Friday, December 28, 2012

The Joys of the Vinyl Record

According to John Harris of the Guardian the good old vinyl record is making a comeback. I cannot think why!

Vinyl records? They may be acceptable if re mastered but I find listening to my old, original vinyl records excruciating. Apart from the thrill of hearing the needle hit the black disc, if that is what turns you on, what follows is out of this world, scratch, hiss and if recorded live especially with classical music with live performances unbearable by modern standards.

I discovered this by accident recently when I re-listened to my late husband's favorite operatic soprano singing the 'Liebestod' from the famous Solti recording of 'Tristan & Isolde'. I couldn't believe my ears. Poor woman was tired and the last note today would be considered unacceptable. The balance was awful and the orchestra tired too. Yet at the time this recording was acclaimed as the epitome of performance. 

All live recordings have this balance problem in classical music. 

Even studio recorded music has a hiss and crackles on vinyl as this is part of the charm!

The modern ears have changed. I should not believe it but mine have too. I can hear wrong notes, moved chairs and pianos with pedal squeaks. I do sound 'grumpy' but I am not. It is just the way it is.

No give me digital mastered studio recordings any time.

I just use my vast vinyl collection for research and it does look attractive on my shelves.

This is not the Solti recording but does include a dropped hammar at around 1.17! I rest my case.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

BBC World End of Year Report

Dear Auntie BBC

Kia ora from the Land of the Long White Cloud (NZ if unfamiliar!)

I have been listening to BBC World for many years and this morning I was invited to write to and give my opinion on the present state of play sort of an end of term report.

We all realised that owing to current financial conditions BBC World was going to change however I did not realise that this meant that other than news programming which is still good, down from excellent, this would mean for me here in NZ a basinful of religion, african programmes and wall to wall  football. The weekend is devoted to football. The other bone of contention is Asia Business Report. Hours of it and it is useless. Anyone engaged in business would find this useless.

I am not interested in Africa! China? Perhaps, India? Maybe, Africa? NO! 

I am not interested in religion of any kind since I discovered Adam & Eve do not exist, could not have sinned so no need for any redeemers of any flavour. For heaven's sake these relics are belief systems. Anyone listening to BBC would think they were a scientific fact and worthy of respect. 

Lastly I am not remotely interested in football, cricket or sport with perhaps the exception of the Olympics and Rodger Federer.

I am now deluged with religious programming with no right of reply and now weekends are a no go area. Sport! I am not interested in live football commentaries. Ronald Regan gave a very good explanation of just how these were done and I couldn't give a stuff for the Premier League what ever it is and yet that is what the BBC gives us. Who cares?

Thank goodness for RussianTV. Never thought I should say this but is it so watchable. It is unbiased and the presenters are beautiful. Very high production standards.

So marks out of ten? 2011 - 8, 2012 sadly 3. 

Cut the religion, cut Africa especially any live phone calls which are painful and cut the sport down to acceptable levels. Bit more music and that does not mean hours of jazz or heavy metal and a few more documentaries. Science is quite acceptable.

Happy 2013.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The power of the USA Gun Lobby

One has to take one's hat off to the National Rifle Association of the USA. First its reaction to the massacre of Newtown is to immediately say that now is not the moment to discuss gun control and then two days later to bombard the media with its answer to the problem, not less guns, but more guns. Arm school teachers, have armed guards in school that's the answer.

It is people that are the problem not the fact that anyone can go out and buy a semi automatic gun that can kill 30 people in three minutes!

70% of the population of the USA owns a gun! That is scary. The USA citizen seems to have no idea of just how outrageous this is. There are 300 million guns in the USA. That is more than the population.

The gun lobby has now centered in on the mental health system. That is what needs to be fixed. That is going to get public support not the public gun toting citizen who just likes the power of carrying a gadget that can kill. One Gun lobby representative was very vocal on the BBC World Have Your Say and propounded on more than one occasion that it was perfectly acceptable to lose up to two pupils by giving teachers guns if 18 could be saved! I hope he is proud of himself.

It is stunning just how strong this nasty, powerful gun lobby is. Even Obama dare not criticize it even under these circumstances. Nothing is going to change. The USA citizen likes having a gun and that is his right and in a few months this sort of killing will happen again and again and again.

Here in New Zealand it is illegal to have a gun. Our police force do not carry guns. The only place you see a gun in Auckland is outside the USA consulate. We have the occasional armed robbery, usually a sawn off shotgun but no massacres where 20 children and six adults are killed within three minutes.

Where there are guns, any guns, there is violence. Thank goodness I never have to go to the USA again. Too dangerous. Thank goodness I live in a sane country. No nuclear weapons or power and no guns for the general population.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Galina Vishnevskaya memories of a super star

Sadly the superb Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya died today aged 86. She was married to the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

I was lucky enough to be at the first recital she ever gave in England. It was an afternoon indelibly imprinted on my memory because I and every member of the small audience of about two hundred knew we had witnessed something special.

I had met Rostropovitch during the 1958 Aldeburgh Festival when I was playing Mrs Sem in the first Noyes Fludde. Now in 1961 he was back with his wife Galina Vishnevskaya and was staying at the Wentworth Hotel.

The Festival programme had announced a mystery concert on a Tuesday afternoon. The tickets were cheap and I bought one. I had no idea of what I was going to see. The morning of the surprise concert one of Pears' and Britten's young men from Harrow, I think it was Roger Duncan, told me that a Russian soprano was the artist. She had an unpronounceable name.  Peter Pears was trying with no success to research the lyrics of one of her songs based on The Ugly Duckling. Eventually he just made it up saying 'No one will know!'

Stephen Reice, the Aldeburgh Festival Manager was there too and I was offered a ticket from Ben. Britten was always giving me tickets for which I shall ever be extremely grateful. Stephen was very surprised that I had for once actually bought one. The three of us decided to sit together.

I don't know what I imagined I was going to see but I had just seen the Bolshoi Ballet at Covent Garden and they were shabby and grey and I expected that being the Soviet Union I was going to see shabby, grey and being opera fat . The three naughty teenagers had the giggles.

To my surprise I suddenly saw Rostropovitch walk onto the stage at the Jubilee Hall and sit down at the piano. I knew he was a cellist but I had no idea that he was a pianist too. I was again filled with foreboding.

The house hushed in anticipation of the unknown Russian soprano. After what seemed an age an arm waving an enormous white lace handkerchief appeared from the wings. What followed a few well timed seconds later was a revelation.

A tall, slim beautiful woman with hair piled up on her head like a Grecian Goddess tripped onto the stage with all the confidence in the world. She was dressed from head to toe in gold lame and the dress clung to her beautiful figure. Her high heeled laced shoes were gold, her long gloves were gold and round her neck hung a huge gold medallion of the Order of Lenin. Galina Vishnevskaya was breath taking. She reeked of class and French couture. I was stunned at her stage presence.

The audience gasped in wonder, then there was a pause and then an ovation. Miss Vishnevskaya stood calmly and accepted the applause as if she deserved it even though she had not sung a note.

She settled down, the audience who were agog and noisy settled down and she started to sing. It was pure magic. Rostropvitch's accompaniment was pure magic too. It was a long concert. Her voice nearly took the roof off the tiny village hall and could have been heard in Lowestoft. She was the star of the Bolshoi which means big and she sure had a Bolshoi voice to suit.

Years later I read her auto biography where she goes into great detail about this concert for she knew that for her it was important. What she did not know was that Benjamin Britten fell instantly in love with her and wrote her into the War Requiem that he was writing at that moment. He absolutely adored her and would drive her around Aldeburgh in his left wheel drive  Mercedes. (Alvis had been traded in!)

I know that for many the fact the Ben could love a woman may come as a bit of a shock but he did. Colin Graham is on record as saying 'If you ever doubt that Ben did not like women just see how he behaves with Galina Vishnevskaya.' Stephen Riece and  Ronald Duncan say the same thing and I know from my own experience that they were right. They knew Ben was bisexual and at that time wanted to be considered normal. During his life Ben was extremely touchy if anyone hinted he was not normal! He never came out during his life time.

If Galina Vishnevskaya had been free she could easily have ended up as Mrs Britten. Ben even spent his Christmasses in Moscow with her and wrote her a special song cycle.

I did try to speak to her after the concert. She had seen me as Flora in The Turn of the Screw but sadly she spoke no English at that time. I was astonished to find that in the War she had dug latrines in Stalingrad and like me had learned stage craft through musicals. We had a lot in common including Benjamin Britten.

Galina Vishnevskaya is a truly great woman, not only as an artist but as a strong political woman. She did what she thought was right and was airbrushed out of Russian history for a bit. She had the last laugh. The world needs women like her.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Welcome to Birkenhead Xmas Wonderland no photos allowed

Westfield Shopping Malls are so right. No Christmas is complete without a photo of the kids in front of either Santa, a Nativity scene or a Christmas tree. Photos of kids at Christmas give everyone so much pleasure.

The wait to see Santa in the Mall. The first experience of having to sit on a strange man in a red suit and a beard's knee and tell him what you want for Christmas with a loving Mum and Dad in tow and a photo to prove it.

Then there is the photo in front of a nativity scene. More young children are introduced to the joys of Christianity by seeing the baby Jesus in his manger than at any other time of the year. Being crucified in agony on a cross does not have the same appeal.

Then there is the tree. The fully decorated Xmas tree is a joy to behold for children of all ages. It is a dream. Oh if only life were like a Christmas tree. For grandparents who cannot be with their grand children photos at this time are so precious so it was with some dismay that an outing to Christmas Wonderland which is advertised as New Zealand's most spectacular Christmas tree trail, entrance fee $12 adult and $6 per child, $30 family of four which in this age of austerity is not cheap does not allow photography.

Every where you look is a sign saying "NO PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED". If you are in any doubt another well placed sign will reinforce the unfriendly message. It is like being in DisneyLand and being told that you cannot have your photo taken with Mickey Mouse. One is not even allowed to have a photo taken in front of the Nativity Scene. There for all to see is a big sign saying "NO PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED"! If I were Jesus I should be shocked after all he wanted everyone to come to him and had choirs of angels around to let everyone know. If the press had been around in his day it would have been summoned. Pity it wasn't as the Nativity was not well documented.

I can understand Don't Touch but not No Photos. As if the signs were not enough there were plenty of staff who even when asked nicely if it were possible to take a photo were empathic that it was not possible. When asked to explain why said the donors did not want it! Why donate if you do not want publicity. That is what you donate for. The Olympic Games is financed by donors who pay for the privilege of having exclusive rights for publicity.

This is Birkenhead, a small suburb of Auckland which is not actually on the world map for exclusive occasions.   So what harm can it do to let parents take a few snaps of their children to share with friends and family?

Whoever did the PR for this event needs to think again. The idea is to get as much publicity as you can if you want people through the doors. Word of mouth is essential. An enormous amount of effort and time has gone into this event and it is a pity to ruin it by being mean. Half the fun is having your photo taken in front of your favorite tree. In fact without this sort of activity children find it rather boring because if you are a child when you have seen one tree you have seen the lot. Children don't go in for detail and as some of the trees are rather tall they don't get to see the crowning glories as these are out of sight so choose your tree to have your photo taken is a great idea. That way they can run around and compare. No such luck.

The trail was impressive and you will have to take my word for it. I could have shown you just what you are missing  to encourage you to go but I am not allowed to do so. No Photography Allowed. The amount of work that has had to  be put in to make this event possible must have been staggering for a small suburb. It is part of the social history and unless properly documented will soon be forgotten. Not a mention on YouTube and they don't want it mentioned on Facebook! So donors you have all missed out. This lot do not want publicity. Perhaps next year before you donate you could ask the organizers to be a bit more generous and allow kids to be photographed in front of your tree.

It is amazing they got anyone there at all.

Update 12 December 2011

I had a word with one of the organizers this morning. She was extremely helpful and said that many had raised this no photographs issue. It seems that on the last Wonderland two years back too many photos meant that the trail was slowed down to less than snail's pace and the place got so hot people were fainting!

However they hope in two years time to have a place where photos can be taken safely.

If only one of their helpers had told me this I should not have complained!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ireland should change abortion law now

The above are members of the Dublin Symposium on abortion who in the light of  Savita Hallappanavar's medically unnecessary death ought to be ashamed of themselves.
"Dublin – A major medical symposium in Ireland in September of this year concluded that abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a pregnant mother.
About 140 Irish medical professionals participated in the International Symposium on Excellence in Maternal Healthcare. The symposium featured a panel of world-renowned experts in the fields of mental health, obstetrics and gynecology, and molecular epidemiology who presented their cutting-edge research and data gathered over years of clinical experience.The symposium expert committee released its conclusions in the Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare, which states

  • “As experienced practitioners and researchers in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.
  • We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.
  • We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.” Live Action News.
Being the wife of a GP one sometimes gets to hear about life in its ugliest form. My late husband only ever discussed two of his patients with me one of which was an illegal abortion he visited in Hammersmith late one night years before he married me. He never forgot it and neither have I.

Miles arrived at a squalid flat to find a young girl bleeding to death. She had been aborted with a piece of wire, Miles said it looked like a coat hanger. The place was covered in blood. There was nothing he could do and the child, Miles said she was little more than a child, bled to death in front of his eyes.

He said cleaning up illegal abortions was the worst part of the job. Miles found medicine  in all its guises unpleasant but this was the worst as it was so unnecessary.

What happened this week in Ireland in the name of God is a disgrace. The priests and the Irish public who are so scared of the clergy that they allow this to happen in the name of their cruel God ought to have to clean up after an illegal abortion like the Germans were made to clean up concentration camps.

For any young woman living in a Catholic, an Islamic or  Hindu country is in danger of her life.

Savita Hallappanavar did not need to die. The cruel system of which the Pope is so proud failed her. She is too pretty and intelligent to be killed in such a barbaric manner. She was not even a Catholic! Belief systems have a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Watercare NZ Hint to gardeners

This blog will really only be of interest to Auckland gardeners. This year Auckland carved off water from our rates and put us all in the hands of Watercare to deal with all users of water in Auckland and that means all of us.

From two bills per year we now have one a month and the cost of water seems to have escalated. One of my six month bills was for $72 now it seems I have to pay $30 per month! A big increase. My summer watering bill used to be $200 now I dread to think what it will be in future if my winter bill doubled at the same rate. It seems now we all have to pay for waste water as well.

I wrote to Watercare and complained. I complained about the huge waste water charges, the monthly fee and the fact that most of the water I use goes on my garden and as the water goes into the ground I objected to having to pay again to have it treated.

I had to wait but they wrote back a very sensible email which explained the changes better than all the PR had done up until now. It seems the monthly charges and the waste water were included in the rates and cost approximately $600 per year. Householders are allowed a 20% allowance for things like washing the car an gentle watering,

They were sorry that I was going to have to pay more for water that did not go down the sewer but had I considered an irrigation meter!!!! The irrigation meter was a revelation. This is a special meter that is wait for it, used for irrigation and you do not pay waste water charges!!! It has a catch that the 20% discount has to be forsaken and it is initially expensive to install. You can say that again!

I was shocked at the cost $1,500 because an irrigation meter needs a back flow valve. I had not heard of a back flow valve and neither had anyone at Watercare. Even though I am mature, well old, and at the end of my life I thought it was worth it. In about one year it will have paid for itself so I ordered one complaining bitterly about the cost.

However when I saw what and how many men were involved and the size of the valve I am amazed the installation was so cheap. It took five men about three hours and included a huge truck, a gas man, a box about the size of half a coffin plus council permission as the thing takes up half the pavement and a half road close plus a man to repair the pavement the following day. The valve is necessary to avoid accidental flow back into drinking water. Very sensible.

The work men were a delight and one plumber later to connect it up my side my garden can look forward to a drink which will not break the bank and I can hose the paths, car and house without having a fit.

This meter is a well kept secret even the plumber had not heard of it so many thanks Watercare for letting me in on it. If you have a garden go for it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sculpture on Shore for Women's Refuges

One thing New Zealand does well is fine art and this Sunday I had another uplifting experience when I visited the NZ Sculpture on Shore held at the Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve at Devonport. It was organized by the Auckland Council and was held in aid of The Women's Refuge. I loved it.

I heard about it on Facebook from my friend William Dart who had attended the opening. Dart is the editor of Art New Zealand and I trust his judgment as although I love fine art I am no expert. In this field I need to be led.

I made up my mind to go and I was not disappointed. The weather was perfect, NZ at its best and so was my viewing.

The slide show below gives a taste of what I saw. The exhibits were imaginative and thought provoking. One especially actually moved me and this I shall share with you.

Down in a corner was a pohutukawa tree. For non NZ er's this is known as the NZ Xmas tree because  it is covered with red flowers but this time it was covered and I mean covered with tiny tin kiwis, thousands of them that made a tinkly sound in the wind. At the bottom were again thousands of bright red tin kiwis that one could walk through.

It was so childishly pretty and a host of onlookers admired and enjoyed the pretty sight until somebody got out the catalogue! Each tiny tin kiwi represented a child killed through violence and abuse over the last century. The tree took on a somewhat different personna.

It was sad and so moving. We all stood in horror. I can say honestly that this was the first time a sculpture actually moved me almost to tears.

You can see the tree at the end of the slide show. It does not photograph well. It looks better when you can see it moving and tinkling. I have a video and will put it up later as it needs editing to do the works justice.

I thought the most appropriate music was Mahler - The Songs of Dead Children.

The exhibition runs for another week. Well worth the $15. For once it seems I can congratulate the Auckland Council. This is the way rates should be spent.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Persistant Secret Garden

I have to say it! My garden is magnificient. Even in the middle of winter,  as above when the magnolia Iolanthe takes over. My garden is Magnificent even if I have to say so myself.  I didn't set out to have a garden worthy of Chelsea but I have one, much to my surprise!

How did this happen? The garden did it itself. It has taken over my life. I never wanted to garden but now I just have to as my garden insists. My garden loves me being ill. This is when my garden sees it's chance and takes over, does its 's own thing and amazes me. How does it do this? Let me try to explain.

The secret is to have the same garden for a least 40 years and be a little interested in having a bit more than a lawn. This way you have the opportunity, 40 years opportunity, of finding out what grows and what doesn't.

People who do lawns  never get a garden. A lot of people do lawns in Auckland. The sound of mowers is heard every weekend. 40 years on their gardens look just the same namely a dull boring lawn that either has to be cut or watered or left parched and dry,

In some areas of my garden it and I are still working on which plant will grow. 40 years gives you the chance to plant everything you can think of and try and nurse the less prosperous plants into submission. My failures have been petunias, geraniums, thyme and parsley and Tea roses. I really have to try with those. Complete failure1

The answer it seems is to be dangerously ill, so ill that you have to leave your garden alone and I mean alone for at least six months, preferably a year with just minor care of say cutting the small lawn and the hedges.

My garden adores me being ill because it takes over. The weak plants vanish and the strong take over and grow and grow and plants can grow in Auckland. When I came I was horrified to find my plot was less than half a tennis court but now I am so grateful. Small gardens are best because you can get somewhere in an afternoon. It looks as if you have done something.

The first time I was dangerously ill was ten years ago. The garden thrived (see video below) and for 6 months this year my garden has again thrived without me. Other than a very hard prune and removal of the larger weeds I have done nothing and it is, wait for it .......Magnificent!

Now it has taken me over! I have to look after it! I have to water it. It demands my attention. It just says 'Look I got you through this and now you just have to enjoy me!' and I do! The garden goes on repaying me week after week. It always looks beautiful.

My garden gardens for me! Few of my friends are interested and for years it has only had me. The neighbor who loved it too and watered it for me while I was in hospital, Elizabeth Daniels, has just died but I have a new next door neighbor who is equally enthusiastic and I can share it with her and help her to avoid the mistakes I made with my garden.

This year I hope you all can enjoy it too. I'll let you know how it is perhaps once a fortnight but watch out you to may find your garden has taken over your life too!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Brilliant Benjamin Luxon Baritone

I would just like to pay tribute to Benjamin Luxon baritone. I really only discovered him as an artist recently and I think he has become one of my favorite singers ever. As an artist he is magnificent. He is a wonderful singer and has a sensitivity and empathy for the works he sings that I find exciting and pleasurable. So many singers just rely on a beautiful voice and don't sing. To sing you need to use your entire body and mind and Luxon does. Luxon is intelligent.

Ben Luxon was a student colleague of mine when we were both at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the 1960s. He was the boyfriend of my best friend Lilian Newman and I am afraid to say to me just another student. He was mildly good looking but as I was barely 18 and he was much older and I mean much older! He was 24! I never gave him a thought. Perhaps I was mistaken there!

He came from Cornwall and I came from Devon and I recognized immediately the bond that binds all those who hail from the West Country. He had that earthy attractiveness that exudes from men from that part of the world and which is so attractive. Ross Adkins of BBC World Have Your Say has the same attractive earthiness.

That being said I did not find him at that time attractive at all and I don't think I ever heard him sing. When I left college I never thought about him again even though he joined Britten and The English Opera Group. I too had worked for Benjamin Britten but became disillusioned by his strange behavior and I gladly left Britten behind although he gave me the major kick start to my career for which I shall be forever grateful. Britten did the same for Ben.

Britten went on to star Luxon in Billy Budd and write Owen Wyngrave for him. Britten too was attracted by Luxon's rough ancestry. I often wondered at the time what Ben Luxon must have thought of Britten as the whole set up was very strange! 

I then married and left for New Zealand which was very isolated in 1970s and 1980s and Ben was lost completely so it was with tremendous pleasure that I rediscovered my long lost acquaintance a couple of months ago and have been catching up on YouTube ever since.

Bravo Ben! You are a true star. Thanks for some lovely singing. I was very stupid not to have taken more notice of you at the time! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bravo Obama and USA

It is with some relief that I congratulate the USA for voting Obama and the Democrats back in the driving seat for the next four years. It was a close run job. Let us all hope that the bickering and filibustering will be a thing of the past and the USA can get back to being the country it could be.

Perhaps now is the time to point out the the Republicans picked the wrong man. Romney is so steeped in his belief system that anyone with any sense would be scared stiff of giving him any power at all. Even a quick glance at the Mormon agenda on Wikipedia foretells that the Mormons would if they could take over the world. All through their short history they have been welcomed and then turned away because the Mormons are not inclined to have it any other way than their way.

I did not really understand Mormonism until I watched the Sky History Channel documentary a couple of days ago. I was both shocked and horrified.  Reading up on Wikipedia confirmed my disgust.

Any modern woman would instantly be alienated against such a candidate. The repeal of abortion laws is enough to put any young women against them. Homosexuals too would have a ghastly time under Romney. The Temple Underwear is enough to put the rest of us off. I can't help looking at Romney  and imagine him wearing it.

Mormons will do anything that is required to achieve their goals.  The end justifies the means for them. They do not mind being persecuted and in turn see no difficulty in persecuting and if necessary killing others. The Mountain Meadows incident is a horrible example of a cult out of control. Romney made his 250 million by exporting jobs to China. It made him a fortune. To him being poor is your fault. You should look after yourself. He has!

When it comes to science the Mormons believe in Creationism and even have a Conservapedia  as an answer to Wikipedia and encourage their children to use this when researching biology. I thought this site was a joke. It wasn't! Conservapedia is 100% for real. Romney is 100% Mormon. How can you have a USA President who shuns The Modern Scientific Theory of Evolution? It seems anyone who votes for Romney can.

Lastly Mormons believe in Plural Marriage. It is revealed dogma. They refrain from polygamy at present because it is forbidden by USA law but with a Mormon President  who knows!

I wish Obama luck. He is not the strongest President the USA has had but at least hopefully he will do no harm

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Romney's Secret Weapon The Magic Underpants

USA Election day has dawned. Neither of the two candidates are terrible exciting. Living in New Zealand I am glad that I do not have to vote for either of them but the President of the United States is at the moment the most powerful man in the world so how to pick between them?

The opinion poles indicate that both men are neck and neck so what is the difference? Both leaders believe in fairies but Mitt Romney may well have the advantage because he has the Magic Underpants. This is special underwear that all Mormons have to wear every day to remind them of their faith and of their commitment to convert the world to this belief system. I kid you not!

The Mormons are as dedicated as Islam and it is their duty to convert the world. Romney will be no less committed. The Mormons believe the end justifies the means, see Mountain Meadows incident. To be kind I shall not call it by its real name but it gives you the idea of just what the Mormons are capable of when pushed.

So if Romney wins we can all look forward to going back about one century and look forward to Plural Marriage and all wearing this attractive and comfortable underwear amongst other goodies.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Elizabeth Daniels The best next door neighbor ever

It is now nearly a month since my wonderful next door neighbor Elizabeth Daniels died. I have had many wonderful next door neighbors but Elizabeth was something special and although I knew her for less than two years I shall never forget her and it was a privilege to know her even for that short time.

I only got to know her by the strangest of coincidences. Another Elizabeth, Why are all the nicest people called Elizabeth? suddenly called me after an absence of twenty years. Elizabeth Jenkins is one of the most talented artists I have ever known and used to design costumes for my opera and ballet productions. Somehow we had lost touch.

She just said "Do you remember me well I am in the house across the road". Her great friend Elizabeth Daniels, who she had known at Otago University had recently moved in and my Elizabeth J had come up to help hang the pictures. I was introduced to the kindest and most cultured women I have met in Auckland and I was so happy to gain her as my neighbor. Good neighbors are so hard to find. My house is isolated and having a good neighbor made a great difference.

Sadly Elizabeth Daniels was suffering from terminal cancer so she and I knew our time was short. She enjoyed and knew about everything I enjoyed and I took her to meet my bookbinder Peter Goodwin in his bindery. She loved it. She loved gardens and did a spectacular job on her own tiny garden. It was formality personified, trimmed hedges and regimented camillas and velvet lawn. Not a weed in sight so different from my own cottage style garden where weeds abound. I used to call her garden Versailles and mine Le Petit Trianon.

She appreciated art and is the only person when entering my drawing room for the first time asked seriously to be talked around. She is the only person who has ever shown such interest. Usually I never bother or have to force guests to show an interest.

She also lent me books One of which is  The Angel Tree which I blogged about

All to soon our friendship has come to an end. Over Christmas I became very ill with B12 Deficiency but even though she was dying Elizabeth took time to visit me in hospital. She spent a happy ten days in Hawaii and then I rarely saw her. It was from my Christchurch friend that I found out she was dying. I was across the road and I did not know as Elizabeth herself never said.. 

Elizabeth Jenkins suggested I pick  a basket flowers from my and her garden for a last tribute for the children. I picked Elizabeth's bluebells and camillas and anything I could find. There was no time to use them so we put them on the tables. I knew that this was the last thing I could do. 

Listening to her funeral oration it struck me that we never really know anyone if we rely on them to tell us. I wish I had known then what I know now. Elizabeth spoke two languages French and Italian, She had studied art history at University and had been a garden designer. She spent hours in her garden and according to her children was not appreciated. They had to be dragged in and forced to looked. I know that feeling all too well. I have great difficulty getting anyone into my garden.

Elizabeth loved literature and had a degree in that too. Fortunately when asked what my favorite book was I said Marcel Proust Time Lost and Regained. She knew of them but had never read them so I leant them to her. Unbeknown to me I must have passed her literature test.

Now she is gone but I shall never forget her. She died with such dignity surrounded by her large family and I could do nothing for her. I miss her dreadfully for although I did not get to see her often I knew she was there. Why is life so cruel?

In April I filmed her at the local Anzac Day Parade. She looked so happy so here it is for posterity.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Jimmy Savile sexual harassment cover ups

I never thought that the problem that has now arisen over the covering up of the sexual harassment and possible abuse of young girls by Jimmy Savile would ever effect me. All my life I have lived with this unseen problem and I just had to get on with it.

I chose to work in the theatre  in the 1960's and 1970's and for young women sexual harassment was part of the job. You couldn't complain for if you did no one would believe you and you lost your job. You just had to put up with it.

Girls of my age, think Lady Di at 19, had no formal sex education, we were not taught about homosexuality or pedophilia or plain ordinary sex and had to sort of learn as we went. It was not really an ideal situation. The one thing going for young girls is that many of our male colleagues were not interested in women or girl children and the ballet and musical theatre was almost as safe as a convent.

I spent many years being chased around the wings by leading men,chorus boys and stage hands ready for a quick grope. I learned quickly to obtain an imaginary fiance fast. This did not stop the groping but did put a stop to sexual propositions. Fortunately I did not appeal to lesbians and I have never had one offer in that direction. I do not know whether to be flattered or insulted.

But Jimmy Saville has changed all that for me mainly because of the failure of the BBC to broadcast an investigation into Savilles's alleged abuse because two tributes to his philanthropy were to be shown at Christmas. In hindsight this was a mistake. That nobody felt able to actually to say anything is disturbing. They must have known.

I am in a similar position with a famous composer Benjamin Britten. Next year is his centenary and the arrangements to celebrate this are already in place. Just by chance I was part of that milieu as I was employed in two of his works. It is well known that this composer had a penchant for young boys and a male partner which at the time was a criminal offense which thankfully it is no longer. But today the problem of suspected of pedophilia  must still be there and that is a more serious question.

Parents and those in authority over us just shipped children off into situations that would be unthinkable today. At 15 I was just delivered to men's flats and left there admittedly for auditions and coaching but I should never think of doing that to a child today. Anything could have happened. I was just sent off to Aldeburgh with no questions asked even as to where I would be staying.

When I was there I saw nothing at all unusual but then I was sexually ignorant. I can only recall one occasion when I was 15 when some remarks by one of the favorites gave me cause to think that's strange! The conductor Charles Mackerras was hauled over the coals for mentioning the problem.

Britten's relationship with me was totally above board, I was 19 at the time, but it does cause me some concern today. Is a scandal of Saville proportions about to explode or is this penchant for boys even if only as a voyeur, perfectly acceptable as it happened 50 years ago? I don't know! A book 'Britten's Children' by John Birdcut has lists of boys who were befriended by Britten. None of them ever complained but his behavior seen in today's climate it does appear unacceptable. It would not be allowed now.

It is difficult with composers as one is forced to distinguish between the music and the man. Beethoven was a monster. His treatment of his nephew and his brother's wife was brutal and would not be tolerated today. Wagner too with his vicious anti semitic views would be condemned. Britten it as is known liked young boys and yet their music is among the finest ever written and must remain so even if we despise the writers.

I liked the man but then I was a girl and in no danger. Britten hardly spoke to me before I was 19 but I knew he liked me a lot. Does one praise or distance oneself from the scene? I can't ignore it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Yesterday's Music by the Beatles

I once saw the Beatles in real life, well three of them, Paul wasn't there. They were crammed into a battered mini going around a roundabout in Richmond. I was in my rather smart mini with my Spanish girl friend Virginia who was stunningly beautiful and I spotted them. Virginia yelled out "It's the Beatles" and we chased them around the roundabout.

They looked very bad tempered and in fact one week later they broke up.

Being classical leaning I was never a fan of the Beatles. I prefer Schoenberg myself who I find just as tuneful as the Beatles and far more inventive. I could never and still cannot see what anyone sees in them. Rubbish! So it is no surprise to learn that today people are actually daring to think that some of The Beatles songs might not be the masterpieces they thought they were at the time.

The Beatles always were overrated, over paid  and with an over exaggerated sense of their social significance.  Thanks to their obsession with protecting their copyright they will soon be forgotten. They have ensured that no one today plays their music. To be remembered music has to be constantly played and the style constantly updated.

In USA last week a researcher asked teenagers on the streets  if they recognized Love me do and what they thought of it. The answers with the exception of one girl who thought it might have been the Beatles were that it was a load of rubbish and I think that just about says it all.

Artists and composers today beware of being too protective as you might be digging your own grave of extinction. Ten years are yours to exploit but after that you will need other artists to reinvent your work to remain in the public eye. Believe me on this one.

Good moments Yesterday  and Imagine but even Yesterday is almost, dare I say it, Yesterday today. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Google and Publishers see sense over Brittle Books

Sometimes I love Google and sometimes it drives me made both on the same day.

The love bit first! At long last the USA publishers have seen sense about Google's Books saving project and allowed Google to continue to scan the books of the world that are turning to dust, for posterity. This is seriously good news for everyone.

Instead of Google having to obtain permission from publishers no longer in existence, any USA publisher can now opt out. This makes great sense as 90% of authors and publishers have disappeared in the sands of time and cannot be found.

Now their books will be kept for future generations instead of ending up in the vacum cleaner. Congratulations.

Now the horrid bit. I had to use Google Apps to get my email to work so now I have two accounts and Google wants me to merge them. Simple for them but a nightmare for me. I'll probably have to close this blog as I won't be able to access it. Where is my brilliant Guru? Help. SOS. SCREAM!!!!!

I had hoped to put up my YouTube of Peter Goodwin explaining the Brittle Book Syndrome only to find it is now sound only. Gremlins? Now I have to find the old tape and put it up again!!!!! It had over 13,000 views too. It still sounds good! Goooooooogle!

Having spent the afternoon finding the old tape, remembering how to get it into Final Cut, re-editing and uploading I find the images have come back. Urrgh! Oh well made me digitize it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why don’t women bank on getting to the top?

When Jenni Murray asks the questions, I expect snappy, knowledgeable answers. When she questions women who are brainy and of high economic stature, I expect the answers to be closely argued and illuminating. In the studio were Dr Anne Sibert, professor of economics at Birkbeck College, and Frances Cairncross, who worked on the Economist for 20 years. “How long,” she asked, “until there’s a female governor of the Bank of England?” Telegraph 

Vicki Woods in today's Telegraph write's in answer to the above question Why don't women today get the top jobs? She gives many excellent reasons and it set me pondering so here are my thoughts on the subject.

The playing field isn't fair yet. It is much better than in my day when I couldn't even start. I wanted to be a TV director/producer and in those days I couldn't even get an interview so I never reached the starting line until I was 36! My male contemporaries had had 18 years experience. 

When I made my first and only TV series it was a finalist in international media awards but I had to have a male director as Auckland's TV's boys would not take orders from a woman! Eventually it was conceded that my name should be allowed on the credits as co-director. To my knowledge this is the only time this has happened.

Today women are allowed to start at the bottom of the hill and the men half way up. Going to Eton gives any male a big advantage but just being male helps. It is hard for women to catch up, let alone overtake.

The women that do are superwomen and should be applauded for their achievement.

Considering I was not allowed to start, I have done well but not as well as my  male colleagues. David Hemmings, Michael Crawford went viral. Hit the very top! I got half way but I am pleased with my achievement. If I had been a man with my talent and knowledge I should have been Director General of BBC or Artistic Director of both Ballet and Opera at Covent Garden and I think I should have done a better job but we shall never know. Nothing like being confident after the event!

So women will have to wait and fight for a bit longer but women shall get there eventually.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nigella Lawson' sense of failure at Motherhood

Modern mothers feel a “huge sense of failure” as they struggle to raise their children the right way, according to Nigella Lawson.
The Domestic Goddess said parents are bombarded with so much conflicting advice on child-rearing that it creates a constant sense of anxiety.
“People who don’t have children imagine that their whole lives would be all right if they had children, but they don’t realise that having children gives you lots of problems; one is constantly worried,” said Lawson, who is mother to Cosima, 18, and Bruno, 16.
“Also I think it’s impossible to be a mother without a huge sense of failure. 
Nigella Lawson Telegraph

I admire mothers of today. They have a thankless task. If they go out to work they are neglecting their children and if the stay at home they are a drain on the economy.
We do our best! Children do not come with a manual. Maybe men could help a little more. Why is it that husbands expect that they never to have to take time off work but their wife can drop everything when their child has a cold? Sharing responsibility is not a consideration. I had to juggle home child and challenging job without any help at all and not complain. For many years I was the sole breadwinner and had to keep my daughter and my GP husband in the manner is which they had become accustomed.
My husband was a total failure in the help department. My daughter ran rings around us both. If she had had her way she would have left home at seven and really she did. She didn't need me after seven and never has since.  I suppose I should be proud of raising a truly brilliant independent woman.
I can only sit back and marvel at the way she has turned in spite of me. Fortunately children survive their parents!
I still feel a complete failure in this area. I did my best and I am proud of my offspring but looking back I  really was not up to the task. Motherhood was not my best field. 
I told my daughter that she was on her own when she had her own child as I had obviously been totally inadequate as a mother. Unlike me she is doing a superb job.
'Hats off' to mothers everywhere where would men be without them! 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kate's Boob the Downside of being a Royal

The Downside of being a Royal

Poor Kate! Who would have thought that a photographer half a mile away would have the ability to photograph the royal boob and what is more publish it for the world to see!

I know I should have hated that if it had been me. There is a distinct downside to being a royal.

It is one of those lessons learned the hard way. If you choose to become a public figure and Kate did, then your privacy goes out of the window. You are fair game.

By marrying William Kate chose this but I don't expect she ever imagined this would happen to her. Prince Harry's little naked escapade should have warned her. The Royals know that photographers can do this at anytime so with Harry's photo only a week in the past perhaps it was unwise of the new duchess to venture onto a balcony with her boobies on display especially in France.

Somebody should have warned her. I was warned when I was 12. When I was interviewed for my ballet school, this public figure bit was pointed out. I have been public figure all my life and have had to look at myself on the front pages of newspapers seeing well known friends off at airports as if I were marrying them next week. I found it embarrassing. That's the price you pay. I chose to dance but I realized  my life from then on would not be my own. I had to be careful.

However the French press are disgusting and unfair. Give the girl a chance as she is still learning the job. Not sure that suing them is going to do much good as it will only keep these pictures in the public eye.

Sadly for Kate shopping for clothes in the high street will now be off limits. Cameras in changing booths will always cause a threat but the benefits of being a royal far out weigh the occasional downside.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Andy Murray show how to slam it

Hats off to Andy Murray for at last winning a Grand Slam. One has to admire his guts and staying power.

He also has a great sense of humour ! I bet he has met many like this in real life.

So as they say Everything comes to hm that waits.

Lets enjoy it! Being of Scots descent, well my great, great aunt was a Scots Fish wife, Auntie Annie from Rutherglun, I can take even more pride in a fellow countryman.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Religious Symbols to wear or not to wear?

I can understand why many followers of belief systems like to wear symbols of their belief. It seems harmless to wear a a small gold cross on a chain or a Star of David to tell others that they are a believer but I find it offensive. I know I shouldn't but I do.

I do not believe in any of the current belief systems and yet daily I am subjected to a barrage of symbols that erect a barrier between the person wearing the symbol and me. I have to respect their right to confront me with maybe a symbol that I find unpleasant and offer no criticism  or comment. It is their right but I really wish they wouldn't.

I can't help it but most of these symbols scare me stiff. I am especially frightened by the Islamic head scarf as I know if Islam had its way I should be in a burka. To me that headscarf means imprisonment and slavery for life for women and yet I am not allowed to say so or show any displeasure.

I know if I see a Sikh turban that somewhere on that person is a hidden dagger that could kill me. I find this offensive that because of the belief system this person feels s/he has a right to kill me.

A cross appears harmless but I was raised in a school that had symbols of a tortured man nailed to one of these in every classroom. Instead of concentrating on my school work I was wondering what it felt to have nails hammered through ones hands and feet. To me a simple cross means torture.

When I see a Star of David or a male skull cap I know that this person knows s/he is far superior to me and looks down on me as I am not a member of the Chosen Race. At school in Golders Green I had to put up with the taunts of 'Goy' as I left the station by young men in skull caps.

I am expected to put up with all this and I do but I feel it puts up a barrier between them and me that ought not to be there. I felt this last week when buying some hi tech equipment. The lovely young shop assistant wore an Islamic headdress which it is her right to do but I found it difficult to treat her as a normal person because I consider this a badge of feminine  discrimination that should not be allowed today! I felt very uncomfortable indeed.

I think all belief system symbols would be better kept out of the public arena. Everyone would be happier. Well I would.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Google+ vs Janette Miller/Heffernan

I love Google and all it freebies but Google+ doesn't love me!

It seems once again my name is causing problems as it does not conform with their naming policy. This is nothing new to me as my name has always been a problem. I have never managed to have a name that is instantly memorable and trips off the tongue like Margot Fonteyn, Cocoa Cola or Google.

Having been stuck with Heffernan for thirty years and believe me this has not been easy I decided to return to my maiden name of Miller as it is so much easier. You can appreciate the difficulties. For the first year I decided to call myself Janette Miller/Heffernan  to ease the process. I have a YouTube Channel under Janette Heffernan and did not wish to put up all 54 videos again at my age!

I applied to Google+ as Janette Miller/Heffernan and was rejected as I was not a real person! I appealed but it seems I ought not to exist! There is no other appeal possible and  my Google + was cancelled.

Google+ will not recognize the forward slash / and I think this was the problem when I replaced the / with a hyphen - all went well. Google+ is very, very insistent on the letters or punctuation marks it will accept.

The irony of this policy is that Google+ is falling short of its own naming policy. Under Google+'s rules the + is illegal! Google+  should not be tolerated. I have tried to point this out with no success. Also Google is hardly a normal name. I mean where do you find a Mr. Google? There are thousands of Heffernans!

It appears there is one rule for Google+ and one for the rest of us!

Monday, September 3, 2012

British Prisons I have played!

A friend's entry on Facebook made me recall the days I spent entertaining those unlucky people detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

Now I come to think about it I don't think many young girls of my age had this experience of actually being in these grim institutions.

As a GSM&D student I 'did' many of London's prisons. A large limousine  used to call for us and take us first to a flat in Eaton Square where the gentleman who organized these events lived and then after tea we were driven to either Pentonville, Wandsworth or Wormwood Scrubs.

My introduction was at Wandsworth where I looked out on 2,000 men dressed in grey in this huge, grim cathedral hall. I used to do satirical monologues which were popular at that time and I did 'The King's Breakfast ' by AA Mine and the line "The cow said" went down particularly well. The inmates loved the satire. I enjoyed it and they seemed to enjoy me!

I was very attractive and pretty and I had character. My Eaton Square host said "They like you! You have a quality that they admire. They like guts and they can sense you have them!" I got a wonderful reception.

At Wormwood Scrubs  Ivor Novello's piano made an impression.  I couldn't understand how this beautiful piano came to be sitting in this prison theatre so I asked an inmate. It seems that inmates can take the tools of their trade into prison. Ivor Novello was cruelly convicted of breaking petrol rationing laws during the Second World War and imprisoned. It killed him but he left his piano. You can see his signature scratched into the metal.

It was one of these monologues that I performed in Nottingham goal that led to me breaking into West End Musical revue. The husband of the Pat Lancaster, John Pritchett was accompanying his wife. I had no idea that he composed many of the famous intimate revue numbers and I was performing one of his without the accompaniment! Pritch asked me afterwards why I hadn't used the music? I was so green I never knew they had music!

I must have impressed him for years later he was instrumental in helping me into a London review. My audition had been in a prison.

In later years I discovered that my Bookbinder friend Peter Goodwin had served as a Screw for 11 years in Nottingham when the craft of bookbinding was on the wane. He used to call the prisoners his gentlemen!

As to star ratings London prisons are best.  My choice Wandsworth as many white collar crims are sent there. Nottingham, Liverpool  and Leeds are to be avoided.  Scented soap seems to be the most appreciated gift so go stocked up.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dummies Guide to the Financial Crisis

I think that this explains it perfectly... I didn't write this but I should love to congratulate who ever did. I shall take it down if required but it is essential reading!

 "Dummies guide to what went wrong in Europe. 

 At last a simple explanation.....

 Helga is the proprietor of a bar.

 She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed
 alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar.

To solve this problem she comes up with a new marketing plan that
allows her customers to drink now, but pay later .

 Helga keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby
 granting the customers' loans.)

 Word gets around about Helga's "drink now, pay later" marketing
 strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into
 Helga's bar.

Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in town.

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands
Helga gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially
increases her prices for wine and beer - the most consumed beverages .

Consequently, Helga's gross sales volumes and paper profits
 increase massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognises that
these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases
Helga's borrowing limit .

He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of
the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

He is rewarded with a six figure bonus.

 At the bank's corporate headquarters , expert traders figure a way
to make huge commissions , and transform these customer loans into DRINK BONDS.

 These " securities "  are then bundled and traded on international
 securities markets.

Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being
sold to them as " AA Secured Bonds " are really debts of unemployed

Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb and the securities
soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

The traders all receive a six figure bonus.

One day , even though the bond prices are still climbing , a risk
manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to
demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Helga's bar.

He so informs Helga.

Helga then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons but being
unemployed alcoholics , they cannot pay back their drinking debts .

Since Helga cannot fulfil her loan obligations she is forced into

The bar closes and Helga's 11 employees lose their jobs .

Overnight, DRINK BOND prices drop by 90%.

The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and
prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic
activity in the community.

The suppliers of Helga's bar had granted her generous payment
extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the DRINK BOND securities.

They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt
and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.

Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy , closing the doors on a
family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor , who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers .

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their
respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multibillion dollar
no-strings attached cash infusion from the government.

They all receive a six figure bonus.

The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied
on employed , middle-class , non-drinkers who've never been in Helga's
Now do you understand?"

I do! 

Brilliant explanation. Thank you to who ever wrote this.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Where are the Paralympics?

Where are the Paralympics? They don't exist if you live outside the United Kingdom. The media coverage is virtually nil. Here is New Zealand live coverage the Opening Ceremony didn't even feature on our news. We only were shown a few stills and even these were outside the Stadium.

Having failed to find anything on NZ Sky  or TVNZ I tried the BBC World News and Sport and surprise, same story. Only stills but a few shots from outside the arena of the fireworks and this is from the major UK broadcaster in the host country.

I listened to World Have Your Say on BBC World radio and it appears that in many countries, Kenya, USA, Norway to name three there is no coverage by the television companies either. NBC took 5 hours of footage but has not shown any on free to air.

WHY? The answer appears to be that only Channel 4 in UK bought the rights and no other country has paid for coverage not even the BBC!

I hate the copyright laws and the free market! They are stifling in many ways. The Paralympics are a great innovation and should be free to all. Shame on you officials for allowing this to happen.

Very, very disappointing!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ecuador Assange and Diplomatic Immunity

Assagne is holed up in the Ecuador Embassy in London

My answer to the problem would be for Ecuador to give Assange full diplomatic immunity by making him a Deputy Ambassador and drive him to the airport. Simple!

Try to separate the concept of justice from the individual to whom it should apply. Assange is an unsympathetic character but his case raises deep issues potentially affecting us all. 
While rape is no light matter, what matters much more is the freedom of global society to expose mass murder of civilians.

If it were another European country Assange could not be extradited for questioning as at the moment he is not guilty until proven. That is why this extradition is so questionable. 

If Assange only had to face these allegations and at the moment that is what they are and there was no threat of extradition to USA he would gladly go back to Sweden and speak to the police. We live in the IT age so why not use Skype to question Assange? Because Skype would not give the opportunity for the USA to get its hands on him.

It seems a case of Assange's word against the womens. I believe he remained in Sweden for quite some time and at first the case was dropped so its resurrection does give the appearance of being manufactured for convenience.

USA and UK have a vested interest.

USA is also behaving appallingly in the case of the young British hacker whose name escapes me, who has autism and foolishly broke into the USA codes. They want to put him in prison for life and just want UK to hand him over to face certain death. UK also harbors some unattractive Russian gentlemen who are wanted for criminal fraud  in Moscow.
1. Of course, it is a SET UP. It's a trap. 
2. The trap is deadly. The Swedes purposefully have not even issued a legal charge against Mr. Assange, but so strangely have issued an extradiction warrant for help in their enquiries. This is so Mr. Assange will go to Sweden, or someone cotton wool wrapped (or an actual wolf in sheep's clothing) will think it is alright to enforce the warrant without any legal charge. 
3. The trap is intended for that Mr. Assange end up in USA being tried for espionage, which could have him put to death 
4. The women in Sweden involved were set up. And, there is no legal charge against Mr Assange.

P S on a lighter side. I had an Eccentric auntie Jo who was terribly British and quite a character rather like Miss Marples. She lived in a run down mews in Eaton Square and shopped at Harrods buying a shilling's worth of Bicarbonate of Soda to get a Harrods bag  and look as though she had bought some caviare.

This day we were walking past the building above and out of the door tripped Shirley Bassey in her prime, beautifully dressed in a  leopard skin coat and the highest heels you have ever seen. It was 1960!

My aunt recognized Miss Bassey immediately with a gasp of pleasure and then Miss Bassey tripped down the stairs on her high heels and a stream of the foulest language ensued. 

I was used to bad language as my father was a Major in the army in the war and had a ripe vocabulary but my aunt was  raised in Chiswick. She was visibly shocked.

The two women glared at each other in deadly silence. Miss Bassey knew she had committed a faux pas! My aunt glared at her and said in a loud voice 'Come away Babs!'

Miss Bassey knew she had become a fallen idol.

I never forgot it. That door step is indelibly printed on my memory.