Saturday, 23 June 2012


“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

A relaxing and restful day today, with the usual Saturday morning chores and the expedition to the shops. We were back at home by lunchtime and then as the day was cold and gray, we spent it indoors with the heater going full blast. Listening to music, watching a film, reading. A nice dinner in and before we knew it another Saturday was over. So also passes our life, over before we know it...

A wonderful song by Greek songwriter/singer Dionysis Savvopoulos. “I Saw Anna, Once Upon a Time”.

Είδα την Άννα Κάποτε

Την παιδική μου φίλη
Την είδα ξαφνικά
Να στέκει και να με κοιτά.
Αγάλματα κομμάτια
Στα μάτια της τα δυο,
Λησμονημένες πόλεις
Ναυάγια στο βυθό…

My childhood friend,
I saw her suddenly
Standing and looking at me.
Broken pieces of statues
Were in her eyes;
Forgotten cities,
Shipwrecks on the bottom of the sea…

Friday, 22 June 2012


“I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” – The Old Testament (Song of Solomon)

Chutney refers to a wide-ranging family of condiments from South Asian cuisine that usually contain some mixture of spices and vegetables and/or fruits. There are many varieties of chutney. Chutneys may be either wet or dry, and they can have a coarse to a fine texture. The Anglo-Indian loan word refers to fresh and pickled preparations indiscriminately, with preserves often sweetened. Several Northern Indian languages use the word for fresh preparations only. A different word achār applies to preserves that often contain oil and are rarely sweet. Vinegar or citrus juice may be added as natural preservatives, or fermentation in the presence of salt may be used to create acid.

Here is a favourite chutney recipe that adds spice to many a bland dish or can be a wonderful condiment for all sorts of charcuterie or meat dishes. It marries the best of the Indian and English traditions.

1 kg cooking apples
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1½ cups white wine vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Peel, core and slice or chop apples into small pieces.
Place in a bowl with salt, stir and leave to stand for an hour. Drain away any liquid.
Heat oil in saucepan and add mustard seeds, garlic and fresh ginger and fry gently for a couple of minutes, stirring.
Add cumin, turmeric and pepper and cook for a few more seconds or until aromatic, then add apples with the vinegar, sugar, lemon rind and juice and cayenne pepper.
Simmer over a slow heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
The mixture should be fairly thick.
Leave to cool.
Bottle in dry, sterilised jars and seal.

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

Thursday, 21 June 2012


“Every mile is two in winter” - George Herbert

The Winter solstice is the time at which the Sun is appearing at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. In the Northern Hemisphere this is the Southern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on December 21st to 22nd each year. In the Southern Hemisphere this is the Northern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its northernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on June 20th to 21st each year.

The axial tilt of Earth and gyroscopic effects of the planet’s daily rotation keep the axis of rotation pointed at the same point in the sky. As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the same hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in half a year, face towards the Sun and experience summer. Since the two hemispheres face opposite directions along the planetary pole, as one polar hemisphere experiences winter, the other experiences summer.

More evident from high latitudes, a hemisphere’s winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest. Since the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as “midwinter”, “the longest night”, “the shortest day” or “the first day of winter”.

The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most northern hemisphere cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.

We have had a very wintry day in Melbourne today, with non-stop rain, low temperatures and a grey, leaden sky. The day was very short and night very long. I got into work while it was still dark and left work in the dark also. Just as well I went for a lunchtime walk, which even though was in the rain, helped to put me in a good mood.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


“We learn geology the morning after the earthquake” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last night in Melbourne at 8:54 pm we felt an earth tremor. We were sitting in our living room and suddenly we felt the armchairs move beneath us and the house shudder, while a low rumbling noise, as if a distant train were passing, could be heard from outside. We shot up and felt the floor shake slightly beneath us. It was all over in 3-4 seconds, but it was enough to immediately make us aware that we had been through an earthquake. Although it was not a major tremor, it still was an earthquake. This is unusual in Australia, which has quite a stable geological profile and where medium to strong earthquakes are quite rare. We had no damage to speak of in our house, save only a few cracks here and there in the plaster.

The Geoscience Australia website reported that the quake that rocked Victoria was the biggest in the state for 109 years.  Geoscience reported the earthquake had a magnitude of 5.3 on the Richter scale, down from their earlier estimate of 5.5. It was almost 10km deep with an epicentre between Trafalgar and Moe in the southeast of Melbourne, about 130 kilometres from the CBD.

This caused me some concern as my father lives in the area worse affected by the quake. Speaking with him I was able to get his first-hand report of how he experienced the earthquake: He was lying in bed reading and said that he felt three or four strong jolts, moving the bed quite noticeably, this being accompanied by a low growl or dull roar. He sat up and felt more rocking for about 20-25 seconds. Having experienced earthquakes many times before he immediately knew what it was, but did not panic. He got up and went outside where many of his neighbours were also in the street wondering what had happened. A less severe aftershock shook the area slightly about 10-15 minutes later. A quick inspection of his house showed there was no major damage, so after a while he went back to bed and slept well for the rest of the night!

Social media like Facebook and Twitter were the first to carry the news of the earthquake. It was interesting that nothing was on TV until much later and even the online news sites were lagging behind the buzz of posts on social media. It really does show how technology is changing the world as we know it. It explains why Fairfax media is winding down its operation in the print media and why 1900 jobs will be cut in its newspaper business…

The world is changing, and even here in relatively prosperous Australia we are seeing the effects of the change brought about by the financial crisis. Nothing can be relied upon as immutable. The small earth tremor is a warning that even in the rock-solid, geologically stable Victorian locale, earthquakes are possible. In the good economic climate of Australia, 1900 people are about to lose their jobs because of changes in our lives brought about by progress. From one moment to the next, we can never be sure what will happen. We can never take for granted the prosperity we enjoy, nor can we depend on our jobs being assured, not even can we be certain that the people we love will not betray us.

A small pebble thrown in the waters of a still lake will generate waves that will travel for hundreds of metres. A tiny change in routine can have dire consequences in the flow of our daily lives. A new technology can alter the status quo in unpredictable ways and have immense effects. A careless word, an unconsidered action can wreak havoc with relationships. It is a an uncertain world we live in and we should be grateful for all the good things that we usually take for granted…

Monday, 18 June 2012


“He does not weep who does not see” - Victor Hugo

After a break from the Magpie Tales meme, I return this week with an offering that is inspired by the art of M.C. Escher (17 June 1898 – 27 March 1972), who was a Dutch graphic artist. He is known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. These feature impossible constructions, explorations of infinity, architecture, and tessellations. His “Puddle” is perhaps one of his more conventional works, even though within the reflections of the water there is a hint of the greater world (or perhaps another world?).

The Winter Rain

Rain falls in weaving sheets
The water droplets merging as they descend,
Coalescing, running together in silver rivulets.

Skies weep, and raindrops are tears of clouds
Falling down, once pure;
Defiled and contaminated when they come to earth.

As puddles form, their mirror surface
Reflects all the ills of the world,
Below as they are above, in leaden skies.

My face is wet under the umbrella,
Although my hood and Mackintosh are impermeable,
Immune from wetting rain.

Eyes weep, and tears are raindrops of the soul,
Falling down, laden with sorrow,
Purifying, as they run down my cheeks in rivulets.

My heart is full of tear-puddles, mirroring
The ills of my soul, my mind’s turmoil.
Rain falls within, as sky-tears descend without…


“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” - C.S. Lewis
We watched yet another “chick flick” at the weekend and I must say that I squirmed a little while watching it, as it pretty much indulged in quite a bit of “male-bashing” while waxing lyrical about the re-invention of the female protagonist and her ultimate success over adversity (and triumph over the male of the species). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the lush scenery and the acting was passable for what the film was and there were a couple of amusing scenes.

It was the 2003, Audrey Wells movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. It was based on a book by Frances Mayes, which was adapted for the screen by the director, who also wrote the screenplay of the adaptation. I have not read the book, but apparently the movie is quite a different beast and has not followed the book closely (so I was told by a colleague today, with whom I was discussing the film). I have read similar books (and seen film or TV series adaptations of them) set in Provence, in Sicily, in Greece and various other exotic locations, all more or less having the same story, so the film was predictably representative of this genre.

It starred Diane Lane (as Frances Mayes), Raoul Bova (as the Latin Lover), Vincent Riotta (as the Italian married man), Lindsay Duncan (as the crackpot expat) and Sandra Oh (as Patti, Frances’ friend). The supporting actors I found rather more believably human and sympathetic than the leads and I was more interested in their stories (although they were treated very superficially).

The plot can be summarised thus: Frances is a writer and literature critic who lives a seemingly happy life in San Francisco with her husband. A disgruntled would-be novelist incensed by Frances’ negative literary criticism takes revenge by revealing to her that her husband is unfaithful. Frances discovers this to be true and her marriage ends abruptly, causing her to become depressed. Her friends make her a gift of a holiday in Italy and reluctantly she joins a bus tour of Tuscany.  Once there, quite impulsively, she buys a crumbling Tuscan villa from a Contessa who has fallen on hard times. She begins to renovate the villa and in doing so provides employment for an unlikely trio of Polish immigrants, and an old Italian builder. As they work together on the villa, she begins to settle into her new life and becomes friendly with a neighbouring family. She welcomes to her villa one of her pregnant American friends who has given her the ticket (after she has also split up with her partner). Frances is keen to become involved romantically again but chooses the wrong men: First her married real estate agent, then a charming and dashing stranger. Will Frances manage to realise all her dreams or will she need to re-evaluate her expectations? Well, easy to answer that question, it is a romantic comedy, chick flick after all!

The film was saccharine sweet and rather superficial. Its ending predictable and its characterisation rather two-dimensional and abounding with stereotypes. I am sure that many people would find some of the caricatures offensive. Some of the arty crowd would find the Fellini tribute quite ludicrous and many people in happy relationships would it all quite tiresome. However, the film has its fans and I am sure that many would watch it and enjoy it. It is a “rah-rah-rah” sort of film, or perhaps functions like a fizzy alka-seltzer drink when one wakes up with a hangover – psychologically speaking…

As far as recommending it? We voted for it after watching it – 5/10 and 6/10. I would say it’s not worth looking for, but if it’s on and you’re doing something that needs suitable light-weight distraction, have it playing in the background.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


“Sooner or later comes a crisis in our affairs, and how we meet it determines our future happiness and success. Since the beginning of time, every form of life has been called upon to meet such crisis.” - Robert Collier
The second run of the earlier inconclusive parliamentary Greek Elections is being held today, so it is apt to highlight a Greek artist for this Art Sunday. Despite the numerous political, financial and social problems faced by modern Greeks, a strong element of cultural and artistic life manages to survive in the crisis, or perhaps is even fuelled by it. It will be interesting to see the results of this Greek election and whether the elected party/parties can form a functional government that will lead Greece out of the crisis…

Alekos Fassianos (born in 1935) is a famous Greek painter. He studied violin at the Athens Conservatory and painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts from 1956 to 1960 where he was taught by Yannis Moralis. He went to Paris on a French State scholarship between 1962 and 1964, where he also attended lessons on lithography along with Clairin and Caroline Chariot-Dayez. In 1966 he lived and worked solely in Paris, while from 1974 he divided his time between Paris and Athens.

Since his first exhibition in Athens in 1959 he has had more than 70 solo exhibitions in Paris, Athens, Thessaloniki, Milan, New York, London, Tokyo, Beirut, Hamburg, Munich and other cities. Apart from painting he has worked on calligraphy, poster creation, illustration of books and various publications in Greece and abroad. He has also collaborated in many theatrical projects with the National Theatre of Greece. He has also written poems and essays. At least four documentaries on his work have been produced by Greek and French television networks. He was invited to produce stamps and posters for the Athens 2004 Olympics. His works are today exhibited in many museums and private collections in Greece and abroad.

Fassianos’ personal artistic style was shaped during the 1960s. His inspiration is manifold and he takes his subjects from Greek myths, history and the Greek social and geographical landscape. One can see associations with the Fayum mummy portraits, Byzantine icons and the Greek popular shadow theatre characters. His paintings are also characterised by motion, which is emphasised by the hair or clothes waving in the breeze. In his artistic maturity his figures are known for their voluptuousness and the luminosity of the color he uses to highlight the sensuality and the immense pleasure of everyday life. This is probably less true of his early works. His works from the 1960s were made in the expressionist style and his figures are more grotesque or exaggerated.

The painting above is a typical example of the artist’s mature style, showing the characteristically grotesque figures, which nevertheless acknowledge multiple historical and folk traditions in Greek art. One may see resemblances to ancient Greek pottery, modern-day cartoons (for example those of Bost), one observes a kinship with Matisse’s work and that of Picasso and Botero. Fassianos’ paintings nevertheless retain their individual flavor and make powerful statements about modern life and the vicissitudes of Greek history from ancient to modern times.