Saturday 6 March 2010


 “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” – Mark Twain

We have had a massive hailstorm here in Melbourne today, followed by heavy rain that came down in bucketfuls. It was about 2:45 p.m. in the afternoon when the sky darkened as if it were night and the wind howled. The sound of the hailstones falling on the roof was deafening and we though the roof would cave in! The hailstones were the size of large marbles, with some areas reporting golf-ball sized ones, while in other areas hailstones the size of tennis balls were seen. Falls of anything between 30 to 70 mm of rain were recorded in different parts of the city. The hailstones covered the ground like snow and the streets turned into rivers as the flooding waters ran through creating havoc on the roads.

Two pedestrians that were walking outside our house came and found shelter on our porch so we let them in while the storm raged outside. The damage was amazing. Trees were stripped of their leaves, cars had windscreens broken and had dents all over their panels. There were hundreds and hundreds of phone calls to the State Emergency Service and many cars were stranded on flooded city streets. Events were cancelled (including the horse racing), public transport ground to a stand-still and there was gridlock on city streets in the middle of Melbourne. The Southern Cross train station had to be evacuated as heavy rain tore a hole in its roof and a deluge splashed down on the train platforms.

I had to go out through the City at about 4:00 pm, and it was all fine until I got to Queen St, wanting to cross the Yarra at Queen’s Bridge. The road was flooded at Flinders St and nobody was game to cross the flooding torrent. I turned back and tried going via Spencer St, however, the traffic was horrendous and there was no way to cross. I cut through Flinders Lane, up Market St and went down to Queen St again. The water had subsided a little and as I saw a smaller car in front of me cross the flooded road, I followed suit and managed to get through.

The whole of the City was a mess. The beautiful plane trees had all of their leaves shredded by the hail and the footpaths were littered by leaf debris, looking like lawn. Piles of hailstones were still around, looking like snow. People were wading through the flooded streets and some cars had been abandoned as they had stalled and could not move. The scene was one of a catastrophe of huge proportions. The damage bill will climb to the millions I should think! More storms are said to follow.

Funnily enough the day started out very well with sunny blue skies. The weather bureau had predicted showers and “possible thunderstorms”. The ferocity and suddenness of the storm we had took everyone by surprise. Fortunately there was no damage to our house, although the garden did suffer somewhat. Tomorrow we’ll have to take stock of the damage…

In the meantime, here is a suitably wet song, sung by Greek singer, Notis Sfakianakis:

Thursday 4 March 2010


“Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

Back home today after flying in with the red eye special this morning and going straight to work! All sorts of crises to handle, which magically seem to appear when I am away. After putting in about 10 hours of work, I came back home and it was very nice to find a home-cooked meal on the table and smell the delicious scents of the garden, the kitchen, the rich aromas of home.

We had a traditional Greek dish today, which is called Youvarlakia (meatballs in egg and lemon soup).


1 tbsp. butter
1 large onion
5 cups clear beef broth (or vegetable broth)
500 g lean ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 cup uncooked short-grain rice
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp chopped dill
ground pepper, to taste
4 eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Peel and finely grate the onion into a bowl. Add the beef, salt, parsley, dill, ground pepper, and the uncooked rice. Form the mixture into 3.5 cm meatballs. And roll so that they become even and smooth.

Add butter to a large pot to melt. Add the pepper and celery salt and stir through. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Drop the meatballs into the broth carefully so that they don’t break up. Reduce the heat and simmer, half covered, for about 20-25 minutes, until meatballs cook through and the rice is done (add more broth if needed). Season to taste with more salt and pepper if desired. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the lemon juice well, until combined. While whisking, slowly drizzle the broth from the meatballs into the egg and lemon mixture, stirring continuously so as not to curdle the eggs (this is best done by two people, one whisking one adding the hot broth, or you may use a mixer on low speed). Slowly pour the egg/lemon/broth mixture back into the meatballs, again stirring continuously as you do so. Season to taste again, if necessary.

Serve meatballs with a generous amount of soup and garnish with chopped parsley.


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

I had a wander through The Rocks district today. The Rocks are in Sydney’s city centre, on the western side of Circular Quay, and is the area of the first European settlement in 1788. Before the 1820's it evolved into one of Sydney Town’s most unsavoury districts, full of convicts and prostitutes, although this has changed over the centuries from slums to three-story houses.

It was in its second stage of life overtaken by warehouses and the maritime industry, but later again demolished due to the plague and then the Harbour Bridge Construction. Since the 1970’s it has developed into a tourist area, full of cobbled streets, pretty old-style buildings, numerous little shops and a lively nightlife filled with bars, pubs and restaurants.

The Rocks is also home to a variety market at the weekend, as well as live music at various venues around the area. There are a full range of stalls offering local craft and unusual gifts, as well as food stalls, Aboriginal art, and much more.

Walking tours around the area can be made by following the directions on number of guide books available at the Rocks Discovery Centre. One of the most interesting is a historical walking tour of the area. There are many stops along these tours including Sydney's first gaol, Cadman's Cottage and Sydney’s shortest street. Spectacular views of Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour Bridge are also to be enjoyed here. The oldest house in Sydney can be found in The Rocks and it is Cadman's Cottage on George Street, built in 1816. It was once home to John Cadman but now is the National Park Information Centre.

George Street is the main street through the Rocks area, which is the oldest street in the whole of Australia. There are a number of notable buildings along George Street, including Billich Gallery, the Old Police Station, the Union Bond Store, the Vault Restaurant and the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art in a stylish Art Deco building.

Just behind George Street is Kendell Lane featuring more historical buildings: The Coachhouse as well as Puppet Cottage, and at the end of Kendell Lane the lively Rocks Square. South from the Square, one can head past the Argyle Stores before arriving at Susannah Place which is a beautiful row of old terraced houses. From here there are fantastic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Tomorrow back to Melbourne!

Wednesday 3 March 2010


“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” - Lao Tzu

I am in Sydney for two days attending a staff development seminar, which is proving to be very interesting, although the hours are long and there is much to get through. The weather in Sydney has been very changeable but it was good to get out during the breaks and in the evening and enjoy the sun. Then night came and the lights of the city lit up like a million diamonds in a jewel box…

The City

The city smiles at me tonight
And I watch her, silent, fascinated, my eyes full
Of her beauty.

Lights shine like diamond brooches
The air pure, violet, perfumed, feminine,
Desires a kiss.

My thoughts fly like swallows in the sky,
My desires chained to your distant face; if only you were here,
Beside me!

The night, tonight is a silken ladder, like your hair,
The moon, almost full, blond, sweet lovable, gives me only
A distant smile.

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday

Monday 1 March 2010


“It is doubtlessly true that religion has been the world's psychiatrist throughout the centuries.” - Karl Menninger

Today it is St Ceadda’s Feast Day, the saint more usually known as St Chad. St Chad (died on this day in 672) is the British patron saint of medicinal springs. He was one of four brothers who were all priests. He was a monk at the Abbey of Lastingham and succeeded his brother, St Cedd as Abbot. He was made bishop of York by king Oswy but the Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus challenged Chad’s consecration. Chad withdrew to Lastingham and Wilfrid became bishop. Chad was then made bishop of the Mercians with his seat in Lichfield. He was very humble, always travelling on foot, until Theodore ordered him onto a horse and put him onto it with his own hands. Chad was warned of his impending death by an angel.

The saint was buried in the Church of St Mary. At once, according to the Venerable Bede, he was adored as a saint and his relics were translated to the Cathedral Church of St Peter. Cures were claimed in both churches. Bede described his first shrine as “a wooden coffin in the shape of a little house with an aperture in the side through which the devout can take out some of the dust, which they put into water and give to sick cattle or men to drink, upon which they are presently eased of their infirmity and restored to health”.

On St Chad’s Day eggs should be becoming plentiful in the northern hemisphere:
    By David and Chad
    Every hen, duck or goose should lay, good and bad.

(St David’s day was yesterday)

The rock samphire, Crithmum maritimum, is today’s birthday flower.  The generic name is derived from the Greek krithe = “barley”, as the plants seeds resemble that cereal.  The specific name is in connection with the favourite habitat of the plant, along rocky coastlines, shingle and sandy shores.  Samphire may be a corruption for the old French name of the plant, herbe de St Pierre. The herb is in culinary use, eaten raw as a salad, boiled as a vegetable or pickled.  An old herbal remarks: “It is more agreeable as a pickle than useful as a medicine”.  The samphire symbolises the welcoming shore and is under the dominion of Jupiter.

Sunday 28 February 2010


“Children will watch anything, and when a broadcaster uses crime and violence and other shoddy devices to monopolize a child's attention, it's worse than taking candy from a baby. It is taking precious time from the process of growing up.” - Newton N. Minow

Last weekend we saw Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film “Reservoir Dogs”, which was another of these movies that we had bought ages ago and did not want to watch until we were “in the right mood”. It proved to be the wrong day to watch it as it was a very bad experience. This is a movie that we did not enjoy seeing, and there is hardly anything good that I can say about it. Tarantino has been hailed as a genius in film-making, but I must say, his “work” is not my cup of tea. It is the cinema of a degenerate society in free-fall and his films highlight the decline of civilisation as we know it. The bad thing about his films is that they seemingly glorify this decline. Maybe it is irony and sarcasm, but it is lost on me as I refuse to be part of such a decline.

The “Kill Bill” duet (about to become a terrible trio with “Kill Bill III” announced for release in 2014) was equally distasteful to me. “Pulp Fiction” was another disappointment, as was “Death-Proof”. “Inglorious Basterds” is yet another such trashy offering pandering to the tastes of the lowest common denominator. I am not a fan of Quentin Tarantino, I think you have guessed…

Let me explain myself, perhaps in the context of “Reservoir Dogs”. The film tries to be “modern” and pushes all the “cinema nouveau” buttons (you know the ones, flash-backs, flash-forwards, flash-nowheres, flash-and-trash-because-this-story-is-not-interesting-enough-to-be-presented-linearly; it uses “unconventional” characters, it uses smarmy directorial tricks; it has foul language in every line of dialogue, etc, etc). It uses some big name actors who have jumped at the opportunity to be in a “cult-classic” by a young and up-coming writer-director (yes, Tarantino wrote the bloody thing as well!). It uses violence to shock and was planned to be controversial from its inception: “Let’s shock the viewing public into submission!” The trouble is that this trash won eight awards and six nominations…

It is a trite tale, that has been told again and again in a numerous other films (with less blood and violence and with not as much foul language). Apparently, this film is a copy of Chow Yun Fat’s “City On Fire”. A group of strangers, unknown to each other and all criminals, is assembled by a master-mind who plans a jewellery heist. It goes terribly wrong and there is a bloody aftermath. All of the criminals manage to kill each other or be killed by police; many police are killed and there is much needless, on-screen bloody violence. In the end, the moral of the story is that “crime pays” (at least for one criminal).

We loathed this offensive and disgusting film and saw it as a landmark of the decline of cinema as an art form. This was a pornographic film targetted towards sadists. Senseless violence for the sake of violence masquerading as “art” reminded me yet again of the tale of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”. I do not recommend you watch this movie, unless you are a sadist and love to see senseless violence because it turns you on. This was a pitiful, mind-rotting, inane waste of time that left a terrible taste in my mouth and made me shudder. The attempts at humour throughout fall flat and are in terrible taste. If this is what our society awards prizes to, pity us! It is the decline and fall of the Roman Empire all over again!


“He who sees the calamity of other people finds his own calamity light” – Arabian proverb

The massive 8.8 Richter earthquake that shook Chile on Saturday killing at least 300 people, came in the wake of the destruction wrought by the killer earthquake in Haiti. It seems that earth is well and truly sick of all of us vermin pullulating on its skin and is shuddering constantly to rid itself of our unwelcome and polluting presence…

The result of course is more than a trail of twisted buildings, crushed cars, gaping crevasses, ripped up roads and collapsed lives as people try to cope with the tragedy.  It is a reminder that our earth is very small planet indeed, with the tsunami waves roaring at jet-speed across the vast Pacific Ocean with all of the shorelines around it on alert. We are all part of it all. The international community will once again support the devastated people of Chile and provide hope to the survivors. How fragile we are!

I can think of nothing more apt to comment eloquently on this new tragedy, except Giovanni Belini’s “Pietà” of 1505 (Oil on wood, 65 x 90 cm, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice).