Saturday, 30 April 2011


“He who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once.” - Robert Browning

One third of the year is already over! Hard to believe how time has rushed by – I seem to blink and another month is over. A sure sign I am getting older, I think. I remember as child how time used to drag and tomorrow never seemed to arrive fast enough (especially if tomorrow was a special day!). Ah well, it is the autumn of my life and at least it is a season of mellow fruitfulness…

Today was another beautiful day with a pleasant sun and a blue sky, which nevertheless remained equable and did not become excessively warm. We went shopping and to the library, taking our time and enjoying the outing, even if it was only for chores. Back home for lunch and then a pleasant relaxing afternoon before going out to dinner.

Here is a cheerful Chaconne by a composer more known for his more melancholic and lugubrious pieces. Marin Marais’ virtuoso divisions on the Chaconne bass pattern, are played by William Skeen, viola da Gamba, and accompanied by Hanneke van Proosdij, harpsichord, and David Tayler, archlute. Live high definition video from the San Francisco Early Music Ensemble Voices of Music Great Artists Concert, 2010. 
Voices of Music performs in and records concerts in St. Mark’s Lutheran, SF.

Friday, 29 April 2011


“Work is the meat of life, pleasure the dessert.” - B. C. Forbes

The nights are getting to be rather cold now and as the night falls early, it is good to get home and turn the heater on. Autumn foods are de rigueur, with hot soups, pumpkin and cauliflower dishes, apples, pears, nuts, and of course hot desserts dripping with syrup or delicious sweet sauces. Here is such a dessert, just right for a cool autumn night.

Ginger Puddings

•    Melted butter, to grease
•    170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
•    180g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
•    1 heaped tablespoonful finely grated fresh ginger
•    1/2 teaspoonful ground cloves
•    2 eggs
•    1 tablespoonful golden syrup
•    180g (1 heaped cup) self-raising flour, sifted
•    80ml (1/3 cup) milk
•    Double cream, to serve

Butterscotch sauce

•    100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
•    125ml (1/2 cup) thickened cream
•    25g unsalted butter


•    Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush four 250ml (1-cup) capacity muffin pans with melted butter to lightly grease.
•    Use an electric beater to beat the butter, sugar and ginger in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the egg and golden syrup. Beat until combined. Fold in the flour and milk, in batches, until combined. Divide among the prepared pans.
•    Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until a metal skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Set aside in the pans for 5 minutes to cool before turning onto serving plates.
•    Meanwhile, to make the butterscotch sauce, combine the sugar, cream and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.
•    Pour the sauce over the puddings. Serve with double cream.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


“Thanks to words, we have been able to rise above the brutes; and thanks to words, we have often sunk to the level of the demons.” - Aldous Huxley

I have had a very difficult day at work dealing with a very sensitive and delicate matter regarding disciplinary action directed against a staff member. It is never pleasant to have to deal with these issues, however, they are necessary and in any large organisation there are many workers who do not adhere to policy and may engage in unprofessional behaviour. However, it is sometimes difficult to get the person responsible to admit that they are in the wrong, even if proof is staring at them in the face. The evidence in question today related to emails and the inappropriate use of emails.

The ancient Romans used to remark: “Verba volant, scripta manent”. Translated literally, it means “spoken words fly away, written words remain”. It is originally derived from a speech of Caius Titus in the Roman Senate, who said it wishing to drive home the point that spoken words might easily be forgotten, but written documents can always be produced and be the conclusive evidence in public matters. This is a pointed reference to the reliability of written records, on which agreements should be based, rather than a conversation, which can never be agreed upon as an accurate record of what was actually said, if the two sides involved have a different recollection or interpretation of it.

However, the written word also carries a sting in its tail, as something hastily written in the heat of the moment, under stress, or in frustration and anger and sent to someone via email can cause much harm. The ease with which we communicate nowadays via email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook or even through blogging has made us a little unwary. What we write remains and we can be held accountable to it. A quick note written down hurriedly can give a completely different message to the one intended. Especially as the written word is deficient in terms of facial expression, vocal tone, gesture, and further clarification if your interlocutor expresses their inability to fathom what you are saying or what exactly what you mean.

How many celebrities (with the world’s eye on them) have had serious problems with something they published on Twitter or Facebook? How many stories do we hear of very public apologies and retractions of the thoughtless comments that were written unwisely or in haste? There are numerous occasions where something written has created huge issues not only for the writers, but also for the people referred to in the communication… Written words are powerful weapons, and in untrained hands or in the hands of the unwary, can injure as severely as sharp swords. More so than verbal invective, a written attack is there to hurt the recipient continuously and can come back to haunt the writer, who may have repented writing the offensive missive at a later stage.

I have often felt a need to reply immediately to an email I have received which incenses me or insults me or assumes that I am an idiot. How often have I sat down and responded in like tone or language! However, I always do so in “draft” mode. I never send the reply immediately. I sit on it for a variable period of time, read it, re-read it, change it, reshape it, and more often than not, delete the draft without ever sending it. The draft has served its purpose. I have vented my anger, rid myself of the poison and then, when I am suitably composed and having considered the matter from all angles, I rewrite the reply in a more sedate tone and in a more logical frame of mind. The heat has dissipated and in the coolness of good sense I reply in a fair and logical manner, without offending the offender.

In other cases I write something on paper, seal it in an envelope addressed to myself (this is important!) put it in a drawer and come back to it later, the next day being preferable. When I see the envelope with my name on it, I open it pretending its contents were not written by me, but by someone else – a close colleague, a family member or my partner. I try and read the letter through new eyes, trying to imagine the feelings of these people had they read this letter. I invariably feel embarrassed. On some occasions where I have not torn the letter up immediately, I have felt the need to burn it as tearing it up I did not deem to be destruction enough for it!

Catharsis is a powerful emotion. We all need it, we all feel better after it has worked its magic on us. Writing a hasty response to a vituperative email or letter can prove to produce an even more virulent and damaging effect than the original communication did. However, writing such a response can be cathartic. Just don’t send the blooming thing!

catharsis |kəˈθärsis| noun
1 The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.
2 rare Medicine purgation.
ORIGIN early 19th century (sense 2): From Greek katharsis, from kathairein ‘cleanse,’ from katharos ‘pure.’ The notion of “release” through drama ( sense 1) derives from Aristotle’s Poetics.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


“The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.” – Seneca

The days are getting appreciably shorter now and even though the afternoons are warm and sunny, the misty mornings and the violet evenings are cold, with nights getting longer. The sky is strewn with stars and in the crispness of night, their sparkle seems all that more brilliant, more sharp. There are so many dead leaves in the garden now and summer plants decay, black spot marring rose bushes, mould growing on fallen, overripe fruits and fungi growing in the humus. Autumn is here and brings with it an undesired guest that has been waiting in the wings for his cue. Autumn is hosting a death feast and the guest of honour comes on time although uninvited…

The Guest

As I stretched my hand to grab the red balloons,
A guest entered suddenly, and he was unexpected.
I let the red balloons fly up to the sky,
Starting as I saw his awful face.

He had black curly hair, his wet ringlets
Smelling of earth after the rain.
His green eyes were soft,
Like fresh, moistened moss.
His lips were red as if coloured by
Ripe, red, pomegranate seeds.

His bony hands were white, with long fingers,
As he stretched them towards me;
Outside the rain kept falling,
While indoors there was darkness,
Silence, an empty void.
I touched his hand and was startled
By his icy grip.
His arms locked around me
And I felt his embrace around me
Heavy as if it were wet clay.

Now, he stoops and kisses me, tenderly like a father,
And his red lips freeze the life out of me;
While my last warm breath
Melts the ice of his cold heart,
So that it warms with pity towards me.

He holds my hand and leads me
Out into the falling rain –
We don’t mind its liquid silver drops
And we go ever forward, to be lost,
Never to come back.

Above the clouds where the sun always shines,
A thousand red balloons
Go ever upward and so far away.

Monday, 25 April 2011


“There is no surer method of evading the world than by following Art, and no surer method of linking oneself to it than by Art.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We had a wonderful Autumn day today with bright sunshine and a crisp morning that matured into a warm afternoon. We made the most of the last day of the Easter holidays by driving to Eltham and visiting “Montsalvat”, a wonderful place we hadn’t been to for quite some years. The place is still beautiful and there have been some renovations and refurbishments, however, it was good to see s few artists still in residence. Nevertheless, one can see that it is now more of a function centre and has several formal exhibition spaces where art is shown regularly rather than a true artists’ colony.

Montsalvat was originally established as a true artists’ colony in over 12 acres situated in Eltham, an outer suburb of Melbourne Australia. It was founded by architect and artist Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975) in 1934. It is home to a small hamlet of various buildings, houses and halls set amongst extensive established gardens. The colony of Montsalvat reflects very much the life of Justus Jörgensen and his friends and family. Its buildings and gardens are now very much a part of the history, art and culture of Melbourne. Architecturally, Montsalvat has much in common with a simple French village in Provence revealing a mix of rustic architectural styles.

The name Montsalvat is met with in both German and English mythology. In the German opera “Parsifal”, by Richard Wagner, Montsalvat is the castle, built by Titurel, where the Holy Grail is protected. In the English legend of “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table”, Montsalvat is mentioned as the home of the Holy Grail. Jörgensen obviously drew on this lore and legend for his inspiration and his grandiose plans are nowhere more apparent than in his “Grand Hall” and adjoining buildings. This is built in the style of a mediaeval manor, and by all accounts Jörgensen ran Montsalvat as a feudal estate in which he ruled as an autocrat. This caused a few of the artists that were initially attracted there to leave forthwith.

All of the buildings on the site were designed and built by residents with locally available materials, such as stone, timber and brick, from various sources. The Great Hall offers an extensive range of spaces from extravagant halls and vast exhibition spaces, to small corridors, little rooms, secret alcoves, mezzanine floors and tiny balconies overlooking the gardens. The grounds and buildings of Montsalvat are now mostly used for exhibitions, performances, conferences, seminars, weddings and receptions. However, a handful of craftspeople and artists (such as Luthiers, Jewellers, Painters, Sculptors and a Writer) continue to reside in Montsalvat. Several classes on various disciplines of art are offered year round by the resident artists. There are small shops that sell the works of these artists and there is also a small gallery housing an exhibition of the work of resident artists.

We had a wonderful day, wandering through the grounds, gardens, buildings and chapel. We admired the paintings in several exhibitions, saw some of the craftspeople and artists at work, conversed with some of the residents and generally enjoyed the atmosphere and the milieu. Montsalvat is certainly one of the jewels in Melbourne’s touristic crown, but most of the people we met there were in fact locals. Whatever the case may be, Australia is still very far away from everywhere and hence off the beaten tourist path.

See more of my photographs of Montsalvat here.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


“We have failed to grasp the fact that mankind is becoming a single unit, and that for a unit to fight against itself is suicide.” - Havelock Ellis

Today, Easter Monday, is also Anzac Day, which is observed in Australia and New Zealand as a day of commemoration for those who died in the service of their country, and is a day for honouring returned servicemen and women, whichever battle or war they served in  The 25th day of April is the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli in 1915. On the first anniversary of that landing services were held throughout both countries in remembrance of the thousands of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died during the eight-month Gallipoli Campaign.

Since 1916 Anzac Day has evolved to the observance we commemorate today. The day of observance begins before dawn with a march by returned and service personnel to the local war memorial, where they are joined by other members of the community for the Dawn Service. This is a solemn and grave ceremony which brings to mind the lives lost and the terrible futility of warfare, whether it happened in Gallipoli, in the Middle East, in America, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, the Gulf or in Korea…

The assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula began on the 25th April 1915, as an attempt by Allied Command to weaken the strategic position of Germany, Austro-Hungary and Turkey who were allied in the first world war. It was the Australasian Expeditionary Force’s first major engagement of the First World War after their training in Egypt. By the end of the first day of warfare on the Gallipoli peninsula, about 2,000 allied troops lay dead. The bloody fighting continued, and by the end of the first week more than 6500 ANZACs had been killed or wounded. Many thousands of Turks also died there.

Not all brave acts at Gallipoli met with success, however. The film “Gallipoli” tells the story of the 10th Light Horse Regiment from Western Australia and the brave but pointless attack at a place called The Nek. After several mistakes that gave the Turks time to prepare for an attack, the Australians fixed bayonets, leapt out of their trenches and charged the Turkish lines. In just 30 seconds, the first wave of men had all been killed or wounded. The Turks eventually stopped shooting and the battlefield fell silent.

After only two minutes, the second wave stormed from the trenches, into the wall of hot lead and steel. The final wave of ANZACs remained in the trench. They knew the attack was now pointless, and waited for the Generals down on the beach to order them to stop. But the only order they received was to attack. Brothers said goodbye to each other, and friends stood side by side. As they leapt out of the trench they jumped over the bodies of their friends who had been alive only minutes earlier, and knew they would soon join them. No ANZACs ever reached the Turkish trenches. In 1919, after the war was over, several ANZACs went back to Gallipoli to bury their dead properly. At the Nek, they found the bodies of more than 300 Australians in an area smaller than a tennis court.

After eight long months of bitter fighting, the British High Command decided that the war at Gallipoli was too costly when they were also fighting other battles in Europe. The ANZACs alone had lost 10,000 men, and so the order came for a withdrawal. Since the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing in 1916, Anzac Day has evolved to acknowledge the sacrifice and service of subsequent wars and to encompass new understandings of the full impact of armed conflict on those who have served their country.

The 1981 Peter Weir film “Gallipoli” is a film that captures the spirit of Anzac Day and makes for poignant viewing, especially for anyone who has been in a war zone of been affected by warfare. It is acted well by the young Mel Gibson, Mark Lee and Bill Kerr and it is a film that established Gibson as an international star.

It is an excellent anti-war film that establishes this premise subtly and often with wry humour. It is Australia’s version of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, but instead of using the soldiers’ conscience as its premise at that film does, Gallipoli hinges on the Australian cultural foundation of “mateship”. War brings together mates, then it cruelly separates them. The last twenty minutes of the film are particularly illustrative of the callous and brutal nature of war. I think that long though the film is, and a little slow at times, it still is one of the best Australian films, having substance and meaning, but also emotional strength and a pillar in Australia’s culture.

Lest we forget…


“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - Frederick Douglass

Easter Day today was spent relaxing and having fun. We had a late breakfast, during which we enjoyed Easter goodies (of course we are no longer fasting!) such as egg cookies and tsoureki (Greek Easter sweet bread), washed down with lots of steaming hot milk coffee. There was music and laughter, as well as the exchange of gifts. Then we decided to go out and make the most of the warm, fine autumn day. We decided to visit Birrarung Marr in the City.

Birrarung Marr is on the north bank of the Yarra River next to Federation Square. It is Melbourne’s newest major park, opened in 2002. Its name comes from the language of the Wurundjeri people who originally inhabited this area. “Birrarung” means “river of mists” while “Marr” means river bank. There are many interesting public spaces, beautiful walks and many art works that allow the visitor not only to relax and enjoy the pleasant views of the water and the city skyline, but also many artworks to stimulate and excite the senses. Birrarung Marr is also the home of ArtPlay.

The Birrarung Wilam (meaning “River Camp”) installation celebrates the diversity of Victoria’s indigenous culture by interpreting stories from local communities through public artworks. A winding, textured pathway acknowledges the significance of the eel as a traditional food source for groups camped by the river. Large rocks incised with animal drawings enclose a performance space, and closer to the river a semi-circle of metal shields represents each of the five groups of the Kulin Nation.

ArtPlay is a venue and a project that is housed in a distinct, free-standing red brick warehouse (the sole remaining building of the Melbourne rail yards). Its very prominent and public location ensures Melburnians have every opportunity to discover ArtPlay. It is more studio than classroom with the openness and scale of the building making people feel they can create on a large scale. The blank tables, open spaces and welcoming, natural light give the impression that anything is possible.

ArtPlay owes its existence to “The Ark”, located in Dublin, Ireland, which was the world’s first children’s art centre. The City of Melbourne embraced the idea of creating a similar centre for Melbourne’s children, and that is how ArtPlay was born. Through its support of ArtPlay, the City of Melbourne has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring its children have opportunities to participate in and contribute to the future direction of city life.

ArtPlay’s surrounding playground opened in late 2004. It features decorated walkways, slides, sand areas and a wheelchair swing. Regular workshops at ArtPlay enable children to decorate the playground. ArtPlay’s simple building belies the complexity of its being. The varied programs played out behind ArtPlay’s bright orange door place creativity at the heart of our future society, our children.

On the outside wall of the ArtPlay building are silver touch panels featuring audio recordings of indigenous people telling their personal stories. The artists who created these works were Vicki Couzens, Lee Darroch and Treahna Hamm. Other features of the park include Deborah Halpern’s Angel sculpture; Speakers’ Corner; and the Federation Bells, which ring three times each day with different compositions.

The park is regularly the host to many cultural activities and today was no exception, with the 2011 Christchurch Quake Relief Concert. The line-up included Mi-Sex (NZ), Mike Rudd (ex Spectrum), Angie Hart & Blood Red Bird, Julia Deans (ex Fur Patrol - NZ), Lotek, Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes, Vince Peach, Dave Larkin Band, Spencer P Jones (NZ), The Council (NZ), Side Show Brides, Radio Star, The Wellingtons, Cash Savage, Pets with Pets (NZ), Polar Disco, Engine Three Seven, Vaudeville Smash, Massive Hip Hop Choir, Cherrywood and MC Jon Von Goes (Triple R). The huge variety of genres and tunes mean there’s something for everyone to rock out to. Plus, there was great food and drink all around. Each ticket is $30 and booking fees. All proceeds for the event, including half of the booking fees, will be donated straight to the 2011 Red Cross New Zealand Earthquake Appeal.

See more of my photographs of Birrarung Marr here.