Saturday, 7 November 2009


“Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”  - Kahlil Gibran

After a relaxing day of shopping, a little gardening and watching a movie in the afternoon, we had a wonderful dinner out tonight. The restaurant was “Silks” at Southbank in the Casino complex. It was a lovely night with very good Chinese food and delightful company. What a better way to finish it than with this beautiful aria:

Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel/J. S. Bach: "Bist du bei mir" BWV 508 - Andreas Scholl

Bist du bei mir, geh ich mit Freuden
Zum Sterben und zu meiner Ruh.
Ach, wie vergnügt wär so mein Ende,
Es drückten deine lieben Hände
Mir die getreuen Augen zu.

If you are with me, I go with gladness
To death and to my rest.
Ah, how pleasant would my end be,
Were it your loving hands
That closed my faithful eyes!

Thursday, 5 November 2009


“No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office.” - George Bernard Shaw

Despite this being a short week due to the holiday on Monday and Tuesday, this evening I feel exhausted. I guess it was because of all the work that I had to catch up on, which had banked up while I was away. Nevertheless, it feels good to be home tonight with the weekend to recover. I have nothing on my plate in regards to my book, having returned all the proofs to the publisher. I am now awaiting the arrival of the textbook, which should be published before Christmas. I have received the first copy of the Dictionary and it looks wonderful. It is such a buzz to finally hold in one’s hands the product of such a lot of long hard work and see the fruit of one’s labours.

Seeing how a celebration is in order tonight, how about a cake? This is a wonderful cake for autumn and winter as it is rich and spicy and fruity and a delight to eat, as well as being fairly easy to make and fairly robust in terms of a success rate.


Ingredients - cake
1 large cup finely diced dried fruit (eg: apricots, dates, cherries, sultanas, mixed crystallised peel)
1 crisp apple, grated
1 medium sized carrot, finely grated
1 large cup caster sugar
100 g butter
1/4 teaspoonful mixed spice (more or less to taste)
1/4 teaspoonful cinnamon (ditto)
1/4 teaspoonful mace (ditto)
1/4 teaspoonful ginger powder (ditto)
A little vanilla essence
2 eggs
1 large cup milk
1 teaspoonful baking soda (dissolved in milk)
2 large cups of self-raising flour

Ingredients - icing
1 and 1/2 large cups of icing sugar
Juice of a lime
1-2 drops of orange essence
Orange food colouring (optional)


Prepare the dried fruit and mix with the grated apple and carrot, laying aside until needed.  Beat the sugar with the softened butter in a mixer bowl until smooth and add the spices and vanilla essence. Lightly beat the eggs and add slowly and alternately with the milk, flour and fruit mixture, beating the cake mixture all the time until the batter is of a smooth consistency. Add some more milk if the mixture is too stiff. Put into a greased bundt cake tin ensuring there is enough room for rising. Bake in a pre-warmed oven at 150-160˚C for about 50-60 minutes, or until baked through (test with a skewer).
While the cake is baking prepare the icing. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth and glossy. Add more or less sugar/juice until a fairly stiff mixture is achieved. When the cake is baked, turn out onto a serving plate and spoon the icing over the top so that it melts all over the cake.

Have a good weekend!


“Treason and murder ever kept together, As two yoke-devils sworn to either's purpose, Working so grossly in a natural cause That admiration did not whoop at them; But thou, 'gainst all proportion, didst bring in Wonder to wait on treason and on murder; And whatsoever cunning fiend it was That wrought upon thee so preposterously Hath got the voice in hell for excellence.” – William Shakespeare

    Please to remember
    The Fifth of November,
    Gunpowder treason and plot;
    I see no reason
    Why gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot.
    ‘Twas God’s mercy to be sent
    To save our King and Parliament
    Three score barrels laid below,
    For old England’s overthrow
    With a lighted candle, with a lighted match
    Boom, boom to let him in.
        Anonymous Hertfordshire Rhyme

November 5th is the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, which was a conspiracy to blow up the English Parliament and King James I in 1605, the day set for the king to officially open Parliament. This act of treason was intended to be the beginning of a great uprising of English Catholics, who were distressed by the increased severity of penal laws against the practice of their religion. The conspirators, who began plotting early in 1604, expanded their number to a point where secrecy was impossible.

The conspirators included Robert Catesby, John Wright, and Thomas Winter (the originators), Christopher Wright, Robert Winter, Robert Keyes, Guy Fawkes (a soldier who had been serving in Flanders), Thomas Percy, John Grant, Sir Everard Digby, Francis Tresham, Ambrose Rookwood, and Thomas Bates. The anniversary was named after Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) the most famous of the conspirators.

Thomas Percy hired a cellar under the House of Lords, in which 36 barrels of gunpowder, overlaid with iron bars and firewood, were secretly stored. The conspiracy was brought to light through a mysterious letter received by Lord Monteagle, a brother-in-law of Tresham, on October 26, urging him not to attend Parliament on the opening day. This anonymous letter read:

“My lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care for your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift of your attendance of this Parliament, for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement but retire yourself into your country, where you may expect the event in safety, for though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow, the Parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be contemned, because it may do you good and can do you know harm, for the danger is past as soon as you have burnt the latter: and I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.”

The 1st earl of Salisbury and others, to whom the plot was made known, took steps leading to the discovery of the materials and the arrest of Fawkes as he entered the cellar. Other conspirators, overtaken in flight or seized afterward, were killed outright, imprisoned, or executed.

Among those executed was Henry Garnett, the superior of the English Jesuits, who had known of the conspiracy. While the plot was the work of a small number of men, it provoked hostility against all English Catholics and led to an increase in the harshness of laws against them. Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, is still celebrated in England with fireworks and bonfires, on which effigies of the conspirator, called “guys”, are burned. The word came to mean any strange-looking person and later came to be applied in a derogatory sense to any man (some American lexicographers, however, derive ‘guy’ from a Spanish word).

treason |ˈtrēzən| noun (also high treason)
the crime of betraying one's country, esp. by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government : they were convicted of treason.
• the action of betraying someone or something : doubt is the ultimate treason against faith.
• ( petty treason) historical the crime of murdering someone to whom the murderer owed allegiance, such as a master or husband.
treasonous |ˈtrēzənəs| adjective
ORIGIN Middle English : from Anglo-Norman French treisoun, from Latin traditio(n-) ‘handing over,’ from the verb tradere.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


“Devotees of grammatical studies have not been distinguished for any very remarkable felicities of expression.” – Amos Bronson Alcott

Back at work today, and after the break, there was ever so much to catch up on. The emails alone took a few hours to take care of, while several meetings despatched most of the rest of the time. Add to that some correspondence, phone calls and some issues from last week, where did the day go? I came back, still tired from yesterday’s exertions, to which more were added today. Hence the blog will be brief and my poem mined from the archives of my old notebooks.

This poem was written many years ago, after I had read some literary article or other about grammar and how its rules were often broken, especially so by the poet. The challenge faced by the poet was to create a mood, evoke emotion, plant ideas in people’s heads, confront and perplex, annoy and needle. Language is there to be used in any which way that will achieve those aims. I wrote the poem in the wake of reading that article and mindful of the grammarian’s injunction that “every sentence must have a verb to be complete”. I set out to write a poem without verbs. Here it is!


Asbestos, inferno, flame, smoke,
Deep lake, marsh, pool, puddle.
Sun, star, moon, dawn’s blush;
Steel, iron, cold hard metal,
Sweet sandalwood and violets.
Desire, passion, sweat, twin pleasures,
Death, decay, oblivion.

Incinerator, burning, conflagration;
Sea, torrent, stream, rill.
Comets, planets, foolish astrologers;
Beryllium, boron and carbon.
Dank smell of earth and rain.
Antipathy, hate, enmity,
War, destruction, annihilation.

Ebony, coals, embers, ashes,
Well, spring, cooling draughts.
Plasma, hydrogen, helium, lithium,
Copper, silver, gold, bright gems,
Opulent frankincense and rose attar.
Love, affection, caring, devotion,
Life, tender memory.

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday


“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” - Pearl S. Buck

Today was the Melbourne Cup, and hence a public holiday in Melbourne. Our neighbours had a party last night, which kept us awake until after midnight and then it was a stop-and-start fitful sleep for the rest of the night. I did a great deal of work in the garden and house, and did not even bother to turn the TV on for the “Big Race”, as gambling a horses are not our thing. However, in the afternoon I had a little self-indulgence and read a little bit.

I have just finished reading Tom Standage’s book “A History of the World in Six Glasses”. This is a delightful book written in a way that is engaging and examines 10,000 years of human history in six representative drinks that have marked great historical changes:

1) Beer – Marked the change from hunting/gathering existence to a farming/civilised existence
2) Wine - The drink of civilised Greece and Rome
4) Tea - The import from the East, the life sustainer and improver
3) Hard liquor – Slavery and the American Revolution
5) Coffee - The drink that marked the Enlightenment and made possible the coffehouses
6) Cola - Especially Coca Cola and the expression of cultural dominance of the USA.

Interestingly, all of the above drinks made water safe to drink in times when the water supply was often tainted. The epilogue is worthy of being included as the seventh drink and a return to our origins, as it is water. Future wars will not be fought over land and territory, but rather over a ready supply of fresh water. Already people are paying large sums of money for water in first world countries, an in the developing world a supply of safe, clean water is often lacking.

Standage makes history entertaining and fascinating, and by concentrating on events surrounding his “six glasses” (a pun on six classes, I guess) he manages to give us the big picture of history, with interesting vignettes of the “small bits” here and there. Standage does not pretend to be all-inclusive in his world history and he omits some important “glasses” (for example gin in England and Holland in the early 18th century) because they are out of his orderly and logical timeline and interfere with the way he has laid out his premise.

I enjoyed the book quite a lot, not as a history book, but almost like a thriller. It’s a documentary and a biographical drama rolled into one. It is written in a style that is easy to read without being condescending or stooping to the lowest common denominator. It is a good introduction to the way that society shapes history and vice versa. I recommend it as it informative, entertaining and enjoyable reading. It will also serve as a good springboard for further reading (and Standage does provide an extensive list of further reading!).

Monday, 2 November 2009


"The desolation and terror of, for the first time, realising that the mother can lose you, or you her, and your own abysmal loneliness and helplessness without her. " - Francis Thompson

Yesterday we watched the 2008 Clint Eastwood film, “Changeling”. It starred Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Frank Wood, Colm Feore and Michael Kelly. The film was based on a true story, upon which J. Michael Straczynski, based his screenplay (and a fine one it was). Eastwood directs well, although in some cases too heavy-handedly, with Jolie pumping out the emotion almost non-stop. However, overall the film is well-shot, well-acted and well-directed.

The movie is set in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Christine Collins (Jolie) is a telephone operator supervisor who must work on a Saturday as an emergency has arisen at the office. She leaves her young son Walter alone at home, only for a shot while as her friends and neighbours will pop in and see to him. When she returns in the afternoon, she discovers him missing. The police to whom she turns are corrupt and ineffectual. For months, Christine is trying to find her son, while the police finally return a child to her, who they say is Walter. Christine knows he is not, but the police department needing good publicity force the child on her.

The remainder of the film deals with Christine’s battle with the LAPD personified by Captain JJ Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), a corrupt and unscrupulous cop on the take. She is put into a mental asylum and has to deal with the horrific discovery that a psychopath may have abducted her son. Her only ally in her battle against the LAPD is the Reverend Gustav Briegleb (Malkovich), who is also a crusader for honesty and good morals.

The sets and costumes are perfect, with the beautiful Model T Fords, the red electric street cars, the telephones, the switchboard station with roller-skating supervisors, the house appliances, and the authentically styled clothing, from dresses to hats to police uniforms, hairdressing, everything is detailed and accurate. The music is appropriate and once again in tune with the theme and period. What surprised me even more was that the talented Mr Eastwood composed it!

The film has similar themes to others directed by Eastwood. It concerns itself with truth and lies, and exposing the hypocrisy of people whose duty is to protect truth, honour and justice. “Unforgiven” and “Flags of our Fathers” come to mind as films that Eastwood directed and have a similar set of themes. Jolie and Malkovich carry the film. Jolie acts with fervour and emotional intensity and proves that she can do “serious” acting. Malkovich, whom I often find annoying, was surprisingly good in this uncharacteristic “good guy” role.

The film is challenging to watch and has some very confronting and poignant scenes, as well as dealing with some complex themes. It was a long and at times harrowing film, but nevertheless one well worth seeing.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.” - Pablo Picasso

A painting by Pablo Picasso for this Art Sunday. “Interior with Girl Drawing” (1935). Picasso still manages to excite some controversy, especially where his later, cubist works are concerned. As one of my friends said: “If you can paint angels, why would you choose to devote your life to painting devils?” The answer to that of course, is because we are devils living in hell and the artist more than anybody else realises this and wants to depict the reality of our existence, the “truth” as Picasso himself says, above. The truth of cubism is highlighted by another quote from the same artist, one of the most famous for it:

“Cubism is no different from any other school of painting. The same principles and the same elements are common to all. The fact that for a long time cubism has not been understood and that even today there are people who cannot see anything in it, means nothing. I do not read English, and an English book is a blank to me. This does not mean that the English language does not exist, and why should I blame anyone but myself if I cannot understand what I know nothing about?”

Enjoy your Sunday!