Wednesday, 20 September 2017


“Cherish all your happy moments; they make a fine cushion for old age.” - Booth Tarkington 

Granny’s Funeral (2012; “Adieu Berthe – L’enterrement de mémé”) Comedy/Drama, 100 minutes – Written and directed by Bruno Podalydès; starring Denis Podalydès, Valérie Lemercier, Isabelle Candelier. – 6.0/10

Last weekend we watched a low key, tragicomic, French film, which although agreeable didn’t really shine. It was time pleasantly spent and the film did broach some serious topics, but overall, the comic pace was jolting, the bumbling anti-hero was somewhat tiresome and the two women of his life a trifle annoying. The plot is as follows: Armand Lebrecq (Denis Podalydès) once dreamed of becoming a magician but he has become a pharmacist. He still loves his wife, Hélène (Isabelle Candelier) , but wouldn’t mind leaving her to live with Alix (Valérie Lemercier), a strong-minded woman. But should he?

One day, Armand learns that Berthe, his granny who lives in a nursing home, has just died. A little guilty of having neglected her lately, Armand finds himself busy with organising her funeral as well as having to deal with his complicated personal life. He does everything clumsily, as usual...

The basic flaw of the film is that the plot outline sounds more promising than the actual resulting film. The characters do not involve the viewer in their lives and predicaments successfully and the story with “granny’s youthful secret” is not as climactic as the writers believe it to be. Armand fails to growth and learn from his experiences and at the end of the film he is as bumbling and ineffectual (if not more so!) than at the beginning of the film.

Nevertheless the film is pleasant enough for a weekend afternoon, watching with a glass of iced tea (or perhaps something stronger, which may make the movie even more agreeable for you). Watch it if you chance upon it and you have an hour-and-a-half or so to kill, but don't go out of your way to search for it too assiduously…

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


“Put a compass to paper and trace a circle. Then tell me which other country has such a concentration of places like Amalfi, Naples, Ischia, Procida, Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, and Capri.” - Diego Della Valle 

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.
Naples (Italian: Napoli; Latin: Neapolis; Ancient Greek: Νεάπολις, meaning "new city") is the capital of the Italian region Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy, after Rome and Milan. In 2015, around 975,260 people lived within the city's administrative limits. Naples is the 9th-most populous urban area in the European Union with a population of between 3 million and 3.7 million. About 4.4 million people live in the Naples metropolitan area, one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea.

Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the Naples area in the second millennium BC. A larger colony – initially known as Parthenope, Παρθενόπη – developed on the Island of Megaride around the ninth century BC, at the end of the Greek Dark Ages. The city was refounded as Neápolis in the sixth century BC and became a lynchpin of Magna Graecia, playing a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society and eventually becoming a cultural centre of the Roman Republic. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Thereafter, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Naples was the most-bombed Italian city during World War II. Much of the city's 20th-century periphery was constructed under Benito Mussolini's fascist government, and during reconstruction efforts after World War II. In recent decades, Naples has constructed a large business district, the Centro Direzionale, and has developed an advanced transport infrastructure, including an Alta Velocità high-speed rail link to Rome and Salerno, and an expanded subway network, which is planned to eventually cover half of the region. The city has experienced significant economic growth in recent decades, and unemployment levels in the city and surrounding Campania have decreased since 1999. However, Naples still suffers from political and economic corruption, and unemployment levels remain high.

Naples' historic city centre is the largest in Europe, covering 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) and enclosing 27 centuries of history, and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Naples has long been a major cultural centre with a global sphere of influence, particularly during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras. In the immediate vicinity of Naples are numerous culturally and historically significant sites, including the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Culinarily, Naples is synonymous with pizza, which originated in the city.

Neapolitan music has also been highly influential, credited with the invention of the romantic guitar and the mandolin, as well as notable contributions to opera and folk standards. Popular characters and historical figures who have come to symbolise the city include Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, the comic figure Pulcinella, and the Sirens from the Greek epic poem the Odyssey. According to CNN, the metro stop “Toledo” is the most beautiful in Europe and it won also the LEAF Award 2013 as “Public building of the year”. Naples is the Italian city with the highest number of accredited stars from the Michelin Guide. 

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. 

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Monday, 18 September 2017


“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.” ― Neil Gaiman 

Apedemak (or Apademak), was a lion-headed warrior god worshiped by the Meroitic peoples inhabiting Nubia. A number of Meroitic temples dedicated to this deity are known from the Butana region: Naqa, Meroë, and Musawwarat es-Sufra, which seems to be his chief cult place. Interestingly, inscriptions at Musawwarat al-Sufra are in hieroglyphs, not in Meroitic script, indicating a close link with Egyptian religion.

In the temple of Naqa built by the rulers of Meroe Apedemak was depicted as a three-headed leonine god with four arms, and as a snake with a lion head. At Naqa, walls are filled with reliefs of Apedemak together with Egyptian deities, forming a triad with Isis, with Horus as their son. Apedemak is also represented together with Hathor and Amon. The god is also depicted as a man with a lion head. Apedemak was a minor deity in the ancient Egyptian religion, being instead a product of the Meroitic culture.

Apedemak was called “The Lord of Royal Power”. In Nubia, with the kingdoms of Cush, the royal throne was always depicted as a lion. Temple reliefs could show kings subdued by lions, and even eaten. There are great similarities between Apedemak and the obscure Egyptian god, Maahes, who also represented a specific religious dimension in the oases of the Western Desert. Also, it is possible that the cult of Sekhmet, Egypt’s lion goddess, was introduced from Nubia, and related to that of Apedemak.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


“An awareness of your mortality can lead you to wake up and live an authentic, meaningful life.” - Bernie Siegel 

Jan Autengruber (25 April 1887, Pacov - 15 July 1920, Prague) was a Czech Post-impressionist painter. After the early death of his father, his family moved to České Budějovice. After completing his primary education, he was accepted at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. After two years, he transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where he was a two-time recipient of the annual award.

He achieved very little critical attention in his home country, so he exhibited widely throughout Germany, in Munich, Berlin, Dresden, Mannheim, Hannover, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. In 1913, he was awarded a scholarship to study in Italy. During the First World War, he attempted to avoid being drafted by studying restorative art at the Munich Academy, but it was only a short reprieve and he was mustered into service at Jindřichův Hradec.

He managed to survive the war and settled in Prague, where he took courses in art history at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University. In 1919, he married the artist Hana Jedličková (1888-1970). The following year, he became a victim of the flu pandemic, dying from a combination of flu and pneumonia.

His wife spent her life promoting his works. A major retrospective was held in 2002 at the National Gallery in Prague, followed by another in 2009 at the West Bohemian Gallery in Plzeň.

Saturday, 16 September 2017


“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” - Abraham Maslow 

Franz Anton Hoffmeister (12 May 1754 – 9 February 1812) was a German composer and music publisher. He was born in Rottenburg am Neckar on 12 May 1754. At the age of fourteen he went to Vienna to study law. Following his studies, however, he decided on a career in music and by the 1780s he had become one of the city’s most popular composers, with an extensive and varied catalogue of works to his credit.

Hoffmeister’s reputation today rests mainly on his activities as a music publisher. By 1785 he had established one of Vienna’s first music publishing businesses, second only to Artaria & Co, which had ventured into the field five years earlier.

Hoffmeister published his own works as well as those of many important composers of the time, including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clementi, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf and Johann Baptist Wanhal. These famous composers were also among Hoffmeister’s personal friends: Mozart dedicated his String Quartet in D to him and Beethoven addressed him in a letter as my “most beloved brother”.

Hoffmeister’s publishing activities reached a peak in 1791, but thereafter he appeared to have devoted more time to composition. Most of his operas were composed and staged during the early 1790s and this, combined with an apparent lack of business sense, led to his noticeable decline as a publisher.

In 1799, Hoffmeister and the flautist Franz Thurner set off on a concert tour which was to have taken them as far afield as London. They got no further than Leipzig, where Hoffmeister befriended the organist Ambrosius Kühnel. The two men decided to set up a music publishing partnership and within a year had founded the Bureau de Musique, which was eventually taken over by the well-respected C.F. Peters, a firm that is still active today.

Among the publications of the Bureau de Musique was the first edition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Keyboard Works in 14 volumes (1802). Until 1805, Hoffmeister kept both the Viennese firm and his newer Leipzig publishing house going, but in March 1805 he transferred sole ownership of the Bureau de Musique to Kühnel. His interest in the Viennese firm also waned, for in 1806, apparently to allow time for composition, he sold the 20-year-old business to the Chemische Druckerey.

Prominent in Hoffmeister’s extensive oeuvre are works for the flute, including more than 25 concertos as well as chamber works with the flute in a leading role. Many of these works would have been composed with Vienna’s growing number of amateur musicians in mind, for whom the flute was one of the most favoured instruments. Hoffmeister also composed at least eight operas, over 50 symphonies, numerous concertos (including an often-played concerto for the viola), a large amount of string chamber music, piano music and several collections of songs.

As a composer, Hoffmeister was highly respected by his contemporaries, as can be seen in the entry, published in the year of his death, in Gerber’s Neues Lexikon der Tonkünstler: “If you were to take a glance at his many and varied works, then you would have to admire the diligence and the cleverness of this composer.... He earned for himself a well-deserved and widespread reputation through the original content of his works, which are not only rich in emotional expression but also distinguished by the interesting and suitable use of instruments and through good practicability. For this last trait we have to thank his knowledge of instruments, which is so evident that you might think that he was a virtuoso on all of the instruments for which he wrote.” 

Here is his celebrated Concerto for Viola in D major, with a cadenza by Franz Beyer, played by Ashan Pillai (viola) and the Gulbenkian Orchestra conducted by Christopher Hogwood.
1. Allegro 0:00
2. Poco Adagio 8:15
3. Rondo. Allegro 15:17

Friday, 15 September 2017


“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” - A. A. Milne 

It’s Spring in Melbourne and on fine days we love to go walking. Close to home are the Darebin Parklands, a beautiful area through which the Darebin Creek flows. Along with wooded areas, lawns, ponds and rocky hills, there are many areas where wild greens grow. Most people refer to these wild greens as “weeds”, but they are extremely useful and edible greens that are fantastic to use in cooking in a myriad of recipes. For the dish we made and for which I give the recipe below, we collected the following: Young shoots of wild fennel - Foeniculum vulgare; tender young leaves of sorrelRumex acetosa; tender tops of mallowMalva sylvestris; young shoots of onion weed – Allium triquetrum. We also used some dill and spring onions from the garden, as well as some bought spinach.

WARNING: Please note that if you are going to collect wild greens ensure you are absolutely certain you are collecting the right plant! Many weeds do look similar and some are toxic! Also if you know what you are doing and you collect wild greens, do so sustainably and do not damage the plants excessively! Always wash the greens thoroughly and discard any leaves that are damaged or infested. In the last rinse add a cup of vinegar to the water used as it helps to rinse out any little insects lurking around.

Wild Greens Risotto

6 cups vegetable stock
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (for greens)
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (for rice)
1/3 cup finely chopped dill
1/3 cup finely chopped spring onion
3 cups chopped spinach (stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise)
3 cups chopped mixed wild greens (see above)
2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Ground mace, to taste
Ground coriander, to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Toasted pine nuts garnish (optional)

First prepare the greens: In a large frying pan, heat the oil and when hot, add the drained, chopped greens, herbs, onion and spinach, stirring thoroughly to mix with the oil. Cook until the mixture is tender. Season with salt and pepper and add ground coriander to taste. Remove from heat and reserve.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a simmer and maintain over low heat. In a large, heavy saucepan, warm the olive oil. Add the rice to the pan and stir until well coated with the oil and translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding more. Reserve 1/4 cup stock to add at the end.

When the rice is almost tender to the bite and looks creamy (after about 20 minutes), add the greens mixture to the pan and add a ladleful of stock. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach mixture is heated through and the rice is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter, cheese and the reserved 1/4 cup stock. Season with mace, salt and pepper. Garnish with pine nuts if desired and serve immediately.

Thursday, 14 September 2017


“Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane.” - Honoré de Balzac 

Aloysia citrodora is a species of flowering plant in the verbena family Verbenaceae, native to western South America. Common names include lemon verbena and lemon beebrush. It was brought to Europe by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the 17th century and cultivated for its oil.

The first European botanist who publicly noticed this plant was the French Philibert Commerson, who collected in Buenos Aires on his botanical circumnavigation with Bougainville, about 1767. The plant had already been quietly imported directly into the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, where in 1797 professors Casimiro Gómez Ortega and Antonio Palau y Verdera named it, though they did not yet effectively publish it, Aloysia citrodora in Latin and “Hierba de la Princesa” in Spanish, to compliment Maria Louisa of Parma, Princess of Asturias the wife of the Garden’s patron Infante Carlos de Borbon, Prince of Asturias and son of king Carlos III. The name was later effectively published in the first volume of Palau’s Parte Práctica de Botánica in 1784.

Unofficial importations from Spanish America seldom fared well: When French botanist Joseph Dombey landed his collections at Cadiz in 1785 they were impounded and left to rot in warehouses, while he was refused permission even to have seeds planted. Among the bare handful of plants Dombey had assembled during eight years at Lima, lemon verbena survived. Meanwhile, Gómez Ortega sent seeds and specimens of the plant to Charles Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle in Paris; L’Héritier published it as Verbena triphylla in the second fascicle his Stirpes Novae, published in December 1785 or January 1786.

From Paris, John Sibthorpe, professor of Botany at Oxford, obtained the specimen that he introduced to British horticulture: By 1797 lemon verbena was common in greenhouses around London, and its popularity as essential in a fragrant bouquet increased through the following century. The plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

 Lemon verbena is a perennial shrub or subshrub growing to 2–3 m high. The 8-cm-long, glossy, pointed leaves are slightly rough to the touch and emit a powerful scent reminiscent of lemon when bruised (hence the Latin specific epithet citrodora—lemon-scented). Sprays of tiny purple or white flowers appear in late spring or early summer. It is sensitive to cold, losing leaves at temperatures below 0°C, although the wood is hardy to −10°C.Due to its many culinary uses, it is widely listed and marketed as a plant for the herb garden.

Lemon verbena leaves are used to add a lemon flavour to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings, Greek yogurt and beverages. It also is used to make herbal teas, or added to standard tea in place of actual lemon (as is common with Moroccan tea). It can also be used to make a sorbet. In addition, it has anti-Candida albicans activity. In the European Union, Verbena essential oils (Lippia citriodora Kunth.) and derivatives other than absolute are prohibited when used as a fragrance ingredient.

The major isolates in lemon verbena oil are citral (30–35%), nerol and geraniol. Extracts of lemon verbena also contain verbascoside. Aloysia citriodora extract shows antioxidant properties that could play an important role in modulating GSH-reductase activity in lymphocytes and erythrocytes and protecting plasma from exercise oxidative damage. Lemon verbena extract containing 25% verbascoside showed strong antioxidant capacity, especially in a lipophilic environment, which was higher than expected as concluded from the antioxidant capacity of pure verbascoside, probably due to synergistic effects.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of non-flowering lemon verbena carries the message: “We are united”. A flowering sprig means: “You have bewitched me”.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


“Praise the sea maid, daughter of Aphrodite, bride of Helios, this isle of Rhodes.” – Pindar; Odes Olympian 7 ep1 

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.
Rhodes (Greek: Ρόδος, Ródos) is the principal city on the island of Rhodes, an island in the Dodecanese, Greece. It has a population of approximately 80,000. Rhodes has been famous since antiquity as the site of Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The citadel of Rhodes, built by the Hospitalliers, is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe which in 1988 was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rhodes is at the crossroad of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa and hence on the marine routes which connected the West with the Orient, since the early antiquity. Being such a melting pot, the island attracted various populations and was influenced by several cultures during its long history. Every people who arrived at Rhodes, either peacefully or after winning a war, in mass or in small groups, left their traces on the beautiful island. The result of this diversity has always added to this interesting blend that has proved very persistent and still exists today. Rhodes had always been – and still is – a place rich both in natural and in human resources.

The City of Rhodes is a popular international tourist destination. The city is home to numerous landmarks. Some of them date back to antiquity and most of the others remain from the medieval period. They include: The Grand Master’s Palace (15th century); Knights Street; Acropolis of Rhodes; Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent; Medieval walls, created in the mid-14th century on a previous line and remade after the Ottoman siege of 1480 and the earthquake of the following year; Gothic buildings in the historical upper town. Recently, the Byzantine harbour was excavated, discovering medieval shipwrecks.

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, 11 September 2017


“If I were going to convert to any religion I would probably choose Catholicism because it at least has female saints and the Virgin Mary.” - Margaret Atwood 

Isis and Horus in Ancient Egypt had an immense cult following and particularly important was the role of Isis as primordial mother goddess. The associations of the Isis/Horus pair with the Virgin Mary/Jesus pair have not been lost on historians, comparative theologians and sociologists. The following is from “The Religion of Ancient Egypt” by William Flinders Petrie, Edwards Professor of Egyptology, University College, London (1906):

"Isis became attached at a very early time to the Osiris worship; and appears in later myths as the sister and wife of Osiris. The union of Horus with the myth, and the establishment of Isis as the mother goddess, was the main mode of her importance in late times. Isis as the nursing mother is seldom shown until the twenty-sixth dynasty; then the type continually became more popular, until it outgrew all other religions of the country.

In Roman times the mother Isis not only received the devotion of all Egypt, but her worship spread rapidly abroad, like that of Mithra. It became the popular devotion of Italy; and, after a change of name due to the growth of Christianity, she has continued to receive the adoration of a large part of Europe down to the present day as the Madonna.

Horus became identified with the sun-god, and hence came the winged solar disk as the emblem of Horus of Edfu (the infant Horus with his finger to his lips was the most popular form of all, sometimes alone, sometimes on his mother’s lap). From the twenty-sixth dynasty down to late Roman times the infant Horus, or the young boy, was the most prominent subject on the temples, and the commonest figure in the homes of the people.  Isis and Horus, the Queen of Heaven and the Holy Child, became the popular deities of the later age of Egypt, and their figures far outnumber those of all other gods.

Horus in every form of infancy was the loved bambino of the Egyptian women. Again Horus appears carried on the arm of his mother in a form which is indistinguishable from that adopted by Christianity soon after. We see, then, throughout the Roman world the popular worship of the Queen of Heaven, Mater Dolorosa, Mother of God, patroness of sailors, and her infant son Horus the child, the benefactor of men, who took captive all the powers of evil. And this worship spread and increased in Egypt and elsewhere until the growing power of Christianity compelled a change.

The old worship continued; for the Syrian maid became transformed into an entirely different figure, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, patroness of sailors, occupying the position and attributes already belonging to the world-wide goddess; and the Divine Teacher, the Man of Sorrows, became transformed into the entirely different figure of the Potent Child. Isis and Horus still ruled the affections and worship of Europe with a change of names."

Sunday, 10 September 2017


“When women pose thoughtfully and artistically - in nothing but their bare skin - they find themselves. They discover that they are truly alive. They become a Nude.” - David Allio 

Suzanne Valadon (23 September 1865 – 7 April 1938) was a French painter and artists’ model who was born Marie-Clémentine Valadon at Bessines-sur-Gartempe, Haute-Vienne, France. In 1894, Valadon became the first woman painter admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. She was also the mother of painter Maurice Utrillo. The subjects of her drawings and paintings included mostly female nudes, female portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. She never attended the academy and was never confined within a tradition. Valadon spent nearly 40 years of her life as an artist.

Valadon grew up in poverty with her mother, an unmarried laundress; she did not know her father. Known to be quite independent and rebellious, she attended primary school until age 11. In 1883, aged 18, Valadon gave birth to her illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo. Valadon’s mother cared for Maurice while she returned to modelling. Valadon’s friend Miguel Utrillo would later sign papers recognising Maurice as his son, although his true paternity is uncertain.

Valadon helped to educate herself in art by reading Toulouse-Lautrec’s books and observing the artists at work for whom she posed. In 1893, Valadon began a short-lived affair with composer Erik Satie, moving to a room next to his on the Rue Cortot. Satie became obsessed with her, calling her his Biqui, writing impassioned notes about “her whole being, lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet”, but after six months she left, leaving him devastated.

Valadon married stockbroker Paul Moussis in 1895, leading a bourgeois life for 13 years at an apartment in Paris and a house in the suburbs. In 1909, Valadon began an affair with the painter André Utter, age 23 and a friend of her son, divorcing Moussis in 1913. Valadon married Utter in 1914, and he managed her career as well as her son’s. Valadon and Utter regularly exhibited work together until the couple divorced in 1934. Valadon was well known during her lifetime but within the art historical narrative her work has long been overshadowed by a Bohemian and lower class lifestyle.

Valadon debuted as a model in 1880 in Montmartre at age 15. She modelled for over 10 years for many different artists including the following: Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, Théophile Steinlen, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. She modelled under the name “Maria” eventually being nicknamed “Suzanne” after the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders. She was considered a very focused, ambitious, rebellious, determined, self-confident, and passionate woman. In the early 1890s she befriended Edgar Degas who, impressed with her bold line drawings and fine paintings, purchased her work and encouraged her; she remained one of his closest friends until his death.

It’s probable that Valadon’s experience as a model added depth to her own images of nude women, which tended to be less idealised than that of the male post impressionists representations. The most recognisable image of Valadon would be in Renoir’s “Danceat Bougival” from 1883, the same year that she posed for “Dance in the City”. In 1885, Renoir painted her portrait again as “Girl Braiding Her Hair”. Another of his portraits of her in 1885, Suzanne Valadon, is of her head and shoulders in profile. Valadon frequented the bars and taverns of Paris with her fellow painters, and she was Toulouse-Lautrec’s subject in his oil painting “The Hangover”.

Valadon taught herself how to draw at the age of nine. She painted still lifes, portraits, flowers, and landscapes that are noted for their strong composition and vibrant colours. She was, however, best known for her candid female nudes that depict women’s bodies from a woman’s perspective. This is particularly important because it was unusual in the nineteenth century for a woman artist to make female nudes her primary subject matter. Valadon was not confined to a specific style, yet both Symbolist and Post-Impressionist aesthetics are clearly seen within her work.

Valadon primarily worked with oil paint, oil pencils, pastels, and red chalk; she did not use ink or watercolour because these media were too fluid for her preference. Valadon’s paintings feature rich colours and bold, open brushwork often featuring firm black lines to define and outline her figures. She used hard black lines to emphasise the structure of the body. She also used firm lines in her nudes to highlight the play of light on curves

Valadon’s self-portraits, portraits, nudes, landscapes, and still lifes remain detached from trends and aspects of academic art. The subjects of Valadon’s paintings often reinvented the old master’s themes: Women bathing, reclining nudes, and interior scenes. However the nudes Valadon paints veer far from the norms of this male dominated genre, the paintings are interpreted in a much different way which could contradict of question the nature of the genre. Many have suggested a vibrant, emotional sense that emanates from her drawings and paintings as a result from an intimate, familiar observation of these women’s bodies. Similarly to Valadon, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt painted mostly women, yet because of their middle class status in French society at the time they were unable to paint the nude body, regardless of gender.

The painting above is “The Joy of Life” from 1911 and is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in new York City. Unfortunately, it is not on public view.

Saturday, 9 September 2017


“I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy.” - Charles Baudelaire 

Josef Suk (4 January 1874 – 29 May 1935) was a Czech composer and violinist born in Křečovice, Bohemia. He studied under Antonín Dvořák, whose daughter he married. From a young age, Josef Suk was deeply involved and well-trained in music. He learned organ, violin, and piano from his father, Josef Suk senior, and was trained further in violin by the Czech violinist Antonín Bennewitz. His theory studies were conducted with several other composers including Josef Bohuslav Foerster, Karel Knittl, and Karel Stecker. He later focused his writing on chamber works under the teachings of Hanuš Wihan.

Despite extensive musical training, Suk’s musical skill was often said to be largely inherited. Though he continued his lessons with Wihan another year after the completion of his schooling, Suk’s greatest inspiration came from another of his teachers, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. Known as one of Dvořák’s favorite pupils, Suk also became personally close to his mentor. Underlying this was Dvořák’s respect for Suk, reflected in Suk’s 1898 marriage to Dvořák’s daughter, Otilie, marking some of the happiest times in the composer’s life and music.

However, the last portion of Suk’s life was punctuated with tragedy. Over the span of 14 months around 1905, not only did Suk’s mentor Dvořák die, but so did Otilie. These events inspired Suk’s “Asrael Symphony”. Because of a shared heritage (and the coincidence of their dying within a few months of one another) Suk has been closely compared, in works and style, to fellow Czech composer Otakar Ostrčil. Suk, alongside Vitezslav Novak and Ostrčil, is considered one of the leading composers in Czech Modernism, with much shared influence among the three coming in turn from Dvořák.

Eminent German figures such as composer Johannes Brahms and critic Eduard Hanslick recognized Suk’s work during his time with the Czech Quartet. Over time, well known Austrian composers such as Gustav Mahler and Alban Berg also began to take notice of Suk and his work. Although he wrote mostly instrumental music, Suk occasionally branched out into other genres. Orchestral music was his strong suit, notably the “Serenade for Strings”, Op. 6 (1892).

His time with the Czech Quartet, though performing successful concerts until his retirement, was not always met with public approval. Several anti-Dvořák campaigns came into prominence; criticism not only being directed at the quartet, but towards Suk specifically. The leftist critic Zdeněk Nejedlý accused the Czech Quartet of inappropriately playing concerts in the Czech lands during World War I. While these attacks diminished Suk’s spirits, they did not hinder his work. Suk retired in 1933, although he continued to be a valuable and inspirational public figure to the Czechs. Josef Suk died on May 29, 1935, in Benešov, Czechoslovakia. He is the grandfather of famed Czech violinist Josef Suk.

Suk’s musical style started off with a heavy influence from his mentor, Dvořák. The biggest change of Suk’s style came after he reached a dead end in his early musical style, just before he began a stylistic shift during 1897–1905, perhaps realising that the strong influence of Dvořák would limit his work. Melancholy was always a large factor in Suk’s music. For instance, he wrote his own funeral march in 1889 and it appears significantly also in a major work, the “Funeral Symphony, Asrael”, Op. 27. “Ripening”, a symphonic poem, was also a story of pain and questioning the value of life.

Other works, however, such as the music he set to Julius Zeyer’s drama “Radúz a Mahulena”, display his happiness, which he credited to his marriage with Otilie. Another of Suk’s works, “Pohádka” (Fairy Tale), was drawn from his work with “Radúz a Mahulena”. The closest Suk came to opera is in his incidental music to the play “Pod jabloní” (Beneath the Apple Tree).

Here is Suk’s “Serenade for Strings in E flat major”, Op. 6 (1892), performed by The Young Danish Chamber Orchestra:
1. Andante con moto (0:00)
2. Allegro ma non troppo e grazioso (4:57)
3. Adagio (10:38)
4. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo presto (19:29)

While Suk was studying under Antonín Dvořák at the Prague Conservatory, Dvořák noticed a melancholy strain in much of Suk’s music, and recommended he write some lighter and more cheerful music. Based on Dvořák’s suggestion, Suk produced this serenade for strings. Two movements were publicly conducted by Suk in late 1893 in Tábor. The first complete performance was on 25 February 1895, at the Prague Conservatory, conducted by Antonín Bennewitz, Suk’s violin teacher at the Conservatory. The Serenade soon brought Suk considerable fame and Dvořák’s longtime supporter, Johannes Brahms, endorsed its publication.

Friday, 8 September 2017


“Fresh herbs really belong anywhere you put them.” - Alex Guarnaschelli 

Basil (Ocimum basilicum), also called great basil or Saint-Joseph's-wort, is a culinary herb of the mint family Lamiaceae. It is also called the “king of herbs” and the “royal herb”. The name basil comes from Greek βασιλικόν φυτόν (basilikón phutón), “royal/kingly plant”. Basil is possibly native to India, and has been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. It was thoroughly familiar to the Greek authors Theophrastus and Dioscorides.

It is a tender plant, best known as a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in Southeast Asian cuisines of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Taiwan. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell. There are many varieties of Ocimum basilicum, as well as several related species or species hybrids also called basil.

The type of basil used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil (or Genovese basil), as opposed to Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. × citriodorum), and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), which are used in Asia. While most common varieties of basil are treated as annuals, some are perennial in warm, tropical climates, including holy basil and a cultivar known as “African blue basil”. Fine-leaved Greek basil (Ocimum basilicum var. minimum) has a strong, highly aromatic and sweet flavour.

Basil is most commonly used fresh in recipes. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavour. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavour, and what little flavour remains tastes very different, reminiscent of coumarin, like hay.

Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto—a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce. The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are “Genovese”, “Purple Ruffles”, “Mammoth”, “Cinnamon”, “Lemon”, “Globe”, and “African Blue”. The Chinese also use fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods. In Taiwan, people add fresh basil leaves to thick soups. They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried basil leaves. Basil (most commonly Thai basil) is commonly steeped in cream or milk to create an interesting flavour in ice cream or chocolates (such as truffles).

 The leaves are not the only part of basil used in culinary applications, the flower buds have a more subtle flavor and they are edible. Thai basil is also a condiment in the Vietnamese noodle soup, phở. When soaked in water, the seeds of several basil varieties become gelatinous, and are used in Asian drinks and desserts such as faluda, sharbat-e-rihan, or hột é.

 Most culinary and ornamental basils are cultivars of the species Ocimum basilicum, but other species are also grown and there are many hybrids between species. Traditionally a green plant, some varieties, such as ‘Purple Delight’ have leaves that appear purplish. Basil grows between 30–130 cm tall, with opposite, light green, silky leaves 3–11 cm long and 1–6 cm broad. The flowers are small, white in colour and arranged in a terminal spike. Unusual among Lamiaceae, the four stamens and the pistil are not pushed under the upper lip of the corolla, but lie over the inferior lip.

After entomophilous pollination, the corolla falls off and four round achenes develop inside the bilabiate calyx. Basil is sensitive to cold, with best growth in hot, dry conditions. It behaves as an annual if there is any chance of a frost. However, due to its popularity, basil is cultivated in many countries around the world. Production areas include countries in the Mediterranean area, those in the temperate zone, and others in subtropical climates.

In sunnier climates such as Southern Europe, the Southern states of the U.S., the North Island of New Zealand, and Australia, basil will thrive when planted outside. It also thrives over the summertime in the central and northern United States, but dies out when temperatures reach freezing point. It will grow back the next year if allowed to go to seed, as it easily self seeds. It will need regular watering, but not as much attention as is needed in other climates.

Basil can also be propagated reliably from cuttings with the stems of short cuttings suspended for two weeks or so in water until roots develop. Once a stem produces flowers, foliage production stops on that stem, the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production declines. To prevent this, a basil-grower may pinch off any flower stems before they are fully mature. Because only the blooming stem is so affected, some stems can be pinched for leaf production, while others are left to bloom for decoration or seeds.

There are many rituals and beliefs associated with basil. The French sometimes call basil “l’herbe royale” (royal herb), while in Welsh it is called “brenhinllys”, meaning the same. Jewish folklore suggests it adds strength while fasting. In Portugal, dwarf bush basil is traditionally presented in a pot, together with a poem and a paper carnation, to a sweetheart, on the religious holidays of Saint John and Saint Anthony.

However, basil represented hatred in ancient Greece, and European lore sometimes claims that basil is a symbol of Satan. African legend claims that basil protects against scorpions, while the English botanist Culpeper cites one “Hilarius, a French physician” as affirming it as common knowledge that smelling basil too much would breed scorpions in the brain. Holy basil, also called tulsi, is highly revered in Hinduism.

Basil has religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, where it is used to sprinkle holy water during blessings or purification rituals. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, Macedonian Orthodox Church and Romanian Orthodox Church use basil (Bulgarian and Macedonian: босилек; Romanian: busuioc, Serbian: босиљак) to prepare holy water and pots of basil are often placed below church altars. In Europe, basil is placed in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey to the next life. In India, they place it in the mouth of the dying to ensure they reach God. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks believed it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.

In Boccaccio’s “Decameron” a memorably morbid tale (novella V) tells of Lisabetta, whose brothers slay her lover. He appears to her in a dream and shows her where he is buried. She secretly disinters the head, and sets it in a pot of basil, which she waters with her daily tears. The pot being taken from her by her brothers, she dies of her grief not long after. Boccaccio’s tale is the source of John Keats’ poem “Isabella” or “The Pot of Basil” – which in turn inspired the paintings “Isabella” (Millais painting) and “Isabella and the Pot of Basil” (Holman Hunt painting). A similar story is told of the Longobard queen, Rosalind.

In certain central regions of Mexico, basil is used to draw fortune by hanging a bunch of the plant in the door or window of the shop. The plant’s growth reflects the wealth of the business, showing how dutifully the owner cares for his shop and the herb.

In the language of flowers sprigs of non-flowering basil with large leaves signify hatred. Sprigs of small-leaved, aromatic Greek basil mean “blessings upon you”. Flowering sprigs of basil carry the message: “You are the ruler of my heart”. Sprigs of purple basil mean: “You are noble and generous of spirit”.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme

Tuesday, 5 September 2017


“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” ― Anaïs Nin

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.
Mystras (Greek: Μυστράς, or Μυζηθράς, [Myzithras] in the Chronicle of the Morea) is a fortified town and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. Situated on Mt. Taygetos, near ancient Sparta, it served as the capital of the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea in the 14th and 15th centuries, experiencing a period of prosperity and cultural flowering.

In late 1248, William II of Villehardouin, ruler of the Frankish Principality of Achaea, captured Monemvasia, the last remaining Byzantine outpost on the Morea. This success was soon followed by the submission of the restive Tsakones on Mount Parnon, the Slavic Melingoi tribe of Mount Taygetos, and the inhabitants of the Mani peninsula, thereby extending his sway over all of Laconia and completing the conquest of the peninsula, which had begun in 1205, in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade.

Laconia was incorporated into the princely domain, and the young prince passed the winter of 1248–49 there, touring the country and selecting sites for new fortifications such as Grand Magne and Leuktron; finally, near his residence of Lacedaemon (ancient Sparta), on a spur of Mount Taygetos, he built the fortress that came to be known as Mystras.

The site remained inhabited throughout the Ottoman period, when it was mistaken by Western travellers for ancient Sparta. In the 1830s, it was abandoned and the new town of Sparti was built, approximately eight kilometres to the east. In 1989 the ruins, including the fortress, palace, churches, and monasteries, were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The photo shows Pantanassa’s monastery, (Greek: Μονή Παντανάσσης), which was founded by a chief minister of the late Byzantine Despotate of the Morea, John Frankopoulos, and was dedicated in September 1428. It is the only monastery on the site still permanently inhabited. Today it is inhabited by nuns providing hospitality. Its “beautifully ornate stone-carved façade” is of architectural note.

Above the monastery one can see the fortress of William II of Villehardouin. Mystras constitutes a monumental late-Byzantine complex with distinct and well-preserved elements such as land-planning, street planning, secular and ecclesiastical architecture, and artistic production. Its authentic urban character, which has not been affected by human interventions, has been preserved through the centuries. The most important monuments on the site give the visitor the chance to perceive various aspects of the Byzantine culture.

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, 4 September 2017


“We are born of love; Love is our mother.” - Rumi 

Sheshmetet (šsm.t.t: Shesmet, Shesemtet, or spellings with Shez-; Hellenised as Smithis) is an ancient Egyptian goddess mentioned in the Pyramid Texts and was usually referred to as the deceased’s mother. She was depicted as a lion or a woman with a lion’s head, and thus was sometimes considered a form of Sekhmet or Bastet, but one of her epithets “Lady of Punt”, differentiates her from them and may refer to a possible African origin.

Originally she seems to have had the shape of a woman, but since the fifth dynasty, under the influence of her association with Bastet she became a lion-headed deity. At times she was shown sporting four heads, apart from her own, those of Wadjet, Bastet and Sekhmet. Her major attribute is that of a maternal and protectress goddess.

Her name is derived from a ritual girdle or apron called a shesmet, her name meaning ‘She of the shesmet’. The shesmet is described by P. E.Newberry as “a leather belt from which were suspended narrow strips of hide ending in tassels; sometimes the girdle was ornamented with beads and cowries; sometimes the hanging pieces were decorated with Hathor-heads”.

The shesmet, which is worn by Gods such as Horus, Seth, Thoth, Sepa, and Amun, but which is particularly characteristic of Soped, was perhaps originally a garment for unmarried girls. Similar garments (called rahat or hauf) exist among several East African peoples to the south of Egypt, which are broken by the bridegroom to complete the wedding ceremony. Moreover, Herodotus compares the aegis worn by the Greek Goddess Athena to such garments, worn by Libyan women. 

Shesmet is also the name in Egyptian for the green mineral malachite, which was used by Egyptians as an eye paint. ‘Shesmet-land’ is also an Egyptian name for an area in the eastern part of Egypt centering around Per-Soped, ‘the House of Soped’, modern Saft el Henneh, a few miles to the east of Bubastis. Significantly, this area was known in early Arab times as El-Hauf, a virtually direct translation of the Egyptian ‘Shesmet-land’.

Shesmetet is paired with Sekhmet, a Goddess also depicted as a lioness, in a formula from the Pyramid Texts which was to be reused in the Coffin Texts and finally in the Book of the Dead, where it is affirmed that the deceased king “was conceived by Sekhmet, and it was Shesmetet who bore the king”. In a passage where the wrathful aspect of Hathor is described, it is said of of those s/he smites, “I make warmth for them in this my name of Shesmetet.’

Shesmetet was a protective deity, at times called upon to perform magic in order to combat death causing demons. As a maternal deity Shesmetet she was referred to as “the mother of the Pharaoh”. As the formerly royal beliefs about life and death became widespread among the population at large, she became mother and protector of all the deceased. In a spell to be recited on the last day of the year the name of Shesmetet is invoked as a magical force against demons of slaughter.

Sunday, 3 September 2017


“Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do.” - Edgar Degas

Albert Baertsoen (9 January 1866 – 9 June 1922) was a Belgian painter, pastellist and graphic artist. He was born in Ghent. His father was an industrialist and textile manufacturer.

In 1882, Baertsoen began attending the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under Gustave Den Duyts and Jean Delvin. His debut as a painter came in 1887, when he participated in an exhibition in Brussels held by the secessionist group L’Essor He continued his studies in Paris, at the art school of Alfred Philippe Roll, and exhibited at the Salon in 1889. The following year, he accompanied James Ensor, Frantz Charlet and other Belgian painters on a study trip to London.

In 1894, he helped found the “Cercle des Beaux-Arts d’Ostende”. The years 1894/95 saw another stay in Paris, where his painting “Oude Vlaamse Vaart” (Old Flemish Sails) was acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg and he participated in an exhibition held by La Libre Esthétique. From 1896 to 1901, he continued to exhibit throughout Europe, winning several Gold Medals.

In 1913, he served as a member of the art jury for the Ghent World’s Fair. During World War I, he lived in London, returning to Ghent in 1919. That same year, he was appointed a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium. Two years later, a retrospective of his work was held at the Galerie Georges Giroux in Brussels. He died in Ghent in 1922.

His work is impressionistic in nature, although much of his work can seem a little lugubrious to one used to the French impressionist works. However, he could also be a brilliant colourist, especially when travelling to sunnier climates. As well as a painter, Baertsoen was a fine draughtsman and his composition is always interesting and often surprising. The painting above is the “Rope Makers”.