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.