Saturday 21 May 2016


“Music happens to be an art form that transcends language.” - Herbie Hancock

Giovanni Bononcini (also spelled Buononcini - born July 18, 1670, Modena, Duchy of Modena—died July 9, 1747, Vienna) is a composer, chiefly remembered as Handel’s rival in England. He studied with his father, composer and theoretician Giovanni Maria Bononcini, and later at Bologna. Precocious musical gifts won him his first appointment, as a cellist, in 1687, and he soon became maestro di cappella of S. Giovanni in Monte.

He moved to Rome about 1691 and in 1698, after a brief period in Venice, settled in Vienna with his brother, the composer Antonio Maria Bononcini. In 1720 he was invited to London by the new operatic organisation, the Royal Academy of Music. His rivalry with Handel and their backing by opposed political and social factions ended in defeat for Bononcini. His backers were a group of noblemen; Handel was backed by the king.

A three-act opera, “Muzio Scevola”, was looked upon as a public competition, with Bononcini and Handel composing the second and third acts, respectively. Handel was judged the winner. This reverse and others led to Bononcini’s loss of support. Eight of his operas were produced in London, the most successful being “Astarto”, “Crispo”, and “Griselda”. Other compositions of this period include an anthem on the death (1722) of the Duke of Marlborough and harpsichord and chamber music.

In the early 1730s he went to Paris, leaving England in disgrace after submitting to the Academy of Ancient Music as his own composition a madrigal actually written by Antonio Lotti. His last work, “Te Deum”, was written in Vienna in the 1740s. Though he was a prolific and gifted composer, Bononcini’s abilities are dwarfed by comparison with Handel’s. Only in opera, where both used the same highly conventionalised idiom, are the two men comparable. Nonetheless, Bononcini achieved a simple and fluent melodic style and the ability to write well for his singers.

Here are his “Divertimenti Op.7” for chamber group, performed by Ensemble Aurora and La Stagione Armonica.
1. No.1 in F major 0:00
2. No. 2 in D minor 8:59
3. No. 3 in A minor 18:39
4. No. 4 in G minor 27:19
5. No. 5 in B flat major 33:34
6. No. 6 in C minor 44:12
7. No. 7 in E minor 53:41
8. No. 8 in G major 1:00:54

Friday 20 May 2016


“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” - Maimonides

We shop at a very good fishmongery where we are looked after because we are regular customers. We pay a little bit extra compared to, say shopping in a supermarket or at fish shop in a shopping mall, but it is worth it because the fish we buy is always fresh and prepared extremely well (filleted or dressed or otherwise got ready for cooking). Quite often, when we ask for a specific type of fish the fishmonger will very discreetly signal “no” with his head and suggest something else, which is fresher or otherwise better.

Sole Piccata
4 skinless fillets of sole (you may substitute with John Dory, turbot or flounder fillets)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄2 cup virgin olive oil
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1⁄2 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1⁄4 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. pickled capers

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, blot the fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess.
Sauté the fish in the oil until just cooked through, about 4 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove the fish to a platter.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, whisking for about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and capers and stir. Add the butter and stir or whisk to incorporate to bring the sauce together. Pour onto the fish and garnish with the lemon slices.
We usually have this accompanied by a smoky, dry chardonnay, well-chilled and a seasonal green salad (this time of the year, lettuce, spinach and rocket with a simple vinaigrette dressing), and some crusty fresh bread.

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Thursday 19 May 2016


“Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you're inviting a person into your life.” - Maya Angelou

Capparis spinosa, the caper bush, also called Flinders rose, is a perennial plant that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and large white to pinkish-white flowers. The plant is best known for the edible flower buds (capers), often used as a seasoning, and the fruit (caper berries), both of which are usually consumed pickled. Other species of Capparis are also picked along with C. spinosa for their buds or fruits. Other parts of Capparis plants are used in the manufacture of medicines and cosmetics.

Capparis spinosa is found in the wild in the Mediterranean, East Africa, Madagascar, South-Western and Central Asia, the Himalayas, the Pacific Islands, Indomalaya, and Australia. It is present in almost all the circum-Mediterranean countries, and is included in the flora of most of them, but whether it is indigenous to this region is uncertain. Although the flora of the Mediterranean region has considerable endemism, the caper bush could have originated in the tropics, and later been naturalised to the Mediterranean basin.

The taxonomic status of the species is controversial and unsettled. Species within the genus Capparis are highly variable, and interspecific hybrids have been common throughout the evolutionary history of the genus. As a result, some authors have considered C. spinosa to be composed of multiple distinct species, others that the taxon is a single species with multiple varieties or subspecies, or that the taxon C. spinosa is a hybrid between C. orientalis and C. sicula.

The shrubby plant is many-branched, with alternate leaves, thick and shiny, round to ovate. The flowers are complete, sweetly fragrant, and showy, with four sepals and four white to pinkish-white petals, and many long violet-coloured stamens, and a single stigma usually rising well above the stamens. The caper bush requires a semiarid or arid climate and has developed a series of mechanisms that reduce the impact of high radiation levels, high daily temperature, and insufficient soil water during its growing period.

The salted and pickled caper bud (called simply a caper) is often used as a seasoning or garnish. Capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, especially Greek, Cypriot, Italian, Aeolian and Maltese. The mature fruit of the caper shrub are prepared similarly and marketed as caper berries. The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a fresh kernel of corn (Zea mays). They are picked, then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution, and drained. Intense flavour is developed as mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from each caper bud. This enzymatic reaction leads to the formation of rutin, often seen as crystallised white spots on the surfaces of individual caper buds.

Capers are a distinctive ingredient in Italian cuisine, especially in Sicilian, Aeolian and southern Italian cooking. They are commonly used in salads, pasta salads, meat dishes, and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Italian cuisine are chicken piccata and spaghetti alla puttanesca. Capers are known for being one of the ingredients of tartare sauce. They are often served with cold smoked salmon or cured salmon dishes (especially lox and cream cheese). Capers and caper berries are sometimes substituted for olives to garnish a martini.

Capers are categorised and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: Non-pareil (up to 7 mm), surfines (7–8 mm), capucines (8–9 mm), capotes (9–11 mm), fines (11–13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm). If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a caper berry. The fruit can be pickled and then served as a Greek mezzé. Caper leaves, which are hard to find outside of Greece or Cyprus, are used particularly in salads and fish dishes. They are pickled or boiled and preserved in jars with brine, like caper buds. Dried caper leaves are also used as a substitute for rennet in the manufacturing of high-quality cheese.

This post is part of the Skywatch Friday meme,
and also part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

Wednesday 18 May 2016


“Really, most of us just focus on what’s in front of us. We’re too busy putting out the fires of everyday life.” - Aidan Quinn

I am taking a break from Poets United Midweek Motif as I am quite busy at the moment and dealing with some matters that have come up. This week the theme there is “Bullying” so I suggest you follow the link and read some fine poems from the talented crowd that take part there. I am reposting an old poem of mine for some Wednesday Poetry.

(As remembered from the Italian)

The pagan tribes of Araby revere the sun
The Saracens all to the moon pay homage.
The stars and winds in blackest Africa are adored
And I my love only your eyes do worship.

In times of strife all men the saints invoke
In hardship everyone to gods does turn,
In tempests raging the sailors Christ recall
But I my love to you in my misfortune pray.

All slaves crave for their freedom sweet,
All prisoners to loose their fetters try,
All cagéd birds to escape their bars attempt,
And I, my love, to you myself enchain.

To war, searching for glory soldiers go,
To power king and noble all would sacrifice
To miser more than life the glint of gold is worth,
But I my love would for your smile expire.

Tuesday 17 May 2016


“Poland should be strong and prosperous and independent and play its proper role as a great nation in the heart of Europe.” - George H. W. Bush

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 of 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.
Warsaw (Polish: Warszawa), is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly 260 kilometres from the Baltic Sea and 300 kilometres from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population is estimated at 1.711 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 2.666 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 9th most populous capital city in the European Union. The area of the city covers 516.9 square kilometres, while the city's agglomeration covers 6,100.43 square kilometres.

Warsaw is an Alpha–global city, a major international tourist destination and an important economic hub in East-Central Europe. It is also known as the “phoenix city” because it has survived so many wars throughout its history. Most notably, the city had to be painstakingly rebuilt after the extensive damage it suffered in World War II, during which 85% of its buildings were destroyed. On 9 November 1940 the city was awarded Poland’s highest military decoration for heroism, the Virtuti Militari, during the Siege of Warsaw (1939).

We visited Warsaw in July 2003 and enjoyed the trip immensely. The people were wonderful, there was an enormous number of things to see, a city of great beauty, art, culture and courage. The Mermaid of Warsaw (Polish: Syrenka Warszawska) is a symbol of Warsaw, represented on the city’s coat of arms and well as in a number of statues and other imagery.

The sculpture in Warsaw’s Old Town Square seen here was designed by Varsovian sculptor Konstanty Hegel. Originally (1855-1928) and now (since 2000) it stands in the marketplace. At other times, it was moved to different places in Warsaw. In 2008, the original sculpture made of bronzed zinc was taken from the market for maintenance work. The sculpture was in a very poor condition due to mechanical damage and numerous acts of vandalism. The repaired original was transferred to the Museum of Warsaw, and replaced with a copy of made by the Jacka Guzery foundry in Dąbrowie near Kielce.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post!

Monday 16 May 2016


“We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn't have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.” - Petra Němcová

Sometimes you remember a film you saw when you were a child and the memory of it is so powerful and haunting that you can’t wait to find the film again in your adult years and re-watch it in order to savour those feelings you experienced the first time around. Of course, nothing is the same as it was the first time around, film watching included… We live, we experience more and more, we grow, we change, we become jaded, we see the world differently. No surprise when we re-watch that movie that we may be a little disappointed!

This was the case with the film we watched last weekend, which I had first seen as a child of 11 years. I remember then being completely overwhelmed and watching in awe, breathless with excitement and wide-eyed with amazement. The movie was the 1968 Bernard L. Kowalski disaster/adventure flick “Krakatoa: East of Java”, starring  Maximilian Schell, Diane Baker, Brian Keith, Barbara Werle, Sal Mineo, and Rossano Brazzi.

Krakatoa (Indonesian: Krakatau), is a volcanic island situated in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in the Indonesian province of Lampung. The name is also used for the surrounding island group comprising the remnants of a much larger island of three volcanic peaks which was obliterated in a cataclysmic 1883 eruption, unleashing huge tsunamis (killing more than 36,000 people) and destroying over two-thirds of the island.

The explosion is considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history, with reports of it being heard up to 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from its point of origin. The shock waves from the explosion were recorded on barographs worldwide. In 1927 a new island, Anak Krakatau, or “Child of Krakatoa”, emerged from the caldera formed in 1883 and is the current location of eruptive activity. Just to set the record straight, Krakatoa is actually located west, not east, of Java, a boo-boo that has haunted the film ever since it was released, being widely mocked in the critics reviews which were mostly quite scathing for the whole of the film...

The plot of the movie centres on the recovery of a valuable cargo of rare pearls from a shipwreck close the island of Krakatoa. When the expedition sets off the location of the wreck seems not be a worry as everyone believes that the volcano on the island has been dormant for around two hundred years. The eruption of the volcano in August 1883 will of course prove them wrong. The characters are the ship’s Dutch captain (Schell), his beautiful mistress (Baker) who is fleeing from an abusive husband and looking for her young son, from whom she has been separated, a drug-addicted diver (Keith) with health problems and his girlfriend (Werle), the British inventor of a diving bell (Leyton), an Italian father-and-son (Brazzi & Mineo) team of balloonists and four female Japanese pearl fishers, hired for their diving expertise. One of these girls becomes romantically involved with the younger Italian. By this stage you’d have thought the plot was already bogged down with too many subplots, but there is another one! The captain is forced by the authorities to take on a load of prisoners to be transported to Madura, which of course will cause problems later…

Needless to say, the eruption of Krakatoa and the subsequent catastrophe is what dominates the film. In an unusual approach to making the film, the producers of the movie had the special effects scenes shot before the script had been completed. The script then was written so as to incorporate the special effects sequences! Although now quite dated in appearance, the film’s special effects were considered impressive enough by 1969 standards for it to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects (it lost to the sci-fi disaster movie,  “Marooned”!).

Well, watching the film as an adult all these years later certainly made me aware of my age. The film was not how I remembered it and scenes that in that distant time made me feel awed and amazed now raised a smile or even a laugh. The film was utterly and completely demystified and its many shortcomings were blatantly obvious. There were plot holes, bad script writing, abominable dialogue ordinary acting and too much reliance on the special effects (used excessively and repetitively) to carry the movie forward.

So what was the final verdict on this film with a pedestrian, badly paced, and poorly told story and where the special effects were so constant and overwhelming as to become numbing? Well, we actually enjoyed it. First, because it was associated with nostalgia, second because it was a movie you could watch and take the mickey out of, having a laugh here and there, and finally because it revived memories of the old Hollywood (perhaps memories of Hollywood 1950s B-grade potboilers). Maybe if you will watch this film now for the first time you will run out of patience and stop watching it half-way through. Or maybe if you reduce the size of your expectations you may enjoy it too…

Sunday 15 May 2016


“Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.” - Giotto di Bondone

Known as “the great Giotto”, Giotto di Bondone (Born: 1267 - Death: January 8, 1337) was the leading artist at the start of Italy’s Renaissance and the Florentine School of painting. According to Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574), who dedicated a chapter to the painter in his book “The Lives of the Artists”, Giotto was the tipping point of Italian art from the Byzantine style, into the Renaissance.

It is said that that last great painter of the Byzantine era, Cimabue (1240 – 1302), discovered a young Giotto in his rawest stage. As written by Vasari: “One day Cimabue was going about his business between Florence and Vespignano, and he came upon Giotto who, while his sheep were grazing, was sketching one of them in a lifelike way with a slightly pointed rock upon a smooth and polished stone without having learned how to draw it from anyone other than Nature. This caused Cimabue to stop in amazement…” It is from here that Cimabue brought Giotto into the bustling activity of the art world in Florence, where he excelled beyond measure of the time. How much of this story is true, is open for debate, but it is true that Giotto apprenticed in Cimabue’s studio in Florence.

Vasari’s other account of Cimabue and Giotto tells of the young artist painting a fly so life-like that Cimabue continually tried to brush it off the canvas. He also travelled with Cimabue to Rome and there may be several works that Giotto contributed to in Cimabue’s commissions. His earliest individual works include a fresco of the Annunciation and his quite large Crucifix, painted for the Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Giotto also painted in Rome from 1297 – 1300 and created his Badia Polyptych for the high altar of the Badia in Florence, which now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery.

Giotto’s masterpiece is often considered the fresco cycles he painted for the Scrovegni Chapel or Arena Chapel in Padua, with depictions of salvation seen in the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin and also a Last Judgment piece. The combined works, completed in the course of up to 7 years, have become known as a defining early masterwork of the Renaissance, going on to influence many artists in Florence and beyond.

Giotto painted other works in Padua, as well as in Assisi, and traveled back and forth between Rome and Florence. These made up most of his later works, including his Madonna altarpiece in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence, from around 1310. The piece, now in the Uffizi Gallery, finds its display in comparison to Cimabue’s Santa Trinità Madonna and Duccio’s (1255 – 1260) famous masterpiece, the Rucellai Madonna.

Receiving a great number of religious commissions in Rome, Giotto also traveled to work in Bologna and Milan. The artist was also an accomplished architect, appointed to work on the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, (The Duomo of Florence). Dante (1265 – 1321) praised Giotto in the Divine Comedy, saying, “Once Cimabue thought to hold the field as painter; Giotto now is all the rage, dimming the lustre of the other’s fame.”

Above is a fresco from the Scrovegni Chapel. It is “Lo Sposalizio della Vergine” (Marriage of the Virgin), painted in 1305 and is one of the series “Scenes from the Life of the Virgin”.  Genre: religious painting Media: fresco Its dimensions are 185 x 200 cm and is found in the Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua, Italy. While the style is akin to Byzantine art in its formality and use of some conventional pictorial elements (for example the building in the background), the figures are beginning to show a liveliness and informality that goes beyond a simple devotional image. The scene depicted is rich in detail and characterisation, especially as seen in the accompanying figures who do not take centre stage in the work. Joseph and Mary are painted with gusto and their personality comes through, with the viewer not simply being a passive onlooker, but becoming more involved n the scene because of its familiarity and the depiction of the saintly figures as living, breathing human beings.