Saturday 2 April 2011


“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears; soft stillness, and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.” - William Shakespeare

A relaxing day today, just as I had hoped it would be. And just to finish the day off gently and sweetly, here is a beautiful Hindi song from the film Eklayva. It is called Chanda Re (“The Moon Song”) and sung wonderfully by Hamsika Iyer.

Thursday 31 March 2011


“And there never was an apple, in Adam’s opinion, that wasn’t worth the trouble you got into for eating it.” - Neil Gaiman

I am so glad this week is over. It has been full-on and I feel exhausted. I am looking forward to the weekend in order to rest a little and relax. Hopefully there won’t be too many chores around the house and garden to do, although that is too much of a vain hope, as there so many little jobs always waiting, especially as autumn advances...

It was April Fool’s Day today and I heard nothing clever, I’m afraid, only some very tired and corny jokes, pranks and tasteless pictures. It surely is a sign of getting old, I think.

A French-inspired autumn recipe today, to take advantage of the wonderful new season apples that are now appearing in great numbers and variety in the markets and greengrocers’ shops at the moment. The clafoutis is a typical French dessert, which is like a tart crossed with cake and typically consists of cherries baked in a sweet batter. Numerous variations on this theme exist where different types of fruit take the place of the cherries. Here is such a seasonal variation:

Apple Clafoutis

4 cups peeled, sliced apples
1 ½ cups whole milk
4 eggs
½ cup self-raising flour, sifted
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence

Icing sugar and ground cinnamon for dusting

1) Preheat oven to 175°C. Lightly grease a deep 25 cm pie plate.
2) Arrange the apples evenly over the bottom of the plate.
3) Combine milk, vanilla, sugar and eggs in a blender until smooth.
4) Add the flour and blend 5 seconds.
5) Pour batter over apples. Bake 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.
6) Serve warm after dusting with icing sugar and cinnamon.


“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” - Hanna Rion Ver Beck

I got home a little earlier than usual this evening and made the most of the fine, mild autumn evening and went out into the garden. The sun was setting, the evening air crisp and cool and the garden starting to become filled with violet shadows as it surrendered to the reign of approaching night. The sun turned the treetops a golden orange and the white flowers of the cosmos only shone out like beacons, but as the eye examined them the white was an illusion, their petals more a steely-greyish, light blue, their normally chrome yellow centres a drab beige. The red flowers of the azaleas and the roses were a crimson brown and the bright orange of the marigolds had turned a dull terracotta.

The crepuscular mood suited me well and I lingered in the advancing dusk, smelling the sweet fragrance of the late flowering jasmine, the bracing pungency of rue, the freshness of mint and pennyroyal, the flowery softness of rose geranium. I examined the reddish lantern-like physalis, the burgeoning seedpods of dying summer annuals and the yellowing leaves of the tomato plants, still holding on tenaciously to their ripening fruit. The foliage of the orange tree was a dark, vivid green and the small green unripe oranges full of life, promising bursts of juicy sunshine in the depths of winter ahead.

We rush around and keep ourselves forever busy, not really taking in much of what surrounds us. A veiny fern leaf hides so much beauty, a sun-warmed rock possesses a wealth of tactile pleasures, a sprig of rosemary conceals a thousand memories of the spicy aromas of Arabia. A ripe apple bursts in our mouth and releases sweetness and honeyed favoursome juices and remembrances of spring blossoms. The two-note chirping of a bird echoing in the evening light as the leaves rustle in the rising breeze, with the distant chiming of a wind-harp become a sweet symphony. Such simple things can give so many and such great pleasures, if only we sit, relax and take it all in…

The back garden this evening became a serene place, a quiet refuge, a cloister, an isolated hermitage. I secluded myself there and removed all thoughts from the rush of the day, the petty squabbles, the deceit and the treachery, the mad noise of traffic and the loud hubbub of crowds. The silent statues looked on complicitly and their smiles frozen in stone seemed to signal approbation of my little respite. I shut my mind to the harshness of environmental disasters, the agony of wretches battling for survival, the torment of populaces embroiled in wars and battles. I meditated on my good fortune and thanked with all my being the happy accident of my existence that was generous enough to allow me to enjoy this quiet time in the peace of an autumn garden.

It was in the mauve depths of late twilight that I made my way back into the warmly lit house, as the wind began to blow and its bite could be felt through my clothes. I had entered a temple and had prayed, I had mediated and had rejoiced. My senses had been refreshed and my mind lightened. Now it was time for me to return to the everyday routine and anticipate tomorrow as yet another day full of the mad rush of urban living. But I was grateful and refreshed, my mind was at ease and my heart was delighted…

crepuscular |krəˈpəskyələr| adjective
Of, resembling, or relating to twilight.
Zoology (of an animal) appearing or active in twilight.
ORIGIN mid 17th century: From Latin crepusculum ‘twilight’

Wednesday 30 March 2011


“All a man can betray is his conscience.” - Joseph Conrad

Betrayal is hard to cope with, but it is perhaps felt even more sharply and keenly when it is combined with ingratitude on the part of the traitor. Such behaviour can highlight the worse in human beings and shows the basest kinds of motivations and urges that people can display. While we may all have been betrayed to an extent at one or another stage of our life, major forms of disloyalty and treachery that affect us can crush us and have widespread effects, psychologically and emotionally.


BY day she woos me, soft, exceeding fair:
But all night as the moon so changeth she;
Loathsome and foul with hideous leprosy
And subtle serpents gliding in her hair.
By day she woos me to the outer air,
Ripe fruits, sweet flowers, and full satiety:
But through the night, a beast she grins at me,
A very monster void of love and prayer.
By day she stands a lie: by night she stands
In all the naked horror of the truth
With pushing horns and clawed and clutching hands.
Is this a friend indeed; that I should sell
My soul to her, give her my life and youth,
Till my feet, cloven too, take hold on hell?

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Tuesday 29 March 2011


“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” - Ernest Hemingway

Have you heard of Jeremy Morlock? He is an unfortunate 22-year-old American soldier who was found guilty in a court martial on the 23rd of March 2011, for his reprehensible actions while part of a “rogue killing squad” that murdered unarmed Afghan men between January and May in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was sentenced to 24 years in gaol The judge, Lt Col Kwasi Hawks, said he had intended to sentence Morlock to life in prison with the possibility of parole but had been bound by a plea bargain under which Morlock would be sentenced to a maximum of 24 years in prison in return for testifying against his comrades.

Morlock pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and one count each of illegal drug use, conspiracy and obstructing justice. He told the court that the killings were planned in late 2009, and that he and his comrades had conspired to plant weapons on the corpses to make the killings appear justified. Morlock admitted that he and his fellow-soldiers were killing people who were completely innocent. He said the murder plot was led by the unit’s leader, Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs, who is also charged in the killings but who maintained the killings were justified.

These proceedings came two days after German magazine “Der Spiegel” published photographs showing US soldiers grinning over the corpses of Afghan civilians they had allegedly killed. In addition to Staff Sgt Gibbs, charged in the murders are Pte First Class Andrew Holmes, Spc Michael Wagnon and Spc Adam Winfield. Other soldiers are accused of dismembering the victims and collecting body parts in a grisly trophy hunt. The photos published by Der Spiegel were said to be among many seized by US Army investigators.

Morlock perhaps was typical of his generation, being brought up in uncertain times and having few options in terms of a job or prospects, given his underachieving school career. He was originally from Wasilla, Alaska, and he enlisted in 2006 after stopping his high school studies at 19 years of age. When he was training in boot camp, he was homesick and often became depressed. His condition deteriorated after his father’s death by drowning in 2007.

Two years later, while on combat duty in Afghanistan he suffered a concussion. There are letters to his mother, which indicate that he was not sleeping well and may have been traumatised. He was prescribed over ten different medications (including painkillers, anti-depressants, and sleeping pills), so the medical doctors treating him knew that something was seriously wrong. The big question at this stage is where is the duty of care shown to their patient by these doctors? Why wasn’t he sent home as he should have so that he could recover? He needed his family, and close to his mother he could perhaps have overcome his father’s death and put back together the broken pieces of his life.

Instead, Morlock stayed on in Afghanistan and began to become habituated to the local hashish, diagnosed by his doctors as cannabis dependence, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), post-concussive disorder, and a slew of other psychological disturbances. The soldier was still not sent home and he continued to serve actively in combat duty. Is it surprising that this young man with a multitude of psychological problems, heavily medicated and addicted to cannabis became involved in the plot to kill Afghan innocent civilians?

Who is the real guilty party here? Morlock or his doctors? Morlock or his military leaders? Morlock or the government that sent him thousands of kilometres away from home to fight an invisible and ever elusive enemy? Morlock’s brief was to kill terrorists and enemies of democracy. In the dark every cat is gray. In Morlock’s blackest hour is it surprising that every turban-wearing Afghan became a terrorist threat and easily accessible target to shoot at? In his hashish-addled mind was it so difficult to transform the heinous acts he was committing to glorious and heroic deeds? Perhaps he was a sad victim of circumstances, a pitiful casualty of the bewildering war he was sent to fight. Morlock committed acts of extreme barbarity and inhuman savagery. As a society we condemned him as we would a rational human being that committed these acts in full possession of his faculties. But was this a sane, rational man who possessed his faculties and thought through his actions?

The judges thought he was. Morlock admitted that he was aware that he and his comrades-in-arms were shooting innocent civilians. The brutality of the callous acts was magnified when every detail of the slaying was immortalised on video and film and the savage cries of triumph were recorded for posterity. In their minds, these soldiers were on a holy mission for their country, for democracy and freedom, fighting against terrorism and communism and everything un-American. The results of their actions were that some poor innocent Afghan wretches did not return to their family that night and their wives and children had to weep over their bloody and mutilated bodies.

What society can look at its actions and forgive itself the wrongs that it meted out to Morlock and his comrades? What society can forgive itself for the killings perpetrated by Morlock and every other soldier like Morlock on a phantom battlefield, fighting ghostly enemies, jousting at windmills because they viewed them as ogres? What society can forgive itself when it commits these acts of barbarity in the name of freedom and democracy? By what strange delusion can such a society masquerade cruel and calculated acts that serve its economy as idealistic and kind acts of liberation? The answer is the same society that absolves itself by sacrificing scapegoats like Morlock. The same society that creates monsters in order to send out posses to destroy them in self-righteous rage…

Monday 28 March 2011


“The Wedding March always reminds me of the music played when soldiers go into battle.” - Heinrich Heine

Under sufferance, at the weekend, I sat through one of the worst movies I have seen recently. It was Gary Winick’s 2009 “Bride Wars”. This very definitely falls into the “chick flick” genre, and more specifically (I guess) the teenager market. I took one look at the synopsis on the back of the DVD and was certain I would not go for this film. However, one has to make concessions and I braced myself and watched it. In the end although none of the four of us watching it liked it particularly, the other man and I really disliked it, while our women companions were the ones giggling now and then (while we were rolling our eyes up at the ceiling!)…

The plot is formulaic and pulls every cliché out of the tattered bag of tricks in order to concoct the unlikely and ostensibly funny story. In New York’s Manhattan there are two childhood friends who have grown up to be a successful lawyer, Liv (Kate Hudson), and the underachieving schoolteacher, Emma (Anne Hathaway). They both have boyfriends and both are obsessed with marriage, having planned lavish weddings at the Plaza Hotel from their childhood when they were playing at being bride and groom in their attic. They are proposed to by their boyfriends on the same day, and as they always dreamed, they plan their wedding parties at the Plaza Hotel. They use the services of the most famous wedding planner, Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen); who else would plan the perfect wedding? However, due to a mistake made by Marion’s secretary, their weddings are scheduled for the same day, at the same place at the same time. Neither of them wishes to negotiate and neither agrees to change the date of her wedding. From friends they become mortal enemies and for most of the film they keep trying to sabotage each other’s wedding preparations and the ceremony itself.

Unfortunately, the film is too contrived, the characters two-dimensional, the acting average and the jokes too sparse and too predictable. If you see the trailer, you’ve seen all the jokes, I think.  As is usual in these films there is a transformation and a happy end (of course), but it is all just so tedious! The production may be slick and the sets (especially the Plaza) lavish, however, at the end of it all I could think was “what a waste…” Waste of money, waste of actors, waste of production staff, waste of resources, but most of all waste of my time.

I was so intrigued by the film’s under-average performance that I googled it to see what the critics had to say. I was not surprised to find out that Mark Kermode (BBC’s film critic) found the film execrable. He nominated it as one of the worse films of 2009 and in fact, threatened that if this film was not one of the 10 worst films of 2009 he would quit film criticism! Fortunately, he was not wrong.

This film is not particularly challenging in terms of your attention span, not really funny, nor original. It is not a romantic comedy, not particularly successful as a film about friendship, nor is it a film that is memorable or one that I would recommend to someone to watch. It’s enough admitting here that I watched it. Maybe I should now consider joining “Terrible Film Watchers Anonymous”…

Sunday 27 March 2011


“Sculpture is the best comment that a painter can make on painting.” - Pablo Picasso

It turned out to be a beautiful autumn day today. Sunny, mild and calm. We went out for a drive and after visiting a market we went to the Heide Art Gallery, but rather than confine ourselves to the interior and the exhibition of some rather freaky Albert Tucker Australian modernist paintings, we decided to spend the whole of the beautiful day on the grounds. It seems that many people had the same idea as there were visitors all over the place, people having picnics, tourists, families with children and elderly couples out for a stroll.

There is a huge range of sculptures on show on the grounds and one can find all sorts of styles, but largely the theme is modern art, with some outrageously cheeky pieces, as well as some horrific concoctions that make the wonderful art there even better. Nevertheless, as much as one enjoys the art, nature is the supreme artist on the grounds and every season one can find a number of blooms on show, as well as various fruits and magnificent trees, herbs, ground covers and wildflowers displayed in the way that only nature can.

One of the best places to start from is the kitchen garden, with its rows of seasonal vegetables, herbs and flowers, which offers not only a crop for the table, but also delights the senses with wonderful colours, forms, rich smells and delightful textures. Even in autumn this garden was beautiful and we enjoyed rambling around its paths and admiring the plethora of plants growing there. There were ripe figs (delicious as we sampled them), acorns, wild strawberries, rose hips, haws, seeds of every kind ripening on the spent flower stalks. There cleomes in bloom, geraniums and sage, mallows, jack-in-the-pulpit, late roses, callistemons, naked lady lilies, bachelors’ buttons, cyclamens, and many kinds of daisies and asters.

For Art Sunday, here is a sculpture from the Heide grounds. It is David Wilson’s “Small Sculpture for my Grandmother’s Vase”, created in 1990. David Wilson arrived in Australia in 1965 having studied painting at the Harrow School of Art in England. He completed his Associate Diploma in Sculpture from the National Gallery School, in Melbourne in 1970. Much of his earlier sculptural works were very much within the welded steel tradition often associated with the work of Anthony Caro. From the 1980s onwards, texture and later paint became key elements in his work. With a painter’s eye, he uses colour for constructing space and volume.

I like this particular sculpture as it is compact and reminds me of something familiar and homey, although one cannot quite say what it is exactly. It looks like a table, or maybe even a chair or a stool, a magazine rack, or a letterbox. At the same time it’s quite fluid, graceful, organic and almost floral in its arrangement. Truly something fit for a vase. It is pleasing and perfect for the garden setting it is in.

The artist has this to say about his sculptures:

“Much of the inspiration for both forms and colours comes from observations of landscape and skyscape, particularly the skies which I often photograph as a source material. The look of the sky seems to be one of our few remaining daily surroundings unblemished by human interference - it is distant, uncompromised, both innocent and indifferent – and it is these aspects of its character which make it so suitable a source for an artist who has become somewhat contemptuous of our culture’s preoccupation with itself. A kind of incest where humanity and its delusions are treated as the measure of all things. The look of the sky, shapes and colours, seems untouched and invulnerable to our conceits. I want my sculptures’ physical presence and painterly textured surfaces to seem to share that cited innocence and indifference, to be unequivocally ‘there’ and ‘here’, but apart, never really known except in the experiencing of them, alluding to things natural, without ever being able to be placed.”