Saturday 29 November 2008


“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” - Russell Baker

In the 1960s in Greece a group of young university students got together and started off a whole new music movement in Greece, which they called the “New Wave”. This was in reference to the “Nouvelle Vague” of French cinema, popular then. The sounds of the Greek New Wave were fresh, simple, genuine, full of emotion and easy to listen to. These songs have become classics their interpreters and their composers having become very famous indeed: Yannis Spanos, Kaiti Homata, Mihalis Violaris, Popi Asteriadi, Lakis Pappas, Yannis Poulopoulos, Arleta, Yiorgos Zografos, etc, etc.

Here is one of these songs, composed by Yannis Spanos, lyrics by Yorgos Papastefanou an sung by Kaiti Homata.

Μια Αγάπη για το Καλοκαίρι

Μια αγάπη για το καλοκαίρι θα’ μαι κι εγώ,
Να σου κρατώ δροσιά στο χέρι να σε φιλώ.
Θα μ’ αγαπάς σαν καλοκαίρι και σαν παιδί,
Μα θα μου φύγεις με τ’αγέρι και τη βροχή.

Μια αγάπη για το καλοκαίρι θα’ μαι κι εγώ,
Να σου κρατώ δροσιά στο χέρι να σε φιλώ.
Και σαν χαθεί το καλοκαίρι και σε ζητώ,
Θα μείνει μόνο ένα αστέρι να το κοιτώ.

Και σαν χαθεί το καλοκαίρι και σε ζητώ,
Θα μείνει μόνο ένα αστέρι να το κοιτώ…

A Love for Summer

All I’ll be for you is a summer love,
To keep your hand cool, to kiss you.
You’ll love me like summer, like a child,
But when the rain and wind come, you’ll leave me.

All I’ll be for you is a summer love,
To keep your hand cool, to kiss you.
And when summer is over and I’ll look for you,
All that remains will be a star that I look at.

And when summer is over and I’ll look for you,
All that remains will be a star that I look at.

Friday 28 November 2008


“An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.” - Will Rogers

I was in Brisbane today for work and it has been rather a long day, considering I woke at 4:00 a.m. and my plane landed back in Melbourne after 8:30 p.m. and I wasn’t home until after 9:00 p.m. Nevertheless, getting back home is what is important and what better than a nice home-cooked meal to come back to?

It is Spring here in Melbourne and some wonderful Spring vegetables are making their appearance. Asparagus and broad beans, artichokes and Brussels sprouts, leeks and morel mushrooms, baby carrots and radishes… I don’t think there is a vegetable that I don’t like and in Spring, what delights there are to tempt us!

One delicious Spring offering from the garden is the newly greening vine leaves. These are used in Greek cooking to make dolmades – stuffed vine leaves. Although pickled vine leaves are on sale in your delicatessen, the best leaves to use are the tender young ones in Spring, straight from the vine. A few minutes in boiling water to blanch them until they become tender and one may stuff them with a savoury mixture, which varies widely from place to place and also country to country, as stuffed vine leaves are also popular in Turkey and other middle Eastern countries. Rice is a universal ingredient of the stuffing, as are herbs such as mint, parsley, sometimes dill.

One may use minced meat in the stuffing, one may not. Grated tomato pulp may or may not be added. Usually, grated onion is an ingredient, unless one chops up Spring onions to add instead. Pine nuts and raisins are added by some cooks, but this practice is shunned by others. In any case, a rather runny stuffing is made, and mixed well. The vine leaves are stuffed, shiny side out, and the finished product must be a neat little cylindrical bundle. The dolmades are put next to each other and stacked in an orderly fashion in a heavy metal pot, some vine leaves are spread out on top and any juices left over from the stuffing are poured over them, as well as the juice of a lemon or two. A plate is inverted and place on top of the pot and the dolmades are heated on the stove until tender and well cooked.

The traditional sauce one serves them with is an egg and lemon mousseline sauce, but one may simply put dollops of Greek-style yogurt on them. Delicious!

Wednesday 26 November 2008


“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” - W.T. Purkiser

It is a special day in the USA today – Thanksgiving, which is a day of celebration firmly associated with the Pilgrim Fathers, the pioneer spirit and the difficulty of taming a wild land, such that its rich bounty could be harvested from its firm hold. The origins of the day are traditionally based on the Thanksgiving Feast held by the Pilgrims who sailed in the good ship “Mayflower” to settle in America in the early 17th century.

A pilgrim is any person who makes a journey, often long and difficult, to a special place for religious reasons. The term, in the USA especially, applies to the members of a group of English Puritans who were fleeing religious persecution in Britain and who sailed in the “Mayflower” to found the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620.

The first harvest of crops was plentiful and so they 
gave thanks to the Lord. There is some disagreement as to whether this was the basis for the tradition but it is generally held to be the origin. Although the holiday had religious origins with a superadded harvest festival tradition, Thanksgiving nowadays is secularised. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the USA. Thanksgiving dinner is held on this day, usually as a gathering of family members, with traditional foods such as turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, corn, mash, various pies, cornbread and other foods characteristic of the New World.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

And for the word of the day:

pilgrim |ˈpilgrəm|noun
a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.
• (usually Pilgrim) a member of a group of English Puritans fleeing religious persecution who sailed in the Mayflower and founded the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620.
• a person who travels on long journeys.
• chiefly poetic/literary a person whose life is compared to a journey.
verb ( -grimmed, -grimming) [ intrans. ] archaic
Travel or wander like a pilgrim.

pilgrimise |-ˌmīz| |ˈpɪlgrəˈmaɪz| verb ( archaic).
ORIGIN Middle English : from Provençal pelegrin, from Latin peregrinus ‘foreign’.

The painting above is "The First Thanksgiving" by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris.


“Only in love are unity and duality not in conflict.” - Rabindranath Tagore

Do you Love me?

“Do you love me,” she said, “do you love me?”
And I – I stood silent and looked on, transfixed.
“Do you care for me,” she asked, “do you?”
And I – I turned away and looked at her no more.

“Why are you silent?” she spoke again,
And I – I searched inside me, for words
Were hard to find and language failed me.
“Speak, answer, tell me!” she commanded.

My eyes looked upon her and all I could think of
Were bright red thoughts and chords of A major joy.
Sweet tasting sherbet melodies and cooling draughts
Of pure spring water on a summer’s day.

“Do you love me,” she said, “do you love me?”
And I – I stood silent and looked on, transfixed.
“Do you care for me,” she asked, “do you?”
And I – I turned towards her and looked deep in her eyes.

And there were velvet leaves in my gaze,
On mellow September afternoons;
And my fingers were extended in silken threads
To bind our hands together like steel gossamer.

And my tongue moved powerless in the prison of my mouth
Forcing volumes of words unspoken down a dry throat.
My lips painted a sunset of a smile, and my eyes
Spoke only three eloquent words, silently,
So softly that only she could hear them with her heart
That resonated perfectly with their insistent rhythm.
“Hush, love!” she said, “not so loudly!
For we must not tempt jealous fate with our bliss;
The gods have punished mortals for lesser offences than
This sweetest hubris…”

The heady joy of newly-experienced love inspired this poem and when dragging it out of an old notebook the words stirred memories of fresh emotions, new and seemingly unique. Ah, youth! How innocent we all are when we begin on our love journeys!

Monday 24 November 2008


“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” - Seneca

Adelaide has a good atmosphere about it. It is a little big city. While it has all of the facilities, attractions, conveniences of a modern megalopolis, it still is small enough to retain the charms of a large town. It has gracious old buildings, beautiful stone houses, large parks and an arts-conscious, cultured population. The nearby towns and villages of Hahndorf, Birdwood, Lobethal, Stirling, Woodside and the picturesque Adelaide Hills provide a perfect foil to the City and are all very enjoyable daytrips if you are staying in the City. Lovely beaches and seaside suburbs complement the Hills and the red desert sands of the Outback are only a relatively short drive out of town. One should not forget to mention the world-famous wine growing region of the Barossa Valley, only about 60 km northeast of Adelaide.

One of my favourite towns and one of the Adelaide Hills’ most famous is Hahndorf, which is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. There's still a strong German atmosphere in Hahndorf, most evident in the smallgoods outlets and German bakeries that line the busy main street. Hahndorf means “Hen Village” in German and there is still a rustic feel to the place, even though it is a major tourist attraction and has facilities that are geared towards satisfying the visiting tourists. There are plenty of souvenir shops, craft outlets and galleries, including the Hahndorf Academy, a regional centre for the arts and heritage based in a charming 150-year-old building. There are four galleries to see, a migration museum, resident artists’ studios, art classes and a retail gallery.

“The Cedars”, the former home and studio of famous German-Australian artist Sir Hans Heysen is in Hahndorf and one may take a guided tour of this gracious old home, which is still owned by the Heysen family. It is home to a fine collection of paintings and drawings that display Heysen's remarkable versatility in subject and medium. Also on the grounds, is the artist’s working studio, his painting materials and tools, sketches, notes and more.

If you like strawberries, then Beerenberg is the place to go, near Hahndorf. You can pick your own strawberries and half the fun is trying to find the biggest, ripest, juiciest berry and one of course has to subject all candidates to the taste test. If wine is more to your taste, there are several good winery cellar doors in the area.

It is probably a good idea to stay in Hahndorf overnight and there are several good motels and hotels around. Hahndorf Inn Hotel has an award-winning restaurant on site and it offers traditional German fare and a delightful range of fresh food and local favourites. Traditional German recipes and cooking methods are a feature and one can also sample a variety of local and imported beers.

Needless to say that this time around I shan’t have a chance to visit the Adelaide Hills or Hahndorf as my trip is all work, work, work and no time for pleasure…


“We'd all like to vote for the best man, but he's never a candidate.” - Frank McKinney "Kin" Hubbard

I am travelling for work again and this time it’s lovely Adelaide. However, as it is Movie Monday, here is a brief review of a film we watched last weekend. It is Ron Shelton’s 1989 movie “Blaze”, with Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovich. It is a biographical comedy/drama of the life and times of Earl K. Long, three-time Governor of the US state of Louisiana between 1939 and 1960. His affair with Blaze Starr, a stripper dominates the story and the title of the movie shifts the emphasis a little from the politician to the “entertainer”. It is a romanticized and somewhat sanitised version of the truth, but one may have difficulty in determining what indeed may be the real truth. Especially where politicians are concerned…

The film was mildly amusing and the two leads played tolerably well, although Newman’s brilliance is lacking and the film suffers from pedestrian direction and predictable story-telling in a plot that is formulaic despite the real-life steamy hot mix that was available to the screenplay writer (Ron Shelton). The film lacks a clear theme. It starts out as a biographical drama of Blaze’s life, then the larger-than-life Earl comes into the scene, and there is a half-baked attempt at making the film relevant to equal rights issues. A very strange mix that doesn’t work particularly well, but which has a few good moments and is saved by the acting of the leads.

A sin of omission (and commission) in this movie is that Earl was married to Blanche Revere Long while he was having his affair with Starr. In the film he is a bachelor who is a bit of a dirty old man. It was in fact Blanche that got him committed to a mental asylum, from which (bizarre as it may seem) he continues to run the state as there was no law at the time to prevent a mentally incapacitated governor to continue his office. Real life Blaze Starr herself has a small part in the movie (as Lily).

There are a few good one liners in the movie and one may chuckle here and there. However, for a two-hour long movie, it fails to deliver what could have been made into an engrossing (seemingly short) Long-tale. Earl K. Long was certainly a colourful character and I am sure that fact must surely have been stranger than fiction in his case. If you come across the movie have a look at it, but don’t go out of your way to specifically look for it.

Have a good week!

Sunday 23 November 2008


“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” - Henry Ward Beecher
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) is one of the greatest artists that Spain has ever produced and is considered the “Father of Modern Art”. His works, which are world renowned, changed the way artists saw the world. His work spanning 60 years from about the last half of the 18th century to the first quarter of the 19th century portray a celebration of life and a realistic view of the world.

Goya was born in the province of Zaragoza. When he was a teenager, he entered the service of a local artist. Later on, he travelled to Madrid, where he was greatly influenced by the last of the great Venetian painters. After several failed attempts to enrol in the Royal Academy of San Fernando, Goya went to Rome. Returning to Spain in the decade of the 1770s, Goya painted frescoes in several churches of his native province.

After his wedding, Goya began to rise in fame, working under Mengs, and then finally joining the royal academy and becoming King Charles III’s court painter. In 1799, Goya became the official painter of King Charles IV. But by this time he had suffered an illness, which left him deaf, and his alienation from the pomposity of the Court began. He produced dark works at this time. Goya with his wild imagination portrayed sordid images of a surreal world. Unable to present his works to his usual clientele, he is forced, under the threat of the Inquisition, to withdraw his works. Meanwhile he continued with his services as court painter.

By this time political and social upheaval connected with the Napoleonic kidnap of the Spanish crown and the invasion of Spain, Goya produced the famous painting “2nd of May of 1808”, and other pieces in which the artist epitomised the suffering and the realism of war as never before seen. Ferdinand VII, King of Spain, appoints Goya as the court painter again after the war, but by this time the artist’s convictions lead him to witness the vanity of court life. This begins his period known as the black paintings. A decade later, after having witnessed the excesses and the attempt to enforce an absolutist regime by Ferdinand VII, Goya decides to leave Spain to settle in Southern France where he died.

Because of the richness of works from Goya, one can witness how his attitude towards life and the world evolves and changes, as the socio-political events surrounding him shift. Goya is considered, with El Greco and Diego Velázquez, one of the greatest Spanish masters. Just as Goya found inspiration in the work of Velázquez, so Goya in turn inspired Edouard Manet and Pablo Picasso. He left no immediate followers of consequence, but his influence was strongly felt in mid-19th-century painting and printmaking and in 20th-century art.

Here is one of Goya’s lightest and breeziest paintings from early in his career. It is called “The Parasol” (1776-8) and evokes sunny carefree days of youth and insouciance. The artist’s wonderful sense of colour and light is already apparent in this canvas and his composition is masterly.