Saturday 23 May 2015


“When I die, I’d like to come back as a cello.” - Wayne Newton

Leonardo Leo (5 August 1694 – 31 October 1744), more correctly Lionardo Oronzo Salvatore de Leo, was a Neapolitan Baroque composer. Leo was born in San Vito degli Schiavoni (current San Vito dei Normanni, province of Brindisi), then part of the Kingdom of Naples. He became a student at the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini at Naples in 1703, and was a pupil first of Francesco Provenzale and later of Nicola Fago. He was undoubtedly influenced by the compositions of Pitoni and Alessandro Scarlatti.

His earliest known work was a sacred drama, “L’ infedelta abbattuta”, performed by his fellow-students in 1712. In 1714 he produced, at the court theatre, an opera, “Pisistrato”, which was much admired. He held various posts at the royal chapel, and continued to write for the stage, besides teaching at the conservatory. After adding comic scenes to Francesco Gasparini's “Bajazette” in 1722 for performance at Naples, he composed comic operas in Neapolitan such as “La’mpeca scoperta” in 1723, and “L’ Alidoro” in 1740.

His most famous comic opera was “Amor vuol sofferenze” (1739), better known as “La Finta Frascatana”, highly praised by De Brosses. He was equally distinguished as a composer of serious opera, “Demofoonte” (1735), “Farnace” (1737) and “L’ Olimpiade” (1737) being his most famous works in this branch, and is still better known as a composer of sacred music. He died of a stroke while engaged in the composition of new arias for a revival of “La Finta Frascatana”.

Leo was the first of the Neapolitan school to obtain a complete mastery over modern harmonic counterpoint. His sacred music is masterly and dignified, logical rather than passionate, and free from the sentimentality, which is present in the work of Francesco Durante and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. His serious operas suffer from a coldness and severity of style, but in his comic operas he shows a keen sense of humour. His ensemble movements are spirited, but never worked up to a strong climax.

Here are his cello concertos, played by Anner Bylsma:
Concerto for violoncello n.2 in D Major
Concerto for violoncello n.5 in F Major 14:15
Concerto for violoncello n.4 in A Major 27:41
Concerto for violoncello n.3 in D Major 43:13
Concerto for violoncello n.1 in A Major 56:45
Sinfonia Concertata (Concerto n.6) in C Minor 1:09:15

Friday 22 May 2015


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

Banoffee pie is an English dessert pie made from bananas, cream and toffee from boiled condensed milk (or dulce de leche), either on a pastry base or one made from crumbled biscuits and butter. Some versions of the recipe also include chocolate, coffee or both. Its name is a portmanteau constructed from the words “banana” and “toffee”. It is sometimes spelled “banoffi”.


250g digestive biscuits
125g butter, melted
2 ripe (but not brown) bananas
300ml double cream
395g can sweetened condensed milk
70g brown sugar
50g butter
Extra butter and brown sugar for frying bananas.


Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and process until crushed. Add the butter and process until well combined.
Put the biscuit mixture in a round 25 cm (base measurement) fluted tart tin with removable base. Use the back of a metal spoon to firmly press the biscuit mixture over the base and side of the tin. Place in the fridge until required.
In a skillet, place some butter and add the peeled, sliced bananas. Sauté lightly until the bananas are golden. Sprinkle some brown sugar on top and mix well. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Once bananas are cooled, place in prepared biscuit base, arranging slices in a layer along the bottom.
To make caramel filling, place condensed milk, sugar and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 10-12 minutes or until caramel thickens (do not boil!).
Pour the hot caramel over the bananas on the biscuit base. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour to chill.
Slice and top each portion with a dollop of cream. Serve immediately.

Add your own favourite recipes using the linky tool below:

Thursday 21 May 2015


“If we were all determined to play the first violin we should never have an ensemble. Τherefore, respect every musician in his proper place.” - Robert Schumann

The ‘Word for the Day’ today was inspired by this music that I heard on the radio this morning:

It is J.S. Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No 3", BWV1048, and the word is:

ebullient |iˈboŏlyənt; iˈbəlyənt| adjective
1 cheerful and full of energy: She sounded ebullient and happy.
2 archaic or poetic/literary (of liquid or matter) boiling or agitated as if boiling: Misted and ebullient seas.
ebullience |əˌbʊljəns| noun
ebulliently |əˌbʊliəntli| adverb
ORIGIN late 16th cent.(in the sense [boiling] ): from Latin ebullient- ‘boiling up,’ from the verb ebullire, from e- (variant of ex-) ‘out’ + bullire ‘to boil.’

And it certainly is very bubbly, energetic, cheerful, ever-forward moving music! Bach could create something this remarkably complex and intricate and make it sound so simple and facile. And of course such is the case with all six of his Brandenburg Concertos, which are masterpieces of the baroque!

Wednesday 20 May 2015


“Be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life.” - Omar Khayyám

This week Susan of Poets United has set the theme of “happiness”, on which participants are to contribute a poem.

Defining happiness can be difficult as it means many different things to different people. Some people say they are happy if they are experiencing well-being, have a high quality of life and if they are flourishing. Some equate happiness with contentment. Other people take a more hedonistic approach and say they are happy when they are successful in their search for pleasant (and avoidance of unpleasant!) experiences.

Some of us, look at happiness in a more holistic way, believing in living life fully and in a deeply satisfying way. This may include unpleasant experiences together with the pleasant ones, but happiness implies that we can cope with the unpleasantness, being able to make positives of negatives and being content knowing that one has done the right thing at the right time, and that one has acted with consideration for others, has been kind, compassionate and selfless. It is a case of living one’s life with virtue and probity and being rewarded with happiness.

If this sounds too philosophical for you, then you can simply think of happiness as being a string of moments of feeling good because you are pleasing yourself, and at the same time not only not displeasing others, but also making them experience good feelings as well. And this for me is paramount – happiness is not a solitary feeling to be experienced by me alone, it is a feeling that I need to share with others – it is its inclusiveness of others that multiplies the positivity of experience for oneself.

Here is my poetic contribution:

My Happiness

When I work with others
And all of us, we toil united
To make of this world
For everyone a better place,
That is when happiness is born.

When I can help to build,
Rather than raze, demolish;
When I can say a kind thing
Rather than search for bitter criticisms,
My happiness multiplies and grows.

When I can right a wrong,
Ask for forgiveness, genuinely;
And when I can make amends
Discreetly, from my heart, without effort,
That is when my happiness is most keenly felt.

When I am with you
And I make your eyes smile,
That is the moment
That will live on in my memory,
My life coloured by my happiness.

Tuesday 19 May 2015


“The paper burns, but the words fly away.” - Ben Joseph Akiba

The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank was written by a Jewish schoolgirl who hid with her parents in a secret room in a flat in German-occupied Amsterdam for three years before they were betrayed to the Gestapo at the time of WWII.  She died at the age of 15 years with most of her family in the Bergen-Belsen death camp (1945). Only her father survived to find the diary and have it published. The diary is a poignant account of a young woman’s thoughts and feelings, simple joys and irrepressible optimism, even under the most desperate circumstances. As well as being a significant part of world literature, it is now a mandatory part of the curriculum at all German schools.

In 2006, a group of about 100 skinhead Neo-Nazis kicked around, tore up and burned copies of this book. They cheered and shouted, singing Nazi anthems as they disrupted a gala celebration of Midsummer. This is of course déjà vu. In the 1930s, in Germany, Nazi supporters made mounds of the books written by Jews and burned them in huge pyres. Even then, some knowledgeable journalists recalled the prediction of the poet Heinrich Heine, who had said a century earlier: “Where one burns books, one will soon burn people.” The Holocaust that followed was painful proof of Heine’s prediction.

There is concern worldwide with the re-emergence of extreme right groups that are responsible for many activities that are evidence of racial hatred, religious intolerance and the curtailment of civil liberties, free speech and freedom of thought. It is a sign of our times perhaps, with increasing terrorist attacks, the rise of fundamentalism in many of the world’s major religions (Islam, Christianity, Hinduism) and the economic problems that many people in even the world’s richest countries are finding themselves in. Many predict that we are steadily heading towards warfare on a global level.

The burning of books is a symbolic act nowadays, but nevertheless a particularly reprehensible and loathsome one to me, as a rational, tolerant, thinking person who respects other people and their ideas. However, in the past the burning of books was even more insidious and had as an effect the expunging of the history of a whole culture. For example, when missionaries began to travel to the New World, ecclesiastical book censors and the practice of book burning went with them. Anxious to convert the Mayans, missionaries destroyed nearly all of their books. Only three or four Mayan books remain in the world today. Needless to say, a wealth of historical, social, anthropological, scientific and artistic information has been lost to us.

More of these book-burning incidents may be quoted and this list is from Wikipedia (see article here)

1. Chinese Philosophy books (by Emperor Qin Shi Huang)
2. Sorcery scrolls (by Early converts to Christianity at Ephesus)
3. Epicurus’ book (at Paphlagonia)
4. Egyptian alchemy texts (by Diocletian)
5. Christian books (by Diocletian)
6. Books of Arianism (after Council of Nicaea)
7. The Sibylline Books (by Flavius Stilicho)
8. Egyptian non-conforming Christian texts (by Athanasius)
9. Repeated destruction of Alexandria libraries
10. Etrusca Disciplina
11. Nestorius’ books (by Theodosius II)
12. Qur’anic texts (ordered by the 3rd Caliph, Uthman)
13. Competing prayer books (at Toledo)
14. Abelard forced to burn his own book (at Soissons)
15. Samanid Dynasty Library
16. Destruction of Cathar texts (Languedoc region of France)
17. Maimonides’ philosophy (at Montpellier)
18. The Talmud (at Paris)
19. Wycliffe’s books (at Prague)
20. Non-Catholic books (by Torquemada)
21. Decameron, Ovid and other “lewd” books (by Savonarola)
22. Over a million Arabic and Hebrew books (at Andalucia)
23. Tyndale’s New Testament (in England)
24. Servetius’s writings (burned with their author at Geneva)
25. Maya sacred books (at Yucatan)
26. Luther’s Bible translation (in Germany)
27. Hobbes books (at Oxford University)
28. Anti-Wilhelm Tell tract (at Canton of Uri)
29. Religious libraries (by Robespierre)
30. Early braille books (at Paris)
31. Anti-Communist books (by Bolsheviks)
32. “Valley of the Squinting Windows” (at Delvin, Ireland)
33. Jewish, anti-Nazi and “degenerate” books (by the Nazis)
34. Theodore Dreiser’s works (at Warsaw, Indiana)
35. Comic books (at Binghamton, New York)
36. Judaica collection at Birobidzhan (by Stalin)
37. Communist and “fellow traveller” books (by Senator McCarthy)
38. Wilhelm Reich’s publications (by U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
39. Library of writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer (by Suharto Regime)
40. Jaffna library (by Sinhalese police officers)
41. Anti-Pinochet Dictatorship books (at Valparaiso)
42. “The Satanic Verses” (in the United Kingdom)
43. Oriental Institute Library, Sarajevo (by Serb nationalists)
44. Books “contrary to the teachings of God” (at Grande Cache, Alberta)
45. Abu Nuwas homoerotic poetry (by Egyptian Ministry of Culture)
46. Harry Potter books (at various American cities).

A small step now from the grim dystopia of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” becoming reality. Oh, what wonderful world we live in! How proud we should be to call ourselves human beings. Hail Homo sapiens sapiens!

Monday 18 May 2015


“Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” - Victor Hugo

To be forced to flee from one’s home and country for one or another reason must be one of the most traumatic experiences that one can live through. The life of a refugee is fraught with dangers, hardships, risks, an uncertain future and often of course, brevity - as death stalks the refugee on many fronts (I still remember with horror the 58 Chinese refugees who were found suffocated in a container in Dover). Throughout the world, the number of refugees is escalating and the reasons why they are forced to leave their homes are many and varied: Political persecution, religious intolerance, social problems, economic reasons, war, terrorism, famine, natural disasters…

A refugee is so-called because he or she is seeking refuge or asylum. Protection from the dangers that threaten their existence in their native lands and the chance to live a peaceful, safe existence. The 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees defined a refugee as a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country.” This definition was expanded in 1967 to include “persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country”.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants gives the current world total of refugees as approximately 12 million and estimates there are over 34 million displaced by war, including internally displaced persons, who remain within the same national borders. The majority of refugees who leave their country seek asylum in countries neighbouring their country of nationality.

This topic is dear to my heart as my family and I were forced to leave our homeland (Greece) in late 1969 and we had to come to live in Australia, because of political reasons. We were opposed to the military junta of Greece at the time, and as my parents were involved in anti-dictatorship activities it came to the point of risking capture and being jailed or fleeing. We were lucky to be accepted for immigration into Australia, with some fortunate and timely intervention by relatives and friends.

The film we watched last weekend struck a chord with me, even thought the circumstances of the refugees shown were different. The film is In This World (2002) and is directed by Michael Winterbottom. It is made in the style of a documentary, but although the story is inspired by actual events, it is a dramatised account. It is the story of two cousins, Enayat and Jamal, who are Afghan refugees. They live in a camp in Peshawar in Pakistan and try to escape to Great Britain using the help of people smugglers. Their dangerous journey leads them along the ancient “Silk Road” through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey towards London.

It is shot on DV and considering the medium, the cinematography is great, with some of the night shots in the mountains of border of Turkey, very dark, grainy and indistinct, creating a tension and atmosphere of fear that would have been difficult to portray with well-shot film.  The film does not politicise, nor does it preach. It is a fairly dispassionate account told without guile and one feels drawn into the plight of the characters, even though characterisation is minimal. On their odyssey, the two boys have to contend with border guards, police, thieves, smugglers, and numerous changes in currency and language. The vision of London is that of a paradise that beckons them and it is this dream-like Cockaigne that sustains them during their arduous trip. The film makes us identify with the main characters because it establishes very quickly their humanity, which we share.

The film, however, is making an important political statement. It forces us to take a stand in the end, forces us to take sides and have an opinion. How to deal with this world-wide problem, how to heal the social and political cancers in those countries that force their populations to flee? How to prevent exploitation of the weak and needy by the rich and powerful and how to prevent human tragedies from recurring? This is a powerful film, sad but oddly hopeful at the same time. Young Jamal reminded me of a stray seed carried by the wind and landing on a rocky infertile mountain. He battles with the elements in order to germinate and grow, but the adversity makes this young stunted plant strong and resistant to the unfavourable environment. What does not destroy him, makes him stronger…

Sunday 17 May 2015


“Painting is easy - unless it’s done well.” Edgar Degas

Arthur Boyd was born in Murumbeena, Australia in 1920. He came from a long line of artists: Painters, potters, writers, musicians; which may explain his own versatility in creating works with paint, ceramics and print techniques. Even as a youth under the tutelage of his family he was creating art worthy of an accomplished artist.

He lived in London in 1960 and exhibitions of his work there in the early ‘60s established his reputation in Britain. His themes and images remained purely Australian in his work, with the powerful presence of the Australian bush, the Aborigines and the colonists ever a feature, even in his biblical paintings. His work remained figurative while his colleagues were painting abstract canvases, as his brush always needed to express emotions and feelings that spoke even to the most artistically uneducated lay person.

After his time in the army during WWII, Boyd returned to Melbourne where he came in contact with John and Sunday Reed and the Contemporary Art Society. In 1945, he married Yvonne Lennie and lived at Murrumbeena where he made pots and other ceramics. He first found public recognition with his Wimmera and Berwick landscapes of the 1940’s and 1950’s. In 1959, he moved to Europe where he exhibited his best known series, “Love, Death and Marriage of a Half-Caste Bride”, based on his observations of the Aborigines in Australia.

He returned to Australia in 1971 and in 1973 purchased a property on the Shoalhaven River on the NSW south coast. His beloved landscapes of the Shoalhaven have become some of his most loved and recognisable works. Throughout his lifetime Boyd generously donated both his properties and thousands of works to the Australian public.

He was awarded many prizes and awards, including an Order of Australia and a Retrospective exhibition travelled Australia in 1993. Boyd’s work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries, many regional galleries and numerous public and private collections, both nationally and internationally. In 1995, Boyd was named Australian of the Year for his extraordinary contribution to Australian art and his great generosity to the Australian nation.

His paintings are sensuous, approachable, painterly and glorify in the wondrous quality of the medium he is using. He died in Melbourne in 1999. Bryan Robertson, says in his ‘Boyd in London: A Friend Remembers’, published in the Australian Art Collector:
“The death of Arthur Boyd in his 79th year was a great loss to Australian painting and a special sadness for those who have some knowledge of the richness and diversity of Australian painting in this century and have witnessed, if only at the irregular intervals of his London shows, the tremendous contribution to that richness made by Boyd in the past five decades.

The painting above is “Jinker on the Spit, Shoalhaven” of 1981. It is oil on composition board, 44.2 x 59.2 cm in a Private Collection, Melbourne. Boyd says of this painting: “I have done several pictures with jinkers in them. In one I used black swans, but in this one I made them crows. There are so many crows at Riversdale that you are aware of them all the time.”

Ref: Sandra McGrath, ‘The Artist and the River’, Bay Books, 1982, p.268.