Saturday 16 May 2015


“Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin.” - John Lubbock

Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France.

Bach’s compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and over three hundred sacred cantatas of which nearly two hundred survive. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.

Bach was born in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach, into a great musical family. His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach, was the director of the town musicians, and all of his uncles were professional musicians. His father probably taught him to play the violin and harpsichord, and his brother, Johann Christoph Bach, taught him the clavichord and exposed him to much contemporary music.

Apparently at his own initiative, Bach attended St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg for two years. After graduating he held several musical posts across Germany: He served as Kapellmeister (director of music) to Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, Cantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig, and Royal Court Composer to Augustus III.

Bach’s health and vision declined in 1749, and he died on 28 July 1750. Modern historians believe that his death was caused by a combination of stroke and pneumonia. Bach’s abilities as an organist were respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

Here are his violin concertos, played by Elizabeth Wallfisch, Pavlo Beznosiuk and Catherine Mackintosh accompanied by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

1. Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041
Allegro moderato - 0:00
Andante - 3:50
Allegro assai - 9:37

2. Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042
Allegro - 13:10
Adagio - 21:05
Allegro assai - 27:03

3. Double Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043
Vivace - 29:50
Largo, ma non tanto - 33:38
Allegro - 40:01

4. Concerto for 3 Violins and Strings in D major, BWV 1064
Adagio - 44:43
Allegro - 51:22
Allegro - 57:04

5. Violin Concerto G minor, BWV 1056
Allegro - 1:01:45
Largo - 1:05:32
Presto - 1:08:10

6. Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV 1060
Allegro - 1:11:20
Adagio/ Largo - 1:16:14
Allegro - 1:20:58

7. Violin Concerto in D minor BWV 1052a
Allegro - 1:24:34
Adagio - 1:32:40
Allegro - 1:39:20

8. Concerto for Flute, Violin, Harpsichord and Strings in A minor, BWV 1044
Allegro - 1:47:31
Adagio ma non tanto e dolce - 1:55:54
Tempo di Allabreve - 2:01:52

Friday 15 May 2015


“Eating vegetarian doesn't mean you have to eat boring, humdrum dishes.” - Marcus Samuelsson

The following recipe is for what has often been called the “national dish of Greece” – “Fasoladha” (Φασολάδα). It is a tasty and nutritious vegetarian meal that in the past was one of the staples of the traditional Mediterranean diet. It is low in fat, has no cholesterol, is full of fibre, vitamins and minerals and is rich in plant proteins. As well as that it is tasty and wholesome.

500 g dried white beans
4-5 large carrots, cut in round slices, 1 cm thick
3-4 tender celery sticks (with their leaves), chopped up
250 g white onions chopped up
3 litres vegetable stock
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoonful dried mustard
1 bay leaf
salt, pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight in two litres of water. The next morning rinse well and drain.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onions until they are golden brown.
Add the drained beans and stir thoroughly, cooking for 3-4 minutes.
Add the 2 litres of the vegetable stock, stir and put the cover on the saucepan, leaving a gap for the steam to escape. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about half an hour.
Add the carrots, celery, mustard powder, bay leaf and the remaining 1 litre of stock. Continue cooking for another hour.
Keep an eye on the beans during cooking, ensuring there is adequate liquid in the pan. Add warm water as it is needed, but keep in mind the consistency in the end should be of a thick, glutinous soup.
Towards the end of the cooking stir every 5 minutes, 4-5 times.
Add the salt and pepper to taste. Taste the beans to ensure they are tender and melt in the mouth. If more cooking is needed, add some water and continue to cook.
Serve with crusty bread, Kalamata olives, green salad and cheese.

Add your own favourite recipes below, using the Linky tool:

Thursday 14 May 2015


“If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.” Proverbs 25:21 – King James Bible

On my way home after work yesterday, I stopped by the supermarket to get some groceries. While there, I saw a couple of employees getting rid of items from the shelves. I was curious as it appeared that they were trashing them. I stopped and asked, and sure enough, the items were being thrown out as they had reached their ‘use-by’ date. I enquired whether the food was going to be taken to the tip or whether it would be given to be used somewhere – I don’t know where, but it seemed an awful waste to throw it out. They did not know for certain, but one of them thought the food would be taken to the tip.

I looked this up on the web and found a useful Government site from which I quote: 

“Manufacturers err on the side of caution: Manufacturers usually choose a ‘best before’ date well before the time when the food would be expected to deteriorate and spoil. A conservative ‘best before’ date is designed to encourage you to eat the product while it is fresh and at its best, so you should consider ‘best before’ dates as a guide only. Frozen and canned products, in particular, tend to keep their quality for some time after the ‘best before’ date has expired. Within reason, provided the food looks and smells as you would expect, it should be safe to eat, even if the ‘best before’ date has passed.”

Hence my thoughts about the food being donated to charity and used immediately, being a good idea. I presume it is cheaper for the supermarket to dispose of the food rather than organise pick-ups or deliveries, etc. There is always the threatening spectre of costly law-suits, also, I guess. It just seems a terrible waste, especially when people are going hungry every night.

This experience inspired the word of Thesaurus Thursday, which is cornucopia, seemingly apt for the excess and variety of goods available in our supermarkets this day and age…

cornucopia |ˌkôrn(y)əˈkōpēə| noun
a symbol of plenty consisting of a goat's horn overflowing with flowers, fruit, and corn.
• an ornamental container shaped like such a horn.
• an abundant supply of good things of a specified kind: The festival offers a cornucopia of pleasures.
cornucopian |ˈkɔrn(j)əˌkoʊpiən| adjective
ORIGIN early 16th cent: From late Latin, from Latin cornu copiae ‘horn of plenty’ (a mythical horn able to provide whatever is desired).

The Cornucopia, which symbolises abundance, is usually seen as a curved goat’s horn, filled to overflowing with fruit and grain, but which could be filled with whatever the owner wished. Often nowadays the horn has been replaced by a horn-shaped basket, especially in ornamental table pieces or decorative tableaux.  The Cornucopia has always been associated with Thanksgiving in the United States, though it was a symbol long before this holiday existed. Man has always been thankful for the abundance provided by Nature.

The Cornucopia originally came from ancient Greek mythology (Κέρας της Αμάλθειας – Amalthea’s horn) and the term is carried on today with a similar meaning. The oldest account of the origin of the Cornucopia tells that Zeus was committed by his mother Rhea to the care of the daughters of Melisseus, a Cretan king. Amalthea, one of the nurses, hung Zeus in a cradle from a tree, so that he could be found neither in heaven, nor on earth, nor in the sea. They fed the infant deity with the milk of a goat. While the infant Zeus was playing with the goat, he broke off one of the horns of the goat and gave it to his nurses, endowing it with the wonderful power of becoming filled with whatever the possessor might wish.

So the ‘Horn of Amalthea’ became the symbol of plenty, and whoever had it in his or her possession would never starve. The horn of plenty was regarded as the symbol of inexhaustible riches and plenty and became the attribute of several immortals. Another story tells about the fifth labour of Hercules. Hercules fought the river-god Achelous, who could take the form of either a snake or bull. Achelous failed to defeat Hercules as a snake and changed into a bull. Hercules ripped his horn off and diverted the river. This land became very fertile, and is a reference to the horn of plenty. Then the Naiads took the horn, consecrated it, and filled it with fragrant flowers. In the Roman version it was the Goddess Abundantia (Abundance) who adopted the horn and called it “Cornucopia”.

Some useful links regarding donating food to charity:

Make Poverty History

Youth off the Streets
America’s Second Harvest

Children’s Hunger Fund
Hunger Site

Wednesday 13 May 2015


“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” - Vincent Van Gogh

Sumana from Poets United is prompting participating poets this week with the word “waves”. Here is my offering:

The Waves

The wind blows cold and sharp,
The leaves are raised in russet waves
Only to fall again in watery graves,
Circling, lost in Autumn’s maelstrom.

The sea is grey and green and dark,
The frothy spumes of angry waves
Dash on the shore and enter rocky caves
Interred in Winter’s frigid embrace.

The woman stands on highest cliff
And with a trembling hand she waves
A white kerchief; and sheds a tear that laves
Her ice-cold cheek, as ship departs.

The pain it gnaws and feeds and multiplies
Deep in her heart, in throbbing waves
And in her troubled mind abruptly staves;
Such seas may claim so many souls…

The ship bobs up and down, tosses to and fro,
It falls in troughs and rides on crests of waves,
Each sailor holds fast a single thought that saves:
The white kerchief waving on the distant shore
And the sweet hand that holds it tight and waves.

The illustration is a painting by Montague Dawson, “A Ship in Stormy Sea”.

Tuesday 12 May 2015


“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” - Marcel Proust

Last week we had friends visiting us from interstate and while they were here we drove out to the northeast of Melbourne to the Yarra Valley. It is about 60 km from the City centre and is situated amongst low hills. The Yarra River flows through the valley to make its way to the City centre. Several picturesque small towns are found in this valley, amongst many vineyards and prime sheep and cattle country. Lilydale, Yea, Yarra Glen and Healesville are all thriving communities and prime tourist attractions.

Numerous wineries have made themselves famous in this location, some very old ones as well as many new. We drove to Yarra Glen, a small town full of charm on the banks of the Yarra and made our way to Domaine Chandon, a winery owned by the motherhouse of Môet et Chandon in France. This establishment produces sparkling wine that is as good as (or better I say!) than the champagne produced by Môet in France. They have a restaurant and wine tasting room onsite where one may enjoy the local wine and food while viewing the vineyards outside and towards the horizon the lovely blue hills. Autumn colours dotted the landscape, and fortunately we had a glorious, fine, warm and mellow day.

We then proceeded to Yering Station Winery, one of my favourite wineries there and enjoyed the hospitality of their restaurant. Having had lunch washed down by some excellent Australian wine, we proceeded to Healesville, whose claim to fame is an Australian animal wildlife sanctuary. This is another tourist destination where one may see Australian animals in their natural habitat: Kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, possums, platypuses, emus, cassowaries, pelicans, brolgas, eagles, ibises, cockatoos, rosellas, galahs, kookaburras and many more.

We enjoyed a cup of excellent coffee in an old-fashioned bakery and sampled some of the traditional sweets: Caramel slices, chocolate mousse slices, chocolate hedgehogs, coconut slices, apple and blueberry pies and chocolate éclairs. The day was concluded by a visit to a few shops selling old wares and antiques, and the drive back was pleasant with lots of music and laughter. Needless to say that the day was enjoyed very much by everyone…

Sunday 10 May 2015


“Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: You find the present tense, but the past perfect!” - Owens Lee Pomeroy

When I was a young boy, I remember every Saturday afternoon on TV there was a program called “Epic Theatre”. I used to love watching it as it featured films from the 50s and 60s that were invariably bad, but sensational and full of adventure and were mostly of the spaghetti epic kind. You know the ones I mean, a pastiche of mythology and history, adventure, lots of fighting, liberally sprinkled with cheesy romance, and an ending where the good and the brave triumphed. Steve Reeves (Mr Universe 1950) often starred in these and he created the role of Hercules in the “epic matinee film” of 1958 The Labours of Hercules. Many dreadful sequels followed.

But I mean what kid can resist publicity like: “See the seductive Amazons lure men to voluptuous revels and violent deaths! SEE the heroic Hercules rip down the Age of Orgy’s lavish palace of lustful pleasure! SEE the Mightiest of Men fight the Mightiest of Beasts, the killer Cretan Bull! SEE Hercules fight off the savage love-starved Amazon women! SEE the seductive Amazons lure men to voluptuous revels and violent deaths! SEE the powerful Hercules crush the savage ape-men who guard the shrine of the Golden Fleece!” This is great stuff, boys’ own adventures, glop dished out in huge servings, with that soupçon of sexual innuendo to make it attractive…

Many films of the same ilk were around that time, including “Hercules and the Queen of Sheba”; “The Trojan Horse”; “Jason and the Argonauts”, “The Last Days of Pompeii”; “The Son of Spartacus”; “Operation Atlantis”; “Atlantis the Lost Continent”; “Samson and Delilah”, etc, etc… Occasionally some films of a slightly higher calibre were shown, the USA-produced epics of biblical kind: “The Egyptian”; “Quo Vadis”; “The Ten Commandments”; “Ben Hur”; “The Bible”, etc.

There seems to be a revival of the sword and sandal genre in the last few years with releases of Alexander, Troy, Gladiator, The Passion of the Christ, The Lost Legion and the controversial 300, and its sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire. These last two film reminded me of the film I had seen as a child in Epic Theatre. It is Rudolph Maté’s The 300Spartans and starred Richard Egan as King Leonidas of Sparta. Well I found it and we watched it yesterday.

I must say it brought back a few nostalgic memories. Sure, it was a little cheesy and painted  with the “epic” brush, but also I found myself examining it critically and seeing that it was firstly quite accurate historically speaking. It is largely the story of Leonidas, the Spartan king and general who led his army in the battle of Thermopylae against the Persian king Xerxes I, in 480 B.C. Leonidas managed to delay the Persian hordes for two days with only 300 men. Ephialtes, a Thessalian man, betrayed the Greeks and showed the Persians another way to invade in order to attack Leonidas’ men from the rear of the narrow pass of Thermopylae that the Greeks were guarding. Leonidas sent some of his army to safety, and died fighting the Persians together with 700 volunteers.

The film has some good acting (for the time and genre, and remember after all, this was a B-grade movie), a delightful score by Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis and appearances by some well-known Greek actors of the time (Anna Synodinou, Michalis Nikolinakos, Yorgos Moutsios, Dimos Starenios, Anna Raftopoulou). The scenery is magnificent and the battle scenes quite convincing. David Farrar makes for a good Xerxes and Sir Ralph Richardson a believable Themistocles.

For a good review of the film, see: