Friday, January 1, 2021

New Year 2021 Janette Miller

Watercolour swatches 

Welcome, 2021! I think I can safely say that most of the world will be pleased to greet you. Your predecessor was a hell of a disappointment and life for many, including me will never be the same again. Covid-19 has changed many lives mine included and without it I should not be here today. 

I began this blog in 2010, eleven years ago and for a few years, I was very keen. Then I discovered Facebook and In the early days I loved it and I gave away my blog. FaceBook then was very different from the FB of today. It was fun, you met your friends who you hadn't seen in yonks and we chatted and it was delightful. Gradually as FB became monetised it has changed to what it is today which to me is a platform for unwanted advertising and political comment. The content of the latter grew and grew and my friends although they obviously read my comments hardly ever commented back except perhaps for the occasional like. With FB algorithms being as they are I expect many friends never saw my posts.

Corvid-19 was the final straw for me. Living in New Zealand which took a very tough line on the infection right from the start, Covid-19 is under control and life here is  almost normal. This has not occurred in many countries, although it has in the East. I find reading about the horrors of the USA. EU, UK, the country of my birth unbearable because it is absolutely obvious that if firmer leadership and self-restraint had been shown by both leaders and citizens the disaster now being experienced should never have happened. Regretfully many FB friends took a dim view of the fact that life for me was perfectly normal when life for them became increasingly inconvenient. I just did not know what to comment so I have decided to give FB a rest until Covid-19 is over.

But Covid-19 has altered my life too. I am elderly and I live entirely alone as my family lives on another Island. I have been alone for much of my life as my job as a performing artist meant that my life was constantly changing and it was hard to make long-lasting relationships under these circumstances but until NZ's first lockdown I had no idea of what "Alone" meant. I found out.

In NZ there was no notice about the lockdown. Our PM went on the TV and announced that it had begun. A few hours were given but for all over 65 the lockdown started at that moment. No dashing out to the shops for a few rolls of toilet paper and a bottle of milk. Somebody would have to go and buy it for you. Well, l I had the bog roll but no milk.

I had no idea at that moment how alone I was and how hard it would be to get a bottle of milk. I rang five of my neighbours and friends and to my horror and surprise not one them would go and buy me a bottle of milk and a few eggs. Each just said "NO"! Each of them could have gone as they were not in the forbidden age bracket and each of them knew I lived alone and had no family in Auckland but such was the panic not one of them would initially. It was a shock.

I was not alone in being alone, a very dear friend I met at croquet was in the same position. She lives alone too. She had no eggs. I had a very bad night. The next morning I rang my MP to find out if there was an organisation that could help people in my position. My MP was brilliant and gave me the link to an organisation of young volunteers who might help and if that failed he would buy the milk for me himself.  However this is election year in NZ and his opposition candidate was on the button and their candidate rang me, asked if I was OK and actually went and bought the bottle of milk for me himself and did this for a few days until I got fixed up with a delightful young helper.

My friends and neighbours on this occasion were useless but two felt guilty and eggs and milk arrived on my doorstep the next day but I can never forget their immediate rejection. When the chips are down I am on my own. There is no doubt at all I was not in their lifeboat. 

That was the beginning of months of isolation. No one entered my house for months except for two emergencies. All my shopping was done by a young stranger for whom I am extremely grateful I did not know but unlike my friends and neighbours helped me. She even emailed me to make sure I was alright but I never met her when she came to my house as we had to maintain social distance. When I tried to give her a gift she refused to take it. When this is truly over and even in NZ it isn't over yet I shall take her out to dinner at the best restaurant. 

I was not in anyone's bubble and I have learned to live with this and as the months went on it became easier and easier and now I like it, in fact I love it One can live alone. It is not necessary to be one of a crowd. I think I have always known this but I believed the myth. I still enjoy my firends and neighbours even if not one of them gives a thought about me. I do care about them. After 45 years of living next to four large families, I should like to be included sometimes say for Xmas or anniversaries but I am not and that is how it is. It is not their fault and in truth one cannot pick one's neighbours. I am not their responsibility but the good news is I have learned to live with it. I used to think people would help me because I was there but thanks to Covid-19 I don't any more. At 77 I have grown up, I have to be totally self-reliant. Help is there from outside if I ask for it and it is up to me to ask for it and it is my personal responsibility to look after myself.

Today most of us have to learn to live by ourselves if we are to remain safe. The vaccines may eventually halt the infection but until then some form of isolation is the only answer. Humans are adaptable creatures and when one door closes they soon find another. I found my watercolour paintbox and my garden. Both been a revelation and so far have not disapointed. 

But I do enjoy sharing my very strange life and believe me my life has been very strange! I have a special blog for my granddaughter for her to read in the future when she grows up and wonders about her eccentric grandmother. Janette Miller's Strange Life. This gives my history and I do have one or two projects that might be of interest. My world of live theatre and music has collapsed but something needs to replace it. The question is what?

Now I am off to enjoy my day, my garden and my watercolours. I wish everyone a Happy New Year, wash your hands, wear a mask and keep your distance till this has gone.  I might even begin blogging again. Janette

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The magic of a paintbox

 I love paintboxes. They say so much about a person. Each has its own personality. The above is the paintbox I have been using throughout the Covid-19 isolation. It is very cheap but I like it. This box came as weekly additions to a watercolour magazine and was really good value. You can fill the pans up from tubes and the stickier the paints are the better.

I have two others and all are old. Watercolours last forever. Corvid isolation seemed a perfect time to give this another go. Watercolours if you have not tried them have a mind of their own and you never know what is going to happen. 

I had no idea just how expensive these little pans of colour have become. To buy separately about NZ$10 each! That's NZ$280 today. Paint boxes like this sell for around $300 +.

The joy is one only uses a few of these colours and a little goes a long way.

One Xmas, a long, long time ago I received a Rowney black tin paintbox as my major Xmas present and in  2018 I bought an example of the first The Winsor & Newton 1840 wooden paintbox and the paints till are useable although I don't use them.

I am not a competent watercolourist but l enjoy dabbling in the hope that one day I shall get the hang of it.

When I do something I feel comfortable with I'll share. It may be a long wait. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Garageband for Accompanist for singers Janette Miller

This is an excellent article on Choosing Your Vocal Coach-Pianist but this relies on finding and being able to afford this luxury. This is a big problem for singers especially like me if you cannot play the piano. It can also be expensive and sometimes impossible to find an accompanist who can play difficult accompaniments. 
I could never find one to play "The Songs of the Auvergne". My answer was to make sure I married a man who loved music and could play the piano. He was not perfect, could not transpose and was not "performance proof" but every day for 30 years we sang together. He could not manage "The Songs of the Auvergne".Then he died. I lost my husband and my accompanist. I did try with the locals but they were expensive and you have guessed it could not even start on "The Songs of the Auvergne". This was in 2002 and I thought I should never sing again either in private or in public. Then a miracle happened. Computers arrived in 2007 and Garageband. I started to play with the "loops" and one day I added with great difficulty one or two notes of my own using The Keyboard and the Piano Roll. It as not until a few weeks later that I thought if I can write out a few notes, then possibly I could write out a Schubert Song. I tried first using the conventional notation but found the Piano Roll easier. It was a success. It took me over a week but I had an accompaniment, one that did what I wanted exactly. No wrong notes, right tempo and could transpose at a click and is on hand when convenient to me. 
I have never looked back. Garageband could also handle "The Songs of The Auvergne". I wrote it out as a piano accompaniment at first but then I decided to orchestrate and bingo! It was easy. It now takes me about 2 hours to write out a song. I put up "The Songs of the Auvergne" on YouTube. Yes, it was a challenge but if I had had this tool when I was young it would have made all the difference. It is difficult when you can sing but for reasons cannot play an instrument. It means one can learn difficult roles and learn with the orchestration. I had to learn "The Turn of the Screw" for Britten at the age of 15 with no help from anyone. I then had to sing it on British TV live with only one orchestral rehearsal. That was truly scary. Had I had Garageband and could have written out my part and practised it when I needed life would have been better and my fear of performing made easier. I could not find an accompanist who could tackle this is 1959. Today one can get many classical songs as midis. You just have to know how to use them. 
Obviously, a real pianist is preferable but they are expensive and not always available but worth it if you are like me who loves to sing but needs an accompanist. Then when you find a wonderful accompanist, mine was Britten we sang Schubert together you can enjoy it. He let me sing in English and was willing to transpose when needed or even when I didn't know as he chose keys for me!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Sir Bob Elliot a tribute from a grateful patient.

Sir Bob Elliot died today

This amazing man has just died. I have to thank him for saving me from becoming a Type 1 diabetic. I never met him but about 20 years ago I was put on one of his research programmes to prevent diabetes. Both my parents and my cousin have diabetes and so I qualified for this research. When I was tested it was found that I had a six out of ten chance of becoming a Type 1 diabetic but Sir Bob thought that large amount of Vitamin B3. Nicotinamide could prevent this. 

For three years I took huge amounts of B 3 each day and slowly like a miracle my platelet levels returned to normal so normal that I have a 99.99% chance of not becoming a diabetic. I kept all the lab test results so you can see it happen. Sadly this has not been taken up universally by the medical profession who were very jealous of his success and NZ hates "tall poppies" but it did work for me and I was so lucky as he has saved me from needles and injections for life. How many other pre-diabetics could be cured?
I am so grateful to this man I have never met.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Ditch Overseas Travel and Eliminate Covid 19 in UK

UK Guardian 30 July 2020

At last! The first commonsense article that I have seen about how to deal with Covid 19. in UK, eliminate it!
UK is an island like New Zealand where I live. NZ has eliminated Covid 19 and let me tell you life here is normal, very normal. NZ is now taking its holidays at home for the immediate future but no masks, no social distancing and life as normal.
The UK could do this as it is an Island and at last, even a very slow Boris has got around contemplating doing this too. A bit late but it can still be done. Do it UK! Then I can come home and visit you and you can visit me. You can't at the moment. You are all too dangerous for NZ, in the nicest possible way.
It takes about five weeks. It does mean going to abroad for holidays is out for a bit till other countries get their Covid 19 under control but the benefits are enormous. No more 30,000 deaths and masks and the inconvenience of it all. I have never had to wear a mask, I feel safe and I can go and shop anywhere. NZ just has to police those coming in as they bring it and if the UK cannot see it yet that is where the infections come from. One infected passenger is one infection too many. I realise lots of my FB friends have homes in France and Spain and have visited but one has to make a few sacrifices. NZ did this. It was tough but the rewards are worth it. If everyone is in the same boat it is not so bad.
So if elimination of Covid 19 is suggested and not just control, go for it otherwise your life is going to be ghastly for the next few years and UK theatres, sports and cafes will never get going again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

What is Received English? Janette Miller

Received English. 

Who speaks it these days. I do but I am one of the last to do so.
The UK has lots of regional accents but the strangest of all is known as Received English which foxes everyone. It is the typical BBC English which is going out of fashion but it what I speak. In my day you had and it is "strange"!
I have only just found out.
You have to learn this accent. In my day it was taught in schools. It hides brilliantly your social class and in a class-ridden country like UK this is very useful.
Today Received English is taught in language schools and weirdly many expats children who never set foot in UK speak it too. Richard E Grant is one and Freddie Mercury. It is absolutely impossible to tell which class they belong to.
So does my accent hide my class? Yes it does. To a lower-class person I sound "posh" but to aristocrats they cannot place me, they know by the way I say "often" and "cat" I am not one of them but am I upper-middle or working class? I could be either.
So what am I? I am not sure. I was raised in what I thought was a middle-class household but my grandfathers were of the people who rose from the working class and to succeed both families spoke "Received English". I am me! 
Possibly "Trade" which was unfashionable, did not do to be a banker but now is very fashionable. Both the working and upper classes look down on "Trade"
So now you know.

2009 Falstaff Verdi Covid Live Streaming from Glyndebourne in 2020

Falstaff Verdi Glyndebourne 2009

Just watched a totally "delicious" Falstaff, 2009 Glyndebourne. This was Verdi's last opera, written at the age of 80, his only comedy and for once a decent libretto and what a difference that made. There are sections when Verdi could not resist "I'm a scale going down, I'm a scale going down"  but it is very high class, quality and according to Britten and my husband and they certainly should know Verdi's best opera and the only one either would deign to go and see. 

This production is set in Windsor in about 1947 just after the Second World War with loads of cabbages in the garden and very dull clothes.

No coupons for clothes or furniture at that time and no bottles of Scotch either. I was born in Windsor so I know and love it well and was leaving nearby in Taplow at that time and our garden was full of cabbages that none of us ate. I lived in that type of Middle-class house too so it was very nostalgic. The curtains looked rather new though. Nobody had new curtains until after 1953!

The "Falstaff" was superb. Best I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few and I liked the resetting. It worked very well. Loved the production, no clinging to the furniture, perhaps just once but on this occasion allowable.

I could even take the stuffed, puppet cat on the counter which was quite cute however there were two more stuffed cats possibly more later on that failed to amuse. Please note one stuffed cat is enough.

I could happily watch this again as it was so enjoyable and I probably shall. That is praise from me indeed.  Bravo Glyndebourne and a big thank you for making it available to those of us who could never get in in better days.