Saturday 1 October 2016


“I don’t think anything can touch the expressive range of the guitar.” - Gary Clark, Jr.

Francesco Corbetta (ca. 1615 – 1681, in French also Francisque Corbette) was an Italian guitar virtuoso, teacher and composer. He spent his early career in Italy. He seems to have worked as a teacher in Bologna where the guitarist and composer Giovanni Battista Granata may have been one of his pupils. He was then attached to the Court of Carlo II, Duke of Mantua in various capacities. He was however frequently granted leave of absence and travelled abroad to Spain where he amazed the Court in Madrid with his virtuosity; he may possibly also have travelled to Germany. He also visited the Spanish Netherlands, dedicating his fourth book, Varii scherzi di sonate to the governor, the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm.

He was in Paris in the 1650s where he took part in a ballet by Jean-Baptiste Lully. He came to the attention of the English King Charles II in exile and at the Restoration accompanied him to London. During the last 20 years of his life he divided his time between London and Paris. He is regarded as one of the greatest virtuosos of the Baroque guitar. Five collections of music for the five-course guitar survive today. At least two others are lost. His first book includes mostly strummed dance music, while the later books exhibit a great mastery over the combination of strummed and plucked textures.

Corbetta’s two earliest books include compositions in the Italian tradition, but his three later publications are increasingly in the French style. These publications also included important information for continuo playing on the guitar. A substantial amount of music attributed to him also survives in manuscript. Corbetta was also influential as a teacher. It is often suggested that such successful guitarists as Robert de Visée, Giovanni Battista Granata, and Rémy Médard, were his students. Although there is no documentary evidence to support this notion they almost certainly knew him personally. He was definitely employed as guitar teacher to Princess Anne, later Queen Anne of Great Britain, but there is no evidence that he was employed as guitar teacher to King Louis XIV of France.

Here is his Suite for baroque guitar in C major:
I. Preludio per la B - 0:05
II. Corrente nouvo inventione per la B - 1:15
III. Caprice di ciacona per la B - 2:58
IV. Sarabanda per la B - 7:46

Friday 30 September 2016


“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” - Sophia Loren

Our weather continues to be cool and wet, making for a rather dreary end to the first month of Spring. Still, it makes for increased opportunities for hearty comfort food in the evenings at home. Here’s a fave vegetarian recipe of ours for such weather!

Creamy Mushroom Spaghetti
1 tbs olive oil
20 g butter
1 onion thinly sliced
1 garlic clove mashed
2 tbs brandy
500 g thin spaghetti
500 g mushrooms chopped
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 cup sour cream
Grated parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley to garnish

Heat oil and butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for five minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add brandy. Bring to the boil and then reduce to low heat. Cook onion mixture, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until caramelised.
Meanwhile, cook your chosen pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender. Drain well, reserving some liquid.
Increase heat of onion mixture to medium. Add thinly sliced mushrooms to onion mixture. And cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until softened. Add spices and cook, stirring over low heat, for 2 minutes or until heated through and add some of the reserved pasta liquor to keep the sauce fluid. Add sour cream while heating gently and stirring. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sauce over pasta, add grated parmesan and sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired for garnish.

Thursday 29 September 2016


“Cold blows the wind against the hill, And cold upon the plain; I sit me by the bank, until The violets come again.” - Richard Garnett

Viola odorata is a species of the genus Viola native to Europe and Asia, but has also been introduced to North America and Australia. It is commonly known as wood violet, sweet violet, English violet, common violet, florist's violet, or garden violet. It is a hardy herbaceous flowering perennial.

Several cultivars have been selected for garden use, of which V. odorata ‘Wellsiana’ has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. The sweet scent of this flower has proved popular throughout the generations particularly in the late Victorian period, and has consequently been used in the production of many cosmetic fragrances and perfumes. The scent of violet flowers is distinctive with only a few other flowers having a remotely similar odour. References to violets and the desirable nature of the fragrance go back to classical sources such as Pliny and Horace when the name ‘ion’ was in use to describe this flower from which the name of the distinctive chemical constituents of the flower, the ionones is derived.

In 1923 Poucher wrote that the flowers are widely cultivated both in Europe and the East for their fragrance, with both the flowers and leaves being separately collected and extracted for fragrance, and flowers also collected for use in confectionery galenical syrup and in the production of medicine. There is some doubt as to whether the true extract of the violet flower is still commercially available at all. It certainly was in the early 20th Century, but by the time Steffen Arctander was writing in the late 1950s and early 1960s production had “almost disappeared”. The violet leaf absolute however remains widely used in modern perfumery.

The combination of α-ionone and β-ionone is characteristic of the scent of violets and used with other components in perfumery and flavouring to recreate their scent. Ionones can be made synthetically in the laboratory and nowadays most perfumes using ionones use the synthetic form.

The French were known for their violet syrup, most commonly made from an extract of violets. In the United States, this French violet syrup was used to make violet scones and marshmallows. Once again most violet flavourings that one can obtain for culinary use are synthetic. However, if one grows fragrant violets in one’s garden, both flowers and leaves of the violet are edible and can be used in the kitchen.

The violet flower was a favourite in ancient Greece and became the symbol of Athens. Scent suggested sex, so the violet was an emblematic flower of Aphrodite and also of her son Priapus, the deity of gardens, fertility and generation. Iamus was a son of Apollo and the nymph Evadne, a daughter of sea-god Poseidon. He was abandoned by his mother at birth as she was ashamed of her pregnancy. She left him lying in the Arcadian wilds on a bed of violets where he was fed honey by serpents. Eventually, he was discovered by passing shepherds who named him Iamus after the violet (ion) bed he lay in. When he grew up, he descended into the waters of Alpheios and invoked Poseidon, his grandfather, and Apollo, his father, asking them to reveal his destiny to him. Apollo instructed him to go to Olympia. Granted the gift of prophecy by Apollo, he founded the Iamidae, a family of priests and seers in Olympia.

In the language of flowers violet flowers symbolise delicate love, affection, modesty, faith, nobility, intuition and dignity. The meaning of the violet changes depending on the colour of the flower and the person the flower is sent to. Blue violet flowers symbolises love and faithfulness, white violets represent purity and chastity, and yellow violets symbolise high worth and goodness. Violet flowers are often sent to commemorate a couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.

Crystallised violet flowers are used as an edible decoration for cakes, pastry and cupcakes. You will need the white of an egg, caster sugar and fresh, clean, whole violets (leaving the stalk on them helps you handle them). Place the clean dry flowers on a baking tray. Beat the egg white to a light foam. Brush the flowers all over with beaten egg white, using a soft pastry brush. Sprinkle flowers all over with the caster sugar immediately. The sugar needs to stick to the egg white before it dries. Leave for approximately one hour or more until fully set. You can also sit the finished flowers on a baking tray lined with ovenproof paper in a warm oven (switched off). Once they have dried, they will be hard and brittle; store them carefully in an airtight tin for up to 2 months.

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

Wednesday 28 September 2016


“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” - Aristotle

In ancient Greek the word for butterfly is “psyché”, the same word for “soul”. Psyche was also the name of Eros’ human lover (see the myth here). The Koiné Greek word ψυχή (psychē), “life, spirit, consciousness”, is derived from a verb meaning “to cool, to blow”, and hence refers to the breath, as opposed to σῶμα (sóma), meaning “body”.

This week in Poets United, the theme for the Midweek Motif is “Two Souls: Caged and Free”. Here is my poem:


Liebe (leeb-e, f): Love, affection, fondness.
First entry on page 162 of my “Deutsch-Englisches Wörtebuch”
Just as you left it open for me to discover...

“Liebe” is what you feel and you tremble in its grip,
Enjoying the sweet pain of its discovered existence,
Being tortured by the bitter pleasures of its awakening.

“Liebe” in the first sense is what you feel for me,
“Liebe” in the third sense is what I feel for you,
Our “Liebe” for one another so different...

“Liebe” you cry out to me silently and you hope for me to understand
Your insistent sweet melodies, the blooming gardens of your captive soul;
You hope to wake in me the same sweet “Liebe” that consumes you...

“Liebe” will bring us tears, so smile now while we still can,
Enjoy the bright sunshine of this southern Spring,
Banish the thoughts of approaching northern Winter.

Ach! Liebe! Die Liebe hat gelogen!*
Do not believe her secret, syrupy whisperings…
Your soul a prisoner of love’s enthralment;
My soul restless, free to roam – for fondness does not bind it.
Refrain, restrain yourself!
Don’t let your heart be broken!

(*Oh! Love! Love has lied)

Tuesday 27 September 2016


“The world is nonsense: What looks beautiful in the morning looks ugly in the evening.” – Maltese Proverb

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.
Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta' Malta), is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km south of Italy, 284 km east of Tunisia, and 333 km north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2, with a population of just under 450,000 (despite an extensive emigration programme since the Second World War), making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries.

Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English. Malta’s location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands.

Valletta is the capital city of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt (“The City”) in Maltese. Geographically, it is located in the South Eastern Region, in the central-eastern portion of the main island of Malta having its western coast with access to the Marsamxett Harbour and its eastern coast in the Grand Harbour.

The historical city has a population of 6,444 as of March 2014, while the metropolitan area around it has a population of 393,938. Valletta is the southernmost capital of Europe and the second southernmost capital of the European Union after Nicosia. Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John also known as Knights Hospitaller. The city is essentially Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture in selected areas, though the Second World War left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of the Royal Opera House. The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.

The official name given by the Order of Saint John was Humilissima Civitas Valletta—The Most Humble City of Valletta, or Città Umilissima in Italian. The city's fortifications, consisting of bastions, curtains and cavaliers, along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches, led the ruling houses of Europe to give the city its nickname Superbissima—Most Proud.

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 26 September 2016


“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” - Oprah Winfrey

Most people tend to live quiet and routine-filled lives where one day pretty much blends into the next. The closest they have to excitement may be some incident in their community, on the road, or workplace that tends to disrupt the quietude. This may be the reason why action movies are quite popular as they provide another source of excitement and out-of-the- ordinary events that spice up people’s lives, even if it is a vicarious thrill.  The term ‘action movie’ is a rather broad one and it applies to a wide range of movies as can be seen below in the list of sub-genres. Action movies have a lot in common with the equally broad ‘adventure’ genre, with which they share some conventional story-telling techniques and plot outlines.

Epic Movies: These films set their protagonist(s) going to extreme lengths and over a protracted period of time to achieve an objective that is of vital, “life or death” importance not only for the protagonists but also for their community. These films have plots that are based on ancient Greek storytelling conventions and they are plots that are one of the oldest type in literature. The tale usually involves the characters in adventures that allow them to change and develop in some way along their journeys. Typical in this genre is Timur Bekmambetov’s 2016 re-imagining of Ben Hur or the 1962 David Lean classic Lawrence of Arabia.

Spy Movies: This is an amazingly prolific sub-genre and there are a huge variety of secret agents that have sequel after sequel of film made. A characteristic feature of the sub-genre is that a spy or other undercover professional finds themselves on a secret mission, usually behind enemy lines, and armed with an array of special equipment and gadgets. The classic that immediately comes to mind of course is the James Bond series of films, begun by the inimitable Sean Connery. Terence Young’s 1962 Dr No still manages to push all the right buttons in this sub-genre. More recently, Phillip Noyce’s 2010 Salt with Angelina Jolie attempts to break down some stereotypes in the sub-genre, but the main plot devices and characters are identical to those in older films.

Disaster Movies: People love seeing scenes of destruction, devastation and havoc on a massive scale. Something about seeing the world destroyed from the comfort of your plush cinema chair or cosy armchair at home somehow makes the disaster more homely and easily digestible: Thrills without risk! These movies often cross over into the sci-fi and thriller genres, but the main concept is obviously a disaster, usually natural but it can be artificial. The disaster itself can be on a global level or extremely localised, imposing peril on only the central characters. Classic examples of the former are Michael Bay’s 1998 Armageddon and Roland Emmerich’s 2004 The Day After Tomorrow. If you prefer your disaster more localized, how about James Cameron’s 1997 Titanic, Perhaps made all the more appealing by the cross-over into the romance genre.

Martial Arts Movies: These are also called as ‘Kung Fu movies’. The focus of martial arts movies is the constant physical fight scenes that are shown throughout the film, the plot often taking secondary place. Actors typically come from a martial arts background, or are highly trained before production. Bruce Lee of course cannot be ignored in this sub-genre as he was enormously popular in both East and West. Robert Clouse’s 1973 film Enter the Dragon is a cult classic.

Superhero Movies: Tales of heroes with extraordinary strength, superhuman abilities and divine parentage are found in the mythology of nearly all cultures of the world. It is not surprising therefore that one of the highest grossing of any movie genre in current times, is this sub-genre. Superhero movies feature one or more characters who have supernatural abilities and do battle with similarly-powered antagonists. The majority of superhero movies are derived from comic book source material. Richard Donner’s 1978 movie Supermanis a classic in this sub-genre.

Video Game Movies: As video games got more interactive, branched and action-oriented their popularity with gamers ensured that a video game could quite easily hatch a movie. Screenplays which have been adapted from popular video games can fall into any genre depending on the source material, but for the most part they are typically action movies. A good example is Simon Croft’s 2001 Tomb Raider.

Oh, dear! Now that I have written this and have got my share of thrills, spills, action and adventure, I think I am quite ready to go and peel some potatoes and start cooking dinner.

Sunday 25 September 2016


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

Hugo van der Goes, (born c. 1440—died 1482, Roode Kloster, near Brussels [now in Belgium]) one of the greatest Flemish painters of the second half of the 15th century, whose strange, melancholy genius found expression in religious works of profound but often disturbing spirituality.

Early sources disagree about van der Goes’s birthplace, with Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges, and Leiden mentioned as potential candidates. Nothing is known of his life before 1467, when he was accepted as a master in the painters’ guild in Ghent. From then until 1475 he received many commissions from the town of Ghent and provided decorations (heraldic shields, processional banners, etc.) for such occasions as the marriage of Charles the Bold in Bruges (1468) and the transference of the remains of Philip the Good to Dijon (1473). In 1474 he was elected dean of the guild, but the following year (when he was at the climax of his career) he decided to enter Roode Kloster, a priory near Brussels, as a lay brother. There he continued to paint and received distinguished visitors; he also undertook journeys.

In 1481 a tendency to acute depression culminated in a mental breakdown during which he tried to kill himself. An account of the artist’s last years at Roode Kloster, written by a monk, Gaspar Ofhuys (who apparently resented some of van der Goes’s privileges), has survived. Van der Goes’s masterpiece, and his only securely documented work, is the large triptych usually known as the Portinari Altarpiece (c. 1474–76 - see illustration above) with a scene called The Adoration of the Shepherds on the centre panel. The work was commissioned by Tommaso Portinari, agent for the Medici in Bruges, who is portrayed with his family on the wings.

It is one of the greatest of the early examples of northern realism, yet it subordinates this quality to spiritual content, uses still-life detail with symbolic intent, and shows unprecedented psychological insight in portraiture, especially in the faces of the awe-struck shepherds and the Portinari children. It achieves an emotional intensity unprecedented in Flemish painting. Soon after its completion it was taken to Florence, where its rich colours and careful attention to detail impressed many Italian artists.

Van der Goes’s earlier and more tentative style shows that he had studied the leading Netherlandish masters of the first half of the 15th century. A diptych (begun about 1467) in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, reflected an awareness of the Ghent Altarpiece of Jan van Eyck in the Fall of Man, while the Lamentation is reminiscent of Rogier van der Weyden. A comparison between the large Adoration of the Magi and The Nativity reveals the direction in which van der Goes’s later works were to evolve. The Adoration is spatially rational, compositionally tranquil, and harmonious in colour. By contrast, the Nativity (also called Adoration of the Shepherds), a later work painted on a curiously elongated panel, is disturbing even in its format—an emotionally charged supernatural drama on an uncomfortably low stage revealed by the drawing of curtains.

This exploitation of space and colour for emotional potentiality rather than rational effect characterises van der Goes’s later works. It appears in the Holy Trinity Adored by Sir Edward Bonkil and The Royal Family of Scotland, panels that were probably designed as organ shutters (c. 1478–79), and culminates in the Death of the Virgin, executed not long before van der Goes’s death. The unearthly colours of this work are particularly disturbing, and its poignancy is intensified by the controlled grief seen in the faces of the Apostles, who are placed in irrationally conceived space. Van der Goes’s art, with its affinities to Mannerism, and his tortured personality have found a particularly sympathetic response in the 20th century.