Saturday 17 February 2018


“She had passed her whole life as does everyone, rushing and dreaming in blind, deaf refusal of the miracle of each moment.” ― Umberto Bartolomeo 

Luigi Rossi (c. 1597 – 20 February 1653) was an Italian Baroque composer. Rossi was born in Torremaggiore, a small town near Foggia, in the ancient kingdom of Naples and at an early age he went to Naples. There he studied music with the Franco-Flemish composer Jean de Macque who was organist of the Santa Casa dell’Annunziata and maestro di cappella to the Spanish viceroy.

Rossi later entered the service of the Caetani, dukes of Traetta.Rossi composed just two operas: Il palazzo incantato, which was given at Rome in 1642; and Orfeo, written after he was invited by Cardinal Mazarin in 1646 to go to Paris for that purpose, and given its premiere there in 1647. Rossi returned to France in 1648 hoping to write another opera, but no production was possible because the court had sought refuge outside Paris. Rossi returned to Rome by 1650 and never attempted anything more for the stage.

A collection of cantatas published in 1646 describes him as musician to Cardinal Antonio Barberini, and Giacomo Antonio Perti in 1688 speaks of him along with Carissimi and Cesti as “the three greatest lights of our profession”. Rossi is noteworthy principally for his chamber-cantatas, which are among the finest that the 17th century produced. A large quantity are in manuscripts in the British Library and in Christ Church Library, Oxford. La Gelosia, printed by F. A. Gevaert in Les Gloires d’Italie, is an admirable specimen. He left about 300 cantatas in total.

Here is Christina Pluhar with L’Arpeggiata playing Music at the Court of Ann of Austria, mother of King Louis XIV, including Rossi’s music. Performed by Véronique Gens: soprano Veronika Skuplik, Mira Glodeanu, Bruno Cocset, Paulina van Laarhoven, Mieneke van den Velden, Christine Plubeau, Richard Myron, Elisabeth Seitz, Elisabeth Geiger, Haru Kitamika.

Friday 16 February 2018


“One day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines’, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake.

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?”
Marcel Proust - À la recherche du temps perdu 

Madeleines are that famous little French butter cake, which have a literary reputation, having served as Marcel Proust’s muse in his famous book: “Remembrance of Things Past.” Although madeleines appear to be simple they require patience and careful measuring of ingredients and following of instructions. When well-prepared, madeleines are a delightful little cake, browned and crispy on the outside and spongy and soft on the inside. Perfect for your afternoon cup of tea. 


2 large eggs
2⁄3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
Icing sugar 

Preheat oven to 190°C. Generously butter and flour pan for large madeleines (recipe is for 20 pieces).
Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla and lemon peel. Add flour; beat gently until just blended.
Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended.
Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into each indentation in the pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 10-16 minutes.
Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch (can be made 1 day ahead). Dust with icing sugar.

Thursday 15 February 2018


“So many books, so little time.” ― Frank Zappa 

Books I’ve read lately and enjoyed:  

“Puzzled” by David Astle 
A great book for Cryptic Crossword aficionados, this is partly a vade mecum on how to solve those devilish Friday DA cryptics in the “Age” newspaper, but also an amusing memoir, an eclectic autobiography of the master setter himself, replete with humorous anecdotes and examples of great clues and how to solve them.

 “Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 
A lovely book, part coming-of-age story, part mystery, part romance, but above all a paean to books and the love of books. 

“At Home” by Bill Bryson 
An amusing history of “private life” through the ages and the place where it all happens, the home and its various rooms. But not only! Famous and infamous personages, common and uncommon people and also so many interesting tangents and tidbits make for a treat to read.

Wednesday 14 February 2018


“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” - Buddha 

This week, Poets United has as its Midweek Motif the topic “word”. Words are the building blocks of our meaningful utterances. We speak them, write them, read them. They appear fleetingly electronically or acquire a more enduring presence when printed. Better still, words hand-written make the stuff of memories when the writer is a person beloved. 

But words can be two-faced: Smiling or menacing, serene or agitated, calm or angry, superficial or deep, nonsensical or full of substance. Words can be our hope, our solace, our comfort, our joy; but words (or the absence of the right words) can be our nemesis, words can cut sharper than razor, words can wound more deeply than a knife, can kill more surely than a bullet.

Correspondence I
October 9th 1990

Waiting for your letter:
A promise of rain in the drought;
But why must so much die,
While waiting for the rain?

Waiting for your letter:
A promise of freedom to the prisoner
Who must learn to live
Alone with his thoughts in a locked cell.

Waiting for your letter:
A promise of hope to the betrayed
Who already knows that promises are hollow
And hope is an illusion.

“I’ll write...” you said, “I give you my word.”
And once again I dared to hope, that you write me that word,
Knowing full well of the falsity of smiles
And the despair of fruitless waiting.

Correspondence II
October 10th, 1990

Your “letter” awaited me
When I came home today...

It was as I expected it,
And a lot less...

Empty, cold, impersonal
Scribbled hastily on the post office counter.

Few frosty words,
A shallow wish of “...happiness to come...”

And not even a name, nor initial
Signed beneath, only a line quickly drawn
As if with the impatience,
The gladness of having completed
An unpleasant, onerous obligation...

Tuesday 13 February 2018


“In France we have a saying, Joie de vivre, which actually doesn’t exist in the English language. It means looking at your life as something that is to be taken with great pleasure and enjoy it.” - Mireille Guiliano 

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.
Carcassonne is a fortified town in the French department of Aude, in the region of Occitanie. It is the departmental prefecture. Inhabited since the Neolithic period, Carcassonne is located in the Aude plain between historic trade routes, linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean sea and the Massif Central to the Pyrénées. Its strategic importance was quickly recognised by the Romans, who occupied its hilltop until the demise of the Western Roman Empire. In the fifth century, it was taken over by the Visigoths, who founded the city.

Its strategic location led successive rulers to expand its fortifications until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. The city is famous for the Cité de Carcassonne, a medieval fortress restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853 and added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. Consequently, Carcassonne relies heavily on tourism but also counts manufacture and wine-making as some of its other key economic sectors.

The fortified city itself consists essentially of a concentric design of two outer walls with 53 towers and barbicans to prevent attack by siege engines. The castle itself possesses its own drawbridge and ditch leading to a central keep. The walls consist of towers built over quite a long period. One section is Roman and is notably different from the medieval walls with the tell-tale red brick layers and the shallow pitch terracotta tile roofs. One of these towers housed the Catholic Inquisition in the 13th century and is still known as “The Inquisition Tower”. Carcassonne was demilitarised under Napoleon and the Restoration, and the fortified cité of Carcassonne fell into such disrepair that the French government decided that it should be demolished. A decree to that effect that was made official in 1849 caused an uproar.

The antiquary and mayor of Carcassonne, Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille, and the writer Prosper Mérimée, the first inspector of ancient monuments, led a campaign to preserve the fortress as a historical monument. Later in the year the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, already at work restoring the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, was commissioned to renovate the place. In 1853, work began with the west and southwest walls, followed by the towers of the porte Narbonnaise and the principal entrance to the cité. The fortifications were consolidated here and there, but the chief attention was paid to restoring the roofing of the towers and the ramparts, where Viollet-le-Duc ordered the destruction of structures that had encroached against the walls, some of them of considerable age.

Viollet-le-Duc left copious notes and drawings on his death in 1879, when his pupil Paul Boeswillwald and, later, the architect Nodet continued the rehabilitation of Carcassonne. The restoration was strongly criticised during Viollet-le-Duc’s lifetime. Fresh from work in the north of France, he made the error of using slates and restoring the roofs as point-free environment. Yet, overall, Viollet-le-Duc’s achievement at Carcassonne is agreed to be a work of genius, though not of the strictest authenticity.

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.

Sunday 11 February 2018


“A true portrait should, today and a hundred years from today, be the testimony of how this person looked and what kind of human being he was.” - Philippe Halsman 

Aleksandra Mitrofanovna Beļcova (Russian: Бельцова, Александра Митрофановна, March 17, 1892 in Surazh, Chernigov Governorate – February 1, 1981 in Riga, Latvian SSR) was a Latvian and Russian painter.

Aleksandra Beļcova graduated from the Secondary School for Women in Novozybkov in 1912. Later she started studies in Penza city art school, from which she graduated in 1917. While in Penza she met several Latvian painters who studied there as refugees. Among them were Jēkabs Kazaks, Konrāds Ubāns and Voldemārs Tone. Especially close relationships developed between her and Romans Suta, another Latvian painter who studied in Penza.

In 1917 she went to Petrograd to study in State Free Art Workshop under Nathan Altman. It was in Petrograd that her first solo exhibition was held in 1919. Just after the exhibition she moved to Latvia along with Romans Suta and became a member of the Riga Artists Group. The couple married in 1922 in Riga and after marriage they visited Paris, Berlin and Dresden.

In 1923 their daughter Tatiana was born in Paris. In 1925 she painted “The White and the Black” (above). She was involved in the Roller group exhibitions and Riga Graphic Artists Association in the following years. Her paintings were mostly portraits and still lifes, beginning as a Cubist she turned to realism in later years. Her mediums were oil, watercolour, ink and pencil, and she also painted on porcelain. Beļcova died on February 1, 1981.[1] The home of Aleksandra Belcova and Romans Suta in Elizabetes street 57A-26 in Riga is now turned into memorial museum and art gallery.

An excellent critique of the painting above can be found here: