Saturday 17 May 2014


“Nobody deserves your tears, but whoever deserves them will not make you cry. “ - GabrielGarcia Marquez

For Music Saturday, a very famous madrigal by Claudio Monteverdi: “Lamento della Ninfa” is the 18th piece from Monteverdi’s eighth book of madrigals (“Madrigali Guerrieri ed Amorosi, 1638). The three male voices narrate the story and offer empathy to the nymph while she is lamenting over her abandonment by her inconstant lover. This movement of the madrigal is a beautiful example for Phrygian progression with the ostinato of its bass line in four descending notes all the way through. The inner turmoil and sorrow of the nymph is mirrored in the music by the melodic and harmonic dissonances.

In this recording: Emma Kirkby, soprano; Paul Agnew, tenor; Andrew King, tenor; Alan Ewing, bass, with the The Consort of Musicke, and Anthony Rooley.

Lament of the Nymph
(Text by Ottavio Rinuccini)

Phoebus had not yet

brought daylight to the world
when a damsel
came out of her dwelling.

Her suffering was plain

on her face,
and frequently she let
great sighs loose from her heart.

Thus trampling the flowers,

she wandered here and there,
and her lost love
she thus wept:

“Love”, she said, stopping

to look at the heavens,
“where, where is the faith
that the traitor swore to me?

Let my love return as he was,

or else kill me, so that I may no longer torment myself.”
Poor wretch, alas, no longer
can she suffer such scorn.

“I don’t want him to sigh

except away from me,
I no longer want him
to confide his sufferings in me.

Because I suffer for him,

he is proud;
will he beseech me
if I flee from him?

She may have a more serene

brow than mine,
but even Love’s breast
does not harbour such beautiful constancy.

Never will he have such sweet kisses

from that mouth,
nor softer - be still,
be still, that he knows all too well.

Thus among scornful weeping

she scattered her laments to the sky;
thus in lovers’ hearts
Love mixes flame and ice.

Friday 16 May 2014


“Life is full of banana skins. You slip, you carry on.” - Daphne Guinness

A couple of days ago we bought some very nice bananas for 99 cents a kilogram, which is certainly very cheap. They were aromatic, wonderfully smooth and luscious bananas that ripened beautifully. And as one tends to buy a lot at that price, it was time to make a banana fruit cake! This is a spicy, fruity, moist and yielding cake that makes for delicious eating!

Ingredients - For the cake
1 heaped cup sugar
1/2 cup of butter (80 g)
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoonful of baking soda (dissolved in milk)
1 and 1/2 cups of mixed, chopped, dried fruit (sultanas, glacé cherries, apricots, figs, etc)
1 egg, separated
2 cups of self raising flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoonfuls of ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
For the icing
Icing sugar (two to three cups)
Lemon juice and zest

Cream the butter and sugar until soft and light.  Add the beaten egg, the mashed bananas and while beating, add alternately a little of the milk, and flour until a smooth mixture is obtained.  Add the spices and finally the mixed chopped fruit.
Pour into a greased tin (a bundt tin works well) and bake in a moderate oven for about one hour (cake should be golden brown and test for doneness with a skewer).
Blend enough lemon juice with the icing sugar and lemon zest to form a smooth paste in a warm bowl.  Spread over the warm cake and if desired, dust with ground cinnamon.

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

Thursday 15 May 2014


“Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.” - RobertGreen Ingersoll

I was amazed today while talking to an acquaintance to hear him spout forth some extremely vituperative racist comments while discussing the Middle East. This fellow, whom I know through another mutual acquaintance, had up until yesterday seemed rather pleasant and reasonable, but once this topic was broached, his prejudice coloured his every word and it was immediately obvious that his opinion was very strong, his facts minimal. My feelings were of immediate revulsion and the conversation stopped rather abruptly as he got on his soapbox and started lecturing me about the inherent inferiority of some people and the superiority of others…

Experience has shown me that trying to reason with such people is an absolute waste of time as logic, reason and facts are not heeded by them. Arnold H. Glasow states with good reason: “The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.” Not that any discussion was even allowed by my interlocutor. He ploughed on regardless, not interested in what my thoughts were, or even pausing to allow me to attempt to answer some of his questions, which proved to be rhetorical. A Hebrew proverb states: “Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest violence”, and his vehemence attested to this. I was in the fortunate situation of being able to make up my mind about him very quickly after this and he has been shed from my circle of contacts. His kind generates a feeling of distaste and his company will from now on be shunned.

Growing up in Australia in the 1970s as person of non-Anglosaxon background, I was able to experience the full brunt of prejudice in my school years. Children are often the cruellest adherents of such a mindset and of course the feeling of belonging to a group, the concept of “us and them” is very strongly ingrained in their mind. These were the days before multiculturalism, and being in a small country town where I was the only “different” one in the class made me an easy target. I learnt the hard way to defend myself, my heritage and my origins. I proved with deeds not words that I was equal or superior to my peers and over time, I was slowly accepted by them. However, it was not an easy journey and the most deplorable  thing on reflection was that the attitude of my schoolmates was also shared by some of my teachers. Not openly, of course, but on analysis it is apparent that their behaviour at the time could only have been motivated by such discrimination.

Often, of course, a neutral attitude and a failure to speak out, to raise one’s voice in opposition is as bad as being openly prejudiced, or even worse. At least if I encounter a racist who makes his views perfectly obvious, it is preferable to me than someone who says nothing leaving me in doubt as to where his allegiances lie. Martin Niemöller has to say the following about the matter: “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they went after the homosexuals and infirm, and I did not stand up, because I was neither. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Finally they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up for me.”

All of us on this earth are all connected to each other by our humanity. There are more things that join us than things that separate us. Whether a Pacific Islander on some remote atoll or a banker in New York City, a housewife in India or a career woman in Germany, a Chinese government official or an African village dweller, a Saudi Arabian sheikh or a homeless Australian living in the streets of Sydney, all of us share too many things to allow religion, nationality, political allegiance, language, status or wealth to act as barriers. We all belong to the human family and if any two people from any place on earth are left on a desert island together they will discover innumerable commonalities as they try to cope with the basics of survival and peaceful coexistence.

My family is the human family, my home is the planet earth, my religion is respect and tolerance for all and my politics are coloured by social equity, racial equality and regard for all my fellow humans. My human family is one composed of billions of individuals, all of us different and varied, but so very similar to one another at the same time. We all have the same hopes and dreams and aspirations. Similar things give us pleasure and pain. We laugh and cry and experience the same range of other emotions as the other. William Allen White encapsulates all of this so aptly: “If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own… how much kinder, how much gentler he would be.”

Wednesday 14 May 2014


“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” - LeoTolstoy

The International Day of Families is observed on the 15th of May every year. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 with resolution A/RES/47/237 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families. This International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.

The International Day of Families has inspired a series of awareness-raising events, including national family days. In many countries, that day provides an opportunity to highlight different areas of interest and importance to families. Activities include workshops and conferences, radio and television programmes, newspaper articles and cultural initiatives highlighting relevant themes.

The International Day of Families in 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and offers an opportunity to refocus on the role of families in development; take stock of recent trends in family policy development; share good practices in family policy making; review challenges faced by families worldwide and recommend solutions.

There is no single view or universal consensus on what makes up a family. Families are far too diverse and dynamic to be pigeon-holed or strictly defined. Yet in any culture, the family provides a natural framework in which individuals (and especially children) can receive the emotional, financial and material nourishment and support that is indispensable to their development. If a family has children, their normal, safe, supported and healthy growth and development should be foremost in that family’s activities.

Families all over the world have been undergoing many profound changes and transformations. Family size and structure have changed markedly and continue to evolve in response to powerful social, economic and technological developments. One important transformation is urbanisation and a continuing shift from extended to nuclear families. At the beginning of the 20th century, 15 per cent of the world lived in urban areas. As of 2003, 48 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. The proportion of the world population that is urban is expected to rise to 61 per cent by 2030. As a consequence of this significant transition, the rural, farm-oriented family is increasingly being replaced by the urban, industrial and service-oriented family. Agrarian life-styles based on the extended family have changed dramatically towards urban life with the increasingly common nuclear family.

Mothers play a critical role in the family, which is a powerful force for social cohesion and integration. The mother-child relationship is vital for the healthy development of children. And mothers are not only caregivers; they are also breadwinners for their families. Yet women continue to face major (or even life-threatening) challenges in motherhood. Childbirth, which should be a cause for celebration, is a grave health risk for too many women in developing countries. A woman in a least-developed country is 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than a woman in a developed country.

Violence against women, many of whom are mothers, remains one of the most pervasive human rights violations of our time. It has far-reaching consequences, endangering the lives of women and girls, harming their families and communities, and damaging the very fabric of societies. Ending and preventing violence against women should be a key priority for all countries. Access to education is also something that should be everyone’s right. The benefits of educating women and girls are not only important to individual families but to whole countries, unlocking the potential of women to contribute to broader development efforts. Statistics also show that educated mothers are much more likely to keep their children in school, meaning that the benefits of education transcend generations.

Fathers in many societies have been moral teachers, disciplinarians and breadwinners. Increasingly now, there is an emphasis on the father’s role as a co-parent, fully engaged in the emotional and practical day-to-day aspects of raising children. Recent research has affirmed the positive impact of active involvement by fathers in the development of their children. Yet challenges persist for fathers, as well as for society and social policy. Too many men have difficulty assuming the responsibilities of fatherhood, often with damaging consequences to families and inevitably society at large. Some fathers inflict domestic violence or even sexual abuse, devastating families and creating profound physical and emotional scars in children. Others abandon their families outright and fail to provide support. Researchers continue to explore how the presence or absence of fathers can affect children, in areas such as school achievement and crime.

Families can be the place where humane values and human progress are fostered and developed. We should be creating the conditions families need to fully realise their potential. As families develop in a supported social environment, they are also the beneficiaries of that development. Where development is slow or absent, a family’s ability to meet the needs of its members will be impaired. And where development is undermined by conflict, and instability prevails, families are undermined as well, robbing societies of an essential building block for peace and prosperity.

Tuesday 13 May 2014


“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

This week, Poetry Jam has set “Friends” as the theme that will serve as a stimulus for the creativity of the followers of the blog who will take up the challenge to write a poem. Here is my contribution:


Come, April, my old friend, again

Let’s talk, let us exchange pleasantries.
You bring me gifts - more white hairs,
More experience, my wrinkling face the evidence,
And yet I am none the wiser...

Come friend, let’s drink, and in our cups

Let’s reminisce of days gone by,
Of nights long past, when autumn moons
Shone bright and clear, and we,
We used to walk beneath the frosty starlight...

You watch me, smile and speak not;

April, you always were a good listener,
Hearing out my softly whispered confessions,
The patter of your rain, your grey skies our cover,
Our camouflage, your smile my absolution.

Year after year, my friend you come

Bringing chrysanthemums, rain-clouds
Crisp, frosty nights, woollen days, capricious sunlight.
As Autumn ripens, you herald Winter’s arrival,
And I with each of your visits understand your silences more...

Monday 12 May 2014


"Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures." - Jessamyn West

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was a prolific Victorian British author who wrote some very successful novels. Who does not know “Oliver Twist”, “David Copperfield”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “A Christmas Carol”, “The Old Curiosity Shop”, etc, etc?

For Movie Monday today I am highlighting some film adaptations of Dickens novels, which have had great appeal for film-makers from the earliest days of the movies. The richness of the plots, the unforgettable characters and the excellent images that Dickens paints in his prose have begged for a cinematographic treatment, so this perhaps explains why his novels have been so popular with film-makers.

If one looks up the International Movie Data Base, reveals that there are over 340 films made of Dickens’ novels, from the 1890s to the present time!

“Oliver Twist” alone has engendered over 30 films/TV series. The latest is the 2005 version by Roman Polanski. This is up to Polanksi’s usual standard, as good as his “Tess” the adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’ Urbervilles”. Ben Kingsley does a great job as Fagin and the rest of the cast are well chosen. The cinematography is wonderful and Polanski tells the story true to Dickens’ vision.

An immediate comparison is that of David Lean’s classic 1948 version of “Oliver Twist”. This is a masterly motion picture made by a very famous director. Alec Guinness is the Fagin that most people have in their mind as they read Dickens’ novel. The black and white cinematography is so attuned to the story telling that one could perhaps imagine the screen to abound in colour, as viewed by the mind’s eye. It is interesting to note that this film sparked a riot in Berlin in its first showing in 1949 and that it was banned for two years in the USA as it was thought of being anti-Semitic (it was only released after significant cuts of 10 minutes had been made)…

“Oliver!”, the 1968 musical version by Carol Reed, one would have thought to be doomed from the start. How could someone make a musical out of such a poignant, dark story, which has social criticism written on each of its pages? However, the film works! It won the best picture Oscar at the 1968 Academy Awards and for a musical it is surprising as almost all of the musical numbers are charming (as opposed to the one-hit wonder musicals that we are used to). Here is a YouTube trailer.

I have chosen this novel by Dickens as it highlights one side of the man that was exceedingly important and is essential to his make-up. Dickens was very much influenced by a childhood where he had first hand experiences of poverty and feelings of abandonment. At 12 years of age, Dickens’ father was put into debtors’ prison and young Charles was taken from school and sent to a boot-blacking factory so as to help his family by earning six shillings. This made the author to grow up having very strong views on social reform.

Although Dickens was no “Socialist” in the modern sense of the word, as G.K. Chesterton says in his essay on Dickens, “Dickens had sympathy with the poor in the Greek and literal sense; he suffered with them mentally; for the things that irritated them were the things that irritated him. He did not pity the people, or even champion the people, or even merely love the people; in this matter he was the people. He alone in our literature is the voice not merely of the social substratum, but even of the subconsciousness of the substratum. He utters the secret anger of the humble. He says what the uneducated only think, or even only feel, about the educated.”  This essay of Chesterton’s is delight to read and can be found on line here.