Saturday 11 June 2016


“A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin.” - Edmond de Goncourt

Michele Mascitti (1664 in Villa Santa Maria [from Chieti]; 24 April 1760 in Paris) was an Italian violinist and Baroque composer. In Italian instrumental music, Mascitti at his time was considered comparable to Corelli and Albinoni. He was educated by his uncle, Pietro Marchitelli (1643-1729), a violinist in the royal court orchestra in Naples, and at the “Teatro San Bartolomeo”. Mascitti was also possibly tutored by Corelli.

Mascitti found a temporary position in the royal orchestra, but he soon left, travelled through Italy but fated to find his fortune outside of Italy. First, he spent time in Germany and the Netherlands. He was under the protectorate of Cardinal Ottoboni and the reigning Duke of Bavaria.

In 1704, he settled in Paris and took the Frenchified given name of Michel. He became a French citizen in 1739. Through a meeting with the Duke of Orleans he was afforded the opportunity to play before the king and the entire court. He became immensely popular among the French public, known familiarly by his first name, and he served both the Duke of Orleans but was also patronised by the house of Crozat.

The primary genre of his compositions was the solo sonata but he also arranged trio sonatas and concertos. Mascitti’s were the first string concertos published in France by a resident composer. He published all nine of his sonata collections in Paris. The four concertos from Op. 7 follow the concerto grosso style of Corelli. His compositions were mainly in the Italian, and sometimes French, style. They contained an abundance of novel harmonies for the period.

Here are some of his sonatas (IV & V from op. 3) and the Concerti Grossi (Opus 7) performed by Camerata Anxanum.
1 Concerto Grosso in B flat major, Op. 7/1: Allegro
2 Concerto Grosso in B flat major, Op. 7/1: Larghetto
3 Concerto Grosso in B flat major, Op. 7/1: Allegro
4 Concerto Grosso in B flat major, Op. 7/1: Largo
5 Concerto Grosso in B flat major, Op. 7/1: Allegro
6 Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 7/2: Allegro moderato
7 Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 7/2: Allegro
8 Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 7/2: Larghetto
9 Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 7/2: Allegro moderato
10 Concerto Grosso in G major, Op. 7/3: Vivace
11 Concerto Grosso in G major, Op. 7/3: Largo
12 Concerto Grosso in G major, Op. 7/3: Allegro
13 Concerto Grosso in G major, Op. 7/3: Largo
14 Concerto Grosso in G major, Op. 7/3: Allegro
15 Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 7/4: Vivace
16 Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 7/4: Passacaglia variata (Andante)
17 Sonata in E minor, Op. 3/4: Allemanda Largo
18 Sonata in E minor, Op. 3/4: Corrente Allegro
19 Sonata in E minor, Op. 3/4: Largo
20 Sonata in E minor, Op. 3/4: Gavotta Allegro
21 Sonata in D major, Op. 3/5: Vivace
22 Sonata in D major, Op. 3/5: Allemanda Grave
23 Sonata in D major, Op. 3/5: Allemanda Allegro
24 Sonata in D major, Op. 3/5: Sarabanda Andante
25 Sonata in D major, Op. 3/5: Corrente Allegro assai

Friday 10 June 2016


“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.” - Ludwig van Beethoven

I love Winter. It’s not only the cold weather, the rain and the freshness in the air, but it’s also the warm cheerful house and the smell of delicious cold season dishes cooking in the kitchen. Not the least of course, is soup! I love a good soup and when coupled with some warm toast or freshly baked scones it is a complete and nourishing meal. Here’s the recipe for one, which even though we don’t make often, is quite delicious.

Cream of Cauliflower soup
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
600g cauliflower, cut into florets
300g potatoes, peeled, coarsely chopped
600ml vegetable stock
350ml water
100ml extra light thickened cream
Ground white pepper and salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 5-6 minutes or until soft – do not brown it.
Add the cauliflower, potato and stir for a few minutes until coated with oil. Add the stock and water. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower and potato are tender.
Set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly. Place half the cauliflower mixture in the jug of a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a clean saucepan. Repeat with remaining mixture.
When ready to serve, add the cream and place over low heat and cook for 1-2 minutes or until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup in the serving bowls and drizzle with extra cream if desired, adding some fresh, finely chopped parsley for a garnish.

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Thursday 9 June 2016


“There’s rosemary and rue. These keep Seeming and savour all the winter long. Grace and remembrance be to you.” - William Shakespeare (Winter’s Tale, Act 4, Scene 4)

Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name “rosemary” derives from the Latin for ‘dew’ (ros) and ‘sea’ (marinus), or ‘dew of the sea’. The plant is also sometimes called anthos, from the ancient Greek word ἄνθος, meaning “flower”.

Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub that has leaves similar to eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) needles. The leaves are used as a flavouring in foods such as stuffings and roast lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. It is native to the Mediterranean and Asia, but is reasonably hardy in cool climates. It can withstand droughts, surviving a severe lack of water for lengthy periods. Forms range from upright to trailing; the upright forms can reach 1.5 m tall, rarely 2 m. The leaves are evergreen, 2–4 cm long and 2–5 mm broad, green above, and greyish-white below, with dense, short, woolly hair. It has a fibrous root system. The plant flowers in spring and summer in temperate climates, but the plants can be in constant bloom in warm climates; flowers are white, pink, purple or deep blue. Rosemary also has a tendency to flower outside its normal flowering season; it has been known to flower as late as early December, and as early as mid-February.

Since it is attractive and drought-tolerant, rosemary is used as an ornamental plant in gardens and for xeriscape landscaping, especially in regions of Mediterranean climate. It is considered easy to grow and pest-resistant. Rosemary can grow quite large and retain attractiveness for many years, can be pruned into formal shapes and low hedges, and has been used for topiary. It is easily grown in pots. The groundcover cultivars spread widely, with a dense and durable texture.

Rosemary grows on friable loam soil with good drainage in an open, sunny position. It will not withstand waterlogging and some varieties are susceptible to frost. It grows best in neutral to alkaline conditions (pH 7–7.8) with average fertility. It can be propagated from an existing plant by clipping a shoot (from a soft new growth) 10–15 cm long, stripping a few leaves from the bottom, and planting it directly into soil.

According to legend, rosemary was draped around the Greek goddess Aphrodite when she rose from the sea, born of Uranus’s semen. Hence the herb was sacred to this goddess and was planted around her temples. In Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary is said to have spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting, and the flowers turned blue. The shrub then became known as the “Rose of Mary”. In the Middle Ages, rosemary was associated with wedding ceremonies. The bride would wear a rosemary headpiece and the groom and wedding guests would all wear a sprig of rosemary. From this association with weddings, rosemary was thought to be a love charm.

In myths and folklore, rosemary has a reputation for improving memory and has been used as a symbol for remembrance during war commemorations and funerals in Europe and Australia. Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead. In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Ophelia says: ‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.’ (Hamlet, iv. 5.) In Australia, sprigs of rosemary are worn on ANZAC Day and sometimes Remembrance Day to signify remembrance; the herb grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Hungary water was first prepared for the Queen of Hungary Elisabeth of Poland to “... renovate vitality of paralysed limbs...” and to treat gout. It was used externally and prepared by mixing fresh rosemary tops into spirits of wine. Recipes for this call for: Distilling fresh rosemary (and possibly thyme) with strong brandy, while later formulations also contain lavender, mint, sage, marjoram, costus, orange blossom and lemon. Don Quixote (Part One, Chapter XVII) mixes it in his recipe of the miraculous balm of Fierabras. Rosemary oil is used for purposes of fragrant bodily perfumes or to emit an aroma into a room. It is also burnt as incense, and used in shampoos and cleaning products.

Fresh or dried rosemary leaves are used in traditional Italian, Spanish and Greek cuisine. They have a bitter, astringent taste and a characteristic aroma, which complements many cooked foods. When roasted with meats or vegetables, the leaves impart a mustard-like aroma with an additional fragrance of charred wood compatible with barbecued foods. In Greece, rosemary is often used to flavour baked or fried fish. In amounts typically used to flavour foods, such as one teaspoon (1 gram), rosemary provides no nutritional value. Rosemary extract has been shown to improve the shelf life and heat stability of omega 3-rich oils, which are prone to rancidity. A herbal tisane can be made from the leaves of rosemary.

In the language of flowers, rosemary sprigs (without flowers) stand for “remembrance. Rosemary in flower stands for “nostalgia and sweet memories.”

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

Wednesday 8 June 2016


“Those who have the strength and the love to sit with a dying patient in the silence that goes beyond words will know that this moment is neither frightening nor painful, but a peaceful cessation of the functioning of the body.” - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The death of our family friend last week is still uppermost in my mind, but now, after the funeral, even his family is beginning to adjust to the idea that his life has ended. I was thinking as the priest was reading the last rites at the graveside that we all live as though we were immortal, thinking little of our own death. How different our life would be if we realised how temporary our existence is, how precarious, how fragile.

“Memento mori”, the ancients said, “remember that you have to die” and they scattered around their home and workplace reminders of their mortality: Skulls, butterflies, flowers, hourglasses, and other images and symbols of the ephemeral nature of life. We have become estranged from this omnipresent reminder of death, our culture being one of youth and wellness, ignoring death at our peril. We incarcerate our elderly in nursing homes (out of sight and out of mind), we pursue eternal youth in the form of creams, botox, hair dye, exercise regimes and plastic surgery, and we idolise the young and modern.

Death has become a dirty word in our days. Think of the euphemisms we turn to instead of simply saying “he died”: “Passed away”, “slept the sleep of the righteous”, “gone away”, “expired”, “demised”, “gone to meet his Maker”, “shuffled off the mortal coil”, “gave up the ghost”, “resting in peace”, etc, etc… Death is part of life, not just the end of it. We should be familiar with it and not afraid of it – whoever is afraid of death is afraid of life too. Thinking of death (especially our own) makes us respect life more. And when the time comes for us to die, we are ready to do so, peacefully and with resignation.

Long, Long Night

This Winter evening comes too soon,
And the sun weak, pallid, frosty
Hurries behind the dun clouds
To sink below the far horizon’s line.

As violet twilight rapidly darkens
Into an obsidian night,
A lonely candle burns by my bedside
Sputtering with an unsure flame.

The air is frigid but my breath seems colder
Coming in shortening gasps,
My broken lungs submerged
In icy oceans of choking phlegm.

My skin is sallow, like the yellow wall
Where candle flame illumines
Cracking plaster, mirroring
My wrinkled face, my lined hands.

The wind whistles, the timbers creak,
And sounds of dry bones
Rubbing against the flagstones
Tell me the dark rider is nearing.

The night is long, black, cold;
An endless night with a dawn so distant
That it may as well never arrive,
My candle flickers, hisses, goes out.

My heart falters, misses beats,
Trembles weakly, palpitates;
The machine is worn out, faulty,
Damaged by years of constant use.

The door is open now and as the wind howls,
The sombre bony rider enters.
As I draw in my last and laboured breath,
I hope against hope that this darkest moment
Of the cold, black, long, long night
Comes just before a bright new dawn…

Tuesday 7 June 2016


“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” - T. S. Eliot

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.
New Zealand is an island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses: That of the North Island, or Te Ika-a-Māui, and the South Island, or Te Waipounamu; as well as numerous smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinctive biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life. The country’s varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand’s capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Oamaru, shown here, is the largest town in North Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand, is the main town in the Waitaki District. It is 80 kilometres south of Timaru and 120 kilometres north of Dunedin, on the Pacific coast, and State Highway 1 and the railway Main South Line connect it to both. With a population of 13,750, Oamaru is the 27th largest urban area in New Zealand, and the second largest in Otago behind Dunedin. The name Oamaru derives from Māori words meaning the place of Maru (compare with Timaru). The identity of Maru remains open to conjecture!

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 6 June 2016


“America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts.” - James Madison

We watched an old-fashioned movie at the weekend. I say “old-fashioned” as that is the characterisation we gave it when discussing it afterwards. It was one that was based on a tried and true plot, no surprises or twists in the scenario, a story that could have been true. The acting, direction and cinematography were good and the music suited to the subject matter. No great need for effects, no pyrotechnics no CGI. So, an “old-fashioned” movie…

It was James Gray’s 2013 movie “The Immigrant”, starring  Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, Dagmara Dominczyk, Jicky Schnee and Elena Solovey. The scenario was co-written by the director and Richard Menello, while the music was by Christopher Spelman and cinematography by Darius Khondji. We liked the movie, and it kept our interest up for the 120 minutes that it ran. However, if you are looking for a fast-paced movie with lots of plots twists and action, this is not for you. While not perhaps a typical “chick flick”, one may classify it as a drama with minimal romance.

The film is set in New York, 1921. Ewa Cybulska (Cotillard) and her sister Magda sail to New York from their native Poland, in search of a new homeland and the American dream. As soon as they arrive at Ellis Island, doctors discover that Magda has tuberculosis, and the two women are separated, Magda quarantined at Ellis Island. Ewa is to be deported as her Uncle and Aunt have not shown up to meet her. Alone, with nowhere to turn and desperate to reunite with Magda, Ewa falls prey to Bruno (Phoenix), a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution. Ewa wishes to collect money so that Magda is released to join her on Manhattan. One day, Ewa encounters Bruno’s cousin, the debonair magician Orlando (Renner). Ewa is attracted to him and she hopes that he becomes her chance to escape the nightmare in which she finds herself. However, not all goes well…

The film had excellent sets, costumes and the atmosphere of 1920s New York was captured well. Although often mean, grimy, gritty and seamy, the scenes as they unfold exude a certain nostalgia and there is a bittersweet taste in one’s mouth as the film progresses. The patina of age blunts the “bad things” that are going on and even with the “wicked” characters one finds certain redeeming features as the writer/director does not make any judgments and presents things as they are, giving us neither black nor white, but a huge range of grays in between.

Cotillard looks beautiful and does more acting with her face and eyes than she does delivering her (relatively) few lines, many of which are delivered in Polish. Phoenix likewise does a brilliant job of bringing the complexity of Bruno’s character to the fore. His subtle transformation is played well and his delivery is restrained and thus utterly believable. Renner plays his role well enough but his role is less meaty, although essential to the story. The supporting actors play well and their performance is suitably low-key.

Overall, we enjoyed this movie and recommend it for viewing by mature adults who have an attention span longer than that of a goldfish, and can enjoy good, slow story-telling.

Sunday 5 June 2016


“The huge problem in our society is the enormous ignorance of the ideas that underlie modern art.” - Thom Mayne

Elise Blumann (16 January 1897 Parchim, Germany – 29 January 1990, Nedlands, Western Australia) was a German born artist who achieved recognition as an Australian Expressionist painter. Blumann studied at the Royal Art School in Berlin between 1917 and 1919, whilst also maintaining friendships and associations with artists at the Academy of Arts (the former Prussian Academy) - notably, Blumann recounted sitting for a portrait for artist Max Liebermann and also described his teaching methods although no verifiable evidence is available to confirm Liebermann as her tutor.

After this, Blumann taught in various schools in Germany from 1920 to 1923, when she married Arnold Blumann. She fled Nazi Germany with her husband in 1934, arriving at the port of Fremantle, Western Australia on the passenger liner Ormonde on January 4, 1938. In the decade following her arrival in Western Australia, Blumann produced a significant body of painting, taking as her subject the Western Australian landscape, her family and her new circle of friends. These works investigate the unique light and colour of the Western Australian landscape in a style informed by her knowledge of German Expressionism. Among these were “Summer Nude”, 1939, which in caused a scandal when exhibited in Western Australia in 1944 due to both its depiction of nudity and its bold, simple shapes and lines.

With the then Curator of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Robert Campbell, she helped found the Art Group, a discussion group through which she promoted modernist ideas and attitudes in art and art education. However, in the 1950s Blumann became disillusioned with the possibilities of art in Western Australia and only painted sporadically. Her work first received national attention in the late 1970s some fifteen years before she died in 1990, aged 93. She has since been acknowledged as a significant contributor to Australian modernist painting, prefiguring the development of the similarly landscape-based modernism in Western Australia associated with painters Guy Grey-Smith and Howard Taylor.

Blumann remained faithful to the modernity of her vision in creating portraits, figurative studies and many paintings of her beloved West Australian landscape. She believed while painting in Perth that a fresh light should shine into the gloom of European-style classical landscapes and the arts and crafts movement that characterised Perth’s cultural scene at the time. Blumann’s many memorable images of her adopted landscape show no signs of homesickness, but rather hint at a great affection that grew over time. “Only slowly can one draw close to the Australian landscape,” she wrote, “at the beginning it seems not all that absolutely different but the longer one lives with it, the more one recognises how opposite everything is to Europe.”

The painting above is "Riverside Melaleuca" of 1948.