EMMA GOLDSTEIN The Cronicles of Great Aunt Sophie and Las Assangistas Del Norte

Great Aunt Sophie and Las Assangistas Del Norte



of Great Aunt Sophie, Lunatic Fringe, and Las Assangistas del Norte

Emma Goldstein, MA BfD, 45, has long brown hair, wears frayed jeans and turtlenecks, and likes to go barefoot. She divides her time between northern California, London, and West Yorkshire.

Emma is the love child of Emma Goldman, “Queen of the Anarchists” and Emmanuel Goldstein. In George Orwell’s  1984, Emmanuel Goldstein, author of an underground book that explains the workings of the English socialist state, is the object of the Two Minute Hates that punctuate the workdays of Ingsoc Party members. Emma has undergone many years of therapy to overcome the trauma of having a father who is a fictional character.

Emma’s great aunt Sophie Goldstein, MSW, RN, DSFA, 85, worked for thirty-five years as a psychiatric social worker at the Tavistock Institute, and taught psychoanalytic theory at University College, London. She ives on Ilkley Moor with her chickens and Nigel, a Galapagos Sneezing Iguana.

Sophie slipped Nigel into her backpack during an Ecotour of Ecuador in 2010. She recreates his original marine environment by filling her clawfoot bathtub with salt water, barnacles, and seaweed, which she collects on her quarterly awaydays to Robin Hood’s Bay. Since President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has given political asylum to Julian Assange, she has attempted to change the iguana’s name to Rafael, but he refuses to answer to anything other than Nigel, even when tempted with fresh horseflies.

Sophie’s son Thurgood, 44, was conceived at Woodstock. Sophie is convinced his father was almost certainly either Taj Mahal or Bob Marley. “Best weekend of my life,” says Sophie. Thurgood is executive vice president of public relations for Monsanto’s European division.

Maud O’Gunne, 78, is tall and wiry, with thick curly red hair. She read Social Anthropology at Cambridge and is fluent in French, Spanish, and Irish Gaelic, with a smattering of Sichuanese and a reading knowledge of Swiss German and Haitian Creole. She hints of an affair with the young David Rottenborough (“Taught him everything he knows about natural selection.”) Her dissertation, Let Them Go And Mount Upon Themselves If They Do Not See The Humour In It: The Teachings of Seamus O’Blivious was rejected by Oprah’s Book Club. It has been translated into thirteen languages.*

Two years ago Maud was reunited with Davinia, 58, the daughter she gave up for adoption. Davinia is an international investment consultant for the World Trade Organization. She is alarmed by her mother’s support of Julian Assange, which she fears may impact her security clearance.

Little Fudgie, Maud’s Welsh Corgi, was formerly a plain-clothes police dog known as J. Edgar. Assigned to the London – Amsterdam run at Heathrow, he was caught in a back room scarfing contraband, and had to be retired. Maud adopted J. Ed through Her Majesty’s Corgi Rescue, under the impression he had belonged to the Queen.

Maud’s black palm cockatoo, Nosferatu has a natural sense of rhythm, and likes to beat on sonorous objects with Gertie’s bodhran-basher. He creates sacred space at solar and lunar rituals held by Lunatic Fringe, and plays percussion for Las Assangistas del Norte.

Maud’s ex-husband, Fred once organized archaeological expeditions to Mongolia, supplementing his tour-guide’s income with a lucrative trade in  dinosaur bones of questionable provenance. He is now doing six to ten in Wandsworth Prison, and hopes someday to meet Julian Assange. Maud refers to him as Ethelfred the Unsteady, to distinguish him from Freddie of

Eddie and Freddie from Hebden Bridge, who bill themselves as “Yorkshire’s coolest rent-a-geeks.” They specialize in home computer troubleshooting for women of a certain age. Eddie and Freddie are fans of las Assangistas, and helped the gurlz choose their signature outfits: red leather miniskirts, white peasant blouses with bare midriffs, and black lace-up boots.

Eddie and Freddie’s blue Persian cat Neddie ignores Nigel, as long as the iguana doesn’t scuttle away. Neddie hisses at ever-barking Fudgie, unless Maud has brought along Nosferatu the cockatoo, in which case Neddie beats a tactical retreat into the bedroom to protect himself from aerial bombardment.

Gertie McPhee, 72  (75, according to Maud) claims descent from Scotland’s Traveling People, and lives with Maud in Boston, Lincolnshire. Gertie is an organic gardener whose cross-bred strains (Lincolnshire Lilac, Brain Drain, Fenwomyn Wowie) consistently win top awards at the Amsterdam Cup. In her spare time she raises Lady Gouldian finches.

Dodi, Di, Camilla and Chuck share a bamboo flight cage, not always amicably. Like Maud, Gertie believes birds should fly free, so she leaves the door to their cage  open, and Maud finds nests of tiny eggs behind the washing machine, amongst the computer cords, and atop the pteranodon skull. Fudgie is resigned to their twittering flights, but Nigel has to be restrained from climbing the curtains and snapping.

Journalist Heather Brooke refers to Julian Assange’s female followers as assangistas, so Sophie and the gurlz christened their singing group Las Assangistas del Norte.  Billed as West Yorkshire’s premiere Andean band, they play traditional music of the altiplano as well as Maud’s compositions, Ecuador Mi Amor, El Corrido de los Subversivos Internacionales, and El Condom Pasa. Sophie insists on singing lead, but Gertie and Maud are lobbying for parity.

Lunatic Fringe has three apprentices, Yemaya, Breda, and J.K.  Yemaya  (“Omi”) is  the daughter of Cuban émigrés to Miami. An interpetive dancer, she is prone to possession trance. Breda is a political analyst living in London. J.K. is a retired author of young adult fiction.

While publicly deploring Mr. Assange’s tendency to pick fights, Fringe elements have been known to turn one of his enemies into a newt, “for the lulz.” **

Julian Assange, 41, the opalescent Australian anarchist, is a mythological culture hero conjured by Lunatic Fringe at Beltane, 1970, after they mistook six tabs of Owsley acid for vitamin C. Like all mythological heroes, he has a fatal flaw…


* Cornish, Breton, Manx Gaelic, Finnish, Estonian, Sami, Tagalog, Navajo, Quechua, Nahuatl, Yoruba, Khoi San, and !Xhosa.

**lulz: from LOL (laughing out loud). Hackerspeak for laughs.


Pricilla, the receptionist, is the most important person in the (Ecuadorian) Embassy. She…has to cope with the mountain of mail that now arrives for their guest. Each post brings more books and presents and food.

“And teeth,” Pricilla adds. “Animal teeth.”

– From At Home With Julian Assange, by Becky Milligan, BBC News Magazine, 22 October



“He got the teeth!” Gertie shouted. “Call Sophie.”

“No need,” said Maud, without looking up from her laptop. “She googles ‘Assange’ every thirty seconds. You did include the instructions?”

“What instructions?” said Gertie.

Maud put her head on the keyboard and sighed. “I hope he appreciates what it took to get those.”

“I put my back out climbing the fence.”

“You dropped the pliers twice,” said Maud.

“I got scared when it roared.”

“ ‘Courage is not the absence of fear,’  Maud quoted. “ ‘Courage is the intellectual mastery of fear.’ ”


NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS POST except Little Fudgie, who stubbed his toe on the  fence.