Saturday 11 August 2012


“We don’t have an eternity to realize our dreams, only the time we are here.” - Susan Taylor

A Saturday in Winter. Rain and a gray day. Memories of sun and a trip back in time, to a place far away.

Here is a Greek singer called Christianna who was popular in the 1970s. It is called “I Wear your Shadow as a Dress”.

I Wear your Shadow as a Dress

In the heat of mid-noon,
A naked little seashell,
I lean into the young man’s embrace
Whose lips are as if they’re painted.

I wear your shadow as a dress
In the hot south wind, in the cool zephyr,
And my body shakes
Like a water lily in the water.

The stone thirsts for water
And flesh yearns for a caress,
You become the rich warp
And I’ll become the weft around you.

I wear your shadow as a dress
In the hot south wind, in the cool zephyr,
And my body shakes
Like a water lily in the water.

Friday 10 August 2012


“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” - Charles M. Schulz
One of the common sweet treats that have traditionally been a feature of Australian cooking are the “slices”. These are small, 5cm x 5cm, squares or oblongs of sweetmeat that can be described as a cross between a biscuit and a cake. There is an enormous variety of recipes based on cream and chocolate, fruit and nut, caramel and butterscotch, oat and grains or any combination of these. They are a wonderful afternoon tea treat, although those with a sweet tooth will be tempted at other times of the day as well…
Here is a recipe for a chocolate mousse slice that is definitely tempting and tastes quite delicious.
Chocolate Mousse Slice
Ingredients - Slice

125 g butter, chopped up
160 g dark eating chocolate
1 egg
150 g caster sugar
110 g plain flour
75 g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
Ingredients - Mousse topping
3 teaspoons boiling water
2 teaspoons drinking chocolate powder (or cocoa powder)
250 g fresh whipping cream
A few drops of vanilla essence
160 g milk chocolate melted
  • Preheat oven to 180˚C and grease a 20 cm x 30 cm rectangular baking dish, lining the bottom and side with baking paper.
  • Stir butter and dark chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Let cool for 10minutes.
  • Stir sugar and eggs into the butter/chocolate mixture and stir in the sifted flours.
  • Spread the mixture evenly into the pan and bake for about 15 minutes. Let it cool in the pan.
  • Meanwhile make the mousse topping by first dissolving the cocoa (or drinking chocolate) in the boiling water in a cup. Allow to cool.
  • Pour the cooled cocoa liquid into the cream, add the vanilla essence and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
  • Fold in the melted chocolate and cool. Pour over the baked base and refrigerate until set (about 3 hours).
  • Dust the top with powdered cocoa and cut into squares.
This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also par tof the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 9 August 2012


“Asia is rich in people, rich in culture and rich in resources. It is also rich in trouble.” Hubert H. Humphrey

Today is Singapore’s National Day. Singapore spread over a major island and 62 small ones was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles and was a British Crown Colony since 1867 until its independence in 1965. The mangrove-swamped island to the South of Malaysia was transformed in an astoundingly short time into one of the most modern and economically developed countries of Southeast Asia. With few natural resources on its 710 square km area to employ its ethnically diverse 5.2 million inhabitants, Singapore has built its economy on financial services, manufacture of precision goods and electronics, as well as free enterprise and tourism. The climate is hot and humid with much rainfall allowing the tropical vegetation free rein and making the Singapore orchids a national symbol as well as a major export. Singapore is the capital with Jurong another city to the Northwest.

Singapore has four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. English is the common language of the nation and is the language of business, government and medium of instruction in schools. Public bodies in Singapore conduct their businesses in English, and official documents written in a non-English official language such as Chinese, Malay or Tamil typically have to be translated into English to be accepted for submission. The Singapore Constitution and all laws are written in English, and translators are also required if one wishes to address the Singaporean Courts in a language other than English. However, English is the native tongue for only one-third of all Singaporeans, with roughly a third of all Singaporean Chinese, a quarter of all Singaporean Malays and half of all Singaporean Indians speaking it as their native tongue. Twenty percent of Singaporeans, or one out of every five, is unable to read or write in English.

Singapore has over 50% of its area covered by lush tropical vegetation and with over 50 major parks and 4 nature reserves, it is truly a garden city. Large self-contained residential towns have mushroomed all over the island, around the clean and modern city centre. The centre of the city located in the south of the larger island, — consisting roughly of the Orchard road shopping area, the Riverside, the new downtown Marina Bay area and also the skyscrapers-filled Shenton way, which houses the financial district known in acronym-loving Singapore as the CBD (Central Business District).

Singaporean food is well-known throughout the world, with bustling hawker centres and 24-hour coffee shops offering cheap food from all parts of Asia. The city is a shoppers mecca and tourists can easily go over their baggage allowances in Orchard Road and Suntec City. In recent years some social and cultural restrictions have also loosened up, and now you can bungee jump and dance on bar-tops all night long, although alcohol is still very pricy and chewing gum can only be bought from a pharmacy. Two casino complexes — or “Integrated Resorts”, to use the Singaporean euphemism — opened in 2010 in Sentosa and Marina Bay as part of Singapore’s new Fun and Entertainment drive, the aim being to double the number of tourists visiting and increasing the length of time they stay within the country.

Singapore holds numerous events each year. Some of its famous festivals and events include the Singapore Food Festival, the Singapore Grand Prix, the Singapore Arts Festival, the Chingay Parade, the World Gourmet Summit and ZoukOut. The Singapore Sun Festival is another popular festival in Singapore, with many international celebrities visiting the country to take part. Christmas is also widely celebrated in Singapore, a season where the city streets and shopping malls along its famous shopping belt Orchard Road are lit up and decorated in vibrant colours. In addition, the Singapore Jewel Festival attracts numerous tourists every year, and is a display of precious gems, famous jewels and masterpieces from international jewellers and designers.

I always enjoy visiting Singapore, having opportunity to go there for work or to stop over when we fly to Europe. It is a hospitable, clean and safe country where the people are friendly and there is a lot to see and do, with many new attractions, increasing services and huge developments being apparent each time we visit. The hotels are numerous and well appointed and places that we love to visit are the Botanic Gardens (including the National Orchid Garden), Little India, Arab Street, Sentosa Island and of course the CBD. Singapore National University is another place that I visit often and this is a premier University not only in Asia, but also worldwide.

Wednesday 8 August 2012


 “Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.” - Saint Teresa of Ávila

Today is the Feast Day of St Mary McKillop, Australia’s first Roman Catholic saint. Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne in 1842. Her parents, Flora and Alexander MacKillop, were Catholic immigrants from Scotland. Mary, the eldest of eight children, was raised in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. At 16, Mary went out to work, to support her younger brothers and sisters. Two years later she took a job as a governess on her uncle’s farm in the small country town of Penola in South Australia. Here Mary met the man who would change her life forever, Father Julian Tenison Woods.

Father Woods was a charming and eccentric priest who shared Mary’s dream of educating the poor. He became her mentor and spiritual guide. Father Woods was such a charismatic character that when he moved to Adelaide, according to Mary, many of the mothers of the town locked their doors when they saw Father Woods coming past, because they didn’t want their daughters to be running off and joining the Josephites!

Mary and Father Woods opened the first free Catholic school in Penola in 1866, at first in a converted stable and later in this more substantial stone building. A year later they founded a new religious order of nuns, called the Sisters of St Joseph. These nuns were devoted to teaching poor. Mary was just 25 years old when she took her vows, becoming the order’s first sister and its leader. Within four years of Mary becoming a sister there were 130 Sisters of Saint Joseph, and this was the first Catholic order founded by an Australian. They vowed to live in poverty, own no property and were committed to equality. These were central to the order’s rule.

As well as schools, Mary MacKillop and the sisters founded hospitals and orphanages, as well as providing shelters for the homeless, former prostitutes and unmarried mothers. And they raised all of the money themselves, mostly by begging. Other religious orders were controlled by their local bishops but the Sisters of St Joseph insisted on governing themselves, something that caused considerable friction with the church. This conflict, along with allegations of sexual abuse the sisters raised against a priest at Kapunda, north of Adelaide, led Adelaide Bishop Laurence Sheil to excommunicate Mary MacKillop for alleged insubordination in 1871. Five months later Bishop Sheil was gravely ill and dying; from his deathbed he instructed that Mary be absolved and restored to her order, allowing her to continue her work.

In 1873, Mary travelled to Rome for a personal audience with Pope Pius IX and obtained papal approval for the sisterhood. She also sought sign-off on their “Rule of Life”, as set down by Father Woods. However, that document was discarded and another was drawn up. That caused a divide between Sister Mary and Father Woods, and their relationship never recovered. Mary and the sisters continued to come into conflict with a number of bishops, including in Bathurst and Brisbane, over the issue of their central control. Mary was also accused of being an alcoholic (she drank brandy to relieve severe menstrual pain) and those claims drove her from Adelaide to Sydney, where she lived for the last 25 years of her life. Mary suffered a stroke in 1902 and was an invalid until her death on August 8, 1909.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Moran, visited Mary just before she died to give her the last rites of the church. As he was leaving he told two of the sisters that he felt as if he had been administering at the deathbed of a saint. Mary was buried in Sydney’s historic Gore Hill Cemetery. Today a memorial marks the spot where she once lay. Five years after her death, her body was transferred to the newly built Mary MacKillop Chapel in the grounds of the North Sydney convent where she last lived.

In 1925, the Mother Superior of the Sisters of St Joseph, Mother Laurence, began the process to have MacKillop declared a saint and Michael Kelly, Archbishop of Sydney, established a tribunal to carry the process forward. The process for Mary MacKillop’s beatification began in 1926, was interrupted in 1931, but began again in April 1951 and was closed in September of that year. After several years of hearings, close examination of MacKillop’s writings and a 23-year delay, the initial phase of investigations was completed in 1973. Her canonisation was announced on 19 February 2010 and subsequently took place on 17 October 2010. This made her the first Australian to be recognised as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Tuesday 7 August 2012


“Lost time is never found again.” - Benjamin Franklin
I am rather ignoring the Olympics, more so this time round than last time. The whole thing has become a sideshow, a thinly veiled platform for multinational company sponsorship deals, a showcase of rampant nationalism and a show riddled with corruption, doping and cheating scandals and athletes that are under extreme pressure to perform and bring back multiple gold medals on the pain of ridicule or worse… Meanwhile, the security surrounding the Games has become a major factor, just in case terrorists strike. So much for the Olympic ideal and the Holy Truce that enabled the ancient Games to be held in peace and allowed even warring city states to cease hostilities and compete in a spirit of noble rivalry.

We have had some unsettled weather for our late Winter. Cold and grey days interspersed with some bouts of sunshine and intermittent rain. Last night it was extremely windy and I woke several times listening to the whistling of the wind, the soughing of the branches and the creaks and groans of the house as it heaved, assaulted by the strong gusts. It made for an uneasy night’s sleep and this morning I woke up early but cranky. The wind kept blowing and walking to work from the train station was not very pleasant.

Nevertheless, the signs of Spring are about. The wattles have bloomed quite extravagantly, the Spring bulbs have begun to flower and the fruit trees have begun unfurling their blossom– almond, plum and cherry. The days have begun to lengthen perceptibly, so no longer do I walk to work in the dark, there is a glimmer of gold in the eastern horizon and the sky is ultramarine instead of inky black.

Another year is progressing to its close, well beyond the half-way mark now. So does 2012 march inexorably to its conclusion, day following day, each rushing by. It’s January one moment and before the cry of “Happy New Year” fades out, we blink and it is August. So much has happened and yet it is as though I have been living my life in the fast-forward mode. I look in the mirror and am surprised – who is this middle-aged man looking at me?

Time flies, moments pass by so fast, lessening the future and making the past burgeon with masses of old memories. The present only remains immutable, a succession of frozen split seconds, each lasting an eternity, each crystallising and dissolving as future becomes past. And then we die, and with our dying breath we utter, “where did my life go?”.

Monday 6 August 2012


“A person who can’t pay gets another person who can’t pay to guarantee that he can pay. Like a person with two wooden legs getting another person with two wooden legs to guarantee that he has got two natural legs. It don’t make either of them able to do a walking-match.” - Charles Dickens

Ever since my youth I have enjoyed reading the novels of Charles Dickens. They are full of memorable characters, intricate plots, remarkable incidents, great themes and social commentary, as well as a great story told in vivid and engaging language. I went through most of his novels while at University and since then have not revisited them, until now, having watched three excellent adaptations for TV produced by the BBC.

The first TV series based on a Dickens novel we watched is “Our Mutual Friend” about which I have blogged about previously, the second is “Bleak House”, which I have also reviewed, and the last one we watched is “Little Dorrit”. The production standard of all of these series is excellent and if it’s one thing that the British do well, it is period dramas of this type. The atmosphere is just so right and the care that has been put into every detail is faultless. Usually, the acting is exceptional and the adherence to the plot of the novel is very good.

The 2008 production of “Little Dorrit”, starring Claire Foy, Matthew Macfadyen and Tom Courtenay, and directed by Adam Smith, Dearbhla Walsh and Diarmuid Lawrence was of the usual BBC excellent standard. If it is any indication the IMDB rating for this series is 8.5, based on just under 2,100 viewer votes. My rating certainly adheres to this.

Many nineteenth-century critics judged “Little Dorrit” to be Dickens’s worst novel. Thankfully, it has been reevaluated in the second half of the twentieth century and is today considered to be a masterpiece by many scholars, who praise its biting criticism of the modern world’s corrupt social and political institutions.

The title character of the novel, “Little Dorrit” as she prefers to be called, was born within the walls of the Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison, which became her family’s home as her father’s financial failings caused him to declare bankruptcy. Amy’s mother died shortly after her birth, but Amy and her siblings continued to live inside the prison with their father until they were grown up. Trained as a seamstress by one of the other inmates, Amy leaves the prison every day to sew for Mrs Clennam, a widowed invalid confined to her home. Mrs. Clennam’s son Arthur had spent twenty years in the Orient working with his father and when Mr Clennam died, Arthur returned to England. He refused to join his cold, miserly mother in her business, preferring to take his portion of the inheritance and go off on his own.

Impressed by Little Dorrit’s sweet nature, Arthur tries to help the girl by working to secure her father’s release from prison, by helping her to obtain more customers for her needlework, and by sending her small amounts of money. In the course of the investigation into William Dorrit’s debts, it is discovered that he is the sole surviving heir of a large estate, which he promptly claims. Dorrit pays his creditors and leaves the prison that had been his family's home for twenty years. Ungrateful for Arthur's efforts on their behalf, the Dorrits, with the exception of Amy, refuse to speak to him any longer and go off to Europe on a grand tour to make society connections.

The plot then follows the trials and tribulations of Arthur and the Dorrits as their paths continue to cross and several mysteries are resolved until a dramatic conclusion gives everyone  their just desserts.

This is an excellent production and we recommend it most highly.

Sunday 5 August 2012


“Time is a vindictive bandit to steal the beauty of our former selves. We are left with sagging, rippled flesh and burning gums with empty sockets.” – Raphael
Raphael (Raffaelo Sanzio da Urbino), one of the foremost Italian painters and architect of the Renaissance, was born April 6, 1483 in Urbino. This is a small, but significantly artistic town in the region of Marches in central Italy. He died April 6, 1520, in Rome, the Papal States. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the great trio of High Renaissance masters. Raphael was particularly noted for the grace and beauty of his paintings, which became a model for high renaissance art.

Raphael’s father was a court painter and Raphael followed in his father’s footsteps, gaining a wide education in the arts, literature, and social skills. This enabled Raphael to move easily amongst the higher circles of court society, which helped his career in gaining commissions. As a member of Perugino’s workshop, he established his mastery by 17 years of age, and began receiving important commissions. In 1504 he moved to Florence, where he executed many of his famous Madonnas. His unity of composition and suppression of inessentials is evident in “The Madonna of the Goldfinch” of 1506.

Though influenced by Leonardo da Vinci’s chiaroscuro and sfumato technique, his figure types were his own creation, with round, gentle faces revealing human emotions, but which are raised to a sublime serenity and appear to exist on an otherworldly plane. In 1508 he was summoned to Rome to decorate a suite of papal chambers in the Vatican. The frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura are probably his greatest work; the most famous, The School of Athens (1510-11), is a complex and magnificently ordered allegory of secular knowledge showing Greek philosophers in an architectural setting.

The Madonnas he painted in Rome show him turning away from his earlier works’ serenity to emphasise movement and grandeur, partly under Michelangelo’s High Renaissance influence. “The Sistine Madonna” (1513) shows the richness of colour and new boldness of compositional invention typical of his Roman period. He became the most important portraitist in Rome, designed 10 large tapestries to hang in the Sistine Chapel, designed a church and a chapel, assumed the direction of work on St. Peter’s Basilica at the death of Donato Bramante, and took charge of virtually all the papacy’s projects in architecture, painting, and the preservation of antiquities.

Raphael had one of the largest art schools in Rome, with over 50 students. It is said Raphael was not just a genius of art but also excellent at managing and inspiring his pupils, helping the school become a famous place of art. As well as a painter, Raphael was also a noted architect, draughtsman, and with Raimondi, a printmaker of his engravings. He died in April 6 1570, aged only 37. Yet, he left behind a considerable legacy and his work was celebrated even during his lifetime. His last masterpiece, the “Transfiguration” altarpiece, was placed at the head of his bier, and thousands of people attended his funeral.

Anyone who has been to the Vatican can only marvel at the richness of the apartments and the wealth of significant artworks that one meets on every step. The Stanza della Segnatura is an amazing place and Raphael’s frescoes give the rooms a magnificence that is quite awe-inspiring. The “School of Athens” is on the right above and the fresco represents the degrees of knowledge or the truth acquired through reason. The fresco’s position as well as the philosophers’ walk in direction of the Holy Sacrament on the opposite wall suggested the interpretation of the whole room as the movement from the classical philosophy to the true religion and from the pre-Christian world to Christianity. It was meant to reside over the philosophical section of Pope Julius II’s library. It is perhaps Raphael’s most famous fresco. On the left side above, is “Mount Parnassus”, representing poetry. Ancient and Renaissance poets are centered around Apollo, who is seated in the centre, accompanied by the nine muses.