Saturday 28 November 2015


“In my eyes and ears the organ will forever be the King of Instruments.” - W.A. Mozart

Michel Corrette (10 April 1707 – 21 January 1795) was a French organist, composer and author of musical method books. He was born in Rouen, Normandy. His father, Gaspard Corrette, was an organist and composer. Corrette served as organist at the Jesuit College in Paris from about 1737 to 1780. It is also known that he travelled to England before 1773. In 1780 he was appointed organist to the Duke of Angoulême and some 15 years later died in Paris at the age of 87.

Corrette was prolific. He composed ballets and divertissements for the stage, including ‘Arlequin’, ‘Armide’, ‘Le Jugement de Midas’, ‘Les Âges’, ‘Nina’, and ‘Persée’. He composed many concertos, notably 25 concertos comiques. Aside from these works and organ concertos, he also composed sonatas, songs, instrumental chamber works, harpsichord pieces, cantatas, and other sacred vocal works.

Aside from playing the organ and composing music, Corrette organised concerts and taught music. He wrote nearly twenty music method books for various instruments (the violin, cello, bass, flute, recorder, bassoon, harpsichord, harp, mandolin, voice and more) with titles such as ‘L’Art de se perfectionner sur le violon’ (The Art of Playing the Violin Perfectly), ‘Le Parfait Maître à chanter’ (The Perfect Mastersinger) and ‘L’école d’Orphée’ (The School of Orpheus), a violin treatise describing the French and Italian styles. These paedagogical works by Corrette are valuable because they give lucid insight into contemporary playing techniques.

Here are the six Organ Concertos, op 26, played by Francois-Henri Houbart (organ) and The Bernard Thomas Orchestra, conducted by Bernard Thomas.

Friday 27 November 2015


“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally.” - Yotam Ottolenghi

The recipe below is for a dish we used to enjoy when visiting a favourite restaurant of ours here in Melbourne. Unfortunately, the place changed hands and the menu also changed (for the worse!). However, we do make this dish at home and still enjoy it.

Sage & Spinach Chicken in Fyllo Pastry
2 chicken breasts
2 cupfuls blanched spinach
1 small round of camembert, sliced
Butter to brown the chicken in (as much as you will)
Sage, a little thyme, pepper, salt
Fyllo pastry (ready-made is good enough)
Mashed potato, snow peas (mange tout peas) and carrot straws to garnish

Wash the chicken fillets and remove all the skin and fat. Pound with a meat mallet so that they flatten out and become thin. Take each chicken fillet and spread thinly with the boiled, creamed spinach.  Overlay with the sliced camembert. Wrap each fillet in a Swiss roll fashion and secure with a toothpick. Warm the butter in a pan and add the herbs. Quickly put each chicken breast in the hot butter just to seal the juices in and then remove from the heat.

Spread out the fyllo pastry and brush with the butter left over from the browning of the chicken. This must be done quickly so that the pastry does not dry out (put a clean, damp kitchen towel over the pastry when you are not using it).  Lay three sheets of pastry over one another, brushing each with butter. Take the chicken rolls, remove the toothpick and wrap neatly and securely in the pastry. Put the chicken parcels in a baking tray, brush with butter and bake in a hot oven until the pastry is golden brown.  Garnish with mashed potato, snow peas and carrot straws, serving immediately.

Sage, Salvia officinalis, symbolises mutual love and domestic virtue.  The name of the plant is from the Latin salvere meaning “to be in good health”.  Sage is reputed to have wonderful medicinal properties as an old proverb attests:
He who would live for aye,
Must eat sage in May.

Sage is another of the herbs that is said to thrive best in the gardens of households where the wife rules. This often caused some husbands to cut down vigorous sage plants whilst shouting the following in full view of the amused neighbours:
    If the sage bush thrives and grows
    The master’s not master and he knows!

Astrologically, the herb is under Jupiter’s rule. The plant was long thought to soothe grief.

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Thursday 26 November 2015


“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” - William Arthur Ward

The USA and Australia are on very friendly terms and the two countries have a special relationship as far as international affairs go. I guess this is understandable as we share many common things: A British colonial origin, a pioneering past, a chequered history of indigenous peoples relations, a country built on migrant stock (many of common ancestry – English, Irish, Scottish, and other Europeans, Chinese), gold rushes, eventual independence from colonial rule, a democratic system of government, similar values and culture, etc, etc. However, don’t get me wrong, I am the first to acknowledge that there are striking differences also.

The influence of American culture on Australia is quite marked and an American who visits Australia will find many things to remind him/her of home. Not the least of which is the adoption of many American holidays and customs: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Halloween, many Christmas and New Year’s Eve traditions. This makes sense as the capitalist economies of both countries thrive on the financial benefits and increased consumer spending that accompany these ‘adopted’ celebrations and traditions.

One American holiday that quite regrettably has not been transplanted across the Pacific is Thanksgiving. I always admired this holiday, and especially so after celebrating it with American friends when visiting their country some time ago. Call me old-fashioned and sentimental, but I really enjoyed the spirit of this celebration that is all about families getting together around a celebratory meal. The giving of thanks for all the good things that have happened and that one should be grateful for in the past year, and the giving of thanks for a bountiful harvest struck me as a wonderful cause for celebration.

It is not surprising perhaps that Thanksgiving has not been adopted more widely around the world. It does not lend itself to as much consumer spending as say, Valentine’s Day or Christmas (when billions are spent on decorations, presents and public celebration). In addition, Thanksgiving seems a trifle anachronistic and cheesily old-fashioned. To celebrate the blessings of the past year with one’s family and give thanks for a plentiful harvest doesn’t seem to hold much appeal to “modern”, urban dwellers who have originated from nuclear families and perhaps are happily single or in “alternative” types of relationships. The religious overtones of Thanksgiving (having an origin in church services of gratitude) are also something that may rankle the sensibilities of the secular and hedonistic yuppies out there.

Even more importantly, I think, as we “progress” and “advance” in this country we are forgetting to give thanks, acknowledge the good things that happen to us. In our quest for increasing numbers of consumer goods, new technological gadgets, bigger houses, flashier, shinier cars and the latest fashion fads, we are forgetting something about what makes us special as humans – our innate humanity and our interdependence with other people and the special relationships that we share with them. When was the last time you hugged a special person in your life and thanked them for being there for you? When did you sit and talk with a member of your family to reminisce and express your gratitude for their presence in your life? When was the last time when you acknowledged the special contribution that your friends and acquaintances have made to your life?

Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, 1,412 kilometres directly east of mainland Australia's Evans Head, and about 900 kilometres from Lord Howe Island. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia. Together with two neighbouring islands, it forms one of Australia’s external territories. It has 2,300 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2. Its capital is Kingston. Although Thanksgiving is not celebrated on mainland Australia, on Norfolk Island, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the last Wednesday of November, similar to the pre-World War II American observance on the last Thursday of the month. This means the Norfolk Island observance is the day before or six days after the United States’ observance. The holiday was brought to the island by visiting American whaling ships. What a wonderful custom to have picked up from these visitors!

It may be time for mainland Australians to pick up this American holiday and adopt it in a way that will enrich our lives. Thanskgiving and expressing gratitude is something that we should be doing more of. Ingratitude is a vile quality and the mark of a base, selfish and uncultured individual who does not truly appreciate what he has earnt or has been given. We should be thankful for our countless blessings and be quite vocal about it. A formal day when we reflect on this and show our thanks to those around us is a wonderful opportunity.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends who read this blog and thank you to all the special people in my life – you are appreciated and loved.

Wednesday 25 November 2015


“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” - Aristotle

This week, Poets United has as its theme “Survival”. Violence is all around us and it seems that the world is embarking on a renewed cycle of warfare fuelled by extremist, fanatical views that place little value on life, civilisation and peaceful pursuits. Even in the home, violence rears its ugly head and abuse against those who are weakest causes much misery or even deaths.

Are we humans by our nature basically evil or are we fundamentally good? This question has been around for centuries and many a fine philosophical mind has tried to answer it. I would like to believe that humans are basically good and it takes effort to make humans evil. That is the optimist in me raising his voice. The following poem is my contribution to the PU Midweek Motif:


The arid sands of the desert hide a secret,
Ensconced deep in their dry, lifeless depths:
A seed enclosed securely in a tough carapace.

The sun glares and broils the hellish plains,
The wind howls and lifts up clouds of dust:
The seed awaits, for life knows of patience.

And years may pass, for deserts are timeless,
And nights may grow icy cold and freeze the earth:
A seed can bide its time too, its life suspended, frozen.

Our world has grown harsh, just like a desert,
Arid, merciless, sharp, cruel and hostile:
A human soul that is in goodness steeped, survives.

Around us evil thrives, and what has stood for centuries,
Is easily within a day destroyed by wanton fanatics:
The human intellect and its creative fire cannot be quashed.

Our fellow human beings have turned to wild beasts,
Grown hungry for the flesh and blood of others of their own kind:
A human heart that loves and hopes cannot be thus infected.

As seed awaits the desert rain to sprout and bloom,
All that is good in our humanity will rise and overcome malice.
As flower in the desert sets a hundred seeds to disperse them,
Our better nature and our innate goodness will prevail.
For it is the seed’s nature to germinate and flower,
And it is a human’s nature to overcome adversity,
To survive, to create, to nurture, and to flourish.

Tuesday 24 November 2015


“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel! There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest us!

Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.

Please link your entry using the Linky tool below:
Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 382,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1,520,000 in the metropolitan area. Florence is famous for its history: A centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time, it is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called “the Athens of the Middle Ages”.

A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family, and numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1871 the city was the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy. The Historic Centre of Florence attracts millions of tourists each year, and Euromonitor International ranked the city as the world's 89th most visited in 2012, with 1.8 million visitors.

It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture and monuments. The city also contains numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics. Due to Florence's artistic and architectural heritage, it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Florence is an important city in Italian fashion, being ranked in the top 51 fashion capitals of the world; furthermore, it is a major national economic centre, as a tourist and industrial hub. In 2008, the city had the 17th highest average income in Italy. And if it’s all too much for you, why not sit down, relax and enjoy a cup of genuine Italian coffee in the piazza?

Monday 23 November 2015


“A large nose is the mark of a witty, courteous, affable, generous and liberal man.” - Cyrano deBergerac

We watched an old movie at the weekend, which we got on a DVD at a garage sale. We don’t often go to garage sales, but if one is on our way somewhere and it’s convenient to stop we do have a look – curiosity, I guess what other people consider as junk… One can find some interesting things in these sales, although the majority of them are full of heaps of junk, and we agree with the sellers that we wouldn’t want it either. But one never knows, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”, they say…

The film was Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s 1990 “Cyrano de Bergerac”,  starring Gérard Depardieu, Anne Brochet and Vincent Perez. Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655) was a French novelist, playwright, epistolarian and duelist. A bold and innovative author, his work was part of the libertine literature of the first half of the seventeenth century. Today he is best known as the inspiration for Edmond Rostand’s most noted drama ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ which, although it includes elements of his life, also contains invention and myth. Since the 1970s, there has been a resurgence in the study of Cyrano, demonstrated in the abundance of theses, essays, articles and biographies published in France and elsewhere. The film can thus be regarded as fictionalised biography, and is based on Edmond Rostand’s play, from which Jean-Claude Carrière and Jean-Paul Rappeneau produced the excellent screenplay.

Cyrano is a dashing officer of the guard as well as a talented poet, whose romantic verse make women swoon. He is in love with his cousin Roxane but he daren’t tell her because of his big problem: A very large and prominent nose, which he nevertheless feels may be responsible for the development of  razor-sharp wit. Cyrano believes that Roxane will reject him on account of his nose. He resorts to writing letters to her on behalf of one of his cadets, Christian, who is also in love with Roxane but just doesn’t know how to tell her. She falls for the poetic charm of the letters but believes that they were written by Christian and not Cyrano….

This is the film that made Gérard Depardieu a world-wide superstar. Although he was a star in the French cinema for years, Depardieu was unknown in many other countries around the world. As this film won two Academy awards in 1990 (best foreign language film, and best costumes – these were designed by Franca Squarciapino), it generated enough interest around the globe, winning Depardieu well-deserved fame. Depardieu was born to play the role of Cyrano and every word he speaks could not have been delivered in a better way! The rest of the cast are also worthy of praise and the direction, cinematography, scenery and costumes will please all.

French is said to be the language of love, and in this screenplay (as in the original play), all speeches are in rhyming verse which sound absolutely wonderful and this helps to blow a few cobwebs from your high school French. In the version we saw the subtitles were excellently done and gave a great rendition of the original. The music score by Kurt Kuenne and Jean-Claude Petit complemented the action well and was not obtrusive. The film is a fantastic mix of humour, poignancy, action, romance, wit, farce, drama and spectacle. Definitely worth searching for it and viewing it!

Sunday 22 November 2015


“Impressionism has produced ... not only a new, but a very useful way of looking at things. It is as though all at once a window opens and the sun and air enter your house in torrents” - Marie Bracquemond

Marie Bracquemond (née Quivoron-Pasquiou), was a French painter, printmaker and designer, who came from a family of artists. She was the wife of Félix Bracquemond (1833-1914), a printmaker, designer, painter and writer, and the mother of Pierre Bracquemond (1870-1926), a painter. After a difficult start in life, she began to study drawing at Étampes, near Paris. She took advice from Ingres but never received any formal teaching.

Admitted to the Salon from 1857, she was commissioned by the State to copy pictures in the Louvre. There she met Félix Bracquemond in about 1867 and married him on 5 August 1869. She was involved in her husband’s work for the Haviland Limoges factory and produced in particular several dishes and a wide panel of ceramic tiles entitled the Muses, shown at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878; the sketch for this was shown at the Impressionist Exhibition of 1879 and was greatly admired by Degas.

Originally very much influenced by Ingres and then by Alfred (Emile-Léopold) Stevens, her style of painting changed completely c. 1880 as a consequence of her admiration for Renoir and Monet and subsequently because of advice from Gauguin. The few pictures surviving from this period illustrate her conversion to a clearly Impressionist style, comparable to that of Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Examples include “The Lady in White” (1880; Cambrai, Musée Municipal), “On the Terrace at Sèvres” (c. 1880; Geneva, Petit Palais) and “Afternoon Tea” (c. 1880; Paris, Petit Palais).

After exhibiting at the Salon in 1874 and 1875, she took part in the Impressionist exhibitions of 1879, 1880 and 1886. In spite of the support of friends such as Gustave Geffroy, her husband was against any broadening of her career, and confined to Sèvres she produced only a limited amount of work.

According to her son Pierre, Félix Bracquemond was often resentful of his wife, brusquely rejecting her critique of his work, and refusing to show her paintings to visitors. In 1890, Marie Bracquemond, worn out by the continual household friction and discouraged by lack of interest in her work, abandoned her painting except for a few private works. She remained a staunch defender of Impressionism throughout her life, even when she was not actively painting.

The retrospective exhibition of 1919 at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, included 90 paintings (to a large extent small sketches), 34 watercolours and 9 engravings. She also produced ceramics and several drawings for ‘La Vie Moderne’ (1879-80). With Morisot, Gonzalès and Cassatt, she was one of the greatest female representatives of Impressionism.

The painting of 1887, above is from a private collection and is entitled “Under the Lamp”. Bracquemond has captured an intimate moment of a couple at the dinner table, the light of the lamp lending an added dimension of cosiness and intimacy to the scene. The subdued lighting has not affected the luminous qualities of her colours. The composition is finely balanced although seemingly asymmetric and the overall effect is one that draws the viewer in, participating in the impression of the moment.