Tuesday, 28 June 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #33 - NOOSA, AUSTRALIA

“All we need, really, is a change from a near frigid to a tropical attitude of mind.” - Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us! Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Noosa in Queensland, Australia encompasses main three zones: Noosa Heads (around Laguna Bay and Hastings St), Noosaville (along the Noosa River) and Noosa Junction (the administrative centre). Noosa Heads is a town and suburb of the Shire of Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. It is located approximately 136 kilometres north of Brisbane, the state’s capital. The Noosa River forms one boundary of the town, the headlands of the Noosa National Park another. Nearby are the suburbs of Tewantin and Noosa Junction, which create a continuous urban area at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast.

The beach at Noosa Heads has remained a popular tourist attraction since the 1890s. The Shire’s tourism exponentially grew shortly after the Second World War. In the 1800s, Noosa's early wealth came from the timber and milling industries with tourism developing in the late 1920s. In this decade cafes and tourist accommodation was built along the beachfront. The town has been the site of many tussles between developers and those seeking to preserve the town. Since the seventies, people have continued to migrate from southern states. In 1988, Noosa was renamed Noosa Heads.

Noosa Heads hosts a population of koalas, which are often seen in and around Noosa National Park. The koala population in Noosa is in decline. Noosa Lions Park is an open, grassed area which used as a staging area for several large community events including the Noosa Triathlon, Noosa Food and Wine Festival, Noosa Winter Festival and Noosa Classic Car Show.

To overcome severe beach erosion at Noosa’s main beach a sand pumping system has been built. It operates when necessary during off peak hours, supplying sand via a pipeline built underneath the boardwalk. Noosa Heads’ main attraction is its beaches. Its main beach and its small bays around the headland are common surfing locations, which are known on world surfing circuits. One of its major surfing contests involves the Noosa Festival of Surfing. This festival attracts large numbers of longboarders. A fatal shark attack of a 22-year-old surfer was recorded at Noosa in 1961.

Overall, Noosa is a trendy resort town with a wonderful natural landscape of sparkling waters and sandy beaches onto which abut tropical rainforests. Designer boutiques and expensive restaurants draw the jet set, but the beach and bush are free for all. On long weekends public holidays and school holidays, bustling Hastings St becomes one big parking lot due to heavy traffic; the rest of the time, it’s more relaxed!

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Trees & Bushes meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post!

Monday, 27 June 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - THE LADY IN THE VAN

“A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.” - Robert Frost

Maggie Smith is an accomplished veteran actress and her work is quite exceptional in her long and very successful career. I enjoy most the movies and series she has played in and I have watched. When for my birthday I was given a copy of Nicholas Hytner’s 2015 movie “The Lady in the Van” I was very pleased and saved it to watch on a special day as a treat. Well that day came last weekend and yes, it was a good movie and we enjoyed seeing it, but somehow it was a little disappointing too. I guess I da raised my expectations quite a great deal and when the film failed to deliver fully, it was a little bit of a flat feeling.

First let me say this was Maggie Smith’s movie and she played her role with relish and great gusto. It was as if the role was written for her and she performed with her usual aplomb and panache, greatly enjoying playing the down-and-out Miss Shepherd. Beside her, her co-star Alex Jennings faded into the background, even if there were two of him on the screen most of the time (a cheap, gimmicky device where one of his selves was the “doing” part of him and the other the “writing” part of him). The other actors were competent and did a good enough job of supporting Maggie Smith’s performance.

The plot is based on the “mostly true” story of Alan Bennett’s curious relationship/friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home. She stayed there for 15 years. As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild (died 1989), a former gifted pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot. She became a concert pianist, had played Chopin in a promenade concert, but things went wrong, she tried to become a nun, was committed to a mental institution by her brother, escaped, and then things went downhill and full of guilt for a “terrible sin” she had committed became the vagrant that Bennett unwittingly becomes associated with.

The plot is thin and depends very much on what the characters say rather than what they do. The “mystery” of Miss Shepherd’s identity is thinly veiled and the “surprise” ending where we learn the truth about her “terrible sin” is rather predictable. However, the viewer does get involved, does sympathise with Miss Shepherd in one scene and in the other becomes as infuriated with her as Alan Bennett does. There is poignancy, gentle humour, pathos, bathos and bombast. It is a very “English” movie which reeks a little of the stage, one thinking on many an occasion whether this would have made a better play perhaps?

Nicholas Hytner, the director, who also made “The Madness of King George” and “The History Boys” amongst others, is better known as a regular director for National Theatre productions in London. This may explain the “staginess” of the film. I often felt uncomfortable during the parts where Alan Bennett spoke to his alter ego in a greatly contrived manner.

Overall this was a gentle, slightly humorous, slightly melancholy film, a great showcase for Maggie Smith and a little bit of a bragging piece for Alan Bennett – there was a certain smugness about him whenever he was on screen. The subplot with his mother was a little perplexing, especially given the way he interacted with Miss Shepherd, but still overall the film was entertaining and well worth watching.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

ART SUNDAY - BOSCH

“Sensuality without love is a sin; love without sensuality is worse than a sin.” - José Bergamín

Hieronymus Bosch (ca 1450–1516) was a European painter of the late Middle Ages. His two most famous works are “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (illustrated above) and “The Temptation of St. Anthony.” His work utilises striking and sometimes seemingly surreal iconography. Bosch painted several large-scale triptychs, as well as smaller panel paintings. Throughout his career, he used his art to portray the sins and follies of humankind and to show the consequences of these actions. He died in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 1516.

Born in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Brabant (now in the Netherlands), around 1450, Hieronymus Bosch remains one of the art world’s great enigmas. Little is known about his life, and the only clues have the few traces of him found in local records. Even his name is a bit misleading. He was born Jeroen van Aeken and took his professional name, in part, from the truncated form of his hometown’s name.

Bosch came from an artistic family (his father, uncles and his brother were all painters by trade). It is believed that while he was growing up he was trained by a relative. Around 1480 or 1481, he married Alety Goyaerts den Meervenne. His wife came from a wealthy family, and he enjoyed a comfortable life and improved social status through this union. A Catholic, Bosch joined the Brotherhood of Our Lady, a local religious organisation devoted to the Virgin Mary, around 1486. Some of his first commissions came through the Brotherhood, but, unfortunately, none of those works survived.

Known for his dark and disturbing visions, Bosch took a critical look at the world around in several of his works. With “The Cure of Folly” (ca 1475-1480), he poked fun of the misguided medical practices of the day. Bosch rebuked those who spent their lives seeking earthly pleasures in “The Ship of Fools” (ca 1490-1500).

Throughout his career, Bosch focussed much of his attention to exploring religious themes. “The Haywain” (ca 1500-02), a triptych, first shows Adam and Eve in its interior left panel. The centre panel features both clergy and peasants engaged in sinful behaviour. The right panel provides a gruesome illustration of where that type of behaviour leads: Hell! In 1504, Bosch painted “The Last Judgment”, which illustrated the fall of humanity. He starts the triptych with the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The remaining two interior panels show the world's descent into sin, violence and chaos.

Bosch painted another triptych, “The Temptation of Saint Anthony” (ca 1505-06), a short time later. He shows the saint resisting the efforts of the devil to make him surrender to evil. There is an attempt to seduce Saint Anthony and then means of force are tried on him, but he shown in the final panel being led away by a group of believers. “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (ca 1510-15) is one of Bosch’s later works. Again depicting the decline of the world through sin, primarily lust, a beautiful garden becomes a dark, fiery nightmare in the last panel of this triptych. This work, like so many of his pieces, serves as a visual lecture on morality.

Bosch died in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in August 1516 (the exact date of his death is unknown, but a funeral mass was held for him on August 9). While he enjoyed some success during his lifetime, he attracted an even grander fan soon after his death. King Philip II of Spain became a serious collector of Bosch’s work, and “The Garden of Earthly Delights” is said to have been hung in his bedroom to remind the Spanish monarch to stay on a righteous path. Today, the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid holds many of Bosch’s works.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

MUSIC SATURDAY - WEISS

“A boat at midnight sent alone to drift upon the moonless sea, a lute, whose leading chord is gone, a wounded bird, that hath but one imperfect wing to soar upon, are like what I am, without thee…” - Thomas Moore

Sylvius Leopold Weiss (12 October 1687 - 16 October 1750) was a German composer and lutenist. Born in Grottkau near Breslau, the son of Johann Jacob Weiss, also a lutenist, he served at courts in Breslau, Rome, and Dresden, where he died. Until recently, he was thought to have been born in 1686, but recent evidence suggests that he was in fact born the following year.

Weiss was one of the most important and most prolific composers of lute music in history and one of the best-known and most technically accomplished lutenists of his day. He was a teacher to Philip Hyacinth, 4th Prince Lobkowicz, and the prince's second wife Anna Wilhelmina Althan. In later life, Weiss became a friend of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and met J.S. Bach through him.

Bach and Weiss were said to have competed in improvisation, as the following account by Johann Friedrich Reichardt describes: “Anyone who knows how difficult it is to play harmonic modulations and good counterpoint on the lute will be surprised and full of disbelief to hear from eyewitnesses that Weiss, the great lutenist, challenged J. S. Bach, the great harpsichordist and organist, at playing fantasies and fugues.”

Sylvius Weiss' son Johann Adolph Faustinus Weiss succeeded him as a Saxon court lutenist.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, after almost 200 years of neglect, the work of Weiss began to be rediscovered. Now, most of his solo sonatas (there are nearly a hundred of them) are available on CD. His ensemble works, which for the most part have survived only in the lute part, have now been reconstructed. As recently as 2004, a sensational finding was made in the archives of the Harrasch family, with the discovery of a complete Weiss lute duo and lute trio in manuscript.

Here is Michel Cardin playing on the Baroque lute three suites for solo lute by Weiss:
Suite No 1 in F major; Suite No 2 in D major and Suite No 3 in G Minor. These are from the so-called “London Manuscript”.

Friday, 24 June 2016

FOOD FRIDAY - GINGERBREAD CAKE

“Let us love Winter, for it is the Spring of genius.” - Pietro Aretino

Yes, it is Winter in Southern Australia and we have had snow falls here in Victoria with a good covering of snow in the ski resorts. In Lake Mountain, which is a 1,433-metre-high mountain and cross-country ski resort approximately 120 kilometres from Melbourne, there is a 15 cm deep layer of snow. It is the most popular ski resort in Australia in visitor numbers due to its proximity to the populous city of Melbourne, mainly from casual visitors. Interestingly, most visitors are surprised to learn that there is no lake at Lake Mountain, and the area was named after George Lake, who was the Surveyor-General of the area including the mountain.

It is such weather that cries out for a luscious, spicy warm cake to enjoy by a roaring fire after one has been out and about in the snow, rain and cold!

Gingerbread Cake
Ingredients
1 and 1/2 level cups plain flour,
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup Golden Syrup
2/3 cup boiling water
1 large egg

Method
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Grease a 25 cm square pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add a few tablespoons of flour to the pan; shake and turn pan until bottom and sides are evenly coated with a light dusting of flour and shake off excess flour over the sink.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine, butter, dark brown sugar, Golden Syrup and boiling water. Whisk until butter is melted.
When mixture is lukewarm, whisk in the egg. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined and there are no more lumps. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges look dark and the middle feels firm to the touch.
Set pan on a rack to cool slightly, then cut into squares and serve. This cake is best served warm out of the oven or reheated.

If desired, serve with Mascarpone Cream:
Ingredients
200 g mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Method
In a medium bowl, combine the mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed until almost smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is thick and holds firm peaks, another 30 to 60 seconds. Don’t overbeat or the frosting will look grainy.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

ALL ABOUT PARSLEY

“Ah me! Love cannot be cured by herbs.” - Ovid

Parsley or garden parsley (Petroselinum crispum) in the family Apiaceae, is native to the central Mediterranean region (southern Italy, Greece, Algeria, and Tunisia), naturalised elsewhere in Europe, and widely cultivated as a herb, a spice, and a vegetable. Where it grows as a biennial, in the first year, it forms a rosette of tripinnate leaves 10–25 cm long with numerous 1–3 cm leaflets, and a taproot used as a food store over the winter.


Parsley is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American cooking. Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish. In central Europe, eastern Europe and southern Europe, as well as and in western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top. Root parsley is very common in central, eastern and southern European cuisines, where it is used as a vegetable in many soups, stews, and casseroles.


Parsley is a merger of the Old English petersilie (which is identical to the contemporary German word for parsley, Petersilie) and the Old French peresil, both derived from Medieval Latin petrosilium, from Latin petroselinum, which is the latinisation of the Greek πετροσέλινον (petroselinon), “rock-parsley”, from πέτρα (petra), “rock, stone”, + σέλινον (selinon), “parsley”. Mycenaean Greek se-ri-no, in Linear B, is the earliest attested form of the word selinon. Interestingly, in Modern Greek, the word selino means “celery”.


Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with full sun. It grows best between 22–30 °C, and usually is grown from seed. Germination is slow, taking four to six weeks, and it often is difficult because of furanocoumarins in its seed coat. Typically, plants grown for the leaf crop are spaced 10 cm apart, while those grown as a root crop are spaced 20 cm apart to allow for the root development. Parsley attracts several species of wildlife. Some swallowtail butterflies use parsley as a host plant for their larvae; their caterpillars are black and green striped with yellow dots, and will feed on parsley for two weeks before turning into butterflies. Bees and other nectar-feeding insects also visit the flowers. Birds such as the goldfinch feed on the seeds.


Parsley is a source of flavonoid, and antioxidants (especially luteolin), apigenin, folic acid, vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Half a of tablespoon (a gram) of dried parsley contains about 6.0 µg of lycopene and 10.7 µg of alpha carotene as well as 82.9 µg of lutein+zeaxanthin and 80.7 µg of beta carotene. Excessive consumption of parsley should be avoided by pregnant women. It is safe in normal food quantities, but large amounts may have uterotonic effects.


Green parsley is used frequently as a garnish on potato dishes (boiled or mashed potatoes), on rice dishes (risotto or pilaf), on fish, fried chicken, lamb, goose, and steaks, as well in meat or vegetable stews (including shrimp creole, beef bourguignon, goulash, or chicken paprikash). In central Europe, eastern Europe and southern Europe, as well as in western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green, chopped parsley sprinkled on top.


In southern and central Europe, parsley is part of bouquet garni, a bundle of fresh herbs used as an ingredient in stocks, soups, and sauces. Freshly chopped green parsley is used as a topping for soups such as chicken soup, green salads, or salads such as salade Olivier, and on open sandwiches with cold cuts or pâtés. Persillade is a mixture of chopped garlic and chopped parsley in French cuisine.


Parsley is the main ingredient in Italian salsa verde, which is a mixed condiment of parsley, capers, anchovies, garlic, and bread soaked in vinegar. It is an Italian custom to serve it with bollito misto or fish. Gremolata, a mixture of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest, is a traditional accompaniment to the Italian veal stew, ossobuco alla milanese. In England, parsley sauce is a roux-based sauce, commonly served over fish or gammon.


Root parsley is very common in Central, Eastern and Southern European cuisines, where it is used as a snack or a vegetable in many soups, stews, and casseroles, and as ingredient for broth. In Brazil, freshly chopped parsley (salsa) and freshly chopped scallion (cebolinha) are the main ingredients in the herb seasoning called cheiro-verde (literally “green aroma"), which is used as key seasoning for major Brazilian dishes, including meat, chicken, fish, rice, beans, stews, soups, vegetables, salads, condiments, sauces and stocks. Cheiro-verde is sold in food markets as a bundle of both types of fresh herbs. In some Brazilian regions, chopped parsley may be replaced by chopped coriander (coentro) in the mixture. Parsley is a key ingredient in several Middle Eastern salads such as Lebanese tabbouleh.


Garden parsley is a bright green, biennial, plant in temperate climates, or an annual herb in subtropical and tropical areas. Where it grows as a biennial, in the first year, it forms a rosette of tripinnate leaves 10–25 cm long with numerous 1–3 cm leaflets, and a taproot used as a food store over the winter. In the second year, it grows a flowering stem to 75 cm tall with sparser leaves and flat-topped 3–10 cm diameter umbels with numerous 2 mm diameter yellow to yellowish-green flowers. The seeds are ovoid, 2–3 mm long, with prominent style remnants at the apex. One of the compounds of the essential oil is apiol. The plant normally dies after seed maturation


In the language of flowers, a sprig of leafy parsley stands for “Entertainment; Festivity; Banquet; Lasting Pleasures”. A sprig of flowering parsley means “Useful Knowledge”.


This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,

and also part of the Friday Greens meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

THE WINTER SOLSTICE

“I believe in process. I believe in four seasons. I believe that winter's tough, but spring's coming. I believe that there's a growing season. And I think that you realize that in life, you grow. You get better.” - Steve Southerland

We have just had the Winter solstice in Australia on June 21, and it was also made special by a full moon during its occurrence. This last happened 70 years ago. The word solstice came into Middle English from Old French, from the Latin solstitium. This is a compound of sol- (sun) and -stitium (a stoppage), so the word means “the sun stands still”, reflecting the time when the Sun apparently stops moving north or south and then begins moving in the opposite direction.

In every year, there are two solstices. In the northern hemisphere, the June solstice happens when the Earth’s north pole is tilted its maximum amount towards the Sun. The December solstice happens when the north pole is most tilted away from the Sun. Thus, the June solstice is the day with the most sunshine, and the December solstice has the longest night. The opposite is true in southern hemisphere, with the Winter and Summer solstices in June and December respectively.

In each year, there is also an equinox in March and another in September. These days are the times when the night is as long as the day. This is reflected in the word's Latin root, aequinoctium, from aequi- (equal) and nox (night). In the northern hemisphere, the vernal (Spring) equinox is in March and the Autumnal (fall) equinox is in September, with seasons reversed once again in the southern hemisphere.

The time when the Sun is brightest and the days are longest is the Summer solstice, near June 21st in the northern hemisphere. Yet the hottest days of Summer usually come in July or August, when the days are shorter and the Sun is lower in the sky.  Winter’s coldest days also lag the solstice by about two months.  Why? When the sunshine maximum comes in June, the landscape and atmosphere are still warming from the winter's chill.  Although the Sun begins to lose strength after the solstice, there is still enough heat to continue warming the landscape until the balance shifts about two months later.

In the days after the Winter solstice, although the Sun’s heat is returning, it is still not warm enough to keep the landscape from cooling further, especially during the night.  It is not until early March that the balance of solar heat and night-time cooling shifts into a warming trend.

The Winter solstice is also known as Yule, and this is a major Wiccan holiday. Many religions have placed the birth of their solar hero gods and saviours on this day: Jesus, Horus, Helios, Dionysus, and Mithras all claim Yule as their birthday. Since this day also represents the point at which the sun begins to wax, it represents rebirth and regeneration in the Wiccan tradition. It is interesting to see Wiccans in Australia celebrating Yule in June.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #32 - POROS, GREECE

“I like reading, free diving and hiking. But my favorite thing to do is travel anywhere in Greece. I love everything about that place.” - Max Irons

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us!

Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Poros (Greek: Πόρος) is a small Greek island-pair in the southern part of the Saronic Gulf, about 58 km (31 nautical miles) south from Piraeus and separated from the Peloponnese by a 200 m wide sea channel, with the town of Galatas on the mainland across the strait. Its surface area is about 31 square kilometres and it has 3,780 inhabitants. The ancient name of Poros was Pogon.

Like other ports in the Saronic, it is a popular weekend destination for Athenian travellers. Poros consists of two islands: Sphairia (Greek: Σφαιρία), the southern part, which is of volcanic origin, where today's city is located, and Kalaureia (Greek: Καλαυρία), also Kalavria or Calauria (meaning 'gentle breeze'), the northern and largest part. A bridge connects the two islands over a narrow strait.

Poros is an island with rich vegetation. Much of the northern and far eastern/western sides of the island are bushy, whereas large areas of old pine forest are found in the south and center of the island. It has a good road network and adequate tourist infrastructure, which makes it a popular resort for short holidays.

The town of Poros, with its neoclassical edifices, is built amphitheatrically on the slopes of a hill. Its most famous landmark is a clock tower, built in 1927. The Archaeological Museum of Poros, at Korizis Square, houses findings from the Sanctuary of Poseidon, from ancient Troizen, and from other archaeological sites nearby. In the northern part of the island are the remains of the Sanctuary of Poseidon, the centre of the Kalaureian amphictyony. The exact date it was built is not known, although researchers estimate it to have been around 520 BC. The dimensions of the temple, which is of the Doric order, are 27.4×14.4 m. There are six columns on each short side and twelve on each long side. It was here that Demosthenes, the famous orator, poisoned himself with hemlock in 322 BC fleeing from the Macedonian Governor Antipatros.

Poros was the site of the first naval base in modern Greece, established in 1827 during the Greek War of Independence. Most of the activities of Poros naval base were moved to Salamis Naval Base in 1881. The site is still used today by the Hellenic Navy as a training centre for naval personnel. 

Though possessing no airport, Poros is easily accessible from Athens via ferry or hydrofoil. One can reach the island by car or bus from the adjacent mainland at Galatas. There is local bus service on the island from Poros harbour to the nearby towns of Neorio and Monastiri.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Trees & Bushes meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post!

Monday, 20 June 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - FEAST OF JULY

“Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own.” - H. Jackson Brown, Jr

For Movie Monday, a beautiful period movie that seemed to have to ticked all the boxes in terms of writing, acting, direction, music, cinematography and sets/costumes. It is Christopher Menaul’s 1995 movie, “Feast of July”, starring Embeth Davidtz, Tom Bell, Gemma Jones, Ben Chaplin, James Purefoy and Greg Wise. The film is based on a novel by H.E. Bates and the screenplay was written by Christopher Neame. The excellent music score was by Zbigniew Preisner, with exceptional cinematography by Peter Sova.

Right away, let me warn you that the pace is slow and there are no action scenes, no chases nor exciting nail-biting cliff-hangers. The film progresses slowly, but relentlessly, as the action builds up to quite a terrifying and tragic climax. The actors are all extremely good in bringing out the deeper parts of their characters and the direction is subtle and impeccable. The film is set in rural Victorian England and the sets, costumes and overall atmosphere and feel is authentic and believable.

Bella (Davidtz) is a poor girl who has been seduced by a handsome, rakish man (Wise) who leads her to believe he loves her and will marry her. After a month or two, he vanishes and she is left alone and pregnant. She decides to walk 30 miles to the town where he said was his home. In terrible winter weather and rough terrain, she miscarries along the way and the baby is stillborn in a lonely mountain hut. Bella eventually makes it to the town where he said he lives, but no one knows him there. In the town she finds a kind man (Bell) who takes her into his family’s home. The man and his wife (Jones) have three handsome, unmarried sons who are living at home with them. When the poor girl has had a few days of rest and recovery, it turns out that Bella is quite pretty and charming. Slowly, tensions begin to mount as one by one, each of the three sons make it known to her that they want to court her…

Davidtz is excellent as the deceived Bella and she manages to bring out many folds of the character with restraint and with an utterly convincing manner. While all other performances are fantastic, Gemma Jones as the mother of the three sons stands out, while Ben Chaplin playing the youngest son, Con, is fantastic. This was dark and tragic story, but it is set in a wonderful place (even though there are visible signs of early industrialisation), which somehow makes the story even more poignant.

We thoroughly enjoyed the movie and recommend it to all who enjoy a good, melancholy story, period settings, excellent acting and high-end production values. If you primarily like action thrillers this is not for you, I don’t think.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

ART SUNDAY - FREDERICK McCUBBIN

“I don’t believe in making pencil sketches and then painting landscape in your studio. You must be right under the sky.” - William Merritt Chase

Frederick McCubbin is one of Australia’s most famous and significant painters. He was born in Melbourne, 25 February 1855 and died in Melbourne, 20 December 1917. McCubbin was a baker’s son, who soon joined the family business and drove a baker’s cart before being apprenticed to a coach-painter. He started his training in art and design from 1869 at the local Artisans’ School of Design in Carlton, and by 1872 entered the School of Design, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

It was not until the Munich-trained George Folingsby (1828–91) was appointed master of the Gallery Art School in 1882 that McCubbin received a thorough academic training in figure painting. Folingsby evoked McCubbin’s interest in large-scale history pieces with a pronounced national flavour. From the colonial artist and Swiss émigré Abram-Louis Buvelot, McCubbin absorbed a more intimate, Barbizon-style vision of the Australian landscape. Julian Ashton directed his attention to subjects from contemporary life and introduced him to plein-air painting.

In the mid-1880s McCubbin’s growing adherence to plein-air Realism was strengthened by the influence of Portuguese-born Arthur Loureiro (1853–1912) and, more dramatically, by the impact of Tom Roberts, recently returned from Europe in 1885. With Roberts and Arthur Streeton he founded the painting camp at Box Hill, in the suburbs of Melbourne, that became known as the Heidelberg School. The Realists’ concern with the integrity and significance of the subject shaped McCubbin’s fundamental attitudes to art. Unlike Roberts and Charles Conder (a fellow Heidelberg painter), McCubbin was only marginally influenced by the Aesthetic Movement, and he exhibited a token five works at the famous “9 by 5 Impression” Exhibition in Melbourne in 1889.

As one of the founders of the Heidelberg school, McCubbin was a significant figure in the development of the Australian school of landscape and subject painting that emerged at the close of the nineteenth century. His work was directly influenced by the earlier traditions of Australian colonial art, late-Victorian subject pictures of a high moral tone. In later years McCubbin turned increasingly to landscape painting, portraying the lyrical and intimate beauty of the bush. The early influence of Corot gave way to that of J. M. W. Turner, as he turned from the quiet poetry of the shaded bush to the brilliant impressionistic effects of light and colour of his final manner.

McCubbin was a warm and gregarious personality and a gentle and intuitive teacher, who contributed greatly to the art world in Melbourne by his activities in various societies, through the conviviality of the McCubbin house which was always a focus for artists and students, and as a teacher of several generations of artists. He was a member of the Melbourne Savage Club.

The painting above is “Down on His Luck”, painted in 1889. It depicts a seemingly disheartened swagman, sitting by a campfire sadly brooding over his misfortune. “Swagman” an old Australian and New Zealand term describing an underclass of transient temporary workers, who travelled by foot from farm to farm carrying their traditional swag (bedroll).

According to an 1889 review, “The [man’s] face tells of hardships, keen and blighting in their influence, but there is a nonchalant and slightly cynical expression, which proclaims the absence of all self-pity… McCubbin’s picture is thoroughly Australian in spirit.” The surrounding bush is painted in subdued tones, reflecting his sombre and contemplative mood. Down on his luck the man may be, but this is only a temporary setback and the very next morning the swagman will move on, to better luck.

The artist’s model was Louis Abrahams, a friend and successful tobacconist in Melbourne who earlier supplied the cigar box lids for the famous 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition. The scene was staged near the Box Hill artists’ camp outside Melbourne, but it is thought that McCubbin would have made additional studies of Abrahams under studio conditions. The painting was owned by William Fergusson until 1896, when it was purchased by the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

MUSIC SATURDAY - BARBARA STROZZI

“The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the woman we love.” - Jean de la Bruyère

Barbara Strozzi (also called Barbara Valle; baptised 6 August 1619  – 11 November 1677) was an Italian singer and composer. Her Baroque compositions were published in her lifetime.


Giulio Strozzi, a poet and librettist, recognised Barbara as his adopted daughter. She was most likely the illegitimate daughter of Strozzi and Isabella Garzon, his long-time servant and heir. She was baptised in the church of Santa Sofia in the Cannaregio district of Venice.


Giulio encouraged his daughter’s musical talent, even creating an academy in which Barbara’s performances could be validated and displayed publicly. He seemed to be interested in exhibiting her considerable vocal talents to a wider audience. However, her singing was not her only talent. She was also compositionally gifted, and her father arranged for her to study with composer Francesco Cavalli.


It is conceivable that Strozzi may have been a courtesan, however, she also may have merely been the target of jealous slander by her male contemporaries. She appears to have led a quiet, if not slightly unusual life; there is evidence that at least three of her four children were fathered by the same man, Giovanni Paolo Vidman. Vidman (also spelled Widmann) was a patron of the arts and supporter of early opera. After Vidman’s death it is likely that Strozzi supported herself by means of her investments and by her compositions. He did not, apparently, leave anything to her or her children in his will. Strozzi died in Padua in 1677 aged 58. Strozzi is believed to have been buried at Eremitani. When she died without leaving a will, her son Giulio Pietro claimed her inheritance.


Strozzi was said to be “the most prolific composer – man or woman – of printed secular vocal music in Venice in the Middle of the century.” Her output is also unique in that it only contains secular vocal music, with the exception of one volume of sacred songs. She was renowned for her poetic ability as well as her compositional talent. Her lyrics were often poetic and well-articulated.


Nearly three-quarters of her printed works were written for soprano, but she also published works for other voices. Her compositions are firmly rooted in the seconda pratica tradition. Strozzi’s music evokes the spirit of Cavalli, heir of Monteverdi. However, her style is more lyrical, and more dependent on sheer vocal sound. Many of the texts for her early pieces were written by her father Giulio. Later texts were written by her father’s colleagues, and for many compositions she may have written her own texts.


Here is her “Sino alla morte”, a cantata for soprano and basso continuo. It is performed by Roberta Invernizzi, soprano and the group Bizzarrie Armoniche with Elena Russo, violoncello and direction.

Friday, 17 June 2016

FOOD FRIDAY - CHOCOLATE MUFFINS

“Chocolate is one of the world’s most beloved discoveries, and when we need a quick boost of energy and endorphins, chocolate is the go-to treat.” - Marcus Samuelsson

A special treat for the weekend with a recipe given to me by a friend from the US who has lived in Australia for a while. These chocolate muffins are rich and chocolatey and very morish, although I can’t have more than one. They are delicious and filling.

Chocolate Muffins
Ingredients
250 g all-purpose flour
100 g natural cocoa powder, sifted
2.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
250 g granulated sugar
120 mL vegetable oil
370 mL sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
150 g grated cooking chocolate
150 g chocolate chips
sparkling sugar, for tops (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 190˚C and grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray, wiping off any excess on the top of the tin. You may line the muffin tin with paper muffin cups, making removal from tin easier.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment begin beating the eggs on medium-high speed. Slowly stream in the sugar while beating and continue to beat until the mixture is pale and thickened and ribbons down from the beater when lifted before settling back down into the batter. Wipe down the bowl and beater as needed. Beat in the oil until fully incorporated. Wipe down bowl and beater and beat in sour cream and vanilla until evenly incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold in just until only a few visible streaks remain. Add the grated chocolate and fold in just until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups, smoothing the tops if needed but keeping the scoops mounded. Top each with the chocolate chips (and sprinkle with sparkling sugar, if using).
Bake muffins in preheated oven for 10 minutes, and then reduce heat to 175˚C and bake another 5-10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out free of wet batter (it may come out with melted chocolate). Cool muffins in pan for about 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store muffins in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the refrigerator to keep for more than a few days.

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Thursday, 16 June 2016

ALL ABOUT LOVAGE

“Ounce for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group.” - Michael Greger

Lovage, Levisticum officinale, is a tall perennial plant, the sole species in the genus Levisticum in the family Apiaceae. The name “lovage” is from “love-ache”, ache being a medieval name for parsley; this is a folk-etymological corruption of the older French name levesche, from late Latin levisticum, in turn thought to be a corruption of the earlier Latin ligusticum, “of Liguria” (northwest Italy), where the herb was grown extensively.

Lovage is an erect, herbaceous, perennial plant growing to 1.8–2.5 m tall, with a basal rosette of leaves and stems with further leaves, the flowers being produced in umbels at the top of the stems. The stems and leaves are shiny glabrous green to yellow-green and smell somewhat similar to celery when crushed. The larger basal leaves are up to 70 cm long, tripinnate, with broad triangular to rhomboidal, acutely pointed leaflets with a few marginal teeth; the stem leaves are smaller, and less divided with few leaflets. The flowers are yellow to greenish-yellow, 2–3 mm diameter, produced in globose umbels up to 10–15 cm diameter; flowering is in late spring. The fruit is a dry two-parted schizocarp 4–7 mm long, mature in autumn.

The exact native range is disputed; but it’s most likely native to much of Europe and southwestern Asia. It has been long cultivated in Europe, the leaves, roots and seeds used especially in European cuisine. The leaves can be used in salads, or to make soup or season broths, and the roots can be eaten as a vegetable or grated for use in salads. Its flavour and smell is somewhat similar to celery. The seeds can be used as a spice, similar to fennel seeds. In the UK, an alcoholic lovage cordial is traditionally mixed with brandy in the ratio of 2:1 as a winter drink. In Romania, the leaves are the preferred seasoning for the various local broths, much more so than parsley or dill. In the Netherlands it is the only non-salt ingredient of the traditional Asparagus dish. The roots, which contain a heavy, volatile oil, are used as a mild aquaretic. Lovage root contains furanocoumarins, which can lead to photosensitivity. In Romania it is also used dried and with seeds to conserve and to add flavour to pickled cabbage and cucumbers.

Lovage has been used in herbal medicine for many centuries. A herbal tea is made of the dried leaves, the decoction having a very agreeable odour. Its medicinal reputation probably being greatly founded on its pleasing aromatic odour. It was never an official remedy, nor were any extravagant claims made, as with Angelica, for its efficacy in numberless complaints. The roots and fruit are aromatic and stimulant, and have diuretic and carminative action. In herbal medicine they are used in disorders of the stomach and feverish attacks, especially for cases of colic and flatulence in children, its qualities being similar to those of Angelica in expelling flatulence, exciting perspiration and opening obstructions.

In the opinion of the old herbalist Culpepper, the working of the seeds was more powerful than that of the root; he tells us that an infusion: “being dropped into the eyes taketh away their redness or dimness.... It is highly recommended to drink the decoction of the herb for agues.... The distilled water is good for quinsy if the mouth and throat be gargled and washed therewith.... The decoction drunk three or four times a day is effectual in pleurisy.... The leaves bruised and fried with a little hog’s lard and laid hot to any blotch or boil will quickly break it.”

In the language of flowers, lovage stems and leaves stand for “strength”, while flower heads of lovage mean: “I may look delicate, but I conceal great strength.

This post is part of the Floral Friday meme,
and also part of the Friday Greens meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

WINTER IS COMING

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” - Anton Chekhov

And what Mr Chekhov implies is that the seasons are much more acutely felt and more likely to affect our mood when we are unhappy… Even in the midst of Spring’s delights a melancholy soul will make of the joyous season a funereal feast, the flowers merely a doleful accoutrement to the hearse. What if Summer’s glorious sun shines bright and hot? If one is sad, the heat’s enough to fever one’s brow and cause one’s brain to run into nightmarish places hotter than hellfire. And Autumn’s bounty and mellow delights will be overtaken by the dejection of the falling leaves, the rampant decay and falling rain. As far as Winter goes, a sorrowful heart may simply be itself and attune perfectly to the season’s frozen emptiness and endless despair.

Winter is Coming

The sun’s trajectory has shortened,
Now that his chariot runs a course
Much closer to the horizon.
The night is quicker to claim
The earth as her realm
And the moon barks orders
At the brilliant (but oh, so cold) stars.

The wind howls at night
And even the wild dogs are tamed
Becoming silent in obeisance.
Rain comes and falls, and fails
To tether the wind who takes each drop
And spins it into long, liquid streams
Until they fall like waving sheets.

The cold freezes puddles solid
And no leaves, no fruits no flowers
Survive the blizzard cruel.
And even colder still, inside,
My heart keeps on beating,
Gelid though it may be
To keep me alive, me who has died.

Like Summer, you have left me
And unlike Autumn you’ve given me
No ripe fruits, no grain, no berries.
My crop was poisoned by bitter tears,
Endless regrets, false promises, nightmares;
My Winter’s deep, bleak and long-lasting
Expecting no Spring’s arrival.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #31 - METHONI, GREECE

“The home to everyone is to him his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence, as for his repose.” - Edward Coke

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us! Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Methoni (Greek: Μεθώνη, Italian: Modone) is a village and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is a municipal unit. Its name may be derived from Mothona, a mythical rock. It is located 11 km south of Pylos and 11 km west of Foinikounta. The town is also known by the Italian name Modone, as it was called by the Venetians. Its economy is dominated by tourism, attracted by its beaches (including Tapia, Kokkinia and Kritika) and its historical castle.

Methoni has been identified as the city Pedasus, that Homer mentions under the name “ampeloessa” (of vine leaves), as the last of the seven “evnaiomena ptoliethra”, that Agamemnon offers Achilles in order to subdue his rage. Pausanias knew the city as Mothone, named after either the daughter of Oeneus or after the rock Mothon, which protects the harbour, and mentioned a temple to Athena Anemotis there. It was an important city in Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine times.

The Venetians had their eye on Methoni since the 12th century, due to its location on the route from Venice to the Eastern markets. In 1125, they launched an attack against pirates, who had captured some Venetian traders on their way home from the east, and who were inhabiting Methoni at that time. The Venetians took over the town in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, and secured recognition from the neighbouring Principality of Achaea through the Treaty of Sapienza (1209). A Roman Catholic bishop was installed in the local see.

The Venetians fortified Methoni, which developed into an important trade centre with great prosperity. Methoni became the important middle station between Venice and the Holy Lands, where every traveler stopped on their way to the East. A pilgrim who went by in 1484 admired its strong walls, the deep moats and the fortified towers. Nowadays the walls of the fortress, even though in ruins, continue to be impressive. The castle of Methoni occupies the whole area of the cape and the southwestern coast to the small islet that has also been fortified with an octagonal tower and is protected by the sea on its three sides. Its north part, the one that looks to land, is covered by a heavily fortified acropolis. A deep moat separates the castle from the land and communication was achieved by a wooden bridge. The Venetians built on the ancient battlements and added on and repaired it during both periods that they occupied the castle.

The castle of Methoni rises deserted and isolated today. When the winter winds hit its walls the locals say that you can hear the screams of the prisoners and the unjustly killed in the dungeons.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

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