Saturday, 17 January 2015


“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.” - Claude Monet

For Art Sunday, a contemporary Australian Artist, Douglas Sealy. Sealy studied portrait and landscape painting in oils under the famous artist, Reg Campbell. In the following years, subject matter has extended to seascapes, steam trains, aircraft, still lifes, nudes and floral paintings. His painting has developed in the mediums of watercolours, pastels, acrylics, conté and charcoal.

He was born in 1937 in the Australian outback town of West Wyalong in central New South Wales. He recounts how he always wanted to become an artist, something he realised from a very early age. As he was growing up he didn’t know how to make his dream come true. While his father was away at war, he discussed it with his mother but art was not on the curriculum for boys in New South Wales at that time. There were no art classes available and even artists’ paints were not for sale in his town. He used to walk an extra mile on top of the six he had to walk to school in order to admire some paintings in hotel verandahs, but he felt that it was worth it.

Over the next 12 years, he picked up bits and pieces of information from correspondence courses and tried to produce pictures himself. He then had the good luck to meet established artist Reg Campbell who was exhibiting some of his paintings in a Department Store in the nearby regional centre of Forbes. The exhibition was a dream come true of young Sealy and he began an acquaintance with Campbell, which was to become that of Master and Student and finally that of a 33-year friendship.

Doug Sealy is widely sought after as a demonstrator, teacher, judge and art critic. He has tutored at Charles Sturt University. His art awards included five firsts and one second prize at Sydney Royal Easter Shows and has been accepted three times for the Wynne Prize, Camberwell $20.000 and Gold Medal Art Award.

To date, sixteen of Doug Sealy’s originals have been reproduced into print form and distributed worldwide. His paintings have been included in important collections in Australia, Japan, USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

Doug Sealy also represents NSW in the Chamber of Commerce Building in Canberra and the Prime Minister’s Department has purchased six of his paintings. Four of his paintings are represented in the only permanent public art collection in Australia, The Australian War Memorial Canberra. Doug has held 25 one-man exhibitions, received 17 important art awards and commendations including six Royal Easter Show (Sydney) awards.

The painting above is “Summer Gums”, (Oil on canvas panel, 40 x 50 cm). Sealy’s style is quite painterly but non-individualistic. It is derivative from classic Australian landscape artists of the late 19th and early 20th century. He pays homage to the Heidelberg school, although the finesse of their work is lacking and he attempts to capture the magical light of Heysen’s work, as is evident from the work illustrated. His composition can be erratic and his palette often quite varied. All in all, though, his is a style that finds resonance with the buying public and as a consequence he is a popular painter.

Friday, 16 January 2015


“Out in the lonely woods the jasmine burns Its fragrant lamps, and turns Into a royal court with green festoons The banks of dark lagoons.” - Henry Timrod

Today, we visited a dear old family friend who is in a nursing home. We go and see her as often as we can, but every time we go we feel quite sad. She is in her eighties, deaf and becoming demented. It was quite an effort for her today to recognise us, but eventually she did and this was because of one reason, the sense of smell and the memories it can evoke…

Whenever she visited our home she loved going out into our garden, and her favourite flowers were always the jasmines that we have rather a lot of. We used to give her a garland of jasmine buds strung together to take home with her and as they gradually opened up during the night they released their perfume in the room. They remain fresh in this way for at least 24 hours.

This morning I collected some jasmine buds and we strung them together in her familiar garland. When we went in to see her she could not recognise us, but as soon as she smelt the delicious perfume of the then opening flowers, her face lit up with a smile and she called us by our names. A flood of summery, sunlit memories must have brightened up the darkness of her failing brain and her eyes filled up with tears as she spoke our names once again, smiling through her tears.

We stayed with her for quite a while, knowing that the simple feeling of having someone close who cared for her gave her some happiness. How difficult that must be to achieve if one’s very essence of being is disappearing as the brain is no longer able to do its work. When we left her, she came to the window and waved goodbye to us, the smile still illuminating her face and her fingers holding the precious jasmine flowers…

Perhaps rather fitting to have a piece of music for Music Saturday that is in keeping with the mood I’ve described: The beautiful but melancholy elegy for string orchestra by Giacomo Puccini, “I Crisantemi”(The Chrysanthemums). This was written in a single night in 1890, as a response to the death of the Duke of Savoy, Amedeo. The composition is scored for a string quartet, but most frequently performed by a string orchestra. This is an unusual composition for Puccini whose familiar output is almost exclusively operatic.

“I Crisantemi” is a single, dark-hued, continuous movement, approximately 6 minutes long. The mournful key of C sharp minor provides the composer with the perfect milieu for expressing his feelings of grief in what must have been a painful parting from a dear friend. Puccini found his two liquid melodic ideas worthy enough to re-use in the last act of his opera, “Manon Lescaut”, of 1893. Almost never heard in its original string quartet guise, “I Crisantemi” frequented the music stands of the world’s orchestras in an arrangement for string orchestra throughout the twentieth century.

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (December 22, 1858 – November 29, 1924) was an Italian composer whose operas, including “La Bohème”, “Tosca”, “Madama Butterfly” and “Turandot”, are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire. Some of his arias, such as “O mio babbino caro” from “Gianni Schicchi”, “Che gelida manina” from “La Bohème”, and “Nessun dorma” from “Turandot”, have become part of popular culture.

Thursday, 15 January 2015


“Smoked salmon is for dinner. Belly lox is for breakfast. Don’t get that mixed up.” - AlanKing

I like good food but don’t like spending too much in the kitchen preparing it. Very often I will cheat or cut corners by using what’s available in the fridge, pantry or vegie crisper, throwing something together quickly. This simple hors d’oeuvre can be easily made, looks good and tastes even better. Remember once again to use good, sugar-free mayonnaise. I really don’t know why the mayo companies persist in adding so much sugar to the product so that it tastes like custard!

I do like capers in this dish, but when I made it last and took the photo, I had run out so there are non there. Fresh dill tips are preferable, but dill is one of those herbs that dry well, so don't feel too guilty if you are using dried herbs.

Smoked salmon slices
Thin flatbread squares
Cream cheese
A dollop or two of mayonnaise
Fresh chopped dill tips (dried is OK)
Capers (optional)

Soften the cream cheese and add some mayonnaise to improve its spreadability. Spread on the flat bread squares to taste. Sprinkle the dill and the chopped capers (if using).
Place the smoked salmon on top of the cheese and roll the bread lengthwise to make a cylinder.
Cut at right angles into pinwheels. Serve as hors d’oeuvre with salad greens or crudités.

Add your favourite recipes below by using the Mr Linky tool:

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


“Events are as much the parents of the future as they were the children of the past.” – JohnGalsworthy

I have a fascination with things ancient. This is not new, it began when I was child, to the extent of me wanting to become an archaeologist. I guess, in part this may have been due to living in a country where things ancient were commonplace and familiar. Wherever one turns in Greece, one finds evidence of the past. One cannot ignore the past there, one is surrounded by it in both obvious and subtle ways. I learnt to speak uttering some words in my mother tongue that have remained unchanged for 5000 years. I learned to read and write using letters that were the first truly alphabetic script devised to record the vowels and consonants of speech. I grew up reading myths and legends that children 2,500 years ago were reading also.

I still love ancient things. This goes for ancient writings also. My tastes are more universal and widespread nowadays. But in reading those texts from long ago, I hear the voices of humanity from the distant past and feel strangely close to them, for they are so similar to me. Their stories amuse me and entertain me in the same way that they did them. Similar things move me or stir up my anger. I am puzzled by the same things, I am in the same moral and ethical pickles that they were in when they were writing all those millennia before today.

Today, let us go back in time (about 4,500 years ago) to Mesopotamia. To the cradle of civilisation, ancient Sumeria. A highly sophisticated civilisation, one of the first to develop writing, and as a consequence, a literature. “The Epic of Gilgamesh” is one of these examples of Sumerian literature that we can read today in translation (for a full online translation by Maureen Gallery Kovacs see:

“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is one of the oldest recorded stories in the world. It tells of an ancient King of Uruk, Gilgamesh (who may have actually existed, his name is on the Sumerian King List). Various Sumerian versions exist of this story and it was widely known in the third millennium BC. The story was retold in many different forms and finally recorded, in a standardised Akkadian version, in the seventh century BC, and stored in the famous library of King Assurbanipal.

With the passing centuries, the downfall of powerful empires and the forgetting of the ancient tongues and writings, the story of Gilgamesh was lost to memory, except for occasional fragments. The story was rediscovered with the excavations in Mesopotamia in the mid-nineteenth century AD. The baked clay tablets incised with the cuneiform script were unearthed, the ancient languages were deciphered and the story of Gilgamesh made available in translation to German by the beginning of the twentieth century. People read with fascination this most ancient of stories, and realised that the flood story in Gilgamesh was a precursor of the flood story in the Hebrew Bible.

This is a summary of the story:
Gilgamesh is the King of Uruk. His father is mortal and his mother is a goddess. However, because he is part mortal, Gilgamesh must eventually die, as he discovers and comes to accept during the course of the story. Gilgamesh is a bad ruler; he sleeps with all the women subjects he wants and takes away children from their families. His subjects ask the gods for help, and the gods have the goddess Aruru create a man, Enkidu, who will be almost Gilgamesh’s equal.

Enkidu comes to life in the wilderness. He is covered with hair, shaggy, wild, like the wilderness. He eats grass with the gazelles and drinks water with the animals. A trapper is frightened by the sight of Enkidu and asks his father what to do, because Enkidu is freeing animals from the traps. His father advises him to go to Uruk, find Gilgamesh, and tell him of the wild man. Then he should ask for a harlot from the temple and bring her back with him. She will seduce Enkidu, and then the wild animals will reject him and he can be lured to civilisation.

The harlot does just that, seducing Enkidu, so he is rejected by the animals. She teaches Enkidu some of the ways of civilisation, such as wearing clothing, eating bread and drinking wine. Then she tells him of the strength of Gilgamesh. Enkidu wants to meet and challenge Gilgamesh to a contest of strength. Enkidu hears how Gilgamesh is sleeping with all the women of Uruk, and he is shocked. He now wants to challenge Gilgamesh to conquer him and force him to behave properly. They struggle like equals, but finally Gilgamesh throws Enkidu, who loses his anger and recognises Gilgamesh as a true king. They embrace and become best friends.

Gilgamesh longs to perform great deeds, so his name will be remembered. He wants to go to the cedar forest and slay its guardian monster, Humbaba. Enkidu is terrified, because he knows Humbaba, but Gilgamesh insists, and they prepare for the journey. Enkidu’s hand is paralysed when he touches the cedar forest gate, but Gilgamesh helps him to continue. They have disturbing dreams, but nonetheless cut down a cedar tree. Humbaba approaches and they fight; Humbaba begs for his life, but they cut off his head.

Gilgamesh washes himself and puts on clean clothes and his crown. He is so attractive that Ishtar, the goddess of love, wants to marry him. He refuses, quite rudely, pointing out how she had ruined the lives of her previous husbands. Ishtar is hurt and furious and she goes to her father, Anu, demanding that he send the Bull of Heaven (drought) to punish Gilgamesh. She threatens to smash down the gates to the underworld if her father does not comply. Anu sends the Bull of Heaven, but Enkidu catches it by the horns, and Gilgamesh kills it.

Unfortunately, as Enkidu discovers in a dream, the gods are holding a council to determine who should die for these attacks on divinity, Gilgamesh or Enkidu. Naturally, since Gilgamesh is part divine and part human, while Enkidu is part human and part animal, the judgment falls on Enkidu, who sickens and dies, at first cursing the harlot who led him to civilisation, Gilgamesh and death, but then blessing her for the joy of friendship with Gilgamesh.

Gilgamesh is distraught with grief and is in denial of death. First he keeps the body of Enkidu for a week, until the body became wormy. Then, he has him buried and wanders out from Uruk into the wilderness as a wild hunter, dressed in animal skins. Gilgamesh despairs for the loss of Enkidu, but also for his own death, which he now understands must come some day. Seeking to avoid death, Gilgamesh looks for Utnapishtim, the only human being who was granted eternal life by the gods. He wants to learn the secret of how to avoid death.

Eventually, Gilgamesh comes to the entry to the land of the gods, an other-world, which is under a mountain, guarded by a Man-scorpion and his mate. Gilgamesh gains entrance to the mountain and travels for leagues in the dark until he arrives in the jewelled garden of the gods.  Gilgamesh continues in his search for Utnapishtim and the secrets of life and death. He meets a divine wine-maker, Siduri, who gives him shelter and advises him to accept his human fate and enjoy life while he can. But he insists that he must find Utnapishtim, so she tells him that the boatman Urshanabi can take him across the Sea of Death to the place where Utnapishtim lives with his wife.

After a complicated boat-trip, Urshanabi brings Gilgamesh to Utnapishtim, who tells his story. It is the story of the Flood (remarkably similar to the Flood story in Genesis). The point is, the Flood was a one time ever event, will never recur, and the only reason Utnapishtim and his wife are now immortal is because the gods chose to make them so after they survived the flood. The final blow to Gilgamesh here is seven loaves of bread which Utnapishtim’s wife made, one for each day that Gilgamesh slept while he was their guest. He could not even stay awake for seven days; how could he ever hope to live forever?

Utnapishtim’s wife takes pity on Gilgamesh and asks her husband to tell him about the plant that can make him young again, if not immortal. Gilgamesh dives into the sea to pick the plant, but loses it later, while bathing, because a snake slithers up and eats it.  Gilgamesh returns to Uruk with the boatman Urshanabi, and points out to him the mighty walls; this is the proper work of a human being, not the search for eternal life. The final segment of the story tells of the death of Gilgamesh and the mourning for him of all the people of Uruk.

A more extensive summary with quotes can be found here:

These ancient voices speak to us through their stories. Why did they need to tell stories, why do we read these stories? For entertainment? For passing a few hours pleasantly, amused by the storyteller’s skill? To learn something? To sympathise with the story’s characters? To find parallels with our own life? To distil some universal message on the meaning of our existence? A successful story will do all of these things and more. Through the story we gain an understanding of our own life, we are forced to analyse and make sense of our own complex existence. Gilgamesh is still a fascinating story as it is one that makes us acknowledge our humanity, it one that causes us to confront our mortality, justify the purpose of our existence and makes us look within ourselves in order to understand the world outside us.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” - Ann Landers

Love and Friendship

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree -
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most constantly?
The wild-rose briar is sweet in the spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who will call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly's sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He may still leave thy garland green.

Emily JaneBrontë (1818 – 1848)

Emily Brontë was born July 30, 1818, Thornton, Yorkshire, England and died Dec. 19, 1848, Haworth, Yorkshire. Her pseudonym was Ellis Bell. She was an English novelist and poet who produced only one novel, Wuthering Heights (1847), which is a highly imaginative novel of passion and hate set on her native Yorkshire moors.

Emily was perhaps the greatest of the three Brontë sisters, but the record of her life is extremely meagre, for she was silent and reserved and left no correspondence of interest, and her single novel darkens rather than solves the mystery of her spiritual existence. The portrait in the illustration above is by her brother, Branwell Brontë.