Saturday 26 May 2012


 “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.” - Andrew Wyeth

The weekend is here again and another Saturday filled with the blessed routine of doing chores around the house and some shopping for essentials. Otherwise, the weather has been too bad for gardening or any other seriously outdoor activity. Instead, it has been a day of staying inside and luxuriating in the warmth and cosiness of home. We watched a movie, read, listened to music and generally relaxed.

What better than some Antonio Vivaldi to finish the day off? Here is his Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor (RV 522) from L'Estro Armonico, Op.3.No.8. This is a favourite of mine, but it also was a favourite of J.S. Bach’s as he transcribed it for keyboard. It is a very dramatic concerto with wonderful melody, harmony, and much incident that is inventive and adventurous. Perfect for the blustery winter season, illustrating some wild weather, but also the pleasures of a warm fireside!

Friday 25 May 2012


“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” - William Blake

It was a real winter’s day today with almost non-stop rain, wind and cold temperatures. As the rain lashed the windows at work, some colleagues that had braved the elements came back wet, and through chattering teeth, mumbled: “It’s ghastly out there, today!” I had occasion to attest to the veracity of this when I went out to the bank at lunchtime. The street was full of people walking quickly with unfurled umbrellas and the traffic was quite chaotic (really, I do believe that rain dissolves the brain of most car drivers)!

In the afternoon we had a work social function at Docklands and we all walked there despite the weather, as we are all taking part in the Global Corporate Challenge and we have to clock up at least 10,000 steps per day each. We laughed and joked through the rain and wind and battled with umbrellas that turned inside out. I must say that this new job is great so far with a fantastic set of co-workers and a great company ethos and policies…

I got home later in the evening and it was wonderful to come into a warm house where some Mozart was playing and where smells of delicious cooking wafted through from the kitchen. We had a delicious meal, not the least part of which was a classic, good, old-fashioned, wintry dessert:

Apple Crumble

1/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup raw sugar
3/4 cup oats
1/2 cup desiccated coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1/2  cup of melted butter
6 cooking apples (Granny Smith are fine), peeled, cored and sliced

Slice apples and place on bottom of a buttered pie dish.
Mix all the dry ingredients well and add the molten butter, mixing well so the mix is crumbly.
Put the crumble on top of the apples.
Bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 24 May 2012


“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; What a wonderful feeling, I’m happy again.” - Arthur Freed
Today is Orthodox Ascension Day. The Ascension of Jesus (anglicised from the Vulgate Latin Acts 1:9-11 section title: Ascensio Iesu) is the Christian teaching found in the New Testament that the resurrected Jesus was taken up to heaven in his resurrected body, [Acts 1:9-11] in the presence of eleven of his apostles, occurring 40 days after the resurrection. In the biblical narrative, an angel tells the watching disciples that Jesus’ second coming will take place in the same manner as his ascension.

The Ascension of Jesus is professed in the Nicene Creed and in the Apostles’ Creed. The Ascension implies Jesus’ humanity being taken into Heaven. The Feast of the Ascension, celebrated on the 40th day of Easter (always a Thursday), is one of the chief feasts of the Christian year. The feast dates back at least to the later 4th century, as is widely attested. The account of Jesus ascending bodily into the clouds is given fully only in the Acts of the Apostles, but is briefly described also in the Gospel of Luke at 24:50–53 and in the ending of Mark 16 at 16:19.

If it rains on this day it is purported to be a very good omen as the heavens opened up to receive Christ and any rain that falls down is holy.  Rainwater gathered and used for bathing has curative properties for all sorts of complaints, but especially so for eye disorders.  Well water from holy wells if gathered early on Ascension morning has similar properties.  Ascensiontide and Whitsuntide are favoured days for “well-dressing” so as to ensure a plentiful supply of water over the next year.

We are experiencing a wet and cold Autumn this year and there is no shortage of water falling from the heavens. Our water storage dams for the metropolitan area of Melbourne are 65% full this year, as compared to 54% last year at the same time. This is wonderful news as only a few years ago we were experiencing terrible droughts and ravaging bushfires. More rain is predicted for the next few days and it is wonderful to look out of the window and see the sheets of water falling down.

Wednesday 23 May 2012


“Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes, a farewell is necessary before you can meet again and meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.” - Richard Bach
Saying goodbye is hard. Especially if you know it’s adieu and not au revoir. It was officially my last day at work today and after handing in my keys, credit card, taxi card, phone, computer, and all things corporate, I made my goodbyes to the staff. It was a little melancholy, there were many nice words said, a lot of earnest hand-shaking, some hugs and the turning of a page that signified the end of an era and the beginning of another.

Walking down the stairs for the last time after closing the door of my office I knew that this was really the last time I would be there as an employee and henceforth, any time I chanced in the building again I would be a “member of the public”. While I had a good relationship with everyone, it was a small number of people that I considered closer than others and certainly none that I would class as friends. Work relationships are mostly purely professional and most people would not have it any other way.

Sad though the occasion was, once this chapter ended another begins and the new job beckons. That is the happy part. In all endings there are beginnings, in all partings there are also the promises of new relationships.

Tuesday 22 May 2012


“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses” - Ziggy (Single panel comic strip created by Tom Wilson) 

I am an early bird and get in at work at about 7:00 am. As I was walking into work this morning it was dark, windy, cold and showery. I mumbled something you don’t want to know about as I walked resolutely on, and grumbled quite a bit. However, I immediately bit my tongue and chided myself as I thought about where I live and how lucky I am to live my life the way I do. A quick reckoning of the pros and cons quickly convinced me that I am indeed very fortunate to enjoy the quality of life I do. A cold, late autumn early morning is a minor inconvenience – a useful and interesting punctuation mark perhaps in an otherwise peaceful, pleasant and quite wonderful existence.

I live in what I think is a very beautiful city: Melbourne is a lovely clean, safe city, blessed with many magnificent public buildings, great facilities for entertainment, education, leisure, public gatherings, theatre, arts, sport. It is a city that is easy to get around in, has a good standard of living, nice people (mostly :-) and has a good climate – not too hot during the summer not too cold during the winter. It is a hub of culture, the arts, sport and has a good, year-round selection of fresh produce available in its many markets. There is a wealth of interesting cafés and restaurants that are of very high quality and the cost of living is not excessively high by world standards.

I am lucky enough to have a rewarding, satisfying job, good friends and loving family and a stable, comfortable life that offers me what many people around the world can only dream about. It is churlish to sit and think that my life is unpleasant or beset by problems and countless issues. In evaluating all I have the only feeling I can muster is gratitude. I am indeed blessed with a life that is wonderful.

It is a good thing to stop and do this little evaluation whenever we feel down, displeased with our lot, angry or exasperated. Bringing to mind the millions of people around the world that have much more pressing, or even life-threatening problems to cope with every moment of the day is enough to make one a little more circumspect about complaining and grumbling about non-issues, relatively speaking…

Monday 21 May 2012


“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.” - Shirley MacLaine

Lately, there has been a renewed wave of interest in all manner of things supernatural and fantastical and occult. I guess the trend started in earnest with the Harry Potter phenomenon, which generated a host of imitators, and then the Twilight saga that spawned another rush of vampire books and movies, the ever-popular comic superheroes that never really went away and now a flow of fairy tale reinventions that have been retold to appeal all the more to an older audience.

We saw last weekend Catherine Hardwicke’s 2011 movie “Red Riding Hood” with David Johnson guilty of writing the screenplay and starring Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons and Gary Oldman. The film is a rewrite of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this version trying to cast the tale in the Twilight mould (and cash in on the fans of that saga). Red Riding Hood is not “Little”, but rather a nubile young village girl that is menaced by a werewolf and whose affections are vied for by two young village lads.

The plot becomes muddied by trying to be all things to all people and there is an attempt to catch as many slices of the market as it can, but the main audience is the young teen market with its penchant for creepy romances and neo-gothic horror tales. The reduction of the story to a corny love triangle with the (bad CGI) werewolf weaving in and out of the scenes periodically, all set in fake-looking scenery just didn’t hit the spot with us, but probably was OK for the juvenile market.

Add to that very poor acting by the young leads: Seyfried as Red Riding Hood gives a very bland performance (even though the script calls for her to be a little tinged with evil!), Fernandez and Irons as the rival lovers are banally bad (mere eye candy for young teen girls), while the older leads Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen and Michael Shanks have some really corny and trifling lines to deliver and try to do their best with what remarkably poor material they have been given. The best acting came from veteran actress Julie Christie (still looking remarkably attractive at 71 years of age) who played Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and Gary Oldman who camped it up as a sadistic priest, and who didn’t go far enough way out  as the script didn’t allow it…

In case you are interested in the plot, here it is, as supplied by Warner Brothers: “Valerie (Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter (Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Irons). Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie’s older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village. For years, the people have maintained an uneasy truce with the beast, offering the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Oldman), to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon’s arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. As the death toll rises with each moon...”

Well Warner Brothers, you have not even come close to the Brothers Grimm. The retelling of this fairy tale fell well short of expectations and the climax was a bit of a fizzer. Although, the ending did set the stage for a sequel (heaven forbid!). Don’t bother with this one, watch instead the now classic 1981 “An American Werewolf in London" or for more sexual tension and repressed beastliness see the 1984 “The Company of Wolves".

Sunday 20 May 2012


“Art is meant to upset people, science reassures them.” - Georges Braque
Georges Braque,  (born May 13th, 1882, Argenteuil, France - died August 31st, 1963, Paris), was a French painter, one of the important revolutionaries of 20th-century art who, together with Pablo Picasso, developed Cubism. His paintings consist primarily of still lives that are remarkable for their solid construction, muted colour harmonies, and often evoke a serene, meditative quality.

Georges Braque developed his painting skills while working for his father, a house decorator. He moved to Paris in 1900 to study where he was drawn to the work of the Fauve artists, including Matisse, Derain and Dufy, as well as the late landscapes of Cézanne. Meeting Picasso marked a huge turning point in Braque’s development and together they evolved as leaders of Cubism.

After a brief interlude in which he was called up to fight in the First World War, Braque’s style developed in the direction he was to follow for the rest of his life. In establishing the principle that a work of art should be autonomous and not merely imitate nature, Cubism redefined art in the twentieth century. Braque’s large compositions incorporated the Cubist aim of representing the world as seen from a number of different viewpoints. He wanted to convey a feeling of being able to move around within the painting.

From 1909 until his death, Georges Braque devoted himself to the still life-tabletop arrangements with musical instruments, pieces of fruit, and other objects. Of Braque’s fascination with objects, the painter Juan Gris once said, “In the guitar Braque found his new Madonna.” When the human figure did appear in his paintings, it was treated simply as another shape and was often subordinate to the other objects in the composition.

During the last years of his life Braque was honoured with important retrospective exhibitions throughout the world, and in December 1961 he became the first living artist to have his works exhibited in the Louvre.

The painting here, “Still Life: The Table”, of 1928 (Oil on canvas. 81.3 x 130.8 cm, Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) highlights many features of Braque’s unique vision of the world through his art. There is the cubist element, the low-key colour scheme, the characteristic focus on inanimate objects, superpositions and contrasts that nevertheless unify the depicted objects and combine them in a complementary fashion. This painting reminds me somewhat of an exercise in meditation and its contemplation can give one a sense of tranquillity and inner peace. The texture of the paint and the colours appeal to me especially and as hobbyist/artist I am fascinated by the painting in terms of technique.