Saturday 16 February 2008


“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul” – Plato

Ah, Mozart! Truly, a genius, a magician weaving spells with his notes, melodies that enter our hearts and elevate our soul!

Here is a famous aria from an opera that was never finished, “Zaide” composed in 1780. Zaide falls in love with Gomatz, a slave, which strikes up jealousy and rage in the Sultan, who happens to also admire her. After capture she chooses a free life with Gomatz rather than a good life with the Sultan. Allazim encourages the sultan to consider Gomatz as a man, not as a slave. The tender soprano air, "Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben" is the only number that might be called moderately familiar, but it is a masterpiece, nevertheless.

If you have never heard this before, read the lyrics and then listen to how Mozart makes each and every word live and breathe emotion with his music…
Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben, schlafe, bis dein Glück erwacht! da, mein Bild will ich dir geben, schau, wie freundlich es dir lacht: Ihr süßen Träume, wiegt ihn ein, und lasset seinem Wunsch am Ende die wollustreichen Gegenstände zu reifer Wirklichkeit gedeihn.

Rest peacefully, sweet love of my life,
Sleep 'till you re-awake in happiness!
Here, I give you a picture of me,
See how lovingly it smiles at you;
Oh, let those sweet dreams cradle him,
And finally let
All sensual things he desires
Come to rich fruition.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday 15 February 2008


“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey!” - Barbara Hoffman

Have you ever had a perfectly ordinary day, a boring, run-of-the-mill, non-red letter day suddenly surprise you? A common day that becomes a day worthy of celebration, a regular week day that transforms itself into a rare holiday? Well it happened for me today and I can be thankful for it. Suddenly, a reason to celebrate and the everyday becomes rare and wonderful. What better way to celebrate than with…

  • 1 large ripe pineapple
  • 2 oranges
  • 5 passionfruits
  • 1 apple
  • 1 punnet strawberries
  • 6 tablespoonfuls icing sugar
  • 1 cupful brandy
  • 1 cupful cointreau
  • 2 bottles of Champagne

Peel and clean the pineapple, chopping into small cubes and put into a large bowl. Juice the oranges and add to the pineapple. Wash and hull the strawberries, leaving them to drain. Half them and add to the bowl. Peel the apple and chop finely into the bowl. Add the passionfruit pulp to the bowl and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Stir in the brandy and cointreau, put the bowl into the freezer until almost frozen solid. Break the fruit mixture into into chunks, put into a punch bowl and pour the chilled champagne over the frozen fruit mixture.

Now you may ask, what precipitated this celebratory mood? A tiny moment. A sweet nothing, a common ordinary experience, a surprise, a little trifle. We do not need much to make us stop in our tracks and reflect. We live, we enjoy this gift given us and each moment should be savoured and enjoyed. We do need to celebrate the happiness that friends and families bring into our lives, celebrate each good moment, and learn to deal with the bad ones.

Thursday 14 February 2008


“Love is much like a wild rose, beautiful and calm, but willing to draw blood in its defence.” - Mark Overby

The Victorian era was a strange time. On the one hand prudishness ruled the day and on the other secret scandals rocked the nation, with even people of quite high social standing and fame implicated. Piano legs were covered as they were considered to be too suggestive, while wild shows of half naked women were rife, and prostitution (of even young girls) was commonplace. The hypocrisy of Victorian society was perhaps not better exemplified by the royal family of England itself. The widowed queen Victoria in black and perpetually grieving for her husband Albert, had a secret lover in her servant John Brown. Her son, Albert Edawrd, Prince of Wales was womanizer and bon-viveur whose name was rarely out of scandal sheets.

Is it surprising then that such an age developed a highly intricate form of communication for lovers in the form of a “secret” floral code. This is the Victorian Language of Flowers. One could compose a letter by simply arranging blooms in a bouquet and sending it to his or her romantic interest. The flowers were then identified and their meaning divined with the aid of a dictionary and the letter pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Seeing it’s Valentine’s Day, here is the multitude of meanings that the rose can signify in the language of flowers:

Rose (red) - Love ; I love you
Rose (white) - Eternal Love; innocence; heavenly; secrecy and silence
Rose (pink) - Perfect happiness; please believe me
Rose (yellow) - Friendship; jealousy; try to care
Rose (black) - Death
Rose (red and white) - Together; unity
Rose (thornless) - Love at first sight
Rose (single, full bloom) - I love you; I still love you
Rose bud - Beauty and youth; a heart innocent of love
Rose bud (red) - Pure and lovely
Rose bud (white) - Girlhood
Rosebud (moss) - Confessions of love
Roses (bouquet of full bloom) - Gratitude
Roses (garland or crown of) - Beware of virtue; reward of merit; crown ; symbol of superior merit
Roses (musk cluster) - Charming
Rose (tea) - I'll always remember
Rose (cabbage) - Ambassador of love
Rose (Christmas) - Tranquilize my anxiety; anxiety
Rose (damask) - Brilliant complexion
Rose (dark crimson) - Mourning
Rose (hibiscus) - Delicate beauty
Rose leaf - You may hope

As well as fresh bouquets of the appropriate flowers, young women often painted the blooms in delicate watercolours or embroidered them in fine coloured silks, so as to offer their sentiments to their beloved in a more lasting form. Many such fine items of Victoriana are now worth lots of money, even though their true significance may be deciphered by the few.

Victoriana |vikˌtôrēˈanə| plural noun
Articles, esp. collectors' items, from the Victorian period.
• matters or attitudes relating to or characteristic of this period.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: named after Queen Victoria of Great Britain (1819–1901).

Wednesday 13 February 2008


“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” - Aristotle

Seeing it’s Lovers’ Day Eve, I thought it appropriate to indulge in a love poem that is dedicated to all lovers. Those gentle souls who lie clasped in each other’s arms and share heartbeats, exchange souls and between whom silence is as eloquent as thousand words. My poem for you:

I Breathed your Soul

As our breaths were mingling, your head clasped to my breast,
I looked into your half-closed eyes and shared your dreams.
As I could feel your gentle breath move my heart yet closer,
I breathed your soul in, and my heart enclosed itself in yours.

As our hands entwined, and our lives lay coiled in perfect symmetry,
My words remained unsaid, for your mind was already filled with mine.
Your smile, my sun – my eyes your moon,
I breathed sweet air that you exhaled and drank your kisses.

If I were to think of you without my life, I’d think no more,
For without you, my life is truly without life.
And yet, even then I should not die,
For I have within my soul, your soul,
And you within your mind my mind;
But your heart carries within it mine
And a heartless life is life, but life is not.

Tuesday 12 February 2008


"Don't eat too many almonds; they add weight to the breasts."
- Colette

Almond blossom, Prunus amygdalis, is the birthday flower for this day. The Hebrew name for the tree is shakad = “awakening”, this in reference to the flowers that are borne before the leaves during late winter. It is the symbol of heedlessness, the flowers not heeding the winter weather that may damage them. The Greeks had a legend about this tree and concerns the Thracian queen, Phyllis. She was the wife of Demophon, one of the Greek kings who went to fight in the Trojan War. She died of grief when her husband failed to return from the War and the gods taking pity on her turned her into an almond tree. When at length Demophon returned, it was winter and when told of his wife’s fate, he embraced the bare tree that she had become. Phyllis was so overcome with joy that she brought forth a profusion of flowers. Virgil commented on the blooming of the almond with reference to the season ahead:

With many a bud, if flowering almonds bloom, And arch their gay festoons that breathe perfume, So shall thy harvest like profusion yield, And cloudless suns mature the fertile field.

A charming poem has been written about the blooming almond tree by Heinrich Heine:

New Spring (1)

Sitting underneath white branches
Far you hear winds are wailing;
Overhead you see the cloudbanks
Wrap themselves in misty veiling,

See how on bare field and forest
Cold and barren death is seizing;
Winter’s round you, winter’s in you,
And your very heart is freezing.

Suddenly white flakes come falling
Down on you; and vexed and soured
You suppose some tree has shaken
Over you a snowy shower.

But it is no snow that’s fallen,
Soon you see with joyful start –
Look, it’s fragrant almond blossoms
Come to ease and tease your heart.

What a thrilling piece of magic!
Winter’s turned to May for you,
Snow’s transmuted into blossoms,
And your heart’s in love anew.

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

Sunday 10 February 2008


Soutine's portraits from the 1920s, distinguished by their subjects' twisted faces and distorted limbs and by the emphasis in each canvas on one brilliant colour, frequently red, are among his most expressive works.

Chaim Soutine: “Woman in Red./ La femme en rouge”, ca 1923-24. Oil on canvas. 91.4 x 63.5 cm. Private collection.


Modigliani introduced Soutine to the art dealer Leopold Zborowski, who enabled him to spend three years (1919–22) painting at Céret in the south of France. The feverish, visionary landscapes Soutine painted there marked the emergence of his mature style. Soutine spent most of the remainder of his life in Paris. He exhibited little during his lifetime and relentlessly reworked or destroyed old canvases.

Chaim Soutine. "Landscape at Cagnes (La Gaude)/Paysage de Cagnes (La Gaude)", ca 1923. Oil on canvas. 65.4 x 81.6 cm. Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, USA.


Soutine's life had changed radically after the American collector, Dr. Albert C. Barnes, bought many of his canvases in 1923. Having previously known poverty, Soutine now enjoyed a comfortable life and could stay at luxury hotels and spas. At Châtelguyon, Puy-de-Dôme, where he often went to take waters with his friends and patrons Marcellin and Madeline Castaing, he observed the staff and painted the well-known series of bellboys and waiters. Soutine seems to have felt a bond with these despised workers, victims of a rejection he himself had experienced. Through characteristic individuals, such as the room-service waiter of this painting, Soutine evoked the boundless mass of the oppressed.

Chaim Soutine
: "The Room-service Waiter", ca 1927
. Oil on canvas
87.0 x 66.0 cm. 
Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris


“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” - Henry Ward Beecher

Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) was born in Russia and brought up in a Lithuanian Jewish ghetto where he encountered community opposition for his propensity for drawing images, which contravened Talmudic law. He arrived in Paris in 1913, where he initially lived in desperate poverty. In 1915 he met Modigliani, with whom he developed a close friendship. His work was tenuously connected with the Parisian mainstream, but has a recognisable debt to Fauvism and Expressionism. Although his financial condition improved suddenly after 1923 through growing patronage, he continued to produce disturbing works in which extremely distorted images were painted with intensely heightened colours.

Chaim Soutine: “Servant Girl in Blue/La servante en bleu”, ca 1934. Oil on panel. 51.4 x 52.4 cm. Private collection.