Saturday 5 December 2015


“Many people spend more time in planning the wedding than they do in planning the marriage.” - Zig Ziglar

Johan Helmich Roman (26 October 1694 – 20 November 1758) was a Swedish Baroque composer. He has been called “the father of Swedish music” or “the Swedish Handel”. He was the leader of Swedish Opera through most of Swedish Opera’s Age of Liberty.

Roman was born in Stockholm into the family of Johan Roman, member of the Swedish royal chapel. The family name “Roman” may be derived from the Finnish place name Rauma, since Johan’s ancestors lived in Finland. The boy probably received his first music lessons from his father. He joined the royal chapel in 1711 as violinist and oboist. Around 1715 the King granted Roman permission to study abroad, and the young composer spent some six years in London. He almost certainly studied under Johann Christoph Pepusch, met Francesco Geminiani, Giovanni Bononcini, and, most importantly, George Frideric Handel, whose music made a lasting impression on Roman.

Roman returned to Sweden in 1721. He was soon appointed deputy master of the royal chapel, and six years later he became Chief Master of the Swedish Royal Orchestra. Roman’s life during the 1720s was full of organisational activity which led to much improved standards at the chapel, and, in 1731, the first public concerts in Sweden. Roman’s only work published during his lifetime, a collection of 12 sonatas for flute, violone and harpsichord, appeared in 1727. In 1730 Roman married, but his wife died just four years later.

In 1734 the composer left Sweden to visit several European countries—Austria, England, France, Germany, and Italy. He returned to Stockholm in 1737, bringing back a wealth of music by various composers for the royal chapel to perform. In 1738 Roman married again. In 1740 he was elected a member of the newly established Royal Academy of Sciences.

Roman’s successful career took a turn for the worse in early 1740s. The composer’s greatest patron, Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden, died in late 1741. In 1742 Roman’s activity was greatly hindered by health problems. In 1744 Roman composed one of his finest works, “Drottningholm Music”: A large orchestral suite for the wedding of the Crown Prince Adolf Frederick of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia. Ironically, it was due to Adolf Frederick's and Louisa Ulrika's efforts that Roman’s career suffered. The new crown princess had different tastes in music, and her husband set up a very strong competing chapel. Finally, Roman's second wife Maria Elisabeth Baumgardt died in 1744, leaving the composer with five children.

In 1745 Roman retired from his post as leader of the royal chapel due to deafness, which had progressed rapidly during the previous years. He settled in the parish of Ryssby, on the estate Lilla Haraldsmåla, near the city of Kalmar in south-east Sweden. Apart from a single visit to Stockholm in 1751–52 to direct the funeral and coronation music on the accession of Adolph Frederik, Roman's last years were dedicated to translating European theoretical treatises into Swedish, and adaptation of sacred texts into Swedish language. He died at Haraldsmåla in 1758. His work has never been forgotten, for already nine years after his death the Royal Academy of Sciences held a commemorative ceremony, where Roman’s achievements were documented; copies of Roman’s works are found in manuscripts from as late as 1810.

Here is Roman’s best-known compositions, the “Drottningholm Music”, or “Music for a Royal Wedding”. It consists of a collection of 24 short pieces ranging in length from about one to six minutes. Roman wrote this music for the wedding in August 1744 of the Crown Prince Adolf Frederick of Sweden and his bride Louisa Ulrika of Prussia. Their wedding took place at the palace of Drottningholm (hence the modern title). The festivities lasted four days. The pieces of the “Drottningholm Music” were apparently selected and arranged as befitted the occasion. Roman also kept eight pieces in reserve. These pieces are known as the Suite in D major, sometimes referred to as the Little Drottningholm Music, or Shorter Drottningholm Music. Both are modern terms invented by Swedish conductor and musician Claude Génetay.

Friday 4 December 2015


“I love judging food by its smell and feel and taste. The healthiest tomato isn't always the perfect one that's been covered in pesticides.” - Sheherazade Goldsmith

We cut the first zucchinis from our garden today and as we had bought some delicious ripe, juicy red tomatoes from a farmers’ market, we made this dish, which is a traditional Greek “everyday” Summer dish. It’s a great dish as it can eaten hot out of the oven or alternatively at room temperature, or even chilled if the weather is very hot. Grated parmesan cheese can added optionally (either in the last stages of cooking or when the meal is served.
Serve with crusty bread and a chilled rosé wine.

(Vegetarian Greek Stuffed Tomatoes)

6 medium ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1 large onion, grated
2 small zucchinis, grated
1/3 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint
2 potatoes, cut into wedges
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
Grated parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190˚C
Cut the tops of the tomatoes, leaving one side attached as a lid carefully and scoop out the flesh, being careful not to pierce the bottoms. Season the insides with salt and pepper.
Purée the tomato flesh and any of the additional juices with the garlic in a small food processor. Set aside.
In a large skillet, sauté the onion over medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook a few minutes longer, until the zucchini is just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until pearly white, 3 minutes.
Carefully pour in the tomato mixture and add the tomato paste. Simmer until just thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, the parsley, and the mint.
Arrange the tomatoes in a large casserole dish. Spoon the rice mixture into the tomatoes until just shy of full (you might have a little extra depending on the size of your tomatoes). Cover with the tops.
Put the potato wedges in between the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Pour 1/2 cup vegetable stock around the tomatoes. Bake in the oven for 1-2 hours, until the tomatoes and the rice are cooked. About 10 minutes before removing from the oven sprinkle generously with grated parmesan cheese, if using.
Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Thursday 3 December 2015


“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” - Stephen Hawking

The third of December is International Day of People with Disability, a United Nations sanctioned day that celebrates progress in breaking down barriers, opening doors, and realising an inclusive society for all. Disability organisations, businesses, governments and the community come together at events across the country to mark the occasion and celebrate the achievements of people with disability.

Each year the UN announces a theme. The theme for 2015 is: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities. There are also three sub-themes this year:
Making cities inclusive and accessible for all;
Improving disability data and statistics;
Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development.

The annual theme provides a frame for considering how people with disability are excluded from society by promoting the removal of all types of barriers; including those relating to the physical environment, information and communications technology (ICT), or attitudinal barriers. This has been occurring since 1992 when the General Assembly proclaimed December 3rd as the International Day of Disabled Persons.

Today, the world population is over 7 billion people. More than one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world's population, live with some form of disability. 80 per cent live in developing countries. Factors which place people with disabilities at higher risk of violence include stigma, discrimination, and ignorance about disability, as well as a lack of social support for those who care for them.

Additionally, the disabled face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation. The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society. By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities.

Empowerment involves investing in people - in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.

Wednesday 2 December 2015


“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” - Chris Maser

This week Poets United has as its mid-week motif “Vitality-Energy”. This is perhaps quite apt as the vitality of our planet is being discussed yet again, this time in Paris…

The twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) is taking place from 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris, France, under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Another talkfest? Another congregation of politicians to spout forth platitudes as they quaff their champagne and eat their gourmet dinners at the gala functions? Another lot of scientists vying for Nobel prizes at whatever cost? And meanwhile ordinary people try to demonstrate around the world, aware that what is being done by governments and scientists is not enough.

My poem below:


The sun drips pure drops of golden energy
And forests green drink deep, slaking boundless thirst;
A wondrous transmutation in each viridian leaf
As chemistry’s vital soup mixes:
Radiant light, carbon dioxide and water,
To make a syrupy fluid sustaining life.

An endless cycle that for a billion years
Keeps all in balance, making our Earth a blue-green Eden;
Sunlight, heat, water, oxygen,
The molecules of life dancing tirelessly:
Sugars, proteins, fats, solids, liquids gases,
All in each cell admixed in right proportions.

And as we grow in numbers, and our pullulating masses
Consume, pollute, destroy, despoil and divest the earth;
A dismal transmutation in each and every place,
As human filth poisons air, sea, land, river and lake:
Lead, mercury, dioxin, DDT, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide,
To make of our Eden, a toxic greenhouse.

A hundred years or so, were enough for man
To throw the delicate balance off kilter;
Ozone depleted, carbon heavy, oxygen starved,
Our planet marches towards destruction:
Species extinct, great forests felled, ice melting,
Climate disrupted, our vitality sapped…

Too late to stop?
Too far gone to reverse?
Too few that care?
Too poisoned to recover?
Yes, if we rely on politicians on a Paris junket to act,
And not on each and every single one of us, doing what we must.

Tuesday 1 December 2015


“India has an enthralling, uplifting civilisation that sparkles not only in our magnificent art, but also in the enormous creativity and humanity of our daily life in city and village.” - Pranab Mukherjee

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:

Udaipur is a major city, municipal corporation and the administrative headquarters of the Udaipur district in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is the historic capital of the kingdom of Mewar in the former Rajputana Agency. Maharana Udai Singh of the Sisodia clan of Rajputs founded the city in 1559 AD and shifted his capital from the city of Chittorgarh to Udaipur. It remained as the capital city till 1818 when it became a British princely state, and thereafter the Mewar province became a part of Rajasthan when India gained independence in 1947.

Udaipur is a very popular tourist destination. Known for its history, culture, scenic locations and the Rajput-era palaces, Udaipur was also voted as the best city in the world in 2009 by the Travel + Leisure magazine. A large number of palaces, temples, public buildings and other cultural, artistic and historic places to visit will be found in the city and close to it.

Illustrated above is Saheliyon-ki-Bari (Courtyard of the Maidens), which is a major garden and a popular tourist space in Udaipur. It lies in northern part of the city and has fountains and kiosks, a lotus pool and marble elephants. It was built by Rana Sangram Singh. There is also a small museum here. Sahelion-ki-Bari was created between 1710-1734 for a group of forty-eight young women attendants who accompanied a princess to Udaipur as part of her dowry.

The gardens are set below the embankment of the Fateh Sagar Lake and have beautiful lotus pools, marble pavilions and elephant- shaped fountains. These fountains are fed by the water of the lake gushing through ducts made for the purpose. Each water channel has its distinct sound and the mingling of these sounds complement the ambience of the place.

Monday 30 November 2015


“Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.” - Immanuel Kant

We are currently watching the 2008-2013 TV series “Breaking Bad”, starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt and RJ Mitte. Vince Gilligan created the series and a number of talented writers and directors have worked on the five seasons of the highly acclaimed and very popular series. We didn't watch this while it was showing on TV, despite all the acclaim and instead are watching it now on DVD. We are watching the penultimate season at the moment and are still enjoying it very much.

In case you are unaware of the plotline, and the main premise of the show, here is a summary: When chemistry teacher Walter White (Cranston) is diagnosed with Stage III cancer and given only two years to live, he decides he has nothing to lose and embarks on illicit activities to make money. He lives with Walter Jr (Mitte), his teenage son, who has cerebral palsy, and his wife, Skyler (Gunn) in New Mexico. Determined to ensure that his family will have a secure future, Walt embarks on a career of drugs and crime. He proves to be remarkably proficient in this new world as he begins manufacturing and selling methamphetamine with one of his former students, Jesse (Paul). The series tracks the impacts of a fatal diagnosis on a regular, hard working man, and explores how a fatal diagnosis affects his morality and transforms him into a drug trade kingpin. Complicating things is that Hank (Norris) is Walter’s brother-in-law who is married to Skyler’s sister Marie (Brandt), and who is working in the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The success of the series is that it involves characters the viewer can identify with and sympathise with, even though we know that they do is morally reprehensible. One cannot help but feel for Walter who finds himself in such an uncompromising position that he has to resort to illegal activities in order to make ends meet. We know that what Walter does is bad, and we know that Walter makes a conscious decision to leave the path of light and go into the darkness, yet we try and make excuses for him, hoping that he will see the error of his ways and find redemption… Walter’s decision to follow evil is ultimately his choice and we know that ultimately he will pay the price – and perhaps that is how the series maintains our interest. We watch with morbid fascination as Walter commits greater and greater crimes and wince as he quashes his conscience and feel some relief as he begins to suffer the consequences of his evil actions.

A strong theme running through the series is “family”. Nearly every character in the show displays an attachment to their family and it is this excessive devotion that motivates many of their actions (good or bad). Walter’s primary motive for his choices to manufacture drugs is to make money to leave his family when he dies. Even the Mexican drug lords uphold family ties as sacred and the obvious sacrifices that Skyler makes to assure her family’s safety support this view. As the show progresses, we find that family can act as a convenient peg on which to hang all sorts of crimes and at some point, Walter finally admits that while he started to do “bad things” for his family, he continues to do so after he succeeds in overcoming his enemies “because he can and because he has begun to enjoy it…”

Acting is quite amazing. Every single actor in the series plays superbly, and that goes for the supporting cast as well. The writing is great and the scenario makes for some thought provoking viewing and quite a lot of philosophising for the thinking viewer. Production values are excellent and I would recommend this show to all and sundry, even though it is quite gritty and violent and deals with extremely sensitive topics. Watch it, if you haven’t done so already!

Sunday 29 November 2015


“It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed and unchangeable colour to every object; beware of this stumbling block.” - Paul Gauguin

For Art Sunday today, one my favourite artists: Paul (Eugène, Henri) Gauguin, born June 7th, 1848, Paris, and died May 8th, 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. He was one of the leading French painters of the Post-impressionist period, whose development of an original and conceptual method of representation was a ground-breaking step for 20th-century art. After spending a short period with Vincent van Gogh in Arles (1888), Gauguin increasingly abandoned imitative art for expressiveness through colour. From 1891 he lived and worked in Tahiti and elsewhere in the South Pacific. His masterpieces include the early “Vision After the Sermon” (1888) and “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” (1897-98).

Although his art was to lie elsewhere, Gauguin began his painting surrounded by Impressionists. His artistic sensibility was deeply influenced by his experience of the first Impressionist exhibition, and he himself participated in those of 1880, 1881 and 1882. The son of a French journalist and a Peruvian Creole, whose mother had been a writer and a follower of Saint-Simon, he was brought up in Lima, joined the merchant navy in 1865, and in 1872 began a successful career as a stockbroker in Paris.

In 1874 he saw the first Impressionist exhibition, which completely entranced him and confirmed his desire to become a painter. He spent some 17,000 francs on works by Manet, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Renoir and Guillaumin. Pissarro took a special interest in his attempts at painting, emphasising that he should “look for the nature that suits your temperament”, and in 1876 Gauguin had a landscape in the style of Pissarro accepted at the Salon. In the meantime Pissarro had introduced him to Cézanne, for whose works he conceived a great respect, so much so that the older man began to fear that he would steal his “sensations”. All three worked together for some time at Pontoise, where Pissarro and Gauguin drew pencil sketches of each other (Cabinet des Dessins, Louvre).

In 1883-84 the bank that employed him got into difficulties and Gauguin was able to paint every day. He settled for a while in Rouen, partly because Paris was too expensive for a man with five children, partly because he thought it would be full of wealthy patrons who might buy his works. Rouen proved a disappointment, and he joined his wife Mette and children, who had gone back to Denmark, where she had been born. His experience of Denmark was not a happy one and having returned to Paris, he went to paint in Pont-Aven, a well-known resort for artists.

Here, he stopped working exclusively out-of-doors, as Pissarro had taught him, and generally began to adopt a more independent line. His meeting with van Gogh, the influence of Seurat, the doctrines of Signac, and a rediscovery of the merits of Degas (especially in his pastels) all combined with his own streak of megalomania to produce a style that had little in common with the thoughtful lyricism of the work of his erstwhile mentor Pissarro. Monet confessed to a liking of his “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” (1888; National Gallery of Scotland), which he saw at the exhibition Gauguin organised in 1891 to finance his projected excursion to places where he could live on “ecstasy, calmness and art”; the proceeds amounted to 10,000 francs, some of it coming from Degas, who bought several paintings. There were still evident in these new works traces of pure Impressionism, and of the very clear influence of Cézanne (as in the Portrait of Marie Lagadu, 1890; Art Institute of Chicago) - a fact pointed up by a Cézanne still life owned by Gauguin which is shown behind her - but basically this period marked the parting of the ways between Gauguin and Impressionism.

Gauguin’s art has all the appearance of an abandonment of civilisation, of a search for new ways of life, more primitive, more real and more sincere. His break away from a solid middle-class world, leaving family, children and job, his refusal to accept easy glory and easy gain are the best-known aspects of Gauguin’s fascinating life and personality. During his first stay in Tahiti (he was to leave in 1893, only to return in 1895 and remain until his death), Gauguin discovered primitive art, with its flat forms and the violent colours belonging to an untamed nature. And then, with absolute sincerity, he transferred them onto canvas.

Gauguin’s Tahitian women, the bright violent colours of the clear Pacific sun, the tropical landscape and the unashamed sensuality of his compositions appealled to the French public, who were always on the lookout for the exotic, the sensual and the novel. It is these Tahitian canvases that established him as one of the most famous of the post-impressionists in the art scene and as one of the great artists of the world.

The painting above is “Arearea” (Joyousness). In April 1891, Gauguin set off for his first visit to Tahiti, in search of traces of a primitive way of life. He took his inspiration for imaginary scenes in his paintings from what he saw around him, as well as from local stories and ancient religious traditions. “Arearea” is representative of these works where dream and reality coexist.

In the foreground, there are several motifs, which he had no doubt observed, as they recur throughout the paintings of this period. There are two women seated in the centre of the picture, a tree cutting across the canvas, and a red dog. The sky has disappeared; a succession of coloured planes – green, yellow, red – forms the structure of the composition. In the imaginary scene in the background, there are several women worshipping a statue. Gauguin has enlarged a small Maori statue to the size of a great Buddha, and has invented a sacred rite. All these elements create an enchanted world, full of both harmony and melancholy, where man lives under the protection of the gods, in a luxuriant natural environment, in an archaic, idealised Polynesia.