Thursday, July 30, 2009





These are my son and daughter-in-law's gorgeous cats.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


'Take your passion & make it happen!'
Always be passionate about something!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Winslow Homer, 1836-1910

Winslow Homer was an American landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his marine subjects.

'Artists sketching in the White Mountains', 1868
Portland Museum of Art (Maine)

Largely self-taught, Homer began his career working as a commercial illustrator. He subsequently took up oil painting and produced major studio works characterised by the weight and density he exploited from the medium. He also worked extensively in watercolour, creating a fluid and prolific oeuvre, primarily chronicling his working vacations.

'Es frischt auf' 1876
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

'Sunlight on the Coast', 1890
Toledo Museum of Art

Source: Wikipedia

Friday, July 24, 2009


Opium Bed 1885

Ah, this is what I was looking for when I stumbled upon Pauline Viardot the other day. I have no idea if Gabriel was related to Pauline but the dates suggest that he could have been from her husband's family. On a recent Antiques Roadshow, an armoire was presented and attributed to Gabriel Viardot, so I checked him out. I love the colour of the leather in the above bed; it matches the wood perfectly.

Gabriel Viardot - Sculptor in wood (French, 1830-1906)
Viardot inherited his family workshop. He is remembered for his Asian style furniture, the carved animals, masks of lions, twisting smakes, the mother-of-pearl inlay, geometric patterns, gilded bronze and brass ornaments; a theme very popular in the 1850s but, one would say, 'over-the-top' today. Not to my taste entirely but I wouldn't sell an inherited piece!

End of Opium Bed

Viardot's creations were very successful, he exhibited widely, including the Crystal Palace, London, in 1851 and won four medals -

- in the 1867 Paris Exposition universelle
- a silver medal in the 1878 Paris Exposition universelle
- the gold medal in the Antwerpen International Exhibition in 1884
- a gold medal in the 1899 and 1900 Paris Expositions universelles

and, as well as being a participant, was also a jury member for exhibitions in Paris.
'Pagode a the' Table
Maple-sycamore tinted mahogany,
rosewood, gilt bronze and mother-of-pearl

In the second half of the 19th century, he developed a taste for fantastic visions, in which were included animals coming from old and remote worlds such as dragons, or salamanders.

Gabriel Viardot was famous for the fine quality and refinement of his pieces. He provided mainly a clientele of amateurs, aesthetes and collectors coming from the artistic circles (Monet, Debussy), the world of finance and high administration.
'Another spectacular day bed carved as a reclining dragon stunned buyers at Sotheby's in London's Olympia in February 2004 when it fetched AU$56,000. A number of Viardot pieces have turned up in Australia over the past five years, though so far most have sold for sums below $5000. (Source)

Monday, July 20, 2009


Pauline Viardot (nee Garcia - July 18, 1821-May 18, 1910) was a French mezzo-soprano and composer of Spanish descent. Described as the greatest diva of the 19th century.

Born Michelle Ferdinande Pauline Garcia to a Spanish opera family. Her father, Spanish tenor Manuel del Populo Vicente Garcia, taught her piano and gave her singing lessons. As a girl, she travelled extensively and was fluent in five languages. After the death of her father, her mother, soprano Joaquina Sitchez, took over her singing lessons and demanded that she concentrate on her voice, rather than the piano. Young Michelle aspired to be a concert pianist.

To cut a very long and colourful story short (worth reading at Wikipedia), she had a wonderful career, a very happy marriage (despite the purported relationship with the Russian novelist, Ivan Turgenev), four children and mixed with the likes of Franz Liszt, George Sand, Chopin, Gounod, Berlioz, Saint-Saens, Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, to name but a few.

She died at the age of eighty-nine and is interred in the Montmartre Cemetery, Paris.

Although forgotten for a while, she is once more lauded and deserves her imprint in the annals of opera history.

I came across this charming story when searching for something else entirely but that's another post........

Friday, July 17, 2009


I've recently discovered the ancient Chinese musical instrument, the Guqin and a lovely talented lady, Wang Fei. Wang Fei expertly plays and teaches the 'qin' and is founder and director of the North American Guqin Association (NAGA) and council member of the China Guqin Committee. She is a published writer and an international award winning digital artist.

The Guqin (pronounced ku-ch'in "ancient stringed instrument") is the modern name for a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has been played since ancient times and has traditionally been favoured by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as highlighted by the quote "a gentleman does not part with his qin or se without good reason," as well as being associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as "the father of Chinese music" or "the instrument of the sages".

There is much symbology surrounding the instrument. For example, it measures 3'6.5" (Chinese feet and inches), to symbolise the 365 days of the year; the upper surface is rounded, representing the sky, the bottom is flat and represents the earth.

Rock carving of a bodhisattva playing a guqin,
found in Shanxi, Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534)
Musee Guimet, Paris

Guqin music has been enlisted as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003.

Confucius was a master of this instrument. For thousands of years, Guqin has been regarded as a very important element for education, for the purpose of enriching the heart and elevating human spirit. However, being considered as a high-class art form it has never been very popular throughout history.

In Imperial China, a well educated scholar was expected to be skilled in four arts:

Qin (the guqin)
Qi (the game of Go)
Shu (calligraphy)
Hua (painting)

The U.S. spaceship "Voyager" was launched in 1977, a gold CD was placed on board to introduce the music of our planet to the rest of the universe. The guqin piece "Flowing Water" was included as one representative of the world's music.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


We've come such a long way!

I'm back on line! The internet dropped out last Wednesday afternoon and, after several calls to the phone company and checking that the modem was set up correctly, we then had to wait for the main provider to check our line. We still had telephone (had to disconnect four phones and plug them back in to make sure they weren't at fault) and they said that the modem line was there, waiting to connect.

Well, I know it's been only four days (Sunday morning here), but we've been 'towy'. This morning I looked at the wall socket and thought, "I just might try the righthand side". I pulled the plug out, waited a few seconds, plugged it back in and, 'voila!', we were back on!!!

Does this look familiar?

So now I have some reading to do! I've missed your stories every morning.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


~~ this is my morning, 2 below zero ~~

~~ the sun is just beginning to beam through ~~

~~ into the garden today, mowing, raking,

cutting back & a bonfire ~~

Monday, July 6, 2009


I have just watched again a "Lost Worlds" documentary on Timgad in North Africa, a Roman city founded by Trajan in 100AD. It was sometimes called the Pompeii of North Africa and also a 'mini-Rome'. The Roman Empire connected countries by 9000km of paved roads.

Timgad (called Thamugas or Thamugadi by the Romans) was destroyed by the Berbers in the 7th century and, thanks to 19th century archaeologists, the city began to be uncovered in 1881. Uncovered to reveal a fabulous Roman city, complete with a triumphal arch, public baths, fountains, a theatre, a library, a forum, more than 200 beautiful mosaics and sophisticated town planning; the engineers had thought of everything. An underground reservoir collected every drop of water for the bathhouses, pools and fountains and there was also a modern drainage and sewage system that many cities still don't have today.

They even had lavatories that could be heated in Winter - modern day luxuries in 100AD! Timgad was only one of the Roman cities in North Africa.

Friday, July 3, 2009


'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may' - John William Waterhouse, 1909

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

Robert Herrick 1648

Thursday, July 2, 2009


'Flyfishing' - Etching by Winslow Homer 1889

Dame Juliana Berners wrote in her 'Treatyse of Fysshynge Wyth an Angle' (published in 1496 by Wynkyn de Worde) - "As the olde englysshe proverbe sayth in this wyse -

'Who so woll ryse erly shall be holy helthy and zely'.

Thus haue I prouyd in myn entent that the dysporte and game of anglynge is the very meane and cause that enducith a man in to a mery spyryte." Zely = Fortunate.

Good gracious, how old is that saying?! I went looking and found that it was possibly early 15th century. Also, Anthony Fitzherbert wrote in 'The Book of Husbandry', 1523, in a paragraph entitled 'A short lesson for the husbande' - 'At grammer-scole I lerned a verse, that is this, Sanat, sanctificat, et ditat surgere mane. That is to say, Erly rysyng maketh a man hole in body, holer in soule, and rycher in goodes. And this me semeth shuld be sufficient instruction for the husbande to kepe measure.'

We all know about the early bird and worms!

Benjamin Franklin also lived by the proverb and I found this at De Proverbio -

Mere proverb allusions run the risk of not being understood, even if they refer to very common proverbs. Nevertheless, such lack of communication is rather rare among native speakers and there certainly was no confusion possible in the case of a short gossipy column by Stanton Delaplane (1907-1988) in the San Francisco Chronicle of March 12, 1980, that mentions only part of the proverb in the title and more of it plus Benjamin Franklin in the text itself.

'And Early to Rise'
"Plough deep while sluggards sleep," said Benjamin Franklin. "Early to bed and early to rise."

Ran into some of Ben's personal history the other night. He was in France doing a little work for the US government. He was quite a dude with the Paris girls. "Early to bed and as often as possible," was Ben's motto. How he managed to get up early - with the routine he had going - is beyond me. He certainly gave the mademoiselles a vote of confidence. Didn't find out how well he did for the USA.

"Early to bed and early to rise" doesn't give you much leisure time. But some smart fellow has discovered that the "leisure class" no longer exists. The more money you have, the harder you have to work.

I never figured to get out of work and into the leisure class. Now it seems I did the right thing. If I had made it, there's no leisure left. Unquote