Friday, 16 November 2007


It is very good now and then to go out and have a lovely meal with compatible company in a restaurant where the food and service are good and the milieu is agreeable. Such was the case tonight when we went and dined in Melbourne’s “Waterfront on Station” Restaurant. The restaurant is just outside Station Pier (Melbourne’s passenger ship harbour) and the picture windows face out over the port, where one can watch the ships sailing in and out and the seabirds scrambling for tasty seafood morsels. Meanwhile, the lapping of the waves outside and the companionable hubbub of fellow diners inside make of the experience an extremely pleasant one.

It is no surprise that the restaurant specialises in seafood, given its prime location on the waterfront. If you are a seafood aficionado, the luxury seafood platter is for you: It is crammed full of king prawns, black-lip mussels, pipis, king scallops, oysters, Moreton Bay bugs, blue swimmer crabs, baby octopus and smoked salmon. A feast fit for Neptune and at a price of over $200, it can quite comfortably feed four people. But if you don wish to share, you ne may order for yourself the sealed Atlantic salmon, served with saffron, mussels, leeks and potato broth with basil essence, which is very good. Our tastes were simpler still and we ordered for entrées, beetroot and goat’s cheese salad with spinach leaf garnish and the salt and pepper calamari with harissa mayonnaise. For the main course, the excellent whole grilled flounder with caper butter sauce and fresh lemon, rocket salad and French fries on the side, as well as the char-grilled salmon cutlet.

Japanese inspired dishes can also be had, including sushi. If seafood is not quite your thing, steaks may also be enjoyed at this restaurant while your fish-loving friends gourmandise on the fruits of the sea.

The restaurant seats over 300 people and there is a downstairs brasserie and an upstairs dining room, as well as bar facilities. The long waiting list for bookings on popular days of the week (especially the closer it gets to Christmas) are enough credentials for the quality of the food and the service. The restaurant has a good website, which you can view here. So happy virtual eating! By the way, I do not have shares in this restaurant, nor do I own it in part or wholly. I just enjoy the ambience and the food there…
Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 15 November 2007


It’s Word Thursday today and my word is “bedlam”, as sometimes at work it really is! This is a word with an interesting, albeit unsavoury past. It is derived from the name of a priory in London’s Bishopsgate, called St Mary of Bethlehem, built in 1247. Next to the religious establishment, there was founded by 1377 a hospital that looked after the poor and destitute. The mentally ill were also admitted there and in the 16th century the priory was dissolved, but the hospital persisted exclusively as an asylum for the insane.

It was known as the Bethlehem Royal Hospital and in 1675 moved to a new site in Moorgate. The “lunatics” in this hospital were not looked after well, the cruel and primitive “treatments” often supplemented by brutal mistreatment by sadistic staff. The public’s fascination with the insane and the insatiable morbid curiosity of “sane” people led to the Hospital charging two pence for admission of visitors, so that they could come and stare (or jeer) at the unfortunate inmates. This terrible practice continued well into the 19th century.

The visitors and the disturbance they caused, more often than not made the already troubled patients to become noisy and disruptive. This atmosphere of chaos, disorder and raucous cacophony became associated with the Bethlehem Hospital, and soon the shortened word Bethlehem - “Bedlam”, was used to denote “madness”. Bedlam was also a place for assignations and secret rendezvous. In 1698, “The London Spy” had this to say of the place: “All I can say for Bedlam is thus: It is an almshouse for madmen, a showing room for harlots, a sure market for lechers, a dry walk for loiterers.”

The hospital was moved yet again in 1815 to a new building constructed especially for it near Lambeth Rd, the same building that is housing the War Museum today. In this new home, two centuries after the vile practice first began, spectators were finally banned from observing the inmates and more humane treatments began to be used. The word “bedlam”, however, has persisted…

bedlam |ˈbedləm| noun
1 a scene of uproar and confusion: There was bedlam in the courtroom.
2 historical ( Bedlam) a former insane asylum in London.
• archaic used allusively to refer to any insane asylum.
ORIGIN late Middle English: Early form of Bethlehem , referring to the hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, used as an asylum for the insane.

The illustration is Hogarth's “A Rake's Progress - Bedlam” The original painting is housed in Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Hogarth’s images and Bedlam;s notorious history inspired Mark Robson’s 1946 film “Bedlam” starring Boris Karloff . Worthwhile having a look at it if you come across it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


Context is all-important in how we experience our lives. Nothing is absolute, we can only exist in a state of temporary constancy while floating on a sea of ever-changing relativity. Situation and circumstance are coloured by the environment of each unique experience while the people who are around us, beside us, with us and against us, will make of the place a paradise or a hell. Time changes our contextual framework and the relativity of our increasing years dilates or contracts our memories making of the past, as viewed from the present, a distorting mirror. I mentioned yesterday how I visited Brisbane and how it brought to my mind a previous existence, so distant in the past and yet quite familiar. I viewed the familiar places as though for the first time. As I looked through the lens of times past my present reality and the new context had changed them all…

Drinking Bitter Coffee at the Café of Broken Promises

Quite by chance, I went by the Café
Where once, a lifetime ago, we had sought
Shelter from Autumn rain.
I wandered in – half expecting to see you smiling,
Beckoning me from that same booth
That we had shared, while grey afternoon wore on,
And rain, thankfully, kept falling...

We shook the rain off our hair – I remember –
And how we laughed, as the tabletop was spread
With hundreds of diamonds; raindrops that caught
The pale yellow light of the bare bulb above,
Shattering its puny glow into a million sunrays
That illumined richly for that moment
The deepest cellars of our souls.

We sipped the steaming coffee and it was sweet nectar,
Although we clean forgot to sugar it.
Our legs brushed under the table
And your eyes promised me a hundred happinesses;
“Tomorrow...” you had whispered and I only smiled,
My silence more eloquent than a thousand pictures...

I order coffee yet again this Spring morning
And though the sun shines brightly outside,
I am sure I can hear the drumming of rain on the tin roof.
I lose count of the lumps of sugar
I am drowning in my cup, but each sip of coffee
More bitter than the one before it.

I stretch my legs beneath the table
Encountering a bottomless abyss,
While from the neighbouring booth, someone laughs,
And says quite loudly: “It was yesterday!”

By chance, I find myself once again
Drinking bitter coffee in some city Café;
A tawdry, cheap, noisy, smoky place,
Where one would never go to more than once...


 See Kerry's Imaginary Garden with Real Toads blog for more poetical offerings!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


I am in Brisbane today for work. It’s a two-hour flight up and I came up this morning and going home this evening. I like Brisbane as it is a beautiful city on the river and has lovely subtropical gardens and a bustling, cosmopolitan lifestyle. We used to live here when I was growing up and whenever I go back I remember with fondness those times.

Brisbane is a port and the capital of the state of Queensland, Australia. It the nation's third largest city. It lies astride the Brisbane River on the southern slopes of the Taylor Range, 19 km above the river's mouth at Moreton Bay. The site of the city was first explored in 1823 by John Oxley and was occupied in 1824 by a penal colony, which had moved from Redcliffe, 35 km northeast. The early name, Edenglassie, was changed to honour Sir Thomas Brisbane, former governor of New South Wales, when the convict settlement was declared a town in 1834. Officially, freemen could not settle within 80 km of the colony until its penal function was abandoned in 1839, but this ban proved ineffective.

There was a short-lived rivalry for eminence with the town of Cleveland, which was ended when Cleveland's wharves burned in 1854, allowing Brisbane to become the leading port. Brisbane was proclaimed a municipality in 1859 and it became the capital of newly independent Queensland that same year. Gazetted a city in 1902, it was joined during the 1920s with South Brisbane to form the City of Greater Brisbane. Its municipal government, headed by a lord mayor, holds very broad powers. The Brisbane statistical division, including the cities of Ipswich and Redcliffe, has close economic and social ties to the city.

Brisbane is the hub of many rail lines and highways, which bring produce from a vast agricultural hinterland, stretching west to the Eastern Highlands, the Darling Downs, and beyond. The city's port, which can accommodate ships of 34,000 tons, exports wool, grains, dairy products, meat, sugar, preserved foods, and mineral sands. The metropolitan area, also industrialised with more than half of the state's manufacturing capacity, has heavy and light engineering works, food-processing plants, shipyards, oil refineries, sawmills, and factories.

The halves of the city on either side of the river are connected by several bridges and ferries. Various sites of interest are the University of Queensland at St. Lucia (established in 1909), Griffith University (1971), Parliament House (1869), the state museum (1855) and art gallery (1895), Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, and many parks and gardens. The Southbank precinct along the riverside is a complex of exhibition halls, galleries, cafés, restaurants, shops, parks and conference centres, always worth a visit. Population of the city is about 1.2 million people.

The weather today was gorgeous and it was exactly the wrong sort of day to be confined in a windowless conference room going through interviewing processes. Nevertheless, all went well and I was pleased with the day’s work. I was quite surprised how green everything was in the city and around it. The last few rains have certainly made a difference. The jacarandas were in riotous bloom and their mauve flowers graced many a street of the city. They were counterpointed by the creamy fragrant blooms of the frangipanis and the exuberant red plumes of blooms of the flame-coloured Poinciana trees. The city seemed rather less congested than Melbourne and the people were more laid-back. No doubt a more relaxed lifestyle as befits the subtropical climate. I always enjoy visiting Brisbane and it is a wonderful holiday destination as it is the gateway for the beauties and excitement of Queensland. For my readers in the USA, this is as close to Florida as you get, Australian-style!

Here are some sites that give you further information:

Don’t you just love travelling, even if it is armchair travel?

Monday, 12 November 2007


For Movie Monday today, a classic film from France. It is Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 film, “Wages of Fear” (“Le Salaire de la Peur” ). In the Central American jungle supplies of nitroglycerine are needed at a remote oil field in order to put out an oil well fire. The oil company offers big money to drivers who will take the dangerous cargo of high explosive in two trucks. Nitroglycerine is susceptible to self-detonation from jolts, so potentially, the drivers could blow themselves up to smithereens if they drive recklessly over the 300 miles of bad, winding, mountain roads. Nevertheless, four men take up the offer to deliver the supplies of explosive in two trucks. A tense rivalry develops between the two sets of drivers and on the rough remote roads the slightest jolt can result in death.

The characters are less than admirable, more anti-heroes than protagonists, but one cannot help but sympathise with them as they begin their terror-filled journey. It is one of the most renowned of suspense thriller movies, the suspense not one of mystery but rather one of impending doom. A Damoclean sword hanging by a thread over the head of the drivers. It is a fascinating film and Clouzot proves his talent as he craftily manages one suspenseful scene after another.

Yves Montand and Charles Vanel are excellent in their roles and the whole movie must have pleased Georges Arnaud (the author of the novel the screenplay is based on) greatly. If you haven’t seen this film, it’s well worth your while to ferret it out and have a look at it. It’s tense, dark, thrilling, well-made and has an important message about freedom and the lengths to which people will go to attain it. Just be careful, though that you do not by mistake watch the lamentable 1977 remake also called “Wages of Fear” (or “Sorcerer”). This latter one is an abominable film not worth the celluloid it’s made on.

Please visit my 360 blog for the MOVIE MONDAY TOUR!

Sunday, 11 November 2007


Remembrance Day on 11 November is a special day for everyone around the world who believes that war is an inexcusable barbarity in our days. It is set aside to remember all those men and women who were killed during the two World Wars and other conflicts, but it is also a day that we should devote to the pursuit of worldwide peace.

At one time the day was known as Armistice Day and was renamed Remembrance Day after the Second World War. It is also known as “Poppy Day”, because it is traditional to wear an artificial poppy. These are sold by charities dedicated to helping war veterans and their families

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
(Fourth stanza of 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon - 1869 - 1943)

The drawing above by Käthe Kollwitz is named “Unemployed” and it highlights the sensitivities of this artist in themes connected with social problems that revolve around war and its aftermath.


by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod.

All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! –
An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. –
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.


The following poem is very evocative and really makes you feel what it would be like to be there. It's by Wilfred Owen, a WWI poet who wrote about the horrors of war, of which he experienced a great deal, suffering shell shock at one stage. He was killed in action in 1918, just before the war ended, and was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for his courage as a second lieutenant.

by Wilfred Owen

My soul looked down from a vague height with Death,
As unremembering how I rose or why,
And saw a sad land, weak with sweats of dearth,
Gray, cratered like the moon with hollow woe,
And fitted with great pocks and scabs of plaques.

Across its beard, that horror of harsh wire,
There moved thin caterpillars, slowly uncoiled.
It seemed they pushed themselves to be as plugs
Of ditches, where they writhed and shrivelled, killed.

By them had slimy paths been trailed and scraped
Round myriad warts that might be little hills.

From gloom's last dregs these long-strung creatures crept,
And vanished out of dawn down hidden holes.

(And smell came up from those foul openings
As out of mouths, or deep wounds deepening.)

On dithering feet upgathered, more and more,
Brown strings towards strings of gray, with bristling spines,
All migrants from green fields, intent on mire.

Those that were gray, of more abundant spawns,
Ramped on the rest and ate them and were eaten.

I saw their bitten backs curve, loop, and straighten,
I watched those agonies curl, lift, and flatten.

Whereat, in terror what that sight might mean,
I reeled and shivered earthward like a feather.

And Death fell with me, like a deepening moan.
And He, picking a manner of worm, which half had hid
Its bruises in the earth, but crawled no further,
Showed me its feet, the feet of many men,
And the fresh-severed head of it, my head.


Today is Remembrance Day. This is the day Australians remember those who have died in war. At 11am on 11 November we pause to remember the sacrifice of those men and women who have died or suffered in wars and conflicts and all those who have served during the past 100 years. In 1918 the armistice that ended World War I came into force, bringing to an end four years of hostilities that saw 61,919 Australians die at sea, in the air, and on foreign soil. Few Australian families were left untouched by the events of World War I – “the war to end all wars” most had lost a father, son, daughter, brother, sister or friend.

Fittingly, Art Sunday today is dedicated to this day and I feature the work of German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), who lost her only son in action. Peter Kollwitz, 18 years old, died in October 1914 near Diksmuide in Belgium. The pain never left her. All her life she used her extraordinary ability to express human suffering to champion the rights of underprivileged people. She produced hundreds of dramatic, emotion-filled etchings, woodcuts, and lithographs, generally in black and white.

The Nazis silenced Käthe Kollwitz when they came to power. In 1933 she was forced to resign her place on the faculty of the Prussian Academy of Arts (she was its first female member). Soon thereafter she was forbidden to exhibit her art. Many of her works were destroyed in a Berlin air raid in 1943. Later that year, Kollwitz was evacuated to Dresden, where she died at age 78. Today she is regarded as one of the most influential German expressionists of the twentieth century.