Archive for March, 2022

I bought this collection two or three years ago. I find listening to the them deeply enjoyable. They have come to mean a great deal to me.

J’ai acheté cette collection il y a deux ou trois ans. Je trouve leur écoute profondément agréable. Ils sont devenus très importants pour moi.

Ho comprato questa collezione due o tre anni fa. Trovo ascoltarli profondamente piacevole. Sono diventati molto importanti per me.

Olivier Messiaen écrit

Each piece is written in honour of a French province. It bears the title of the bird-type of the chosen region. It is not alone: the habitat neighbours surround it and also sing (-)… its landscape, the hours of day and night that also change this landscape, are also present, with their colours, their temperatures, the magic of their perfumes.

His elegant, minimalist and wholly practical solutions need to be widely appreciated.
This is a start.

It’s good to see American director, Jane Campion, back in the news.

We just happened to catch one of her earlier films a few weeks back, An Angel At My Table, based on the autobiographies of New Zealand writer Janet Frame.

It was great to watch the film again; I got more out of it this time around, too:  Kerry Fox is really very good in the main role.

And so I went to the autobiographies.
To the Is-Land (1982); An Angel at My Table (1984); The Envoy from Mirror-City (1985)

There are so many surprises and enlightening episodes and events. Her writing is very even-handed, even though she had every reason to not be so. She casts no blame, partly because her life, like everyone’s is a steady revelation of meaning, realisation. And also, I suspect, because of the counselling she received.

One of the first things surprised me was the difference between the South and North island of New Zealand. Following eight years of hospital treatment she travelled to Auckland, to stay with her married youngest sister and family. The air, she found, seemed more temperate, the flora more lush, almost tropical, brighter colours, different flowers, plants.
Away from the snow melt of the Lord-of-the-Rings mountains of South island, and also being that little bit nearer to the equator, made a lot of difference.
We only meet one Australian in the books, and then only in passing, as passenger on the sea journey to England.

The family background is intriguing, as well as tragic. Her mother had cleaned for the writer Katherine Mansfield’s family. 
Of the five children, the eldest, ‘Bruddie’, developed epilepsy; the next, Myrtle, drowned in the local swimming pool; Janet went through eight years of mental health hospitals; lively, vibrant Isabel developed heart trouble and also drowned… only the youngest, June, came through relatively unscathed.

It was suggested that ‘Bruddie’ be taken to Seacliffe, the mental health hospital – that is how epilepsy was seen and treated in those years. Her mother swore no child of hers would go there. She cared for him at home.

When Janet was to be taken to Seacliffe, her mother signed the papers. 
How is one to take this, she asked, in the autobiography.

The diagnosis was schizophrenia. 
There’s a new electrical treatment, she heard at one point. It was ECT; she went through about two hundred of these ‘treatments’.

Later, another new treatment came forward: Leucotomy, or as we now know it lobotomy. And she was on the list.
It was only by winning a prize for her short stories The Lagoon and other stories, and mentioned in the newspaper review, that she was saved that fate, and later released.
One associate, Nola, had not such luck. Janet Frame wrote to her often, and she was in and out of hospitals all her life.
It’s the dependency upon other’s judgements, decisions, that is so disabling, reducing, negating. This is especially so for women, the never-ending centuries of subjection 

Her mother died: Her life was awful, she said, and her sister agreed. She had no life of her own, or the one she did have she sank into her Christadelphian beliefs.
She wrote The well-meaning consideration of my family served to emphasise and increase the separation I felt from them.

‘You are the unmarried daughter. Your duty is to look after your father now.’
Other’s expectations… even one’s own expectations… can be destructive.

It was in Auckland that she met Frank Sargeson, a successful New Zealand writer, living in his little isolated island of art. She stayed there… eighteen months? Writing her first book, Owls Do Cry; and it was accepted for publication, and published in New Zealand.
Frank’s own books were out of print by then, a horrible fate for a living writer.

Coming out of the mental health system, where the emphasis was on non-communication between staff and in-patients, no newspapers, no stimulation, and observation of rules, order, regulated time. It was an experience she described as a steady diminishment of one’s personality. 

With Frank Sargeson she then found herself in a caring, considerate environment.
The problem there was, as nurturing as he was, his interest was other men, and constantly disparaged her woman’s body. From one area of negation, to another.

He did have connections, though. 

On the strength of her novel she applied for a travel grant ‘to broaden one’s life experience’, and was awarded what was then a reasonable amount of money: three hundred pounds sterling.
She travelled to England, by boat: she was not a good sailor. 
She was determined to go to Spain – Ibiza was the place to live cheaply, so she stayed there about eighteen months. 

Poverty was a trap; there was no way out for the local people, except tourism, a hate-relationship but necessary. She identified more readily with the poor, that was her background, her experience.
Aged thirty-two, and then her first love affair! And a pregnancy. Money was running out, and so Andorra was recommended, the exchange rate more amenable. And almost trapped into marriage with a local smuggler. Then losing the baby.

Back in London she was to fall into another redundant relationship: poor, dull, unimaginative, and thinking he was looking out for her – but he was forcing her into corners.
She had to look for work, and her situation became untenable.
A previous medic recommended her contact the Maudsley Hospital when in London. She did, and they took her in observation. ‘You never had schizophrenia.’ they said. ‘What you are going through now is the result of eight years of hospitalisations.

She loved London, though: the early nineteen sixties, all the new life, the French New Wave writers, the American Beat writers, West Indian literature appearing. She witnessed the growth of CND, the Aldermaston Marches

She loved being anonymous but a part of the multitudinous life.
She wrote, and published. One review wrote This must be the worst book, whilst another said of the same book, This book could well be a work of genius.
What do you do with that disparity? 
You have to come to some accommodation, and it has to be one’s own.

She was healing, she was growing stronger.
She changed her name to Nene Janet Paterson Clutha …in part to recognise Māori leader Tamati Waka Nene, whom she admired (
This is the only Maori reference I am aware of.

And then her father died. And she returned to New Zealand, still a bad sailor. 

But the legacy had to be sorted, the meagre belongings.
She loved London, but was glad to return to New Zealand.
Beware, the London doctor said, They might not accept our diagnosis.

Her appreciation of the neglect of women’s lives comes through in the autobiographies. 

She could spot desperation in all its forms, it was something that affects everyone, but especially women denied prospects, lives, education. 

We may think that is all being solved now but, well, it isn’t, and there’s nothing to stop any improvements being turned around tomorrow. 

We are so vulnerable – to economic constraints, to market forces, to prices shooting up beyond control: heating, basic foodstuffs, energy, petrol. And the ones who bear the brunt of this are the poor and women, because they have no protection in society.
The poor are always with us, and especially the ones who cannot, do not know how to, fend for themselves.

I would love to know what happened next; how she lived. Her New Zealand celebrity status protected her somewhat, but could also ensnare.

But take a look at the prizes she had won in her lifetime!

1951: Hubert Church Prose Award (The Lagoon and other Stories)

·      1956: New Zealand Literary Fund Grant

·      1958: New Zealand Literary Fund Award for Achievement (Owls Do Cry)

·      1964: Hubert Church Prose Award (Scented Gardens for the Blind); New Zealand Literary Fund Scholarship in Letters.

·      1965: Robert Burns Fellowship, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

·      1967: “Buckland Literary Award.” (The Reservoir and Other Stories/A State of Siege)

·      1969: New Zealand Literary Fund Award (The Pocket Mirror: Poems)

·      1971: Buckland Literary Award (Intensive Care); Hubert Church Prose Award. (Intensive Care)

·      1972: President of Honour: P.E.N. International New Zealand Centre, Wellington, NZ

·      1973: James Wattie Book of the Year Award (Daughter Buffalo)

·      1974: Hubert Church Prose Award (Daughter Buffalo); Winn-Manson Menton Fellowship.

·      1978: Honorary Doctor of Literature (D.Litt. Honoris Causa) University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

·      1979: Buckland Literary Award (Living in the Maniototo)

·      1980: New Zealand Book Award for Fiction (Living in the Maniototo)

·      1983: Buckland Literary Award; Sir James Wattie Book of the Year Award (To the Is-Land); C.B.E. (Commander, Order of the British Empire)

·      1984: Frank Sargeson Fellowship, University of Auckland, NZ

·      1984: New Zealand Book Award for Non-Fiction (An Angel at My Table); Sir James Wattie Book of the Year Award (An Angel at My Table); Turnovsky Prize for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts

·      1985: Sir James Wattie Book of the Year Award (The Envoy from Mirror City)

·      1986: New Zealand Book Award for Non-Fiction (The Envoy from Mirror City); Honorary Foreign Member: The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters

·      1989: Ansett New Zealand Book Award for Fiction; Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (The Carpathians)

·      1990: O.N.Z. (Member, Order of New Zealand)

·      1992: Honorary Doctor of Literature (D.Litt.), University of Waikato, Hamilton, NZ

·      1994: Massey University Medal, Massey University, Palmerston North, NZ

·      2003: Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award; New Zealand Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement[77]

·      2007: Montana Book Award for Poetry (The Goose Bath)

One of her family homes on South Island was bought and restored by a group of supporters, and it is now open for visitors, a tourist spot:

Janet Frame House

Next, of course, is to read the books.

-off line –

Posted: March 5, 2022 in John Stammers Page

Off-line for a week! One whole week.

We’d been with our server for about twenty years, but now its prices are going sky-high.
We’d found a package elsewhere, that cost a third of the price; and so being at the end of one contract took our thirty-days’ leave notice.

Ours is an inclusive package: internet, TV, and landline.

So, their Sales Team got in touch and dangled cheaper packages for us. I said Send us the details.
They didn’t, but being Sales people took that as a Yes, and so cancelled our leave and signed us on for another eighteen months.
Didn’t tell us.
We happened to look at our billing page, and found the contract.

So we had to ring them. It took about three hours of waiting, and then increasingly confusing conversations. A lot of their customers it appears, were also trying to cancel, or re-negotiate. We were trapped in that queue.

And so we restated our leaving commitment: thirty days. Yes we were already set up with another provider.

And they did it again, cancelled our leaving and put us on another contract.
We rang again, We did not authorise this. Someone in your company is deciding for us. That is illegal.

And they did it again.
We rang again. Your details with us are very confused, they said.
Purposely so, we thought.
– Look through it, at no point do we ever say to another contract. Thirty days, we said, Then phht.
We’ve got you down for for leaving on 10thof March. 
– No, 23red of February.
We can do 25th.
– OK, ok. You get the impression: frazzled, stressed. That’s what they wanted, so they could string us out further, agree (You have to say a robust No to the Sales team, they said. So everything but a robust No, is a Yes?).

The message boards for this company have plenty more stories very similar to this.

The day before switch off, we checked the billing page, and… they’d done it again!
We rang again.
Next day they Did switch us off.

And so our new provider said, You need a line putting in. 
– Your van has been round, checked availability, posted us a letter by hand.
The engineer put us a line in the same day as out switch off.

– Nothing follows through, does it! –

Router? We asked. Your site says Same day online.

Because you’ve not had a line for a long time, we have to check viability.
They did.

The router’ll be with you tomorrow, only… we can’t set up your package until Friday. And then it’ll need time to get up to speed.
– How long?
A few weeks, possibly a month. 
– A month?
You’ll be able to use basic functions before then, of course.

It was overnight.

Apart from the fall-out of stress from the leave-farrago, and the sign-on-to-the-new charade I have to admit it has been very peaceful without it.
We’ve been able to catch up with reading, and, what’s more surprising and something we don’t realise we have lost: time to Think.

How much of the day is wasted frittering and flitting about online and getting almost nothing back from doing it.

Then Crash! into the craziness of the Ukraine situation. To process what most other people have already had to confront and process. 

The first call on out new landline? A phone-scam centre.
Oh, and the label sent for us to return the equipment to the old provider, does not scan at the designated hub, nor does it accept the alphanumerical provided.

But this new provider, a smaller company, does seem to be commendable.