Sunday, January 30, 2011

Somewhere Deep in the Quarter...

Somewhere deep in the Quarter
the secret of a city lives.
A spot of Spirit,
A treasure buried, emanating
an inexplicable cadence,
One spot from which all weird life stems.

Shot through with music,
shot through with brilliant blue,
An utterance from ancient languages,
A crystal stream flowing out 
in six directions.

Ever-flowing, ever-abundant
Destroying as it builds and rebuilds.

Residing in the primordial ooze
bubbling from the street,
Bubbling up through the language,
the notes, the laughter, the pain,
The tears, an ecstatic brew.
Tearing apart the rhymes, resonance, logic,
A gift of a Spirit universal.

'Somewhere Deep in the Quarter' - New Orleans Poetry
Richard Bienvenu
January 2010

Yesterday, after watching Anthony Bourdain's 'No Reservations' episode about New Orleans, filmed two years after hurricane Katrina (August 2005), I was so moved, as nothing much had changed in that time.  I then related that disaster to our very own recent misfortune here in Australia; extensive flooding to 75% of Queensland, flowing over the border into New South Wales.  

Days later parts of my state of Victoria experienced the worst floods in 100 years and border towns are still sandbagging against the peak of the flow creeping towards them. Expected bumper crops, looking good with a little rain after 13 years of drought, have been destroyed with the flood and thus, has sent many farmers under for good.

I wanted to know how New Orleans was faring 5 1/2 years after that tragedy and happened upon the site of Richard Bienvenu.  It is with his kind permission that the above poem is shared.  Human spirit is indeed universal!  Thank you, Richard.  

Art:  'French Quarter' Lidia Dynner

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Venice; pity about the weather...

Souvenir of Venice

The first night in Bologna we took a cab to our friend Alberto's delightful villa where we enjoyed a typical Italian four-course meal prepared by him.  His wife, Federica and two children were in new York, where Federica was running in the New York City Marathon, so we didn't get to meet her until the Grand Gala Dinner in Sansepolcro.

The next morning the heavens opened up.  As we'd earmarked this day for Venice, we thought, 'so it's raining' and walked across to the station with high hopes that the day would clear; no such luck!

Well, Venezia's streets were awash and the water was creeping into the shops.  Paths of planks had been constructed in some of the streets for those who didn't wish to wade.  We bought umbrellas and ponchos and strolled along, oblivious to the water; we just couldn't believe we were in Venice.

We asked a shopkeeper the directions to St. Mark's Square and were told, 'an hour's walk that way'!  If it had been a fine day we would have walked but we headed back the way we came and thought about taking a water bus but changed our minds when we saw the sea of black umbrellas waiting to board.  So we walked over the first bridge and sloshed around the little streets, eventually taking refuge in a tiny little café for lunch.

After nearly 3 hours we decided to leave and I'm now very sorry that we didn't wait in line for that Vaporetto, as I know we'll probably never pass that way again!

Many shops like this

The mask is in pride of place
in my music room
along with Beethoven and Bach
I must get a bust of Verdi...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cuttlefish Salad...

Salad of Cuttlefish, Tomato & Sweet Sour Onions

1 cup capers, rinsed and dried
500g (17 1/2 oz) Cuttlefish, cleaned
2 large ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly diced
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
4 slices toasted ciabatta

Sweet Sour Onions

150ml (5oz) Red Wine Vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt flakes
1 1/2 tsp castor sugar
2 small red onions, halved and sliced finely

Sweet Sour Onions:  Mix vinegar, salt and sugar in a small bowl, add onions and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Salad:  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in small pan over high heat.  Add capers and gently shake pan until they have opened and begun to crisp.  Remove and drain on paper towel.

Score inside of Cuttlefish hood with angled cuts, turn and repeat so that the cuts form a crosshatched pattern.  Boil water in saucepan, add Cuttlefish in batches and cook for 1-2 minutes until opaque.  Slice into 1cm pieces and place in a large bowl.

Add tomatoes, basil, capers, salt, pepper and remaining olive oil to the bowl.  Drain onions well, discarding marinade, add to salad and toss gently to combine.  Serve with ciabatta.  Serves 4

Note:  This dish can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance but is best brought back to room temperature before serving.  Alternative species: Baby Octopus (omit scoring, cut into quarters), Prawns, Squid, Calamari.

I haven't made this yet but as soon as I can get near a fish market, it's on the menu!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lost in a pile of leaves...

We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking.  We move along the surface of things but there are times when we stop.  We sit still.  We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory.  We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.

James Carroll

Art: "An Oleander" 1882 Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snakes...too close for comfort!!

Tiger Snake

Two weeks prior to Christmas, I was home alone, walked in to the kitchen to give the dog his dinner and stopped, in shock.  There, slithering away from the door, was a fat, black snake!  A friend down the road came up with his rifle and a mate, armed with a shovel but couldn't find it.

After that incident, we've been very protective of our little dog and accompany him outside.  On Christmas Eve, in the morning, Michael was outside with him and watching him as he chewed on some couch grass in the garden.  All of a sudden he twisted his head to the left, which Michael saw and told him to get inside.  He grabbed the shovel at the door and proceeded to hack away at the garden, then lifted a tiger snake out, threw it on the lawn and whacked it.  It was a very tense few moments; he said that the snake was hissing and having a go at the shovel.

Snake was just behind the lady
(I was standing at the kitchen door)

Michael raced Tajie to the vet and they held him there for four hours, testing his urine three times.  Because the garden is quite thick there, the snake probably had a problem aiming or had just knocked him on the face. So we didn't have to pay the $2000 for the anti-venom, only $130 for the tests!

Just last week, Michael was outside at the BBQ cooking our steaks, when he looked over at the garden and saw the Japanese Windflower move....there was no wind.  The next thing I know he's hacking at the garden again!  This time he pulled out a red-bellied black from exactly the same spot the tiger was in!

Red-bellied Black

We've had a lot of rain lately and we think that the snakes have been flushed out of the 16 acres of ponds next door and are seeking higher ground.  In the eleven years we've been here, we've only seen 3 snakes, until now. Added to these three lately, Michael came across a dead Brown Snake with no head down near our front fence.  He thinks he may have chopped it with the mower the day before.  

Tajie keeping an eye on a little Skink;
he didn't even bother getting up,
just watched it slither over the carpet!

Friday, January 14, 2011

My dear Lady Asquith...

D H Lawrence (1906) Age 21

Garsington Manor, Oxford
Tuesday (1915)

To Lady Cynthia Asquith.

When I drive across this country, with autumn falling and rustling to pieces, I am so sad, for my country, for this great wave of civilisation, 2,000 years, which is now collapsing, that it is hard to live.  So much beauty and pathos of old things passing away and no new things coming; this house --- it is England --- my God, it breaks my soul --- their England, these shafted windows, the elm-trees, the blue distance --- the past, the great past, crumbling down, breaking down, not under the force of the coming birds, but under the weight of many exhausted lovely yellow leaves, that drift over the lawn, and over the pond, like the soldiers, passing away, into winter and the darkness of winter --- no, I can't bear it.  For the winter stretches ahead, where all vision is lost and all memory dies out.

It has been 2,000 years, the spring and summer of our era.  What, then, will the winter be?  No, I can't bear it, I can't let it go.  Yet who can stop the autumn from falling to pieces, when November has come in?  It is almost better to be dead, than to see this awful process finally strangling us to oblivion, like the leaves off the trees.

I want to go to America, to Florida, as soon as I can: as soon as I have enough money to cross with Frieda.  My life is ended here.  I must go as a seed that falls into new ground.  But this, this England, these elm-trees, the grey wind with yellow leaves --- it is so awful, the being gone from it altogether, one must be blind henceforth.  But better leave a quick of hope in the soul, than all the beauty that fills the eyes.

It sounds very rhapsodic: it is this old house, the beautiful shafted windows, the grey gate-pillars under the elm-trees: really I can't bear it: the past, the past, the falling, perishing, crumbling past, so great, so magnificent.

Come and see us when you are in town.  I don't think we shall be here very much longer.  My life now is one repeated, tortured, Vale! Vale! Vale!

D. H. Lawrence

Garsington Manor, Oxfordshire
Photo: Martin Beek

Garsington manor is a Tudor building, best known historically for its ownership by Lady Ottoline Morrell.  Ottoline and her husband Philip Morrell bought the house in 1914 and restored the run down property, also creating a series of Italian style gardens which survive today.  Through World War One and in the 1920s many of Britain's leading artistic and intellectual figures came here.  During the war the Morrells offered sanctuary to conscientious objectors such as Clive Bell and other members of the Bloomsbury Group.  They worked on the property's farm as a way of escaping prosecution.  The Morrell's many other visitors included D. H. Lawrence, Seigfried Sassoon, Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot and Bertrand Russell, who became Ottoline's lover.  Source: 

Letter from 'D H Lawrence - Stories, Essays & Poems' Everyman's Library

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Resolution...

He who every morning plans the transaction of the day
and follows out that plan,
carries a thread that will guide him through
the maze of the most busy life.

But where no plan is laid,
where the disposal of time is surrendered
merely to the chance of incidence,
chaos will soon reign.

Victor Hugo

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bologna ...

Gateway (one of twelve) built in the Middle Ages

We left Norway, flew back to Milan and stayed the night near the airport, as in the morning we were to take the fast train to Bologna.  We arrived there early afternoon and walked across to our hotel directly opposite the station.  This location was perfect for our planned trips to Venice and Rimini in the next two days.

As we only had two afternoons to spend exploring Bologna, we missed out on so much, as I found when putting this post together.  We walked up and down Via de Indepenza for about three hours and the following is what we saw.

Ancient Roman ramparts and the modern

Parco della Montagnola entrance

Bologna is famous for its arcades (or porticos) and has 38km of them, built to shelter people from rain, snow and sun.  Our friend, Alberto, advised that when walking around Italy to look up, as we will miss a lot if we don't.

Look up!

Piazza del Nettuno
Bronze fountain by Giambologna (1565)
Palazzo Re Enzo on the right

Biblioteca Sala Borsa (Library)

I wish I'd known what this building was all about; I would have gone inside!  I magnified the photo when I arrived home (hubby was the photographer this day), read the sign over the door and went looking.  The photo below was taken by Gabriele which I found on her flickr photo page.  

The floor is a giant showcase
featuring Roman and Etruscan relics

Bologna also has the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088.
Photo: Wikipedia

Palazzo Re Enzo (1245)

Look up!
Tower del'Arengo (1259)
A belltower used to call
the people in emergencies
Possibly 180 towers were built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Bronze statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi
by Arnaldo Zocchi (1862-1940)

Pity we didn't take a photo of his best side!

Giuseppe Garibaldi
Italian national hero
Click to read about his life - a great read!

I do wish we'd had more time there.  The next morning we walked across the road and caught a train to Venice; I can tell you that will be a short story as it was bucketing down!