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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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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