Saturday 5 November 2016


“Certain voices hold this odd pull on our heartstrings. They are like sad oboes or something, something that makes you want to throw all your money at the radio while yelling, ‘I love you.’ I don’t know what it is.” - Jonathan Goldstein

Georg Philipp Telemann, (born March 14, 1681, Magdeburg, Brandenburg Germany—died June 25, 1767, Hamburg) was a German composer of the late Baroque period, who wrote both sacred and secular music but was most admired for his church compositions, which ranged from small cantatas to large-scale works for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Telemann was the son of a Protestant minister and was given a good general education but never actually received music lessons. Though he showed great musical gifts at an early age, he was discouraged by his family from becoming a professional musician, at that time neither an attractive nor a remunerative occupation. By self-teaching, however, he acquired great facility in composing and in playing such diverse musical instruments as the violin, recorder, oboe, viola da gamba, chalumeau, and clavier.

At the University of Leipzig, he enrolled as a law student, however, music attracted him more and he founded the University Collegium Musicum and was the city council’s preferred candidate for the position of Thomascantor in 1723, when Bach was eventually appointed. Telemann had established himself in Hamburg in 1721 as Cantor of the Johanneum and director of music for the five principal city churches. He remained in Hamburg until his death in 1767, when he was succeeded by his godson, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach. In his long career Telemann wrote a great deal of music of all kinds in a style that extends the late Baroque into the age of Haydn.

Telemann’s long life ended at the age 86 in 1767. Georg Philipp Telemann was considered the most important German composer of his day and his reputation outlasted him for some time, but ultimately it was unable to withstand the shadow cast by the growing popularity of his contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach. Telemann’s enormous output, perhaps the largest of any classical composer in history, includes parts of at least 31 cantata cycles, many operas, concertos, oratorios, songs, music for civic occasions and church services, passion, orchestral suites and abundant amounts of chamber music.

While many of these works have been lost, most still exist, and the sheer bulk of his creativity has made it difficult for scholars and performers alike to come to terms with. The inevitable revival of interest in Telemann did not arrive until the 1920s, but has grown exponentially ever since, and with the twenty first century in full swing more of Telemann’s music is played, known, understood and studied than at any time in history.

Here are some of his Oboe Concerti played by Heinz Holliger and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, directed by Iona Brown.
1. Concerto in E minor 0:00
2. Concerto in D minor 11:32
3. Concerto in C minor 20:19
4. Concerto in F minor 29:40
5. Concerto in D major 37:26

Friday 4 November 2016


“The easiest diet is, you know, eat vegetables, eat fresh food. Just a really sensible healthy diet like you read about all the time.” - Drew Carey

We like to eat, as much as possible, seasonal food. This is best exemplified of course by the seasonal fruit and vegetables that make their appearance at appropriate times of the year. There is a little bit of know-how involved in this, as the greengrocer does not always sell fresh, local produce. Nowadays, one may go shopping in Australia and come back with cherries from the USA, Canadian blueberries, New Zealand kiwi fruit, Fijian bananas and South African pineapples – not to mention Polish beetroot and South American yams.

If one knows what produce is in season at any time and one pays a little attention to the fine print in the labelling of the produce, one can be assured that what is bought is fresh, local seasonal produce. Yesterday we bought some local, new season asparagus, which looked so green and delectable that it was tempting to bite into it right there at the greengrocer’s. Instead we had to wait till we got home to make this asparagus frittata.

Asparagus Frittata
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
2 and 1/2 cups thin asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 2-cm pieces
1 cup sliced stemmed shiitake mushrooms
8 large eggs
1 cup diced Fontina cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the griller. Melt butter in a heavy ovenproof 25-cm-diameter nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté 4 minutes. Add asparagus and shiitake mushrooms, sprinkle lightly with salt, and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
Whisk eggs, 3/4 cup Fontina cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Add egg mixture to skillet; fold gently to combine.
Cook until almost set. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Fontina cheese and Parmesan cheese over the top. Grill until frittata is puffed and cheese begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a fresh green seasonal salad.

Thursday 3 November 2016


“Ounce for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group.” - Michael Greger

Chives is the common name of Allium schoenoprasum, an edible species in the Amaryllidaceae family. It is a perennial plant, widespread in nature across much of Europe, Asia, and North America. A. schoenoprasum is the only species of Allium native to both the New and the Old Worlds. The name of the species derives from the Greek σχοίνος, skhoínos (sedge) and πράσον, práson (leek). Its English name, chives, derives from the French word cive, from cepa, the Latin word for onion.

Chives are a commonly used herb and can be found in grocery stores or grown in home gardens. In culinary use, the leaves, scapes and the unopened, immature flower buds are diced and used as an ingredient for fish, potatoes, soups, and other dishes. Chives have insect-repelling properties that can be used in gardens to control pests in “companion planting”.

Chives are a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plant, growing to 30–50 cm tall. The bulbs are slender, conical, 2–3 cm long and 1 cm wide, growing in dense clusters from the roots. The scapes (or stems) are hollow and tubular, up to 50 cm long and 2–3 mm across, with a soft texture, although, prior to the emergence of a flower, they may appear stiffer than usual. The leaves, which are shorter than the scapes, are also hollow and tubular, or terete, (round in cross-section) which distinguishes it at a glance from garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), which have flat, solid, strap-like leaves.

Chive flowers are pale purple, and star-shaped with six petals, 1–2 cm wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence of 10-30 together, looking like a pom-pom; before opening, the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract. The seeds are produced in a small, three-valved capsule, maturing in summer. The herb flowers from April to May in the southern parts of its habitat zones and in June in the northern parts. Although chives are repulsive to insects in general, due to their sulphur compounds, their flowers attract bees, and they are at times kept to increase desired insect life.

Chives thrive in well-drained soil, rich in organic matter, with a pH of 6-7 and full sun. They can be grown from seed and mature in summer, or early the following spring. Typically, chives need to be germinated at a temperature of 15 to 20 °C and kept moist. They can also be planted under a cloche or germinated indoors in cooler climates, then planted out later. After at least four weeks, the young shoots should be ready to be planted out. They are also easily propagated by division. In cold regions, chives die back to the underground bulbs in winter, with the new leaves appearing in early spring. Chives starting to look old can be cut back to about 2–5 cm. When harvesting, the needed number of stalks should be cut to the base. During the growing season, the plant continually regrows leaves, allowing for a continuous harvest.

Chives are used as a flavouring herb, providing a somewhat milder flavour than those of other Allium species. Chives have a wide variety of culinary uses, such as in traditional dishes in France, Sweden, and elsewhere. In his 1806 book “Attempt at a Flora” (Försök til en flora), Retzius describes how chives are used with pancakes, soups, fish, and sandwiches. They are also an ingredient of the gräddfil sauce with the traditional herring dish served at Swedish midsummer celebrations.

The edible flowers may also be used to garnish dishes. In Poland and Germany, chives are served with quark cheese. Chives are one of the fines herbes of French cuisine, which also include tarragon, chervil, or parsley. Chives can be found fresh at most markets year-round, making them readily available; they can also be dry-frozen without much impairment to the taste, giving home growers the opportunity to store large quantities harvested from their own gardens.

Chives are reported to have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, however, compared to the very efficacious garlic, chives are much less effective. They also have mild stimulant, diuretic, and antiseptic properties. As chives are usually served in small amounts and never as the main dish, negative effects are rarely encountered, although digestive problems may occur following overconsumption. Chives are also rich in vitamins A and C, contain trace amounts of sulphur, and are rich in calcium and iron.

In the past, bunches of dried chives hung around a house were believed to ward off disease and evil. In the language of flowers, chive flowers signify: “You were my first love, although this caused me distress.” Dried flower heads of chives mean: “The memory of our love is dear to me”. Incorporating chive leaves and chive buds in a bouquet implies “usefulness or utility.” Caution should be exercised as other plants with chive leaves may carry a negative meaning. For example, if Irish Moss (Pearlwort - Sagina subulata) accompanies chive buds, the giver is warning: “You are useful to me because I desire your money”.

Wednesday 2 November 2016


“Don’t send me flowers when I’m dead. If you like me, send them while I’m alive.” - Brian Clough

All Souls Day on November 2nd is a holy day set aside for honouring the dead. The day is primarily celebrated in the Catholic Church, but it is also celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and a few other denominations of Christianity. The Anglican Church is the largest Protestant Church to celebrate the holy day. Most protestant denominations do not recognise the holiday and disagree with the theology behind it.

Poets United this week celebrates All Souls Day and invites participants to write a poem on ways of honouring the dead and commemorating a soul’s passing. Here is my contribution.

The Liturgy for the Dead

The heady smell of burning incense 
And the drone of the priest’s voice
Reciting the liturgy for the dead.

The chanting of the ancient psalms
And the sobs of the family and friends
Under flickering candlelight.

The cheerless black garments
And the long mauve ribbons
Bedecking glittering icons.

The open coffin on the bier
And the corpse looking like waxwork,
No longer the person we knew and loved.

May he rest in peace, may his soul find repose,
May his memory be everlasting,
May his life have made difference.

Brief is our life like a burning candle,
Our youth as fleeting as a blooming rose
And love as transient as a butterfly.

All in vain, and vanity of vanities,
Our existence is over in the blink of an eye;
We forget while we live that our shrouds have no pockets.

Come all and pay your last respects
To the dear departed, for he will be a long time dead
And you will join him before you know it.

Let us celebrate on this day of his death
For our time in the sun is short
And like a dream life’s pleasures are over before we know it.

Here is the first part of the Greek Orthodox Liturgy for the Dead chanted by Theodore Vassilikos and his choir.

Tuesday 1 November 2016


“In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” - Orson Welles

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.
Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zürich It is located in north-central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zürich The municipality has approximately 390,000 inhabitants, and the Zürich metropolitan area 1.83 million. Zürich is a hub for railways, roads, and air traffic. Both Zürich Airport and railway station are the largest and busiest in the country.

Permanently settled for around 2000 years, the history of Zürich goes back to its founding by the Romans, who, in 15 BC, called it Turicum. However, early settlements have been found dating back more than 6400 years ago. During the Middle Ages Zürich gained the independent and privileged status of imperial immediacy and, in 1519, was the place of origin and centre of the Protestant Reformation in German-speaking Switzerland, led by Ulrich Zwingli.

Zürich is a leading global city and among the world’s largest financial centres. The city is home to a large number of financial institutions and banking giants. Most of Switzerland’s research and development centres are concentrated in Zürich and the low tax rates attract overseas companies to set up their headquarters there. According to several surveys from 2006 to 2008, Zurich was named the city with the best quality of life in the world as well as the wealthiest city in Europe. Many museums and art galleries can be found in the city, including the Swiss National Museum and the Kunsthaus. Zurich also hosts one of the most important theatres in the German-speaking world.

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

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Monday 31 October 2016


“From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us…” – Anon Scottish Prayer.

Halloween is the last night of the Celtic year and is the night associated with witchcraft, fairies, elves and wicked spirits.  In countries where the Celtic influence is strong, customs surrounding Halloween are still current and relate to pagan rituals celebrating the beginning of the Winter cycle.  Tales of witches and ghosts are told, bonfires are lit, fortune-telling and mumming are practiced.  Masquerading is the order of the night, making of jack-o-lanterns and the playing of games pass the hours pleasantly. Bobbing for apples in a tub of water is an age-old custom.  These pagan practices have been incorporated into the Christian tradition through association with All Saints’ Day on November the first.

The seasonal association of the apple with Halloween goes back even to Roman times.  November 1st was the time when the Romans celebrated Pomona’s festival.  She was the goddess of orchards and ripe maturity.  Her festival was the time to rejoice in the fruits of the season and also the time to open up the Summer stores for Winter use.  In Celtic tradition the apple was the fruit of the Silver Bough of the Otherworld and symbolised love, fertility, wisdom and divination.  The hazel was a sacred Celtic tree and the hazelnut symbolised wisdom, peace and love.  A hazel tree grew by the sacred pool of Avalon and was described as the Tree of Life.

As Halloween was the night when witches and evil spirits, the souls of the dead and wicked fairy folk roam the earth, numerous superstitions surround the night and have as a characteristic and apotropaic (protective) function.  The fire on the household hearth should on no account be left to die on this night, or else evil spirits will descend down the chimney.  Bonfires were lit on hilltops to drive off witches. Purification by fire ordained that people jumped over the flames, in some parts even cattle driven through the embers. 

In some parts many an unfortunate old woman was burnt in these fires because she was suspected to be a witch.  The fires of purification were called Samhnagan (=Samhain). Often, food offerings were left out for the fairies on this night. Travelling was to be avoided at all costs as one could be led astray by the spirits and fairies.  If one had to go out, pieces of iron or cold steel were carried on one’s person as a repellent against witchcraft.
  Hey how for Hallow E’en
  A’ the witches tae be seen
  Some in black and some in green
  Hey how for Hallow E’en.

Other traditions surrounding Samhain involved the reversal of order and normal values, the reign of chaos.  This involved deriding figures of authority, hurling abuse and cabbages at notable people, playing tricks and practical jokes on friends and relatives.  Parties of “guisers” went around from house to house collecting apples, nuts or money while riding a hobby horse or carrying a horse’s head.  The association of the horse with this festival may go back to the ancient Roman festival of the October Horse, the last of the harvest feasts. Such customs are still very active in some countries, especially the USA, where Halloween has been revived with vigour, no doubt because of its appeal but also because of commercial potential...

Sunday 30 October 2016


“Switzerland is a country where very few things begin, but many things end.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ferdinand Hodler (March 14, 1853 – May 19, 1918) was one of the best-known Swiss painters of the nineteenth century. His early works were portraits, landscapes, and genre paintings in a realistic style. Later, he adopted a personal form of symbolism he called Parallelism.

Hodler was born in Berne, the eldest of six children. His father, Jean Hodler, made a meagre living as a carpenter; his mother, Marguerite (née Neukomm), was from a peasant family. By the time Hodler was eight years old, he had lost his father and two younger brothers to tuberculosis. His mother remarried to a decorative painter, but in 1867 she too died of tuberculosis. Eventually the disease killed all of Hodler’s remaining siblings, instilling in the artist a powerful consciousness of mortality.

Before he was ten, Hodler received training in decorative painting from his stepfather and, subsequently was sent to Thun to apprentice with a local painter, Ferdinand Sommer. Hodler’s earliest works were conventional landscapes, which he sold in shops and to tourists. In 1871, at the age of 18, he travelled on foot to Geneva to start his career as a painter. He attended science lectures at the Collège de Genève, and in the museum there he copied paintings by Alexandre Calame. In 1873 he became a student of Barthélemy Menn, and investigated Dürer’s writings on proportions. He made a trip to Basel in 1875, where he studied the paintings of Hans Holbein—especially “Dead Christ in the Tomb”, which influenced Hodler’s many treatments of the theme of death.

He travelled to Madrid in 1878, where he stayed for several months and studied the works of masters such as Titian, Poussin, and Velázquez in the Museo del Prado. The works of Hodler’s early maturity consisted of landscapes, figure compositions, and portraits, treated with a vigorous realism. In 1884, Hodler met Augustine Dupin (1852–1909), who became his companion and model for the next several years. Their son, Hector Hodler (who would found the World Esperanto Association in 1908) was born in 1887. From 1889 until their divorce in 1891, Hodler was married to Bertha Stucki, who is depicted in his painting, “Poetry” (1897, Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich).  In 1898, Hodler married Berthe Jacques.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century his work evolved to combine influences from several genres including symbolism and art nouveau. In 1890 he completed “Night”, a work that marked Hodler’s turn toward symbolist imagery. It depicts several recumbent figures, all of them relaxed in sleep except for an agitated man who is menaced by a figure shrouded in black, which Hodler intended as a symbol of death.

Hodler developed a style he called “Parallelism” that emphasised the symmetry and rhythm he believed formed the basis of human society. In paintings such as “The Chosen One”, groupings of figures are symmetrically arranged in poses suggestive of ritual or dance. Hodler painted number of large-scale historical paintings, often with patriotic themes. In 1897 he accepted a commission to paint a series of large frescoes for the Weapons Room of the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum in Zurich. The compositions he proposed, including The “Battle of Marignan” which depicted a battle that the Swiss lost, were controversial for their imagery and style, and Hodler was not permitted to execute the frescoes until 1900. Hodler’s work in his final phase took on an expressionist aspect with strongly coloured and geometrical figures. Landscapes were pared down to essentials, sometimes consisting of a jagged wedge of land between water and sky.

In 1908, he met Valentine Godé-Darel, who became his mistress. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1913, and the many hours Hodler spent by her bedside resulted in a remarkable series of paintings documenting her decline from the disease (see painting above). Her death in January 1915 affected Hodler greatly. He occupied himself with work on a series of about 20 introspective self-portraits that date from 1916. In 1914 he condemned the German atrocities conducted using artillery at Rheims. In retaliation for this, German art museums excluded Hodler’s work.

By 1917 his health was deteriorating. In November of that year he became ill with pulmonary oedema, and told his son he was considering suicide. Although mostly bedridden, he painted a number of views of the city from his balcony in the months before his death on May 19, 1918, in Geneva.

Many of Hodler’s best-known paintings are scenes in which characters are engaged in everyday activities, such as the famous woodcutter (Der Holzfäller, 1910, Musée d'Orsay, Paris). In 1908, the Swiss National Bank commissioned Hodler to create two designs for new paper currency. His designs were controversial: Rather than portraits of famous men, Hodler chose to depict a woodcutter (for the 50 Swiss Franc bank note) and a reaper (for the 100 Franc note). Both appeared in the 1911 Series Two of the notes. According to the art historian Sepp Kern, Hodler “helped revitalise the art of monumental wall painting, and his work is regarded as embodying the Swiss federal identity.”