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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 304609478.display.jpg

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

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

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

397TH DAY OF LOCKDOWN IN THE YEAR 2021, CORONAVIRUS ERA

Not that long ago I asked what you were reading. A better question might have been what novel or story did you once read and have never forgotten?

For me, that would be the tale of The Scarlet Plague by the American author, Jack London – a story that came into my mind earlier on in this pandemic. 

I first read The Scarlet Plague when I was in my early teens.  The story tells how the world had been decimated by a plague, leaving few survivors. The narrator, now an old man,  is one of the few people left. He tries to tell his sons, who have only ever known this life, how things used to be.

“To think of it! I’ve seen this beach alive with men, women and children on a pleasant Sunday …. And right up there on the cliff was a big restaurant where you could get anything you wanted to eat. Four million people lived in San Francisco then. And now in the whole city and country there aren’t forty all told.  And out there on the sea were ships … when I was a boy, there were men alive who remembered the coming of the first aeroplanes, and now I have lived to see the last of them, and that sixty years ago.”

His grandson says .. “Four million. That was a lot of folks.”

“Like sand on the beach, each grain of sand a man, woman or child. .. the world was full of people. The census of 2010 gave 8 billions for the whole world …”

Later one of his grandsons says, “You were telling about germs, the things you can’t see but which make men sick.”

” A man did not notice at first when only a few of these germs got into his body. But each germ broke in half and became two germs, and they kept doing this very rapidly so that in a short time there were many millions of them in the body. Then the man was sick. He had a disease, and the disease was named after the kind of germ that was in him. Now this is the strange thing about germs. There were always new ones coming to live in men’s bodies.

Long ago when there were only a few men in the world, there were few diseases. But as men increased and lived closely together in great cities and civilisations, new diseases arose, new kinds of germs entered their bodies.  Thus were countless millions and billions of human beings killed. And the more thickly men packed together, the more terrible were the new diseases that came to be.

Soldervetzsky, as early as 1929, told the bacteriologists that they had no guarantee against some new disease, a thousand times more deadly than any they knew. It was in the summer of 2013 that the plague came. I was 27. The word came of a strange disease that had broken out in New York. There were 17 millions of people living then in that noblest city of America. Nobody thought anything about the news. It was only a small thing. There had only been a few deaths. Within 24 hours came the report of the first case in Chicago. And on the same day, it was made public that London, the greatest city in the world, next to Chicago, had been secretly fighting the plague for two weeks and censoring the news dispatches …

It looked serious but we in California, like everywhere else, were not alarmed. We were sure that the bacteriologists would find a way to overcome this new germ, just had they had overcome other germs in the past. But the trouble was the astonishing quickness with which this germ destroyed human beings, and the fact that it inevitably killed any human body it entered.

… the bacteriologists had so little chance in fighting the germs. They were killed in their laboratories. They were heroes. As fast as they perished others stepped forth and took their places. It was in London that they first isolated it … then came the struggle in all the laboratories to find something that would kill the plague germs. All drugs failed.”

Just saying.

What novel or story did you once read and have never forgotten?  Let me know in the comment space below.

Jack London

1876-1916

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

CORONAVIRUS ONE YEAR ON

I wrote this wistful poem back in May, 2020. It was the first of many poems I have written during lockdown.

The title of my poem, “Where has God gone?” is taken from what was said in the Holocaust. Where was God when six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered? 

The last line but one ‘the flowers we planted’ is a metaphor for living and all that was good in our lives. – it’s not meant to be about gardening!

 

Up in the skies the swallows are winging

Down in the trees the birds are all singing

Out in the streets not one soul can be seen

They’re all shut indoors watching the screen

 

They’re locked in their homes, no one is playing

Where are the people, where have they gone?

Knock on the door, is there no one at home

 

Not looking at phones but actually talking

We reach out to speak to friends on the phone

Everyone’s lost, we all feel alone

 

All over the world people are dying

The life that we lived where did it go?

Will it return, does anyone know?

 

Are we going to die alone and afraid?

The people we love, the flowers we planted

Where is the life that we took for granted?

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems