Saturday, 7 July 2012


“Meditation is the tongue of the soul and the language of our spirit” - Jeremy Taylor

It was a freezing night last night and another is forecast for tonight. The garden this morning was covered with frost and the plants sparkled with their decorations of ice crystals. I think some of the plants may have been damaged by the frost, but we shall see in a couple of days. At least it turned out to be a fine and sunny day, although it was still quite cold. We had a visitor with us for most of the day and that kept us busy until the afternoon. At least it was a nice evening…

For Song Saturday today a most beautiful piece interpreted wonderfully. It is Massenet’s  “Meditation” from the opera “ Thais” played by Yo-Yo Ma, cello and Kathryn Stott piano.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


“Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!” - Lewis Carroll
Well I hope you celebrated the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the so-called “God Particle”. The name boson is derived from the surname of the Indian physicist, Satyendra Nath Bose, a contemporary of the German physicist Albert Einstein. This class of elementary particles includes the photons and gluons, as well as the Higgs boson. The concept can be extended to other subatomic particles obeying Bose-Einstein statistics, such as mesons (e.g., pions and kaons), and nuclei of even mass number (e.g., helium-4). The existence of the Higgs boson and the associated Higgs field explain why the other elementary particles have mass in the standard model of nuclear physics.

Although proof of its existence has caused particle physicists the world over to pee in their pants with joy, on this cold wintry evening in Melbourne, I am more overjoyed by a delicious bowl of steaming hot, savoury and appetising hot soup!

Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Soup

1 medium, cauliflower (≈500 g)
1 large parsnip, peeled, chopped
50 g blue cheese, crumbled into small pieces
2 bay leaves
50 g butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 tender sticks celery (the white parts from the heart), chopped
1 large leek, trimmed, washed and chopped
100 g potato, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons double cream or sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh chopped chives and extra cream to garnish

  • The stock for this soup made with all the cauliflower trimmings and the parsnip. Trim the cauliflower into small florets and then take the stalk, including the green stems and leaves, and place these trimmings in a medium-sized saucepan.
  • Add the chopped parsnip, the dry mustard, the bay leaves, some salt and 2 litres of water.
  • Bring it to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes with a lid.
  • Meanwhile, take another large saucepan with a well-fitting lid, melt the butter in it over a gentle heat, then add the onion, celery, leek, cauliflower florets and potato, cover and let the vegetables gently sweat for 15 minutes.
  • Keep the heat very low, then, when the stock is ready, strain it into the pan to join the sweated vegetables, but throwing out the stock vegetables.
  • Bring it all back up to simmering point and simmer very gently for 30 minutes, this time without a lid until the vegetables are completely tender.
  • Place the contents of the saucepan in a food processor or liquidiser and process until the soup is smooth and creamy.
  • Return it to the saucepan, stir in the cream and cheese and keep stirring until the cheese has melted and the soup is hot but not boiling.
  • Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste if required, then serve in hot bowls, garnished with a little more cream or a dob of butter and the chives.
This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


“If we don’t end war, war will end us.” - H. G. Wells 

I have been following the news of the terrible situation in Syria, which has been dragging on for months and months now, worsening all the while. Each day in the news one hears of more atrocities, more attacks, more bombings, more and more people dying, victims to the internecine destruction on both sides of the conflict. I cannot pretend to understand what is actually happening there, who is wrong and who is right, who is telling the truth and who is lying. All I know is that there are many innocent victims who are dying needlessly as they are caught in the crossfire.

Unfortunately, there is no sign of the conflict resolving and the international community is hesitant to intervene decisively. In the meantime, the conflict threatens to turn into a massive, full-scale civil war – surely the worse kind of war there is… I wrote the short story below a few years ago when the tinder-box of the Middle East was once again a bloody battle zone and thousands of innocents lost their lives needlessly. Unfortunately, history repeats itself again and again and the story below is once again topical…

A Lullaby

“Mama, I'm scared…”
“I'm here my treasure, I'm holding you.” Her voice gentle and her hands firm around the fragile little body that trembled against her racing heart.
“Mama, the walls might crash down on us and kill us…”
“The walls are strong, your own grandfather built this house with his own hands. The walls have stood firm for many years now and they will be here for your children to grow up in.” Her eyes wide open, the whites shining in the darkness. The face haggard and dirty, every now and then illuminated by the flash of an exploding bomb. The small window in the basement that would not close fully was enough to let the fear in. The smell of death encircled them and the noise of battle surrounded them.

“Where is my father, Mama?” The little voice was shaky, the trembling of the little body in her embrace not only caused by the cold.
“Your father is helping injured people, my love. He is at the hospital, you know that.”
“Why do they want to kill us, Mama?”
“They do not want to kill us, my darling, they are bombing the bad people.”
“Was my friend next door bad?”
The woman closed her eyes and stifled a wave of emotion. She should not cry now. She should be strong. Strong for her daughter's sake.
“No, our good neighbours were not bad, just unlucky…” She hugged the child tightly. “They were hit by mistake as they were coming back from the market.”

There was a respite in the awful sound of warfare outside and the flashes of light gave way to an unearthly greenish light. The sudden quiet in the cellar was more foreboding to her ears than all of the unholy uproar previously. She shuddered to think of the future, yet that future was only moments ahead. The concept of 'next week' was something that had become foreign to her. To survive this day, to keep herself alive for her daughter, that was her only purpose now. If tomorrow dawned for them she could thank God and try her best to survive that tomorrow also.

“Mama, when is my father coming back?”
“Hush darling, you know he is needed where he is more than here.” Her voice was hardly a whisper and it took great restraint not to cry out the pain that was bottled up inside her for days now. She felt her heart beating and it seemed to her to be a hand grenade, ready at any moment to explode and devastate her whole being. Her husband would not come back, she knew that. Her daughter must not know, now.
“Is he helping the sick people?”
“Yes, my heart of hearts, he is at the hospital and he is operating on the injured, helping them to get better.” She embraced the girl and started to sing her a lullaby. A soft, peaceful sound that reverberated in the darkness and calmed herself more than the child. A lullaby that was sung to her by her grandmother and her mother. A lullaby that she wanted her daughter to sing to her own children when she had them. But that was light years away, the priorities of the here and now dictated otherwise.

The whistling sound of a bomb falling, a flash of brilliant light and an explosion were followed by more. The child started in her arms and screamed. These bombs were falling too close! Her blood turned to ice and her eyes closed as she hugged her daughter to her breast.
“Mama! I wish papa was here now! He would protect us…”
“I'm here for you, my darling, I will not let them harm you, hush!” Her voice rang out above the sounds of explosions. The ground was shaking around them and the old timbers above them creaked. Showers of dust fell around them and the flash of the explosions illuminated them making them seem like a golden rain.

The house collapsed as if it were made of cards. Debris was hurled around the neighbourhood and the charred timbers pointed up accusingly as the bomber planes disappeared over the horizon. The village had been razed to the ground. Smoke billowed in dark clouds over slowly burning piles rubble and whimpers of the survivors under fallen walls were the only sound that could be heard now. Deep in a cellar a woman is quietly singing a lullaby clutching the child in her arms. She rocks her precious daughter in her arms amidst the ruins, and her tears stream down her face. The blackened skin of her cheeks is bleached as each hot droplet trickles down. Her voice breaks as she looks at the face of the lifeless child on her lap.


“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” - Benjamin Franklin
Happy Independence Day to all my readers in the USA!

The Declaration of Independence is a document that was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776, and it announced the separation of 13 North American British colonies from Great Britain. The Congress on July 2nd had “unanimously” resolved (by the votes of 12 colonies with New York abstaining), that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States.” Accordingly, the day on which final separation was officially voted was July 2nd, although July 4th, the day on which the Declaration of Independence was adopted, has always been celebrated in the United States as the great national holiday, the Fourth of July, or Independence Day.

July 4th is a day of patriotic celebration and family events throughout the USA. In the words of Founding Father John Adams, the holiday is “the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance… It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

As it is a Summer holiday, the celebration of Independence Day mainly take place outdoors. Families often celebrate Independence Day by hosting or attending a picnic or barbeque and take advantage of the day off (and, in some years, long weekend) to gather with relatives. Red, white and blue decorations reflecting the colours of the American flag are put up in public spaces and outside homes. Parades are often in the morning, while fireworks displays occur in the evening at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.

The night before the Fourth of July was once the focal point of celebrations, marked by raucous gatherings often incorporating bonfires as their centerpiece. In New England, towns competed to build towering pyramids, assembled from hogsheads and barrels and casks. They were lit at nightfall, to usher in the celebration. The highest were in Salem, Massachusetts, composed of as many as forty tiers of barrels; these are the tallest bonfires ever recorded. The custom flourished in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and is still practiced in some New England towns.

Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem – “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful”, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, “This Land Is Your Land”, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and, regionally, “Yankee Doodle” in northeastern states and “Dixie” in southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812. A salute of one gun for each state in the United States, called a “salute to the union,” is fired on Independence Day at noon by any capable military base.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


“Lay her i' the earth: And from her fair and unpolluted flesh May violets spring!” – William Shakespeare, “Hamlet” Act 5, Scene 1

Magpie Tales has chosen a beautiful Odilon Redon painting for this week’s prompt. Bertrand-Jean Redon, better known as Odilon Redon (April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916) was a French symbolist painter, printmaker, draughtsman and pastellist. His beautiful pastel toned, flower-filled and richly contemplative art works well suit the subject of the painting above – “Ophelia”.

I could not resist the Shakespearean allusions, so here is my offering with apologies to the bard…

Ophelia’s Song

There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance,
And parsley (such a melancholy herb),
Sweet marjoram and pungent thyme
All for a posy of herbs watered with tears.

He says he loves, but is it me,
Or are his sighs and sunken cheeks
A sign of sweet affection
For another?

The cornflower’s blue – just like his eyes
And red his mouth, just like a fragrant rose –
There’s rue for me, and tears aplenty,
No balm nor basil will my painful heart assuage.

He looks at me and sees me not,
His heart too distant and his hand ice cold;
The fires within him burn, but
For another!

Oh laurel green, fit for a wreath,
And cypress dark and melancholy
Fit for my sorrow garden
Where opium poppies grow.

I wither as his thoughts are far removed from me,
His soul will seek me not,
While he would lay down his life
For another…


And as the silvern moon sinks down the western sky,
Ophelia gently, sweetly, drowns…

Monday, 2 July 2012


“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)  it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.” - E. E. Cummings

We watched a Hollywood pulp film at the weekend, which I got when it was on special at the DVD store. I didn’t know any of the actors in it but the jacket had a good synopsis on it and it looked attractive, besides which it reminded me somewhat of the very successful “Jaws” of 1975, remember that classic? In any case it looked like typical Saturday afternoon matinée material, perfect for a rainy, winter’s afternoon with lots of popcorn on hand and the heater going at full blast – which was exactly what the conditions were when we watched it.
The film was Renny Harlin’s 1999 “Deep Blue Sea”, starring Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows and Samuel L. Jackson. The plot was implausible, but what the heck, it was all set up for thrills and spills and the classic “evil shark vs helpless humans” idea. A comparison with “Jaws” is inevitable and the more recent film comes up lacking in terms plot, characterisation, acting and general look and feel of the film. However, we watched “Deep Blue Sea” with enough interest despite its obvious deficiencies. The main thing to remember if you are watching the film is “don’t take it seriously!”. This movie is not high art, it’s not about character development, it’s not even about a convoluted plot with lots of surprises. It’s just about CGI-generated sharks (very good!) and lots of action and blood and gore and guts. Oh, yes, it’s a typical “dick-flick”.

The plot centres on a group of scientists trying to genetically engineer the brains of sharks to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Saffron Burrows is the lead scientist, who is very passionate about her research – so passionate in fact, that she becomes unethical in the way she conducts it and she breaks important rules about genetic engineering. The result is the creation of a trio of very big, very hungry and very smart sharks who hunt in packs and wipe out most of the humans in the ocean floating/underwater laboratory. The film has plenty of stomach-churning gore, but it is also tongue-in-cheek to a certain extent, helping its watchability.

Although this film is not cerebral and one doesn’t watch it for stellar performances by actors’ actors, most of the cast does quite well, within the script’s shortcomings. Rapper LL Cool J plays a preacher/cook and manages to defuse a lot of situations with humour and becomes a very human, likeable character. His encounter with a shark in a kitchen, I thought, was one of the highlights of the film. Thomas Jane has the “hero” part, and he dispenses with the role well, but it is a cliché role and a cliché performance. The sharks are the real stars, and they do well what they are meant to do – eat everyone and everything in their path.

Ultimately, I guess one can say the film is enjoyable as pulp entertainment, provided one doesn’t have high expectations of it. It has lots of blood and gore, so be prepared for that if you watch it. The CGI sharks are good and the action sequences and explosions are fine. It rolls along in a good pace and maintains viewer interest. Shakespeare, it’s not.