Saturday 5 August 2017


“Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they still know good music when they hear it.” - LouRawls 

Domenico Zipoli (17 October 1688 – 2 January 1726) was an Italian Baroque composer who worked and died in Córdoba (Argentina). He became a Jesuit in order to work in the Reductions of Paraguay where he taught music among the Guaraní people. He is remembered as the most accomplished musician among Jesuit missionaries.

Zipoli was born in Prato, Italy, where he received his elementary musical training. However, there are no records of him having entered the cathedral choir. In 1707, and with the patronage of Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, he was a pupil of the organist Giovani Maria Casini in Florence. In 1708 he briefly studied under Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples, then Bologna and finally in Rome under Bernardo Pasquini. Two of his oratorios date to this early period: “San Antonio di Padova” (1712) and “Santa Caterina, Virgine e Martire”(1714). Around 1715 he was made the organist of the Church of the Gesù (a Jesuit parish, the mother church for The Society of Jesus), in Rome, a prestigious post. At the very beginning of the following year, he finished his best known work, a collection of keyboard pieces titled “Sonate d’intavolatura per organo e cimbalo”. 

For reasons that are not clear, Zipoli travelled to Seville, Spain, in 1716, where, on 1 July, he joined the Society of Jesus with the desire to be sent to the Reductions of Paraguay in Spanish Colonial America. Still a novice, he left Spain with a group of 53 missionaries who reached Buenos Aires on 13 July 1717. He completed his formation and sacerdotal studies in Córdoba (in contemporary Argentina, during 1717–1724) though, for the lack of an available bishop, he could not be ordained priest.

All through these few years he served as music director for the local Jesuit church. Soon his works came to be known in Lima, Peru. Struck by an unknown infectious disease, Zipoli died in the Jesuit house of Córdoba, on 2 January 1726. A previous theory placing his death in the ancient Jesuit church of Santa Catalina, in the hills of the Province of Córdoba, has now been discredited. His burial place has never been found.

Zipoli continues to be well known today for his keyboard music; many of them are well within the abilities of beginning to intermediate players, and appear in most standard anthologies. His Italian compositions have always been known but recently some of his South American church music was discovered in Chiquitos, Bolivia: Two Masses, two psalm settings, three Office hymns, a “Te Deum Laudamus” and other pieces. A Mass copied in Potosí, Bolivia in 1784, and preserved in Sucre, Bolivia, seems a local compilation based on the other two Masses. His dramatic music, including two complete oratorios and portions of a third one, is mostly gone. Three sections of the Mission opera “San Ignacio de Loyola” – compiled by Martin Schmid in Chiquitos many years after Zipoli’s death, and preserved almost complete in local sources – have been attributed to Zipoli.

It seems that the Guarani, the Chiquitos and the other people in the Jesuit areas of South America quite simply fell in love with the music that the missionaries brought with them. One priest wrote: “Give me an orchestra and I will convert all of South America”, and the fact that Zipoli and other mission composers wrote not just church music, but secular works too gives us some idea of how music was a major part of life on the reductions.

More on Baroque music in South America can be read in Jane Shuttleworth’s article: “Araujo to Zipoli: Baroque music in South America”.

You may also see the excellent film “The Mission” that looks (amongst other things…) at the love of the native South American people for European music.

Friday 4 August 2017


“Always farm fresh eggs, never store bought.” - T. J.Miller 

In winter we love having fresh-out-of the-oven soufflé. A friend of ours has hens in her backyard and she was kind enough to give us some lovely fresh eggs. With our wintry weather and fresh eggs on hand, some spinach from our garden and freshly grated cheese, yes, soufflé was on the menu! 

Cheese and Spinach Soufflé
250 g baby spinach leaves, washed, drained
150 mL full cream milk
30 g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
60 g grated soft parmesan cheese
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch of ground mace
Grated nutmeg to taste
2 large eggs
2 extra egg whites

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Grease a one-litre soufflé dish with plenty of butter (or you may use individual soufflé ramekins). Fill a roasting tin large enough to hold the soufflé dish(es) one third of the way up with water and put it in the oven to preheat.
Steam the spinach leaves in boiling water for two minutes, and drain through a fine sieve, squeezing every last drop of water from the spinach, and then chop it up. Put the milk in a pan to warm. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux. When it is smooth, gradually add the warm milk, whisking hard until you get a silky sauce.
Over a low heat mix the cheese in the sauce (reserving a little cheese to sprinkle on top just before the dish goes in the oven). Combine the cheese sauce and the chopped spinach in a mixing bowl, adding the salt and spices.
Separate the eggs. Add the two yolks to the spinach-and-cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. Put the four egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whisk until they form stiff peaks. Using a metal spoon, carefully fold the egg whites into the spinach-and-cheese mixture one spoon at a time, taking care not to lose all the air you have whisked into them.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish(es), then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, place in the preheated roasting tin and cook for 30-35 minutes. The soufflé should be well-risen, soft and moist on the inside and just starting to crack on the surface. Serve immediately.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday 3 August 2017


“What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” - Tertullian 

The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also called sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour, is a species of sunflower native to eastern North America, and found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. It is also cultivated widely across the temperate zone for its tuber, which is used as a root vegetable.

Despite its name, the Jerusalem artichoke has no relation to Jerusalem, and it is not a type of artichoke, though the two are distantly related as members of the daisy family. The origin of the “Jerusalem” part of the name is uncertain. Italian settlers in the United States called the plant girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, because of its resemblance to the garden sunflower (both plants are members of the genus Helianthus). Over time, the name girasole may have been changed to Jerusalem. The taste of the tuber is said to resemble artichokes. 

Helianthus tuberosus is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 1.5–3 m tall with opposite leaves on the upper part of the stem but alternate below. The leaves have a rough, hairy texture. Larger leaves on the lower stem are broad ovoid-acute and can be up to 30 cm long. Leaves higher on the stem are smaller and narrower. The flowers are yellow and produced in capitate flowerheads, which are 5–10 cm in diameter, with 10–20 ray florets and 60 or more small disc florets. The tubers are elongated and uneven, typically 7.5–10 cm long and 3–5 cm thick, and vaguely resembling ginger root in appearance, with a crisp texture when raw. They vary in colour from pale brown to white, red, or purple.

Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans cultivated Helianthus tuberosus as a food source. The tubers persist for years after being planted, so that the species expanded its range from central North America to the eastern and western regions. Early European colonists learned of this, and sent tubers back to Europe, where the plant became a popular crop and naturalised there. It later gradually fell into obscurity in North America, but attempts to market it commercially have been successful in the late 1900s and early 2000s.

The tuber contains about 2% protein, no oil, and a surprising lack of starch. It is rich in the carbohydrate inulin (76%), which is a polymer of the monosaccharide fructose. Tubers stored for any length of time will convert their inulin into its component fructose. Jerusalem artichokes have an underlying sweet taste because of the fructose, which is about one and a half times as sweet as sucrose. It has also been reported as a folk remedy for diabetes.

Temperature variances have been shown to affect the amount of inulin the Jerusalem artichoke can produce. When not in tropical regions, it has been shown to make less inulin than when it is in a warmer region. Cultivate from tubers or tuber fragments in early Spring, or leave tubers and/or their fragments in the ground after harvesting, which can be done as required with a garden fork from late Autumn into Winter. The plant is persistent; if they are not required the following year, ensure that every last tuber and/or fragment is removed. We have only planted them once in our garden and they come back year after year, even after extensive and thorough harvesting.

The tubers are sometimes used as a substitute for potatoes: They have a similar consistency, and in their raw form have a similar texture, but a sweeter, nuttier flavour. Raw and sliced thinly, they are fit for a salad. Their inulin form of carbohydrates give the tubers a tendency to become soft and mushy if boiled, but they retain their texture better when steamed. The inulin cannot be broken down by the human digestive system, but it is metabolised by bacteria in the colon. This can cause flatulence and, in some cases, gastric pain. Gerard’s Herbal, printed in 1621, quotes the English botanist John Goodyer on Jerusalem artichokes: “Which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men.” 

Jerusalem artichokes have 650 mg potassium per 1 cup (150g) serving. They are also high in iron, and contain 10-12% of the US RDA of fiber, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper. Jerusalem artichokes can be used as animal feed, but they must be washed before being fed to most animals. Pigs can forage, however, and safely eat them directly from the ground. The stalks and leaves can be harvested and used for silage, though cutting the tops greatly reduces the harvest of the roots.

In Baden-Württemberg, Germany, over 90% of the Jerusalem artichoke crop is used to produce a spirit called “Topinambur”. By the end of the 19th-century, Jerusalem artichokes were being used in Baden to make a spirit called “Jerusalem Artichoke Brandy”, “Erdäpfler”, “Rossler”, or "Borbel". Jerusalem artichoke brandy smells fruity and has a slight nutty-sweet flavour. It is characterised by an intense, pleasing, earthy note. The tubers are washed and dried in an oven before being fermented and distilled. It can be further refined to make “Red Rossler” by adding common tormentil (Potentilla erecta), and other ingredients such as currants, to produce a somewhat bitter and astringent decoction. It is used as digestif, as well as a remedy for diarrhoea or abdominal pain.

In the language of flowers, Jerusalem artichoke flowers mean “a short but happy life”. Flowerless foliage carries the meaning of “deception”.

This post is part the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday 2 August 2017


“Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.” - Immanuel Kant 

We watched an interesting film at the weekend, which got us talking about “amoral” versus “immoral” people. Amoral implies ‘not concerned with or affected by morality’, so that something described as amoral cannot appropriately be criticised for failure to conform to accepted moral standards. It is lacking a moral sense and is unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something (for example, “an amoral attitude to sex”; or “the client pays for the amoral expertise of the lawyer”).

Immoral, on the other hand, means ‘not conforming to accepted standards of morality’, and implies condemnation (e.g. “they felt it was immoral to accept a loan that they could not hope to repay”). Our discussion concerned the anti-hero of this quirky movie, which was about all the shades of gray between the blacks and whites of morality. 

The Details (2011) Black Comedy - Directed by Jacob Estes; starring Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney. - 7/10

In King County, Washington, Dr. Jeff Lang (Maguire) has been married for ten years with Nealy Lang (Banks) and they have a little boy. Their best friends are Rebecca Mazzoni, who studied with Jeff at medical school, and her husband Peter Mazzoni. Jeff decides to lay turf in his backyard, but the lawn rolls come with worms underneath and raccoons destroy his lawn during the night. Jeff wants also build another room in the house for his planned second son, but City Hall blocks the project. Jeff decides to build the room without approval and he gives his mentally unstable next door neighbour Lila (Linney), a beautiful plant, hoping to bribe her into silence. Jeff likes to play basketball with his friend Lincoln, who has kidney failure and needs haemodialysis.

Things begin to go wrong for Jeff, as:
a) His wife refuses to have sex with him;
b) The raccoons are seemingly ineradicable;
c) Rebecca is far too amorous for a good friend;
d) Lila is unpredictably erratic in her dealings with Jeff;
e) Jeff is too irresponsible and prone to amoral and immoral behaviour…
This creates havoc in the lives of Jeff and everyone he associates with, with some bizarre and tragic consequences.

We quite enjoyed the film, but perhaps even more the discussion it generated in its aftermath, which was quite a philosophical one and got us thinking about morality and how people view it and what choices in their lives they make on the basis of their personal concepts of morality. Worth hunting out this film and watching it, not only because it is quite entertaining, but also because it is a film that makes you think.

Tuesday 1 August 2017


“Keep close to Nature’s heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” - John Muir 

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.
Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Māori) is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, within Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve, and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It has been judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travellers’ Choice Destinations Awards by Trip Advisor) and is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World.

Milford Sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea at Dale Point - the mouth of the fiord - and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres or more on either side. Among the peaks are The Elephant at 1,517 metres, said to resemble an elephant’s head, and The Lion, 1,302 metres, in the shape of a crouching lion. Milford Sound has two permanent waterfalls all year round, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. After heavy rain however, many hundreds of temporary waterfalls can be seen running down the steep sided rock faces that line the fiord. They are fed by rain-water drenched moss and will last a few days at most once the rain stops.

With a mean annual rainfall of 6,813 mm on 182 days a year, a high level even for the West Coast, Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world. Rainfall can reach 250 mm during a span of 24 hours! Lush rain forests cling precariously to the cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters and whales can be seen sometimes. The sound has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it is a breeding site for Fiordland Penguins.

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 31 July 2017


“Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.” ― Patrick Süskind 

Shesmu (alternatively Schesmu and Shezmu) is an Ancient Egyptian deity with a contradictory character. He was worshipped from the early Old Kingdom period. Shesmu was seldom depicted but when he was, he appeared as a man with a lion’s head holding a butcher’s knife. In later times he appeared as a lion. If only his name was mentioned it often appeared with the determinative of an oil press, and sometimes only the oil press was depicted.

Shesmu was a god with a dual personality: On one hand, he was lord of perfume, maker of all precious oil, lord of the oil press, lord of ointments and lord of wine. He was a celebration deity, likewise to the goddess Meret. Old Kingdom texts mention a special feast celebrated for Shesmu: Young men would press grapes with their feet and then dance and sing for Shesmu.

On the other hand, Shesmu was very vindictive and bloodthirsty. He was lord of blood, great slaughterer of the gods and he who dismembers bodies. In Old Kingdom pyramid texts several prayers ask Shesmu to dismember and cook certain deities in an attempt to give the food to a deceased king. The deceased king needed the divine powers to survive the dangerous journey to the stars. However, the interpretation remains open, if the word “blood” is to be taken literally, as the Ancient Egyptians symbolically offered red wine as “the blood of the gods” to several deities. This association was based simply on the dark red colour of the wine, a circumstance that lead to connections of Shesmu with other deities who could appear in red colours. Examples include deities such as Ra, Horus and Kherty.

The violent character of Shesmu made him a protector among the companions of Ra’s nocturnal ship. Shesmu protected Ra by threatening the demons and brawling with them. In the pyramid texts he does similar things. It appears that starting with the New Kingdom Shesmu’s negative attributes became gradually overshadowed by the positive ones, although on a 21st Dynasty papyrus his wine press appears to be filled with human heads in place of grapes (a depiction which was common earlier, on Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts). Then later, on the 26th Dynasty sarcophagus of the Divine Adoratrice Ankhnesneferibre, Shesmu is recorded as a fine oil maker for the god Ra. And even later, during the Graeco-Roman period, the manufacture of the finest oils and perfumes for the gods became Shesmu’s primary role.

Shesmu’s main cult centre was located at the Fayum. Later, there were further shrines erected at Edfu and Dendera.

Sunday 30 July 2017


“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” - Lord Byron 

Mark Hearld was born in York in 1974. He studied Illustration at Glasgow School of Art from 1994-97 and went on to the Royal College of Art to study for an MA in Natural History Illustration. A fascination with animals and plants lies at the heart of Mark’s work. Hen runs, pigeon lofts and foxes appear often. Mark’s main inspiration is Picasso but he also greatly admires the work of Bawden, Ravilious and Piper from the 1930s - and the Neo-Romantic artist/illustrators of the 40s and 50s, Keith Vaughn and Craxton - something to do with their English particularity of vision, perhaps...

Hearld’s love of the British countryside, curiosity for objects and a magpie approach to collecting inspires his art. He is well known for his brightly coloured collages and lithographic prints; hand-painted wooden animals; three-dimensional, hand-decorated ceramics; collages in hand-painted frames, lino-cuts, and litho prints. His work is now exhibited all over the UK and commissions include set design for 2005 film Nanny McPhee and a range of ceramics for Tate. Hearld works closely with skilled craftsmen to realise his ideas, using Curwen Studio in Cambridge to make litho prints and Daniel Bugg at Penfold Press, Selby to produce linocuts.

Hearld has worked as a book illustrator, including Nicola Davies’ “Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature” (February 14, 2012); and has also written/illustrated his own “Mark Hearld’s Workbook” (January 15, 2013). Various other projects include his work with the Tate Gallery to produce a range of homewares, textiles and ceramics, as well as designs for a range of fabrics and wallpapers for the St. Jude’s Company.

The image above is his “Marine Life” from 2009, created for the exhibition “A Magpie Eye” at the Scarborough Art Gallery. Hearld is inspired by the joys of fishmongery, but also the precision of the scientific illustrator, inspired party from his real life observations, but also from antique natural history prints of 19th century zoologist Phillip Gosse (1854).