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

POST #186 – MORE ABOUT MY FIRST LOVE

I’ve loved poetry since an infant school teacher first delved into her handbag and put a poetry book in my hands. 

I had read all the reading books in class and she was looking for something to keep me occupied until the school bell rang for the end of the lesson.

My late father, the writer Ralph L Finn, used to quote poems at me all the time. It drove me mad. But now I find myself doing exactly the same to my own children and grandchildren.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was about eight years old. My first poem, written when I was in junior school, was entitled, “The Squirrel and the Hare”.

The Squirrel and the Hare

“What of the woods?”

said the squirrel to the hare

“branches bare, thick moss

everywhere

where nuts can be found

and the ground

is as flat

as a beaten door mat “

“Well? What about that?”

said the hare.

“So, what do I care

for the branches bare?

I have the hay

and seeds can be found

on the ground which is sweet

and lies lush at my feet …”

“Please come to the woods!”

“No thanks,” said the hare

“I’m quite happy here.”

Then they both said together

“Never mind the wind or weather

We will always stay together

 Squirrel and hare.”

Now, should you find their bush

Please tiptoe and don’t stare

For you may find them sleeping there …

Squirrel and hare.

The headmistress contacted my parents, convinced they had helped me with it or even written it for me. Fortunately, they managed to convince her otherwise.

From then on I was hooked.

What about you? What was your first love? And did it remain with you – as poetry has for me – all your life?

    

My father, Ralph L Finn    (1912-1999)

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

TRUMP. BIDEN. NEIDLE. WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Thatcher, Wilson, Brown, Johnson. All such very English surnames.

What about that quintessential Englishman and film star Leslie Howard? His original name was Leslie Steiner. So why the name change?

Pre-war, if you wanted to succeed on stage or in the movies (or anywhere really) you wouldn’t be able to do so if you had a Jewish sounding name.  With all the antisemitism that existed one of the first things a Jewish actor did was to reinvent himself or herself.

Hands up if you knew that Lauren Bacall was once Betty Joan Perske? Or that Laurence Harvey was born Laruschka Mischa Skikne?

Pretty understandable why a would-be actor with the name of Issur Danielovitch Demsky would want to change his name to Kirk Douglas.

And then there’s Gene Wilder – Jerome Silberman.  Harry Houdini – Erich Weisz.   Tony Curtis – Bernie Schwartz. Natalie Portman – Natalie Hershlag. And countless others. Who knew, for example, that Des O’Connor, the comedian, was Jewish?

On the other hand we have Whoopi Goldberg who isn’t Jewish.  Her original name was Caryn Johnson.  Whoopi changed her surname because her mother said that she would be more likely to succeed in Hollywood with a Jewish sounding surname! How ironic is that!

Today, of course, it’s OK to have a foreign sounding surname and many of today’s Jewish celebrities have kept their original names. For example, Rachel Weisz, Jerry Seinfeld, Lisa Kudrow and Ben Stiller.

It wasn’t just in the field of acting that Jewish people felt the need to change their names.

My late father, the writer R. L. Finn was born Hyman Feinman.

One day at his East End school, in the absence of the teacher, all the Jewish boys in the class wrote on the board the English name they would give themselves when they grew up. My father chose the name Ralph Leslie Finn. I imagine because he thought they were quintessentially English names. Ralph was maybe after the actor Ralph Richardson. And Leslie after Leslie Howard. My dad, like so many people, probably did not realise that Leslie Howard was himself actually Jewish!

However, Feinman was not our original name. In fact, I don’t actually know our family’s name!

The story goes that my grandfather came to London ahead of his family to find a job and home for them. When my grandmother arrived as an immigrant at the London Docks, along with her parents (my great grandparents) and her firstborn child (my dad came along more than a decade later) she was asked for the family name. She did not speak any English so showed them the letter she had received from my grandfather which said that he had found them all somewhere to live. The letter was written in Yiddish and said something along the lines of: “Ich bin ein feinman.”  I am now a fine man.  The officials took this as meaning that the family name was Feinman so that’s what we were known as from then on!

Nearly every Jewish family has an apocryphal story of how their name evolved. If your surname was something incredibly unpronounceable and unspellable the chaps at the docks would just say – OK you’re Levy, you’re Cohen and so on.

On the other hand my married name, Neidle, is almost the original name. The name is unusual and the few Neidles in the UK are almost all members of our family. OH (other half) is into genealogy and has checked out the family name.  Where his father’s family originally came from there were once many Neidles – or Nudel as it was then. The name literally means needle (!) but is translated as tailor. My late father-in-law’s parents came from two villages in what was for a time Poland, but are now in the Ukraine. He visited his relatives there in 1937 and passed on to us an evocative photographic record of the family at that time. Sadly, almost every one of them perished in the Holocaust.

On a happier note, let me tell you about my late father’s brother, my Uncle Ben who spelt his surname Fynn. Uncle Ben had a beautiful voice and became an opera singer. He was the principal tenor of Sadler’s Wells and the Carl Rosa Opera companies.  When he began recording it was suggested that he change his name to something more Italian so he became … Benvenuto Finelli!

Tomorrow is what Jewish people call the Yahrzeit – the anniversary of the date in the Hebrew calendar when my father died.  The English date was October 30, 1999. Tonight, according to Jewish tradition, I will light a candle in memory of my father. May his memory be a blessing.                                                                                    

Benvenuto Finelli (aka Ben Fynn aka Bennett Feinman or Finerman) 1910-1987

Ralph Leslie Finn  (aka Hyman Feinman/Finerman/Fineman aka my dad) 1912-1999

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

 

It was my father, the writer and sports journalist Ralph L Finn,  who gave me the love I have of poetry.  I am dedicating this post to some of his – and my – favourite poems.

Crossing the bar – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

The next two are favourite poems by Christina Rossetti.

When I am dead, my dearest

When I am dead my dearest

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember

And if thou wilt, forget

I shall not see the shadows,

I shall not feel the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain:

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set

Haply I may remember

And haply may forget.

Remember

Remember me when I am gone away

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you planned:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

Christina Rossetti

I read this next poem – another one of his favourites – at my father’s funeral.

Sea Fever – John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

This next one, by Charles Kingsley, was another favourite of his.

Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever,

Do noble deeds, not dream them, all day long;

And so make life, death and that vast forever,

One grand sweet song.

It was my father who introduced me to the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson:

Requiem

Under the wide and starry sky

Dig the grave and let me lie:

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:

Home he lies where he long’d to be;

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

Finally, just to show that it’s not all doom and gloom, here’s another Robert Louis Stevenson poem.  My father used to recite this one to me when I was little. And I in turn, read it to my own children.  There is a lovely song by Alison Krauss, “A hundred miles or more” which evokes this poem.

Where go the boats?

Dark brown is the river.
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating—
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.

Robert Louis Stevenson

A last apt word from one of my father’s favourite quotations:

For when the One Great Scorer
comes to write against your name,
He marks – not that you Won or Lost
but How You Played the Game.    (Grantland Rice)

Ralph L Finn

Born:  17 January 1912

Died:   30 October 1999

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many years ago, a woman visiting our home, on seeing our wall to wall book shelves, said to me, “Doesn’t your husband read a lot of books!”

OH (other half) and I are the kind of people who never throw books away – unless they are absolute rubbish. In other words, totally unreadable or falling apart.  Now we’re using lockdown to finally have a sort out.

Over the years we have picked up books at boot sales, charity shops, street markets, jumble sales and second-hand book shops.  And of course bought from book shops and Amazon. Often we never actually get round to reading the books and they languish on our bookshelves waiting to be picked up and loved.

In his study OH has shelves filled with science books. And there are even more at his place of work.

On my book shelves there are books related to childbirth and parenthood (from my National Childbirth Trust teaching days), poetry, art, education and advertising.

And both of us share a huge amount of fiction and non-fiction on all manner of subjects.

In the kitchen there are four shelves of recipe books.  Do I really need 40 cook books?  I rarely use recipes when I am cooking so why keep them?  I guess every book holds a memory. For example, “Cooking in a Bedsitter (Katherine Whitehorn), was my bible when I lived for a short while in a cramped bedsit in Kinnerton Street behind Harrods.  In the house there was a French guy who was a chef in one of the London restaurants. I  used to hover on the landing to savour the aroma of steak and garlic emanating from his room. There was a large kitchen which everyone in the house shared but never at the same time. We also shared the kitchen with mice. I once opened the fridge door to find a mouse sitting on one of the shelves eating some delicacy someone had stored there. Not long after that I moved back home.

A number of years ago I parcelled up most of my advertising books, memorabilia and teaching notes.  The History of Advertising Trust in Norwich were very pleased to take them off my hands. They even sent a courier down to pick up all my boxes and now HAT have an Andrea Neidle collection!

Not long before the internet really got going OH bought a set of Encyclopaedia Brittanica.  Most of the books have never been opened. Because not long after that the Internet took off and our children discovered Google. Sadly no one wants encyclopaedias any more and now they sit taking up room on my bookshelves.

When I was working on my Master’s in Higher and Professional Education the internet did not exist.  One actually had to visit the library and plough through all the books to find suitable quotes and references. Note I don’t say that I read the books. One just had to trawl through them and take notes. But it took forever. When Google first came in, our Watford advertising students were told not to use Google but seek out the books themselves. Few of them bothered. And who can blame them? I envy anyone studying today. They can just do a search and find whatever it is they need in seconds. When I wrote the first edition of How to Get into Advertising back in 1999 my research was all library based. By the time I produced the second edition in 2002 I was able to use Google to update address details and so on, which saved a huge amount of time and effort.

Now OH and I are sorting out our books into three piles. Definitely keep. Possibly sell. Give away. We use AbeBooks to check if any have any value. If you haven’t come across Abe I recommend it. Not just for getting some idea of the value of your own books but also for obtaining second-hand and out-of-print books that you want to read.   It’s an eye opener to find that your twenty year old tatty jumble sale purchase is now worth upwards of fifty quid whereas that beautiful old leather bound copy of Dickens that you have held on to since you were a kid is not worth anything at all. Of course a book doesn’t have to be old to be valuable. We all know that the early editions of J K Rowling are worth a small fortune, as are many first editions of other 20th and 21st century writers, particularly if you have a signed copy.  Dust jackets add to the value of a book too. I tried to tell that to OH back when we were first married and he was busy tearing off all the dust jackets and binning them. Vandal.

From an early age my father, the author R L Finn, taught me to value books. He only smacked me twice in my life. The first time was when I was about nine or ten years old and I accidentally tore the dust jacket of a book he owned. (The second time I will save for another day.)  My dad also instilled in me to always use a book mark and to never ever turn down the corners of a book. Are you listening OH?

So what am I reading right now?  On my bedside I have a large pile of books waiting to be read.  I am currently reading “I am, I am, I am”  (no typo – that’s the title) by Maggie O’Farrell.  If you’ve not come across her books before, I highly recommend them. She writes beautifully, sparingly, evocatively, movingly. Another one of hers I really enjoyed was, “The Hand that First Held Mine.” Next on my list to read is Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman followed by The Red Notebook (Antoine Laurain), Normal People (Sally Rooney), Caging Skies by Christine Leunens (the book behind the film Jojo Rabbit) and Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng).

Trouble is, I am spending so much time sorting out books and writing this blog that I am not finding enough time to read!

Let me know what you’ve been reading. And I will add your recommendations to my pile.

The image below is from a book of children’s stories by Leo Tolstoy. No value whatsoever!

See you tomorrow.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

An unforgettable day


  

October 30th 1999

Driving along the Promenade in Nice

The sun glinting on the ocean

Cars moving so slowly

That cyclists, joggers, roller skaters

Were all moving faster 

It was a beautiful, unforgettable day

The kind that makes you glad to be alive

Then out of nowhere

Into my head

Came a line

From my dad’s

Favourite rhyme

“I must go down to the sea again”

I said the whole poem out loud

Later

Driving back along the Promenade

The sun dipping

The cars going just that little bit faster

My phone rang

And a voice said

Your dad is dead

Suddenly

The day was unforgettable

For all the wrong reasons.
blog 3

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems