Viola da Gamba and the Theorbo

May 16, 2022

IMG_3172 autumn in Mittagong

Autumn in Mittagong.

Last Sunday,  a nice friend invited me to see a concert at a local village hall at Berrima about a 15 minute drive from here. Her daughter is free lance soprano living here in The Southern Highlands with a diploma of Opera from London and a Masters of Music at the Royal Northern College of Music.

The concert played baroque music which according to my limited knowledge of music covers early music between 1600 to the 1850’s or so. Vivaldi’s four seasons and Bach’s piano pieces are included in the more known works.

Here I quote from Google;

“The work that distinguishes the Baroque period is stylistically complex and even contradictory. Currents of naturalism and Classicism, for example, coexisted and intermingled with the typical Baroque style. In general, however, the desire to evoke emotional states by appealing to the senses, often in dramatic ways, underlies its manifestations. Some of the qualities most frequently associated with the Baroque are grandeur, sensuous richness, drama, dynamism, movement, tension, emotional exuberance, and a tendency to blur distinctions between the various arts.”

The instruments  that were used in my concert were the Viola da Gamba which as the name suggests is a type of violin but much larger and instead of being tucked under the chin stands on the ground like a cello.

The Theorbo is an instrument I never heard of. However, that is proof of my ignorance and not that it is not a worthy instrument. It certainly looks dramatic and so is its sound. I loved it in combination of the singers performing pieces especially arranged to be sung and played on those instruments.

Here is an introduction of the Theorbo, for those interested in a music career.

Only a few nights ago I watched Bohemian Rhapsody which is a totally different music and singing oeuvre with Freddy Mercury. It was played by more modern instruments accompanying Freddy. I wonder if his music will last the same as Vivaldi, Bach, Monteverdi, Henry Purcell and so many other?

My friend’s daughter’s singing was sublime and it brought tears to my eyes. Good art does that, doesn’t it?

Vote for Humanity 1.

May 7, 2022

The two sisters at home in Biloela (left) and at their detention centre on Christmas Island (right)

In two weeks time Australia will be going to the voting booths to chose a new Government. No, doubt the free ‘democracy sausages’ will be again available at those venues ‘after’ you have voted. Voting in Australia is compulsory by punishment and is a crime not to vote. We are not free not to vote.

At the same time it is not a crime to keep refugees in indefinite detention merely for having the temerity seeking asylum which is not a crime. Some years ago it was decided to put the immigrating minister above the law and he/she has now the power to keep refugees in detention for as long as it pleases him.

$ 10 billion has been spent so far on offshore detention in the last ten years and $ 7 million on keeping the Biloela family away from a welcoming community. Two of the Biloela family’s children are Australian born! None of those refugees have committed a crime, so none are charged. Yet, many refugees have spent years in detention. Young children have become adults never lived outside detention.

My suggestion is to reverse the situation. Making voting free, and outlaw and punish those totalitarian ministers responsible for keeping refugees in indefinite detention..

Maria Callas and walking with Bentley.

April 25, 2022

There is something out of this world listening to Maria Callas singing. The documentary about her life that I watched was sublime and to hear her sing, tears of joy.

https://www.netflix.com/title/81012106

In the many interviews shown on this documentary she admits that it was her bullying mother that forced her into the world of music right from her early years. She said that perhaps her life would have been happier having had children and a conventional life. When she became aware of her singing capturing rapturous audiences she felt she had to give her voice over to the world. And she did unstintingly. Her love to Onassis was about a gift to a soulless rogue. She died relatively young but at least in Paris.

As for walking Bentley. He is inside a lot so when I take him out I feel he should be allowed to behave what his nature intended him to express. That involves a lot of investigating smells left behind by other canines. I think it is cruel to train dogs to ignore what comes natural except of course when trained for blind or guiding purposes.

I think it fair exchange to allow Bentley to be a dog when I walk him and I take full responsibility for any misadventure I might suffer as a consequence of that tolerance.

He generally is slowly coming to realise he shouldn’t dart in and out in front of my and he does look at me with some regret when he gives in to his nature overcoming him.

I mean, don’t men behave erratic at times?

Putin?

Autumn and Easter on a misty morning.

April 17, 2022

IMG_3124 a misty Easter

On my early morning walk on this Easter Sunday I was greeted by this vista of rising mist from the wild bush just beyond the village main strip. It held the promise of a beautiful day. My home in Mittagong is situated between two large mountains. One is an extinct volcano named Gibraltar which till the seventies was mined for its trachyte. There are several tourists tracks that leads to old quarry sites with slow rusting infrastructures a testimony to those earlier days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Gibraltar

The other mountain is wild and difficult to get access too because of its ruggedness and inhospitable terrain. However at the foot of it is a magic lake which at one stage was used to cool a steel making manufacturing enterprise which, according to its history, never really turned a profit and was discontinued after several attempts till the early fifties.

IMG_3117 autumn 2022

The above photo is a gentle walk around the lake which is hard to imagine was once used to cool machinery. I try and walk there daily with Bentley who stops every second step to investigate a smell. With ducks, geese,  snakes, kangaroos wombats and possibly koalas it must be an olfactory paradise for him.

IMG_0874Bowral Ducks

Happy Easter everyone.

The games of Pokies and those Clubs.

April 5, 2022
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The logic of those that try and oppose poker machines is difficult to fault ” You don’t play pokies, the pokies play you.” It is a fascination subject to try and get a handle on. There are those that defend gambling on poker machines on the basis that it gives people a bit of an escape from the ennui of everyday life. The chance of winning money. A bit of pleasure watching the numbers turn around on a flashing machine with bells and whistles. What’s wrong with that. It is freedom!

Then those that oppose it say that it creates a lot of misery and that it becomes addictive to too many people and is the cause of family breakdowns, suicides and misery. Hence, ” the pokies play you”. It enslaves far too many people and it is not freedom. It is rather telling that the largest economy in the world, China, bans gambling and it is the association with convicted gamblers that stopped Crown Casino from opening their casinos both in Sydney and in Melbourne. I believe the licensed operators have since resigned.

For some weeks now I have almost daily made it my habit to visit the local RSL club in Mittagong where I live. It is a huge club with thousands of members, a Mecca for both gamblers and non gamblers. It has lots of entertainment but mostly geared towards a form of gambling in one way or the other. The money made from this club is supposed to help families of soldiers from wars both present and past. Each day and promptly at 6pm the lights go off and the loudspeakers call for all to stand to remember those that did not return.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.”

It is a very touching moment that we all stand up in the dark and remember.

Of course that is a very noble way to use the money made by not only the Mittagong Returned Soldier’s Club but by hundreds of other clubs as well. The money made is going to very worthwhile charitable entities, not only soldiers and families but many others as well. Who would deny them that?

But, the problem I have is that the money made from, especially poker machines and other games of chance, cause as many victims as the endless wars. Experts claim that Australia has one of the highest rates of poker machines per capita in the world and hence the highest rates of people seriously addicted to them. It has the same power as cocaine addiction. There is no difference.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-42362194

I have walked inside those poker machine rooms that are something to behold. There is this grimness about despite the flashing lights and colourful tinkling machines. It has the face of despair and defeat. Such a joylessness about. Yet, that’s where most of the members seem to hang about. I am seated in the lounge area where there are also people about but they share a drink and at least talk to each other. There is comradery and social exchange. I sit there with my Shiraz and watch the people. I find it rather operatic and really love it, each afternoon.

Perhaps that is my addiction.

This game of happiness.

March 19, 2022

IMG_0637 new home

It is that time of the year again when the world’s happiest country contest is on. And guess what; Finland has for the fifth time been chosen by the best of experts in all facets of life ‘the happiest country’ I am somewhat biased having been married to a great and lovely Finnish woman and having lived in rural Finland for almost a year. I was then already totally convinced it was a happy country with a happy population. I never thought it would be voted the happiest.

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/18/finland-named-the-worlds-happiest-for-the-fifth-year-in-a-row.html.

Back in 1965/66 when living in Finland I thought it refreshing that it seemed such a free country with the emphasis on things to look good and natural. A stunning mixture of both outside and inside the homes often so seamless, almost effortless. It’s architecture mind-blowingly beautiful without artifice or unnecessary florid decorations for the sake of decorations. In the homes and gardens no ducks in endless flight on the walls or tires around the gardenias’. The university that my wife attended designed by Alvar Aalto, blew my mind in its honesty of design and simplicity. Finland was the forgotten corner of Europe. Not anymore now though.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvar_Aalto

The rapport on this yearly happiness contest measures all sorts of criteria but free education, including colleges and universities, and free medical care seems to be the foundations on which much of the happiness of people depend. A mother with a newborn has 480 days maternity leave with 80% of her salary paid and dad gets 6 weeks with full pay. Every new born gets the ‘famous box’ in which there are the basic needs for baby and in which the new-born can also sleep.

https://www.dailyfinland.fi/national/24868/Kela-unveils-43-item-baby-box-for-2022

I always thought happiness and the search for it was overrated. In the video of the Happiest Country a man describes feelings of ‘gladness’ more appropriate. I think that in Australia we tend to forget that we have eyes. How else can we explain the horrendous ugliness of our shopping strips, the mindless repetitive advertisements and why al those car yards littering the main thoroughfares?

I live in The Southern Highlands considered to be a very beautiful part of Australia with lovely gardens, yet, in one of the main thoroughfares we blissfully allow kilometers of car-yards to advertise their cars, bonnets yawning wide open and garnished with signage of ‘specials’ to attract who?

We seem to underestimate how our eyes can influence happiness. We need beauty as much as we need a nice sausage or piece of salmon. When I wake up and see my nice bedroom, nice bedspread, beautiful paintings, a lovely wooden desk with a nice rush-chair, I feel happy before I jump out of my bed. The kitchen has nice saucepans, lovely well designed cutlery, great coffee pot. I feel good before I even boil the kettle. The same with my living quarters, light and airy with the outside part of the inside. It gladdens my heart. My lovely books all in a row on bookshelves.

We need more beauty in Australia if we want to climb the happiness ladder. We are not doing too bad at nr 12 and the US climbing up to 19 on par with the Chech Republic. Holland was 5th.

The dear departed.

March 5, 2022

IMG_3074

It is impossible to read a bad word about those that have gone. All of us, men and women are faultless when in the icy embrace of the dearly departed. Here some examples from the obituary page of the Sydney Morning Herald: “Norman. Devoted father and beloved husband, sadly missed at 98 years old after 68 years of unstinting love to his dear wife Gladys, unselfishly gave to the community. Or Mavis, at 102 years sadly passed surrounded by loving family at Eventide Home, fascinating and loving wife of Geoffrey (who remained, faithful till the bitter end). She pioneered tirelessly for the sport of indoor sword fighting, boxing and gun clubs.”

With all the rain it did make me somewhat melancholic or inward looking and spend the time as usefully as possible and of late have come to peruse the paper’s Deaths and Funerals pages. It is amazing how few surnames start with ‘n O for my name in the summary. I have been solidly at it and have as yet to read something unfavourable about those that have gone from this world. How come this almost Sainthood when in the casket?

One wonders what our own funeral will illicit. “Gerard, miserable ratbag of a man, self absorbed till the end and so mean. Thank God the bastard is gone.” Don’t bring flowers.

One gets to think a bit more, and in my own case applying on the advice of some friends for a mobility permit, or, in plain language a ‘Disability Parking Permit which I miraculously succeeded in receiving after a doctor signed the necessary papers. I can now haughtily park my car in special slots reserved for the more feeble of us. I will try and walk a bit taller. There is a sort of achievement the same as when I became first a grandfather. A new era has dawned.

Here is a lovely poem by the late Clive James and read by the amazing and very great actress Miriam Margolyes. I hope you will enjoy is as much as I did.

The modest Cabbage.

February 21, 2022

Anyone who resided in Europe during or after WW2 would know about the cabbage. I know. I still remember it well. It being the dominant smell wafting from every home. It was the odour of abating poverty but also of years of grinding hunger. The last year was the worst, at least in The Netherlands were I was born. Even years later, people that had migrated to Australia and went back for a Holiday remarked that some streets and old houses still had this cabbage smell. Some streets in Vienna reminded many still of war and poverty of a cabbage lingering. The soup kitchen that people queued at in my city of Rotterdam ladled out cabbage soup in enameled buckets. I remember holding my mothers hand.

This is why it is surprising that despite the knowledge gained during that dreadful period people today during the threat of a calamity or looming war are stampeding supermarkets to hoard toilet paper.

Toilet paper was the last item my parents worried about. People should be hoarding cabbages. The stampeding shoppers are concentrating on the wrong orifice. Of course, cabbages have a cruciferous quality the same as broccoli and beans and are known to rumble about a bit in the stomach, but who cares when you are hungry and in a war?

Anyway, I thought I would buy a cabbage after reading about a recipe that sounded very delicious. I am on the cusp of inviting friends over for lunch so did a trial lunch using the humble cabbage. It might be prudent for the guests to go hungry for a couple of days to get the full benefits of past history of this delicious and very nourishing meal.

IMG_3055

The bacon and cabbage trial for guests.

It is very simple. You fry strips of bacon and after the bacon is crisp add a chopped onion and garlic. Fry till the onion is done and add whole cabbage sliced up. Stir frequently adding some garlic powder and a spoonful of black ground pepper and some paprika. Be careful with salt because the bacon is salty!

Cook for another 30 minutes with the lid on. Stir occasionally.

That’s it! Enjoy.

(I have three toilets and lots of loo paper)

We grow older but no wiser, in our hearts our dreams stay still the same.

February 15, 2022

Perhaps it is time to reflect and go a bit sentimental. This song goes a back a few years but I remember this one well. I was never one for pop music but with enough repeats on the radio some lyrics become ingrained never to hit the graveyard of lost memories. You know, till about a couple of years ago I never even heard of Radio Ga Ga by Queen. A good friend gave me an evening of Queen and I was mesmerized.

All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio goo goo
Radio ga ga
All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio goo goo
Radio ga ga
All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio blah blah
Radio, what’s new?
Someone still loves you  

Strange lyric but what a talent he was. Freddy Mercury. I don’t know how one can relate  or seek to compromise and relate with music so diverse as, for example, Jean Paul Sibelius’ violin concerto, which I find one of the most beautiful sonatas ever written. Anyway, at this stage of my youth I donate caution to the wind and embrace whatever falls my way in the area of sound. My hearing is not as it used to be and I am still hoping to get better hearing aids but in the meantime any note coming through is a bonus.  

On par with Mary Hopkins and those were the days I found someone sending me a beautiful example of Russian ballet. I remember being at the  Moscow Ballet many years ago and they performed a piece by Gershwin. It was done to perfection and the crowd loved it.

Any way, here is a lovely ballet by Igor Moiseyev 

Music by Mikis Theodorakis.

Enjoy.

Living on the edge.

February 9, 2022

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As you might know my ceiling sometimes lets through rain water. I have taken steps to rectify this by getting my roof repaired. So far this hasn’t happened, but I have taken steps to alleviate water building up on top of the ceiling by puncturing the ceiling at two places allowing the water to drain down into two nice clear glass vases on top of my dining table. So, now after rain I get this tap-tap-tap sound coming from the drops falling down from the little holes in the ceiling into the vases. I actually quite like that sound. It is somehow reassuring that I stay dry despite water coming down right next to me in the vases on the table.

IMG_3035

I am now wondering to leave the roof as it is and not deny myself the joy of that lovely natural sound of water. As it is, I have figured that the fall (slope) in the roof is too shallow for the rainwater to run off and that during heavy downpours it overwhelms the metal roof and creeps under the overlapping sections thus falling onto the ceilings below it and then, at least in my home, ends up in the vases. In other words a major structural roof issue!

Watching the rain fall in those vases in some way gives also a nice added entertainment from living by myself. A comforting bit of noise, not unlike the tingling of a teaspoon stirring the sugar or the sound of footsteps outside.

The joy of the water sounds must also have attracted the little baby spider who magically managed to clamber up the slippery steep-sided vase. Mind you, even when so tiny and young they do already have the benefits of bungee jumping using a single spinning thread. This little spider was investigating the area around him. His beady little eyes taking in the possibilities of perhaps going inside and drink. Amazing to think that this tiny little creature has all the facilities and brain power of us or an elephant. It can see, make decisions, plan for the future, escape dangers, look for food and a mate when mature enough, procreate and then finally after an illustrious life leave a last will ( all his spun webs) to the siblings or surviving spouse and then gloriously pass on and die.

Nature is so wonderful.