taste chicken-y enough then you can add a chicken stock cube. I recommend Telma chicken stock cubes which you can buy at any supermarket or kosher store. A stock cube is only necessary if your soup lacks flavour. This may be because you didn’t use enough chicken in the first place or you covered the chicken with too much water.

That’s all there is to it.  Your soup is ready.  Simply remove the bay leaf and the chicken pieces (do not throw them away) and serve.

If not eating immediately, leave your soup to cool before putting it in the fridge. You will find it improves in taste every time it’s reheated.

It can also be successfully frozen. Remove the chicken pieces first! I also remove the carrots because they tend to go mushy in the freezer.

Nothing gets wasted!  The pieces of cooked chicken can be used separately in another meal such as risotto.

FOR A REALLY AUTHENTIC CHICKEN SOUP ADD SOME NOODLES

If you want to give your soup that extra Jewish zing then you may want to add some vermicelli (ie egg noodles).  You can buy them where you bought your boiling chicken or from most supermarkets. You cook the noodles separately in a pan of boiling water much as you would cook any pasta. The noodles are very fine and thin so they cook very quickly. Turn away at your peril.

Drain and rinse once cooked.   Do not put your vermicelli into the chicken soup but rather pour the chicken soup over some vermicelli when you serve the soup. A little goes a long way. You want to be eating soup not vermicelli!  This is what we call lokshen soup.  Lokshen is simply the name for vermicelli.

FOR A DOUBLY AUTHENTIC CHICKEN SOUP MAKE SOME MATZAH BALLS!

These don’t take long to make and are a yummy addition to your soup. 

I know two stories about matzah balls. According to urban myth when Marilyn Monroe was first offered matzah balls she said, “I have never eaten that bit of the animal before.”

The other is the tale of the newly married woman whose matzah balls never pleased her husband.  “They’re not like mamma used to make”, he would complain.  Every week she tried harder. And every week he would say, “They’re not like mamma used to make!”  One week the young woman accidentally emptied half the packet of matzah meal (matzah flour) into the bowl.  She cooked the matzah balls as usual but to her dismay they were rock hard.  “Ah” sighed her husband happily when he tasted them, “These are just like mamma used to make!”

How to make matzah ball dumplings for your soup

These are called **knaidlach (the ch is pronounced as you would the ch in the Scottish word loch). And you sound the k!

You don’t have to put knaidlach in your chicken soup but you will be glad you did!

The way to make the perfect knaidlech is not to cook them for very long.  Many cookery books will tell you to boil them for twenty minutes, half an hour – even longer.

If you want your knaidlech to be light and fluffy and not at all like mamma used to make, then take my advice and simmer them for only ten minutes.

You will need:

4 large eggs

4 slightly rounded tbsps of chicken fat (from your soup) or soft marge/Tomor margarine

2 tsp salt

Half a teaspoon of black or white pepper

4 ounces of ground almonds

6 ounces of medium matzah meal (found in the Kosher section of supermarket)

8 tablespoons (or possibly less) of warm chicken soup or water

Half a teaspoon of ground ginger (optional)

I use a food processor for this recipe but it can be done by hand.

First whisk your eggs until they are light and fluffy.  Stir in the soft fat, some of the tepid soup or water, seasonings, ground almonds and matzah meal.

Hold some of the soup/water back – your mix may not need quite so much.

I would also hold some matzah meal back. If your mixture is firm you won’t need it all.  If your mix is too soft then you can add a little more meal or ground almonds.

The mixture should look moist and thick but not quite firm enough to form into balls. Cover mix and chill in fridge for about an hour or overnight.

The mixture will now be nice and firm and ready to form into balls.

Half fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Wet your hands with cold water.  Take small pieces of the chilled mixture (about the size of medium walnuts), shape them into balls with your hands and drop them into the boiling water. You will need to do a few at a time.  The balls rise to the top and soon swell in size – which is why you shouldn’t make them too big at the start.

Reduce the heat to simmer and leave the matzah balls simmering in the water for no more than ten minutes. Then remove with a slatted spoon into a dry bowl.

Continue until all the balls have been cooked.  Put to one side.  Drop the knaidlach into the hot soup about two minutes before serving. Enjoy!

 To all those who celebrate it – a Happy New Year to all my followers, friends and fellow bloggers.

I shall be taking a break from blogging over the holiday and will be back in October. See you then! 

**Knaidlach recipe adapted from The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook by Evelyn Rose (Robson Books, 1997)

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

Featured

The Wailing Wall

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

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME


Watching the Euro match final I couldn’t but help think of my father and wonder what he would have thought of the game.

I grew up in a house that lived and breathed football.

My late father, Ralph Finn, was a football journalist and writer who reported on games – local, national and worldwide.

He wrote around forty books – including a number of very successful books on soccer which demonstrated his deep understanding and love of the game.

Amazingly I was never taken to a football match. My father said it was because he sat in the press box where children were not allowed. At least, that’s what he told me!

I remember dad going to Switzerland for the World Cup in 1954 and coming back with a Swiss doll for me plus a miniature football which had been autographed by all of the England team.  I wonder what happened to it?

To my father’s dismay, I grew up completely uninterested in the game of football.  I became fed up with boyfriends introducing to me to their friends as “Ralph Finn’s daughter!” However, I do have copies of most of my dad’s books and have tried to obtain the ones I don’t own from second-hand bookshops and Ebay.

I think this is the complete list:

World Cup 1954

Spurs Supreme

Spurs go Marching On

Spurs Again, The Story of the League Cup Season

My Greatest Game

Arsenal: Chapman to Mee

Champions Again – Manchester United, 1965

England World Champions 1966

London’s Cup Final 1967

History of Chelsea

World Cup 1970

Going through my father’s papers  I found that he had written a touching memorial to the Jewish footballer, Leon Joseph, who died in 1983.  When the Camden Jewish Museum held its football exhibition in 2013 my dad’s eulogy was part of the display. On the opening night I was introduced to Leon Joseph’s children. I arranged for my father’s handwritten memorial to be passed on to them when the exhibition ended.

I also found this extract from the BBC Sport Website (2008) from an interview with  Paul Trevillion, the author and illustrator of the “You Are The Ref” cartoon which regularly appeared in the Sunday People newspaper.

“The reason I’m so proud of You Are The Ref and why it means more to me than anything I’ve ever done, is because it is a great memory of a great friend and a great journalist. In 1952 I worked for the Lilywhite monthly magazine. Ralph L. Finn was the editor and a terrific national journalist who took me under his wing, gave me lots of valuable advice and was instrumental in the start of You Are The Ref. To please Ralph, more than anything else, I came up with Hey Ref! In 1957 it was published in the Sunday People and that was the birth of You Are The Ref.  It’s been going, in one form or other, for the past 50 years.

 Every time I draw YATR I can hear Ralph saying to me: ‘As long as football is played, nobody will know all the rules, because in one form or another, new rules or adaptations are written almost every new season’. He was right then and he is today. The strip is a great memory of Ralph, whose epitaph was: ’You must learn to kick with both feet, punch with both hands and play to your utmost ability the greatest game of all – life’.”

The legacy my father gave me was a love of literature, particularly poetry.  I am very proud of all that he achieved.  I only wish that he had taken me – just once – to a football match!

photo for The Greatest Game

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems