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

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

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

The Greatest Game


The Greatest Game

I grew up in a house that lived and breathed football. My late father 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 memorial to the footballer Leon Joseph who died in 1983.  My dad’s eulogy is now going to be part of the display at the forthcoming football exhibition at the Camden Jewish Museum.

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 appeared in the Sunday People.

“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 just wish that he had taken me just once – to a football match!

 photo for The Greatest Game

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

The Queen sends her condolences

Today would have been my father’s birthday. He and my mother were close to celebrating 60 years of marriage when she died in 1996.

I must be one of the few people in the country to have received a letter of condolence from Buckingham Palace! I had arranged for my parents to receive the customary congratulatory card from the Queen but then cancelled it when my mother died.

So my dad never knew. But he probably wouldn’t have wanted any reminders.

I was remembering how – only a couple of days after my mother died – my father was quite insistent that I came to their home and cleared out all her things.

I realise now that this was not because he did not love her but because he loved her so much.

Remembering

After my mother died

My father did not want

Anything of hers

And asked me to

Clear it all away

He also removed all photographs.

We each have our way

Of grieving

And I did not ask or question

But emptied her drawers

Of the little there was

And stuffed black bags

With her clothes

and gave them to

Her grateful cleaner

Who hauled them behind her

down the street.

All that my mother

Had hoarded

So neatly

So scrupulously

Over all the years

I threw it all away

Strings and ribbons

Wrapping paper

Elastic bands

And carrier bags

All the detritus of life

I kept the knife

She had used

To cut the cakes she baked

And the secateurs she used

To prune the flowers she

Grew so lovingly.

And then

At the back of

A kitchen drawer

There was a paper bag

Inside were seeds

Of what I didn’t know

But put them in my pocket

To take home.

Now every year

A sweet pea blooms

In the corner of our garden

A fragrant reminder

Of my lovely mum.

My mother

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems