Saturday, 5 January 2008


"O Mistress mine, where are you roaming? O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming." Shakespeare

Today is Epiphany Eve and Twelfth Night, tomorrow being Twelfth Day. As Epiphany Eve was associated with the arrival of the Magi, in many countries children expected to be left gifts in their shoes or stockings. In Italy, an ugly but kind witch, called La Befana, came and distributed sweets and presents to the good children. In Syria, children were brought presents by the smallest of the Magi’s camels. This is because according to tradition, the other two camels lost their determination and strength on the way to Bethlehem and they were about to give up. The smallest camel, however, refused to give up and was rewarded by Jesus with immortality for its belief in Him.

The Twelfth Night of Christmas: Tradition has it that Christmas celebrations are to end today and decorations should be taken down on this day. However, a sprig of holly should be retained in the house to protect the occupants against lightning. Twelfth Night celebrations were once very popular and traditionally, this night was one of the merriest in the Christmas season. Twelfth Night parties were held everywhere, ostensibly to celebrate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, however, many of the traditions surrounding the Night’s celebrations were pagan in origin.

A Twelfth Night cake was baked and a single bean was hidden in it. The person who found it in his piece became the Bean King for the Night. This tradition hails back to the Roman Saturnalia where a King was chosen by lot. The bean was a sacred seed in ancient times. A pea was sometimes baked in a cake in order to choose a Twelfth Night Queen, also. These cakes have now merged with the tradition of the Christmas Cake and the Christmas Pudding (the latter which may contain the silver sixpence to determine the lucky one amongst its consumers.

At the Twelfth Night party, it was customary to draw cards, on which were represented certain stock pantomime-like characters, exemplifying humorous national traits, for example, Farmer Mangelwurzel, François Parlez-Vous and Patrick O’Tater. People had to act out the part of their chosen character and also submit to the humorous “commands” of the Bean King. Much laughter, good humour, fine food and drink were expended on these occasions.

Here is a scene from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, with Feste’s Song (just be a little patient!):

O Mistress Mine

O Mistress mine where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting—
Every wise man’s son doth know.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty,—
Then come kiss me, Sweet-and-twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Thursday, 3 January 2008


“Feast, and your halls are crowded; Fast, and the world goes by.” - Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Today is the tenth day of Christmas and in preparation for tomorrow, the Twelfth Night Cake should be made today. This is a huge recipe for a BIG cake, but remember it is a traditional one and recipes of the 19th century tended to cater for a cast of thousands. You can halve or quarter the recipe for smaller cakes:

2 pounds butter (≈ 900 g)
2 pounds loaf sugar (≈ 900 g)
1 large nutmeg, grated
1/4 ounce (≈ 7 g) each of ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, mace and coriander seed
18 eggs
1 gill (142 mL) brandy
2 pounds sifted flour (≈ 900 g)
4 pounds currants (1.8 kg)
1/2 pound chopped blanched almonds (≈ 225 g)
1/2 pound candied orange/lemon peel (≈ 225 g)
1/2 pound candied citron peel (≈ 225 g)
1 bean (whole) and 1 pea (whole)

Put the butter in a warm pan and work it to a cream with your hand. Add the sugar and beat well to dissolve it, then add the spices finely ground. Break in the eggs one by one, beating well for at least twenty minutes. Stir in the brandy, the flour and work it in a little. Next add the fruit and nuts, mixing well. Put the mixture in a baking tin and put in the bean and pea in separate places. Bake in a slow oven for four hours and then ice it or decorate it according to your fancy. The man who chances upon the slice with the bean would be the King of the Bean for the Twelfth Night, while the woman who chanced on the pea would be the Queen of the Pea. If a man found the pea, he could chose the queen, and vice versa for the woman who chanced upon the bean.

The royal pair then direct the rest of the company in merriment. They assign the revelers ludicrous tasks or require them to behave in ways that are contrary to their usual roles. In France, every action of the royal pair is commented upon and imitated with mock ceremony by the entire company, who shout "the Queen drinks," "The King laughs," "The Queen drops her handkerchief!"

This twelfth night of the twelve days of Christmas is the official end of the winter holiday season and one of the traditional days for taking down the Christmas decorations. This is also a traditional day for wassailing apple trees. In southern and western England, revelers gathered in orchards where they sang to the trees, drank to their health, poured hot cider over their roots, left cider-soaked toast in their branches for the birds and scared away evil spirits with a great shout and the firing of guns.

The ancient Roman tradition of choosing the master of the Saturnalian revels by baking a good luck bean inside a cake was transferred to Twelfth Night. In Italy, the beans were hidden in focaccia rather than a cake: Three white beans for the Magi and one black one. Whoever found the black bean was made king and could choose his queen and rule the banquet. In colonial Virginia, a great Ball was held on this night. The King wins the honour of sponsoring the Ball the following year; the Queen the privilege of making next year’s Twelfth Night Cake.

If you want to celebrate Twelfth Night in an appropriately medieval way, try these instructions from Robert May in his “The Accomplisht Cook” (1665):

"Make the likeness of a Ship in paste-board, with flags and streamers, the guns belonging to if of Kickses [odds and ends], bind them about with packthred, and covere them with course paste proportionable to the fashion of a Cannon with Carriages, lay them in places convenient, as you see them in Ships of War; with such holes and trains of powder that they may all take fire; place your Ship firm in a great Charger; then make a salt round about it, and stick therein egg-shells full of sweet water; you may by a great pink take out all the meat out of the egg by blowing, and then fill it with rose-water. Then in another Charger have the proportion of a Stag made of course paste with a broad arrow in the side of him, and his body filled up with claret wine. In another Charger at the end of the Stag have the proportion of a Castle with Battlements, Percullices, Gates, and Draw-bridges made of pasteboard, the Guns of Kickses, and covered with course paste as the former; place it at a distance from the Ship to fire at each other. The Stag being plac't betwist them with egg-shells full of sweet water (as before) placed in salt. At each side of the Charger wherein is the Stag, place a Pie made of course paste, in one of which let there be some live Frogs, in the other live Birds; make these pieces of course paste filled with bran, and yellowed over with saffron or yolks of eggs, gild them over in spots, as also the Stag, the Ship, and Castle; bake them, and place them with gilt bay-leaves on the turrets and tunnels of the Castle and Pieces; being baked, make a hole in the bottom of your pieces, take out the bran, put in your Frogs and Birds, and close up the holes with the same course paste; then cut the lids neatly up to be taken off by the Tunnels: being all placed in order upon the Table, before you fire the trains of powder, order it so that some of the Ladies may be perswaded to pluck the Arrow out of the Stag, then will the Claret wine follow as blood running out of a wound. This being done with admiration to the beholders, after some short pawse, fire the train of the Castle, that the peeces all of one side may go off; then fire the trains of one side of the Ship as in a battle; next turn the Chargers, and by degrees fire the trains of each other side as before. This done, to sweeten the stink of the powder, let the Ladies take the egg shells full of sweet waters, and throw them at each other. All dangers being seemingly over, by this time you may suppose they will desire to see what is in the pieces; where lifting the first the lid off one pie, out skips some Frogs which makes the Ladies to skip and shreek; next after the other pie, whence comes out the Birds; who by a natural instinct flying at the light, will put out the candles: so that what with the flying Birds, and skipping Frogs, the one above, the other beneath, will cause much delight and pleasure to the whole company: at length the candles are lighted, and a banquet brought in, the musick sounds, and every one with much delight and content rehearse their actions in the former passages.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


"Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive." – Pliny the Elder

Today is the ninth day of Christmas, so I hope your true love gave to you nine ladies dancing. Here are the twelve day gifts, just to remind you:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Twelve drummers drumming, Eleven pipers piping, Ten lords a-leaping, Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree!

Just in case you were wondering about these unlikely presents, there is some hidden religious symbolism in these lyrics:
True Love refers to God. The Turtle Doves represent the Old and New Testaments. The three French Hens refer to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues. Four Calling Birds are the Four Gospels (and/or the Four Evangelists). The Five Golden Rings represent the first Five Books of the Old Testament (the "Pentateuch"), which give the history of man's fall from grace. The six Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
while the seven Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments. The
eight Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes. The nine Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the Lords A-leaping refers to the Ten Commandments. The eleven Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles, while the twelve Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed.

The olive tree, Olea europaea, is the birthday plant for this day. An olive branch has long been the universal symbol of peace. In China, for example, a traditional way of making up after a quarrel is to send the aggrieved person an olive wrapped in a piece of red paper as a sign that peace has been restored. In Greece, an olive branch was a traditional gift for the New Year, a token of peace and goodwill. The dove that returned to Noah’s Ark after the deluge, carried in its beak a sprig of olive, which Noah interpreted as a herald of peace, safety and salvation.

The ancient Greeks recounted the following legend regarding the origin of the olive tree: When Athens was first populated, the citizens were looking for a god to become its patron and to give his name to the City. Two gods vied for the naming rights, god of the sea, Poseidon who wanted the City called Poseidonia, and goddess of wisdom, Athená, who wanted the City named after her. In an offer of goodwill, Poseidon, the god of the sea, struck his trident on the rock of the Acropolis and a fountain of salt water gushed out. Athená reciprocated by striking her spear on the rocky soil, out of which sprung the olive tree bearing olives. The name of the City has since then been Athens, the city of Athená. On the Acropolis there is an ancient olive tree, reputedly the same one that Athená gave to her city...

To dream of a fruiting olive tree is a particularly good omen as it signifies the successful completion of a project with delightful results. To dream of olive oil is equally propitious as it implies great wealth and prosperity. Eating olives in a dream, on the other hand, signifies frugality and days of scarcity ahead.

olive |ˈäliv| noun
1 a small oval fruit with a hard pit and bitter flesh, green when unripe and brownish black when ripe, used as food and as a source of oil.

2 (also olive tree) the widely cultivated evergreen tree that yields this fruit, native to warm regions of the Old World. • Olea europaea, family Oleaceae (the olive family). This family also includes the ash, lilac, jasmine, and privet.

• used in names of other trees that are related to the olive, resemble it, or bear similar fruit, e.g., Russian olive.

3 (also olive green) a grayish-green color like that of an unripe olive.

4 a metal ring or fitting that is tightened under a threaded nut to form a seal, as in a compression joint.

5 (also olive shell) a marine mollusk with a smooth, roughly cylindrical shell that is typically brightly colored. • Genus Oliva, family Olividae, class Gastropoda.
grayish-green, like an unripe olive : a small figure in olive fatigues.
• (of the complexion) yellowish brown; sallow.
ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from Latin oliva, from Greek elaia, from elaion ‘oil.’

Jacqui BB is hosting Word Thursday.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008


“Take away love, and our life is a tomb.” - Robert Browning

I was asked recently if my scientific training influences my creative writing. The answer of course has to be yes, as my mind is an all-encompassing maelstrom that mixes and merges all, then boils and distils, fractionates and remixes all manner of images, facts, imaginings and words. I have shared with you in the past a couple of such pieces, here is another poem whose images draw heavily upon a medical metaphor.


Each time the door of my chamber closes
I see the white bed-sheets stretch in front of me
Like a marble dissecting-table of an autopsy room;
And I lie there, alone, awaiting like a corpse, the anatomist
Who will dissect my deathly-cold flesh.

He cuts the frigid skin, in vain searching
For the reason of my unexplained necrobiosis,
The cause of my curious living death.
His hand, sure and experienced cuts, and with his eye impassive
He exposes my withered heart, atrophied but still beating.

He prosects and lays open each of its ventricles
Looking for clues, traces of some dreadful pathology;
But as he slices the icy muscle he observes its curious beatings.
He discovers a grain of past happiness still alive in its demise,
And smiles satisfied that he has shown the aetiology of my deathly life.

With what surprise he then demonstrates the shrivelled remnants of my soul
That still cling to executed hopes, deceptive wishes, unfounded fancy.
And as he lays bare my essence, stripped of its transparent membrane,
And observes its insubstantial parenchyma,
He witnesses its last, wild flight before its irreversible destruction.

His scalpel cuts tendons, severs muscle, his sure hand crushes bone
And annihilates cartilages so as to expose the convoluted cerebrum,
The fern gardens of the cerebellum, proving beyond doubt:
Logic has triumphed, brain rules, thought prevails
And perishable flesh has been vanquished, most inhumanly.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp is a 1632 oil painting by Rembrandt housed in the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, the Netherlands. Dr. Nicolaes Tulp is pictured explaining the musculature of the arm to medical professionals. The corpse is that of the criminal Aris Kindt, strangled earlier that day for armed robbery. Some of the spectators are various patrons who paid commissions to be included in the painting. The event can be dated to 16 January 1632: the Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons, of which Tulp was official City Anatomist, permitted only one public dissection a year, and the body would have to be that of an executed criminal.
Sans Souci hosts Poetry Wednesday, please visit her blog for more poetical flights of fancy.


“Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” - Hal Borland

The first day of the New Year finds most us in a rather subdued mood. Maybe it is all the revelry of the night before, maybe the alcoholic excesses (or other indiscretions), maybe the review of the year that has just been and gone and the realisation that we are rather lacking in resolve. This may explain the habit that many people have on such a day to make yet another new year’s resolution (and one which usually comes in one year and goes out the other!). I have never been one to make such New Year’s resolutions, but rather I have always liked to look back over the previous year and try to find five or six things that I would like to remember and feel thankful for or proud about. Things that have made this past year one that I would like to press like a flower between the leaves of the book that is my life.

This year has given me much contentment, many things that I feel thankful for. Firstly I am thankful for the life I lead in a country that is generous with its bounty, one where peace abounds and where I can live without worries about where my next meal is coming from or where I shall lay me down to sleep each night. I have a roof over my head, a table that has a meal on it every day and a job that supplies me with all that I need to satisfy my material necessities. How many millions and millions of people around the planet have none of these things that most of us have and take for granted?

The second thing I am deeply thankful for is my family. People that I love and love me, people that make my house a home, people that put a smile on my face, people whose arms are open when I need solace, those who comfort me and support me. They deserve my gratitude and even though I may say thank you to them often enough and even though my deeds may give them proof of my thanks, this written affirmation is also needed, I feel…

Next, I am grateful for my friends. Not only those friends around me that live here in this City, in this country, but friends I have made and whose faces I have never seen, whose hands I have never clasped in friendly greeting. The benefits of technology that allows us all to become neighbours in a global village are surely worthy of appreciation, and to all of you, my 360 friends and acquaintances I extend a grateful greeting for all of your fellowship and companionship in this past year!

This year has been another that I have been blessed with good health. In my job, where disease and death are everyday companions, I know how to value health highly. How many people around me are plagued by ill-health, how many live in constant pain, how many others have diseases that require treatments that are almost as bad as the illnesses they try to cure? How many people waste away and die, not being able to enjoy life? If you have health, you have one of the greatest gifts and you should be truly thankful for this bounty that life bestows on you.

I am proud that in this past year I have been able to make the world a little better for a few people, some close to me, some far away, some known to me some unknown. I am in the fortunate position of being able to help others and do so whenever I can. We do not realise fully the benefits of giving unless we have been in a situation of want and need ourselves. I have been there, and have been helped by other people, something that I never forget. When I help others I feel as though I am helping myself to become a better person and that I am repaying those were generous to me in my hour of need. Keep in mind that giving does not always involve money and worldly goods. One may give one’s time and one’s help, a kindly word – charity is love and to love other people is the basic teaching of most of the world’s major religions.

In retrospect, the year has been a good one. I look forward to the next and I will treasure all that 2007 has given me. I hope 2008 will give me a chance to move forward, but the only way to move forward is to be conscious of the past and learn from history, not only in a general sense, but also in a personal one.

The first of the New Year gives us an opportunity to tally up our successes and failures, to give our thanks, to ask for pardon, to make our amends. A New Year is our chance to be reborn, as Charles Lamb maintains: “New Year's Day is every man's birthday.” A fool repeats the same mistakes twice, a madman repeats them ad infinitum, while the wise learn from their mistakes and eschew them in the future. May your New Year be one full of the contentment of the realisation of one of your expectations, the fulfillment of one of your dreams, the achievement of one of your desires. Each moment of our lives is a gift and gifts must be enjoyed. Use your time wisely, for you are the master of your own destiny.

A happy New Year! Grant that I
May bring no tear to any eye
When this New Year in time shall end
Let it be said I've played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here,
And made of it a happy year.
Edgar Guest

What do you have to be grateful for in the year that has just been?

Monday, 31 December 2007

"Each age has deemed the new-born year the fittest time for festal cheer." - Sir Walter Scott


A very Happy New Year to all my friends here on
Yahoo 360.

May 2008 be full of health, happiness and prosperity for you!

Sunday, 30 December 2007


“Mystic Morn”: This is a large oil painting (122.8 cm x 184.3 cm) by Hans Heysen (1877-1968). Painted in 1904, it shows a small group of cattle threading their way through a group of saplings early in the morning. The cattle are entering the picture from the left and lead the eye towards a distant clearing that is just visible through the thicket of trunks. In the foreground is a shallow pool.

Sir Hans Heysen was born in Germany but was raised in Australia after his family moved there when he was six years old. He worked mostly out of Adelaide and became a leading figure in Australian art history.


“Red Gold”: This is a 1913 oil painting by Hans Heysen (1877-1968). It captures a moment at the end of the day as a herdsman takes his cows home down a country road. In the foreground are two massive gum trees, behind which are stands of gums that stretch away towards a distant line of hills. The golden light, which floods the entire landscape, and the long raking shadows that run across the road and up the tree trunks, suggest that it is late afternoon - the sky has purplish tints often associated with this time of day. The herdsman can just be seen at the far right of the picture. The two cows at the rear of the herd are disappearing around the base of the large gum on the left, leaving the centre of the work almost empty.


We took the bus back to the city and as it was extremely hot we decided to spend the afternoon in the Art Gallery of South Australia. We always visit this wonderful gallery when we are in Adelaide and the art on display is truly magnificent. The Gallery collects and displays art from Australia, Europe, North America and Asia. The Gallery has one of the largest art museum collections in Australia, numbering around 35,000 works. The collections span the period from Ancient Rome to the present day, and include paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, textiles, ceramics, glass, metalwork and jewellery, and furniture. The collections are displayed by both culture and medium, providing visitors with a historical and cultural framework with which to view them.

The Australian collection presents a comprehensive survey of Australian art from around 1800 to the present and showcases the nation’s art history through paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and photographs and decorative arts, with a strong commitment to Australia’s Indigenous art. The European collection ranges from the late fifteenth century to the present and also includes a wide-ranging and representative collection of British art. The Asian collections represent countries from throughout the region, including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Our favourite works are those by the Australian artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the “Australian Impressionists”. Noteworthy amongst them are Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Jane Sutherland, Walter Withers, but also, Hans Heysen, an artist with German roots who spent most of his life around Hahndorf. The gallery has significant canvasses by many of the Australian Impressionist painters of the “Heidelberg School”, and two magnificent works by Heysen.


“Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.” - Louise Nevelson

We had a lovely day out and about today despite the crippling heat (the mercury was hovering around the 40˚C mark!). We left our hotel early in the morning and had a great walk tot eh Festival Centre, whose café serves one of the best cappuccinos in Adelaide. The view over the river Torrens is magnificent and sitting gazing out across the lovely lawns, listening to the chirping of the birds and sipping on the coffee while munching our hot croissants was a great way to start the day.

We then walked to Grenfell St and caught the bust that was heading out to the Adelaide Hills. The buses are comfortable and air-conditioned and for $4.50 one is taken up the hills to the beautiful small towns and villages there. There is Stirling and Bridgewater, Mt Lofty and Macclesfield and Birdwood, but surely one of the most famous towns, is Hahndorf - Australia's oldest surviving German settlement, about 28 km SE of Adelaide. There's still a strong German flavour in Hahndorf, evident in the smallgoods outlets, German bakeries and the souvenir shops selling German figurines and cuckoo clocks that line the bustling Main Street.

The Cedars is the former home and studio of artist Sir Hans Heysen, still owned by the Heysen family. It houses a fine collection of paintings and drawings displaying Heysen's remarkable versatility in subject and medium. Also on the grounds, Heysen's working studio, his painting materials and tools, sketches, notes and more are to be seen.

We visited the Hahndorf Academy - a regional centre for the arts and heritage based in a charming 150-year-old building. We walked through its four galleries, migration museum, artist's studios, retail gallery and enjoyed viewing some really good work by the Academy’s students.

The history of Hahndorf starts in 1838 when George Fife Angas went to London as a director of the South Australian Company to try and promote colonisation. While he was there he met Pastor August Ludwig Christian Kavel who was trying to organise for Lutherans (who were being persecuted by the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III) to emigrate. Angas was moved by the plight of the Lutherans and not only persuaded Kavel that South Australia was a suitable place for emigration but also financially assisted them with a generous £8,000. The first German settlers arrived on 25 November, 1838 at the unfortunately named Port Misery. These settlers were to establish distinctly German villages at Klemzig, Glen Osmond, Lobethal and most famously Hahndorf.

Hahndorf's history is connected to the arrival at Port Adelaide, on 28 December, 1838 of the 344 ton ship, Zebra, under the control of Captain Dirk Hahn. He was impressed by his passengers to such a point that upon their arrival in South Australia he was determined to help them. Although a Dane it is he who is honoured with his name being the basis of the town's name.

The ship was carrying 187 German immigrants. For a time the immigrants lived in tents at Port Adelaide then Hahn came to an agreement to rent 150 acres of land (this was the present site of Hahndorf) which would be divided up so there was 38 acres for living quarters and the rest for farming. Later the grant was expanded to 240 acres. A group of twelve men on horseback and some ladies in a carriage travelled to inspect the site and Hahn was so taken by it, that he said: “It seems to me as if nature had lavished her choicest gifts on South Australia, I should like to end my days here and never return to the busy world.”

The conditions for settlement were generous. The Germans were given provisions for the first year. They were also provided with a preacher and a substantial amount of livestock. All that was required was that they worked hard and produced a reasonable return on the land and livestock. Not surprisingly the early settlers worked hard planting crops and grazing the cattle they had been given. They all contributed to the construction of a church, which was completed within a year of the settlement.

Within the first decade the town prospered. Vineyards were established, the women worked as shepherds, the men hired themselves out to the surrounding landowners as cheap labour and slowly substantial houses, many of which still stand, were built. However, the town was struck by intense anti-German feelings during World War I (rather stupid given that most of the residents could trace their origins back to 1839) and the name was changed to Ambleside by a 1917 Act of Parliament. The German Arms Hotel, for example, became the Ambleside Hotel and did not change its name back until 1976.

We spent several hours in Hahndorf, enjoying the attractions the town has to offer. Sure enough it is a very touristic place, but nevertheless, it still retains its charm and is certainly worth a visit if one is in Adelaide. There is no shortage of places to have lunch or dinner at and although there are many eateries with a distinctly German slant to their menu, one may also enjoy contemporary Australian cuisine, Mediterranean delights as well as many styles of Asian cooking.