“I love the language, that soft bastard Latin, Which melts like kisses from a female mouth, And sounds as if it should be writ on satin With syllables which breathe of the sweet South.” - George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron
For Song Saturday today an old Neapolitan song from the 1950s, which I remember from my childhood. It exemplifies the idiom of this most musical of Italian cities in its lush melody and lovelorn lyrics, which need no explanation or translation, so expressive is the music. Sergio Bruni, one of the most lyrical of Neapolitan singers sings this song of unrequited love, “Maruzzella”.
“Asia is not going to be civilised after the methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old.” - Rudyard Kipling
I am very much looking forward to the weekend this week, a sleep in, and a little rest too. The trouble is although I start with the best intensions, come the weekend and I am busily doing the same I have been doing since a long time past: Getting up very early and working away on many projects. A leopard can’t change its spots, I guess.
Here is a recipe today, which is perfect weekend food. Doesn’t take too long to prepare and the ingredients are fairly easily obtainable at a pinch. How did I remember it? Well today I was told I may have to go to Singapore for work at the beginning of October…
Singapore Noodles with Chicken and Cashews Ingredients (four serves) 375 ml chicken stock 125 g rice vermicelli noodles 2 tbsp olive oil 500 g chicken breast fillet, thinly sliced 1 onion, thinly sliced 2 carrots, cut into thin sticks 200 g snow peas, trimmed and halved 3 tsp mild curry powder 2 tbsp soy sauce 4 green onions, sliced 1/4 cup unsalted, roasted cashews
Method (Preparation time: 15 minutes; Cooking time: 25 minutes) 1. Place stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Add the noodles, toss until slightly softened. Cover and let steep for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until fully softened. 2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok, or large frying pan, over high heat. Cook chicken strips in batches, for 5 minutess or until golden. Remove and set aside. 3. Heat remaining oil in wok. Add onion, cook, stirring, for two minutes. 4. Add carrots, snow peas and curry powder. Cook, stirring, for two minutes. 5. Return chicken to pan. Add soy sauce, green onions, soaked noodles and any remaining stock, toss to combine. 6. Cook, stirring, for two minutes until noodles are coated and stock is absorbed. Stir through cashews and serve. Enjoy your weekend!
“Who can hope to be safe? who sufficiently cautious? Guard himself as he may, every moment's an ambush.” - Horace
I was in Sydney for the day today, so another early morning flight and then back home with an evening one. So, one more long day, but once again worthwhile as its results were good beyond expectation. We had a government regulator audit to survive at our Sydney Campus, but instead of the expected problems that had foreseen, the auditors were most complimentary and identified many of the things we do as examples of “best practice”. This was most satisfying and it certainly was great encouragement for my team who worked so hard to get it all right. It was so good to see the delight in everyone’s eyes when the auditors delivered their verdict and said they recommended that we pass with flying colours!
Sydney weather was quite variable today and what started out as a sunny day ended up rainy. I took my team out to lunch, seeing how the audit was going so well and we wanted a little celebration. We had a delicious repast at one of the area’s good Italian restaurants. There was chicken schnitzel with a seasoned crumbed coating and mustard sauce on mashed potato with rocket salad, barramundi fillets with butter lemon sauce and spring vegetables, a chicken Caesar salad with crispy bacon and foccacias of various kinds, followed by wonderfully aromatic, strong Italian coffee. We managed to evade the rain and then walked back and finished with the audit.
After we had finished and got the good news, I took the train to the airport (how convenient and sensible it is to have a train station right at the airport!) and almost met a colleague at the airport, however, our planes were leaving at different terminals and the times just weren’t conducive to us meeting in the end. As I was going to the terminal where my plane was leaving, I was crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing and was nearly run over by a limousine taxi, which didn’t stop at the crossing. I was clipped on the side and nearly fell over, but managed to hang on and even though my knee was banged and my wrist was sprained, nothing else was injured. The car stopped and the driver was quite distressed, whereas I was rather relieved that I didn’t break anything, or worse… At least the car was a Mercedes and if one gets run over, it may as well be in style.
An eventful day, again and as the saying goes, “never a dull moment”!
audit |ˈôdit| noun an official inspection of an individual's or organisation's accounts, typically by an independent body. • a systematic review or assessment of something: A complete audit of flora and fauna at the site. verb ( -dited , -diting ) [ trans. ] 1 conduct an official financial examination of (an individual's or organization's accounts): Companies must have their accounts audited. • conduct a systematic review of: Auditing obstetrical and neonatal care. 2 attend (a class) informally, not for academic credit. ORIGIN late Middle English : from Latin auditus ‘hearing,’ from audire ‘hear,’ in medieval Latin auditus (compoti) ‘audit (of an account),’ an audit originally being presented orally.
“Old Time, in whose banks we deposit our notes Is a miser who always wants guineas for groats; He keeps all his customers still in arrears By lending them minutes and charging them years.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes
Continuing my peregrinations through my old notebooks and journals, finding words written long ago. How we change as we grow older… It seems only yesterday that I was writing these words and yet more than two decades have gone by. Looking at old photographs and seeing another person, full well knowing that stranger is I. The world changes, we change, and it’s only these words scribbled on yellowing paper that remain the same, but not constant. Even the meaning they are meant to capture varies with time and with my perception of the words themselves, are altered by time and experience.
Sometimes, I feel you’re so close When for a split second, I find you in a stranger’s fleeting glance. Or when I hear by chance Words said for someone else’s ear, And I, I make believe they were for me. But other times, You’re far away, light years away, Just like tonight…
It seems impossible that we two shall meet, But then, I close my eyes And feel you next to me, Even if insubstantial, Even if only in my dreams.
Sometimes, you seem so close, But at the same time so distant, That I lose heart, lose hope, I think that never shall I find you. And then sometimes, I think you’ll knock on my door And come into my life, Like you’d enter my room, Just like tonight…
“The true way to render ourselves happy is to love our work and find in it our pleasure.” - Françoise de Motteville
I was in Adelaide for work for the day today and a very long day it has been, getting up at 4:30 am, catching the 6:00 am flight and then slogging through back to back appointments all day (fortunately all concentrated around the CBD). Although I finished by 4:30 pm, I had a 7:30 pm flight out of Adelaide and seeing how it was a cheap one, I could not get it changed for an earlier flight. I used the time to catch up on some work in the Qantas Club lounge and also to have a drink and something to eat.
The weather this morning was cloudy and rainy, but it soon cleared to a fine, sunny day. This was good as I was able to walk around the city for my various appointments. It was very pleasant and the city was crowded and the people buoyant and happy. The trip was successful and all of my meetings went extremely well and achieved all that had been anticipated. This is always such a good feeling at the end of the day when ne is returning home and can at least be happy that the exhaustingly long day have been worth it. The picture is of one of my favourite buildings in Adelaide, the Haigh’s Chocolates Beehive Corner building. A fine 19th century red brick edifice that rises up in a neo-Gothic flurry and is undaunted by the surrounding modern high rise buildings. A wonderful touch is the flying bee on top of the corner turret.
Work that has variety associated with it vitalises me and rejuvenates me. I dislike routine and a boringly recurring timetable. My present job provides that variety and several surprises (OK, not all of them pleasant!) that keep me interested and involved in what I do. The occasional extra long days and the frequent travel add to the variety and the challenge of my position.
Tomorrow, I spend the day in Melbourne, interviewing people for a high management position, finalizing some reports and resolving some issues that have surfaced, and on Thursday I have another day trip, this time to Sydney. It will be quite a hectic week.
“A rattlesnake, if cornered will become so angry it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is - a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.” E. Stanley Jones
At the weekend we saw Tony Kaye’s 1998 film “American History X”, which we had resisted watching up until now as we had been told that it was a very violent movie. Subsequent to that I had two friends whose judgment I trust tell me that this was an excellent movie and well worth watching, despite the violence, strong themes and foul language. Being in a suitably prepared mood, we watched this film last Saturday and I must confess that we found all of the things we had heard about were true: Yes, it is very violent; yes, it has confronting themes; yes, it had foul language; but yes, it was also a powerful and important movie that looked at some of issues that are relevant today not only in the USA, but in most countries of the Western world.
The casting was excellent and all actors played their part exceptionally well, but most importantly, Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, as the two brothers, Derek and Danny Vinyard gave award-winning performances. Beverley D’ Angelo, Avery Brooks, Jennifer Lien, Ethan Suplee and Elliot Gould also give great supporting performances. The result is a gut-wrenching, moving film about self-discovery and redemption, but at a terrible price.
The plot centres on Derek Vinyard, a brutal Neo Nazi skinhead who is tried and sent to prison for three years for the murder of two black men who tried to steal his truck. In prison he discovers that things are not always what they seem, and reformed, returns home to try and salvage his family. His younger brother Daniel Vinyard who idolises him, is on the brink of following in Derek’s footsteps. The relationship between the two brothers becomes strained as Derek tries to save his younger brother from a fate similar to his own.
Tony Kaye’s direction is a little conventional at first, but even then, never hackneyed. As the film builds up to its climax, subtlety and innovation become apparent and the viewer is drawn into the drama with a style that builds the tension and erupts into an ending that is both apocalyptic and immensely crushing. The sheer brutality of some of the scenes of the film are quite graphic and will shock many viewers. However, the most sad thing about it is that these are everyday crimes that are occurring even now. The film contains scenes of sex, violence, murder, rape, references to drug use, racial vilification, foul language and yet all of this is relevant to the theme and the plot. Not for the faint-hearted, but it is a film for people with a heart.
I do recommend that you see this movie if you haven’t seen it, but prepare to be shocked and moved, enraged and confronted by powerful themes. The emotional response that it evokes is strong and it is done in a way that caters to the intelligence and critical review of the watcher.
“Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is life's undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room.” - Harriet Beecher Stowe
When I was young and we were living in Greece, I remember spending summer holidays at my grandparents’ place. These were some of the most idyllic and happy times of my life. I was carefree and spoilt, used to play with the neighbourhood children and I adored my grandfather, especially. There was a garden with fruit trees and vines, a flat roof with a little storeroom at the back of it where I found bundles of old magazines that I read in the summer afternoons when everyone else took their siesta and nearby fields where I went exploring.
One of the things I remember about their house was that there was a series of Dutch Master prints hanging in the walls of the hallway. One of those always fascinated me and I used to look at it often and was drawn into its quiet mystery. It always seemed to me that if I looked at it long enough and willed hard enough I would somehow be transported into the painting and explore its mysteries. Once we moved and after my grandparents died, it was many years before I saw those paintings again.
As far as my favourite mysterious painting is concerned, it was “The Mother” by Pieter de Hooch, painted about 1660. I encountered the original of this when I was living in Amsterdam and visited the Rijksmuseum. This museum became one of my haunts and every couple of days I used to visit it in order to immerse myself in its treasures. The de Hooch painting is fairly small, 52.5 x 61 cm, but nevertheless it exerted on me the same magic as it did in my childhood. The immediate comparison one may make is with the paintings of Vermeer, another Dutch master of the Golden Age of Dutch painting.
Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684) has gone down in art history as a painter who rendered Dutch domestic life with great precision and verisimilitude. The everyday life of the bourgeoisie in all its ordered tranquillity and its private moments, is the subject of his works. He depicts a world whose calm is never shattered by any sensational event and the scenes he chooses to immortalize are curiously familiar, timeless. De Hooch opens a window on narrow alleyways, small gardens and courtyards, and gives us a glimpse into the antechambers and living-rooms of the Dutch citizens. Like Jan Vermeer, de Hooch specialized in the portrayal of interiors.
However, the paintings of Vermeer centre on a self-absorbed figure pausing momentarily in some activity, while de Hooch's paintings are dominated by the room itself, by its perspectives and views through doors and windows where people become an integral part of the interior. Light is an important factor, especially daylight, as in the work of Vermeer, with its refractions and reflections adding vitality to the rooms. Whereas people and animals interpose in their activities, light itself becomes the active element, permeating and moving over walls, floors and tiles, illuminating objects or casting them in shadow. This depiction of figures immersed in light, whether indoors or outdoors is what makes de Hooch’s painting luminous and deep.
The painting above shows a mother checking the hair of her child for lice. A very mundane theme, but a beautifully rendered painting bathed in warm golden light. The homely touch of the pet dog looking out towards the spring garden and the patch of sunlight on the floor, attract the eye outward towards that beautiful landscape visible through the half-open door. The bed warmer and the heavily curtained bed ensconced in its own little niche (a room within a room) hint at the heavy winter that has passed. The child is squirming, eager for the ritual of the louse hunt to finish so it can go and play with the dog in the sunshine outside. A gem of a painting, ordinary and yet extraordinary in its directness and simplicity. Quite charming!
Hope you had a good weekend, enjoy the week ahead!
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.