Saturday 26 September 2009


“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.” - G.K. Chesterton

Today we are leaving for Singapore and Malaysia. This will be a very busy time as I have appointments in both places back to back and there will be hardly any time for sightseeing. Nevertheless, we shall try to sneak some in here and there. And there is always the evening, course. The flight from Melbourne to Singapore is about seven and a half hours. Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is less than one hour. What we always enjoy in Singapore is the airport, which is surely one the best in the world if not the best.

In Melbourne today the weather was cold and rainy, which according to some is the best weather for the football Grand Final. The match between St Kilda and Geelong will draw quite large crowds as both these teams have many fans. Although I don’t follow the football, I have always had some sympathy for Geelong, seeing how they have often climbed up the adder and so often they have been beaten in the Grand Final.

I am still proof-reading and will send off another lot of corrections to the publisher from the airport while taking another chapter to proof-read on the plane. Nothing like having something to pass the time on a long flight!

Friday 25 September 2009


“I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts.” - Graham Kerr

We have had a wonderful lot of rain today and more is predicted over the next couple of days. The temperatures have dropped and Spring seems to have vanished temporarily. However, to see the water coming down form the sky is wonderful. We need much of it to break our drought!

Today was the football Grand Final parade in the city, and yes it rained on the parade... As we now have the school holidays, and with the Royal Melbourne Show in full swing (17 - 27 September 2009), and the Grand Final tomorrow, the mood in the city today was quite festive, rain notwithstanding. In any case, football is a game that is best played on a muddy ground!

The touches of Spring are still around, nevertheless, as in the bunches of Spring flowers on sale in the sidewalk stalls, the first spring fruit on sale, with even some peaches of all things! This brought to mind a favourite recipe, which I shall reproduce here, although we won’t be trying it for a couple of months yet…

Roast Peaches with Marzipan

Ingredients (for 6 people)
6 peaches, peeled, cut in half and stoned
200 g marzipan
4 tbsp Amaretto liqueur
70 g unsalted butter (molten)
12 tsp icing sugar
Double cream

Halve the peaches and remove the stone carefully. Place them in a buttered baking tray. Blend the marzipan with the Amaretto. Fill the cavity in the peaches with the marzipan/liqueur mixture. Brush the peaches with the molten butter and dust each peach half with a spoonful of the icing sugar. Bake in a moderate oven until they are golden-brown. Serve with double cream on the side.

I wonder if one can make this with canned peach halves? I don’t see why not. Maybe I’ll try it soon. However, not this weekend, not the next. Travelling to Malaysia for work tomorrow and from there to Singapore.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday 24 September 2009


“Unto those Three Things which the Ancients held impossible, there should be added this Fourth, to find a Book Printed without errata.” - Alfonso de Cartagena

These past few days I have been very busy proof-reading endless sheaves of my text. This is on top of my ordinary work and generally this proofing takes place in the evening, at night and early hours of the morning. I am up to Chapter 18 out of a total of 24 chapters and the end seems to be nearer, although the last few chapters are the longest… In any case I shall be glad to finish this task and come that one step closer to the published book. It looks as though it will have about 900 pages, so it’s not something to be scoffed at.

Predictably, my word for this Word Thursday:

proofread |ˈproōfˌrēd| (also proof-read) verb ( past and past part. -read |-ˌred|) [ trans. ]
Read (printer's proofs or other written or printed material) and mark any errors.
proofreader noun
ORIGIN: Middle English preve, from Old French proeve, from late Latin proba, from Latin probare ‘to test, prove.’ The change of vowel in late Middle English was due to the influence of prove. Current senses of the verb date from the late 19th century + Old English rǣdan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch raden and German raten ‘advise, guess.’ Early senses included [advise] and [interpret (a riddle or dream)].

Jacqui BB hosts Word Thursday, visit her blog for more words!

Wednesday 23 September 2009


“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” - George Santayana

Spring is supposed to be a joyful season, but still there’s many a tradition and legend that looks at Spring through a dark prism and imbues it with a mournful air. Many old civilisations celebrated Spring’s arrival with sacrifices (sometimes human!) to ensure fertility. Others held their feasts of the dead in Spring (and to marry in May’s still unlucky as the Romans considered Maius a sad and unlucky month, thus dedicated it to the dead, and celebrated no weddings in this month). The ancient Greeks honoured their dead in March with a feast of flowers. In ancient Egypt, the Spring Harvest Festival began to be celebrated on the Spring equinox. The festival honoured the goddess Isis, the mother-goddess who also protected the dead and was the patroness of sailors. Rituals were carried out in her honour and sacrifices were made. Lent is a solemn Spring festival, often lasting well into the middle of Spring…

It was a gloomy Spring day today, with grey clouds and rain. Fleeting warm sun, cold wind, rain. Certainly a day to contemplate the solemnity of Spring and to think dark thoughts and to brood…

Spring Rains

The equinox balances day and night
And sun aligns itself most carefully.
Spring showers turn to rain
And iron weeps rust.

The air is warmer, birds soar into flight
But moon wanes most mournfully.
The deep ache turns to pain
And dreams into dust.

Spring is a most melancholy season
Despite the wild burgeoning of green.
Flowers suit more the grave,
And bitter thought.

I try to find in all a rhyme, a reason,
But deep down is my vengeful spleen;
How easier if all I forgave
No longer fought…

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday!

Monday 21 September 2009


“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” - H.G. Wells

Today is International Car-Free Day, which has been instituted to celebrate an environment without cars. This important international sustainability initiative was launched in 2001 by the Division for Sustainable Development of the UN, in partnership with The Common’s long-standing World Car-Free Days collaborative program. The future organisation and details of this highly innovative and much appreciated collaborative effort is currently under discussion. However, many countries around the world have chosen September 22nd to be the day when this initiative is brought to the fore and many activities around big cities all over the world are making people aware of just how big a difference we can make by choosing not to use our car as much as we are able to.

Although it is important every September 22nd to make everyone aware that we do not have to rely so much on our cars in this car-dominated society that we have become, we do not want just one day of celebration and action and then a return to “normal” car-dependent life. We should take the opportunity for showing people that when people shed their cars, they should and can stay out of their cars. We and the people who govern us need to create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, users of public transport, and other people who do not drive cars. The Car-Free Day must be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars all year round. See this website for some great ideas and resources.

As climate change begins to alter our environment more and more, as the Antarctic ice begins to melt, as droughts and floods destroy our precious resources, World Car-free Day is the perfect time to take the heat off the planet, and do something to make a difference. I try and make every day a car-free day by using public transport to go to work. Today this gave me a special satisfaction because I knew that with this little contribution personally, I am making a difference, however small it is. It up to every one of us to do this, but also to demand from city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the car.

As the time for the December Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change approaches it is important to activate and ensure that our views are made crystal clear to our politicians. Australia’s first ever Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, has just revealed that the Australian Federal Government has been working on a legal structure that could appease developing nations unwilling or unable to commit to economy-wide targets to ensure that greenhouse gas emission targets are achieved. This of course is an issue that has been hotly contested between the developed and developing countries in the face of climate change strategies.

Wong proposes a differentiated approach where nations can choose how they reduce emissions instead of having a set of economy-wide targets imposed on them. The actions that countries take to fulfil their commitments will reflect different national circumstances. For example, one nation may choose to become legally bound to generate energy via renewable sources, while another may choose to attain a certain technology standard or a third may choose to abide by a target to reduce deforestation.

Car-free days give us the opportunity to “Think Globally, Act Locally”. This is now a widely held precept which purports that global environmental problems can turn into action only by considering ecological, economic, and cultural differences of our local surroundings. This phrase was originated by René Dubos as an advisor to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. In 1979, Dubos suggested that ecological consciousness should begin at home. He believed that there needed to be a creation of a World Order in which “natural and social units maintain or recapture their identity, yet interplay with each other through a rich system of communications”. In the 1980's, Dubos held to his thoughts on acting locally, and felt that issues involving the environment must be dealt with in their “unique physical, climatic, and cultural contexts.”

Happy Car-Free Day, today and every day!


“Love is the poetry of the senses.” - Honoré de Balzac

We watched the 1964 Jacques Demy film “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) at the weekend. This was quite a famous and controversial film in its time and even today manages to generate quite few comments. The story is nothing special – trite one could even call it: Geneviève, aged 17 years, lives with her widowed mother, the owner of an umbrella shop in Cherbourg (hence the title of the movie). Geneviève and Guy, a twenty-year-old auto mechanic, are secretly in love and want to marry, but when she reveals this to her mother, her mother objects on the grounds that Geneviève is too young and Guy is not mature or well-established enough, particularly since he has not yet done his compulsory military service. Shortly after this, Guy is conscripted and he is to serve in the war in Algeria.

Before he leaves, Geneviève and Guy spend the night together, which results in her becoming pregnant. While Guy is away they drift apart, and Geneviève, strongly encouraged by her mother, accepts a marriage proposal from a well-to-do gem dealer named Roland Cassard, who has fallen in love with her at first sight and has promised to bring up her child as his own. Geneviève accepts and they get married. Guy returns and finds that his Geneviève, now married, has moved away from town. The rest you’ll have to see for yourselves…

A B-grade melodrama, you might say. Well, yes it is but there is quite difference from your ordinary melodrama. Firstly because it is precisely that, literally a melodrama in its original sense of “sung play”. The whole film is sung, all lines of dialogue uttered in recitative and occasional “aria”. A musical or modern opera, call it what you like, sung it all is. Even “Change the oil in car, Guy!” The film also is beautifully directed and the colours are quite stunning (this after all was the first French musical in colour).

Demy wrote the script and dialogues, as well as directing the film and it was Michel Legrand who imbued the film with its sultry sadness by writing the very atmospheric music for it. Everyone knows the song “I Will Wait for You…” which is melodramatic and romantic to the nth degree. Here it is in context, in the scenes where Guy and Geneviève part when he is conscripted.

The film still surprises and delights, shocks and moves one. The final scene at the Esso station is a legendary one in cinematic history. The acting is superb (and one wonders sometimes how the actors manage to keep a straight face while singing about changing engine oil) and Catherine Deneuve looks beautiful and innocent immersed in the joy and sorrow of first love.

Definitely have a look at this movie, and see what you make of it. It does grow on you and there is much to discover on second viewing.

For Movie Monday, also look at Dangerous Meredith's blog with some really good reviews on three or four movies!