Saturday 29 July 2017


“The violin sings.” - Joshua Bell 

Giovanni Battista Somis, (also Giambattista Somis; 25 December 1686 in Turin – 14 August 1763) was an Italian violinist and composer of the Baroque era. Like his younger brother Giovanni Lorenzo Somis, he received his first musical training from their father Francesco Lorenzo Somis (1663-1736). Then Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a member of the Court Chapel of the Duke of Savoy in Turin.

From 1703 to 1706 Somis stayed in Rome, where he learned and deepened new bowing techniques and the art of ornamentation with his teacher, Arcangelo Corelli. It was from this time that he became acquainted with Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, to whom his Op. 4 is dedicated. Further travels took him to Novara and Sicily.

He then went to Paris in 1731, giving several concerts at the Paris residence of the Prince of Carignan. In Paris, Somis appeared in 1733 twice as a soloist, at the Concerts Spirituels; a report in the April 1733 “Le Mercure” praised his playing. On his return to Turin, he became the first soloist of the Hofkapelle, to which he belonged until his death. He remained with the chapel of Prince Carignan’s Turin residence all his life.

His most famous pupil was Jean-Marie Leclair, who introduced Somis to the French violin school. He also taught Gaspard Fritz, Jean-Pierre Guignon, Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, Gaetano Pugnani, and his nephew, Carlo Chiabrano, all of whom also made a name for themselves as violinists and composers. From Op. 5 Somis increasingly uses elements of the gallant style and French ornaments (agrémens).

His younger sister was the soprano and vocal teacher Anne Antonia Christina Somis (1704-1785) and later wife of the French painter Charles André van Loo. They had met each other in Turin during a stay of the painter in Turin.  The couple had two children, Marie-Rosalie van Loo (1741-1762) and Jules César Denis van Loo (1749-1821).

It is recorded that he composed 152 violin concertos, which are largely lost as they were not published. More than 80 violin and trio sonatas were published in groups within eight Opus numbers. These works were published by publishers in Turin, Paris and Amsterdam.

Here are the Violin Sonatas of his Opus 1, performed by Kreeta-Maria Kentala, violin; Lauri Pulakka, violoncello; Mitzi Meyerson, harpsichord.
Sonata no. 6 [D major]: 1 Adagio; 2 Allegro; 3 Allegro
Sonata no. 9 [G minor]: 4 Adagio; 5 Allegro; 6 Allegro
Sonata no. 5 [B flat major]: 7 Adagio; 8 Allegro; 9 Allegro
Sonata no. 7 [E flat major]: 10 Adagio; 11 Allegro; 12 Presto
Sonata no. 10 [C major]: 13 Adagio; 14 Allegro; 15 Allegro
Sonata no. 2 [E minor]: 16 Adagio; 17 Allegro; 18 Allegro
Sonata no. 1 [G minor]: 19 Adagio; 20 Allegro; 21 Allegro
Sonata no. 12 [E major]: 22 Adagio; 23 Allegro; 24 Allegro
Sonata no. 8 [A major]: 25 Adagio; 26 Allegro; 27 Allegro
Sonata no. 4 [D minor]: 28 Adagio: 29 Allegro; 30 Allegro
Sonata no. 3 [A minor]: 31 Adagio; 32 Allegro; 33 Allegro
Sonata no. 11 [F major]: 34 Adagio; 35 Allegro: 36 Allegro

The painting above is Gerrit van Honthorst's "Concert"

Friday 28 July 2017


“Some fragrance lingers on the hands of those that give gifts of roses.” – Chinese Proverb.

We picked some ripe, juicy mandarins for the tree yesterday and as well as gorging ourselves on the tangy, fragrant, luscious fresh fruit we decided to make some mandarin marmalade. This is a delicious marmalade that makes morning toast zing with flavour. Friends that we’ve given jars to as presents always remark that it has a unique aroma and taste, and it is a pity that it is not available commercially for sale. Indeed, I wonder why...

Mandarin Marmalade

800g mandarins, whole and cleaned
Water, to cover mandarins in the saucepan
600g caster sugar

A squeeze of lemon juice 

Ensure mandarins are free from blemishes and also if any stalks are present, remove them. Wash and lightly brush peel clean. Simmer whole mandarins in a saucepan of boiling water for 45 minutes. Drain, quarter, remove any tough fibres and de-seed. Chop up into small pieces. You may use a food processor if you desire a finer textured marmalade.
Return chopped mandarins to saucepan and add the sugar. Cook, stirring, over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer, stirring, for 35 minutes, squeezing some lemon juice into the marmalade just as you are finishing the cooking.
To test if set, place a saucer in the freezer for 5 minutes. Spoon marmalade onto a saucer. Wait for 1 minute and if marmalade wrinkles when touched, it’s set.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday 27 July 2017


“Alas, poor me, that the wounds of love cannot be healed by herbs!” – Ovid 

Origanum dictamnus (dittany of Crete, Cretan dittany or hop marjoram), known in Greek as δίκταμο (díktamo, cf. “dittany”) or in Cretan dialect έρωντας (erondas, “love”), is a tender perennial plant in the Lamiaceae family that grows 20–30 cm high. It is a healing, therapeutic and aromatic plant that only grows wild on the mountainsides and gorges of the Greek island of Crete, Greece. 

Dittany of Crete is widely used for food flavouring and medicinal purposes, and is also found as an ornamental plant in gardens. This small, lanate shrub is easily recognised by the distinctive soft, woolly covering of white-grey hair on its stems and round green leaves, giving it a velvety texture. Tiny rose-pink flowers surrounded by brighter purple-pink bracts add an exuberant splash of colour to the plant in summer and autumn. Dittany is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plant Species 1997. 

Origanum dictamnus is a many branched plant with discoid to ovate, grey-green leaves that are sited in pairs opposite each other. The slender arching stems and lanate leaves are covered in a velvety white down and are 13–25 mm in size. The flowers are pale pink to purple and have a deep lilac corolla with many deep pink-coloured overlapping bracts. The colourful flowers forming a cascade of elongated clusters are in bloom in the summer months and are quite a pretty sight in the rocky mountains of their native land. The flowers are hermaphrodite, meaning they have both male and female organs, and are pollinated by bees attracted to their scent and bright colour. The primary ingredients of the herb’s essential oil are carvacrol (68.96%), β-phellandrene (18.34%) and p-cymene (4.68%).

The herb symbolises love and is reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Traditionally, only the most ardent young lovers would scramble on mountainsides and go into the deep gorges of Crete gathering bunches of the pink blooms to present as love tokens. There are numerous deaths reported throughout the centuries by collectors of this magical herb. Even in recent times, the collection of dittany of Crete was a very dangerous occupation for the men who risked life and limb to climb precarious rock faces where the plant grows wild in the mountains of Crete. They were named erondádhes (“love-seekers”) and were considered very brave and passionate men to go to such dangerous lengths to collect the herb.

Dittany of Crete has always been highly prized; it is gathered while in bloom in the summer months, and is exported for use in pharmaceuticals, perfumery and to flavour drinks such as vermouth and absinthe. In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates prescribed plant cures to aid all manner of ailments, and considered dittany of Crete useful for stomach aches and complaints of the digestive system and as a poultice for healing wounds, as well as inducing menstruation.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle in his work “The History of Animals” (612a4) wrote: “Wild goats in Crete are said, when wounded by arrow, to go in search of dittany, which is supposed to have the property of ejecting arrows in the body.” The Greek scholar and philosopher Theophrastus agreed with Aristotle about the healing properties of dittany of Crete. In his work “Enquiry into Plants”, he noted that dittany was peculiar to Crete, and that it was: “Said to be true, that, if goats eat it when they have been shot, it rids them of the arrow.” (9.16.1).

Other scholars of Ancient Greece and later times have made reference to dittany, but probably referred to Dictamnus albus, known as false, or white, dittany. Today, the wild, naturally grown dittany of Crete is classed as “rare” and is protected by European law so it does not become extinct. Cultivation of the herb now centres on Embaros and the surrounding villages, south of Heraklion, Crete, and the product used to make herbal tea and for use in natural beauty preparations. It is used as a flavouring in sweet wine, its dried leaves mulled in the warm liquid. It is used as one of the flavourings in vermouth and Benedictine liqueur.

In Book XII.411-415 of Virgil’s “Aeneid”, Venus heals the wounded Aeneas with dittany: “Hereupon Venus, smitten by her son’s cruel pain, with a mother’s care plucks from Cretan Ida a dittany stalk, clothed with downy leaves and purple flowers; not unknown is that herb to wild goats, when winged arrows have lodged in their flanks.” In Canto XI of Tasso’s “Jerusalem Delivered” the crusader leader, Godfrey, is healed by means of a dittany salve. This scene is a reference to Virgil’s as the dittany used to heal Godfrey is fetched from Mount Ida and reference is also made to the idea that goats eat dittany when wounded.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of non-flowering dittany carries the message: “Heal my wounds”; while a flowering sprig means: “I am in love with you and only you can heal the wounds of my heart.”

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday 26 July 2017


“Murder is like potato chips: You can’t stop with just one.” ― Stephen King 

We watched a thriller last weekend as we wanted something fairly non-intellectual, which required no deep thinking nor emotional investment. We do enjoy a good thriller as an entertaining and escapist “passive activity”, so to speak, but when we started to watch and I saw that the director (and screenwriter) was David Oondatje, I was a little cautious as I have no time for his more famous uncle Michael Oondatje whose infamous “The English Patient” I dislike (I must have started to read that book about five times and started to watch the movie three times, and I was unable to stomach it!)… 

The Lodger (2007) Thriller/Film noir - Director by David Oondatje; starring Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Shane West. – 6/10

This is an oft-told tale of a serial killer, this time in West Hollywood. The movie has two converging plot lines: The first involves an uneasy relationship between a psychologically unstable landlady and her enigmatic lodger, while the second is about a troubled detective with family issues and unorthodox methods, who is engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the elusive killer, who is imitating the crimes of Jack the Ripper.

Although the movie was fairly conventional it was watchable at least! The acting was fine and the plot and direction competent, although the movie was a little overplotted and not tight enough. The final twist saved the film, because otherwise it would have been disappointing, especially on account of the rather glib and premature psychological explanation given by Rebecca Pidgeon who played (rather woodenly) the resident psychologist. Nevertheless, an enjoyable enough low octane thriller/film noir good for our wintry Sunday matinée.

Tuesday 25 July 2017


“You don’t stumble upon your heritage. It's there, just waiting to be explored and shared.” - Robbie Robertson 

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.
Bristol is a city and county in South West England with a population of 454,200 in 2017. The district has the 10th largest population in England, while the Bristol metropolitan area is the 12th largest in the United Kingdom. The city borders North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with the cities of Bath and Gloucester to the south-east and north-east, respectively. Iron Age hill forts and Roman villas were built near the confluence of the rivers Frome and Avon, and around the beginning of the 11th century the settlement was known as Brycgstow (Old English “the place at the bridge”).

Bristol received a royal charter in 1155 and was historically divided between Gloucestershire and Somerset until 1373, when it became a county of itself. From the 13th to the 18th century, Bristol was among the top three English cities after London in tax receipts. Bristol was surpassed by the rapid rise of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham in the Industrial Revolution. Bristol was a starting place for early voyages of exploration to the New World. On a ship out of Bristol in 1497 John Cabot, a Venetian, became the first European since the Vikings to land on mainland North America. In 1499 William Weston, a Bristol merchant, was the first Englishman to lead an exploration to North America.

At the height of the Bristol slave trade, from 1700 to 1807, more than 2,000 slave ships carried an estimated 500,000 people from Africa to slavery in the Americas. The Port of Bristol has since moved from Bristol Harbour in the city centre to the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Dock. Bristol’s modern economy is built on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and the city-centre docks have been redeveloped as centres of heritage and culture. The city has the largest circulating community currency in the U.K.- the Bristol pound, which is pegged to the Pound sterling.

The city has two universities, the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol and a variety of artistic and sporting organisations and venues including the Royal West of England Academy, the Arnolfini, Spike Island, Ashton Gate and the Memorial Stadium. It is connected to London and other major UK cities by road, rail, sea and air by the M5 and M4 (which connect to the city centre by the Portway and M32), Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway mainline rail stations, and Bristol Airport. One of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations, Bristol was selected in 2009 as one of the world’s top ten cities by international travel publishers Dorling Kindersley in their Eyewitness series of travel guides. The Sunday Times named it as the best city in Britain in which to live in 2014 and 2017, and Bristol also won the EU’s European Green Capital Award in 2015.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby 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 24 July 2017


“Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.” - Gloria Steinem 

In Ancient Egyptian religion, Taweret (also spelled Taurt, Tuat, Taouris, Tuart, Ta-weret, Tawaret, Twert, and Taueret, and in Greek, Θουέρις “Thouéris” and Toeris) is the protective ancient Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility. The name “Taweret” (Tȝ-wrt) means “she who is great” or simply “great one”, a common pacificatory address to dangerous deities. The deity is typically depicted as a bipedal female hippopotamus with feline attributes, pendulous female human breasts, and the back of a Nile crocodile. She commonly bears the epithets “Lady of Heaven”, “Mistress of the Horizon”, “She Who Removes Water”, “Mistress of Pure Water”, and “Lady of the Birth House”.

From her ideological conception, Taweret was closely grouped with (and is often indistinguishable from) several other protective hippopotamus goddesses: Ipet, Reret, and Hedjet. Some scholars even interpret these goddesses as aspects of the same deity, considering their universally shared role as protective household goddesses.

The other hippopotamus goddesses have names that bear very specific meanings, much like Taweret (whose name is formed as a pacificatory address intended to calm the ferocity of the goddess): Ipet’s name (“the Nurse”) demonstrates her connection to birth, child rearing, and general caretaking, and Reret’s name (“the Sow”) is derived from the Egyptians’ classification of hippopotami as water pigs. However, the origin of Hedjet’s name (“the White One”) is not as clear and could justly be debated. Evidence for the cult of hippopotamus goddesses exists from the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 – 2181 BCE) in the corpus of ancient Egyptian funerary texts entitled the Pyramid Texts.

It was not until the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BCE) that Taweret became featured more prominently as a figure of religious devotion. Her image adorns apotropaic magical objects, the most notable of which being a common type of “wand” or “knife” carved from hippopotamus ivory that was likely used in rituals associated with birth and the protection of infants. Similar images appear also on children’s feeding cups, once again demonstrating Taweret’s integral role as the patron goddess of child rearing.

Quite contrarily, she also took on the role of a funerary deity in this period, evidenced by the commonplace practice of placing hippopotami decorated with marsh flora in tombs and temples. Some scholars believe that this practice demonstrates that hippopotamus goddesses facilitated the process of rebirth after death, just as they aided in earthly births. These statues, then, assisted the deceased’s passing into the afterlife.

With the rise of personal piety in the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1069 BCE), household deities like Taweret gained even more importance. Taweret’s image has been found on an array of household objects, demonstrating her central role in the home. In fact, such objects were even found at Amarna from the reign of Akhenaten (c. 1352–1336 BCE), who promulgated the monotheistic cult of Aten.

Taweret’s survival in the artistic corpus found at Akenaten’s capital demonstrates her overwhelming significance in daily life. In this time period, her role as a funerary deity was strengthened, as her powers became considered not only life-giving, but regenerative as well. Various myths demonstrate her role in facilitating the afterlives of the deceased as the nurturing and purifying “Mistress of Pure Water”. However, Taweret and her fellow hippopotamus goddesses of fertility should not be confused with Ammit, another composite hippopotamus goddess who gained prominence in the New Kingdom. Ammit was responsible for devouring the unjust before passing into the afterlife. Unlike Ammit, the other hippopotamus goddesses were responsible for nourishment and aid, not destruction.

Taweret’s image served a functional purpose on a variety of objects. The most notable of these objects are amulets, which protected mothers and children from harm. Such amulets, appearing before 3000 BCE, were popular for most of ancient Egyptian history. She also consistently appeared on household furniture throughout history, including chairs, stools, and headrests.

Sunday 23 July 2017


“I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror – The wide brown land for me!” ― Dorothea Mackellar 

Bruce Swann was born in 1925 in Brighton, a seaside suburb of Adelaide, and enjoyed sailing at Brighton and Seacliff Yacht Club. After his schooling at Pulteney Grammar School, Bruce began work in 1941 for pastoral house and woolbroker, Goldsbrough Mort & Co. On his 17th birthday, Swann joined the Royal Australian Navy and spent four years at sea. His first ship was attached to the American Navy and his second, the Corvette HMAS Bendigo, sailed with the British Pacific Fleet. Even then he was sketching – the sea and boats.

Following World War II, Bruce Swann resumed work as a stock agent, and remained with Goldsbroughs and then Elder Smith, for 33 years. He dealt daily with woolgrowers and cattlemen on properties and in stockyards, in South Australia and the Northern Territory. He travelled continuously, forming long-lasting business and personal friendships and developed a keen insight into the culture of rural Australia, its natural beauty and its unique landscapes and architecture.

Bruce Swann married Clem in 1948, and they had two sons, Steve and Phil. Aged 39, Swann suffered his first of three heart attacks. Two years later, in 1967, he had a second attack and, while recovering at home for four months, he started to sketch, from memory, many of the places he knew and loved from his country travels. Bruce Swann’s first exhibition of drawings was held at Rachel Biven’s “Off The Beaten Track” Gallery in Sydenham Road, Norwood. The exhibition was highly successful and Bruce then went on to exhibit pen and wash drawings, followed by watercolours and then oil paintings. After his first two exhibitions at ‘Off The Beaten Track’, exhibitions were held regularly at various galleries.

In 1974, Bruce Swann left his job as a stock agent to concentrate full-time on his art. He was commissioned to produce a book of architectural drawings for the University of Adelaide for its Centenary Year. These works are held in the University’s collection. His work from across his career can further be appreciated through the nine books that were published, including “Swann’s South Australia”, “Swann at Home and Abroad”, as well as “The University of Adelaide”. In 1976, Bruce underwent open heart surgery from which he recovered well.

From 1977 onwards, Swann had become a well-known artist and his works were purchased for many important private and public collections not only in Australia but abroad. Important commissions also followed, including The S.A. Syndicate’s commission to produce a book of drawings and paintings of the America’s Cup challenge races in Fremantle in 1987. A large exhibition at the Waterfront Restaurant featured the paintings of the 12 metre yachts in action and the harbour views and the life of Fremantle and was a tremendous success in raising funds for the S.A. Syndicate.

The last one-man exhibition by Bruce Swann was in November 1986 at the Barry Newton Gallery, where the public and corporate support at the opening was so great that there was hardly standing room in the Gallery – and it was a complete sellout. The list of corporate collections with art by Swann within Australia and overseas is extensive, and was growing fast at that time. Sadly, Bruce Swann died in November 1987, aged 62. Bruce Swann’s heritage is a portfolio of art works in a wide range of media – pencil, ink, watercolour, gouache, pastel, acrylic and oil.

The painting above is a favourite of mine, “Dutton Township, South Australia”. It seems to encapsulate the vastness and arid beauty of Australia’s outback settlements. Implicit in this of course, also is the resilience, strength and ruggedness of the Australian people. Being able to not only survive in adversity, but make a success of one’s life is something that one encounters again and again in Australia – especially so in the Outback…

More information from the artist's site here.