Saturday, 16 June 2012


“Je n’ ai alors rien su comprendre! J’ aurais dû la juger sur les actes et non sur les mots. Elle m’ embaumait et m’ éclairait. Je n’ aurais jamais dû m’ enfuir! J’ aurais dû deviner sa tendresse derrière ses pauvres ruses. Les fleurs sont si contradictoires! Mais j’ étais trop jeune pour savoir l’ aimer.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Elle est tellement lourde, ton absence, mon amour. Je ne comprendrai jamais pourquoi la vie t’a prise en t’ éloignant de moi. Je ne sais pas combien de temps on peut survivre sans la personne qu’ on aime, quand le chagrin est si pesant. Je t’ aime.

Paroles et musique: Yves Duteil

Comme une bouffée de chagrin
Ton visage ne dit plus rien
Je t’ appelle et tu ne viens pas
Ton absence est entrée chez moi

C’ est un grand vide au fond de moi
Tout ce bonheur qui n’ est plus là
Si tu savais quand il est tard
Comme je m’ ennuie de ton regard

C’ est le revers de ton amour
La vie qui pèse un peu plus lourd
Comme une marée de silence
Qui prend ta place et qui s’ avance

C’ est ma main sur le telephone
Maintenant qu’ il n’ y a plus personne
Ta photo sur la cheminée
Qui dit que tout est terminé

Tu nous disais qu’ on serait grands
Mais je découvre maintenant
Que chacun porte sur son dos
Tout son chemin comme un fardeau

Les souvenirs de mon enfance
Les épreuves et les espérances
Et cette fleur qui s’ épanouit sur le silence...
Ton absence

Je dors blotti dans ton sourire
Entre le passé, l’ avenir
Et le présent qui me reticent
De te rejoindre un beau matin

Dans ce voyage sans retour
Je t’ ai offert tout mon amour
Même en s’ usant l'âme et le corps
On peut aimer bien plus encore

Bien sûr, là-haut de quelque part
Tu dois m’ entendre ou bien me voir
Mais se parler c’ était plus tendre
On pouvait encore se comprendre

Mon enfance a pâli, déjà
Ce sont des gestes d’ autrefois
Sur des films et sur des photos
Tu es partie tellement trop tôt

Je suis resté sur le chemin
Avec ma vie entre les mains
À ne plus savoir comment faire
Pour avancer vers la lumière

Il ne me reste au long des jours
En souvenir de ton amour
Que cette fleur qui s’ épanouit sur le silence...
Ton absence.

Friday, 15 June 2012


“A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.” - Abraham Maslow
As I was away, travelling for work I missed a couple of entries here. It was a very busy time full of meetings during the day and even before and after those, I had to confer with my colleagues at breakfast and dinner in order to prepare for the day. Hence quite a hectic time, but fortunately all went well and it was a successful trip.

Back in wintry Melbourne and what better than a hearty soup to drive those winter blues away? We love having this mushroom soup, which is delicious as well as having a delightful flavour. We use a variety of mushrooms to make it and thankfully the supermarkets and greengrocers carry a variety of mushrooms. However, if you do gather your own make sure you know what you are gathering and eating as wild mushrooms can be poisonous!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

600g mixed fresh mushrooms (use Swiss brown, shiitake, oyster, button mushrooms, etc)
3 shallots minced
50g butter
100ml white wine
500ml vegetable stock
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp ground mace
200ml heavy cream
Parsley or chopped spring onions for garnishing (optional)

Clean the mushrooms carefully and chop them finely.
Melt the butter in a deep saucepan, add the minced shallot and cook gently until translucent, approximately 4 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, and sauté for a few minutes while stirring.
Cover the pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the mushrooms have given up all their juices. Add the garlic clove.
Add the wine, the stock. Season lightly with a little salt and pepper. Boil gently for 10 minutes.
Add the cream and cook for a further 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and serve in warmed bowls, garnishing with a sprig of parsley or chopped spring onion.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” — Mark Twain

I am visiting Perth for work for a few days, so it has been rather hectic. I came to Perth expecting some sunshine and fine weather, but instead the plane flew into a gale with wind, rain, cold and wet conditions that were almost cyclonic. Fortunately, despite the inclemency of the weather, the plane landed without hitch, but the real difficult part was getting a taxi out of the airport. The queue was several lengths and breadths greater than that allowed for by the space allocated to it and it took nearly 30 minutes to get a taxi.

Once out of the airport the traffic lightened up and finally at the hotel I breathed a sigh of relief. Perth has become an expensive city and it was quite a lot of trouble to get a hotel that was reasonably priced. Nevertheless, it is a very nice hotel by the riverside and the well appointed suite promise a comfortable night’s rest.

Perth is the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia. It is the fourth most populous city in Australia, with an estimated population of 1.74 million living in the Perth metropolitan area. The metropolitan area is located in the South West Division of Western Australia, between the Indian Ocean and a low coastal escarpment known as the Darling Range. The central business district and suburbs of Perth are situated on the banks of the Swan River.

Shortly after the establishment of the port settlement of Fremantle, Perth was founded on 12 June 1829 by Captain James Stirling as the political centre of the Swan River Colony. As the business and administration centre for the resource-rich state, Perth has grown consistently.  Perth became known worldwide as the “City of Light” when city residents lit their house lights and streetlights as American astronaut John Glenn passed overhead while orbiting the earth on Friendship 7 in 1962. The city repeated the act as Glenn passed overhead on the Space Shuttle in 1998. Perth is tied for eighth place in The Economist’s 2011 list of the world's most livable cities.

Perth’s residents have traditionally enjoyed the highest standard of living of any of Australia’s big cities.  Until recently, the reason for this has been that, for most occupations, wages were only a little less than could be found in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne while house prices in Perth were considerably lower than the other cities.

Western Australia has huge deposits of metal ores and coal. Booming Asian economies, particularly China, have sourced many of their raw materials from Western Australia, resulting in high economic growth for the state and its capital, Perth.  Many large mining and mineral concerns have their headquarters in Perth. Mining itself is carried on outside Perth but the city is home to many support industries employing engineers and scientists.  There is a large oil refinery at Kwinana, 25 km south of Perth, with associated engineering and chemicals jobs.

Monday, 11 June 2012


“More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given” - Bertrand Russell

Novels and movies based on real stories seem to hold a fascination for people and they are quite likely to capture the imagination and generate interest, especially if they are stories that concern special people displaying courage and determination. We watched such a film at the weekend and it was just so: Engaging and involving, well-made and acted, and of course interesting because it was base a true story. The film was Richard LaGravenese’s 2007 “Freedom Writers” , starring Hilary Swank, Imelda Staunton, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Glenn and April L. Hernandez. It is based on the book “The Freedom Writers Diary” by teacher Erin Gruwell who wrote the story based on Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, California. The title is a play on the term “Freedom Riders”, referring to the multiracial civil rights activists who tested the U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering the desegregation of interstate buses in 1961.

“Freedom Writers” received mostly positive reviews from critics. It is a frank, albeit formulaic entry in the inspirational, inner-city teacher genre. Although the actors are too old to play high school students, and the pacing slow at times, overall the film works and argues for listening to teenagers. Hillary Swank gives an energetic, well-thought out performance and her interaction with the cast of young, unknowns that play the students is good. She seems believable as the dedicated, idealistic teacher who is not afraid to fight for what she believes in. Patrick Dempsey playing her husband tried to work with his short, almost cameo role, but he comes out as a little two-dimensional – after all this is not his story. Imelda Staunton playing the older and rather conservative teacher at odds with Erin Gruwell, plays her role well, although she comes out as a tad too intense at times. A good performance was put in by Scott Glenn, playing Erin’s father, but most impressive perhaps were the young students, led by April L. Hernandez who all put in excellent performances.

In a nutshell, the plot set in 1994 in Long Beach, California, concerns a young and idealistic teacher, Erin Gruwell, who is just starting out on her first teaching job. She will teach freshman and sophomore English classes at Woodrow Wilson High School, which, two years earlier, implemented a voluntary integration program. Many of the existing teachers are of the opinion that integration has ruined the school, whose previously stellar academic standing has been diminished, its good middle class white students largely replaced by students belonging to minority groups who will be lucky to graduate or even to be literate. Erin is unprepared for the difficulties she faces in her classroom, whose students live by generations of strict moral codes of protecting their own at all cost. Many are in gangs and almost all know somebody that has been killed by gang violence. The Latinos hate the Cambodians who hate the blacks and so on. However, they all seem united in hating Ms Gruwell. The movie centres on the building of bridges and establishing relationships that transcend social class and race.

We enjoyed the film even though it was at times raw and challenging, sometimes violent and confronting. Even though formulaic, the formula works because it represents reality and it describes a story that changed the lives of some people that would otherwise have been confined to illiteracy, violence or even an untimely death. Some of the stories of the individual students that are depicted are poignant and very sad, their young lives already scarred by hostility, brutality and savage cruelty. Erin Gruwell’s success comes from the fact that she managed to awaken within these students the ability to see the world differently through reading and writing. She captured the imagination of these students by getting them to realise their potential and by making them aware of situations that stir their consciousness and sympathies: The holocaust and Anne Frank; the race riots in the USA, the reality of gang violence and its consequences, which they all know first hand.

We recommend this film for viewing, although it can be quite challenging and sometimes even depressing. However, it paints a compelling picture of contemporary issues and shows that there are solutions possible, even to those problems that are often classified as “insoluble”.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


“Beauty, like truth, is relative to the time when one lives and to the individual who can grasp it. The expression of beauty is in direct ratio to the power of conception the artist has acquired.” - Gustave Courbet
As it is Gustave Courbet’s birth anniversary today, it seems appropriate to devote Art Sunday to him. Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet (10 June 1819 – 31 December 1877) was a French painter and the leader of the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. Courbet is very important in French painting for two reasons. Firstly, he was prepared to try out new ideas and ways of painting. Secondly, his paintings made social comment on the world around him. He was unafraid to show “real life” in a way that was not always picturesque and conventionally “beautiful”.

Courbet’s paintings were an inspiration to many other painters, particularly the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec were all inspired by Gustave Courbet’s paintings, especially those depicting people. His landscape paintings were an inspiration to Claude Monet, Seurat, Cezanne and many other painters.

Born in Ornans (Doubs), into a prosperous farming family, which wanted him to study law, Courbet went to Paris in 1839, and worked at the studio of Steuben and Hesse. An independent spirit, he soon left, preferring to develop his own style by studying Spanish, Flemish and French painters and painting copies of their work.  His first works were an Odalisque, suggested by the writing of Victor Hugo, and a Lelia, illustrating George Sand, but he soon abandoned literary influences for the study of real life.  A trip to the Netherlands in 1847 strengthened Courbet’s belief that painters should portray the life around them, as Rembrandt, Hals, and the other Dutch masters had done.

Among his early works, he painted his own portrait with his dog, and “The Man with a Pipe”, both of which the Paris Salon jury rejected. However, the younger critics, the Neo-romantics and Realists, loudly sang his praises, and by 1849 Courbet was becoming well known, producing such pictures as “After Dinner at Ornans” (for which the Salon awarded him a medal) and “The Valley of the Loire”.

One of Courbet's most important works is the “Burial at Ornans”, a huge canvas (3.1 by 6.6 meters) recording an event which he witnessed in September 1848. Courbet’s painting of the funeral of his grand uncle became the first masterpiece in the Realist style. People who had attended the funeral were used as models for the painting. Courbet said that he “painted the very people who had been present at the interment, all the townspeople”, rather than models as other artists were doing. The result is a realistic presentation of them, and of life, in Ornans. The painting caused a fuss with critics and the public. Eventually the public grew more interested in the new Realist approach, and the lavish, decadent fantasy of Romanticism lost popularity. The artist well understood the importance of this painting; as Courbet said: “The Burial at Ornans was in reality the burial of Romanticism”.

Towards the end of the 1860s, Courbet painted a series of increasingly erotic works such as “Femme nue couchee”. This culminated in “The Origin of the World” (1866), depicting female genitalia, and “Sleep” (1866), featuring two naked women in bed. While banned from public display, these works only served to increase his notoriety.  On 14 April 1870, Courbet established a “Federation of Artists” for the free and uncensored expansion of art. The group'’ members included Andre Gill, Honore Daumier, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Eugene Pottier, Jules Dalou, and Edouard Manet.

His refusal of the cross of the Legion of Honour offered to him by Napoleon III made him immensely popular with those who opposed the current regime, and in 1871 under the revolutionary Paris Commune he was placed in charge of all the Paris art museums and saved them from looting mobs. For his insistence in executing the Communal decree for the destruction of the Vendome Column, he was designated as responsible for the act and accordingly sentenced on 2 September 1871 by a Versailles court martial to six months in prison and a fine of 500 francs.

Courbet died, age 58, in La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, of a liver disease aggravated by heavy drinking on 31 December 1877. Illustrated above is his “Self-portrait” (The Desperate Man), painted ca 1843–1845. This is influenced by a host of renaissance and Flemish self-portraits, but the artist gives himself an intense confronting expression, whose vehemence and passion challenge the viewer. This is indeed the portrait of an artist as a desperate man who will not be stopped by convention and will provoke public mores and tradition without any compunction.