Saturday, 8 January 2011


“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” - Erma Bombeck

Life is so short, and we waste so much of it… Petty squabbles, misunderstandings of our making, pointless intrigues, endless sulking over nothing, silly arguments, dead-end selfishness. One day we shall wake up to die and only then realise how much we have missed out on. On our deathbed we shall regret all that we have wasted. But then it will be too late.

Now is the time to seize the opportunities life is handing out to us most generously! Now is the time to live life fully. Enjoy what is offered you! Be generous to others and life will be generous to you. Give freely of yourself to others and others will do the same for you! Smile, do something for someone without expecting anything in return. Be kind rather than nasty – it really does take less effort and it feel a lot better too!

What else but the divine Bach today! Here is the second movement of his Concerto of Oboe in D Minor.

Thursday, 6 January 2011


“Prayer carries us half way to God, fasting brings us to the door of His palace, and alms-giving procures us admission.” – Prophet Muhammad

We have had a hot day here in Melbourne with the temperature climbing above 35˚C. As the summer has been very mild so far, we did not what hit us today and we had to have the air-conditioning on. The Christmas decorations have come down, the New Year festivities are well and truly over and today was the Feast Day of St John the Baptist. This has always been special in my family as it was the name day of my grandfather. I dreamt of him a couple of nights ago and it was a wonderful dream: We were both laughing and he was going to give me a New Year’s present. I kept saying to him, “No, grandpa, I don’t want a present it’s enough you are here visiting with us.” It’s been nearly 20 years since he died and this morning we went to church for part of the liturgy. We lit a candle each and one in Grandpa’s memory…

As the day was very hot today and as we had had a rather rich diet with the holidays, we decided to eat simply and lightly today. It is interesting that as well as observing fasts in the Greek Orthodox faith, one has to observe days of compulsory meat-eating. Yesterday, on the Epiphany, it is mandatory to consume some meat in one form or another. My grandmother used to say that even if some people were too poor to cook meat on that day, they were obliged to prick their finger and suck on the gout of blood, symbolic of a carnivorous meal! If one observes the fast and feast days of the Greek Orthodox faith, one ends up having a very balanced diet, with periods of fasting and cleansing the body, as well as periods of surfeit that prepare the body for the fasts and also for the vagaries of the weather. Very wise!

In any case, after yesterday’s meaty meal we decided that today we would have a salad, which was just the right thing for the hot weather. It was all the better, of course, as some of the ingredients were home-grown in our own backyard! Our cucumber and capsicum plants are doing very well and the tomatoes have just started to produce fruit. The eggplants are always very productive. Spring onions and all sorts of herbs, as well as nasturtiums are always growing and lettuce is usually available during the late winter, spring and early summer months.


    • 1 witlof
    • 1 small lettuce
    • 1 grated celeriac
    • 1 grated carrot
    • 1 bell capsicum
    • 3 Lebanese cucumbers
    • 2 tomatoes
    • 3 chopped spring onions
    • Sprouting shoots of nasturtiums (use only the very tender hearts)
    • Radish sprouts (to taste)
    • Capers to taste
    • 2 hard-boiled eggs
    • Shaved parmesan
    • Citronette sauce:
        - Juice of a lemon
        - Juice of one lime
        - Juice of half a small orange (all juices together totalling about 1/2 cup)
        - Equal quantity to juices, plus one tablespoon more of olive oil (Greek
          “agourelaio” is lovely)
        - 1 tablespoonful of mayonnaise

Wash the vegetables thoroughly and drain very well.  Chop up the vegetables with a knife into bite size morsels. Cut the eggs into quarters lengthwise and add to the salad.  Shake the oil and citrus juices until emulsified and add the mayonnaise, shaking it in well.  Pour the citronette over the salad and season to taste with rock salt and freshly ground pepper. Top with some shaved parmesan. Serve with crusty bread


“A contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world.” - Joseph Addison

Today is the day of the Epiphany (or Theophany, as it is alternatively termed). In Hispanic and Latin culture, as well as some places in Europe, it is known as Three Kings’ Day (Dia de los Reyes) in honour of the Magi.

epiphany |iˈpifənē| noun ( pl. -nies) (also Epiphany)
The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
• The festival commemorating this on January 6.
• A manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.
• A moment of sudden revelation or insight.
epiphanic |ˌepəˈfanik| adjective
ORIGIN Middle English: From Greek epiphainein ‘reveal.’ The sense relating to the Christian festival is via Old French epiphanie and ecclesiastical Latin epiphania.

This is an important Christian Festival, especially as observed by the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, representing the Eastern and Western Christian traditions respectively. The Feast Day is significant in a number of ways: In the East, where it originated, the Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. It also continues to celebrate Jesus’ birth (Christmas and Epiphany were only separated as different Feast Days in the fourth century AD, where Christmas was relegated to 25th December).

The Western Church began celebrating the Epiphany in the 4th century where it was, and still is, associated with the visit of the Magi (i.e. the wise men) to the infant Jesus when God revealed himself to the world through the incarnation of Jesus. For many Protestant church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from 6 January until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. Other traditions, including the Roman Catholic tradition, observe Epiphany as a single day, with the Sundays following Epiphany counted as Ordinary Time.

The term Theophany is particularly apt for the day as during the baptism of Christ, God spoke up from the heavens and revealed Christ as his Son, and the Holy Spirit descended and hovered above Christ’s head. This manifestation of the Trinity was recognised by John the Baptist and all the faithful present at the event.

theophany |θēˈäfənē| noun ( pl. -nies)
A visible manifestation to humankind of God or a god.
ORIGIN Old English , via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek theophaneia, from theos ‘god’ + phainein ‘to show.’

The Theophany is celebrated with particular magnificence in the Greek Orthodox Church where the baptism of Christ is symbolically recreated by casting a crucifix into the sea (or lake, or river, depending on the vagaries of geography!) and blessing of the waters. The crucifix is recovered by young people who dive after it and the successful one who presents it back to the priest receives a small cross and a special blessing. The faithful take back home holy water from the special liturgy and this is used to ritually cleanse and bless the home.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


“Mirth is God’s medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.” - Henry Ward Beecher

Tonight is the Twelfth Night of Christmas, marking the coming of the Epiphany tomorrow and concluding the Twelve Days of Christmas. This is formally the last day of the Christmas festivities and the Twelfth Night was observed in the past as a last chance for merrymaking, before the solemn Feast Day of the Epiphany. It was common for people to dress up (often cross-dressing) and for reversals to occur as part of the merry-making (for example, servants masquerading as masters, and vice-versa). Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night” was written to be performed as a Twelfth Night entertainment. The play has many elements that are reversed, in the tradition of Twelfth Night, such as a woman, Viola, dressing as a man, and a servant, Malvolio, imagining that he can become a nobleman.

For most people nowadays the only practical aspect of the 5th January is that it is said to be the last day for taking down the Christmas decorations, or bad luck will follow. In the past Twelfth Night had its own traditions, which have largely been consigned to history. The Twelfth Night cake was made the centre of a particular custom, by which a King and Queen were chosen to rule over the festivities of the night. A bean and a pea were baked in the cake, and when slices were handed out to the company, whoever got the piece with the bean in it became King, while whoever got the pea was Queen. The custom was so well known that “The King of the Bean” was proverbial for someone temporarily in charge of celebratory fun.

In some cases, coins were used instead of beans and peas, while others adopted the more prosaic method of drawing names from a hat, which gave scope for widening the play-acting, by giving all people attending characters as well. This gave occasion for great mirth and merriment as stock characters were used, which were almost pantomime-like (for example, a comic Frenchman known as Monsieur François Parlez-Vous; the Irishman Patrick O’Tater; a tedious authoress - Lady Bluestocking; a dandy: Beau Whipper-Snapper; a young ingénue Nelly Violet, etc).

The drink for the night was often in the form of a ceremonial wassail bowl (similar to the modern punch bowl), from which everyone was served. It contained a special drink, often called “Lamb’s Wool”, made from roasted apples, sugar, and nutmeg in ale, or sometimes wine. By extension from the one Twelfth Night cake, the day had become by the 19th century a great one for cakes and pastries in general. Every London confectioner made a point of displaying a splendid windowful of cakes in all sorts of shapes and sizes for Twelfth Night in the 1800s.

In agricultural areas, two interrelated customs connected to Twelfth Night were wassailing, and the lighting of fires in the wheat fields, to ensure a good crop for the coming year. In some parts of England, twelve fires of straw, in a row were started. Around one fire, which was larger than the rest, the peasants and workers drank a glass of cider to their master’s health and success to the next harvest. Returning home they received carraway seed cakes and cider.

For Poetry Wednesday today, here is Robert Herrick’s poem about the Twelfth Night festivities, from his collection “Hesperides”:

by Robert Herrick (1591 – 1674)

NOW, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where bean's the king of the sport here;
Beside we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.

Begin then to choose,
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day queen for the night here.

Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg’d will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the king and queen here.

Next crown a bowl full
With gentle lamb’s wool :
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Give then to the king
And queen wassailing:
And though with ale ye be whet here,
Yet part from hence
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.

The pictures are Twelfth Night character illustrations from the Illustrated London News of January 1848, by Richard “Dicky” Doyle.


“How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence.” - Benjamin Disraeli

Today was a perfect summer’s day in Melbourne: Fine, sunny, not too hot, not too blowy and definitely too good a day to stay indoors! We decided to go and spend the day in the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens. These Gardens were established in 1846 and extend over 36 hectares, with displays of more than 50,000 plants. The Botanic Gardens in Melbourne have a reputation as one of the world’s finest gardens, and thus it is rightly one of our City’s most popular tourist attractions.

The Gardens are situated within a stone’s throw from the CBD and are easily accessible by public transport, but there is also free parking for three hours on the edge of the Gardens along Anderson St, which runs parallel to Punt Rd on the Western side. Entry to the Gardens is free and there is always something worthwhile to see as there are extensive plant collections that are themed and located within specially landscaped parts of the Gardens.

The temperate climate of Melbourne allows the cultivation of an immense variety of beautiful plants, not only natives, but from all over the world. The following themed displays are on show: Arid Garden; Australian Forest Walk; California Garden; Camellia Collection; Cycad Collection; Eucalypt Lawn; Fern Gully; Grey Garden; Herb Garden; Lower Yarra River Habitat; New Caledonia Collection; New Zealand Collection; Oak Collection; Palm Collection; Perennial Border; Rare and Threatened Species Collection; Rose Collection; Southern Africa Collection; Southern China Collection; Terrestrial Orchids; The Children’s Garden; Tropical Display – Glasshouse; Viburnum Collection; Water Conservation Garden.

Particularly fascinating today was the cacti and succulents collection around the relatively newly constructed “Guilfoyle’s Volcano” area. This is a small-scale replica of a crater lake with a central water feature, planted with various water plants on specially constructed rafts. Around the rim there is a walkway and all around the slopes are planted various cacti and succulents that make for an environmentally friendly garden that conserves water, while looking quite amazing also. Some of the cacti were in bloom and they were spectacular.

We walked around for several hours and then ended up in the Observatory Café where we had a light lunch. It was delightful to sit in the sun and enjoy a glass of wine with our meal, while looking out over the ornamental lake and the verdant shores planted with a stunning variety of beautiful trees and bushes. The birds were chirping, while a harp and guitar duo were strumming along accompanying them, it seemed.

We decided to take the long walk around the lake after lunch past by the Temple of the Winds and then down through the Fern Gully towards our car. The Fern Gully is one of my favourite spots, especially on a warm and sunny day like today. The great tree ferns flourishing under the canopy of forest trees provide a lush oasis, which cools the body and refreshes the soul. I always feel as though I am reborn when I find myself amongst such magnificent surroundings. Nature is full of wonders and it is revitalising to stop, take it all in, appreciate it and glorify in it.

Sunday, 2 January 2011


“They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.” - Francis Bacon

was invited to go and see a film in 3D at the movies by a friend who had a spare ticket and so we went and saw Michael Apted’s 2010 “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. Firstly, I must say that I am a fan of the Narnia books by CS Lewis and that I have enjoyed the previous two movies of the books that have been brought to the big screen in the last five years –  that is, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Prince Caspian”.

“The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” is a very satisfying book and there is much thinking and philosophising in it. CS Lewis was a deeply Christian man, but his books are never obscenely proselytising or laboriously evangelic. He uses analogy, exciting stories and emotionally charged writing power in order to expound his religious views, which are kept very much in the background. Subtlety is a wonderful tool in the right hands and CS Lewis was a great intellectual as well as a great theologian, thus using it most ably. However, having said all of that, one can be a complete atheist and still enjoy both his books and the movies that have been made of them.

I still have problems with the 3D technology and I much prefer to watch a movie in 2D. 3D is still in its infancy and it is there as a gimmick. Maybe in a couple of years time the technology will be there in the background and the 3D experience will be taken for granted, as part of the entertainment package, unobtrusively and without having to have scenes in movies that are there to utilise the effect, rather than being scenes essential to the plot.

If you are not a Narnia fan, let me say a few words about the basics of the plot. Narnia is a land in a parallel universe ruled over by a godly lion, Aslan, who is the creator and destroyer of that world. The Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, are able to be drawn into Narnia when there is great need for their presence there. In the “Voyage” it is Edmund and Lucy only that are drawn into Narnia, together with their obnoxious cousin, Eustace. Eustace is played very well by Will Poulter and it is his character that undergoes the most amazing transformation in terms of character development and realignment of his personal credos.

The film has some amazing CGI and special effects, as well as a lot of action and a wealth of characters. The story revolves around the voyage of Caspian’s ship ‘The Dawn Treader’ and its search for the seven lost lords of Narnia. Reepicheep the valiant talking mouse also has a quest, to set sight on Aslan’s own land ‘at the end of the world’. The book is very much about personal quests and the discovery of one’s self. This is still a central theme in the movie, with Eustace having the most amazing journey of all characters. Lucy and Edmund have to do their own soul-searching and Reepicheep is the most idealistic “believer” who, unshaken, pursues his dream to its conclusion.

There is humour, psychological tension, good characterisation, excellent integration of the CGI into the live action and very good cinematography, all bringing the book to life in an amazing way. Some liberties and artistic license has been taken, because after all this is a movie and it has to obey the rules of the Box Office! If you want the real story, the true story, the intended subplot, read the book. However, as a film, it worked for me. Go and see it and don’t bother with the 3D…


“I find myself at the extremity of a long beach.  How gladly does the spirit leap forth, and suddenly enlarge its sense of being to the full extent of the broad, blue, sunny deep! A greeting and a homage to the Sea! I descend over its margin, and dip my hand into the wave that meets me, and bathe my brow. That far-resounding roar is the Ocean's voice of welcome. His salt breath brings a blessing along with it.” - Nathaniel Hawthorne

We went to Port Melbourne and then to St Kilda today, which are always good places to take visitors. St Kilda was very busy, as always, with the Sunday Market in full swing, the Luna Park open, lots of sailing boats in the sea and people, people, people everywhere… We all enjoyed the day even though the weather was coolish. At least it was fine!

A painting by English artist Roger Desoutter (born 1923), who has been a regular exhibitor at The Royal Society of Marine Artists. Many of his works have been reproduced as cards and Fine Art prints. Adrian Vincent in 100 Years of Traditional British Painting, says: “He particularly enjoys depicting the areas around estuaries and coastal inlets; tranquil scenes painted at sunset or in the early morning, showing expanses of wet sand reflecting light, often with beached boats waiting for the tide.” Two of Desoutter’s paintings are illustrated in 20th Century British Marine Painting, and his paintings regularly sell in the middle four figures.

This painting of his of the "USS Rattlesnake" is typical of his oeuvre, with the sailing ship in morning light and the pastel shades of sea and sky creating a romantic, almost fantasy-like backdrop. A very nostalgic view of the sailing ship days of yore...