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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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HAS OUR WORLD CHANGED?

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

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

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

What do you think?

Empty

The birds are still singing

No one has told them

No one has told them

Our world has changed.

The sky is still blue

The sun is still shining

But where are the people

Our world’s rearranged.

The flowers are budding

The willows are weeping

Weeping for us

And a world that has gone.

 Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

CORONAVIRUS, COVID-19, OMICRON – WILL THERE BE A HAPPY ENDING FOR US ALL?

We all remember the story of Cinderella.  No fairy godmothers for us but aren’t we all wishing for something or someone to come along and take us away from all of this? 

An end to housework and cooking? An escape?  It used to be called a holiday but it looks as if that wish isn’t going to be coming true for quite a while.

In my writers’ group we were asked to dream up the sequel to a well known story.  I chose Cinderella.

You remember that at the end of the tale she had married her handsome prince and was living in a beautiful palace, supposedly happily ever after.

Here’s what I imagine happened next.

Cinderella sighed. Her new life had held such promise. But, after ten years of marriage, her prince had lost his charm. He spent all his time alone in the billiard room and didn’t want her even though she was the fairest in all the land. Letting her ugly sisters move in had been a big mistake. They were forever bickering.

It was probably the lockdown making her feel like this, she decided. Life wasn’t so bad.

Just then Prince Charming entered the room. He was wearing the dress her sisters had been fighting over earlier. And he looked pretty good in it too.

“What ho Cindy! How do you like the new me?”

“Is this some kind of joke Caspar?”

“Try to show a bit more understanding. The world has changed you know. It’s time I came out.”

“Came out of the billiard room do you mean? You spend far too much time in there.”

“I mean I’m fed up being the handsome prince. I want to try life as a princess. From now on you’re no longer to address me as Casper. I’m Cassy. And once I’m a princess you’ll no longer be the fairest in the land. I’m off to show your stepsisters how I look in their dress.”

And with that he flounced out of the room.

Cindy didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

“I wish,” she said out loud, “my life could be different.”

At that moment there was a magic whoosh.

“Fairy godmother! How lovely to see you after all these years. I have missed you.”

“Work’s been pretty quiet since this lockdown,” responded her fairy godmother, “so I thought I’d pay you a visit. How can I help my dear? I can manage a little magic. I’m too old for mice but what about a new home now that people can move house again? There’s a nice bungalow for sale.  Much smaller and easier to manage than a palace but it wouldn’t be big enough for your family.”

“It sounds magical fairy godmother. Thank you!”

“My magic doesn’t run to fancy gowns so just get a few things together. Once we’re there I might be able to do more.”

“Once we’re there?”

“Where better for me to retire than in a little home with my Cinderella? You know dear, you were the pinnacle of my achievements. We’ll settle down just the two of us. You can look after me just as you did your step mum and sisters in the old days.”

“No thank you, but I don’t think that’s going to work.”

“You’re an ungrateful child!  You don’t like your home or your prince. And you don’t like being in lockdown. So here’s what I’m going to do, miss fussy.”

Cindy felt the room spinning around her. Faster and faster.

When it stopped she found she was back in the kitchen of her old home, among the cinders by the fire grate.

“Oh no!” Cinderella sobbed. “What am I going to do now?”

The moral of my tale is be careful what you wish for! 

WISHING ALL MY FOLLOWERS – OLD AND NEW – A VERY HAPPY & HEALTHY NEW YEAR.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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NEW WORDS TO AN OLD SONG

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

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

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

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

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

In the place where I was born

There lived all my family

And we tried to get away

Because we wanted to be free

So we sailed into the West

Till we found a sea of grey

And we rowed upon the waves

And we starved from day to day

We all sail in a tiny little boat

tiny little boat,  tiny little boat

We all sail in a tiny little boat

And we try to keep afloat, try to keep afloat

And our friends are all on board

Though sadly some of them have died

And the boat begins to sway  ….

We all sail in a tiny little boat

 tiny little boat,  tiny little boat

We all sail in a tiny little boat

And we try to keep afloat, try to keep afloat

And we live a life that’s tough

Because none of us have got enough

But there’s a land that’s far away

And we will get there some day

We all sail in a tiny little boat

tiny little boat, tiny little boat

We all sail in a tiny little boat

And we try to keep afloat, try to keep afloat

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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POST #219 – HERE I AM AGAIN!

Hello

I’m back! Did you miss me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

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LIVING THE NEW NORMAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems