Saturday, 10 December 2016


“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!”― J.K. Rowling 

Jacques Aubert (30 September 1689 – 19 May 1753), also known as Jacques Aubert le Vieux (Jacques Aubert the Elder), was a French composer and violinist. Aubert was born in Paris and became a student of Jean Baptiste Senaillé. His first position was as violinist in the service of the Prince of Condé. Thereafter he was a member of the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy.

From 1728 to 1752, he was the first violinist at the Paris Opéra. He regularly and successfully appeared for a dozen years beginning in 1729 at the Concert Spirituel with, among other works, concertos for violin and orchestra of his own composition.

Together with Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville and Jean-Marie Leclair, Aubert brought the zest of Italian violin virtuosity into the French musical fare of their time. He died in Belleville. As well as instrumental music, Aubert composed operas and ballets.

His son Louis Aubert (painter) (1720-c.1800) was also a violinist and composer. Another son, Jean-Louis Aubert (1731–1814) was a dramatist, poet and journalist, also known as the Abbé Aubert.

Here are some Concertos & Concerts de Simphonies by Aubert, performed by Le Carillon and Collegium Musicum 90.

Thursday, 8 December 2016


“All those spices and herbs in your spice rack can do more than provide calorie-free, natural flavorings to enhance and make food delicious. They're also an incredible source of antioxidants and help rev up your metabolism and improve your health at the same time.” - Suzanne Somers 

Cardamom (sometimes Cardamon or Cardamum), is a spice made from the seeds of several plants in the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the family Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to India (the largest producer until the late 20th century), Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia and Nepal. They are recognised by their small seed pods: triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds; Elettaria pods are light green and smaller, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown. The German coffee planter Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced Indian cardamom to cultivation in Guatemala before World War I; by 2000 that country had become the biggest producer and exporter of cardamom in the world, followed by India. Some other countries, such as Sri Lanka, have also begun to cultivate it. Cardamom is the world's third-most expensive spice, surpassed in price per weight only by vanilla and saffron.

The word "cardamom" is derived from the Latin cardamomum, which is the Latinisation of the Greek καρδάμωμον (kardamomon), a compound of κάρδαμον (kardamon), “cress” + ἄμωμον (amomon), which was probably the name for a kind of Indian spice plant. The earliest attested form of the word κάρδαμον signifying cress is the Mycenaean Greek ka-da-mi-ja, written in Linear B syllabic script, in the list of flavourings on the “Spice” tablets found among palace archives in the House of the Sphinxes in Mycenae (≈1250 BC).

There are two main types of cardamom:
True or green cardamom (or, when bleached, white cardamom) comes from the species Elettaria cardamomum and is distributed from India to Malaysia.
Black cardamom, also known as brown, greater, large, longer, or Nepal cardamom, comes from species Amomum subulatum and is native to the eastern Himalayas and mostly cultivated in Eastern Nepal, Sikkim and parts of Darjeeling district in West Bengal of India, and Southern Bhutan.
The two types of cardamom, κάρδαμομον and ἄμωμον, were distinguished in the fourth century BCE by the Greek father of botany, Theophrastus. Theophrastus and informants knew that these varieties were originally and solely from India.

Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smoky, though not bitter, aroma, with a coolness some consider similar to mint. Green cardamom is one of the more expensive spices by weight, but little is needed to impart flavor. It is best stored in the pod as exposed or ground seeds quickly lose their flavor. Grinding the pods and seeds together lowers both the quality and the price. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals 1 and 1⁄2 teaspoons of ground cardamom.

It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking. It is also often used in baking in the Nordic countries, in particular in Sweden and Finland, where it is used in traditional treats such as the Scandinavian Jule bread Julekake, the Swedish kardemummabullar sweet bun, and Finnish sweet bread pulla. In the Middle East, green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes, as well as traditional flavouring in coffee and tea. Cardamom is used to a wide extent in savoury dishes. In some Middle Eastern countries, coffee and cardamom are often ground in a wooden mortar, a mihbaj, and cooked together in a skillet, a mehmas, over wood or gas, to produce mixtures as much as 40% cardamom.

 In Asia both types of cardamom are widely used in both sweet and savoury dishes, particularly in the south. Both are frequent components in spice mixes, such as Indian and Nepali masalas and Thai curry pastes. Green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and in masala chai (spiced tea). Both are also often used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes. Individual seeds are sometimes chewed and used in much the same way as chewing gum. It is used by confectionery giant Wrigley; its Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint packaging indicates the product contains “cardamom to neutralize the toughest breath odors”. It is also included in gin and herbal teas.

In the language of flowers, if cardamom flowers are included in a bouquet (rare though that may be!) they mean: “You are my heart’s desire”. Offering of cardamom pods signifies: “Let us spend the night together”. The return of the pods means “No”, while non-return means “Yes”.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016


“I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty.” Amelia Earhart 

The Midweek Motif for Poets United this week is “Aviation”. The word aviation was coined by French writer and former naval officer Gabriel La Landelle in 1863, from the verb avier (synonymous with flying), itself derived from the Latin word avis (“bird”) and the suffix -ation. The word, easily transferred without modification in its written form to English, is used to describe “the flying or operating of aircraft”. December 7 is International Civil Aviation Day.  Here is my poem:

Need to Fly

The wild flapping of feathered wings,
Caged and desperate to escape;
Cries in the night, powerless
To make the moon approach closer;
No amount of war paint can make you
Fearsome enough to overcome your foe.

Memories of a distant flight,
Some place in the past;
The freedom of air rushing by you,
Caressing your every fibre;
No amount of struggle can make you
Break your chains and escape.

The faint glimmer of sunlight
And visions of broken chips of blue sky;
Remembrances of green meadows,
Flowers: Do they still exist?
No amount of wishing can make you
Fly, liberated, untethered, free.

A gilded cage is still a cage, Amelia;
Your every need taken care of
Is no guarantee of happiness;
A captive soul imprisons heart and flesh, too.
No amount of solid earth can make you
Forget the lightness of air…

Tuesday, 6 December 2016


“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us!

Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Bologna is the largest city (and the capital) of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, located in the heart of a metropolitan area (officially recognised by the Italian government as a città metropolitana) of about one million. The first settlements date back to at least 1000 BC. The city has been an urban centre, first under the Etruscans (Velzna/Felsina) and the Celts (Bona), then under the Romans (Bononia), then again in the Middle Ages, as a free municipality (for one century it was the fifth largest European city based on population).

Home to the oldest university in the world, University of Bologna, founded in 1088, Bologna hosts thousands of students who enrich the social and cultural life of the city. Famous for its towers and lengthy porticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical centre (one of the largest in Italy) thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy which began at the end of the 1970s, on the heels of serious damage done by the urban demolition at the end of the 19th century as well as that caused by wars.

An important cultural and artistic centre, its importance in terms of landmarks can be attributed to a varied mixture of monuments and architectural examples (medieval towers, antique buildings, churches, the layout of its historical centre) as well as works of art which are the result of a first class architectural and artistic history. Bologna is also an important transportation crossroad for the roads and trains of Northern Italy, where many important mechanical, electronic and nutritional industries have their headquarters. According to the most recent data gathered by the European Regional Economic Growth Index (E-REGI) of 2009, Bologna is the first Italian city and the 47th European city in terms of its economic growth rate.

Bologna is home to numerous prestigious cultural, economic and political institutions as well as one of the most impressive trade fair districts in Europe. In 2000 it was declared European capital of culture and in 2006, a UNESCO “city of music”. The city of Bologna was selected to participate in the Universal Exposition of Shanghai 2010 together with 45 other cities from around the world. Bologna is also one of the wealthiest cities in Italy, often ranking as one of the top cities in terms of quality of life in the country: in 2011 it ranked 1st out of 107 Italian cities.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme. 

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday, 5 December 2016


“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” ― Voltaire

We’ve just finished watching the 2012-2015 three-season Australian TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteriesstarring Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Ashleigh Cummings. This series is based on the novels of Kerry Isabelle Greenwood (born 17 June 1954 in Footscray, Victoria), who is an Australian author and lawyer. She has written many plays and books, most notably the string of historical detective novels centred on the character of Phryne Fisher. She writes mysteries, science-fiction, historical fiction, and children’s stories, as well as plays. She is unmarried but lives with a “registered wizard”.

Miss Phryne Fisher is a wealthy aristocrat and private detective who lives in St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1920s. With the assistance of her maid Dot, and Bert and Cec (who are wharfies, taxi drivers and red raggers), she solves all manner of crimes in swinging Melbourne of the inter-war years. Phryne is no ordinary aristocrat, as she can fly a plane, drives her own car (a Hispano-Suiza) and sometimes wears trousers. However, while displaying bohemian panache, she manages also to maintain style and class. Phryne was accidentally named after a famous Greek courtesan who lived in the 4th century BC. At her christening, her father forgot the classical name, Psyche, that her mother had intended for her.

First, let me confess I have read a few of the Phryne Fisher novels by Ms Greenwood and enjoyed them quite a lot. When I heard that this series was made based on them I was a little skeptical as to how well the 1920s era would be captured on film (video, memory chip what have you!). But we toned down our expectations and watched the first few episodes. We were pleasantly surprised! The sets, costumes, props, authentic Melbourne locations, music, cars and homes were absolutely spot on. We watched and enjoyed every episode of the first series and went on to watch all three.

Essie Davis does an amazing job of recreating Miss Fisher’s character to a tee, although admittedly she is older than the 27 years of the novels’ heroine. This is not jarring at all and Ms Davis has enough panache, aplomb and just the right tongue-in-cheek good humour to carry off the series to perfection. She is ably supported by Nathan Page, the police Inspector with whom she collaborates in order to solve the mysteries. Her “lady’s companion” Dot, played by Ashleigh Cummings is great as the progressively progressive young, good, Catholic woman whom Miss Fisher educates in the ways of the world. Hugo Johnstone-Burt plays the long suffering and young innocent constable, the inspector’s sidekick who falls for Dot and helps in his sometimes bumbling way to catch the crooks.

The remainder of the regular actors and episode guests all do a sterling job and contribute wonderfully to the mystery covered by each episode. All manner of stories and themes are covered, reminding us that people are the same and driven by the same passions, motives and emotions whatever the place and time in history. Drugs, human trafficking, greed, jealousy, love, ambition, social inequality, are all considered and Miss Fisher as pioneer feminist does a great deal to not only solve the mysteries but advance the rights of women and help the disenfranchised and browbeaten claim their place in the sun. There are also interesting references to World War I and the Anzacs (Cec and Bert being diggers themselves).

We recommend this excellent series to people who not only love whodunnits, but also aficionados of period drama, humorous series and of course good Australian productions.

Sunday, 4 December 2016


“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Giovanni Segantini (15 January 1858 – 28 September 1899) was an Italian painter known for his large pastoral landscapes of the Alps. He was one of the most famous artists in Europe in the late 19th century, and his paintings were collected by major museums. In later life he combined a Divisionist painting style with Symbolist images of nature. He was active in Switzerland for most of his life.

Giovanni Battista Emanuele Maria Segatini [sic] was born at Arco in Trentino, which was then part of the County of Tyrol in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He later changed his family name by adding an “n” after the “a”. He was the second child of Agostino Segatini (1802–1866) and Margherita de Giradi (1828–1865). His older brother, Lodovico, died in a fire the year Giovanni was born. During the first seven years of his life his father, who was a tradesman, travelled extensively while looking for work.

Except for a six-month period in 1864 when Agostino returned to Trentino, Segantini spent his early years with his mother, who experienced severe depression due to the death of Lodovico. These years were marked by poverty, hunger and limited education due to his mother’s inability to cope. In the spring of 1865 his mother died after spending the past seven years in increasingly poor health. His father left Giovanni under the care of Irene, his second child from a previous marriage, and again travelled in search of work. He died a year later without returning home and leaving his family nothing.

Without money from her father, Irene lived in extreme poverty. She was forced to spend most of her time working menial jobs while leaving Giovanni to subsist on his own. Irene hoped to improve her life by moving to Milan, and in late 1865 she submitted an application to relinquish Austrian citizenship for both her brother and her. She either misunderstood the process or simply did not have enough time to follow through, and although their Austrian citizenship was revoked she neglected to apply for Italian citizenship. As a result, both Segantini and his sister remained stateless for the rest of their lives.

After he became famous, Switzerland offered Segantini citizenship on more than one occasion, but he refused in spite of many hardships, saying Italy was his true homeland. After his death the Swiss government successfully awarded him citizenship. At age seven Segantini ran away and was later found living on the streets of Milan. The police committed him to the Marchiondi Reformatory, where he learned basic cobbling skills but little else. For much of his early life he could barely read or write; he finally learned both skills when he was in his mid-30s.

Fortunately a chaplain at the reformatory noticed that he could draw quite well, and he encouraged this talent in an attempt to lift his self-esteem. In 1873 Segantini’s half-brother Napoleon claimed him from the reformatory, and for the next year Segantini lived with Napoleon in Trentino. Napoleon ran a photography studio, and Segantini learned the basics of this relatively new art form while working there with his half-brother. He would later use photography to record scenes that he incorporated into his painting.

He attended courses at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan and achieved his first success with his painting, “Il coro di Sant’Antonio” (The Choir of Sant’Antonio). In 1881, Segantini turned his back on the city and together with Luigia Bugatti, known as Bice, settled in the Brianza, a lakeland district situated between Milan and Como. His rejection of the city and the Academy, with its doctrinaire rules and prescribed mythological and religious subject matter, is typical of the times. Like many artists, Segantini looked beyond traditional forms of painting in search of naturalistic, simple motifs from everyday life.

At that time, the Brianza was an entirely rural landscape, and Segantini immediately set to work studying the daily lives of the peasants. The close relationship between the shepherds or shepherdesses and their animals was a favourite pictorial motif, which the artist also repeatedly took up in Graubünden. In 1882, the unmarried couple’s first son, Gottardo, (who was later to became a painter himself and also wrote his father’s biography) was born, followed in later years by sons Alberto and Mario and daughter Bianca.

In August 1886, after a long exploratory trip, Giovanni Segantini settled in Savognin, an Alpine farming village in the Oberhalbstein region of Graubünden. Shortly afterwards, in the winter of 1886/87, he received a visit from his art dealer, Vittore Grubicy, who informed his protégé of the latest developments in the art world in France. However, in particular the Alpine landscape, with its crystal-clear light, led Segantini to discover a new pictorial language.

Occasionally, he gave the closely observed mountain landscapes symbolic content, creating allegorical pictorial visions of extraordinary luminosity. This shift away from realistic genre painting came at a time when it was in crisis all across Europe. After eight years in Savognin, Giovanni Segantini moved with his family to the Engadin; he was unable to pay the cantonal taxes and was being pursued by creditors.

In 1894, he took up residence in the Chalet Kuoni in Maloja. Here, the artist – whose paintings were among the most expensive of the day – continued to enjoy the extravagant lifestyle of the Milanese upper classes, which rapidly swallowed up his increasingly high fees. The family spent the winter in Soglio, in the Bregaglia valley. On 28 September 1899, at the age of 41 years, Segantini died unexpectedly on the Schafberg high above Pontresina while working on the middle section of his Alpine Triptych.

More than anything else, Segantini’s work represents the quintessential transition from traditional nineteenth-century art to the changing styles and interests of the twentieth century. He began with simple scenes of common people living off of the earth ‒ peasants, farmers, shepherds ‒ and moved toward a thematic symbolist style that continued to embody the landscapes around him while intertwining pantheistic images representing “a primeval Arcadia.”

Over the course of his life he moved from both the physical and emotional internal, such as his scene of motherhood in a stable, to the grand external views of the mountain scenery where he chose to live. Nature and the connections of people to nature are the core themes of his art. After he moved to the mountains he wrote: “I am now working passionately in order to wrest the secret of Nature’s spirit from her. Nature utters the eternal word to the artist: Love, love; and the earth sings life in spring, and the soul of things reawakens.” 

His 1896 painting “Love at the Springs of Life” (See above - Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Milan) reflects Segantini’s philosophical approach to his art. Set in the high mountain landscape near his home, it pictures an angel with large wings spread over a small waterfall flowing from some rocks. In the distance two lovers, clothed in white flowing robes, walk along a path coming toward the spring. Around them are flowers that would have been seen by viewers at the time as symbols of love and life. Art historian Robert Rosenblum described Segantini as transforming “the earthbound into the spiritual”, and the artist himself referred to his work as “naturalist Symbolism.” He said “I’ve got God inside me. I don’t need to go to church.”