Saturday 3 November 2012


“They who go Feel not the pain of parting; it is they Who stay behind that suffer” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For music Saturday today, a beautiful aria from George Friedrich Handel’s opera “Rodelinda”. It is the aria “Dove Sei?” (Where are you?).

“Rodelinda, regina de’ Longobardi” (HWV 19) is an opera seria in three acts composed for the first Royal Academy of Music by George Friederich Handel. The libretto is by Nicola Francesco Haym, and was based on an earlier libretto by Antonio Salvi set by Giacomo Antonio Perti in 1710. Salvi’s libretto originated with Pierre Corneille's play “Pertharite, roi des Lombards” (1653), based on the history of Perctarit, king of the Lombards in the 7th century.
Dove sei, amato bene?
Vieni, l'alma a consolar!
Sono oppresso da' tormenti
ed i crudeli miei lamenti
sol con te posso sopportar...
Where are you, my dear loved one?
Come and console my soul.
I am oppressed with sorrow
And my cruel lament
I can only bear with you near me…

The painting is “Parting” by Jean-Michel Ruyten.

Thursday 1 November 2012


“You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” - C.S. Lewis

The old English custom of “soul-caking”, or “souling”, originated in pre-Reformation days, when singers went about on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 1 and November 2), to beg for cakes in remembrance of the dead. The “soulers”, as the singers were called, droned out their ditties repeatedly, tonelessly, without pause or variation. Doubtlessly, Shakespeare was familiar with the whining songs because Speed, in Two Gentlemen of Verona, observes tartly that one of the “special marks” of a man in love is “to speak puling, like a beggar at Hallowmas”.
Soul Cakes

1 cup butter
3 and 3/4 cups sifted flour
1 cup fine sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
A couple of threads of saffron (soaked in the milk for several hours)
1 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
4 -6 tablespoons milk
Icing sugar, to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 175°C.
Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or a large fork.
Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice; beat eggs, vinegar, and saffron milk together.
Mix with the flour mixture until a stiff dough is formed.
Knead thoroughly and roll out 1/4-inch thick.
Cut into 7 cm rounds and place on greased baking sheets. Prick several times with a fork, mark crosswise and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still warm.

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


“Men are admitted into Heaven not because they have curbed and governed their passions or have no passions, but because they have cultivated their understandings. The treasures of Heaven are not negations of passion, but realities of intellect, from which all the passions emanate uncurbed in their eternal glory. The fool shall not enter into Heaven let him be ever so holy.” - William Blake

All Saints’ Day is a Solemnity celebrated on the first of November by the Catholics and to a more limited extent by the Anglicans. It is instituted to honour all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Pope Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year.

In the early days of Christianity, the faithful were accustomed to solemnise the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast, as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (397 AD) to the bishops of the province of Pontus.

As it was common for groups of martyrs to have suffered the same dire fate on the same day, it was natural to commemorate them in a group. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephraim the Syrian (373 AD), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407 AD).

At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honoured by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonisation was established; still, as early as 411 AD there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter. In the West Pope Boniface IV, on the 13 May, 609 AD, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary.

Pope Gregory III (731-741 AD) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for their commemoration on 1 November. A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on May 1. Pope Gregory IV (827-844 AD) extended the celebration on 1 November to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84 AD).

All Catholics are obliged to attend mass on this day, being one of the major feasts of the Roman Catholic faith. In England the festival was known as All Hallows, hence the name of the preceding day, Halloween.  The Christian feast has melded with the Celtic feast of Samhain, the pagan of New Year festival when crops were blessed, stored fruits and grains were hallowed and the dead were remembered.
            All the gods of this world were worshipped on this day
            From sunrise to sunset.
            When All Saints’ comes on Wednesday,
            The men of all the earth will be under affliction.
Children born on All Hallowstide were sure to have the second sight and all November’s children were lucky, beloved and fortunate in their life:
            November’s child is born to bless
            He’s like a song of thankfulness.
A couplet from An Early Calendar of English Flowers remarks upon the scarcity of flowers at this time:
            Save mushrooms, and the fungus race,
            That grow till All-Hallow-tide takes place.
The weather on this day should be observed as it gives an indication of what lies ahead:
            If ducks do slide at Hallowentide
            At Christmas they will swim;
            If ducks do swim at Hallowentide
            At Christmas they will slide.
As the next day is All Souls’ Day, “soul cakes” were made on this night for distribution to the poor.  The recipients of these cakes prayed for the souls of the departed, interceding on their behalf.  The returning, visiting souls of the dead on this day were thought to somehow be able to partake of these “soul cakes”.

Wednesday 31 October 2012


“I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; What a wonderful feeling, I'm happy again.” Arthur Freed

Magpie Tales has given us inspiration in the form of a rainy embrace this week. My response was immediate and literal.

October Rendezvous

The rain fell all night long,
And gray dawn was wet
Making of the streets, steel mirrors,
And of the gutters, rivulets.

As raindrops fell and fell
I feared you wouldn’t come;
As clock hands crawled
And dark eddies swirled in my mind.

The street deserted, all taking cover,
Even the cars sparse, on the road;
I watch and wait, mindful of the rain
Saturating me to the core.

As raindrops fall and fall
I fear you will not come;
As clock hands stop
And frozen rain soaks my heart.

A lone umbrella in the distance,
Approaching, and a familiar footstep
Making me watch alert, the dawning sun
Of expectation lights my darkness.

As raindrops vanish in mid-fall,
I clasp you to my breast and we kiss;
Umbrella now redundant,
As our love shields us from all outside it.

Sunday 28 October 2012


“I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” - Benjamin Disraeli
I am away from home at an intensive residential workshop for my work for several days, so this means that almost all of my waking time is being taken up by all sorts of activities, both work-related but also team-building, social ones. At least it is in a very beautiful location about 45 or so minutes away from the city, far away enough to immerse oneself totally in the activities and workshop, but at the same time near enough to mean that can get here easily, a leisurely drive against the traffic at peak time. The facilities are world standard and the complex is huge.
The first day has been quite good with a lot of interesting experiences, not the least of which was an extended discussion of leadership versus authority. A leader of course is a person whose personality, communication skills, knowledge and experience helps him or her to guide a group of people in a direction the leader believes is the desirable and “right” way to go. On the other hand a person with authority uses their position of power to tell a group of people which direction to take. The key difference is in the power of the person that determines the course his or her followers take.
Leaders are trusted for their judgment and respected for their expertise, integrity and in some ways their charismatic gift. They tend to be followed because of the influence they are able to exert without telling their followers what to do. If people follow them, it is because people agree with the way the leader presents a certain course of action as the “right” one, and not because the leader holds a certain position of authority. For example, Mahatma Gandhi for most of his life did not hold any official position to lead the Indian freedom struggle.
A figure of authority wields power because of the position he or she holds. Authority rarely provides a scope for feedback, constructive criticism or opinions of the people on whom it is exercised. Acceptance of orders given by the person in power is generally the way the authoritarian model operates on. Authoritarianism is in most Western countries a questionable manner of governing, or running a company or even the way in which a family operates. Formal authority and power emerging from it, might not always be able to influence people in the desired manner as in times of crisis and difficulties people may view it as coercion. Sole use of authority to direct and discipline free-thinking adults rarely works. Such heavy-handed authority is unlikely to make people change their attitudes and behaviours. Exercising authority may not exploit the talent of one's followers and it often limits the approaches to arrive at innovative solutions for issues and problems.
Good leaders provide multiple ways in which their followers may communicate with them, and opportunities for feedback. Leadership tends to create followers out of free will and choice without forcing them to accept anything without questioning it. Leadership provides a better approach of striving for desired goals, sharing the work required for achieving these goals and also for involving followers in teamwork that builds rapport amongst the team, thus creating long term fruitful relationships. A leader inspires followers through example and provides a fertile ground for self-development of the followers, thus empowering them to become leaders themselves. Good leadership encourages people to look beyond the obvious and think innovatively and sometimes emerge with radical solutions.
I look forward to the rest of my time here as it will help me develop my skills and enrich the repertoire of ways that I lead my team and engage with them in order to make them work effectively with me in achieving our goals.