POST #188. REMEMBERING MY MOTHER

My lovely mum died 25 years ago today. 

Sadly she did not live to see our three children achieve academic success, gain work and start their careers.

She was not there when they found partners, married and had children of their own.

She died before I achieved my Master’s in Education and before I became a published author.

She never saw the home we are living in now. 

There’s hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of her.

Last weekend I visited Hoop Lane crematorium in North West London, where her ashes were scattered on the crocus bed.

OH (other half) and I explored the beautiful grounds with their stunning displays of Azaleas, Camelias and other flowering shrubs. 

I remembered this poem I wrote in memory of my mother:

When I see a flower

Or a bud upon a tree

I think about my mother

And the life she gave to me.

My mother loved gardening and liked nothing better than to spend time pottering in her garden.

I can think of no better place for her to be at rest than in the gardens of Hoop Lane.

                                                                                                                             Remembrance Haiku

                                                                                                                              Scattered crocuses

                                                                                                                                                                                     Ashes scattered on the grass

                                                                                                                              Scattered memories

 

                                               In memory of Freda Hetty Finn

                       1910-1996                                                                                                  

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

© Photos, Andrea Neidle

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

OH (other half) went shopping this morning and saw that everyone has gone mad, just as they did the last time we were in lockdown.

The shelves displaying many of the essential items were empty. Supermarkets are staying open, so why the panic?

Everyone needs to calm down.  Keep calm and carry on as the famous poster from WW1 said.

Are we going to be mown down by all the joggers again? Why can’t we follow what they have done in Paris and make a rule that people can only jog before 10am and after 7 in the evening? I think I am far more likely to catch a virus (even if it’s just a common cold) from a heavily breathing jogger than I am from our grandchildren whom I am no longer allowed to see.

Without wishing to sound maudlin, those of us who are into our 70s and beyond do not wish to spend whatever time is left to us having to avoid our nearest and dearest.  I know these are the rules and I will keep to them but it seems so unfair and cruel when those same small children can see nannies, au pairs, cleaners, babysitters and teachers.

And if they’re going to bring back the press conferences every day, can we please first of all hear the positive rather than always hearing the negative?

How about telling us how many people went home well from hospital the previous week rather than always telling us how many have died?  It would also be useful to be given a comparison of how many people died at this time last year BC – before Covid.

And don’t get me talking about those charts! I can’t be the only person in the country who, when watching the TV on Saturday, was almost begging Boris to get on with it and tell us when the lockdown was going to start. Instead he left us all hanging on, waiting while they led us through chart after incomprehensible and unreadable chart.  Is this what we have to look forward to in the coming weeks?

And why not be honest with us? Rather than having Gove say “it may need to go on after 2 December”, let us know what to expect. Tell us the truth for once.

And Boris, if you’re reading this, why don’t you form a special Covid Committee together with Keir Starmer and some other members of the Shadow Cabinet. Maybe, if our politicians demonstrated some unity, then the public would follow suit? Unity is strength, as they say.

While we were still in our tiers, a number of people we know bought garden heaters and gazebos so they could entertain outside. The sales of such things have gone through the roof.  There are certain businesses I would like to be in right now – anything to do with the outdoors (including hot tubs, heaters, awnings etc), loo paper, bleach, antibacterial soap, masks, wipes, hand gel – I am sure you can think of many others.

Then there’s the new vocabulary of lockdown which seems to be unique to the UK.  A friend in the United States had no idea what I was saying when I blogged recently about the ‘rule of six’.  We now have words like shielded, tiers, bubble etc  – all to be added soon, I am sure, to the Oxford Dictionary … around the same time as they remove the words  – kiss, touch, handshake, embrace, hold and hug.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

WILD LIFE IN LOCKDOWN

Two months into lockdown I was awoken in the early hours of the morning by the sound of a heart stopping shriek coming from our garden. 

I peered out of our bedroom window and saw a crow perched on the branches of our apple tree.  The uncanny noise was coming from him (her?) and I can only describe it as crying. On the lawn I saw a large pile of black feathers.  The bird cried and cried – clearly mourning its loss of a partner or a parent.  The sound was heart rending.  It continued for a very long time before it finally stopped and only then was I able to get back to sleep.

The next morning I went out into the garden and witnessed the pile of feathers though fortunately could not see any body bits.  I gingerly swept the lot up and put it into our garden bin.

Since then I have learned a lot about crows because two have become regular visitors to our garden. Carrion crows form monogamous pairs, who stay together for life so we are probably witnessing a crow partnership.  Maybe the one I saw being mourned  was a crow baby that had been got at by a fox or a cat? Or did one crow lose his/her partner and quickly found another one?

I watch the crows from our kitchen window as they come and go throughout the day. Usually they bring their own bread and dip it into our bird bath before eating.  I am sure my blog followers will know that birds should not be given dry bread but will happily and safely eat bread when it’s wet. This is because the food swells in their stomachs and would very likely kill them. However, if you pre-soak the bread then it is already swollen and thus causes no damage. If I do nothing else today, this information of mine might save some poor bird’s life.

A number of times we have seen the crows with bagels.   Not the mini bagels. Full size ones.  I kid you not. The other day one of them brought a toasted bagel!  Left it in the bird bath to soften and then returned for it later. The bagel was so big that it took up the whole of the bird bath thus deterring other birds of being able to use it.  Have you noticed that there is definitely a hierarchy  of birds?  The smaller birds kowtow to the bigger ones.  Crows get first dibs at the bird bath, followed by doves and pigeons.  Smaller birds come much lower down in the pecking order – maybe that’s where the expression pecking order originally came from?

Another interesting expression is, “stone the crows”.  The older ones among you will remember that this expression was popularised in the 50s and 60s by the radio and television comedian, Tony Hancock (1924-68). He tended to use it in its shortened form of “stone me!” It’s an exclamation of amazement, disbelief or disgust as in, “stone me – the crow’s taken my bagel!” I’d be pleased to hear from anyone out there who has any idea how this expression might have originated.

It’s fascinating watching the antics of the crows.  I’ve seen them hide food in our hedge and return for it at another time.  The other day I saw one of the crows  searching for something he had hidden in the guttering just outside my study window. Suddenly he swooped down and picked up a large digestive biscuit and promptly flew off with it in his beak. I do wonder where they’re getting all this stuff from? I find it hard to believe that someone out there is feeding the birds digestive biscuits and bagels! Yesterday we noticed that our bird bath was suddenly attracting wasps.  I looked closer and discovered that the edges of the bird bath were smeared with jam – presumably from the stolen bagel!

Bird watching has always given me pleasure. But never more so than in lockdown.  If the bird bath dries out I’ll fill it up with water so that the crows have somewhere to dunk their bread. Other birds visit too.  There is a big fat collared dove who likes to drink from the bird bath. He then turns his back  and poos in it.  The dove is so fat that the bird bath basin wobbles when he sits on it. He also displaces all the water and I end up having to refill it – at the same time clearing out the poo, though I don’t think poo in the bird bath is any kind of deterrent to the crows and all the other birds who visit it on a regular basis.

When I was at school we learned a song about a carrion crow. “A carrion crow sat on an oak, derry derry derry derry down o – watching a tailor mend a cloak” is how it went. In music lessons we all had a song book.  The boys in our class took great pleasure in going through the book and altering the words in the song titles. “Where The Bee Sucks There Suck I”, from The Tempest (Shakespeare) was a favourite.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.   
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
I bet they don’t teach today’s kids songs like that any more! Just as well.

Time for some bird spotting. See you later!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

98 DAYS OF LOCKDOWN AND STILL COUNTING

So, they’re relaxing the lockdown. But is that wise with so many new people still becoming infected every day?

It’s reported that half a million people travelled to the south coast yesterday. I’ve never understood the urge to rush to the beach the minute the temperature hots up. I can understand the need to get out if you don’t have any outside space at all to call your own but why go to a crowded beach and sit cheek by jowl with thousands of others? I can’t imagine anything worse than sitting on top of other people – even when there was no such thing as a deadly virus.

What can be more pleasurable that sitting in the comfort of your own back garden/balcony/terrace/front garden/patio/front step/communal garden/nearby green space (delete whichever is inapplicable) with a good book and a drink to hand – unless of course, like us, you are having to contend with the sawing and drilling coming from neighbouring properties.  The work starts at 7.30 am and goes on all day.  I suppose we could always escape to someone else’s garden or to the local park but what would I do if I needed the loo?  At the moment, with this heatwave, our downstairs loo is the coolest place to sit in the whole house!

On a good day, when it is quiet, the sun is shining and the birds are singing it feels unimaginable that we are all in the middle of a global epidemic. However, I read in today’s Times that pollution levels have sadly gone back to their pre-Covid levels. Nothing Lasts Forever, as Judy Collins sang.

One thing that has stopped is the 5pm briefing. I’m sure that BJ had better things to do than attend those briefings we have all been avoiding.  Have you noticed how he has recently taken to banging on his lectern? Maybe they did a Mori poll which asked what would you rather do – watch Boris and Co’s slides, sit in the sun on a beach in Bournemouth with all the other Covidiots or turn to the other channel and watch Pointless instead?

Do you think Boris has been doing his share of childcare? He hasn’t shown much of an aptitude for it up till now by all accounts. But then he’s had a lot to put up with. What with Brexit, the election, his divorce, his engagement, a deadly pandemic, getting the virus and then catching it and having to go into hospital and then the arrival of yet another Johnson baby.  One could also begin to feel sorry for him.   He has packed into a few months what most of us don’t get done in a lifetime! No wonder he didn’t have time for those Cobra meetings!

Today it was reported that Gavin Williamson, the Education Minister, wants all schoolchildren to face the front of the class.  It’s interesting that it has taken this epidemic to return to what was the normal classroom setting when I was growing up.  I’ve never thought it sensible to have small children arranged around tables so that some of them have to strain to see the teacher whilst others have their back to the whiteboard the whole time! It will be interesting to see if learning improves with all the children now facing in the same direction.

Now lockdown has been relaxed will people maintain some of the new hobbies and interests they have been enjoying? I wonder what the gender balance is?  Has lockdown seen more women returning to what’s traditionally been considered as women’s work – childcare, sewing, baking, cooking, housework, knitting – or have men taken up these things in equal measure?

I thought lockdown would give me more time for working on my book. Instead I have been busy blogging, writing poems and flash fiction in response to the tasks set by Watford Writers, my local writers’ group. I also imagined I’d get more reading done during lockdown but the same pile of books still sits on my bedside while I play Words with Friends and Upwords online. What’s more, almost every evening OH (other half) and I play a table tennis match.  We have clocked up fifty games so far.  And I remain ahead!  I wish I’d had this competitive spirit in my schooldays!

Another thing we’ve done is to rearrange our living room. Moved some furniture around so it feels like we’re in a new environment.  One of the best things about going away on holiday is coming home and seeing your surroundings with fresh eyes, after having spent time in a cramped hotel room or Airbnb.   Now, we’ve all been home for months on end we’re all sick of the sight of the same four walls which might explain why so many of our neighbours seem to be knocking them down and building new ones. Which is almost where I came in.
Wherever you are, I hope you have a peaceful and Covid-free weekend.  See you next week.
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

77TH DAY. HOW’S THE LOCKDOWN BEEN FOR YOU?

Remember Bojo’s infamous remark about Burkas? The latest edict is that from 15 June it will be compulsory for everyone to wear masks when on public transport. So we’re all going to look like letterboxes now Mr J!

Getting post is not quite the same any more, is it?  You hear the familiar plop as it comes through the letterbox and lands on your door mat. Do you run to the front door to pick up your post? No. Not even if it’s your birthday.

You leave it sitting there for about 72 hours hoping it’s not anything urgent. And then you tear open the envelope and immediately put it in the bin. Then you wash your hands singing happy birthday twice or whatever ditty works for you. Only then do you open it.  And what do you find?  In the case of OH (other half) a letter from our dentist reminding him that he is overdue for a visit to his hygienist and to phone them at his earliest convenience.  A visit to the hygienist is not exactly top of anyone’s wish list right now.  I’ve had a filling missing since early lockdown but am in no hurry to go to the dentist. That’s of course, if the dentist were open. But it’s not. And nor is our hygienist.  We checked online just to be sure and our dentist remains closed. So, who is sending out these letters?

Hairdressers are also not yet open.  My enterprising stylist has been offering some sort of online lottery.  Pay £10 and if yours is the text she picks out, then you’ll get a discount at the salon when lockdown is over. Well, I suppose she could be congratulated for being entrepreneurial. But I can’t imagine many people taking her up on this, can you? Spend £10.00 and take a chance on money off your next haircut. There’s only one person benefiting here and it’s not the customer!

So, how’s the lockdown been for you?  The Bank Holiday weekend in early May began with the wind blowing the branch of a tree down on to the roof of OH’s car. The first thing we knew about it was when a neighbour knocked at our door. We had no idea this had happened as the only window at the front is in our dining room which we haven’t visited since our pre-lockdown days. We phoned the local council but they weren’t interested as the tree in question was in our front garden and not in the street. We would have to remove it ourselves or pay someone else to do it.

OH (other half) had to go into the front garden and attempt to lift the branch from the car which he succeeded in doing. Not so vulnerable after all, eh? He moved the branch on to our hedge and thence onto the pavement where it lay half on the pathway and half in the gutter. In the course of a week we had a number of concerned people asking us if we knew that our tree was on the path. We even had a truck stop and its occupant offer to remove the tree – at a price of course.

Two weeks later our lovely gardener came along and removed it  – just as well because our neighbours were all getting into a flutter about it.  One of them even kindly offered to saw up the branch and share out the remains between a number of neighbours’ green bins.  This is the same neighbour who has cut down two of his own trees – resulting in broken toes, wasp stings and a tree less garden. Nevertheless it was a very kind offer.

It’s now nearly three months since I last drove my car. A number of people have suggested that we should all keep starting our cars so our batteries don’t go flat. This was said after only a few weeks of lockdown.  When you think how often you go away on holiday leaving your car in the driveway, why should this time be any different?  My way of coping with lockdown is to imagine that I am on a three month cruise. After all, we are all in the same boat.

I miss the clap for the NHS – or the NHS clap as some people call it, making it sound like a new kind of venereal disease.  The clapping was a lovely, heartwarming gesture and it has also resulted in people who have lived in our road for years finally getting to know one another.  Last week one of them even had every one over in front of their house for a gathering of socially distanced drinks. Sadly, as we are currently in quarantine (for reasons I may divulge at a later date) we were unable to join in.  Now everyone probably thinks we are anti-social as well as being naughty neighbours for not having removed our tree quickly enough.  The wind did us a favour actually because that tree can now wait a bit longer before it gets pruned, disproving that well known saying, “it’s an ill wind …”

I’ll be back next week. Have a good weekend.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

 

47TH DAY IN LOCKDOWN – SEEDS OF DISCONTENT

 

 

 

 

 

Forget toilet rolls and hand sanitiser. I can’t find bread flour anywhere. And as for gardening seeds – they are like gold dust.

Everyone now seems to be baking bread, experimenting with arts and crafts, painting and gardening. I’ve visited a number of online nurseries and even the B&Q website. All my favourite plants have sold out. And it’s only May 1st!  I wasn’t even able to buy seeds in the early days of lockdown.

I had a rummage in the garage and found a few old seed packets. Best planted by 2014.  I doubt if they will work but I’m going to give them a go and will let you know if I have any luck.

If you’re having the same experience, I can recommend seed sharing – something keen amateur gardeners have been doing for years.

A couple of years ago I shared seeds with a friend and I was so delighted with the outcome that I wrote this poem about it.

I’m sure you must know the poem by William Wordsworth which begins – “I wandered lonely as a cloud … ”

Here is my version – a lighthearted take on the original.

 

To Hollyhocks

I wandered barefoot in the sun

Having taken off my socks

And all at once I came upon

A clump of golden Hollyhocks

 

I pocketed some tiny seeds

They flew with me on EasyJet

I scattered them among my weeds

And with myself I had a bet

 

Could I get these seeds to grow

Among my dandelion clocks

And if they did how would I know

That these were truly Hollyhocks

 

A few months on a fabulous sight

Hollyhocks of every hue

It looks like I did something right

And then I gave some seeds to you

 

And then as quickly as they came

My flowers disappeared from sight

I looked for them but all in vain

They had just vanished overnight

 

I think my gardener was to blame

Mistook them for some flowering weeds

My garden didn’t look the same

And I hadn’t even kept the seeds

 

Then you and I met up for lunch

And I told you this tale of woe

Ah you said I have a hunch

That I still have some seeds you know

 

You kindly posted seeds to me

Just like the ones I once gave you

When you were here with friends for tea

Such a thoughtful thing to do

 

What goes around comes around they say

It looks like we will prove this true

And who knows maybe come next May

I’ll have more seeds to give to you

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been blogging every day for the past week and am going to take a break this weekend. Am not going anywhere special – just thought I would visit the sofa in my living room.

See you Monday. Have a good weekend. Stay safe and keep well.  Happy gardening!

 

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems