Saturday 15 February 2014


“I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.” - Johann Sebastian Bach
Music Saturday today features the oboe and oboe d’ amore concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach, BWV 1055, 1056, 1059R, 1053R and 1060 with Christian Hommel, Helmut Muller-Brühl and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra.
These concertos are reconstructions from the manuscripts of Bach’s harpsichord concertos, BWV 1052–1065, which are concertos for harpsichord, strings and continuo. There are seven complete concertos for a single harpsichord (BWV 1052–1058), three concertos for two harpsichords (BWV 1060–1062), two concertos for three harpsichords (BWV 1063 and 1064), and one concerto for four harpsichords (BWV 1065).
Two other concertos include solo harpsichord parts: the concerto BWV 1044, which has solo parts for harpsichord, violin and flute, and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, with the same scoring. In addition there is a nine-bar concerto fragment for harpsichord (BWV 1059), which adds an oboe to the strings and continuo.
All of Bach’s harpsichord concertos (with the exception of the Brandenburg concerto) are thought to be arrangements made from earlier concertos for melodic instruments probably written in Köthen. In many cases, only the harpsichord version has survived.

Friday 14 February 2014


“Love is not finding someone to live with; it’s finding someone you can’t live without.” - Raphael Montañez Ortiz
Happy Valentine’s Day! Just for the occasion, a sweet idea for lovers to share. A classic French dessert, made with cream cheese and strawberries.
Coeurs à la Crème
350 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 and 1/4 cup icing sugar
2 and 1/2 cups very cold, heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
Strawberry and Grand Marnier Sauce (see below)
Sweet biscuits, crumbed
A little butter, molten
Strawberries for decoration
Beat the softened cream cheese and icing sugar with a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the beater and bowl with a rubber spatula and change the beater for the whisk attachment.
Pour a little cream into the cream cheese mixture and stir to mix well. With the mixer on low speed, add the remaining heavy cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and vanilla bean seeds and beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream.
Strawberry and Grand Marnier Sauce
1/2 punnet strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup strawberry jam
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
Place strawberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked strawberries, the jam, and orange liqueur into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.
To serve
Line a 20 cm sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels so the ends drape over the sides and suspend it over a bowl, making sure that there is space between the bottom of the sieve and the bottom of the bowl for the liquid to drain. Pour the cream mixture into the cheesecloth, fold the ends over the top, and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, discard the liquid, place the cream mixture into two 10 cm heart-shaped moulds, press down and then upend onto a plate, on which you have put a base of buttered, biscuit crumbs. Decorate with sliced strawberries that you have made into hearts. Serve with the sauce on the side.

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


"I'll love you, dear, I'll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street." - W. H. Auden
On Valentine’s Eve, lots were drawn for Valentines in Northern England and Southern Scotland.  Equal numbers of maids and bachelors assembled together and each wrote their name on a slip of paper. The girls names were put into one bag, the boys in another. Each boy then draws from the girls’ bag and each girl from the boys’ bag. At the end of this, there is a choice between two Valentines; generally one prefers the name one draws to the one that has drawn them.  However, if the same names are drawn by a couple, then surely they will marry.
Alternative means of prognosticating a potential mate is to write each candidate’s name on a slip of paper and roll each slip of paper in a little ball of clay.  Put the clay balls in a basin and pour water on them.  The first to rise to the surface will contain the name of your Valentine.
The ancient Romans began to celebrate the week-long Parentalia Festival on this day. This was a commemoration of one’s dead ancestors, especially one’s parents. Temples were closed, marriages were forbidden and people spent the day visiting tombs of ancestors. They hoped to placate restless ghost and spirits hovering around the graves by leaving offerings of milk, wine and flowers. Unless these remembrances were adhered to the ghosts of the dead would haunt the living.

Wednesday 12 February 2014


“I was a dandelion puff...Some saw the beauty in me and stooped quietly to admire my innocence. Others saw the potential of what I could do for them, so they uprooted me, seeking to shape me around their needs. They blew at my head, scattering my hair from the roots, changing me to suit them. Yet still others saw me as something that was unworthy and needed to be erased.” - Nicole Bailey-Williams

This week, Poetry Jam is featuring dandelions: “When you look at a field of dandelions you can either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes. Wishes or weeds? What do you see?”

Taraxacum officinale, the common dandelion, is a common flowering herbaceous perennial plant of the family Asteraceae. It can be found growing in temperate regions of the world, in lawns, on roadsides, on disturbed banks and shores of waterways, and other areas with moist soils. T. officinale is considered a weed, especially in lawns and along roadsides, but it is a useful plant, sometimes used as a medicinal herb to treat many ailments and in food preparation as a green vegetable (we often use it as such).

Dandelion wine is a traditional brewed drink prepared from the flowering heads. You can find a recipe to make it here. The common dandelion is well known for its yellow flower heads that turn into round balls of silver tufted fruits that disperse in the wind, which are called “blowballs” or “clocks”.

Here is my poem:

Harvesting Sunshine

The suns of dandelions bloom again,
Shining like golden medals amongst the undergrowth.
They promise rich harvests
To busy bees and ants at work,
As they negotiate the intricacy of divided petals.

Delving into the depth of each flower
One finds style, stigma, stamen: A microcosm of functionality;
The magic and mystery of pollination
Swelling seeds in burgeoning ovaries,
Spring’s fecundity magnified in minuteness.

The sun is mirrored in each blossom,
As stalks stretch up, carrying the golden flowers skyward.
They tender invitations to be picked,
Captured to be brewed and bottled
Giving a golden wine – liquid sunshine for Winter’s days.

Tuesday 11 February 2014


“If you wish to be happy for a day, get drunk; if you wish to be happy for a week, kill a pig; if you wish to be happy for a month, get married, but if you wish to be happy forever, plant a garden…” - Chinese proverb
This morning it was cool and perfect for going out into the garden to have our breakfast. Sipping a cup of coffee, munching on some toast and listening to music on ABC Classic FM was delightful. One could really wind down even before the day started, while looking out on the flowering backyard. The summer roses were blooming, the last of the summer annuals are putting on their best show and the jasmine was full of its fragrant white blooms. The birdsong in the background was a perfect counterfoil to the Vivaldi concertos playing, while the rich aroma of the coffee mixing with the heady smell of blossoms created a perfect combination.
Here are the Viola d’ Amore concertos by Vivaldi to enjoy.

This early and tranquil start to the day was not to last long as certain “jobs” in the garden had to be done and done they were! We went out a couple of times and purchased some mulch as the garden needed a top-up and the hot weather was certainly causing the plants to suffer. The mulch makes a world of a difference and while preventing weeds growing ,it also keeps the moisture in the soil, conserving water.
We found some rocks close to home as the gas company is replacing gas pipes and there are gaping holes all over the place where they have excavated. Our suburb lies on top of an ancient lava flow and there rare rocks galore underneath the soil. The excavations had exposed quite a few of these and as they were to be discarded, we took them home to adorn the garden. Backbreaking work, but worth it in the end.
Not the least of the jobs to be done were the lifting of some statuary and their elevation on plinths, such that they became more visible above the plants that surrounded them which had rendered them almost invisible. We fortunately found the right plinths close to home and at a reasonable price. The statues were erected on their new plinths and our little piece of paradise was once again a cotton-wool insulation against the harsh realities of the world outside our gate. Happy are we that are able to enjoy such luxuries and live a life that is so generous with us

Monday 10 February 2014


"Never Judge a book by its movie." - J.W.Eagan

OK, easy-peasy question: What do these films all have in common?
Get Shorty; LA Confidential; Trainspotting; Picnic at Hanging Rock; The Remains of the Day
; Schindler's List; Fight Club; Harry Potter and many more…

Yes, they are all films, I told you that! But also, they are all films that have been based on novels that pre-existed them. Film adaptations of books can be better than the book, as good as the book, or absolutely terrible and would better not be associated with the book under any circumstances. There are the die-hard literary buffs that maintain that no film is better than the book, but in my experience, some mediocre books have been made into extremely satisfying films.

This is a topic that has generated a great deal of debate and here are some links that give you an idea of what has been said about this issue:
“Guardian” (UK newspaper) news story:

“The Age” (Australian Newspaper) news story:

Amazon Online (US):

One of my favourite film adaptations is of Joan Lindsay’s novel “Picnic at Hanging Rock” by Peter Weir (1975). This is a lush, period piece redolent with atmosphere and mystery. The movie has been lovingly cast and each of the principal actors is extremely well-suited to the role. The music contributes greatly to the mystery that the film creates and the cinematography is fantastic. The novel was written in such a way that it seems to be based on a true story, but as Joan Lindsay has said, it is a work of pure fiction.

The book/movie concerns three students and a schoolteacher that disappear on an excursion to Hanging Rock, in Victoria, on Valentine's Day, 1900. Hanging Rock is a marvellous locale and should not be missed if you are visiting Melbourne, Australia – it is only 80 km to the North of the City. Failing that, you can always get a copy of the book and have a read of it, and then see the movie too!

The scenario or screenplay is the raw material that the director has at his/her disposal to create the film and together with the cinematographer fleshes out this piece of writing to get the work of art that the film becomes. A good screenplay is difficult to write, especially if one has the unenviable task of adapting a well-known and well-loved piece of classic literature. But it can be done!

What do you think of film adaptations of works of literature? What is a favourite one of yours? What film adaptation of a novel hasn’t worked at all?

Sunday 9 February 2014


“It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.” - Mark Twain

Franz Marc (born February 8, 1880, Munich, Germany—died March 4, 1916, near Verdun, France), was a German painter and printmaker who is known for the intense mysticism of his paintings of animals. His childhood was spent in Munich, then the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria. His father, Wilhelm, was a professional landscape painter; his mother, Sophie, was a strict Calvinist. In 1900, Marc began to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where his teachers included Gabriel von Hackl and Wilhelm von Diez. During his twenties, Marc was involved in a number of stormy relationships, including a years-long affair with Annette Von Eckardt, a married antique dealer nine years his senior. He married twice, first to Marie Schnuer, then to Maria Franck.

Franz Marc was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), an association of German Expressionist artists.  Marc’s early works were painted in a naturalistic academic style, but after discovering French Impressionist painting in 1903 he adopted a more modern approach, using simplified lines and vivid colours. During a trip to Paris in 1907 he encountered the work of the Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, whose vigorous, emotional brushwork profoundly influenced him. Van Gogh’s effect on Marc’s style is especially evident in “Cats on a Red Cloth” (1909–10).

In 1910 Marc met the Russian-born painter Wassily Kandinsky, who was a member of a group of Expressionist artists known as the Neue Künstlervereinigung (“New Artists’ Association”). Marc joined the group in 1911 and worked closely with another member, the young painter August Macke, whose idiosyncratic use of broad areas of rich colour led Marc to experiment with similar techniques.  Marc and Kandinsky split from the Neue Künstlervereinigung in 1911, forming a rival group of artists named Der Blaue Reiter. Together they edited an almanac of the same name, which was published in 1912.

Having long been interested in Eastern philosophies and religions, Marc responded enthusiastically to Kandinsky’s notion that art should lay bare the spiritual essence of natural forms instead of copying their objective appearance. Kandinsky and Marc developed the idea that mystical energy is best revealed through abstraction. Marc believed that civilisation destroys human awareness of the spiritual force of nature; consequently, he usually painted animals, and he was also passionately interested in the art of “primitive” peoples, children, and the mentally ill.

Marc’s philosophy can be seen in works such as “The Large Blue Horses” (1911; Walker Art Center), in which the powerfully simplified and rounded outlines of the horses are echoed in the rhythms of the landscape background, uniting both animals and setting into a vigorous and harmonious organic whole. In this painting, as in his other mature works, Marc used a well-defined symbology of colour: Blue, yellow, and red each stood for specific emotional qualities. Blue was masculine and spiritual while yellow was female and joyful. Red was a colour of brutal materialism, a force of nature.

In 1912 Marc’s admiration for the works of the French painter Robert Delaunay and for the Italian Futurists made his art increasingly abstract. He began to use the faceted space and forms of Delaunay’s brightly coloured Orphist compositions to express the brutal power and timorous fragility of various forms of animal life; an example is Tyrol (1914), a work that approaches abstraction. Marc joined the German army in 1914; he was killed in combat two years later.