Saturday, 19 September 2009


“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tomorrow is the International Day of Peace. This day, established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly, was first inaugurated on the third Tuesday of September, 1982. Beginning on the 20th anniversary in 2002, the UN General Assembly set 21st September as the new permanent date for the International Day of Peace.

In establishing the International Day of Peace, the United Nations General Assembly decided that it would be appropriate
“To devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as of the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways… (The International Day of Peace) should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”

Petrarch has said: “Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us: Avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.” These words of the renaissance poet are as true today in times of world-wide strife, as they were then when internecine struggles between the city states destroyed lives.

Here is a poem I wrote last year on this topic of Peace:


It is the laughter of children playing outside my window,
The smell of baking in the kitchen and the larder full.
It is the hurrying steps of a returning labourer,
Content with a full day’s work, eager to come home.

It is the fields that bloom, the grain ripening in the sun,
The cows dozing as they chew their cud.
It is my love in her summer dress reading her book
Under the shade of a green-leaf tree.

It is the sound of music drifting down the empty street
As dancing couples whirl in the town hall.
It is the two adolescents that kiss beneath a full moon
While the crickets chirp in approbation.

It is the careless saunter late at night,
The lights left on inside the house, burning like beacons.
It is the sound of airplane engines in the sky, that only
Stir the thoughts of distant exotic places and carefree holidays.

It is a rusty rifle driven into the earth to support a growing vine,
An old soldier’s helmet, now home to a budding flower.
It is the surety of watching your children surviving you,
The swelling pregnant belly and the double-joy of grandchildren.

Peace: It is a quietude and a celebration of the commonplace,
An all-increasing accumulation of small delights that add up to bliss.
Peace, it is a multiplicity of contentments and a realisation
Of what humankind has the capability of being.

And the illustration above is Picasso’s “Dove of Peace”.


“Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated.” – Lamartine

Saturday night and missing my special someone a lot. The time apart hones the keenness of our yearnings. The distance between us magnifies the desire to be together. The thought of you makes me smile, even though my heart languishes away from you.

Here’s hoping for safe travels and a speedy return. In the darkness of the new moon I await for your return and the resilvering of the night by the fullness of the moon.

Friday, 18 September 2009


“Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.” - Robert Fulghum

I had some very nice biscuits at afternoon tea at work today that were brought in by a colleague (no, we did not all lie down for a nap afterwards!). She was very pleased that everyone liked them and she even gave us the recipe:

Elegant Day and Night Biscuits

2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup icing sugar
7/8 cup softened unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar on medium speed of the mixer until pale and fluffy (2 to 3 minutes), scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Mix in egg yolk and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 1 minute.

Remove half of the dough; set aside. Add cocoa powder to remaining dough; mix on low speed until well combined. Turn out chocolate dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 25 cm log, about 4 cm in diameter. Repeat with reserved vanilla dough. Wrap each log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until slightly firm, at least 30 minutes.

Press handle of a long wooden spoon into side of chocolate log, making an indentation along its length. Roll handle into and then away from log, creating an apostrophe shape. Repeat with vanilla log. Fit logs together; press lightly to seal. Gently roll into a 5 cm diameter log. Wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 175˚C. Cut log into 3/4 cm thick rounds; space 2 cm apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and if desired to give a “yin-yang” impression dab a dot of different coloured dough on each half of the biscuit. If dough becomes too soft to slice cleanly, return to freezer until firm.

Bake until firm to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool. Biscuits can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days. Recipe makes about 4 dozen biscuits.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, 17 September 2009


“By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.” - Robert Frost

I was in Adelaide for work today and the day was once again hectic and full, but once again satisfying. This morning the flight was delayed at Melbourne airport because there was heavy fog in Sydney. All of the international flights that could not land in Sydney airport were diverted to Brisbane and Melbourne. This wrought havoc with the outbound flights at Melbourne and our plane ended up sitting on the tarmac for 40 minutes. I always try to get a very early flight as those usually don’t have many disruptions, but my luck ran out today. Nevertheless, I was on time for my first early morning appointment in Adelaide, one advantage being that Adelaide is 30 minutes behind Melbourne time.

After my successful first appointment in one of the State Government Departments, I hurried off to the Hyatt Hotel, to go to the formal launch of South Australia’s “State of Ageing” report. This was an initiative of the State Government and the Minister for Ageing, the Hon Jennifer Rankine MP, officially opened the function and gave out the prizes for the best research papers and posters. Representatives of the three Universities in South Australia were there, as well as the winner of the South Australian Senior of a couple of years back who gave a very amusing talk on senescence and its joys.

The initiative and the project are extremely interesting and much needed. It is great to see a State Government in Australia take an active role in planning for the future in terms of dealing with our ageing population and the demands it will place on our social fabric. The report launched today is the first project of the South Australian Ageing Research Round Table, an initiative of the Office for the Ageing that brings together Flinders University, the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia. The group will monitor the implications of an ageing population and link policy into practice.

I then took one of the staff members of our Adelaide Campus to lunch and discussed with her the various issues she currently faces as the campus is beginning to teach our new degrees in South Australia. That was a very fruitful meeting also and it was good to hear “straight from the horse’s mouth” the challenges the Campus faces. I then went back to the campus and inspected some recent renovations that were made and the new clinic fit outs.

The day finished with another meeting, in another Government Department. This time the topic was growth and educational partnerships. It was refreshing to hear someone in Government coming up with some great ideas and actually being helpful. That was an extremely useful meeting and we both came out of it with sheaves of notes and lots of items to go and work on. The potential for some great work is there and the opportunities many.

Did I mention I took some proof-reading with me to do on the plane? And yes I did that too. Never a dull moment! Now I think it’s time for bed and a good night’s sleep. More to do tomorrow bright and early.

senescence |səˈnesəns| noun Biology
The condition or process of deterioration with age.
• loss of a cell's power of division and growth.
senescent adjective
senesce verb
ORIGIN mid 17th century: From Latin senescere, from senex ‘old.’

Jacqui BB hosts Word Thursday

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


“As contraries are known by contraries, so is the delight of presence best known by the torments of absence.” - Alcibiades

A poem dedicated to someone special, far away…

The Moon Alone

The wind blows all the stars away,
Sweeps them under the carpet of the clouds.
The moon alone remains high
On her silver balcony,
And smiles.

She watches me and stifles a laugh
As I search for my lost heart;
Mislaid perhaps – or hiding in a summer’s night,
Or taken by a spring morning;

The clouds gather and draw the curtains
Giving the moon the privacy she wants, alone.
I too sit alone, where is my soul tonight?
Flying with the gulls,
Or sailing.

The wind whistles a lonely song tonight,
The leaves shake, the tiles rattle,
The window creaks, and I’m awake, sighing.
Are you watching the moon? You too alone,

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


“The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.” - Agatha Christie
Butcher’s broom, Ruscus aculeatus, is the birthday plant for this day. In the past butchers used to sweep their shops with branches from this bush. Another use of the sprigs of the plant bearing the characteristic red berries was that butchers decorated the Christmas meats with it. A poultice made of berries and leaves was used to treat broken bones and sprains. Astrologically, this is a plant belonging to Mars.

A famous birthday for today is Agatha Christie, English novelist (1890-1976). Her website informs me that September 13th-20th is Agatha Christie week, no doubt centering on her birthday. The annual Agatha Christie Festival on the English Riviera takes place during this week, and over 40 events will take place including plays, open-air cinema screenings, tea-dances, lectures and murder mystery dinners. Other activities are organized around the world to celebrate the “Queen of Crime’s” contribution to the mystery novel genre.

I must admit that during my salad days I was an inveterate Christie fan and had read all her novels by the time I was growing out of my teens. They were well-written and full of quirky characters, good murderous fare and of course the delightful Miss Marple and the logical M. Poirot. I still have quite a lot of her books in my library and plan to have another read of them when I retire. They were so very English all of her novels and so old-wordly…

Agatha Christie’s recently discovered notebooks are a treasure trove for any fan. John Curran’s book, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks also contain two unpublished Christie stories. Out in stores on the 3rd September, the books provide a fascinating insight into her writing.

On this day in 7 BC, as the sun set, a bright star rose in the eastern sky. This was a rare conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter in Pisces, the latter being the planet of kings. Some astrologers suggest that this date marks the birth of Christ and the conjoined planets was the Star of Bethlehem observed by the Magi, or wise men of the East. The constellation of pisces or fishes is also noteworthy as ICTHYS in Greek is fish and also stands acronymically for Iesus Christos, Theou Yios, Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour). The fish has been used since ancient times as symbol for Christianity.

Monday, 14 September 2009


“The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded.” - Edmund Burke

Well after spending all weekend proof-reading, I needed a little break and last night, for a Sunday night treat I watched Ridley Scott’s 2005 epic, “Kingdom of Heaven”. This was quite a film, especially as it was the director’s cut on Bluray disc, totalling to 192 minutes. Well, it was quite magnificent and despite its length kept me enthralled and engaged. The production was a joint European/American one and several good actors gave quite good performances: Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neelson, Marton Csokas, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, being just a few.

This is a film about one of the Crusades the film’s story beginning in the year 1184 AD. Balian, (Orlando Bloom) is a peasant blacksmith in France who has just lost his wife as she has committed suicide (an interesting case of post-natal depression after she delivers a stillborn baby). Balian is visited by Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson) who tells Balian that he is illegitimate son. Godfrey tries to convince Balian to join him as he is on his way to Jerusalem. Balian is reluctant, but circumstances force him to find his father and join him on the trip to Jerusalem. Godfrey dies of a wound sustained in battle, but manages to knight Balian and make him his heir to his Baronetcy of Ibelin in the Holy Land.

After various adventures, Balian finds himself in Ibelin that he makes fertile by introducing European “technology” and irrigation works. Balian also aligns himself with the leprous King of Jerusalem and with Sibylla, the king’s sister who is married and has a young son. Leprosy is depicted well in this film and there are all sorts of interesting little medical vignettes, which I enjoyed (but I am prejudiced in this respect). Balian proves himself to be more than worthy of being made a knight, while many nobles behave in a despicable way. Guy de Lusignan (Csokas), a member of the Knights Templar, is especially aggressive and intolerant, and causes a break in the good relations with the Muslims that was brokered by King Baldwin by attacking them ceaselessly. The powder keg of Jerusalem erupts when the King dies and the Muslim leader Saladin besieges the city...

The cinematography, music and direction in this film are excellent. Balian is a little bit too earnest and dour throughout, but of course he has to play the perfect knight. Jeremy Irons and Liam Neelson are very good in their roles as is the dastardly de Lusignan. The film is a very balanced view of the Christian/Muslim relationship, although the Christian clergy are the ones who are most contemptuously depicted. The true noble men whether Christian or Muslim are generous, kind, lofty of spirit and fair. The story is an allegory of sorts of the Middle East situation of the present time, as well as being a historical piece.

Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) the sultan of Egypt and Syria is shown to be a chivalrous and worthy man, who not only wins his battles but is prepared to be clement with the defeated. As such, he is respected by the Christian noblemen he ousts from the Middle East. This sympathetic depiction of the Muslim leader in this film corresponds with historical fact as Richard the Lionheart afforded Saladin, who was his nemesis, every courtesy and compliment befitting a fellow knight.

I enjoyed the film quite a lot and recommend it most highly, warning once again that there are some gory scenes of battle in it, so if you are faint-hearted then be warned.

Sunday, 13 September 2009


“Bacchus has drowned more men than Neptune.” - Giuseppe Garibaldi

Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) is acknowledged as Spain's greatest painter and as one of the supreme artists of all time. A master of technique, highly individual in style, Diego Velázquez may have had a greater influence on European art than any other painter, and his canvases are always a delight to see. I remember visiting the Prado in Madrid several years ago and staring transfixed at his canvases. They combined superb composition, beautiful colour balance, marvellous technical expertise and above all a magnificent conception and understanding of the whole subject.

Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velázquez was born in Seville, Spain, sometime shortly before his baptism on June 6, 1599. His father was of noble Portuguese descent. In his teens he studied art with Francisco Pacheco, whose daughter he married. The young Velázquez once declared, "I would rather be the first painter of common things than second in higher art." He learned much from studying nature. After his marriage at the age of 19, Velázquez went to Madrid. When he was 24 he painted a portrait of Philip IV, who became his patron.

The artist made two visits to Italy. On his first, in 1629, he copied masterpieces in Venice and Rome. He returned to Italy 20 years later and bought many paintings (by Titian, Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese) and statuary for the king's collection. Except for these journeys Velázquez lived in Madrid as court painter. His paintings include landscapes, mythological and religious subjects, and scenes from common life, called genre pictures. Most of them, however, are portraits of court notables that rank with the portraits painted by Titian and Anthony Van Dyck.

Duties of Velázquez' royal offices also occupied his time. He was eventually made marshal of the royal household, and as such he was responsible for the royal quarters and for planning ceremonies. In 1660 Velázquez had charge of his last and greatest ceremony, the wedding of the Infanta Maria Theresa to Louis XIV of France. This was a most elaborate affair. Worn out from these labours, Velázquez contracted a fever from which he died on August 6, 1660.

Velázquez was called the "noblest and most commanding man among the artists of his country." He was a master realist, and no painter has surpassed him in the ability to seize essential features and fix them on canvas with a few broad, sure strokes. "His men and women seem to breathe," it has been said; "his horses are full of action and his dogs of life." Because of Velázquez' great skill in merging color, light, space, rhythm of line, and mass in such a way that all have equal value, he was known as "the painter's painter."

The painting above is his “Drunkards” or “The Feast of Bacchus”. Velázquez was inspired by Ovids Metamorphoses to paint this between 1628-1629. He held a point of view toward mythology, common in the 17th century, that saw the activities of pagan divinities as less than divine and the behaviour of humans under their influence as less than Christian. Thus, his Bacchus is a callow, overweight youth with flaccid muscles; the inebriated rustics are buffoons. Velázquez points his moral at the right, where a beggar is refused with false regret by one of the bacchants. The distant gaze of the god of wine is rather a nostalgic look towards the past and a means of distancing himself from the sordidness of the scene around him.

Bacchus was he Roman equivalent of the Greek god Dionysus, a distinctly Greek invention. This was a god of merrymaking and the theatre, entertainment and sexuality. Of green things and fertility, of festivity but also one of divine justice and a protector of innocence and youth. One of the myths recounted of his early life recounts how as a youth he was captured by Tyrrhenian pirates so that he could be sold into slavery. In the middle of the ocean, the god annoyed with their presumptuousness, made the ship fill with fragrant sweet wine and as the pirates greedily started to drink he turned them into dolphins and they leapt into the sea.