Saturday 19 December 2015


“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” ― Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Johann David Heinichen (17 April 1683 – 16 July 1729) was a German Baroque composer and music theorist who brought the musical genius of Venice to the court of Augustus the Strong in Dresden. Heinichen’s music lingered in obscurity for a long time, but fortunately it is now being rediscovered and played again.

Johann David Heinichen was born in the small village of Crössuln, near Weissenfels. His father, Michael Heinichen, had studied music at the celebrated Thomasschule Leipzig associated with the Thomaskirche, served as cantor in Pegau and was pastor of the village church in Crössuln. Johann David also attended the Thomasschule Leipzig. There he studied music with Johann Schelle and later received organ and harpsichord lessons with Johann Kuhnau. The future composer Christoph Graupner was also a student of Kuhnau at the time.

Heinichen enrolled in 1702 to study law at the University of Leipzig and in 1705-1706 qualified as a lawyer (in the early 18th century the law was a favoured route for composers; Kuhnau, Graupner and Georg Philipp Telemann were also lawyers). Heinichen practiced law in Weissenfels until 1709. However, Heinichen maintained his interest in music and was concurrently composing operas.

In 1710, he published the first edition of his major treatise on the thoroughbass. He went to Italy and spent seven formative years there, mostly in Venice, with great success with its operas. In 1712, he taught music to Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, who took him as composer. The same prince would appoint Johann Sebastian Bach Kapellmeister at the end of 1717.

In 1716, Heinichen met in Venice the Prince Elector of Saxony, and was appointed Kapellmeister to the Elector of Saxony in Dresden. His pupils included Johann Georg Pisendel. In 1721, Heinichen married in Weissenfels; the birth of his only child is recorded as January 1723. In his final years Heinichen’s health suffered greatly; on the afternoon of 16 July 1729, he was buried in the Johannes cemetery after finally succumbing to tuberculosis. His music is enjoying a resurgence of popularity, with some of his concerti, masses and his final work, a Magnificat, now receiving some attention in the recording world.

Here is his Concerto for Oboe d’ Amore, Strings and Basso continuo in A-Major, Seibel 223. It is played by Il Fondamento, on period instruments. Paul Dombrecht, oboe d’amore and conductor.
I. Allegro assai (0:00)
II. Affetuoso (3:50)
III. Allegro (9:05)

Friday 18 December 2015


“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store…” - Dr. Seuss

Christmas is fast approaching and there is nothing better than home-made Christmas goodies, so much better tasting than the commercially available ones. However, today’s busy lifestyle often precludes the making of these traditional recipes as they are time-consuming and often need to be made many weeks before the festive season (something we seem to forget nowadays). Here is a recipe for fruit mince pies that doesn’t need much preparation, nor does the mince need weeks of ageing.


Ingredients, pastry
480 g plain flour
Pinch salt
3600g butter, put in freezer for 10 minutes and grated
6 tbsps water
Finely grated rind of 4 lemons (you could also use lime zest)

Ingredients, fruit mince
1/2 cup sultanas
1/3 cup mixed citrus peel
1/3 cup glacé cherries, chopped up
1/3 cup dried figs, chopped up
1/3 cup dates, chopped up
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 tbsp brandy
ground cinnamon, cloves

caster sugar
1 egg whisked with a little milk.

Mix all of the fruit, jam, marmalade, brandy and spices together. Let it rest while making the pastry. Grease two muffin pans (12 each) in preparation for the baking.

Sift the flour and salt together onto a clean bench. Add the grated butter and lightly rub the flour and butter together between your finger tips and thumb tips till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add water. Using a butter knife cut the water into the flour so that it is partially combined. If it looks too crumbly, add another tablespoon of water and cut the water into the mixture again.
Quickly knead the mixture a couple of times to bring all ingredients together (just a few times – don’t over work the pastry). Wrap pastry in cling wrap and then refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. You could also put the pastry in the freezer if you want to make it in advance; it will last a couple of weeks (just make sure it is well wrapped in cling wrap).

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll the pastry out onto a well-floured surface (to stop it sticking) to 1/2 cm thick. Using a round pastry cutter cut 24 x 8 cm rounds and 24 x 6 cms rounds. Gently line the muffin tins with the 8 cm rounds and bake in the oven for 5 minutes until golden brown.
Fill the pre-baked pastry cases with 1 heaped tablespoon of fruit mince. Brush the egg mixture around the top edge of the pastry case and place the 6 cm rounds on as lids. You can decorate the tops with dough, cut out in the shape of holly leaves. Press to seal the edges, then brush the lids with the egg mixture and lightly sprinkle with caster sugar. Gently press the tip of a knife into the centre of each pie/tart to create a small hole to allow steam to escape. 
Bake in the oven for a further 10 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Eat while warm or cold. The tarts will keep well in an airtight container for about a week.

Merry Christmas!

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Thursday 17 December 2015


“You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories.” - Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

One of the things I remember about the garden in my grandfather’s house is the sweet scent of rose geranium. There were a couple of these beautiful plants growing there and whenever one brushed against them they would release their delightful fragrance in the air and it would linger there for a few seconds. My grandmother used to collect some leaves of this plant when she was making quince jelly or quince preserve and use them to flavour these sweetmeats with an unmistakeable signature aroma – a mixed fruity smell of quince/sweet ripe apples, roses, and a hint of citrus.

We have these plants growing in our garden now and they have joined a special group of “heritage and memory plants”, which all bring to mind some special situations, specific people, delightful reminiscences and distant places…

Rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is an uncommon Pelargonium species native to the Cape Provinces and the Northern Provinces of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Pelargonium comes from the Greek pelargos, which means stork. Another name for pelargoniums is stork’s-bills due to the shape of their fruit. The specific epithet graveolens refers to the strong-smelling leaves.

Pelargonium graveolens is an erect, multi-branched shrub, which grows up to 1.5 m and has a spread of 1 m. The leaves are deeply incised leaves are velvety and soft to the touch (due to glandular hairs). The flowers vary from pale pink to almost white and the plant flowers from August to January. The leaves may be strongly rose-scented, although the leaf shape and scent vary. Some plants are very strongly scented and others have little or no scent. Some leaves are deeply incised and others less so, being slightly lobed like P. capitatum.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday 16 December 2015


“We design our world, while our world acts back on us and designs us.” - Anne-Marie Willis

This week, Poets United has the theme of “design” and participants are asked to contribute a poem having this motif. Here is mine:

The Weaver

The old woman sits weaving
And weaving, and weaving…
The shuttle flies, the threads lock,
The woven cloth lengthens.

The yarns of many colours,
Form endlessly intricate designs.
And the old woman weaves,
And weaves, and weaves…

The cloth is wound up,
As the shuttle flies.
The loom sings,
The loom cries, tak, tak, tak…

And she weaves on,
Using the yarn until it ends,
Or until it’s cut, or until it breaks –
And the cloth keeps getting woven.

Fancy weaves, and decorations,
Variations, and improvised designs,
Difficult or easy with a myriad of colours
And with a thousand threads.

But the old crone ignores my pleas,
And she sits silent, ever working,
Refusing to weave
Into my life’s cloth, your yarn.

Tuesday 15 December 2015


“Be as you wish to seem.” - Socrates

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:

Skopelos (Greek: Σκόπελος) is a Greek island in the western Aegean Sea. Skopelos is one of several islands that comprise the Northern Sporades island group, which lies east of the Pelion peninsula on the mainland and north of the island of Euboea. It is part of the Thessaly region. Skopelos is also the name of the main port and the municipal center of the island. The other communities of the island are Glossa and Neo Klima (Elios). The geography of Skopelos includes two mountains over 500 m: Delphi (681 m) in the centre of the island, and Palouki (546 m) in the southeast. With an area of 96 square kilometres, Skopelos is slightly larger than Mykonos (85 km2) and Santorini (73 km2). The nearest inhabited islands are Skiathos to the west and Alonissos to the east.

Skopelos is one of the greenest islands in the Aegean Sea. The island has a wide range of flowers, trees and shrubs. The local vegetation is chiefly made up of forests of Aleppo Pines (Pinus halepensis), Kermes Oaks (Quercus coccifera), a small forest of Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex), Oleo-Ceratonion maquis, fruit trees and olive groves. The pine forests on Skopelos have replaced oak species that predominated in the past; this is due to a preference for pine trees, since their timber is widely used for ship construction.

This post is also part of the Wednesday Waters meme,
and also part of the Waterworld Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Outdoor Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.


“Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies; history has no place for them.” - Norodom Sihanouk

Movie Monday is late this week because I have been extremely busy with work… I have had to present several seminars to a visiting Chinese delegation and today was the last session which was perhaps the most gruelling of all. Of course I speak no Chinese at all, and all of my sessions were being translated by an interpreter. This is quite an amazing thing and takes a little getting used to. There must be a change of pace involved, but as I developed a rapport with the interpreter, the lectures went very well.

Last Sunday we watched the Tim Burton 2014 movie “Big Eyes” starring Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter and Terence Stamp. The film is based on a true story, set in San Francisco in the 1950s. Amy Adams plays the role of Margaret Keane, an artist responsible for the very popular and characteristic portraits of children with big eyes that were the hallmark of the 1960s.

Margaret is a woman trying to make it on her own after leaving her husband with only her daughter and her paintings. She meets the attractive, gregarious ladies’ man and fellow painter Walter Keane in a park while she is struggling to make an impact with her drawings of children with big eyes. The two quickly become a pair with outgoing Walter selling their paintings and quiet Margaret holed up at home painting even more children with big eyes. But Walter’s actually selling her paintings as his own. A clash of financial success and critical failure soon sends Margaret reeling in her life of lies. With Walter still living the high life, Margaret's going to have to try making it on her own again and re-claiming her name and her paintings.

The film was a rather simple coverage of the life of Margeret Keane, which looks beautiful (a very stunning and authentic view of the 1960s), but somehow one way or another fails to satisfy. Both Amy Admas and Christoph Waltz play very well, but they lack depth and come across as somewhat two-dimensional and cartoonish. A pleasant enough film, with good cast and a story that had the potential to be more that it was. We weren’t bored and the film was entertaining enough, however, it lacked sparks and fire, and certainly there was no signature Tim Burton magic in it…

Sunday 13 December 2015


“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.” - Leo Tolstoy

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, PRA (8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896) was an English painter and illustrator who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A child prodigy, Millais was the youngest ever student to enter the prestigious Royal Academy Schools at just age 11. There he met William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Together they rebelled against the teachings of their tutors and formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood rejected High Renaissance artists like Raphael and instead were inspired by earlier artists, like Botticelli. Millais befriended the influential art critic John Ruskin, who supported the Pre-Raphaelites and promoted their work. Millais fell in love with Ruskin’s wife Effie, and married her, after the Ruskins’ marriage collapsed.

Millais' most controversial painting was “Christ In The House Of His Parents” (1850 - see above). Critics disliked it because it represented Christ in a human way and portrayed his family as low-class workers, rather than divine figures. He became increasingly popular and in later life created one of his best known works “A Child’s World” (also known as “Bubbles”). It caused outcry when it was used to advertise Pears Soap after the company bought the painting’s copyright. Some art critics felt this degraded the painting but Millais was powerless to stop it.

Other important works include “The Princes In The Tower”, “Ophelia” and “The Order Of Release”. Millais was also very successful as a book illustrator, notably for the works of Anthony Trollope and the poems of Tennyson. His complex illustrations of the parables of Jesus were published in 1864. His father-in-law commissioned stained-glass windows based on them for Kinnoull parish church, Perth. He also provided illustrations for magazines such as “Good Words”.

Millais was elected as an associate member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1853, and was soon elected as a full member of the Academy, in which he was a prominent and active participant. In July 1885, Queen Victoria created him a Baronet, of Palace Gate, in the parish of St Mary Abbot, Kensington, in the county of Middlesex, and of Saint Ouen, in the Island of Jersey, making him the first artist to be honoured with a Hereditary Title. After the death of Lord Leighton in 1896, Millais was elected President of the Royal Academy, but he died later in the same year from throat cancer. He was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.