Monday, 19 March 2018


“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! - When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” – Jane Austen

I have been working rather hard lately proof-reading a major technical work of which I am co-editor-in-chief. This takes up a great deal of time and it is very demanding as it is an activity that requires a great deal of concentration and attention to detail. One must remain focussed and not be distracted. When fatigue sets in, I like to go out for a walk, watch a movie or read something that is completely different and not related to work.

So here are a few of the things I have been reading lately:
The Book Of Eels by Tom Fort (Published August 18th 2003 by HarperCollins Publishers).
The humble eel (about which most of us feel squeamish about nowadays) once was the food of kings and the nobility, a delectable delicacy and a mysterious creature about which not much was known, given its strange life cycle and curious migratory habits. Fort examines everything to do with eels in great detail, yet writes in a lucid, at times chatty style, with engrossing detail and subtle humour. There is also sympathy for a creature that is losing its habitat and its once high place in the gastronomic ladder, one that seems to be disappearing not only from our plates, but also from its former environmental niche. 

Romantic Composers” by Wendy Thompson (Published 2003, Anness Publishing).
This is a large format book designed for the layperson who is interested in music of the Romantic Era and wishes to find out a little more about the life, times, works and historical interactions of these composers. A wealth of colour photographs show where these composers lived and worked as well as scenes from their ballets or operas, or historical events that influenced them. An easy to read book, but also one that can quite easily browse in now and then. Good one for introducing Romantic Era music to younger listeners. 

Tea: A Miscellany Steeped with Trivia, History andRecipes” by Emily Kearns (Published 1st May 2015, Summersdale Publishers Ltd).
If you drink tea and enjoy it, a perfect little book to delve into, as the title says, it’s a miscellany of all things tea-related. Another book that is good to read when one is chilling out and doesn’t want to think about things work-related!

Sunday, 18 March 2018


“Our influences are who we are. It’s rare that anything is an absolutely pure vision.” - Eddie Vedder 

Maurice Sterne (August 18, 1878 in Latvia – July 23, 1957 in USA), was an American sculptor and painter remembered today for his association with philanthropist Mabel Dodge Luhan, to whom he was married from 1916 to 1923. He began his career as a draughtsman and painter, and critics noted the similarity of his work, in its volume and weight, to sculpture.

In the late 1890s, Sterne studied under Alfred Maurer and Thomas Eakins at the National Academy of Design, and then travelled widely in Europe and the Far East. A trip to Greece in 1908 introduced him to archaic Greek statues, inspiring him to experiment with the form himself in stone. Between 1911-1914 he and his friend Karli Sohn-Rethel, a German painter, travelled together to India, the Far East and settled in Bali to paint and sketch, which further informed his later work.

Sterne came to New Mexico in 1916 at the suggestion of his friend, Paul Burlin, and settled in Taos until 1918. His reputation was established by a show at the Scott and Fowles Gallery in 1926 and furthered by a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1933. In the mid-1930s, Sterne lived in San Francisco and taught at the California School of Fine Arts. He returned to the East Coast in 1945 and established a studio in Mount Kisco, New York. He was named to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1938.

From 1945 to 1950, he served on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. In addition to his murals in the library of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Sterne’s works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Phillips Collection. Sterne was one of a dozen sculptors invited to compete in the Pioneer Woman statue competition in 1927, which he failed to win. Sterne died in 1957.

Sterne’s painting is quite varied and shows his many influences, with a lot of his canvases being derivative of his artistic interests at the time he painted them. Above is “New Mexico Still Life” c.1919. Cezanne still life painting has influenced this work, but there are also some some elements of the more expressionistic, freer work of pre-cubist Picasso. Quite different to Sterne’s painting of “Entrance of the Ballet” that reminds one of Degas, or some of his portraits reminiscent of very early Modigliani, or some of the early Soviet portraiture. His sculpture is sometimes reminiscent of Art Nouveau, at other times pseudoheroic fascist propaganda.

An interesting artist whose work needs a more in-depth exploration.

Saturday, 17 March 2018


“There is nothing greater than the joy of composing something oneself and then listening to it.” - Clara Schumann 

Nicola (Antonio) Porpora (or Niccolò Porpora - 17 August 1686 – 3 March 1768) was an Italian composer and teacher of singing of the Baroque era, whose most famous singing student was the castrato Farinelli. Other students included composers Matteo Capranica and Joseph Haydn.

Porpora was born in Naples. He graduated from the music conservatory Poveri di Gesù Cristo of his native city, where the civic opera scene was dominated by Alessandro Scarlatti. Porpora’s first opera, “Agrippina”, was successfully performed at the Neapolitan court in 1708. His second, “Berenice”, was performed at Rome. In a long career, he followed these up by many further operas, supported as maestro di cappella in the households of aristocratic patrons, such as the commander of military forces at Naples, prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, or of the Portuguese ambassador at Rome, for composing operas alone did not yet make a viable career. However, his enduring fame rests chiefly upon his unequalled power of teaching singing.

At the Neapolitan Conservatorio di Sant’Onofrio and with the Poveri di Gesù Cristo Porpora trained Farinelli, Caffarelli, Salimbeni, and other celebrated vocalists, during the period 1715 to 1721. In 1720 and 1721 he wrote two serenades to libretti by a gifted young poet, Metastasio, the beginning of a long, though interrupted, collaboration. In 1722 his operatic successes encouraged him to lay down his conservatory commitments. After a rebuff from the court of Charles VI at Vienna in 1725, Porpora settled mostly in Venice, composing and teaching regularly in the schools of La Pietà and the Incurabili.

In 1729 the anti-Handel clique invited him to London to set up an opera company as a rival to Handel’s, without success, and in the 1733–1734 season, even the presence of his pupil, the great Farinelli, failed to save the dramatic company in Lincoln’s Inn Fields (the ‘Opera of the Nobility’) from bankruptcy. An interval as Kapellmeister at the Dresden court of the Elector of Saxony and Polish King Augustus from 1748 ended in strained relations with his rival in Venice and Rome, the hugely successful opera composer Johann Adolph Hasse and his wife, the prima donna Faustina, and resulted in Porpora’s departure in 1752.

From Dresden he went to Vienna, where among other pupils he trained the young Marianne von Martinez, a future composer. As his accompanist and valet he hired the youthful Joseph Haydn, who was making his way in Vienna as a struggling freelancer. Haydn later remembered Porpora thus: “There was no lack of Asino, Coglione, Birbante [ass, cullion, rascal], and pokes in the ribs, but I put up with it all, for I profited greatly from Porpora in singing, in composition, and in the Italian language.” He also said that he had learned from the maestro “the true fundamentals of composition”.

In 1753 Porpora spent three summer months, with Haydn in tow, at the spa town Mannersdorf am Leithagebirge. His function there was to continue the singing lessons of the mistress of the ambassador of Venice to the Austrian Empire, Pietro Correr. Porpora returned in 1759 to Naples. From this time Porpora’s career was a series of misfortunes: his florid style was becoming old-fashioned, his last opera, “Camilla”, failed, his pension from Dresden stopped, and he became so poor that the expenses of his funeral were paid by a subscription concert. Yet at the moment of his death, Farinelli and Caffarelli were living in splendid retirement on fortunes largely based on the excellence of the old maestro’s teaching.

A good linguist, who was admired for the idiomatic fluency of his recitatives, and a man of considerable literary culture, Porpora was also celebrated for his conversational wit. He was well-read in Latin and Italian literature, wrote poetry and spoke French, German and English. Besides some four dozen operas, there are oratorios, solo cantatas with keyboard accompaniment, motets and vocal serenades. Among his larger works, his 1720 opera “Orlando”, one mass, his Venetian Vespers, and the opera “Arianna in Nasso” (1733) have been recorded.

Here are his “Twelve Sonatas for Violin and Basso” performed by Giovanni Guglielmo (Violin); Pietro Bosnan (Cello); and Andrea Coen (Harpsichord).

Tuesday, 13 March 2018


“Those who own much have much to fear.” - Rabindranath Tagore 
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.  
New Delhi is the capital of India and one of Delhi city’s 11 districts. Although colloquially Delhi and New Delhi are used interchangeably to refer to the National Capital Territory of Delhi, these are two distinct entities, with New Delhi forming a small part of Delhi. The National Capital Region is a much larger entity comprising the entire National Capital Territory of Delhi along with adjoining districts.

It is surrounded by Haryana on three sides and Uttar Pradesh on the east. The foundation stone of the city was laid by George V, Emperor of India during the Delhi Durbar of 1911. It was designed by British architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker. The new capital was inaugurated on 13 February 1931, by Viceroy and Governor-General of India Lord Irwin. New Delhi has been selected as one of the hundred Indian cities to be developed as a smart city under Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s flagship Smart Cities Mission.

New Delhi is a cosmopolitan city due to the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural presence of the vast Indian bureaucracy and political system. The city’s capital status has amplified the importance of national events and holidays. National events such as Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti (Gandhi’s birthday) are celebrated with great enthusiasm in New Delhi and the rest of India. On India’s Independence Day (15 August) the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation from the Red Fort. Most Delhiites celebrate the day by flying kites, which are considered a symbol of freedom.

The Republic Day Parade is a large cultural and military parade showcasing India’s cultural diversity and military might. Religious festivals include Diwali (the festival of light), Maha Shivaratri, Teej, Durga Puja, Mahavir Jayanti, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Holi, Lohri, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, Raksha Bandhan, Christmas and Chhath Puja. The Qutub Festival is a cultural event during which performances of musicians and dancers from all over India are showcased at night, with the Qutub Minar as the chosen backdrop of the event.

Other events such as Kite Flying Festival, International Mango Festival and Vasant Panchami (the Spring Festival) are held every year in Delhi. There are also a number of Iglesia ni Cristo members, most of them Filipinos and some Indians who are married to the members. In 2007, the Japanese Buddhist organisation Nipponzan Myohoji decided to build a Peace Pagoda in the city containing Buddha relics. It was inaugurated by the current Dalai Lama.

The Akshardham or Swaminarayan Akshardham complex (seen above) is a Hindu mandir, and a spiritual-cultural campus in New Delhi, India. Also referred to as Akshardham Temple or Swaminarayan Akshardham, the complex displays millennia of traditional Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality, and architecture. The temple, which attracts approximately 70 percent of all tourists who visit Delhi, was officially opened on 6 November 2005 by Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. It sits near the banks of the Yamuna River adjacent to the 2010 Commonwealth Games village in eastern New Delhi. The temple, at the centre of the complex, was built according to the Vastu shastra and Pancharatra shastra.

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

Friday, 9 March 2018


“The kitchen is where we deal with the elements of the universe. It is where we come to understand our past and ourselves.” - Laura Esquivel 

We had some avocadoes ripening in the kitchen and our next door neighbour asked if we could use some green tomatoes that she had picked (she/we usually make chutney with them). As we had the avocadoes, we decided to make guacamole with a couple of them. The recipe was given to us by a Mexican acquaintance. 

Guacamole with Green Tomatoes

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 ripe avocados; peeled, stones removed
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red birdseye chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional)
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
small handful chopped fresh coriander
2 green tomatoes, seeds removed, diced and drained
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional) 

Heat the olive in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the cumin and ground coriander for 1 minute or until aromatic. Transfer to a bowl. Add the avocado and mash until smooth. Add the onion, garlic, chilli (if using), fresh coriander, salt and lime juice. Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine, sprinkle with cayenne (if using). Season with salt and serve with corn chips.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018


“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” - George Lorimer 

The topic for this week’s Midweek Motif at Poets United is “money”. Here is my contribution: 

The Will 

And finally the will was read,
At the appointed time,
To all interested parties
As stipulated to the solicitor
By the testator. 

“I give all my tangible personal property
And all policies and proceeds of insurance covering such property,
To my son…”

How odd, that he only called me “son” after his death,
While when he lived he simply ignored my existence.

So I have my “father’s” money,
Making his other relatives sour,
Their eyes dripping poison, choosing for me a slow painful death
(Had their eyes been daggers
I would have succumbed to multiple wounds and an easy death).

The stranger who on his deathbed acknowledged me
As his son and legal heir, made me a millionaire.
And yet how poor I feel, when no tears came to my eyes
At his death;
When no sense of loss accompanied his passing…

He left me money, but no memories;
I have no photos in an album;
He taught me nothing, we never spoke;
I know nothing of him, I have no knowledge of his heart;
He spent no time with, he took no interest.

The money willed to me, is but an afterthought,
A neat sum to buy some ease for his troubled conscience;
Atonement for sins of omission,
A purchase of a ticket to heaven,
Where all good fathers go.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018


“We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.” - Petra Němcová  

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.  
New Orleans (French: La Nouvelle-Orléans) is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The population of the city was 343,829 as of the 2010 U.S. Census. The New Orleans metropolitan area (New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner Metropolitan Statistical Area) had a population of 1,167,764 in 2010 and was the 46th largest in the United States. The New Orleans–Metairie–Bogalusa Combined Statistical Area, a larger trading area, had a 2010 population of 1,452,502. Before Hurricane Katrina, Orleans Parish was the most populous parish in Louisiana. As of 2015, it ranked third, trailing neighbouring Jefferson Parish and East Baton Rouge Parish.

The city of New Orleans is geographically coextensive with Orleans Parish. The city is known for its distinct French and Spanish Creole architecture, as well as its cross-cultural and multilingual heritage. New Orleans is famous for its cuisine, music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz) and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably Mardi Gras. The city is often referred to as the “most unique” in the United States.

New Orleans is located in southeastern Louisiana, and occupies both sides of the Mississippi River. The heart of the city and its French Quarter is on the river’s north side. The city and Orleans Parish (French: paroisse d’Orléans) are coterminous. The city and parish are bounded by the parishes of St. Tammany to the north, St. Bernard to the east, Plaquemines to the south, and Jefferson to the south and west. Lake Pontchartrain, part of which lies within the city limits, lies to the north and Lake Borgne lies to the east.

New Orleans was catastrophically affected during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when the Federal levee system failed. By the time the hurricane approached the city at the end of August 2005, most residents had evacuated. As the hurricane passed through the Gulf Coast region, the city’s federal flood protection system failed, resulting in the worst civil engineering disaster in American history. Floodwalls and levees constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed below design specifications and 80% of the city flooded.

Tens of thousands of residents who had remained were rescued or otherwise made their way to shelters of last resort at the Louisiana Superdome or the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. More than 1,500 people were recorded as having died in Louisiana, most in New Orleans, while others remain unaccounted for. Before Hurricane Katrina, the city called for the first mandatory evacuation in its history, to be followed by another mandatory evacuation three years later with Hurricane Gustav. 

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

Saturday, 3 March 2018


“A human being is only breath and shadow.” - Sophocles 

For Music Saturday a wonderful piece, surely one of the masterworks of the repertoire of sacred music. It is Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater”.  Stabat Mater refers to a 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary, variously attributed to the Franciscan Jacopone da Todi and to Innocent III. The title of the sorrowful hymn is an incipit of the first line, Stabat mater dolorosa (“The sorrowful mother stood”).

The Dolorosa hymn, one of the most powerful and immediate of extant medieval poems, meditates on the suffering of Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother, during his crucifixion. It is sung at the liturgy on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Dolorosa has been set to music by many composers, with the most famous settings being those by Palestrina, Pergolesi, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Haydn, Rossini and Dvořák.

The Dolorosa was well known by the end of the fourteenth century and Georgius Stella wrote of its use in 1388, while other historians note its use later in the same century. In Provence, about 1399, it was used during the nine days processions. As a liturgical sequence, the Dolorosa was suppressed, along with hundreds of other sequences, by the Council of Trent, but restored to the missal by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727 for the Feast of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (4 January 1710 – 16 March 1736) was an Italian composer, violinist and organist. In his short life he managed to write some amazing music and one wonders what further marvellous works his genius would have been capable of had he lived longer.

Above is the Pietà,  a painting by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden dating from about 1441 held in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.

Stabat Mater (1736) for soprano, contralto, strings and basso continuo by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736) Margaret Marshall (soprano) Lucia Valentini Terrani (contralto) Leslie Pearson (organ) London Symohony Orchestra Claudio Abbado (conductor) Recorded in 1985.

Friday, 2 March 2018


“Do you know the land where lemon trees are blooming,
Where in the dark foliage, the golden oranges glow?
A gentle wind blows from the blue sky,
The myrtle stands still and high is the laurel.
Do you know it? Go there! Go there!
May I go with you? O my beloved!” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

This is a cake we often have at home, especially if we are expecting company, or for special afternoon teas. It is quite simple to make and tastes lovely. We generally make our own almond meal, except when time does not permit, and we buy it from a very good nut shop in our neighbourhood where its freshness can assured. 

Almond and Orange Cake
2 medium thickness skin oranges (i.e. not too much pith)
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (e.g. Cointreau)
3 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup caster sugar, extra
300g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
Orange flower water
Icing sugar
Seville orange marmalade (optional) 

Preheat oven to 170° C and grease a 22cm round cake pan.
Take the whole oranges and carefully remove the zest superficially without damaging the integrity of the orange. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place whole zested oranges into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until tender. Drain. Repeat. Refresh under cold water and drain.
Coarsely chop warm oranges and remove and discard the coarse stem, membranes and pips. Place into food processor and process until smooth, adding the liqueur in the last few moments.
Using an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar until thick and creamy. Add processed orange mixture, almond meal and baking powder and gently fold until combined. Pour into pan and bake for 1 hour. Sprinkle with some orange flower water as soon as it is out of the oven and dust with icing sugar. Cool.
If desired, warm some marmalade and spoon over cake instead of the icing sugar.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018


“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” - Abraham Lincoln 

This week, Poets United has as its theme “Carpe Diem”, a phrase taken from one of Horace’s odes, which incites us to seize the moment, take every opportunity presented to us and enjoy ourselves, for time flies… 

Carpe Diem 

“Carpe diem,” you said and boasted your classical education
By completing the quote: “…quam minimum credula postero.”, 
And not missing the opportunity to drive home my lack of Latin,
You translated it for me…
“Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow.” 

And I smiled, because I loved you and whatever you said
Was music to my ears, flammable fodder for the fire in my heart.
And I failed to heed the dire warning of the quote’s meaning
And the smirk on your face as you carefully drew out the Latin long vowels
And clipped the short ones… 

You were always one for seizing days (and nights moreover),
Taking each opportunity, like plucking a ripe juicy plum;
Mindless of the consequences, unthinking of tomorrow,
Using all and everyone as accessories of your momentary enjoyment
Mindless of the long-term pain you inflicted.

And I forgave you, as I gave you my all, because I loved you,
And my pleasure was to always ensure yours,
Giving you all the plums your heart desired,
Plucking all happiness and making your days worthy of being seized,
(And all the nights, moreover…)

Then came tomorrow and you left, deserted me,
Your only goodbye the hackneyed words by Horace:
“Carpe diem…” and you didn’t complete the quote this time,
As its ending was self evident from your actions –
Nor did you bother to grace me with long and short vowels… 

And I wept, because my understanding of ancient tragedy is deep,
Even though I lack a classical education.
And I cursed Horace and Epicurus and their ilk who fill people’s minds
With hedonistic platitudes (or so do shallow people interpret them);
And I bawled with long vowel “a’s” and screamed with short “e’s”,
Piling maledictions on you, and I trust that your tomorrow
Will make you pay dearly for every day you seized from me
(And every night, moreover).

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” - Buddha 

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. 
Borobudur, or Barabudur (Indonesian: Candi Borobudur) is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia, and the world’s largest Buddhist temple. The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.

Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple design follows Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The temple demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian.

The monument is a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The pilgrim journey begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument, ascending to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades.

Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world. Evidence suggests Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th-century decline of Hindu kingdoms in Java and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians.

Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, followed by the monument’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur remains popular for pilgrimage. Once a year, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction.

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

Monday, 26 February 2018


“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” ― Mark Twain 

Books I’ve read lately and enjoyed: 

Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome by Lesley Adkins and ‎ Roy A. Adkins
This is a detailed, scholarly work on every aspect of Roman daily life, from the 8th century BC to the 5th century AD. The chapters are arranged thematically and the information is organized methodically and lucidly. While it is a valuable reference work, I found reading through it quite enjoyable. 

Music A Very Short Introduction by Nicholas Cook
This was an interesting book on music/musicology written in an engaging way, which draws the reader into thinking about the nature of music in all of its numerous manifestations. While some of Cook’s analyses of topics and interpretations of musical styles and pieces are useful, obvious or even self-evident, others no doubt will be controversial and give rise to much cogitation in the mind of the reader. 

Seven Ancient Wonders by Matthew Reilly
This is a “boy’s own adventure” style thriller with good measures of supernatural/fantasy, action and historical/mythological elements thrown in. Reilly is an Australian author who has written quite a few similar books in this genre and provides readers with thrills and escapism in what are easy to read and digest (and then excrete, I guess) novels.

This was a diverting read based on the following conceit: Around 4,500 years ago, the capstone upon the summit of the Great Pyramid of Giza absorbed the energy released by the Tartarus Rotation (a monstrous sunspot that occurs every 4,000-4,500 years), and saved the earth from major flooding and catastrophic weather. This capstone was later divided up by Alexander the Great with one piece hidden in a booby-trapped location within each of the other seven wonders of the world. If and when they are reunited and replaced on the capstone during another solar event, they can bring 1,000 years of peace or power for the nation that possesses them. The Tartarus rotation is about to recur and the search begins to reunite the fragmented capstone. Reilly’s derring-do hero Jack West Jr plays a central role in the novel.

Saturday, 24 February 2018


“Graupner is one of those unfortunate victims of fate and circumstance - a contemporary of Bach, Handel, Telemann, etc., who has remained largely - and unfairly – neglected.” - David Vernier 

Christoph Graupner (13 January 1683 in Kirchberg – 10 May 1760 in Darmstadt) was a German harpsichordist and composer of high Baroque music who was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann and George Frideric Handel.

Born in Hartmannsdorf near Kirchberg in Saxony, Graupner received his first musical instruction from his uncle, an organist named Nicolaus Kuester. Graupner went to the University of Leipzig where he studied law (as did many composers of the time) and then completed his musical studies with Johann Kuhnau, the cantor of the Thomasschule (St. Thomas School).

In 1705 Graupner left Leipzig to play the harpsichord in the orchestra of the Hamburg Opera under the direction of Reinhard Keiser, alongside George Frideric Handel, then a young violinist. In addition to playing the harpsichord, Graupner composed six operas in Hamburg, some of them in collaboration with Keiser, a popular composer of operas in Germany.In 1709 Graupner accepted a post at the court of Hesse-Darmstadt and in 1711 became the court orchestra’s Hofkapellmeister (court chapel master). Graupner spent the rest of his career at the court in Hesse-Darmstadt, where his primary responsibilities were to provide music for the court chapel. He wrote music for nearly half a century, from 1709 to 1754, when he became blind. He died six years later.

Graupner inadvertently played a key role in the history of music. Precarious finances in Darmstadt during the 1710s forced a reduction of musical life. The opera house was closed, and many court musicians' salaries were in arrears (including Graupner’s). After many attempts to have his salary paid, and having several children and a wife to support, in 1723 Graupner applied for the Cantorate in Leipzig. Telemann had been the first choice for this position, but withdrew after securing a salary increase in Hamburg. Graupner’s “audition” Magnificat, set in the style of his teacher, mentor and predecessor, Kuhnau, secured him the position.

However, Graupner’s patron (the Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt) would not release him from his contract. Graupner’s past due salary was paid in full, his salary was increased; and he would be kept on staff even if his Kapelle was dismissed. With such favorable terms, Graupner remained in Darmstadt, thus clearing the way for Bach to become the kantor in Leipzig. After hearing that Bach was the choice for Leipzig, on 4 May 1723 Graupner graciously wrote to the city council in Leipzig assuring them that Bach “is a musician just as strong on the organ as he is expert in church works and capelle pieces” and a man who “will honestly and properly perform the functions entrusted to him.”

Graupner was hardworking and prolific. There are about 2,000 surviving works in his catalogue, including 113 sinfonias, 85 ouvertures (suites), 44 concertos, 8 operas, 1,418 religious and 24 secular cantatas, 66 sonatas and 40 harpsichord partitas. Nearly all of Graupner’s manuscripts are housed in the ULB (Technical University Library) in Darmstadt, Germany.

After he died, Graupner’s works fell into obscurity for a number of reasons. His manuscripts became the object of a long legal battle between his heirs and the rulers of Hesse-Darmstadt. A final court decision denied the Graupner estate ownership of the music manuscripts. The heirs were unable to obtain permission to sell or publish his works and they remained inaccessible to the public. Dramatic changes in music styles had reduced the interest in Graupner’s music. On the positive side however, the Landgrave’s seizure of Graupner's musical estate ensured its survival in toto. Fate was not so kind to J. S. Bach's musical legacy, for example. Another factor that contributed to Graupner's posthumous obscurity was that, unlike Bach, Graupner had very few pupils other than Johann Friedrich Fasch to carry on his musical legacy.

Here are some of his Orchestral Works, played by Nova Stravaganza under the leadership of Siegbert Rampe from the harpsichord:
1) Sinfonia in G Major GWV538 (9:38)
2) Overture in E Flat Major GWV429 (21:07)
3) Concerto in E Minor GWV321 (15:38)
4) Overture in E Major GWV439 (23:11)
5) Sinfonia in G Major GWV578 (7:08)

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


“You have no choice. You must leave your ego on the doorstep before you enter love.” ― Kamand Kojouri

For this week’s Midweek Motif, Poets United is exploring the theme of “Voice”. Here is my offering: 

The Silent Telephone

Waiting for a promised call
By the silent telephone
While the sky rotates up above
And the stars laugh mockingly.

Waiting for the silent ‘phone to ring
Watching the clock mark time so slowly,
While the moon hides behind a cloud
And her face thankfully is obscured.

Waiting for your honeyed voice
Once more to drug me,
While my flesh pains me
Its unfeeling inertness a wound incurable.

Waiting for morning light
Waiting for the night to end
Your promised call a slender, sickly hope
Losing more of its tenuous life each passing second.

My life away from you, no life,
An empty waiting game, a vacuum;
Your call, your promised call,
How far away it seems
As endlessly I wait
By the silent telephone,
And as your voice’s drug is lacking
I face the terrors of withdrawal...

Tuesday, 20 February 2018


“In Spain, the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world.” - Federico Garcia Lorca 

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. 
Valladolid is a city in Spain and the de facto capital of the autonomous community of Castile and León. It has a population of 309,714 people (2013 est.), making it Spain's 13th most populous municipality and northwestern Spain’s biggest city. Its metropolitan area ranks 20th in Spain with a population of 414,244 people in 23 municipalities. The city is situated at the confluence of the Pisuerga and Esgueva rivers 15 km before they join the Duero, and located within five winegrowing regions: Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, Tierra de León, and Cigales.

Valladolid was originally settled in pre-Roman times by the Celtic Vaccaei people, and later the Romans themselves. It remained a small settlement until being re-established by King Alfonso VI of Castile as a Lordship for the Count Pedro Ansúrez in 1072. It grew to prominence in the Middle Ages as the seat of the Court of Castile and being endowed with fairs and different institutions as a collegiate church, University (1241), Royal Court and Chancery and the Royal Mint.

The Catholic Monarchs, Isabel I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, married in Valladolid in 1469 and established it as the capital of the Kingdom of Castile and later of united Spain. Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid in 1506, while authors Francisco de Quevedo and Miguel de Cervantes lived and worked in the city. The city was briefly the capital of Habsburg Spain under Phillip III between 1601 and 1606, before returning indefinitely to Madrid. The city then declined until the arrival of the railway in the 19th century, and with its industrialisation into the 20th century.

The Old Town is made up of a variety of historic houses, palaces, churches, plazas, avenues and parks, and includes the National Museum of Sculpture, the Museum of Contemporary Art Patio Herreriano or the Oriental Museum, as well as the houses of José Zorrilla and Cervantes which are open as museums. Among the events that are held each year in the city there is Holy Week, Valladolid International Film Week (Seminci), and the Theatre Festival and street arts (TAC).

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