Saturday 3 December 2016


“Music is part of us, and either ennobles or degrades our behaviour.” - Boethius 

Jean-Marie Leclair l'aîné, also known as Jean-Marie Leclair the Elder, (10 May 1697 – 22 October 1764) was a Baroque violinist and composer. He is considered to have founded the French violin school. His brothers Jean-Marie Leclair the younger (1703–77), Pierre Leclair (1709–84) and Jean-Benoît Leclair (1714–after 1759) were also musicians.

Leclair was born in Lyon, but left to study dance and the violin in Turin. In 1716, he married Marie-Rose Casthanie, a dancer, who died about 1728. Leclair had returned to Paris in 1723, where he played at the Concert Spirituel, the main semi-public music series. His works included several sonatas for flute and basso continuo. In 1730, Leclair married for the second time. His new wife was the engraver Louise Roussel, who prepared for printing all his works from Opus 2 onward.

Named ordinaire de la musique by Louis XV in 1733, Leclair resigned in 1737 after a clash with Guidon over control of the Musique du Roy. Leclair was then engaged by the Princess of Orange – a fine harpsichordist and former student of Handel – and from 1738 until 1743, served three months annually at her court in Leeuwarden, working in The Hague as a private maestro di cappella for the remainder of the year. He returned to Paris in 1743. His only opera Scylla et Glaucus was first performed in 1746 and has been revived in modern times.

From 1740 until his death in Paris, he served the Duke of Gramont, in whose private theatre at Puteaux were staged works to which Leclair is known to have contributed. They included, in particular, a lengthy divertissement for the comedy Les danger des épreuves (1749) and one complete entrée, Apollon et Climène, for the opéra-ballet by various authors, Les amusemens lyriques (1750). Leclair was renowned as a violinist and as a composer. He successfully drew upon all of Europe’s national styles. Many suites, sonatas, and concertos survive along with his opera, while some vocal works, ballets, and other stage music is lost.

In 1758, after the break-up of his second marriage, Leclair purchased a small house in a dangerous Parisian neighborhood, where he was found stabbed to death on October 23, 1764. Although the murder remains a mystery, there is a possibility that his ex-wife may have been behind it – her motive being financial gain – although the strongest suspicion rests on his nephew, Guillaume-François Vial.

Here is his Op. 7 - Six Concerti à trois violons, alto et basse (1737) performed by the Collegium Musicum 90 directed by Simon Standage.

Friday 2 December 2016


“Everywhere in the world there are tensions - economic, political, religious. So we need chocolate.” - Alain Ducasse

We were given this recipe by a friend who in turn got it from a friend of hers who was originally from the USA. These are quite moist, tender, very chocolatey muffins.

Chocolate Muffins

1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
6 tbsp cocoa powder
6 tbsp hot water
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups self raising flour
1/2 tsp
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup chocolate chips (+ extra for decoration).

Preheat oven to 200˚C. Place paper muffin cases in a standard muffin tin and spray with non-stick spray; set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, combine the sugar and oil. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Combine the cocoa and the hot water in a small bowl, whisk until a smooth paste forms. Add to the bowl, beat for another 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix until combined.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Gradually alternate adding the dry ingredients and the yoghurt to the muffin mix, being careful not to overmix. Fold in 1 cup of the chocolate chips.
Fill each muffin case with the muffin batter (about 3.5 tbsp in each case). Sprinkle with extra chocolate chips on top if desired, and gently press into the batter.
Place in the oven to bake for 7 minutes at 200˚C and then reduce the heat to 170˚C and continue baking for 10-12 more minutes. Remove from oven when done and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Feel free to share a recipe of your own:

Thursday 1 December 2016


“The first meal my husband ever made me was a chicken curry. I have never tasted anything so delicious in my life.” - Lesley Nicol

The curry tree (Murraya koenigii or Bergera koenigii) is a tropical to sub-tropical tree in the family Rutaceae (the rue family, which includes rue, citrus, and satinwood), which is native to India and Sri Lanka. The species name commemorates the botanist Johann König. The genus Murray commemorates Swedish physician and botanist Johann Andreas Murray who died in 1791. The leaves of this tree are used in many dishes in India, Sri Lanka, and neighbouring countries. Often used in curries, the leaves are generally called by the name ‘curry leaves’, although they are also literally ‘sweet neem leaves’ in most Indian languages (as opposed to ordinary neem leaves which are very bitter and in the family Meliaceae, not Rutaceae).

It is a small tree, growing 4–8.7 m tall, with a trunk up to 81 cm diameter. The aromatic leaves are pinnate, with 11–21 leaflets, each leaflet 2–4 cm long and 1–2 cm broad. The plant produces small white flowers, which can self-pollinate to produce small shiny-black berries containing a single, large viable seed. Though the berry pulp is edible (with a sweet but medicinal flavour) in general, neither the pulp nor seed is used for culinary purposes. Leaves can be harvested from home-raised plants as the tree is fairly easily grown in warmer areas of the world, or in containers where the climate is not supportive outdoors. Seeds must be ripe and fresh to plant; dried or shriveled fruits are not viable. One can plant the whole fruit, but it is best to remove the pulp before planting in potting mix that is kept moist but not wet. Stem cuttings can be also used for propagation.

The leaves are highly valued as seasoning in Southern and West-coast Indian cooking, and Sri Lankan cooking especially in curries, usually fried along with the chopped onion in the first stage of the preparation. They are also used to make thoran, vada, rasam and kadhi. In their fresh form, they have a short shelf life and do not keep well in the refrigerator. They are also available dried, though the aroma is largely inferior. Although most commonly used in curries, leaves from the curry tree can be used in many other dishes to add flavour. In Cambodia, Khmer toast the leaves in an open flame or roast it until crispy and then crush it into a soured soup dish called maju krueng.

The leaves of Murraya koenigii are also used as in Ayurvedic medicine. Because of its aromatic characteristic properties, the plant has uses in soap making, body lotions, potpourri, scent, air fresheners, body fragrance, perfume, bath and massage oils, aromatherapy, towel scenting, spas and health clinics, incense, facial steams or hair treatments. In the absence of tulsi leaves, curry leaves are used for rituals, such as pujas.

In the language of flowers, a leafy branch included in bouquets signifies: “Your exotic charms have me in thrall”. A gift of curry tree flowers means: “I have succumbed to your inner beauty.”

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

Wednesday 30 November 2016


“Tolerance, compromise, understanding, acceptance, patience - I want those all to be very sharp tools in my shed.” - CeeLo Green 

The mid-week motif for Poets United this week is “Social Stigma”. In western societies around the world we take pride in touting our tolerance and acceptance of diversity, we quote our laws that protect minorities, and are ready to lecture anyone who dares question our broad-mindedness and understanding of all of those who don’t conform to society’s “norms”.

Yet it is in enlightened countries such as these that we see racial discrimination still raging; we still see ethnic minorities failing to advance socially and professionally because of prejudice against them; we still see inequalities based on gender and patriarchal role models; we still see people victimised, bashed or killed because of their sexuality; we still see people ostracised because of their age; we still see stigmatisation of teenage mothers; we still see demonisation of the unemployed and the homeless; we still see the isolation and marginalisation of the mentally ill…

My poem is based on a true story that affected a family acquaintance. The young woman central to that story made what I believe to have been the right decision. However, it is not explicitly stated in my poem. There are so many young women who find themselves in a miserable quandary and the decisions that they make (or that they have made for them), in so many cases are dictated by the threat of social stigma… Yes, even nowadays in enlightened societies like ours!

The Quandary

She cried her eyes out when he left
She knew she’d never see him again;
And now alone, with all her dreams
Turned into nightmares.

She had believed him and she had loved,
She gave him all and he took even more.
And now alone, whom could she turn to,
But her family?

She had confessed all and she had trusted them;
She hoped that they would give their love, support…
And all she heard were screams and shouts,
Cries, threats and accusations.

She put her hands on her belly and she felt –
She tried to feel what she knew was growing there.
And she sensed that the new life that stirred within
Would bring her turmoil.

She heard her father shout: “Have an abortion!”
She heard her mother cry: “Have it and give it for adoption!”
Within her belly “it” stirred and said:
“Keep me, love me, raise me…”

Small town morality would stigmatise
The tell-tale swelling in her belly;
Her child, if born, would have its own battles to fight,
Wars to lose, perhaps…

She knew what shame, disgrace and isolation
She would have face if she allowed nature take its course;
And then how could she live,
With that blemish of: “Single, underage mother”?

Whom would she listen to?
Who gave the wisest counsel?
Who spoke from the heart?
Whom could she in her green years put her trust in?

Tuesday 29 November 2016


“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” - Leo Tolstoy 

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.
Leipzig is the largest city in the federal state of Saxony, Germany. With a population of 570,087 inhabitants (1,001,220 residents in the larger urban zone) it is Germany’s tenth most populous city. Leipzig is located about 160 kilometres southwest of Berlin at the confluence of the White Elster, Pleisse and Parthe rivers at the southern end of the North German Plain. Leipzig has been a trade city since at least the time of the Holy Roman Empire.

The city sits at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important Medieval trade routes. Leipzig was once one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing. Leipzig became a major urban centre within the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) after the Second World War, but its cultural and economic importance declined. Leipzig later played a significant role in instigating the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, through events which took place in and around St. Nicholas Church.

Since the reunification of Germany, Leipzig has undergone significant change with the restoration of some historical buildings, the demolition of others, and the development of a modern transport infrastructure. Leipzig today is an economic centre and the most livable city in Germany, according to the GfK marketing research institution. Oper Leipzig is one of the most prominent opera houses in Germany, and Leipzig Zoological Garden is one of the most modern zoos in Europe and ranks first in Germany and second in Europe according to Anthony Sheridan.

Since the opening of the Leipzig City Tunnel in 2013, Leipzig forms the centrepiece of the S-Bahn Mitteldeutschland public transit system. Leipzig is currently listed as Gamma World City and Germany’s “Boomtown”. Outside of Leipzig the Neuseenland district forms a huge lake area by approx 300 square kilometres.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday 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 28 November 2016


“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” – Oscar Wilde

Many English speakers abhor watching foreign language films as they detest subtitling. I on the contrary, not only watch foreign films with subtitles, but in these blessed days of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, I watch even English language films with the subtitle feature on. This is necessary as the diction of many actors is absolutely terrible, the sound engineering is often despicable and the musical backing is hopelessly intrusive. Add to that some peculiarities of accent or idiomatic forms of English spoken sloppily and you end up with understanding half of what is being said if you don't have the aid of the subtitles. Needless to say I never buy any DVDs or Blu-Rays that don’t have English subtitles or closed captions.

For Movie Monday today, tow movies: The original French film and the Hollywood remake for the native speakers of English who “don’t do subtitles”. The original film (and in my opinion the funnier of the two) is the 1972 Yves Robert comedy “The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe” (Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire) starring Pierre Richard, Bernard Blier and Jean Rochefort. The Hollywood remake is the 1985 Stan Dragoti film “The Man with One Red Shoe” starring Tom Hanks, Lori Singer and Dabney Coleman. And yes, I had the subtitles turned on for both films…

The plot of both films is almost identical except for some sociopolitical, cultural and ethno-geographic adaptations in the US version (obviously!) – I give you here the US film’s plot as you are probably more likely to get your hands on this one to watch: Cooper (Dabney Coleman), the deputy director of the CIA, wants to be the director. So, he tries to make it appear that the director (Charles Durning) is corrupt so that he will resign or be removed. The director appears before a committee and asks for some time to prepare his defense. The director goes home and asks his man Brown (Ed Herrmann) to join him. He then shows Brown that Cooper is bugging him.

He then decides to turn the tables on Cooper by feeding him false information. The information being that there’s supposedly a man arriving at the airport, who might be able to clear him of the charges against him. The Director tells Brown to just pick anyone who is arriving at the airport thus making Cooper believe that he is the man who can help the director. Brown picks violinist Richard (Tom Hanks) because he is wearing mismatched shoes, one of them being a red sneaker. So Cooper sets up surveillance on Richard and sends his femme fatale, Maddy (Lori Singer) to come on to him and find out what he knows. Add a subplot of a fellow musician (Jim Belushi) who thinks his wife (Carrie Fisher) is having an affair with Richard, and the stage is set for a send-up of spy movies.

The original French film is extremely funny but also sophisticated, even though it often features slapstick, farcical situations. The lead actor, Pierre Richard, is fantastic as the hapless orchestral player who gets caught willy-nilly in the secret service shenanigans. The pace is relentless and one comical situation succeeds the next with the audience laughing out loud without effort. The rest of the cast (including the luscious Mireille Darc as the femme fatale) is exemplary in an ensemble acting effort. The music is unforgettable with a soundtrack written by Vladimir Cosma and performed by the Romanian Pan pipe player Gheorghe Zamfir.

Now, the Hollywood version. Yes, but… I guess the summary is if you haven't seen the original French movie and you moderate your expectations, you will enjoy the US version as a light-weight Spy vs Spy spoof. Hanks is very young but copes fairly well with playing the innocent bystander around whom the whole world collapses. Jim Belushi and Carrie Fisher carry on quite well (although they do ham it up a bit) as the couple with marital problems and the remainder of the cast are adequate. A nice enough, amusing movie to watch in the background on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You will chuckle here and there…

Sunday 27 November 2016


 “A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.” - Alan Watt

Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov, (born May 3 [May 15, New Style], 1848, Lopyal, Vyatka province, Russia—died July 23, 1926, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.) was a Russian artist, designer, and architect whose monumental works include the façade of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. He was the older brother of the painter Apollinary Vasnetsov. Born into the family of a priest, Viktor received his first drawing lessons in the Vyatsky Seminary in the early 1860s.

In 1867 he moved to St. Petersburg and enrolled in the Drawing School of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, where he was mentored by Ivan Kramskoy of the Peredvizhniki (“Wanderers”) group, which rejected the classicism of the Russian Academy. Vasnetsov later finished his studies at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts (1868–75). He was awarded the academy’s Grand Silver Medal for his sketch “Christ and Pilate Before the People” (1870). In 1878 he himself joined the Peredvizhniki.

Vasnetsov’s first works were genre paintings typical of the Peredvizhniki. In paintings such as “Moving House” (1876), “News from the Front” (1878), and “A Game of Preference” (1879), he presented with evident affection closely observed domestic scenes and characters from an array of social backgrounds. From the 1880s on, Vasnetsov’s main theme was the world of folk poetry: Tales, epics, and legends. He discovered the means to give visual expression to legendary and epic verbal phrases and imagery. Dark forest wilds, fiery sunrises and sunsets, stormy clouds—all these elements of his works helped make the legendary episodes depicted in his paintings seem to be actual events in Russian history.

For that reason paintings such as “After Prince Igor’s Battle with the Polovtsy” (1880), “Ivan Tsarevich Riding the Gray Wolf” (1889), and “Alyonushka” (1881 –illustrated above) were extremely popular in Russia. They became, in a sense, surrogates for Russian history, and during the Soviet era many were reproduced in schoolbooks and on consumer goods such as calendars, posters, and boxes of chocolates. That one of his most important paintings, “Bogatyrs” (1898), on which he worked for more than a decade, with countless preparatory studies and sketches, had just this fate is quite characteristic.

His careful approach resulted in the transformation of his paintings into pseudohistorical fantasies based on themes of Russian history. Vasnetsov designed costumes and stage sets for Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera “Snegurochka” (The Snow Maiden) in 1886. He created a monumental panel, “Stone Age” (1883–85), for Moscow’s State Historical Museum. The church of Abramtsevo was also built according to his sketches, as was the Baba-Yaga Hut (1883; also called the Hut on Chicken Legs).

Shortly before the Russian Revolution of 1917, Vasnetsov created sketches of military uniforms for the Russian army, which were then used during Soviet times (such as the well-known budyonovka [initially bogatyrka] cap worn by the Red Army cavalrymen). After the revolution, Vasnetsov continued to paint folkloric themes. He died in Moscow in 1926.