Saturday 22 January 2011


“The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A beautiful warm summer day in Melbourne today. In the morning, the usual routine, chores, shopping, gardening, fixing a few things around the house, going to the library. Then, we watched a film and in the afternoon/evening visited friends. Conversation turned to movies and songs and this group of the 90s was mentioned. One of my favourite groups from the UK, “Mike and the Mechanics”. Here is an excellent song of theirs that brings back many memories for me – happy and unhappy…

“You don’t need me you don’t need anyone at all, you lit the fire and watched the rise and fall 
– Mea Culpa…
You never know what’s in your heart until you look, take a look, just a take a look…
You can’t forgive me, you won’t forget me!
– Mea Culpa…”

Thursday 20 January 2011


“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” - John Gunther

My grandfather used to say: “Breakfast as a king, lunch as a noble, dine as a pauper…” This was sound advice, especially in the times of long arduous days where hard labour was the lot of most people who worked on the land, cottage industries or even manufactories. One used to get up very early to greet the dawn and the table was set with a variety of nutrient-rich foods to “break the fast” of the night and prepare the body for the onslaught of the hard work of the day. This was followed by a lunch later in the day, which provided a much-needed respite from labour and a top-up of nourishment. The evening meal had to be only light, as the exertions of the day were over and everyone went to bed early, which needed to be done on a light stomach.

Our meal patterns have changed greatly over the last century as has our diet. In many countries around the world breakfast has been reduced to a token meal, which typically consists of coffee, tea or milk and toast, cereal or some fat-laden pastry. People may have too little time, may need to eat breakfast alone or may be a victim of a routine that started during their childhood. In any case, the majority of people fail to eat a proper breakfast, being content with a cup of coffee only! Breakfast should be the most valuable meal of the day, or at least one of the most valuable.

Both body and brain need refuelling
after the overnight fast. Yes, the derivation of the word breakfast is right! Energy reserves can be running low after an overnight fast, and doing the things that you need to do during in a busy morning takes energy. Traditional breakfast foods are nutritious
and can provide much stored energy. Grain products like bread and cereal provide carbohydrates for energy, B vitamins, and fibre. Many fruits are a rich source of vitamin C and/or vitamin A. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are among the foods richest in calcium and vitamin D. Eggs are protein-rich and contain valuable brain foods. One should try and limit the amount of fats that one has at breakfast, so go easy on the bacon, lard, butter, oils and other fatty foods.

Having a good breakfast could help you control your other meals of the day. Studies have shown that those people who don’t eat a good breakfast typically eat more calories over the course of the day. Eating breakfast is not linked to gaining weight. People who eat breakfast tend to be fitter and less fat than those who skip breakfast. People who have lost weight and kept it off for many years report that they usually eat breakfast every day.

Even if you’re short on time, a healthy breakfast is easy to take with you. Nowadays, there many product options in single servings that can be had away from home. Ready-to-eat cereal in a bag with a tub of chilled yogurt with a piece of fruit is a good breakfast choice that travels well. Have it in a park close to your work, while enjoying nature! Heat a microwave breakfast and allow it to cool while you’re in the car or train. Prepare a breakfast smoothie and place in an insulated cup to have it as you are travelling on the train (personally I detest doing that, but there so many people that do it!).

Best of all of course is to get up earlier, and make a habit of preparing a proper family breakfast that you can have with everyone around the table, making it a good quality fun time, as well as a nutritious preparation for the toil of the day. However, one should remember my grandfather’s advice, wise as it is true. If you have a good breakfast, you will need to eat less during the day. Habitually, you should aim to have a light meal in the evening, which should be the lightest meal. All the more reason for having a formal family meal at breakfast-time.

What does a good breakfast consist of? One should avoid simple carbohydrates (e.g. sugar) and concentrate on consuming complex carbohydrates (e.g. starches in grains and rice), lean proteins and healthy fats (polyunsaturated, low cholesterol fats and fish oils). Whole wheat bread, cereals, white meats, eggs, low-fat dairy products, vegetables and fruits are excellent breakfast choices.

Eggs are one of the most popular breakfast foods and can be scrambled, made into an omelette, poached, boiled or fried. They are packed with protein, which “wakes up” the body more quickly. When eaten with starches and grains such as toast or potatoes, an egg breakfast becomes a hearty meal that will provide you with energy until lunch. Other protein-rich foods, such as cold meat cuts, are popular in Western Europe and South America. Usually accompanied by cheese and bread the protein is thus accompanied by carbohydrates for energy.

Dairy products are a great way to start the morning as they can be cool, refreshing, sometimes sweet and usually a good accompaniment to bread. Dairy products (especially the low-fat ones) are full of vitamins and minerals, helpful bacteria and protein. Yoghurts, cream cheeses, cottage cheese, cheese spreads and milk are great breakfast foods. If you have a sweet tooth, try using honey as a sweetener or use natural low calorie sweeteners like stevia.

Fruits and vegetables can be combined with other foods to complement the protein and carbohydrate with vitamin and micronutrient rich sources. Having an avocado instead of margarine or butter on toast is much healthier alternative. Avocados are packed with nutrients, protein and calories that will sustain you longer than just carbohydrate.

A variety of home-made whole grain muffins, nut breads, cereal and nut bars, scones, oatmeal-based foods can be incorporated into the breakfast menu and provide much-needed variety and interest to the breakfast table. Here is a recipe for some breakfast bars, especially suited to breakfast on the run.


1 large egg white, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 and 1/3 cups rolled, toasted breakfast oats
2/3 cup crushed toasted almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 160°C. Coat an 20 cm square metal baking pan with cooking spray.
Whisk egg white, honey, oil, vanilla and cinnamon in a small bowl until blended. Combine oats, nuts and raisins in a mixing bowl. Stir in the wet mixture until well coated.
Press the mixture into the prepared pan with a wet rubber spatula.
Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 12 bars.

Wednesday 19 January 2011


“The archer shall not put him to flight, the stones of the sling are to him like stubble.” - Job 41:28; Old Testament

Today is St Sebastian’s Feast Day according to Roman Catholic heortology. Greek Orthodox Christians commemorate this saint on the 18th December. Remarkably little is known of St Sebastian’s life but his cult adoration was well entrenched by the 5th century AD. He is the patron saint of athletes, the patron saint of archers, and also a protector from the plague. The symbolology of archery and arrows as a protection from the plague hark back to Greek mythology, with Apollo destroying pestilence with his arrows.

St Sebastian was born in France of Italian parents in the 3rd century AD, dying about 288 AD. So as to help his fellow Christians who were dying as martyrs he went to Rome and enlisted as an officer, becoming a great favourite of the emperor Diocletian (244 –311 AD). He converted many to Christianity until he was betrayed to the emperor by a false friend. Diocletian tried to make him change his faith but Sebastian was not to be shaken. The emperor ordered his archers to execute the Saint. Although every part of his body was pierced by arrows and the soldiers left him for dead, Sebastian was alive. A kindly widow, Irene, nursed him back to health and Sebastian went back to the emperor, urging him to stop his persecution of the Christians. Diocletian was intransigent and ordered a new martyrdom for Sebastian. The Saint was clubbed to death in the amphitheatre (hence the connection with athletes).

St Sebastian was buried in the Roman catacombs, but his remains were transferred to a church in the 4th Century. The remains asserted to be those of Sebastian are currently housed in Rome in the Basilica Apostolorum, built by Pope Damasus I in 367 AD on the site of the provisional tomb of St Peter and St Paul. The church, today called San Sebastiano fuori le mura, was rebuilt in the 1610s under the patronage of Scipione Borghese.

St Sebastian is a great favourite of artists, depicted in numerous artworks, especially paintings. He is usually shown as a handsome young man who is being martyred by having arrows shot at him. The connection with the Greek god Apollo is an obvious one and may explain why the saint became so popular, his cult being a surrogate one for the cult of Apollo,  the archer sun god and the curer of pestilence.

A yellow rose, Rosa spp, is today’s birthday flower. It symbolises jealousy and infidelity.  In the language of flowers a yellow rose means: “Let us forget” and may be symbolic of dying love, especially if it is given full-blown.  A rose thorn is symbolic of sin, death and pain.  In the last few decades, the yellow rose has lost some of its old negative meaning and is now more associated with the positive symbolism of happiness, return to the good times and joy about to be fulfilled.

Today is also St Agnes’s Eve. On this eve, young women took their shoes, put a sprig of rosemary in one, a sprig of thyme in the other, sprinkled them with water, placed them one on each side of their bed and said:
    St Agnes, that’s to lovers kind,
    Come ease the trouble of my mind.

They would then dream of their future husband.

The word for the day is:

Heortology |hēôrˈtôl əjē| (noun)
• A term used to denote the study of religious festivals. The term was originally only used in respect of Christian festivals, but it now covers all religions, in particular those of Ancient Greece.
DERIVATIVES: Heortological (adjective)
ORIGIN: From Greek, from heorté, ‘festival, holiday’ and -logia, ‘discourse’.

Tuesday 18 January 2011


“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” - W.B. Yeats

I use an Apple computer and I have been an avid fan of Macintoshes for decades now (gosh, that makes me feel so old! ;-). Apple Macintosh is a computer system that I have always related to well as it allows me to do what I want to do intuitively and with minimal concentration on the workings of the computer. The computer software and hardware are there in the background, while I concentrate on what I do in the foreground, being adequately supported “invisibly” by the technology. Whenever I try and use other computer systems they feel clunky and unintuitive and inhibitory.

The reason I talk about this today is because Apple has introduced into its desktop computer operating system an App Store, similar to what you have when you go into iTunes with an iPhone or an iPad. One may download Apps for the desktop computers as one may download them for an iPhone or an iPad. There are Apps both free and to buy. Once downloaded one runs these like other programs on one’s computer. I have downloaded several and they are exceedingly good. One of my favourites is a program called “SketchBookExpress”, which is a sketching and drawing application.

As it is Poetry Wednesday, I am highlighting another of these Apps, called “Desktop Poems”. It is based on the popular fridge magnet poem generator sets that one may purchase in bookshops and giftshops. In these a selection of words are printed individually on pieces of magnetised plastic and one places these on the fridge door, to rearrange at will into short poems… I’ve always thought this a wonderful idea, much romance and culture hidden in this simple word game that can insinuate its way into the routineness of our existence. Desktop poems does the same in an electronic format on the desktop. One generates lists of words and may then arrange the individual words into clusters, rows, columns, tiers, groups and be inspired by them.

The illustration above is a screenshot of my desktop where I have generated a pile of words and I have captured the moment where I am in the process of arranging them into clouds of meaning. The poem below is the final result:

The Quickest Cut

Evening wine drunk from a dark glass,
While on the far horizon, the orange moon peeks,
Rising slowly, soon to wax into silvern fullness.

I watch as short summer withers the garden
And autumn hidden in the piles of refuse and cuttings,
Lies in wait, soon to appear and paint all with rust.

Your eyes, purple as night – light as your spirit –
Watch as your heart heaves in your bosom,
And your whole being yearns for winter’s peace.

The hand holding a knife is ugly, we think,
Until we need a quick solution to slowly dying problems
And a deft, sharp cut is much the gentlest form of release.

My left shoe pinches my great toe, my right ear itches,
Morning will bring with it fatigue, the price of a sleepless night –
I too, yearn for winter, peace and the knife’s quick cut.

Monday 17 January 2011


“Sometimes in tragedy we find our life’s purpose - the eye sheds a tear to find its focus.” - Robert Brault

It is nearly three weeks into the New Year, and although as with every New Year, we expected that 2011 would come to us bearing promises of success, happiness and prosperity, instead it gave us some immediate misfortunes: The bushfires in Western Australia, the flood tragedy in Queensland and Brisbane’s inundation, quickly followed by the Victorian floods, which tested the best amongst us. Although our College campuses in Queensland were spared, many of our staff and students were victims of the disaster and we are experiencing some difficulties in returning to normal operations. The effects on our College and its community are considerably less than what the State of Queensland and the City of Brisbane will face in the near future. Northwestern Victoria is also reeling from flood-caused devastation. Longer-term repercussions of the disaster will affect us as a nation, as a community, as a financial entity in the international scene.

It is important in times like these to remember that within our own small community we are a microcosm, a reflection of the Nation at large, and also the whole world. We are reeling within our communities as we come to terms with our colleagues’ and students’ loss of loved ones and property. We are trying to maintain normality and our routine operations, even as several key areas of our infrastructure are suffering. To this end we are sticking together, gaining strength from each other and providing support where it is needed most. This is what is happening in Brisbane, in Queensland, in Victoria, nationwide, in fact.

The volunteer efforts in Queensland have been remarkable in the face of the flood tragedy, and similarly within our community we are seeing offers for help and support amongst our staff and student body. On the Melbourne Campus we already started a donation drive and many of our staff have made generous personal donations to the flood relief appeal. More fund-raising activities will follow. Strong leadership by the Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, has meant that flood-affected Queenslanders have been assured of open communication channels, good support, comfort and encouragement in their misfortune. Within our College, the leadership of our CEO has meant that we have also been able to overcome this crisis through her efforts.

A sense of perspective needs to temper our emotional response to tragedies such as those recently experienced by Australia. Immediately the Queensland floods and the Brisbane deluge started to claim lives and property, news broke of the terrible calamity in the Brazil floods and mudslides that claimed hundreds of lives and destroyed whole towns and villages. Our own catastrophe seemed to be easier to cope with, knowing that other people in the world were suffering in a similar way, and on a much greater scale. One’s own personal cross is harder to bear, of course, and it is little consolation that other people have to bear heavier crosses. Nevertheless, we should be consoled somewhat in the knowledge that we shall be able to overcome the crisis easier than other, harder hit communities.

Our college campuses survived intact, however, other institutions in Brisbane were flooded, and of course many residential properties were completely inundated. We are dealing with some post-flooding issues within our College, but this seems to be a small price to pay, with our staff and students showing a great deal of patience and understanding. By sticking together, helping each out as much as we can, providing support and encouragement where needed and acknowledging people’s best efforts during a stressful and difficult time we can overcome this crisis and look forward to better days.

In Japan, when an object is mended, the damaged part is highlighted by decorating it with precious metal. The presence of the flaw highlights the history of the object, with its value and beauty perceived as being greater than before. We too shall repair ourselves and wear proudly our scars, as if we are adorned with gold. We shall be whole again; stronger and more beautiful than before.

Sunday 16 January 2011


“Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts.” - Vladimir Nabokov

We recently watched the 2009 Donald Petrie move “My Life in Ruins”. This was the film that Nia Vardalos made on the wake of her widely successful “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” of 2002 and the 2004 “Connie and Carla”. This latest offering has Nia Vardalos only act (rather than write as well as act), and the screenplay in “My Life in Ruins” is by Mike Reiss. This was a bad move as the script is pure bathos and full of Hollywood clichés, chock full of cardboard cutout characters, predictable plotline and some stereotypical Greek jokes about the place, people and Greek “national traits”.

Nia Vardalos plays Georgia, an American academic in Athens, who has lost her university job. To tide herself over she has begun working as a tour guide, a job she dislikes as she wants the tourists to be as interested in Ancient Greek history, art and culture as she is. The (mainly American - but also Brit, Aussie, Spanish and Canadian) tourists are bored with history and they just want to shop and have a good time. The film takes us on a tour of Greek sites with a tourist group that has a shallow couple, a frat boy, an insufferable teen, a feuding couple, divorcées looking for a man, an Ocker couple, an uppity British family, some grey Canadians and a “funny guy”. There is also a sullen, bearded Greek coach driver in a bus without air conditioning and a competing tour guide who wants to scuttle Georgia’s chances of succeeding in her job for his own selfish reasons. Georgia’s journey becomes an odyssey but as one would expect in this extremely lightweight and barely amusing romp all will end well for everyone…

The “tall, dark and handsome” Greek bus driver is played by Alexis Georgoulis, an actor who has played in several Greek TV series and the odd movie. He looks distinctly uncomfortable in this film, with his character’s name (“Poupi Kakas”) being one of the objectionable scatological attempts at joking in the script. Richard Dreyfuss is another uncomfortable actor in the film, playing one of the American tourists. The only good choice I found was Alistair McGowan, the British actor who is quite successfully cast as the slimy, deceitful and conniving Nico, the competing Greek (sic!) tour guide.

This film is mildly amusing to boring (perhaps offensive, if you are a purist Greek) and unfortunately a waste of Ms Vardalos’ talent, who perhaps should have written the screen play herself and made a better job of it. The film had so much potential but it was really neither very funny nor terribly romantic. Some of the scenery is quite breathtaking (although the continuity is skewed!) and the terrible cast is always blocking the view of beautiful Greece! The idea behind the movie’s plot must have come from the less objectionable: “If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”, but lacks its charm and relatively good script.

Georgia as played by Vardalos is a self-deprecating parody of  Toula in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and unfortunately she ends up being rather lacklustre and boring in this film. Her transformation in the end is unbelievable and hampered by the weakness of the plot. The tourists are a corny, one-dimensional lot that consistently ham it up and end up being extremely tedious. Richard Dreyfuss was frankly quite annoying (I don’t like him much as an actor in any case). There is also some New Age nonsense interspersed with cheap philosophy and attempts at poignancy that are like an elephant in a tutu trying to dance en pointe.

I don’t recommend this movie at all, unless you are stuck for something to watch and it must be this. In this case, sneak a peek at some nice Greek scenery and try having an occasional titter at the ridiculous goings-on, on screen. Don’t expect wit, don’t expect originality, don’t expect good acting and don’t expect a good plot or believable characters!


“What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art.” Augustus Saint-Gaudens

We visited the Heide Museum of Modern Art recently (most often simply referred to as “Heide”). This is only one of Melbourne’s public contemporary art museums and is located in Bulleen, east of Melbourne, only a few minutes drive from our house. It was established as a museum in 1981, and is made up of a number of detached buildings, with surrounding gardens and parklands, which go right up to the Yarra River flats. As well as being a wonderful museum, the site is of historical importance and the whole complex is used as gallery space to exhibit works in various media by contemporary Australian artists.

Heide occupies the site of a former dairy farm that was purchased by the prominent Melbourne art collectors John and Sunday Reed in 1934 and became home to a collective known as the Heide Circle, which included many of Australia’s best-known modernist painters, such as: Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan, Laurence Hope Joy Hester and others, who lived and worked in the former farm house (Heide I).

Between 1964 and 1967, a new house was built (Heide II), and this is considered to be one of the finest examples of modernist architecture in Victoria, and was designed by acclaimed architects McGlashan and Everist. In 1981, the museum was established on the site, incorporating the existing buildings and surrounding gardens & parklands as exhibition and gallery spaces. The main gallery building (Heide III) was constructed in 1993 and the museum continued to broaden its collection of works to include all forms of contemporary Australian art, including some by contemporary indigenous artists.

The museum underwent major refurbishment in 2005-2006. Part of this renewal was the establishment of several sculptural and installation art pieces, landscaping and redesign of the gardens, construction of a new education centre and gallery space, extension of the Heide III building and various other works.   In 2009 after 19 months of redevelopment, the cafe reopened in November as Café Vue at Heide.

The picture shows the installation piece on the lawns to the north of the museum, entitled “Cows”, by Jeff Thomson, 1987 (photographed by J.Gollings, 2004). The cows are made of corrugated iron, which is integral part of outback Australia (and not only!), being used as a construction material, particularly of house and shed roofs. The rural connections of the material are extended by the subject matter, giving a particularly Australian flavor to the bucolic landscape installation. The piece is quite striking, especially when first seen. There are now many imitations of this piece, with all sorts of animals being up for sale in many a local garden centre so everyone can have a corrugated iron pet in their back yard!

As well as visiting the museum we always visit the wonderful kitchen garden, which was originally a ‘working garden’ supplying vegetables, herbs and fruit for meals prepared by Sunday Reed, an innovative cook. 

The garden is fully enclosed to protect it from rambling animals as well as the effects of extreme weather. Ravaged by floods, even during recent years, Heide’s gardeners have maintained the historical plantings in the garden as well as returning the lower section to rotating crops of vegetables, which are used to prepare meals in the Café Vue at Heide.