Saturday 12 July 2008


“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” - G. K. Chesterton


Listen to it pour,
And with every drop of rain
You know I love you more

Let it rain all night long,
Let my love for you go strong,
As long as we're together
Who cares about the weather?

Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to it fall,
And with every drop of rain,
I can hear you call,
Call my name right out loud,
I can here above the clouds
And I'm here among the puddles,
You and I together huddle.

Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to it fall.

It's raining,
It's pouring,
The old man is snoring,
Went to bad
And bumped his head,
He couldn't get up in the morning,

Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to the rain…

Jose Feliciano

Friday 11 July 2008


“Chacun à son gout” – French proverb

It’s the heart of winter in Melbourne and we are having cold nights and cool, grey days. It’s nice to come back home and feel the warmth after battling with the wind and sheets of fine rain that occasionally fall (not enough to break the drought, though!). The garden looks slightly dejected this time of the year and one is reluctant to venture there. However, in a back corner a surprise awaits – the tamarillo tree (tree tomato, Solanum betaceum). Its red, smooth egg-shaped fruit look like Christmas ornaments, brightening with their shiny gloss the darkest, gloomiest Winter day.

Some people do not like the taste of the tamarillo and some cooks are slightly confused – should it be treated as a fruit or as a vegetable? The answer is simple. Either! As there are quite a lot of fruit on our tree, this weekend it will be tamarillo cooking time:

Tamarillo Chutney
2 ½ kg tamarillos
4 medium onions chopped
3 apples, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons grated root ginger
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
4 cups white vinegar

Place tamarillos in a bowl and cover with boiling water allowing to soak stand for 3-4 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel the tamarillos and slice into a saucepan. Add the chopped onions, apples, garlic and root ginger.
Add the cloves and peppercorns (tied in muslin) and stir in the spices, salt, sugar and vinegar.
Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 and 1⁄2 hours, until thick like jam. Pack into hot clean jars. Seal when cold. Makes about 8 cups.

A chutney (for the uninitiated) is from the Hindi cātnī (from cātnā, to taste), and is a spicy condiment that contains fruit, vinegar, sugar and spices. It can range in texture from chunky to smooth and in degrees of spiciness from mild to hot. Chutney is a delicious accompaniment to curried dishes. The sweeter chutneys also make interesting bread spreads and are delicious served with cheese.

My first encounter with tamarillos was a couple of decades ago (doesn’t that sound ages ago!?) in New Zealand, when I first tasted them in a gourmet dish of venison. Since then I have had a love-hate relationship with these curious fruits. If cooked well, they can taste wonderful, if badly, they are truly disgusting. If of a good variety and ripe they can be delicious in fruit salads, if unripe and eaten alone, they are awful. In the chutney recipe above, they are adequately disguised and can be eaten with relative safety…

The illustration is an oil painting by Melbourne artist, Judith Perrey” “Tamarillos and Batik”

Thursday 10 July 2008


“Everything great in the world is done by neurotics; they alone founded our religions and created our masterpieces.” - Marcel Proust

Today, July 10th is the Bahamas - National Day. The Bahamas are a group of about 700 islands and 2,000 coral reefs to the North of Cuba and the Southeast of Florida. The country became independent of the UK in 1973, the capital being Nassau. The Bahamas are just under 14,000 square km in area and have a population of about 300,000. The major employer is tourism while other economic supports are ship registration and off-shore financing and banking. Fishing and domestic agriculture are under development in order to reduce imports.

Henbane, Hyoscyamus niger, is the birthday plant for this day. The generic name of the plant was given it by Dioscorides and is derived from two Greek words, hyos, “of a hog” and kyamos, “bean”, supposedly because hogs ate the fruit. The whole plant has an offensive smell and is poisonous. The plant has been used medicinally and has narcotic and analgesic properties. The poison hyoscyamine, derived from the young shoots and leaves of the plant was used by Dr Crippen in 1910 to murder his wife. The plant symbolises imperfection and is under the astrological rule of Saturn.

Today is the birthday of:
John Calvin, theologian (1509);
James McNeill Whistler, artist (1834);
Henryk Wieniawski, composer (1835);
Marcel Proust, novelist (1871);
Giorgio da Chirico, Italian artist (1888);
Carl Orff, composer (1895);
Saul Bellow, novelist (1915);
David Brinkley, TV personality (1920);
Owen Chamberlain, physicist (1920);
Fred Gwynne, actor/writer (1926);
Alice Munro, writer (1931);
Jerry Herman, composer (1933);
Arlo Guthrie, singer (1947);

Carl Orff (1895–1982) was a German composer and music educator. His best-known work is Carmina Burana (1937), a secular oratorio derived from medieval German and Latin poems. His system for teaching music to children, based on rhythmic and verbal patterns and the pentatonic scale, is widely used. He also wrote several operas, amongst which are (1937-8) and Der MondDie Kluge (1941-2).

"O Fortuna" (the introduction to Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana") is one of the most recognisable pieces of music all over the world. It is a wry comment on the vicissitudes of life and how fortune seems to rule our existence with its whimsical twists and turns.

vicissitude |vəˈsisəˌt(y)oōd|noun (usu. vicissitudes)
A change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant: Her husband's sharp vicissitudes of fortune.
• poetic/literary alternation between opposite or contrasting things : The vicissitude of the seasons.
vicissitudinous |-ˈtjuːdɪnəs| adjective
Early 17th century (in the sense [alternation] ): from French, or from Latin vicissitudo, from vicissim ‘by turns,’ from vic- ‘turn, change.’

Wednesday 9 July 2008


"Action is the antidote to despair." – Joan Baez

I met an old friend today and she sounded so tired, so aged, as if fatigued by life. Her eyes were filmed over with the hoary grey of hopelessness and the years had not been kind to her once beautiful face. She was alone, where once she had been partnered; indigent where once she had more money than she could spend; desperate where once she was full of joie-de-vivre and optimistic. It was a sad encounter and brought me face to face with my own increasing age, made me mindful of the vicissitudes of life and brought before me Solon’s wise saying, his advice to King Croesus: “Midena pro tou telous makarize” (Don’t be hasty to call someone truly fortunate, unless you see how his life has ended).

And yet even in the depths of despair, my friend was able to smile and in her weariness she could find strength to joke… She felt, like me, true joy to see an old friend and catch up. Life had once again surprised us both, as it does…

Life is Hope

Even if it be a Winter cold and grey,
If snow be falling –
White, pure, light and gelid cold –
Flake on dancing flake…

Somewhere in that snowy shroud
There lie in wait a thousand blooms –
Daffodils, cyclamens, crocuses, anemones,
A promise of the Spring that waits to come.

A storm at sea, if it were to be,
The waves like mountains high –
Rudderless, uncontrolled, whirling and lost –
The ship to be but barely floating…

Somewhere there is a calm seashore,
A harbour safe, waiting by –
Some linger anxiously and pray,
“Surely it will return…” they whisper.

Even if childhood dreams be lost,
If darkness reign for many a year –
Silent, sunless, sickly and sallow –
Solitude is your sole companion…

Look deep inside you a light to find
Like a gentle firefly beaming –
Azure and smiling, eternal, soft,
Hope flutters by.

Tuesday 8 July 2008


“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” - Oscar Wilde

I had a very long day at work and much of it was spent interviewing people for jobs. This is a very demanding and responsible task and one has to be extremely conscious of the way that the whole process is carried out. One has to be fair, yet exacting, careful and cautious, yet not too tense so as to put the candidates off. The process has to be completely transparent and the panel must be careful to work together in order to get the most information out of each candidate. We had a good panel collaborating well and we were able to get through the interviews without too many problems.

However, we were all quite exhausted afterwards and with some people we interviewed, getting the information out of them was like drawing teeth out of their mouth. When an applicant was rather more communicative and voluble it made such a difference in the process… The hardest was when we knew the persons interviewed and while they had all of the qualifications and abilities to do the job, some of them interviewed very badly.

Other people are so self confident and have such an inflated belief in their abilities that they spend hardly any time in preparing their interview, so when they are asked some questions (the answers of which are staring them in the face in the job description!) they make a thorough mess of the answers. Definitely ones to avoid when appointing.

What is your experience of job interviews? Either being the interviewer or the interviewee?

Monday 7 July 2008


“Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.” - Isaac Asimov

We watched an interesting B-grade movie yesterday, which we found for sale in the $4.99 special offers DVD basket in the video shop. It is a low budget, science fiction film, Daniel Myrick’s “Believers” of 2007. Considering the investment, the movie was well worth watching (granted its flaws) and it was rather more intelligently constructed than many big budget, sci-fi thrillers.

Dave (Johnny Messner) and Vic (Jon Huertas) are paramedics sent on an emergency call in response to little girl Libby (Saige Ryan Campbell) ringing from a remote gas station. While trying to save the life of her mother, Deborah (Elizabeth Godush), they are abducted by members of the sect Quanta Group, comprising scientists, philosophers and mathematicians. The group believes in the “formula”, which predicts the end of the world after a meteor shower. Their leader The Teacher (Daniel Benzali) converts Vic to his cult, but the reluctant Dave resists and tries desperately to escape the clutches of the mad sect who are bent on passing on to a higher level of existence through mass suicide.

The dialogue is rather lacking in depth and the characterisation is a little too cliché, but overall the simple plot is one that maintains interest, the acting is good enough and the twist at the end, although not completely unexpected is still startling. The effectiveness of the movie and its chilling confronting images come from the realistic way the sect is portrayed and the obvious parallels the film draws with real life occurrences such as the Jonestown massacre. The charismatic leader, the devoted believers, the blind faith, the sect headquarters in a remote area and the secret plans for a future that is better than any present, all were portrayed convincingly in detail.

The concept of faith and belief are explored (albeit rather superficially – at least in the dialogue), and the lengths at which people go to defend their faith are examined. Similarly, the hero, who in this case is a self-confessed atheist gains our sympathy, if only because he is striving for his freedom. The added sympathy factor is that he is a family man who befriends the waif-like Libby, wishing to rescue her from the clutches of the sect. A strange pity is felt for Vic, the good Catholic, who is easily converted to the ways of the sect and who Peter-like betrays not only his own religious convictions, but also the memory of his beloved mother symbolized by the St Christopher medal he wears and with which he feels no compunction to part in his initiation-like conversion ceremony.

The film was a pleasant surprise and although not a fantastic piece of cinematic art, was well put together, more well thought through than your average thriller and more believable than the usual science fiction saga. If you come across it have a look at it…

Sunday 6 July 2008


“To love is to place our happiness in the happiness of another.” - Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz

For Art Sunday today, The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, which are among the most beautiful art treasures of the world. They were woven in the workshops of Flanders, in the medieval style of mille fleurs, a "thousand flowers." Since 1882 the tapestries have been housed in Paris in the once medieval cloister, the Musée de Cluny.

The tapestries were discovered in 1841 by Prosper Mérimée in Château de Boussac, at the time sub-prefecture of Creuse, and entered immediately into history thanks to the writings of George Sand. The municipality of Boussac bought the château and all it contained in 1837 for about 1000 GBP. In 1882, the French Government, who, for the same sum, acquired them from the municipal authorities of Boussac, presented the tapestries to the Cluny Museum. They were woven, most likely in Tournai, about 1460 AD. The coat of arms on each of the tapestries is that of Le Viste, Lord of Fresne.

The tapestries consist of six pieces, of which the five illustrate the five human senses. They tell the legend of the unicorn, the fabled beast, pure white and having the head and legs of a horse and a long, twisted horn set in the middle of its forehead. Symbolic of holiness and chastity, the unicorn was prominent in tapestries of the Middle Ages, and has been widely used in heraldic devices. The images display the six hangings. The sixth, named "To My Sole Desire" is different from the others.

Taste: The lion and the unicorn are on either side of the lady, who with her eyes turned towards the parakeet she holds in her left hand, is taking a tidbit, handed to her by her maid. Her little dog follows attentively her movements, while eating something on the ground.

Sight: In a familiar way the unicorn has placed his front legs on the knees of the lady, looking at himself in the mirror which the lady holds up to him.

Touch: The lady, holding a squadron banner in one hand, caresses the unicorn with the other hand.

Smell: They lady is binding a crown of flowers. Behind her, it is the monkey that gives the key to this allegory. He is sniffing the perfume of a scented rose which he has taken from a basket.

Hearing: The lady plays a portable organ, placed on a table covered with a sumptuous table cloth. The lion and the unicorn surround the scene, and appear as decorative elements on the sides of the organ.

Understanding - Love: The meaning of the sixth tapestry (the 6th sense) is less easy to explain. The lady appears in front of a tent bearing the inscription "A Mon Seul Désir" (To My Sole Desire), and seems to place a necklace in a box which her servant is holding on to her. The question is whether this scene is the introduction to or the conclusion of the series of the five senses?

When I embrace her,
And her arms open wide,
I feel like a Man in Spiceland,

who is overwhelmed with perfume.

Then I kiss her;
and she opens her lips.
Without a taste of beer,

I am intoxicated.