Thursday, April 6, 2017

Music Education for those who cannot read Music -

Music Education is now only for the wealthy 

To enable more children to learn we must stop teaching in such an academic way 
So says Charlotte C Gill in an article in today's UK Guardian.  I wanted to comment but by the time the Guardian hits NZ the comments had closed so I had to write on her blog and comment here.Sadly this will only be seen by a few so here it is although I have written on this subject once before so here is what I wrote.

I read the above with much interest. I know exactly where you are coming from because I am in the same position as you. Although I have spent a lifetime trying to read and learn the conventional musical notation I have never mastered  it. I have been called unmusical and looked down upon just because dots mean nothing to me.

I am a professional singer. I am now 74.  In my youth girls were not taught to sing. No choir schools for them where they could learn the language of sight singing but fortunately I lived with an aunt who played the piano and music teacher at my convent school, a Miss Carmen! who encouraged me to sing. I learnt everything by ear although she did try to teach us to sight sing. I was OK on theory but playing the piano was a disaster. I have since learned when I was 60 that I have a problem with my hypocanthus which prevents me from retaining sequences which means every time I face a piano or a typewriter it is like meeting it for the first time. Practising does not help and I did practise. I had to translate each dot every time and I was just too slow.

Young girls who could sing were rare in the 1950's. Benjamin Britten auditioned 40 little girls for "Flora" for "The Turn of the Screw" and gave up and used a small adult. Finding a boy soprano was no problem. Ten a penny. Britten put "The Screw" back on the shelf until he found one. I was in the original "Noyes Fludde" with Michael Crawford who I don't think sight sings and I feel sure David Hemming's could not sight sing either. I made an impact and Britten found his first young "Flora". Britten knew that many children who have talent are no academic training can still be the best choice. We were all trained by rote. I had the honour of being accompanied at an Aldeburgh  Wagner recital by Britten, possibly the only girl who has ever done this.

All my career in opera and musicals I learned roles by rote. I taught myself "The Screw" by records and picking it out slowly on the piano and it worked well. 

When I retired I was lucky enough to marry an Oxford educated GP  Miles Heffernan who played the piano and loved Schubert and every morning for 30 years we would make music together for our own enjoyment. Then he died. I had lost not only my husband but my accompanist! I knew I could never afford to sing like this again and for 6 years I didn't.

Then came the computer revolution and I discovered Garageband. I just played about with the loops for a couple of years and then one day I discovered 'The Piano Roll' and this application changed my life. I had to change a couple of notes and I thought if I can write out a couple of bars maybe I could write out the accompaniments for my Schubert Songs. The first song "Hark Hark the Lark" took a week but I could sing again. I could change the key, I could choose my own time, No wrong notes. It was like being born again. It felt like the day spell check arrived for people who cannot spell. I went on to learn how to orchestrate and have become very efficient at it, orchestrating Richard Strauss and The Songs of the Auvergne which you can see on YouTube

Garageband piano roll was the musical notation I needed. I can see an orchestration in  the way traditional musicians can see it in the dots. 'September' Strauss which is one of the most dense orchestrations ever written was a revelation . I could see the structure with the bees humming and the rain softly falling and  as winter approached all life faded away until down to a single French horn.

So why isn't this type of notation taught to people like you and me? Because the Boards of Music are too set in their ways. Britten hated his music college and I thought mine was pretty hopeless too. I was fine on theory but would never have passed the sight singing. Fortunately I had many strings to my bow.

I now can orchestrate anything I wish and I do but I am like a prophet crying in the wilderness. Traditional musicians don't need it but singers who cannot read music do. 

I suppose I should put this up on my blog. I think I wrote a similar piece a few years ago. So congratulations on behalf of all of us who have this problem and let people know there is still hope left. Learn to notate in Garageband. It is easy and free if you have a Mac or a midi programme.

You can see my efforts on my YouTube Channel - Janette Miller. All orchestrations are done in Garageband even the Mahler and Schoenberg and you can see me when I was 16 in the UK TV 'Turn of the Screw' and yet a traditional musician will still say I am unmusical because I do not read music.


Janette Miller/Heffernan

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Jackdaw of Rheims from Ingoldsby Legends - Janette Miller

The Jackdaw of Rheims from The Ingoldsby Legends by Thomas Ingoldsby/Richard Barham

The Jackdaw of Rheims is about a cheeky jackdaw who steals a cardinal's ring and is made a saint.

The Ingoldsby Legends is a collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poetry written supposedly by Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor, actually a pen-name of an English clergyman named Richard Harris Barham. The legends were first printed during 1837 as a regular series in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany and later in New Monthly Magazine. The legends were illustrated by John Leech, George Cruikshank, and Sir John Tenniel. They proved immensely popular and were compiled into books published in  1842 . They remained popular during the 19th century but have since become little known.

This poem was very popular in my youth around 1950 and all little girls and boys learnt it but sadly now seems to have slipped off the table so on impulse I decided to make  a simple version using images of a bygone age, all nicely out of copyright, so that at least there is one example on YouTube.

 I thought this would take  a couple of hours at the most. All I needed was to quickly record the 9 minute poem, add a few out of copyright images and an out of copy right piece of music. I chose the Intermezzo  2 from the opera Jewels of the Madonna by Wolf Ferarri, all nicely out of copyright.  I had a very old 45rpm  1959 record that would do. I checked to see if I could find the owner but after all these years the company and orchestra had vanished. I added a clause to the notes to say I was willing to remove this music if required. Of course video editing took longer than expected but for me simple does not mean sloppy  and the audio editing took a bit to make it fit so a couple of hours became a couple of days and so I decided to put it up only to find that the YouTube algorithms had posted a Copyright Dispute notice!

This is one of those notices one does not want to see as they are time consuming. It is also annoying when you find out that it is not the music that is in dispute but the arrangement. It seems as the algorithm was confusing 4 secs of my voice with an arrangement by someone else!  I do not do monetization on my videos. I come from the school that finds this vulgar. I sometimes get huge views for my videos, 20,300 for The Daffodils by Wordsworth, and this dispute would mean that this company would take all my royalties so I had to file a dispute and this can take up to a month to settle. In the meantime I had to take down my Jackdaw Video.

This copyright algorithm theft is a problem and the only way to stop it is to make sure you own every second of your video and that meant writing out the entire score of the Intermezzo! I do not mind doing this but first I had to find the sheet music and the score and actually write it out as a Midi. I enjoy this as it is so fascinating but I am in the middle of another big project and this was not what I had in mind. Still it had to be done for peace of mind.

In the meantime I put up a version with no background music and today if you want views the musical accompaniment is essential. I got just 21 views from this version which I have now taken down. Below shows how I did it using Garageband which has a wonderful Midi application. This took about three nights to do as it is quite long.

I was not happy with the way I spoke the first few stanzas so I re-recorded and set about mixing. I used a modern arrangement and I think it sounds fun. My new fully owned Jackdaw was ready for YouTube. This actually takes quite a long time to put up and render because I use Premier Pro for editing and the first export to QuickTime Movie at full quality can take a couple of hours and so can the render down to MP4 that YouTube requires. The upload to YouTube takes a few moments.

I just thought I should check on the outcome of my dispute which was still a few weeks away only to find YouTube had caved in. The dispute label was off and I could have used the old symphonic version but I prefer my new one! See below - no dispute.

This is a really good story for children to act out so I have made a sound only file that anybody can use  and here it is via tumbler The Jackdaw of Rheims - soundtrack Janette Miller

To make my job even longer I have a 1843 copy of The Ingoldsby Legends that I used as a script and for images and blow me if the old leather cover fell off in my hands. I am a skilled bookbinder but today I have no equipment. To repair the book in the correct traditional manner which I can do  was no longer an option but I was lucky. The break was one I could repair if the book is just meant to be looked at. This took another couple of hours.

So there you are! Hopefully this will help to keep this attractive piece of literature alive for a few more years and children can again enjoy this charming fairy tale.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Takapuna's Future Auckland Council Survey 2017

Takapuna's Future  Auckland Council Survey 2017

Took part in an Auckland City Survey about the future of Takapuna yesterday. Don't do surveys usually but felt it was a civic responsibility. It was about the future of Takapuna and what the Council could do better.
Takapuna's attraction was that is was a fresh 'seasidy' small town with a relaxed holiday atmosphere rather like the small 'seasidy' towns one encounters in LA. The clean unspoiled beach and the attractive main street with palms and small restaurants adding to the ambiance. Parking then was easy. This has all gone.
Where does one start? All councils to date have worked on the premise that if it is green open space then cover it with concrete. Tennis club will possibly go same way and croquet and golf clubs too. Also the trees in Hurstmere Road appear to be under threat. Population Growth was the answer and population growth is what the area has got. The snag is that access to the area has not been provided. If you live there and do not need to park you are OK but the open spaces are now few and getting fewer! Soon none will be left. All this is progress.
What all councils seem to forget is that if you force people into cramped living conditions small flats, no gardens then they have to live on the streets and go out to public spaces for recreation so it is vitally important to protect all open public spaces. I was asked what cities did I think worked and I replied London, Paris , New York all of which have huge public parks in the centre of their cities. Can you imagine Central Park, or Hyde Park and Regents Park built over?
Strangely Christchurch today is an example of good city planning. The earthquake has demolished vast areas of unfortunate buildings and because of liquefaction cannot be built upon again so vast areas of Christchurch have been opened up. One cannot do this now in Takapuna which is an over built mess.
I find parking in Takapuna impossible so now I rarely go there. Dogs on beach make life unpleasant too. It is sad I used to shop and walk regularly in Takapuna now I take the ferry to Auckland and shop in Queen St which will be nice too one day! Car parking in Takapuna is impossible and a journey by Public Transport from my house would be one hour there and one hour back plus a long walk. By car it takes 10 minutes but the bus would go via Sydney to get there!The powers that be have made a mess of Takapuna. Too many people crammed in and not enough space to serve them let alone attract outside visitors.
I was asked for suggestions and I replied very good architects and a courageous council who was not in the hands of greedy property developers. Growth in population is not possible until social infrastructure is up to the task of serving those who are already here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Cupid Noel Tovey - everyone should have a Cupid!

My Cupid - Noel Tovey
Janette Heffernan

Cupid the Roman God of erotic love and beauty, whose arrows can unite the most unlikely protagonists, is an elusive and enchanting creature. Everyone, if they are lucky, will meet the God of Love at sometime in their lives and when you do it is most important to keep on his the right side. A casual word in the wrong direction can mean the difference between wedded bliss or a lonely and impoverished old age.

Cupid can come in many guises. True we think of him today as a chubby cherub with a quiver full of arrows charged to inspire romantic love but that is not how the Romans saw him. To them he was is a lively youth who delighted in pranks and spreading love. It is said if Cupid's arrow hits you; you will fall hopelessly in love with the next person you meet.

I first meet my Cupid when I was twenty-one. I had no idea that he was the God of Love.
At first glance it was obvious to me that Cupid was exceptionally good looking, confident and self-assured. I was the Principal Girl in the Windsor Pantomime and Cupid was the premier danseur who picked me up and twirled me around in the final walk down. He was a good dancer too. The panto came to a close and I moved on never giving this man another thought. Ships that pass!
Little did I realize that this short meeting was to have life changing consequences that would effect the rest of my life ten years down the track. I had met my Cupid.

In between jobs I had taken up ice skating as a social hobby. I was hopeless at it but being in the theatre can be very lonely and for a single girl a bit like living in a convent. Not too much available talent around, the opportunities to meet suitable partners are few and far between owing to the unsocial hours worked. Ice rinks, well Queens in Bayswater ,were a wonderful place to meet people. Strangely I found it was a good place to meet members of the medical profession as St Mary's Paddington is nearby and it is a sport one can do alone and at anytime hence lots of doctors. You have to be intelligent to skate. Very challenging.

The first time on the ice after I had said farewell to my Cupid a very special medical specimen literally fell at my feet in the form of a Dr Miles Richard Castelhow Heffernan, General Practitioner of Shepherds Bush, right beside the BBC. He was not good looking, rather old for me at 35 but he had the sexiest voice I had ever heard. I just adore Oxford Accents. I fell head over heals in love with this man and I still am.

I wish I could say the feeling was mutual as unrequited love is truly unbearable but to Dr Heffernan I was just a pair of legs with skates on. It was a friendship of convenience, we were both beginners and someone to dance with as nobody else wanted to do so. It soon became obvious that Miles was not interested in me other than for holding him up but he was fun clever and intelligent, loved opera and ballet so he became a good friend and skating partner for the next 8 years! He never took me to the opera because he never bothered to find out my other interests. Got quite a surprise when he found out I knew Benjamin Britten at about six years into our friendship.

I knew Miles was not available which was sad because I knew he was the one for me. I had to look elsewhere and I did. I had lots of boyfriends but I never meet the one who was just right. It was infuriating because I knew that Miles was just right. Miles just did not see ME.
I wondered if Miles might be gay as he ran a boarding house above his surgery and most of his lodgers were single men Bit like ‘Rising Damp’ in fact a lot like ‘Rising Damp’ as he had the Nigerian Pathologist, a Norwegian shipping owner’s sons and various musicians but the one or two knee tremblers I had received under the table convinced me that Miles was all man but definitely not interested in me. I just gave up on him.

My career had sort of come to a full stop and for two years I spent trying to break into London Theatre with little success so I spent hours down at the rink with my skating girl friend Virginia, she too is worth an epitaph as she really taught me how to live as I was just so innocent. The Theatre is worse than a convent and completely isolated from reality.

Then one day out of the blue Cupid turned up on ice skates. There he was skating like an angel and whisking me off my feet, dancing The Blues and throwing me into fish dives. I could hardly believe my eyes as it takes years to become a good skater and Noel Tovey, for this is what my Cupid was called, was not only a fine ballet dancer but also a more than competent skater.

Noel was an Australian who was just beginning to make himself a name in the West End of London. I knew little about him but he liked me and he made me like him. He was just so nice and enthusiastic about life and clever and talented. I introduced him to Miles and Noel joined our small circle. Again it had not dawned on me that Noel/Cupid was to arrange the rest of my life.

I had absolutely no money during this period. Just enough to go skating and auditions. I had no money for food and would sit and watch the others eat cream caramels with my cup of tea looking as if I did not care for such delights. Miles never bought me a cup of tea although he was on £3,000 a year. I had £104 a year in discretionary income after living and traveling expenses. His salary was a fortune when the average wage was about £15 per week and he used to protest when I pinched his chips.

Noel won a job in the chorus of a new musical ‘On the Level’ at the Saville Theatre. This was a highly sort after job as these are hard to get and was a great career move up in the right direction. I was so pleased for him and extremely jealous at the same time. Regular money and in the West End! His skating days were over as West End Musicals and Skating do not mix. Considered too dangerous.
Then when I was 24 my career took off. I went from understudy to West End principal virtually overnight. I had to take over the lead in an intimate revue and luckily for me I collected real live fans that sent me flowers, chocolates perfumes and gold necklaces. The management was impressed at my performance. No other cast member was getting such adulation, so I kept the part. It appeared the audiences found me a ‘sexy bit of goods’, much to my surprise it appeared I had ‘IT’.

Miles reluctantly came to see me and was obviously not impressed when I could not leave rehearsals and go and skate with him.

Then as if by magic Cupid was to cross my path again. I got a part in the ‘Desert Song’ at the Palace Theatre and my Cupid had partnered up with the fabulous leading lady. By this time Noel's career had taken off too into the stratosphere and he was the choreographer for the Sandy Wilson revival of ‘The Boy Friend’ at Wyndhams Theatre, which was a huge success. His partner took over the role of ‘Polly Browne’ when ‘The Desert Song’ closed. I was so jealous as I knew I could have played ‘Polly’ too. I liked them both a lot.

Miles was extremely useful to me during this period although he did not know it. ‘The Red Shadow’ had a wandering eye and I could see I was next on the list. A 45-year- old family man is not my cup of tea so it was necessary to develop a fiancée quick and Miles was the obvious choice. Miles was ‘real’ and I could lie convincingly and believe me I needed too on this occasion. The only thing odd about my fiancée was he only turned up to see me in the last week of the run and someone stole my fake engagement ring! Serves them right as it came from Woolworth’s.

Cupid phoned and asked me to be ‘Polly Brown’ in his production of 'The Boyfriend' that he was taking to South Africa. I was thrilled as at 26 I had never been outside of England. Could never afford it. The major industrial cities I knew well but my foreign travel had been limited to Cardiff. I was once invited by a college friend Elizabeth Himsworth whose father was at that time I believe, Ambassador to Afghanistan of all places to spend the summer in the Khyber Pass. The fare would cost just £92 but as I only had £104 to live on for a whole year this was out of the question. I wish I had gone now.

I was so naive but on the trip to South Africa I grew up socially and politically and I have never been the same again. Everyone sheltered in the democratic West should see third world conditions and experience dictatorship then the world would change. I know I did, overnight! Loved the country to look at hated the politics!

Noel who was of aboriginal descent and Inia Te Wiate, a famous Maori opera singer from New Zealand where I ended up eventually both were there at that time and made a nonsense of the hateful apartheid system.

One evening after a party in Johannesburg, Noel said 'Janette why don't you marry Miles? I cannot think of anyone more perfect for you!' 'Yes' I replied ‘but he does not see me. He thinks I am a stupid under educated middle class child but I do love him and the person I marry has to be as good as Miles if not better or I shan’t bother' and that was it!

Noel left for London and I never saw him again but when I returned to London Miles was a different man. Miles went to Greece and on his return he started to woo me as only an English Upper class Oxford educated male can. I got the lot, the punt on the river, the boxes at the Royal Opera. I enjoyed that bit, the picnics at Glyndebourne, within a year I was Mrs. Heffernan and I remained happily Mrs. Heffernan for thirty years until Miles died. I often wondered what had bought about this change of heart. I thought it was a trip to Athens.

One day, years into our marriage, I said to Miles that I wondered what had happened to Noel Tovey. Twenty years ago you could not Google to find out.

‘Oh you mean Cupid’ said Miles, 'When he returned from South Africa Noel said to me 'Miles you really should do something about that girl' so I did!'

Without Cupid's intervention Miles and I, stuck in our repressed middle class mores, would never have had the courage to speak out to each other. I should have missed out on thirty years of a happy marriage and a beautiful daughter who is every inch her father's child, scaringly brilliant at both Arts and Sciences and Miles gave me the education that the nuns should have provided. Miles introduced me to Proust! My life would have been poorer.

My Cupid not only gave me a part to dream for ‘Polly Browne', my first trip in an airplane, air travel in the 60’s was only for the rich and famous, the chance to work in a foreign country, a political vision of reality I shall never forget, but also a glorious husband in the 'Mr. Darcy' category and his sadly his pension.

Now I am aged 65 and Cupid has turned up again as an Australian National Treasure. You name it Noel Tovey has achieved it and I am not surprised. One highlight was the aboriginal section of the Opening of the Sydney Olympic Games. Wonderful!

I shall always be thankful that I had the good fortune to fall into his path. The Gods have truly smiled on me.

Everyone needs a Cupid. Unlike the other Gods around today this ancient God works!

Monday, January 2, 2017

No Room at the Inn - How to avoid spending Christmas alone

How to avoid spending Christmas alone? -  The answer is simple. Your friends and neighbours should invite you to join them for their family Xmas dinner. Easy! Any Christian  family would do this. The problem is they don't! 

For sixteen years, ever since my husband died, I have grappled with the problem of where to go for Xmas if my family cannot join me? They live on another Island and work makes it impossible to travel to be with me. You would think that the answer above would be enough but it isn't. 364 days of the year my friends and neighbours are happy to see me but on the 365th day, Christmas Day, they do not want to know. I am not their problem.  If I gave a champagne and Xmas cake party on Boxing Day morning I could have the world here. I know this as I have done it. With the exception of one very kind and thoughtful neighbour who helped me out on two occasions I have had this problem which one would think in this day and age would never happen but it does. Year after year, same problem until this year. It has been such a disaster that we have all had to confront it. Xmas 2016 was a disaster for me, my friends and neighbours because this must never happen again to me or anyone else. Being alone on Xmas Day is cruel punishment and unnecessary and all it takes is for the fortunate to invite the lonely to dinner. For once my friends and neighbours have had to confront it head on.

In UK and Scotland it is almost obligatory to have anyone to the festive table who finds themselves alone on this special day. And it is special for Christians! It is the day that the Saviour was born and we are forced to remember that when Jesus came to die for our redemption there was ’No room at the Inn’ that night, Jesus was born in a stable. The stranger at our table reminds us that there is 'Room at our Inn’ and we have learned the lesson and give thanks. It is the same with New Year in Scotland. The greatest  of good fortune ensues  if on the hour of Midnight a tall dark stranger knocks on the door bringing a piece of coal for the fire, bread for the table, and a whiskey for the heart! It is called 'First Footing’. And my Scots father was sent out five minutes before midnight to ensure if not the stranger, which is obviously best, that a man bearing these gifts was the first foot over the threshold. 

This tradition of inviting the less fortunate seems to have withered in the wish of NZ and Australian families  and sadly in many other countries too to use this occasion for a yearly get family together forgetting the real reason of the Holy Day.

 My husband, daughter and I have had many strangers to our Xmas meals and I always ask anyone who I know might be alone to come to us as no one should spend this day alone. It is the meal that counts a visit for a coffee  or Skype will not do. These are gestures nothing more kind though it is. This special meal rounds off the year. however bad the year has been. It is the time when we try renew out faith in the human race as loving, understanding and kind but NZ and Australia  it appears Norway seems to have forgotten this in the glorification of  family first.

This year I thought my problem was solved. After 16 years my balance system was healed so that I could fly again. I could fly to Christchurch from Auckland for Christmas with my family in my daughter's home and spend the day with them. Everyone who had seen me grapple with this problem year after year  were obviously delighted and happy for me and it relieved them of finding another excuse as to why I could not be invited to spend Xmas with them. I do not blame them for this after all Xmas is for families. I was all packed, flights booked and just ready to set out for the airport when my Xmas was cancelled. My son in law thought he might be starting a cold. My balance may be better but my immune system is fragile any cold can kill as I cannot take antibiotics. Foolishly I had not foreseen this could happen. I had no plan B. I was devastated. For once I was really going to be alone on Xmas Day as it was too late to make any other arrangements.  Crushed to the core. What I had been dreading had happened. I was going to be absolutely alone and what was worse I had no food in the house so not even a Xmas Dinner. In truth I did not feel like cooking.

Yes, very dear friends asked me over on Xmas Eve to try to make up and it was lovely but I was still alone on Xmas Day. If anyone is interested Xmas Day by oneself is just as horrendous as one imagines. Skype ad FB do nothing to help. Watching your friends have a Happy Xmas and wishing you were there is horrible if you are not. 

This year my own immediate neighbours have been forced confronted this full on. Before I left my immediate neighbour was so thrilled that I was going to be with my daughter as she knew that this had been a problem for me  that she said “Yes Xmas is for families.  She could see I was so happy. It is all about families” and in truth in NZ it is so my pride was not going to let me intrude or risk a refusal when my Xmas was off. They had no idea that I had not gone to Christchurch until one of their family, the only one that knew told them during their Xmas meal. I had hoped that no one would find out and just keep quiet. I have my pride.  I find the refusals given to me as to why it is impossible for me to be invited to join them to hard to take. Unfortunately as I left my house to buy some milk I bumped into one of the her family. 

At that moment the family member should have said “ Oh that’s dreadful, I’ll ask if you can come’ but because this occasion is so sacred to the family, we both know this, she would not do so and I did not expect her to do so knowing how close this family has been. 

Evidently she mentioned my plight at their Xmas supper. There were 25 at table and my lovely neighbour of nearly 90 was horrified that her good neighbour of 40 years was alone. She told all of them that this must never happen again. She came round two days ago and was most apologetic.  She said she too was devastated She said she and her family had had no idea that this had been allowed to happened and I believe them. Those fortunate to have large families around have not a clue of how lucky they are.  She said in future I had an open invitation to any of her family gatherings  and that I must never fear being alone at Xmas again. I am so grateful. It was a pity she did not find out earlier so I could have joined them.

This is my New Year’s Resolution I am gong to try see that nobody is alone at Xmas 2017. 

I do beg everyone to check on their single neighbours before Xmas 2017 to ensure that no one is alone. Just to be asked makes it OK. They maybe happy to be alone but the invitation gives them the privilege of choice. If they are alone your invitation will be worth its weight in gold and make you and your family feel good too.  To confront this may make many of my friends uncomfortable and it should but like my neighbour and her family it has to be done. The problem is yours to solve, not mine or theirs, and it is easy, just say:-

 “Please come to us for Xmas Dinner”.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Janette Miller/Heffernan Wikipedia BBC 100 women

BBC 100 Women 2016 : Season ends with record breaking Wikipedia edit.

"It is one of the worlds most popular websites. A source of information on  many things but there is one area where Wikipedia - the online encyclopaedia - is severely lacking. This is articles about and by women. This is something the organisation is trying to tackle and today they have teamed up with the 100 women season to do something about it. Nuala MacGovern has spent the day at a very special event." BBC World Service Radio
Women through the centuries have been airbrushed out of history and it is still happening today. Sadly only 17% of Wikipedia's articles are about women and only 15% are edited by women and today the BBC set out to reverse this. I am one of the 15%. I am fortunate I can edit because I have a coding background as I used Dreamweaver and now Adobe Muse but that was in the early days when one could have a go.

Technically it is supposed to be easier in 2016 using Visual Editor and I had a try. I still do not find it any easier and I am good with computers. The video training is not up to standard

Today all Wiki articles need published references and for many amazing  women these are hard to come by. I should love to have my own Wiki page but sadly I have no one who will take the time and effort to put it up for me and being a woman I don't cheat and put it up for myself. You are not supposed to put up Wiki pages about yourself so how do all these men get one? So I have done the next best thing I have put a Wiki style bio on my blog and that will have to do until one day someone does it for me. I can supply refs and citations for everything and all can be checked but it will take hours.

Once I did get an offer but sadly it never materialised. May be if I send him this and ask nicely he may relent and upload it for me.

I have been lucky. I have really solid references because being an artist I get written about in newspapers but thanks to the fact that I can edit Wiki I got the most respectable reference one could have on an International DVD,  and it is such a strange tale it is worth telling.

I use Wiki a lot and I was researching a one of Britain's foremost documentary producers Tony Palmer. Palmer has a list of productions and awards that take one's breath away. It was all there on his Wiki Page but no references or citations. In the early days these were not essential. Palmer does not need references as everyone knows who he is but there on the page was a huge warning saying that unless references were supplied and proof that Palmer was notable and worthy of inclusion on Wiki this page would be taken down within days.

I did not know Palmer. I live in New Zealand but I thought this was so unfair and I wondered if Palmer knew. I felt I had to warn him because it was so unjust. With great difficulty I found his email and got in touch with him and he rang me up to say thank you. As one is not allowed to put up one's own page or edit it he was stuck. He had no idea where the page had come from but obviously did not want it taken down.  Timidly I asked would he like me to try and see if I could put up a few refs. I had no idea how to do this but I could have a go.

Somehow I managed it. It was not easy and I only managed one or two. I also had to deal with an editor who obviously had a grudge against Palmer which was not pleasant. You can see it. Only three refs.It was enough and the page is still there! Really everything else on the page was enough but rules is rules, as they say but today Wiki wants citations for nearly every word.

Palmer was so grateful. He only knew me as an unknown woman from Auckland NZ. I remember he rang and said "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" He said he was going to send me some of his DVDs as a present. He did. He knew I liked opera and ballet. Imagine my surprise when I found myself in one of them on Benjamin Britten. I knew Britten well and so did Palmer. In fact I think Tony Palmer knew Britten as well as anyone. His Britten DVD of Death in Venice is definitive.

Years later in 2013 Tony Palmer featured me in his centenary film on Britten. I felt so honoured. If it had not been for my edit on Wiki we should never have known each other. I also got to feature in The London Times and asked to contribute to The Britten's Centenary Collection, my essay just after that of Alan Bennett! It was edited by Hannah Nepal.

I still await a Wiki page. I think I deserve one even for being  Auckland's Plunket Woman of the Year 1981/2 for services to the Arts. ref NZ Herald Now that is an honour but like most women I won't get one which is a pity. It is because of the fight that I and my sisters put up that women are better off now than they were in my day. Not equal yet but getting there. Wiki should change its  policy and let people like me post a Page with as many refs as possible that can be verified to encourage other young women to have a go.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Janette Miller's Xmas Cake Best Ever Recipe

Janette Miller - Xmas Cake  Secret Recipe

This recipe was given to me a long time ago in the 1980s by an old friend. I found out later that she had made it up with food she had had in her larder and had no idea what she had done! It was magic then and magic now. My friends and family think it is the best ever and it is truly delicious but takes an age to make. So I thought this year I would share the recipe with you and what is more the best way to make it. For Xmas it takes 4 days and I cook it in last weekend in October. It takes about 8 weeks to age and feed with a little brandy. ( seriously not too much as if you over do the brandy it ruins the lovely flavours.)

Day 1 Buying and collecting Ingredients

(maybe 2, 3 or 4 days if ingredients hard to find. Last year no almond essence, not even for ready money!)


  • 375g Raisons
  • 375g Currants
  • 400g Sultanas
  • 100g Figs finely chopped (Absolute must)
  • 300g Cherries glace real (2pkts)
  • 150g Peel
  • 150g Ground almonds
  • 150g Almond slices (for crunch)
  • 250g Dark brown sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 250g flour, plain or self raising
  • 2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1 tsp Salt, cocoa, coffee, cinnamon, allspice,  grated nutmeg 
  • 2 dps Treacle (must for colour)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla and almond essence (go easy on this) grated orange peel and juice
  • Grated lemon peel and juice to one cup
  • Grated orange peel and juice
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 5 large eggs.
  • A good square Xmas Cake tine 9 inches, 20 cm

Try to buy real glace cherries but if stuck and you have to use red gelatine blobs for colour give them a good wash. I do not use angelica or the green blobs!

I find cooked walnuts make cakes bitter so do not add to cake. You can decorate with them though. I add sliced almonds for crunch.

2nd Day - Preparation

Prepare to soak all the fruits, peel, figs, glace cherries in the brandy and sherry and leave to soak overnight. I wash my fruit but I suppose the brandy would kill off any nasties. Do not bother soaking the currants as they don't soak.  I wash  these. Waste of effort! I prepare the baking tin brown and non stick baking papers and line the tin box with foil and grease proof paper and I get out all the packets of ingredients. I write a list so I can check them off as it is easy to forget something. Before I begin baking I add everything that is wet, like lemon and orange juice, currants, almonds, treacle,essence, coffee etc.

I leave the butter out over night too to soften. If you forget this give a very quick 10 sec micro wave when it is cut into pieces, no more. Overnight softening makes life easier.

Day 3 Cooking and baking 

First I was my hands really well and I get out all of the utensils that I think I might need. I shall forget some but having most of what I need to hand helps as this is a massive job. 

I paste inside the tin with melted butter and stick the baking papers to it. Then I give a good melted buttering to the inside. I take care over this as it protects the cake from burning when cooking.

I use the Delia Smith method and take ages over the creaming of sugar and butter. See YouTube. down below. I am very careful about adding the 5 beaten eggs. This can take many minutes, 20 in fact as you do not want the mixture to curdle.  I do it desert spoon at a time, little and beat in well. If it does it does not matter but cake won't rise as much.You can add a little flour to try and get it together but I don't find this helps. If you are brave you can use very dark Demerara sugar in NZ it is Billingtons but this is harder to use than soft dark brown sugar as it is gritty. Makes a wonderful cake though.

Then when all is mixed and sort of fluffy fold in flour, and I mean fold with figure of 8 gently all the dry goods, salt, ground almonds, spices and anything that you have forgotten. This is hard work if you do not have a big chef machine. (coffee?)

When all dry goods are in add the fruits. I have to do this in two batches as my bowl is not big enough. I do this with my hand mixer but it does not take long. Then into baking tin. Mine is 9 ins 20 cm I think. All the mixture goes in surprisingly.

Then place brown paper on outside held with string and into oven at 140c. For me with a Bosch oven it is on the lowest shelf but for other ovens one shelf below centre.

I  pre-heat my oven  but ovens go down to zero when a cold dish is inserted so you could start from cold I suppose. I do sprinkle a little water on top and place 2 folds of baking paper lightly on the top with a hole in the middle.

Now here is the spooky bit. For a nine inch tin bake at 140c for 4.5 hours and do not, repeat do NOT be tempted to open the oven door until 4 hours is up. Then you may. Your cake may be cooked. You can see I have an oven thermometer for accuracy but the Bosch oven is absolutely accurate so I ned not have bothered. This timing is for Bake NOT Fan bake. I don't like fan bake as I find it dries my cakes up. 

I won't patronise you by telling you how to check but if the pin does not come clean just keep on testing every 10 minutes till it does. Mine was cooked at 4 hours but I gave it a bit longer.

During this time you can wash up. The washing up is colossal and will take 4.5 hours even with a dishwasher.

4.5 hours later and here it is! Wow what a smell. Leave in tin till cold.

This one rose beautifully!

When cold wrap in grease proof paper and foil and put away for a month in a cool place. Not the fridge!