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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

WHAT IS A HERO?

Everyday Heroes

What is a hero? What does it mean to be a hero?

When one thinks of heroism many of us think of those who fought in the two World Wars, who gave their lives for liberty and freedom.  At the end of the war, there were also those British soldiers who were the first people to enter Belsen concentration camp – still thought of as heroes by those they liberated.

We all think of the men and women in the fire and police service as heroes. Now, with Covid we also think of the doctors and nurses and all those on the front line – interesting use of war terminology here – as our heroes.

But what about the ordinary every day acts of heroism?  These generally don’t get recognised today but they were way back in Victorian times. There is a little known park in central London where those people who sacrificed their lives to save others are remembered. Unless someone has taken you there you probably wouldn’t know it exists. It’s known as *Postman’s Park because postal workers from a nearby postal depot used to meet there to have their lunch.

Nowadays, at least before Covid, London’s office workers would also go there to enjoy their lunches in the shade.  Postman’s Park, which opened to the public in 1900, features on guided walking tours as one of the hidden gardens of London. The site is an amalgamation of three City of London burial grounds so it also contains the relics of graves from long ago.

In more recent times, Postman’s Park was featured as a meeting place in the film Closer.

It is unusual to have such a large green space in the City of London. But the most significant thing about Postman’s Park is that it is the place where everyday heroes are remembered.

There are rows of decorative ceramic plaques where you can read about everyday bravery.  Poignant tributes to everyday heroes who, in saving the life of another, lost their own.

These plaques commemorating the self-sacrifice of ordinary people were the idea of the painter and philanthropist, George Frederic Watts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I wonder why we don’t still do this, honour the small acts of bravery of ordinary people? At a time such as now, when so many people are losing their lives, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a memorial to all who died during Covid?

And why stop there? I am sure we can all think of other everyday heroes who deserve to be honoured and remembered in this way.

*Postman’s Park, King Edward St, London EC1A 7BT

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

 

 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE JEWISH …

In 1961 there was a memorably creative advertising poster campaign in the States which featured photographs of non-Jewish New Yorkers (Asian and Native American amongst others) enjoying Levy’s bread. The campaign slogan was, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish Rye.”

The ad was a first for its time. It was witty, memorable and demonstrated diversity at a time when that was not being done.

And that is why, following on from my previous blog about Chanukah, I thought I would share with you this lovely Chanukah song from YouTube.  It is heart warming, tender, moving and truthful. And, what’s more, you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate it!

Song, “This Chanukiah” by Daniel Cainer

Video by Christine Lavin

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

TWO TRADITIONS. ONE WISH.

As Kyle sang in South Park: “It’s hard to be a Jew at Christmas.” 

Growing up, Christmas to me always felt like I was looking into a toy shop or sweet shop window at things I couldn’t have.

I enjoyed the Christmas parties and the festivities – still do – but, being Jewish, I always felt like the outsider at the party.

At home, growing up, we neither celebrated Xmas nor Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, which takes place around the same time. Father Christmas didn’t visit Jewish children and my parents treated Christmas just like any other day.

When I had children of my own, not wanting them to feel left out, OH (other half) and I experimented briefly with Christmas. We left out mince pies at bedtime and crumbs on the plates when they awoke.

Our children had pillowcases rather than stockings which we filled with goodies. I would stash these away until Christmas Eve.  One year our six year old son found my hiding place.  He marked all the things he’d found with a felt tip pen so, when they later turned up in his pillowcase, he was able to prove once and for all that Santa did not exist!

As our children grew older, Chanukah replaced Christmas. So our kids wouldn’t feel left out we gave them a gift every day. Something special at the beginning or the end and small presents in-between such as you might put in a stocking. As Chanukah lasts eight days it more than compensated for Christmas!

Each night of Chanukah we light a candle on the special eight branched candlestick known as the Chanukiah or the Chanukah menorah. At the end of the eight days all eight candles are lit. Actually nine – because there is an extra candle on the Chanukah menorah that’s used to light all the others.

There are Chanukah parties, songs, games and special Chanukah foods such as donuts and latkas. A spinning top – “the dreidel” is spun. Raisins are won or lost depending on where it lands.

Our son, when he was seven, wrote a poem about Chanukah:

“How I love to go to bed with the candles shining in my head.

And when I have dreams, how lovely Chanukah seems.”

He’s now a father himself. Each year, until Covid 2020, he and his wife have made a Chanukah party for their children, friends and family. The story of Chanukah is told and acted out with costumes, arts and crafts.

 

In fact, you could say that we enjoy the best of both worlds!

 

 

IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF LOCKDOWN?

Today, I jokingly said to OH (other half), shall we pay a visit to the dining room just for a change?

We know we are lucky to be able to have a change of scenery – even if it’s just eating in a room other than the kitchen. There are so many people out there who are having to spend lockdown in only one room. 

We are also fortunate to in having a garden and green (albeit muddy) fields in which to walk. Even more fortunate in that they are right across the road from us. Within a short drive we also have the benefit of the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside to enjoy.

During lockdown OH and I have been trying to find places to see that we have never visited before. Gardens, parks, fields.  But they are less fun when there’s no pub to visit for lunch at the end of a long walk.  Nowhere one can go for a cup of tea or coffee.  Locally, we have a very pleasant coffee place which we sometimes visit although now, of course, it can only be for a take away coffee.  But take away where?  To a park bench?  Or are we to walk along the street sipping and slurping.

We have the exciting promise of one or more vaccines that actually look as if they might just work.  Yet, they tell us, that for some time afterwards we will still have to wear masks and keep our distance.  One wonders what long term effect this, so called new norm, will have on the children growing up today?  

Let’s hope that one day soon we will all be back to our old lives and this past year will just be something future generations will read about in history books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

ANOTHER DAY. ANOTHER MONTH. ANOTHER BLOG.

Flying was hard enough even before lockdown.  The queues, the delays, the waiting, the crowds and that was just getting into the airport!

Airports are quieter, less busy places now. But would you want to fly?

Members of my writers’ group (*Watford Writers) were asked to write some flash fiction (a very short story) based on one of the paintings in our local museum.  I chose this painting by the late Francis Gower, an artist who lived in Bushey. I based my story on a real experience OH (other half) and I had about a year ago.  

WAITING

I had been so looking forward to this holiday.

We were at Luton Airport in really good time. We passed through security quickly and then went to have a coffee. It was only when our flight was called that Derek started going frantic. He couldn’t find my passport! We looked all around but it was nowhere to be seen.

He rushed back to security but it wasn’t there. What were we to do?  They said we wouldn’t be allowed on the flight. Think we had realised that!  We then had to leave Departures. Not by the way we had come in but as if we had just come off a flight. A security guy led us through the crowds and back along the route which takes you to passport control when you first land.

We were taken to the head of the queue so at least we didn’t have to stand in line. And then what did they say?

“We need to see your passport!”

“We don’t have it!” I howled with frustration. “That’s why we’re here!”

I was almost crying at this point. Crying with exasperation and with anger at Derek for doing something so stupid.

Derek then had a Eureka moment. He remembered he’d left my passport in his coat pocket – but the coat was back home in our hall cupboard! We phoned our neighbour who has a spare key and she had a look for us. It was such a relief when she said it was there.  She’s kindly arranged for someone to bring it.  And we’ve managed to book for another flight which leaves in six hours’ time. So all we can do now is wait.

We’ve been sitting here for a few hours now. Derek and I are barely talking and I’ve been trying to sleep. I’ve put my cardigan over my head to keep out the light and the noise. But if I had a pillow I would put it over Derek’s head instead.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

The painting featured is Private Worlds by Francis Gower (1905-1995) from The Bushey Museum Art Gallery

*watfordwriters.org