Saturday, 15 October 2016


“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” - Abraham Maslow

Eustache du Caurroy (baptised February 4, 1549 – August 7, 1609) was a French composer of the late Renaissance. He was a prominent composer of both secular and sacred music at the end of the Renaissance, including musique mesurée, and he was also influential on the foundation of the French school of organ music as exemplified in the work of Jean Titelouze.

According to Jean-Benjamin de La Borde, writing in 1780, Du Caurroy was born in Gerberoy and was baptised in Beauvais. He probably entered royal service around 1569, and in 1575 is first mentioned in documents from the royal court, when he won a song competition. He was to win two more, in 1576 and 1583, for a motet and a chanson respectively. He became sous-maître de la chapelle royale, a post that he held until 1595, at which time he was appointed to be official composer of the royal chamber; in 1599 he also acquired the post of composer at the royal chapel.

Du Caurroy accumulated wealth and honours in the first decade of the 17th century, including benefices and a large estate in Picardy. In his late years he also held the post of canon at several churches, including Sainte-Croix in Orléans, Sainte-Chapelle in Dijon, as well as others in Passy and Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg.

Du Caurroy was a late practitioner of the style of musique mesurée, the musical method of setting French verse (vers mesurés) in long and short syllables, to long and short note values, in a homophonic texture, as pioneered by Claude Le Jeune under the influence of Jean-Antoine de Baïf and his Académie de musique et de poésie. Many of Du Caurroy’s chansons written in this style were not published until 1609, long after the disbanding of the Académie, and they contrast significantly with his otherwise more conservative musical output. According to Du Caurroy, he was initially hostile to writing in the style, but was so moved by a performance of a composition of Le Jeune’s, a pseaume mesuré sung by a hundred voices, that he wanted to attempt it himself.

Du Caurroy was primarily interested in counterpoint, and was widely read in the theoretical work of the time, including that of Gioseffe Zarlino, who provided the best available summation of the contrapuntal practice in the 16th century. His contrapuntal interest is best shown in his sacred music, of which the largest collection is the two volumes of motets, 53 in all, entitled Preces ecclesiasticae, published in Paris in 1609. They are from 3 to 7 voices. His Missa pro defunctis, first performed at the funeral of Henry IV of France, was the requiem mass which was played at St. Denis for the funerals of French kings for the next several centuries. It is a long composition containing the Libera me responsory, the chant for which is similar to the famous Dies Irae. Du Caurroy also used the musique mesurée technique in his sacred compositions, including seven psalm settings, published in his Meslanges (Paris, posthumously, 1610): One is in Latin, one of the few examples of a musique mesurée setting in a language other than French.

Marin Mersenne’s Harmonie universelle contains a setting by Du Caurroy of Pie Jesu, which is a canon for six voices. In this same book, Mersenne held that Du Caurroy was the finest composer of musique mesurée, outranking even the renowned Claude Le Jeune. Du Caurroy also wrote instrumental music, including contrapuntal fantasies for three to six instruments. The collection of 42 such pieces, published posthumously in 1610, is considered to be a strong influence on the next generation of French keyboard players, especially Jean Titelouze, the founder of the French organ school.

Here is Du Caurroy’s “Vingtcinquiesme Fantasie. A Quatre (sur le Seigneur dès qu’on nous offense)” interpreted by Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX.


Friday, 14 October 2016


“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” - J. R. R. Tolkien

This is a recipe I found in an old family notebook, with the recipe written down by my grandmother. There is a note beside it saying: “Natasha’s recipe”. Pirozhki (Russian: пирожки, plural form of pirozhok, literally a “small pie”), also transliterated as piroshki (singular piroshok) or pyrizhky (Ukrainian: пиріжки), is a generic word for individual-sized baked or fried buns stuffed with a variety of fillings. The stress in pirozhki is properly placed on the last syllable. Pirozhok (пирожок, singular) is the diminutive form of the Russian pirog (пирог), which refers to a full-sized pie.

Ingredients – Dough
7 g (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup of warm water
1 cup warm milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg
≈500-600 g plain flour
Vegetable oil to deep fry
Ingredients – filling
Canned cocktail sausages, and/or
Freshly mashed potato with chopped dill, and/or
Chicken liver pate, and/or
Sauteéd mushrooms

Dissolve the yeast, sugar and a pinch of salt in the warm water, stir well and add a handful of flour to make a gruel. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise.
Once risen, add the warm milk, the remaining salt, the butter, the egg and mix well.
Add the flour little by little, to form a soft, slightly sticky dough (you may add more or less flour to achieve this). Knead well. Cover and leave in a warm place to double in bulk.
Once risen, punch down and knead. You may use a little oil on your hands so that the dough doesn’t stick. Take a little dough and make a ball about 4 cm in diameter. Roll in a little flour and set on a tray. Make more of these balls until the dough is used up. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes.
Once risen take each ball and flatten it out with your hand to make a disc about 7 cm in diameter. Put the filling of your choice in the middle, wrap the dough around it and shape with your hands to make a small cylindrical package.
The fillings can be varied and may be vegetarian or with meat. Traditionally we have made them with tiny cocktail frankfurters but I have also liked them with a mashed  potato, herb and cheese filling. Friends of ours also make them with a sweet, berry fruit filling and dust them with icing sugar.
Deep fry the piroshky until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

Thursday, 13 October 2016


“Gleaming skin; a plump elongated shape: The eggplant is a vegetable you’d want to caress with your eyes and fingers, even if you didn’t know its luscious flavour.” - Roger Vergé

Eggplant (Solanum melongena), or aubergine, is a species of nightshade grown for its edible fruit. Eggplant is the common name in North America and Australia, but British English uses aubergine. It is known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa as brinjal. Other common names are melongene, garden egg, or guinea squash. The fruit is widely used in cooking. As a member of the genus Solanum, it is related to the tomato and the potato. It was originally domesticated from the wild nightshade species, the thorn or bitter apple, S. incanum, probably with two independent domestications, one in South Asia and one in East Asia.

The eggplant is a delicate, sub-tropical to tropical perennial often cultivated as a tender or half-hardy annual in temperate climates. The stem is often spiny. The flower is white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. The egg-shaped glossy purple fruit has white flesh with a meaty texture. The cut surface of the flesh rapidly turns brown when the fruit is cut open. It grows 40 to 150 cm tall, with large, coarsely lobed leaves that are 10 to 20 cm long and 5 to 10 cm broad. Semi-wild types can grow much larger, to 225 cm with large leaves over 30 cm long and 15 cm broad. On wild plants, the fruit is less than 3 cm in diameter, but much larger in cultivated forms: 30 cm or more in length. Botanically classified as a berry, the fruit contains numerous small, soft seeds that, though edible, taste bitter because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids like the related tobacco.

The plant species originated in cultivation. It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory. The first known written record of the plant is found in Qimin Yaoshu , an ancient Chinese agricultural treatise completed in 544 AD. The numerous Arabic and North African names for it, along with the lack of the ancient Greek and Roman names, indicate it was introduced throughout the Mediterranean area by the Arabs in the early Middle Ages. A book on agriculture by Ibn Al-Awwam in 12th century Arabic Spain described how to grow aubergines. There are records from later medieval Catalan and Spanish. The aubergine is unrecorded in England until the 16th century. An English botany book in 1597 stated: “This plant groweth in Egypt almost everywhere... bringing forth fruit of the bigness of a great cucumber.... We have had the same in our London gardens, where it hath borne flowers, but the winter approaching before the time of ripening, it perished: nothwithstanding it came to bear fruit of the bigness of a goose egg one extraordinary temperate year... but never to the full ripeness.”

Because of the plant’s relationship with other nightshades, the fruit was at one time believed to be extremely poisonous. The flowers and leaves can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities due to the presence of solanine. The eggplant has a special place in folklore. In 13th century Italian traditional folklore, the eggplant was said to cause insanity. In 19th century Egypt, it was said that insanity was “more common and more violent” when the eggplant is in season in the summer. The Italian name is “melanzana” related to “mela insana” (crazy apple).

Different varieties of the plant produce fruit of different size, shape, and colour, though typically purple. The most widely cultivated varieties/cultivars in Europe and North America today are elongated ovoid, 12–25 cm long and 6–9 cm broad with a dark purple skin. A much wider range of shapes, sizes and colours is grown in India and elsewhere in Asia. Larger varieties weighing up to a kilogram grow in the region between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, while smaller varieties are found elsewhere. Colours vary from white to yellow or green, as well as reddish-purple and dark purple. Some cultivars have a colour gradient—white at the stem; to bright pink, deep purple or even black. Green or purple cultivars with white striping also exist. Chinese varieties are commonly shaped like a narrower, slightly pendulous cucumber, and are sometimes mistakenly called Japanese eggplants in North America. But there are also Asian varieties of Japanese breeding.

The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, or even an astringent quality, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavour. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, making for very rich dishes, but salting reduces the amount of oil absorbed. Many recipes advise salting, rinsing and draining the sliced fruit (a process known as “degorging”) to soften it and to reduce the amount of fat absorbed during cooking, but mainly to remove the bitterness of the earlier cultivars. Some modern varieties (including large purple varieties commonly imported into western Europe) do not need this treatment. Eggplant is used in the cuisines of many countries. Eggplant, due to its texture and bulk, is sometimes used as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian cuisine. The fruit flesh is smooth, as in the related tomato. The numerous seeds are soft and edible along with the rest of the fruit. The thin skin is also edible. It is said that eggplant can be cooked in 999 different ways!

In the language of flowers, when a bouquet contains a sprig of flowering eggplant, beware! The giver is saying “I want to marry you for your money!”.

Some eggplant recipes can be found here:

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


“There are people who have money and there are people who are rich.” Coco Chanel

The subject of Wealth is today’s topic at Poets United. The challenge is to write a poem about wealth, whatever wealth means to us. Here is mine:

As Time Passes

As time passes, I remember how:
We used to share a single bed
And laugh as we squeezed so close together
That our breaths would synchronise
And our hearts would beat in syntony,
As each heartbeat would fall into the other.

As time passes, I remember how:
Our hands would clasp each other
And through the sense of touch our souls
Would mingle through the skin;
And our chemistries would share reactions
In the test tubes of our sweaty palms.

As time passes, I remember how:
We would share a simple meal
And the food was made delicious
As we poured happiness on it –
Better than the richest sauce,
Our joy a condiment better than the rarest spice.

As time passes, I remember how:
Our lips would thirst for kisses ceaselessly
And our mingling breaths would communicate
Our innermost desires, our thoughts, our hopes…
Our eyes, though closed, would clearly
See into the depths of each other’s soul and share our boundless wealth.

Now, we share the broad expanse of a large gilt bed
And touching is rarely anything but accidental.

Now, our hands may hold each other every once in a while,
But our dry palms are places too arid for the excursions of our souls.

Now, every meal a rich repast: Caviar, truffles, champagne…
But we may as well be eating cardboard.

Now, our lips are locked closed, imprisoning our souls,
And our eyes wide open, barely acknowledging each other’s presence
When circumstances would have us pretend to kiss…

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


“On many accounts, Cornwall may be regarded as one of the most interesting counties of England, whether we regard it for its coast scenery, its products, or its antiquities.” - Sabine Baring-Gould

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.
Cornwall (Cornish: Kernow) is a ceremonial county and unitary authority area of England within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of 536,000 and covers an area of 3,563 km2. The administrative centre, and only city in Cornwall, is Truro, although the town of Falmouth has the largest population for a civil parish and the conurbation of Camborne, Pool and Redruth has the highest total population. Cornwall is the homeland of the Cornish people and is recognised as one of the Celtic nations, retaining a distinct cultural identity that reflects its history.

Looe (Cornish: Logh, meaning deep water inlet) is a small coastal town, fishing port and civil parish in the former Caradon district of south-east Cornwall, UK, with a population of 5,280 at recent census (2001 & 2011 census). The two electoral wards mentioning Looe but also including Polperro had a total population of 7,117 at the 2011 census.

The town of Looe is approximately 32 km west of the city of Plymouth and 11 km south of Liskeard. and is divided in two by the River Looe, East Looe and West Looe (Cornish: Porthbyhan, meaning Little Cove) being connected by a bridge. The town centres around a small harbour and along the steep-sided valley of the River Looe which flows between East and West Looe to the sea beside a sandy beach. Off shore to the west, opposite the stonier Hannafore Beach, lies the idyllic St George’s Island, otherwise known as Looe Island.

Looe’s main business today is tourism, with much of the town given over to hotels, guest houses and holiday homes, along with a large number of pubs, restaurants and beach equipment, ice cream and Cornish pasty vendors. Inland from Looe lie many camping and caravan sites, as well as the famous Woolly Monkey Sanctuary. Other local attractions include the beaches, sailing, fishing and diving, and spectacular coastal walks (especially via Talland to Polperro).

South East Cornwall boasts several stately homes, including Antony House, Cotehele, Mount Edgcumbe and Lanhydrock House, as well as the Eden Project near St Austell which tourists can access by road. Outside the busy summer months, the town remains a centre for shopping and entertainment for local villagers. Annually in late September, the town is the destination of choice for thousands of music lovers and top name performers for the Looe Music Festival, which takes place in temporary venues around the town, harbour and on East Looe beach.

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

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Monday, 10 October 2016


“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” - Zhuang Zhou

In mid-August I wrote a review on the TV Series “Lost”, which is a six-season show first seen on TV between 2004 and 2010. It concerns the survivors of a plane crash that are forced to work together in order to survive on a seemingly deserted tropical island. Halfway through watching the show, we were quite impressed and we kept on watching as the plot was good, the acting excellent and the production values high.

Well, we’ve lasted till the end of the show and we have finished watching it. Although, admittedly it was a little bit of an effort to keep on watching towards the end of the series. Plot devices that worked initially became messy as the show progressed. The morass of flash-forwards and flash-backs, alternate realities and simultaneous exposition of multiple plot threads tired the viewer. A lot of action and plot exposition that viewers had invested in and wanted logical resolution of just petered out and no explanation was offered.

From about the third season on, the supernatural aspect became more and more apparent and anything could be explained by pulling appropriate rabbits out of multiple hats and “deus ex machina” plot savers. The philosophical questions posed by the script writers became messy and what may have been started as a rumination of the essence of being and the meaning of life became a cheap clairvoyance session with a fake medium.

We valiantly kept watching but by mid sixth season it was becoming apparent that the series would end with a whimper, not a bang. So we watched the final episode and it was unfortunately such an anti-climax that we just looked at one another and managed to say: “Wait on, is that it? Surely not!” But there it all was, it had finished in a puff of smoke. Quite disappointing…

Yet, I guess, we were glad to have watched it and the moral of the story is, be very wary of the behemoth that the entertainment industry has become – especially so, TV and TV series. It’s all about ratings and profits and if a show becomes a money spinner it will be dragged out to extremes and the plot will end up as nonsense. In a way, that is why I tend to enjoy British series quite a lot. They tend to be shorter and meatier and punchier.

Should you watch “Lost”? I guess the answer is yes if you moderate your expectations and view it as escapist entertainment pure and simple. You may watch it with someone and tease out the philosophy that it is attempting to expose people to, but this is going to be hard work on your part. Otherwise it watch it and enjoy the good production, excellent acting some good humour and don’t expect fireworks in the end!

Sunday, 9 October 2016


“The great beauty and striking presence of Venus led to an association by the Greeks with Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love. Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte and Venus are other names given to variations of this goddess in Western history, all associated with the planet. A knowledge of close coincidence between the cycles of Venus and human pregnancy may have contributed to the persistent, but nonexclusive of female characteristic to Venus. The Venus de Milo and Botticelli’s birth of Venus (popularly known as Venus on the Half Shell) are icons of this imagery in Western culture.” - Robert Hunter

Alessandro di Cristofano di Lorenzo del Bronzino Allori (Florence, 31 May 1535 – 22 September 1607) was an Italian portrait painter of the late Mannerist Florentine school. Mannerism is a style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520, lasting until about 1580 in Italy, when the Baroque style began to replace it. Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century. Stylistically, Mannerism encompasses a variety of approaches influenced by, and reacting to, the harmonious ideals associated with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and early Michelangelo.

Where High Renaissance art emphasises proportion, balance, and ideal beauty, Mannerism exaggerates such qualities, often resulting in compositions that are asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant. Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities. Mannerism favours compositional tension and instability rather than the balance and clarity of earlier Renaissance painting. Mannerism in literature and music is notable for its highly florid style and intellectual sophistication.

Alessandro Allori lost his father when he was 5 years of age. In 1540, after the death of his father, he was brought up and trained in art by a close friend, often referred to as his “uncle”', the mannerist painter Agnolo Bronzino, whose name he sometimes assumed in his pictures. In some ways, Allori is the last of the line of prominent Florentine painters, of generally undiluted Tuscan artistic heritage: Andrea del Sarto worked with Fra Bartolomeo (as well as Leonardo da Vinci), Pontormo briefly worked under Andrea, and trained Bronzino, who trained Allori.

Subsequent generations in the city would be strongly influenced by the tide of Baroque styles pre-eminent in other parts of Italy. Some art critics deride Allori as derivative, claiming he illustrates the ideal of Mannerism by which art (and style) are generated out of pre-existing art. The polish of figures has an unnatural marble-like form as if he aimed for cold statuary. It can be said of late phase mannerist painting in Florence, that the city that had early breathed life into statuary with the works of masters like Donatello and Michelangelo, was still so awed by them that it petrified the poses of figures in painting.

While by 1600 the Baroque elsewhere was beginning to give life to painted figures, Florence was “painting two-dimensional statues”. Furthermore, in general, with the exception of the Contra-Maniera (Counter-Mannerism) artists, it dared not stray from high themes or stray into high emotion. Among his collaborators was Giovanni Maria Butteri and his main pupil was Giovanni Bizzelli. Cristoforo del Altissimo, Cesare Dandini, Aurelio Lomi, John Mosnier, Alessandro Pieroni, Giovanni Battista Vanni, and Monanni also were his pupils. Allori was one of the artists, working under Vasari, included in the decoration of the Studiola of Francesco I. He was the father of the painter Cristofano Allori (1577–1621).

Illustrated above is his “Venus and Cupid” c.1580-c.1607. Venus lies full-length, her head to the right, on blue-grey drapery. She teases Cupid by refusing him his bow and arrow, which she holds in her left hand. He leans across her right shoulder in an attempt to recover them, knowing that even Venus is susceptible to the irresistible power of his arrows that cause whoever is struck to fall in love. There are two doves, pink roses and a golden orb in the right foreground. These are all symbols of Venus, the doves being her sacred bird because of the pair bonding between them; the roses her sacred flowers as a symbol of love; and the golden ball being the prize Paris gave Venus as the most beautiful goddess when she was competing with Juno and Minerva (his prize being Venus’ promise to make Helen of Troy fall in love him).

The painting is a replica of a composition of which better versions are the small painting in the Uffizi (1512; 29 x 38 cm) and a large panel in the Kress Collection (County Museum, Los Angeles, K. 224: 143.5 x 227.3 cm). There are minor differences in the landscape background, and in colour, and in the Kress picture Venus's nakedness is partly covered by veils and roses, apparently later additions. At Montpellier (Musée Fabre) there is a large version, signed by Alessandro Allori, in which the lower limbs of Venus are differently disposed, and again some colours are different. A similar painting, perhaps the same, was in the Orléans Collection until 1792. The technique is close to that of Allori and it was probably painted in his workshop. This shows that successful and popular paintings were often copied in the past so that wealthy patrons could be satisfied even if they were unable to obtain the original.