Friday, November 17, 2017

Why not bring back the Temporary Employment programmes of the 1980 in NZ ?

Why not  bring back Robert Muldoon's amazing 
Temporary Employment Programmes of the 1980's?

My mother had a thing about jobs! She believed that everybody who wanted to work should have a job and that governments tampered with employment at their peril. "It is easy to close a business and sack people" she used to say as another business was closed down or sent offshore "But it is expensive and sometimes impossible to start them up again as all the skills have been lost". She was right. Peoples jobs are the most important thing they possess in their lives. Ordinary people hate losing their jobs. It is so stressful, degrading, and humiliating when one wants to work but the jobs are not there.

All performing artists and musicians need to perform. They cannot wait until they are dead. I was lucky in UK at that time in the 1960s there was a career path that could be followed.  It took me from 18 to 24 to get into a leading role in  London's West End. Six years of almost daily performances to learn my art. When I came to Auckland with my GP husband I was astonished at the standard of the local performing artists here in Auckland. If they had been in the UK they would all have been stars. Kiri Te Kanawa was not an exception, others were as good as if not better and all had little if nothing to do. They needed jobs.

The year was 1982 and Robert Muldoon the Prime Minister believed in employment and giving people a chance to get a foot in the door by offering full time employment for six months on a Temporary Employment Programme on full salary. Yes, full salary that was paid by the government. The employer had to provide everything else.

I applied and was given such a scheme for Auckland Artists. It was based in The Concert Chamber of Auckland Town Hall and the idea was to start up a small opera/ballet company from scratch using a core of artists and production staff for each production and the opportunity to give many others part-time employment as well.

To begin I had six young ballet dancers straight out of ballet school, one ex NX Ballet, two from the NZ Ballet School in Wellington, but the rest from Auckland. These six young dancers were the luckiest ever as they got paid the same as the NZ Ballet, three full time opera singers, who had to help with the administration when not in an opera, a full time ballet director, Pauline Tronson who was amazing, A manager and secretary, a box office manager, a cafe manager, two stage managers. 

Was it easy? No, as most of these had never worked in a fulltime theatre before, so I had to teach and train them as well but it gave them a start. We did some amazing productions with nothing but NZ raw talent and many went on to have remarkable careers, including me as it gave me a start too as an opera director, women no allowed here too at this time, although I was one who did not get paid.

So how did this Temporary Employment programme turn out in the long run?

Take a look at the programme above.  This was the programme for the PEP scheme. I commissioned the practically destitute Tony Fomison to do the mise-en-scene for our first opera Fidelio by Beethoven. Fomison was Hamish Keith's suggestion. Fomsion was the only artist I have ever met who was prepared to starve for his art. Admittedly Fomison was not on the scheme but because of the scheme I was able to commission him and give him work. Fomison needed it. Today the painting above Fidelio Act 2 is one of his most beloved works. It is worth a fortune. I have to fight for my copyright and ownership as one, it turns out a copy has somehow landed up in The Auckland Art Gallery and one, another copy in the BNZ both of which I could if I so chose to ask to be destroyed but I do not indulge in acts of artistic vandalismm. Without me and the TEP production, these would not have seen the light of day as Fidelio would never have been produced. One day it will be produced again. It was amazing and full media mix of ballet opera and mise en scene and now Fomison is famous I should get the Aotea and the NZSO. 

Artists who got employment because of this scheme, Amanda Price/Scog who for years managed the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Pauline Tronson, Ballerina, Chick Littlewood,  Lousie Malloy, Wendy Dixon, Ingrid Walberg, Moya Rae, Gillian Trot, Lyndsay Freer, David Guerin, Katie Smyth, Malcum Burn, William Dart, Rodger Craig, Marcus Craig, Patricia Swift and many others. Steven Bradshaw, who could not dance a step got his professional start with me, later he was not grateful but then that is par for the course and that is what TEP schemes are for.

For me, by accident, I discovered the world of children's shows. The council admin staff, who did not help one tiny bit, threw me out of my small 480 theatre during the school holidays but then felt guilty at what they had done for it was a disaster as although my TEP employees got paid I had to pay for everything else including the rent of the Concert Chamber. The Council offered me the Town Hall morning and afternoon for $300 a performance. I threw on The Tales of Beatrice Potter and bingo over 23,000 turned up!

When my TEP scheme finished I had enough money to carry on with highly successful children's shows that subsidised my serious opera and ballet productions as you can see in my live CV.  These ended up on NZTV and the BBC. Without this Temporary Employment Programme this would never have happened.

The productions, one or two I had videod, still look acceptable today as you can see in my live CV I made when YouTube first started.  Sadly I needed just $75,000 as a grant to continue to build this small company. It was not granted. The QE II Arts Council needed exactly $70,000 to upgrade its new offices in His Majesty's Arcade which it did. A short time later  His Majesty's Theatre and the newly decorated Arts Council Offices were pulled down. Such is life but my Fomisons live on! Think what Auckland could have had if I had been able to continue.

Was it easy to do? No. Did I enjoy it? No. Would I do it again? Yes. It was socially well worthwhile. I could never have raised the money to do this startup. These skills would have been lost, especially the dancers as they needed continual employment. To have a rich society one needs to make sure that the talents are used and that means in some cases it is the government's responsibility to fund such ventures as taxation is so high. 

Firms we have lost abroad Fisher & Paykel, Moontide, Cadbury's, all should have been saved. 

Everyone deserves a job not just the fortunate few. I applaud Robert Muldoon for doing this. Muldoon had his faults but he was right to do it.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Amazing NZ Copyright Commissioning Rule by Janette Miller

Above is the amazing and unique New Zealand  Copyright Commissioning Rule. 

New Zealand is the only country in the world that has this very special Commissioning Rule.

As you can see in the table if you commission an object, a doll, a painting, a design for a Thing-a-me-jig, and especially a photograph it is a good idea to have a very good understanding of this extremely powerful  NZ Commissioning Rule for unless the person you asked to create your idea, known as The Author in this article, asks for a transfer of copyright in writing before starting to work on it you, as the commissioner, own everything, the copyright, first ownership, everything, 

The author/artist/ photographer/etc owns nothing. From the very beginning that the work starts the commissioned artist,  owns nothing. If you don't pay because the work is not what you commissioned, the /author/artist/photographer cannot sell it to someone else to get his money back, or copy it and sell copies or destroy it for that would be harming the commissioner's interests. The photographer who has been commissioned is stuck with it.

Sounds wonderful! The problem is that hardly anyone in New Zealand knows about the NZ Commissioning  Rule. Try asking artists, art agents, and even art directors of well-known art galleries and the answer trips of their tongues like treacle off a spoon. The commissioned copyright follows the artist.  They are all wrong for in the NZ  Commissioning Rule the copyright follows the commission NOT the Artist who is only the person asked to do the job on behalf of the commissioner.  NZ Copyright Act 1994  Sec 21,3, (b) & Sec 4 (a)(b).

So who owns the copyrighted work?  Who is the First Owner and who is the Author. The copyrighted work is the special name given in The Copyright Act 1994 under Sec 2, Definitions and Sec 14 Property for the actual physical article. Is it the Commissioner? Is it the Author? Can the Author sell it and give the First Buyer Title? This is critical for the Buyer of an artwork has to have a valid Title to sell on legally.

The confusion arises because in the rest of the world the NZ Commissioning Rule does not exist. In the rest of the world, The Commissioner gets the copyrighted work or a photograph but the expression of copyright or the image and the negative follows the Artist.  This breaking of the two parts of the copyright leads to no end of confusion.

A lot of unpleasantness can follow if a commissioned  NZ Artist, not knowing the NZ Commissioning Rule, decides he is The First Owner and sells on to an innocent third party as when the Commissioner finds out the artwork has to go back.

The NZ Commissioning Rule is easy to understand if you consult the above crib sheet above. The whole thing is as clear as crystal. There can be exceptions as there are to all rules but the basics are easy to understand. In a Commission in NZ, the Commissioner comes out on top. For Employers of artists in NZ, say like an NZ Walt Disney, it is the same.

In New Zealand, if the copyrighted work is the artist's own idea and creation, the artist has hit the jackpot. The artist gets the lot, copyright work, copyright of an image, full control, everything till 50 years after his death.

But and it is a BIG BUT - if the artist is commissioned in NZ  the commissioned artist gets nothing, absolutely nothing. Not the copyright work, that belongs to the Commissioner right from the moment the commissioned artist sets to work. The title belongs to the Commissioner and even if the commissioner does not pay up, the commissioned artist has no right to sell it on to get his money back. The artist s not allowed to make copies to sell either or to destroy the work as it does not belong to the artist and may damage the commissioner's property.

If the artist is foolish enough to do this and sell the copyright work by pretending that it is an original work of the artist and a third party buys in Good Faith and does not do due diligence the copyright work has to go back. It still belongs to the Commissioner even though years and years may pass.

 Why? Usually, The Sale of Goods Act 1908 protects Third Party buyers. It does but only if it is the artist's original work and the artist own the copyright. Artworks are property and like cars and houses have titles. Artists ought to give Certificates of Title but in NZ they don't bother.

Copyright Acts all over the world are so powerful. If they were not people would be ripping off ideas left right and centre and nobody would ever profit from creative ideas.

As it is people rip off other peoples' ideas every day and see nothing wrong with it. Well, there is! It is theft and once discovered the copyright work be it a DVD, CD or a photograph has to go back.

You cannot buy an illegal copy of an article, say a stolen genuine Rolex watch even it is a genuine copy with papers to go with it, if it were stolen and after five years claim under a statue of limitation that you bought in Good Faith,  because the Copyright Act gives the Commissioner a right of property too. There is no time limit on stolen copyright articles. as a lady in the USA found out. Her coffee table from Roman Times bought in Good Faith 45 years ago had to go back to Rome.

An infringement of many years ago is still as fresh as a daisy today. The copyright object goes back to the commissioner and to make matters worse the Innocent Buyer can face a huge fine and imprisonment if the buyer had infringed copyright if they find out and do nothing. In the USA where similar copyright laws, but not The Commissioning Rule are in force,  people go to prison every day for using copyright articles, for example re-selling illegal copies of DVDs even if when they bought them they thought they were genuine.

This is just a short introduction to this fascinating law. If you are likely to make a commission or be commissioned it would be a good idea to hone up your skills in this area and prevent disaster for both parties.

Here are a couple of articles by Clendons Law Firm that give a quick overview.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

To all those who struggle to speak French the way the French do it. Janette Miller

I have been trying to speak French all my life with no success as nobody in France will speak to me in French when they hear my English except at railway stations where nobody speaks English. I started to think. Why is learning speaking French so difficult?
Yesterday it hit me. Bit late, I am over 70 but it hit me. The French way of saying things is completely different and unless we  English, learn to think the French way we shall never do it.
I never had this problem with Latin, Yes at school I learned Latin. In Latin, the verb goes at the end of the sentence. That is so odd that it is fun to speak in this manner. Children went around speaking English as though it was Latin. "Oh George, on the chair, sit", "Steven to the gym, go" we carried on conversations like this for days, and teachers too and we all became very good at it. After a bit, it did not sound strange and we gave it up. But after that, the verb at the end of the sentence did not feel odd and made life so easy. Why didn't we do this for French?
By coincidence, yesterday I translated a few pages of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" for educational purposes into English the way the French say it and it sounds very strange indeed but it does not sound strange to the French and this is the way we have to think if our French is to be beyond the well I learned this phrase, now how the hell can I adapt it to this situation.
I won't bore you but here are a few examples spoken in English the way the French say it.

I choose an easy children's book by Beatrix Potter which most of us know by heart. 
To begin The Tale of Peter Rabbit becomes Pierre Lapin, The Tale is untranslatable. French don't do Tales as we do. History, stories, fables, yes, Tales? No. Of course, it is a pun too, but the French, on the whole, do not do puns.
Read carefully each word as you will skip the best bits:

He there had a time four little rabbits who themselves called, Flopsy, something, Tail of cotton and Peter. They remained with their mother in a burrow, sandy, dig under the roots of a very large fir.
"Today my darlings," said Mother Rabbit "I you will allow of to go in the fields, or of to descend the path, but not enter not in the garden of Mr. Mac Gregor.
 An accident frightful arrived at your poor father in this damn garden. He was caught and placed in pie by Mrs. Mac Gregor.

Now, know you; and not make not of mistakes. 

Me! I go to the provisions" 

Mother Rabbit takes his basket and his umbrella. She crosses the wood and then herself there goes home the baker to buy a loaf of bread, twice and five buns.

Now if you translate this word by word into French it will be perfect. See the problem?

This is how the French say it and why it is so hard for us to translate off the cuff. This is the way the French think and this has to be taught if we are to succeed.
Thank goodness God speaks English! (Irony)

To finish here is just one of the three occasions when  I could not find anyone to speak English at a time I really needed to be understood. All three disasters have happened at railway stations.

I was in Karlsruhe Station in 1990, the second-largest city in the state of Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany, near the French-German border. I wanted to go to Venice! It was 6 pm and a long queue behind me.
I speak English beautifully ( I do)  and a little German badly. I asked for two tickets to Venice. Absolute consternation. Not one person in this large station had heard of Venice! The whole station came to a full stop.
"Venice, Venice, Venice!" I repeated over and over again. The crowd muttered and after a minute someone tried. Wein? I didn't think that sounded right. I had no idea where or what Wein was that night. (Vienna is the translation).
Everyone became more and more frustrated as I tried to buy two tickets to Venice. I thought everybody in the world had heard of Venice. Not it Karlsruhe station.
Eventually, after a good three to four minutes of impasse with tempers rising to fever pitch, somebody way down the queue suggested Venezia. That sounded promising, everyone heaved a sigh of relief and I got my two tickets to Venezia keeping my fingers crossed that I had the correct translation.
Usually when I travel and I travel a lot I am not allowed to try to use my foreign language skills as tout le monde likes practising their English on me, which is understandable, but in stations I have found nobody speaks English, Brussels, Paris, Karlsruhe, not a word of English is understood especially when one is in a hurry.
So if you don't speak German and French fluently stay away from Railway stations!

Below this French Folk song really should be sung in French. I have never dared to do this!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Music Education for those who cannot read Music -

Music Education is now only for the wealthy 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Janette Miller/Heffernan

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Jackdaw of Rheims from Ingoldsby Legends - Janette Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Takapuna's Future Auckland Council Survey 2017

Takapuna's Future  Auckland Council Survey 2017

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Cupid Noel Tovey - everyone should have a Cupid!

My Cupid - Noel Tovey
Janette Heffernan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “Please come to us for Xmas Dinner”.