Saturday, 21 July 2012


“When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth...” – Kahlil Gibran
It was a very pleasant Saturday today, with some much needed rest and relaxation, after the rather hectic week that’s been. The weather today was also rather mild with some wintry sunshine warming us up. Then this evening, a quiet time with good company, a glass of wine and some nice food…

Here is George Frideric Handel’s Cara Sposa, an aria from his opera “Rinaldo”, sung by Andreas Scholl, countertenor.

Cara sposa, amante cara,
dove sei?
Deh! Ritorna a' pianti miei.

Del vostro Erebo sull'ara
colla face del mio sdegno
io vi sfido o spirti rei!

My dear betrothed, my dear one,
where are you?
Come back to my tears!

Evil spirits, I defy you
with the fire of my wrath
on your infernal altar.

Friday, 20 July 2012


“Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.” - Baron Justus von Liebig
It was delightful to come home on Friday night after being away for three days for work. It was a cold dark Winter’s night and coming home into a warm house that smelt delightfully of chocolate was great. Nothing better to warm one up than a hot chocolate pudding!

Chocolate Pudding
For the pudding
1 cup self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2/3 cup brown sugar
100g butter, melted, cooled
1/4 cup milk
¼ cup crème de cacao liqueur
A few drops of vanilla essence
1 egg, lightly beaten
Thick cream or ice cream to serve

For the Sauce

3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon butter
50 g cooking chocolate melted in microwave
1 and 1/4 cups boiling water

  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease an 8-cup capacity ovenproof pudding baking dish. Sift flour and cocoa into a large bowl. Stir in sugar.
  • Combine butter, milk, liqueur, vanilla essence and egg in a jug. Slowly add to flour mixture, whisking until well combined and smooth.
  • Spoon into the baking dish. Smooth top.
  • Place dish onto a baking tray. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until pudding bounces back when pressed gently in centre.
  • Make sauce: Combine sugar and cocoa and pour boiling water in, stirring to mix. Add the butter and melted chocolate, and keep stirring until smooth.
  • Serve hot with cream or ice cream.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


“Noble life demands a noble architecture for noble uses of noble men. Lack of culture means what it has always meant: ignoble civilization and therefore imminent downfall.” - Frank Lloyd Wright

I’ve had a very gruelling day full of meetings, presentations, forums, and one-to-one meetings with academics today, with hardly any time to blink. However, all meetings went very well including one group meeting that threatened to go pear-shaped as a couple of the academics started to argue about a third colleague of theirs who was not present at the meeting. I tactfully and carefully defused the bomb of a situation and steered the conversation back to the realm of common sense and logic. It wasn’t pleasant and a little surprising, however, on reflection I can understand that these highly intelligent people also get very passionate and emotional and sometimes they are not beyond getting petty either!

I walked by the Adelaide Festival Centre on the way back to the hotel, but it started drizzling and it was late so I hurried back. The Adelaide Festival Centre was Australia’s first multi-purpose arts centre, built in 1973 and opened three months before the Sydney Opera House. The Festival Centre is located approximately 50 metres north of the corner of North Terrace and King William Street, lying near the banks of the River Torrens and adjacent to Elder Park.

It is distinguished by its three silvery-white geometric dome roofs and its plaza consisting of lego block-like structures to the south and lies on a 45-degree angle to the city’s grid. It is the home of South Australia’s performing arts. The Centre is managed by a statutory authority under the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust Act 1971 which is responsible for encouraging and facilitating artistic, cultural and performing arts activities, as well as maintaining and improving the building and facilities of the Adelaide Festival Centre complex. As well as the now annual Festival of Arts, the Centre hosts the annual Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June and OzAsia Festival in September, and the biennial Adelaide International Guitar Festival.

The Adelaide Festival Centre was built in three parts from April 1970 to 1980. The main building, the Festival Theatre, was completed in 1973, remarkably within its budget of $10 million. (The Centre was completed for $21 million.) In comparison, the Sydney Opera House, also completed in 1973, cost $102 million. The Festival Centre is known for the excellent quality of its acoustics. The Southern Plaza was completed in March 1977. The lego-like forms and colourful paint work across the Plaza were designed to conceal an air-conditioning vent at the same time as providing a playful place to congregate. However, Adelaide’s citizens never warmed to the idea, and it remains one of Adelaide's most under-utilised public spaces.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

I am in Adelaide for work for three days and very full days they are too. I always enjoy visiting this city and even if I am very busy, walking around the CBD is quite a nice way to appreciate the architecture and some of the history of the place. Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the fifth-largest city in Australia. Adelaide has an estimated population of more than 1.2 million. The demonym “Adelaidean” is used adjectivally in reference to the city and its residents.

Adelaide is located north of the Fleurieu Peninsula, on the Adelaide Plains between the Gulf of St Vincent and the low-lying Mount Lofty Ranges that surround the city. Adelaide stretches 20 km from the coast to the foothills, and 90 km from Gawler at its northern extent to Sellicks Beach in the south. Named in honour of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to King William IV, the city was founded in 1836 as the planned capital for a freely settled British province in Australia.

Colonel William Light, one of Adelaide’s founding fathers, designed the city and chose its location close to the River Torrens in the area originally inhabited by the Kaurna people. Light’s design set out Adelaide in a grid layout, interspaced by wide boulevards and large public squares, and entirely surrounded by parkland. Early Adelaide was shaped by religious freedom and a commitment to political progressivism and civil liberties, which led to the nickname “City of Churches”.

As South Australia’s seat of government and commercial centre, Adelaide is the site of many governmental and financial institutions. Most of these are concentrated in the city centre along the cultural boulevard of North Terrace, King William Street and in various districts of the metropolitan area.

Today, Adelaide is noted for its many festivals and sporting events, its food, wine and culture, its long beachfronts, and its large defence and manufacturing sectors. It ranks highly in terms of liveability, being listed in the Top 10 of The Economist's World’s Most Liveable Cities index in 2010 and being ranked the most liveable city in Australia by the Property Council of Australia in 2011 and again in 2012.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


“Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” - Kahlil Gibran
Margaret the Virgin, also known as Margaret of Antioch, virgin and martyr, is celebrated as a saint by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches on July 20; and on July 17 in the Orthodox Church, where she is known as St Marina. Her historical existence has been questioned and she was declared apocryphal by Pope Gelasius I in A.D. 494. However, devotion to her cult was revived in the West with the Crusades. She was reputed to have promised very powerful indulgences to those who wrote or read her life, or invoked her intercessions; belief in these indulgences no doubt helped the spread of her cult.

According to the Golden Legend, she was a native of Antioch, daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. She was scorned by her father for her Christian faith, and lived with a foster-mother keeping sheep, in the country, which is now modern day Turkey. Olybrius, the praeses orientis (Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East), offered her marriage at the price of her renunciation of Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards.

She was put to death in A.D. 304. The Eastern Orthodox Church knows Margaret as Saint Marina, and celebrates her feast day on July 17. She has been identified with Saint Pelagia - “Marina” being the Latin equivalent of the Greek name “Pelagia” (meaning of 'of the sea'). There are no historical documents on St Margaret as distinct from St Pelagia. The Greek Marina came from Antioch, Pisidia (as opposed to Antioch of Syria), but this distinction was lost in the West. It has been argued that the legends of Saint Margaret are derived from a transformation of the pagan divinity Aphrodite into a Christian saint. Such syncretism is a common finding with many Eastern Church saints.

The cult of Saint Margaret became very widespread in England, where more than 250 churches are dedicated to her, most famously, St. Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church of the British Houses of Parliament in London. Some consider her a patron saint of pregnancy. In art, she is usually pictured escaping from, or standing above, a dragon. She was included from the twelfth to the twentieth century among the saints to be commemorated wherever the Roman Rite was celebrated, but was then removed from that list because of the entirely fabulous character of the stories told of her. Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and is one of the saints who spoke to Joan of Arc.

The birthday plant for this day, is caraway, Carum carvi.  The name is derived from a place in Asia Minor, Caria.  The seeds have been used form ancient times to flavour food, especially breads and cakes. The plant signifies the sentiment “you will grow to love me”.  Astrologically, it is under the rule of Mercury.

Monday, 16 July 2012


“Innocence is always unsuspicious.” - Thomas C. Haliburton

At the weekend we watched a touching and poignant film, Mark Herman’s 2008 “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It is based on the novel by John Boyne and Mark Herman wrote the screenplay. It starred Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga, Jack Scanlon, Amber Beattie and Rupert Friend. The film is set during WWII in Germany and has Holocaust themes, which some people may find extremely and especially distressing.

The film examines themes from several perspectives and in the first half hour one is lost in the everyday existence of a German family living in Berlin and dealing with the war. The viewpoint is very much from young Bruno’s eyes – an eight-year-old German boy played wonderfully by Asa Butterfield. The filmmakers have done a very clever thing: The accents of the Germans are faultlessly English and one cannot fail to identify (initially at least) with the familiar family environment and the routines of a family coping with the antics of two children. The sympathies of the viewer need be won early in order to increase the force of the punch delivered later in the film.

The family must relocate to the countryside when Bruno’s father (David Thewlis) is promoted and is assigned to take command of a prison camp. His wife (Vera Farmiga) and their two children will of course accompany him to the camp, living some distance away in a mansion behind tall walls. Bruno is bored and as his sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) becomes involved in Nazi ideology, he has to find ways to amuse himself. He discovers a way of leaving the house and gaining access to the delights of the countryside, and soon comes across the “farm” (or so he thinks) where everyone wears striped pajamas. He befriends another child, named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) who lives behind the electrified fence of the camp. Bruno will soon find out that he is not permitted to befriend his new acquaintance as he is a Jew, and that the neighbouring “farm” is actually a prison camp for Jews awaiting extermination…

The theme of the film is how two innocent 8-year-old boys are affected by evil, and man’s inhumanity to man. The loss of innocence is documented as the movie develops and the children’s characters build slowly to show basic human foibles, but also the grandeur of the human spirit. The mother of the family who has “anti-establishment” thoughts and comes into conflict with her husband shows us what conversations and moral quandaries must have been prevalent in (what one hopes) were more than a few German households during the war. The father’s mother (the children’s grandmother) is also another of these questioners of the regime and this causes more friction and an uneasy situation within the family.

The film is extremely well-crafted with wonderful performances by all the cast, authentic sets and locations, accurate period costumes and a wonderful musical score by James Horner. As the fine English production pays attention to detail, one can simply concentrate on plot, character development and the meaning of the film. It is very hard not to get emotional when watching it and the ending is quite devastating. We were touched and stunned by the film and recommend it highly.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


“The very greatest things - great thoughts, discoveries, inventions - have usually been nurtured in hardship, often pondered over in sorrow, and at length established with difficulty.” - Samuel Smiles

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on July 15,1606 in Leiden Netherlands. Although not at all wealthy, his family took great care with his education. At the age of fourteen he attended the University of Leiden.  However, he soon left university to pursue a career as an artist. He studied under local masters Jacob van Swanenburch and Pieter Lastman, the latter well known for his historical paintings. It was not long before Rembrandt was a master at his craft.

At twenty-two he began taking on students of his own. In 1631 he moved to Amsterdam and was married three years later to Saskia van Uylenburgh. Her cousin was a successful art dealer who introduced him to wealthy patrons who commissioned portraits. The “Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts” is an example of the type of portraits he painted during that period.  Besides painting portraits Rembrandt’s mythological and religious works were also much in demand.

Rembrandt was an artist who was quite famous and popular during his lifetime. Works of art such as “The Blinding of Samson” and “Stormy Landscape” had people in awe of his vision. Rembrandt’s seemed to have it all, at least when observed casually and from outside his family situation. He had a great career doing what he loved to do as well as the love of a good woman. While he should have been enjoying a prosperous career he and his wife suffered one great personal loss after another. Within a span of five years each of his three children died in infancy. In 1641 a son they named Titus would break that cycle. However, tragedy always seemed to prevail. Although their son lived, Saskia’s death would come one short year later.

In 1649 after a brief affair with his son's nanny Geertghe Dircx, Rembrandt found someone to share his life with. Hendrickje Stoffels (formally his housekeeper) soon became his partner in love and the subject for many of his paintings. Although he was successful in his career as an artist, teacher and art dealer Rembrandt was living well beyond his means which finally drove him to declare bankruptcy in 1656. Much of his collection of art and antiquities including the sale of his house went to pay his huge debts.

During the artist’s most difficult times, some of his greatest works were created. “The Jewish Bride”, “The Syndics of the Cloth Guild”, “Bathsheba”, “Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph”, and a “Self Portrait” were very successful. Rembrandt’s personal life seemed cursed as again he was robbed of a second chance at love. Hendrickje died in 1663 and two years later his only son would meet the same fate. Within a short year later on October 4th, 1669 at sixty-three years old Rembrandt died. His masterpieces have made him world famous and many people even though completely unschooled in art not only know his name but also are familiar with some of his works.

The “Blinding of Samson” illustrated above was painted in 1636. Although it has many stylistic elements conventional at the time, Rembrandt stamps it with his unmistakeable originality. Like many Baroque paintings, it contrasts a dark background with the lighting focused on the characters in the painting, as if they are spotlit. This creates a dramatic effect focusing the viewers’ eyes on the principal characters, while leaving some sections dark and forbidding, or even threatening – such as the silhouetted soldier on the left. Samson as the primary focus is centrally located and well-lit, with the gory gouging out of his eyes caught in a horrific snapshot. Delilah’s servant brandishing scissors and the shorn locks of Samson’s hair glowers and is also lit by reflected light, this also contributing to the drama of the scene. This is a masterpiece both technically as well as iconographically.