Then and Now

DIGITAL PRINTS now available on Ebay and on Trademe
Greeting card selection now available on Etsy * ASNI'S GARDEN: Original Watercolour paintings available on Etsy

Asni the Harper digital downloads: CD Baby ** Amazon MP3 * iTunes

SHEET MUSIC: Diego Fernandez de Huete: Compendio numeroso – original music for harp from baroque Spain

TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MUSIC: Harp sheet music store * Travels in Middle Earth CD * 700 Years of Pop CD

NOW AVAILABLE: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Snowflake Christmas/seasonal card * Queen Galadriel holiday card * Easter greeting cards

In this newsletter:
 
*** Snug
*** News and Current Projects
*** Tales from My Youth (part 1)
 

Snug

As I am writing this, I am sitting snugly on the sofa by the fireplace in my newly re-decorated living room. The wooden floors are now polished and sealed, and after letting them sit and dry for 72 hours, I have started to move the furniture back in. The cleaning up is all done, too: next time, I'll do the flloors first! The fine wood dust from sanding them off got absolutely everywhere.

The shiny new silvery-reflective wallpaper, with its forest-inspired Swedish design, reflects the warm magenta-tinged light from my gorgeous Ikea "Onsjö" LED ceiling lamp, the warm pale golden yellow of the ceiling, and the even warmer orangey-pink and pale ochre wood colours from my newly restored floor boards. The woodfire is going in the fireplace, and the room is quite a bit brighter than it used to be, bathed in a beautiful warm, fiery light. I am insanely happy with how my re-decoration efforts have turned out.

Under my feet is my new carpet – or "rug", as they say in New Zealand: a vintage 100% wool Afghan rug, glowing in rich madder red, orange, pinkish grey and black, matching the general fiery colour scheme of the room. It covers the whole area between the sofa and the window. The carpet is some 40 years old, with a flower inspired traditional geometric pattern. I got it from a rug dealer on Trademe for a 3 digit figure – a pretty good price for any 100% woolen rug this size, let alone a beautiful handmade oriental one! The only flaw that I can find is that it is a bit unevenly worn.

I bought another one for the dining room while I was at it – not just for aesthetic indulgence, but because I am going to need something by way of insulation on those bare floorboards, come the cold weather. I completely amazed myself by being able to find the cash to pay for two rugs, on top of all the wallpaper, and paints, and floor sander hire, on my below-minimum-wage level income. Must be doing something right! I guess it's those money management skills kicking in. I did have to dig deep into my overdraft, but a couple of months of living on baked beans should fix this ... bring it on! It's worth it.

The second rug is a more subdued red-and-black colour scheme with a traditional "elephant foot" pattern, to match the more subdued colours of the room: the birch forest wallpaper is just as much of a success as the one I picked for the living room! I'll be aiming to de-clutter the space, and it will be a good time to separate myself from one or other item of furniture, to help plug that overdraft, or buy something more nicer instead.

I've had a thing for oriental rugs since I discovered that, rather than stuffy bourgeois home decoration items of questionable taste, they can be beautiful and intricate works of art, with their glowing colours and eye-boggling patterns. When I was a teenager, I decided that one day I would be grown up enough to own one, and then I would be, well, grown up. Meaning, I suppose, "able to afford one". Which in retrospect, seems like an oddly bourgeois measure for the state of grown-upness, coming from me, but there it is. I'm all grown up now. The proof is in the carpet.

Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa

Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa



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My new living room and dining room My new living room and dining room My new living room and dining room My new living room and dining room

My new living room and dining room

News & Current Projects

The home redecorating effort has taken up most of my time and creative energy this month – with fabulous results, I might add, so it was worth it – but the downside is, sorry, no new artwork this month. I am really looking forward to have some more time next month to work in the garden and do some more painting!

Having said that, I have already lined up the next room to undergo the wallpapering treatment: a little while ago, I bought a new old wardrobe (Trademe, of course) to go in my back entry hall, between the bedroom and the bathroom. Since the space badly needs a long overdue tidy-up, I figured I might as well motivate myself by properly doing it up next. I have purchased some lovely wisteria patterned wallpaper (British design this time) – a couple of leftover rolls I got for cheap – which will make an appropriate transition from the garden, I think.

Looking further ahead, I can't wait to get rid of the rest of the old grey carpet and make the office, kitchen and bedroom look as spiff as the living and dining room. I've already picked the wallpaper to use in those three rooms, but it will have to wait until I've balanced out my overdraft for the carpets – and yes, maybe it was time I spent some time on real work behind the computer again!

I am hoping I'll be ready to tackle the office this winter though, since I will be moving the workspace into the living room next to the fireplace for the cold months of July and August anyway. I'm thinking of organizing an art and garage sale fundraiser to finance it all – stay tuned.

Home redecoration progress: floors and carpets Home redecoration progress: floors and carpets Home redecoration progress: floors and carpets Home redecoration progress: floors and carpets Home redecoration progress: floors and carpets Home redecoration progress: floors and carpets Home redecoration progress: floors and carpets

Home redecoration progress: floors and carpets

I am now officially a certified horticulturist! Last month, I completely forgot to brag about the latest addition to my long list of largely useless formal qualifications. Well – there is always hope that I've actually learned something useful in the process of acquiring yet another piece of paper.

Meanwhile, I have started my Small Business Management class – which will hopefully eventually result in yet another addition to my collection, this time in Te Reo Maori! That'll be the fifth language to have a school certificate in. That's got to be some sort of record.

More importantly, I've been making a fair few sales lately on Trademe, both of my posters and my plants. So maybe all I really need to do is hang in there and do more of the same, with a bit more of a system in place, which would be good.

The business class will provide ample opportunity to think through how I want to be structuring my business activities from now on, and how I can hopefully integrate the art and gardening sides of it. Then it will also be time to have a sharp look at my various online presences – and yes, there is a children's book to be published!

In other news, Featherston is now officially a Book Town. We have been accepted to the first level of membership by the International Organisation of Booktowns. The first Featherston Booktown festival will be held on October 18-19. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for a children's book launch! Which gives me some time to get feedback, and shop around for a publisher. Better get on with it – five months have a way of passing very fast.

Level 4 certificate in horticulture for Astrid Nielsch, Open Polytechnic NZ

Shiny new horticulture certificate!

On Amazing Stories, my ongoing investigation of magical birds has taken me to India and South East Asia: meet Garuda, the giant winged mount of Hindu deity Vishnu – and further on to China: Feng Huang is often called the "Chinese Phoenix", though her symbolic associations are quite different. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.

My CD Baby account has finally, laboriously piled up to US $100, which is when I get paid out. A month or so later, it already sits at $33 something again. If we could extrapolate from this that my next payment will be due in a couple of months, it would be great news: a dramatic increase in earnings from my music downloads! But I am not so sanguine: although you all could help me make it happen!

If you like my music, tell a friend. Share the links to my iTunes account or my page on Amazon Mp3, or of course my CD Baby account, where people can also buy good old-fashioned CD albums. Unless they prefer to get them directly from my website: then I can sign them personally if you wish. For those of you living in New Zealand: I now also sell CDs, posters and greeting cards on Trademe.

Baby rabbits Yin and Yang Baby rabbits Yin and Yang Baby rabbits Yin and Yang Baby rabbits Yin and Yang Baby rabbits Yin and Yang Baby rabbits Yin and Yang

Yin * Yang * Yang & Yin

The newest addition to the household are Yin and Yang, a sister pair of baby Flemish Giant rabbits, whom I picked up from their former owner a few days ago.

It is all my doctor's fault: he prescribed me a social life, and failing that, he felt I should at least have a pet. I told him I have fish. He wasn't impressed. When he started rattling on about damn pets again the next time I saw him, I went home and thought about it. I mean truth be told, he is an excellent doctor who moreover gives a shit – which is more than can be said of almost anyone else I have turned to for support of any kind since coming to New Zealand (those people who are subscribed to this newsletter obviously excluded). So I respect his opinion.

What kind of pet would I get, I mean apart from fish? Turtle? Probably not what the doctor meant either. Parrot? They'd poo everywhere. I'd like to have a goat, but that will be difficult to accommodate on my half section which also serves as orchard and vegetable garden. Geese? Too complicated. I've been wanting to get chickens, but more for the purpose of eating their eggs, and I don't know, it feels wrong to have a pet and eat their children for breakfast on a regular basis.

I'm definitely not a dog person: they need far too much attention, and they get so damn attached. Besides, I don't like their smell. I'm not really that keen on cats either: I've been thinking to get one in order to help keep my mice in check, but the main reason against it is that I'm allergic to them. That probably wouldn't make the doctor very happy either. In fact he strongly advised against it when I mentioned it to him.

So then I thought, I could get a rabbit. And that somehow felt right. They fulfill all the cuddly and cute requirements that fish fall so woefully short of, they aren't noisy and not terribly smelly, and they can sit quite happily and entertain themselves when you need them to. We can work on our anxieties together. Besides, I have been drawing hares for a year, so that's not too far a leap.

Yin and Yang: devoted to the serious business of eating Yin and Yang: devoted to the serious business of eating Yin and Yang: devoted to the serious business of eating Yin and Yang: devoted to the serious business of eating

Devoted to the serious business of eating

In my usual impetuous manner, I jumped on Trademe, found a second hand rabbit hutch, and a second hand rabbit at a nearby animal shelter. I went to pick them up the next day, and when we got home, I thought I'd let the poor rabbit out of his carry case where he was sitting trembling as if the world was going to end, and let him hop around in the sunshine a bit and chill out, while I was setting up the new hutch.

That was a mistake.

I can't say that I'd had any previous experience of rabbits, because if I did I would have known that unlike cats, rabbits don't come up to you to beg for food and cuddles. Especially rabbits who don't know you. They just run away. By the time I had found a place for my hutch and got it set up, my new rabbit was indeed enjoying himself quite a lot exploring my weedy, grassy garden – pretty much a rabbit's idea of paradise! And I soon realized that I had absolutely no way to capture him again. Eventually he ducked and disappeared, and was lost from sight forever. What became of him, I do not know. He lasted in my inexpert care for exactly three and a half hours.

That was crushing. I spent a miserable night thinking the cat would probably have a nice meal (it was quite a small rabbit, but even so, the cat probably didn't eat him, but maybe the neighbour's dog did). Here I was trying to do one of those normal things that normal people do, and it turned out to be an utter failure. I felt woefully inadequate, and at the same time decided that the damn doctor could have the damn rabbit's karma on his head for all I cared.

When I told him the story, he laughed raucously and tried to cheer me up by saying he'd probably gone off to make lots of baby rabbits and was having a great time (it almost sounded as if the good doctor was a tad jealous) – better to burn out than to fade away, and I'd probably done the beast a favour. And really, I didn't have to have a pet if I wasn't a pet sort of person. He seemed a bit shocked that I took this so much to heart. I don't think he has come across a specimen quite like me before.

I put the idea of rabbit to rest for a while, but it gnawed at me. I'd gone and bought a hutch, so I might as well put it to use. Then I went up to Taranaki, and when I got to Hawera to pitch my tent for the night, there was a beautiful, quite tame Flemish Giant rabbit sitting in my tent space. I offered her some grapes, which she gracefully accepted, and when I woke up the next morning she was still hanging around and the space was full of rabbit poo, so she must have watched over my sleep all night. It was like one of those things when people go out in the wilderness to find their totem animal. Get back in the saddle, try again. My friend Inkibus, who breeds rabbits in the Ozarks, had recommended the Flemish Giant as a particularly friendly and intelligent breed, but I'd initially preferred to go for a smaller rabbit. Now I saw her point.

Yin and Yang, I am happy to say, have now been sharing my home for well over 72 hours and still seem to be doing well. Rather than stowing them away in the hutch, which will soon be too small for them anyway as it is made for smaller rabbits, I found them a space next to the sofa, where I can hear them shuffle and make contented little rabbit noises while I am writing this. I have made a point to spend as much time with them as possible since they arrived. What's the point of having a pet when you don't interact with them!

Today I let them hop around in the garden for a couple of hours, not without taking the precaution of setting up a chicken wire fence first. They're already greeting me and asking to be picked up and cuddled, so I hope by the time they grow up, they'll be tame enough that I can let them roam in the garden more or less freely (baring some strategically placed fencing to protect my veggies, and to keep them from taking to the streets and getting themselves preggers). They could make themselves useful and help keep the grass and weeds down.

If they survive the year, I might go and get myself a pair of peafowl. I mean really, I see myself more as a peafowl person than a rabbit person, if you asked me.

Meanwhile, I have to admit I am totally not immune to cuteness overload.

Yin and Yang: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence Yin and Yang: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence Yin and Yang: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence Yin and Yang: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence Yin and Yang: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence Yin and Yang: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence Yin and Yang: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence



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Tales from my Youth (part 1)

A little while ago, a friend and classmate from my early music school days posted an article of news on her Facebook account: Phil Pickett, a well known British early music performer and teacher at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, had been convicted to 11 years in prison for raping and indecently assaulting several female students – some of them in their teens – in the 1970's and 1980s. A summary of the crimes and the conviction can now be found on his Wikipedia page:

Philip Pickett (born 19 November 1950) is an English musician and convicted sex offender. Pickett was director of early music ensembles including the New London Consort, and taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In February 2015, Pickett received an 11-year prison sentence for the rape and sexual assault of pupils at the school. ...

After the revelations in 2012–13 of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal, a former student was referred by Suffolk Police to the specialist investigation team within the City of London Police. The woman, who was 16 in 1978, later testified that during a lesson Pickett told her to take her top off and lie down in a darkened practice room to "improve her breathing", on later occasions sexually assaulting and raping her. Police arrested Pickett on 4 December 2013, after which further victims came forward.

His arrest was not part of the high-profile sex crime investigation Operation Yewtree. It was said at his trial that allegations against Pickett dated back to 1984, when a family complained to the school about him attacking their 17-year-old daughter; they were allegedly told by the school that she should have her lessons elsewhere as no one else had complained. Police discovered evidence within the archives of the school that in 1984 the then principal John Hosier had written to Pickett, asking him to discuss the allegations. Hosier passed police a letter regarding the allegations and his frustrations, but the following year the Guildhall School made Pickett a fellow.

On 10 February 2015 Pickett was found guilty of two rapes and two indecent assaults carried out in soundproof rooms at the Guildhall School between 1979 and 1983. After his conviction, Pickett’s defence team tried to delay sentencing to accommodate Pickett’s commitment to arrange three music festivals. Judge Charles Wide sentenced Pickett on 20 February 2015 to a total of 11 years, and ordered that two further indictments in relation to allegations by two women dating back to the 1970s lie on file. Pickett was cleared of six further counts of indecent assault. [Source: Wikipedia]

I have not met or worked with Phil Pickett personally (fortunately!) – but I used to own several of his recordings, and he was most definitely in the circle of early music performers of which I was also a part. My teacher, Andrew Lawrence-King, worked with him regularly, and I remember that he spoke of him occasionally, though I can't recall what his opinion of him was. A friend of mine has worked with him when she was just starting out as a professional musician, and confirmed that she was also harassed, though she did not go into details.

Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa

Evening mood at Tora

What was most interesting, was the conversation that ensued after the posting of this news, between several of my female former fellow students and colleagues. And the most interesting part of that conversation was that none of us was the least bit surprised or shocked to hear of those allegations against a well known and (up to then) generally well respected musician. It gave me, and I think it probably gave all of us, a great vicarious sense of satisfaction: at least one of those assholes was finally going to jail! Even if it was only the teeniest tiny tip of the iceberg. There must be so many others.

Sexual harassment by teachers or senior musicians is an experience nearly all of us have shared at some point. Mostly, it didn't take the form of outright rape. But there are other forms of sexual abuse or exploitation, and some of them even include the consent of the victim.

Neither is this a phenomenon that is limited to music schools: one of my artist friends chimed in to say it had been no different in art school, and although by the time I went to university, I was vaccinated against falling for any moves made on me (a certain professor in Utrecht comes to mind, and another when I was in London – and, for that matter, one of the editors when I was interning at ZDF German public TV), I could observe that some of my younger and more naive fellow students weren't.

Love relationships between teachers and students do, of course, happen – the one-on-one lesson model of music education practically requires that teachers and students form a reasonably close relationship, and the emotionally charged environment I remember from music school does its part. I know several people who ended up marrying one of their teachers – though generally not before they ceased to be students and started to be fellow professionals – and who have perfectly good marriages.

But this is different from the serial predators: academic teachers who regard their young female students not as minds to be nurtured and educated, but as a convenient reservoir of potentially fuckable bodies. In every institution I have attended, there was always one. At least.

Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa

Evening mood at Tora

The conversation that had started there on my Facebook feed was quite a novel thing for us: even though we all shared these experiences or knew someone who did, it was never really talked about. It was just "how it was". The price you paid for having access to higher education. One didn't want to smear the reputation of those men whom we often admired for their artistic or intellectual merit. I think we often thought of it as individual cases, rather than a prevailing pattern. And of course – the backlash would usually hit the student far harder than the teacher, if indeed she was believed at all. Why, one must ask, did it take THIRTY YEARS to bring Phil Pickett to justice?

My friends on Facebook knew, of course, why this news would be interesting to me. They all remembered that I used to sleep with my harp teacher. He didn't rape me, and there was nothing illegal about it in that we were both consenting adults – but even so, he was one of the predators. He manipulated me, taking advantage of my naivety and lack of experience, and of my enthusiasm and admiration for his musicianship. And he lied to me, for well over a year, so he could keep fucking me. Besides, I was far from the only one. Andrew had a reputation for sleeping around and having multiple girlfriends and affairs going on all the time, while each of us (well – at least some of us) were somehow led to believe that we were special to him, that he really loved us and cared about us.

So I have decided that it is time to join the conversation and tell my story, naming names and all. If for no other reason than to give testimony as to just how widespread this phenomenon is, and perhaps try to analyse why it is that young talented women often fall for it so easily. I've got no musical career to speak of left to ruin, so I guess I can be as outspoken as I please!

I have recently amused myself by reading the medical code of practice (Good Medical Practice) issued by the Medical Council of New Zealand: it addresses the interpersonal issues that may arise between physicians and their patients at quite some length. For one thing, it unequivocally states that sexual – or even "inappropriate emotional", whatever exactly that means (it sounds a bit scary) – relations between a medical practitioner and their patient, or even in most cases their ex-patient, are completely off limits. There isn't a similar detailed and binding framework in place for teachers in higher education. Perhaps it was time that there was.

Not all sexual predators harass and rape. But all sexual predators do a lot of harm, to the psyches and to the careers of the bright young women they prey on. We need to have this conversation, so that these young women are not taken at unawares, like we were.

Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa

Evening mood at Tora

When I first met Andrew Lawrence-King, I was 19 years old, and he was in his mid twenties. It was at the first ever International Historical Harp Symposium in Basel in 1986, a determining point for my life in more than one way. Andrew appeared late, stood on a chair, and took the acclaim of the assembled musicians and academics like he was already a star. I was instantly fascinated by this character – he walked around in a pair of bright blue patent-leather shoes, and at the time he was still young enough to be somewhat good looking in a cute English choir boy sort of way.

I was too young and felt too insignificant to think I could walk up and talk to him – I had just started my first year at music conservatory, studying for an orchestra degree on modern harp, and he was acting like the star of the show, so of course I believed that I was far beneath his notice – but we did talk briefly at one point, and I was flattered by his friendly, humble manner.

When he performed, I was completely smitten: mostly by the fact that despite having a countertenor voice which really was nothing to write home about – his original ambition had been to be a professional singer – he not only played one of those crazy double strung harps, but sang and accompanied himself. I hadn't seen anything like it up to that point. Hell, I was a 19 year old sheltered offshoot of the German Bildungsbürgertum, and he was the height of cool in my eyes.

(As I am writing this I can't help thinking, goodness, have I ever come a long way from the person I was then.)

Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa

Evening mood at Tora

The next time I met Andrew was at the first ever Lutes & Harps summer school in Bremen in 1989 – in September, just a few months before the Berlin Wall was to come down. By then, I had bought a small gothic harp and started teaching myself on it, and I had been attending the only seminar on early music available at my school, led by Holger Eichhorn. When I spotted a poster at the music library announcing that a certain Andrew Lawrence-King would be teaching a historical harp workshop in Bremen, I called up and registered myself – on the Monday the course was to start – and my dad, recently returned from a work stint in Mexico, offered to give me a short notice lift to Bremen.

I hadn't had time to organize a place to stay – I barely had had time to pack! – but a group of students was sleeping over on the floor of the caretaker's apartment at the recently established Akademie für Alte Musik Bremen, and somehow I got invited to join that group. What ensued, was one of the most formative weeks of my life. And I was hooked – there was no doubt in my mind that I would go and study full time with Andrew as soon as I finished my degree in Berlin, in fact I started taking part time lessons with him during my last year of conservatory.

*** To be continued

Arohanui, from Asni



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Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa Evening mood at Tora, South Wairarapa

Evening mood at Tora