Saturday 12 December 2015


“Everyone who plays the flute should learn singing.” - James Galway

For Music Saturday, some music by Federigo Fiorillo (baptised 1 June 1755 Brunswick, Germany, died after 1823), who was a mandolinist and composer, who wrote thirty-six caprices for violin, also called études. Fiorillo’s father was Ignazio Fiorillo, a Neapolitan, who also played mandolin. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Ignazio was appointed conductor at the Court Opera House at Brunswick and settled there, where his son, Federigo, was born.

Federigo’s early musical education was superintended by his father. He inherited his parent’s love of the mandolin and obtained complete mastery over it, able to show mastery of delicate nuances of tone of which it was capable. As a mandolinist he performed at most of the royal courts of Europe, but the resources of the instrument at this period were limited, as was also the demand for mandolin players. He was compelled to devote his attention to other stringed instruments, principally the violin and viola.

In 1780 he travelled to Poland, and in 1783 he was conductor of the band at Riga for two years. Two years later he was playing the violin with success at the Concerts Spirituels in Paris. While in Paris, he published some of his first compositions, which were well received. In 1788 he made a visit to London, where he played the viola in Saloman’s quartet. Fiorillo made his last public appearance in London in 1794, when he performed a concerto for the viola at the Antient Concert.

After leaving London he went to Amsterdam, and from there to Paris in 1873. Music historian Philip J. Bone felt that the “thirty-six caprices for the violin, rank equally with the classical studies of [Joseph] Kreutzer and [Pierre] Rode, and, apart from their usefulness, are not without merit as compositions... they have been edited by innumerable violinists of repute, and [Louis] Spohr wrote and published an accompanying violin part to them.” Fiorillo’s other compositions include concertos, duos, trios, quartets, and quintets, for stringed instruments.

Here are six quartets for Flute, Violin, Viola and Cello.
Quartet VI In E Minor 0:00
Quartet IV In F Major 10:14
Quartet V In D major 22:48
Quartet I In C Major 34:01
Quartet III In G major 45:16
Quartet II In A Major 1:00:11

They are performed by Ensemble À L’ Antica with Luigi Lupo (flute), Rosella Croce, Lucar Ronconi and Rebeca Ferri.

Friday 11 December 2015


“Your face makes my soul want to eat chocolate pudding!” - Andy Milonakis

We have been having some cooler weather in Melbourne the last few days, with some rain, making it resemble Autumn. As we had muffins left over from a couple of days ago, we used them to make this dessert last night, as the temperatures fell…

Cheaters’ Sticky Date Puddings
Ingredients, for the puddings
4 large sultana muffins, crumbled
50g chopped dates
40g butter
Butter, for greasing
For the sauce
70g brown sugar
60g butter
100 mL double cream
1 tbsp brandy
vanilla ice cream, to serve

Heat oven to 180˚C.
Mix the crumbled muffins with the melted butter and chopped dates.
Divide between 4 buttered ramekins (or one baking dish).
Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes until warmed through.
Meanwhile, place the sugar, butter, brandy and cream in a small pan and gently heat together, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Pour the sauce over the muffin mixture and serve warm with ice cream.

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

Thursday 10 December 2015


“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” - Buddha

The festival of the Hanukkah is one of the most popular and joyous of the Jewish festivals.  It commemorates the rededication of the Temple in 164 BC, after the armies of Judas Maccabaeus (the “Hammer”) had routed the forces of Antiochus IV.  On that occasion, there was a miraculous relighting of the perpetual light in the Temple in Jerusalem.  The ritual oil that kept the light burning had run out and only enough was left for one day. However, miraculously, the light kept burning for eight days.

To commemorate that event, candles are lit in synagogues and homes.  The menorah is the special candelabrum used for this ritual. One candle is lit every night in each of the seven nights of the festival.  While the Hanukkah lights are burning parties are held, games are played, gifts are exchanged and various other entertainments and plays are featured.  This is as close to Christmas as the Jewish faith gets! Tradition limits work only during the time that the Hanukkah candles are lit.

The Hanukkah celebration revolves around the kindling of a nine-branched menorah, known in Hebrew as the hanukiah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown; the ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper”), is used to light the others. Jews typically recite blessings during this ritual and display the menorah prominently in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the holiday.

In another allusion to the Hanukkah miracle, traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil. Potato pancakes (known as latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are particularly popular in many Jewish households. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels and exchanging gifts. In recent decades, particularly in North America, Hanukkah has exploded into a major commercial phenomenon, largely because it falls near or overlaps with Christmas. From a religious perspective, however, it remains a relatively minor holiday that places no restrictions on working, attending school or other activities.

Hanukkah in 2015 started on Monday, the 7th of December and will continue for 8 days until Monday, the 14th of December. Note that in the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Jews began to celebrate Hanukkah on the sunset of Sunday, the 6th of December.

Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday 9 December 2015


“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.” - John Ruskin

The theme this week for Poets United is "colour".
Here is my contribution.

In Foreign Lands

When faint twilight of late evening
Cries out my plangent woe,
My heart will every time go back
To Greece to die.

Each dusk when my emptiness awakes
And sinks its sharpened claws deep into my breast,
My heart flies out
To Greece to die.

When foreign-speaking songs
Fail to reach my soul, and whose alien language 
Cannot communicate with my heart, it goes
To Greece to die

Each day when the morning sun rises
-Jet black-
It chills my shallow, failing breath,
And my heart can’t stand it, it escapes always
To Greece to die.

When envious eyes
Look at me with hidden malice,
And closed minds can’t embrace me, my heart comes
To Greece to die.

And each time my heart trembles and dies
-In blue caerulean-
High up in Attic sky, from death it’s roused, revived,
Only to be forced to leave its country yet again
And in a foreign land be killed each lilac-tinted evening.

Tuesday 8 December 2015


“My favourite country is Finland because once you get to a certain point, you can drive for hours without seeing a single person. I love peace and quiet - something I don't get very often.” - Christopher Lee

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:

Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. Helsinki has a population of 626,305, an urban population of 1.2 million (31 December 2013), and a metropolitan population of 1.4 million, making it the most populous municipality and urban area in Finland.

Helsinki is located some 80 kilometres (50 mi) north of Tallinn, Estonia, 400 kilometres (250 mi) north east of Stockholm, Sweden, and 388 kilometres (241 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, Russia. Helsinki has close historical connections with these three cities. The Helsinki metropolitan area includes the urban core of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen, and surrounding commuter towns.

It is the world’s northernmost metro area of over one million people, and the city is the northernmost capital of an EU member state. The Helsinki metropolitan area is the fourth largest Nordic metropolitan area after the metropolitan areas of Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo, and the City of Helsinki is the third biggest Nordic city after Stockholm and Oslo. Helsinki is Finland's major political, educational, financial, cultural, and research centre as well as one of northern Europe's major cities.

Approximately 75% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region. The nearby municipality of Vantaa is the location of Helsinki Airport, with frequent service to various destinations in Europe and Asia. In 2009, Helsinki was chosen to be the World Design Capital for 2012 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, narrowly beating Eindhoven for the title.

The city was the venue for the XV Olympic Games 1952 and the 52nd Eurovision Song Contest 2007. In 2011, the Monocle magazine ranked Helsinki the most liveable city in the world in its “Liveable Cities Index 2011”. In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s August 2015 Liveability survey, assessing the best and worst cities to live in globally, Helsinki placed among the world’s top ten cities.

Monday 7 December 2015


“That government is best which governs least.” - Henry David Thoreau

One of my strongest childhood memories concerns the early morning on the 21st of April of 1967 when we were living in Athens. We were awakened by the noise of tanks rumbling on the city streets outside our windows, punctuated by a few distant shots being fired now and then. We rushed to the window and saw the soldiers and tanks marching on the street below and as we turned the radio a blare of military marching band music was enough to realise our worse fears. A coup had been staged by a group of colonels of the Greek army and the democratic government was deposed. The king had been put under observation in the palace. Within a few weeks the country was under the fist of a military dictatorship...

I remember this very vividly today, even though I was only nine years old at the time. I am thinking of how many more such dictatorships are in place around the world. Central and South America have had a string of such juntas to contend with and each new coup brings with it arrests of dissenters, torture, murder, destruction. Tyrants and dictators never seem to be in short supply and the trail of destruction they leave behind them scars a country and its people for decades after they are deposed.

The situation in Myanmar has only just started to resolve itself following the first free elections for 25 years. These polls are the first openly-contested election held in the country since 1990, which was annulled by the military government after the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) victory. The poll was preceded by the 2010 General Election, which was marred by a widespread boycott and allegations of systematic fraud by the victorious USDP.

On 11 November 2015, chairperson of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, called for “national reconciliation” talks with incumbent president, Thein Sein, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Shwe Mann to be set for a later date. All accepted her invitation.

On 12 November 2015, incumbent President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, who has led political reforms during his tenure, congratulated Aung San Suu Kyi and her party on his Facebook, promising that his current government will “respect and obey” the election results and “transfer power peacefully”. Commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, also took to Facebook to congratulate Ms Suu Kyi, vowing that the Tatmadaw will co-operate with the new government following the transition. This was after a meeting conducted within the Tatmadaw’s top ranks.

US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Suu Kyi on her victory and praised Thein Sein for his organisation of the election. Suu Kyi also received calls from French President François Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But what has all this to do with Movie Monday, you may ask… Read on!

The novel “Z” byVasilis Vasilikos is a novel based on fact and centres on the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis, a left-wing politician and dissenter during the early 1960s. Vasilikos has written a fictionalised account of the assassination, but it is thinly veiled and the work of fiction describes actual political realities and historical events that can be seen for what they are by anyone familiar with the actual events.

Although Vasilikos is not writing history, he is intent on setting the record straight. A record that was whitewashed by the right wing governments in power after the murder and also of course by the military junta that came in power in 1967. It is a powerful novel and despite it being based on actual events, it is not a simple “newspaper report-type” documentary, it is a worthy work of fiction that obeys the rule of engaging narrative fiction.

The novel was made into an equally famous movie (“Z”) by Costas Gavras in 1969 and it starred Yves Montand, Irene Pappas and Jean-Louis Trintignant. The film is an excellent adaptation of the novel and is a great thriller. An added bonus is a fantastic soundtrack by Mikis Theodorakis, a Greek composer who certainly had his own personal bitter experiences as a political prisoner to draw inspiration from.

The film was nominated for a large number of awards, including an Oscar for Best Picture, (winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Film). It also won the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Picture, and is named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and National Society of Film Critics Awards. The film was also nominated for a Golden Palm award at the Cannes film festival. The film was banned in Greece as was the soundtrack during the Colonels’ rule. The film ends with a list of things banned by the Junta which include the peace movement, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, mini-skirts, the peace symbol, the Beatles, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Aeschylus, Socrates, Eugene Ionesco, Sartre, Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, free press, new mathematics and the letter Z, which pronounced as “zee” means 'he lives' in Greek...

Sunday 6 December 2015


“Love does not just sit there, like a stone; it had to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” - Ursula Le Guin

For Art Sunday I am giving you the painting of one the British Preraphaelite painters, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898). He was one of the leading painters and designers of late 19th-century England, whose romantic paintings using medieval imagery were among the last manifestations of the Pre-Raphaelite style. More long-lasting is his influence as a pioneer of the revival of the ideal of the “artist-craftsman,” so influential to the development of 20th-century industrial design. This is his “The Hand Refrains” of 1875-78, which is one from his “Pygmalion” series of paintings.

In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was an accomplished sculptor. His relationships with the opposite sex were less than fortunate and it seems that no matter how beautiful the women who modelled with him were, their hearts and souls were lacking in beauty. He determined to create his ideal in womanhood by making an ivory statue. He put his heart and soul into the creation of this masterwork and imbued it not only with his ideal beauty, but also all of the imagined virtues that his ideal woman should have. Upon finishing this wondrous statue, which he named Galatea (“milky white”), he fell in love with his own creation. He spent all of his time contemplating it and adorning it with roses, pining and sighing, melting away with unrequited love. Finally, in desperation, he prayed to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to deliver him form this miserable existence.

Aphrodite brought the statue to life in answer to his prayers. True enough, Galatea proved to be intelligent and compassionate, beautiful in soul as well as in looks, softly-spoken but independent, erudite and artistic like her husband. Their daughter Paphos gave her name to the city of Paphos, the centre of Aphrodite’s worship on Cyprus. The myth was the inspiration for many artists and writers.

George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” is a light-hearted take on the legend. This play of Shaw is a comedic masterpiece, by far his funniest and most popular play (first performed in 1913). It was claimed by Shaw to be a didactic drama about phonetics, and its antiheroic hero, Henry Higgins, is a phonetician, however, the play is a humane comedy about love and the English class system. Higgins trains an uneducated Cockney flower girl so that she passes off as a lady, in both manner and speech. It also examines the repercussions of the experiment’s success. The scene in which Eliza Doolittle appears in high society when she has acquired a correct accent but no notion of polite conversation is one of the funniest in English drama. Pygmalion has been both filmed (1938), winning an Academy Award for Shaw for his screenplay, and adapted into an immensely popular musical, “My Fair Lady” by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe (1956; and the film version, 1964).

The legend of Pygmalion is an interesting philosophical proposition about love and how we view the beloved. The creation of an ideal image with which we fall in love and the subsequent search for that ideal in life is widespread in myth, legend, literature, drama and of course in real life. When we fall in love we fall in love with the image of the ideal that is projected onto the victim of our affections. How closely that real beloved corresponds with our mental ideal of the beloved, may have something to do with the long-term success of the relationship. The situation of course is made more complex when there two people in love with each other, rather than one lover and one beloved. Attainment of one’s ideal in love may be seen as an allegory of the soul attaining a heavenly state of ideal bliss.