Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Carol, Pohutakawa and Bottle Brush

Magnificent flowering pohutakawa in New Zealand from wikipedia:
I love the colours of Christmas in New Zealand.  All along the beaches of the Auckland waterfront the pohutakawa trees are in bloom with picturesque crimson colours beside the sea shore.  In many of the parks
and seaside coastal areas can be seen this spectacular Christmas Tree of nature.  There have also been tree planting programmes known as Project Crimson.

I was in Cleveland, Brisbane a few weeks ago and the streets of the town were lined with wonderful bottle brush trees which add so much beautiful colour to the Christmas season.  Also the beautiful purple of the jacaranda trees were in full bloom giving a magical splendour.

Bottle Brush from wikipedia: a wonderful colour at Christmas:

I do hope one day for a White Christmas.  It is quite wild and stormy on the Gold Coast of Australia today
but a relief from the hot weather of previous weeks.

Looking forward one day to a White Christmas:

Christmas Carol:  In the Bleak Mid-Winter:

Merry Christmas to all,

Seasons Greetings

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Poetry in Paradise

Poetry in Paradise was
again a delight and wonder to listen to
the poetry recited by talented poets of
the group.

From attending these sessions each month
I believe that I am gaining more insights and
broadening my horizons and scope for what is
possible in the field of poetry. I also enjoy recitals
given of bush poets, for example, Banjo
Patterson and Henry Lawson. These poems certainly
are special from well known poets who had a love for
the outback of Australia.

I enjoyed listening to Marta's poem about words being
like people and harmonise as people do in a
All quite fascinating!

Vincent's poem was quite poignant and descriptive about a dolphin who
longed for a distant sea.

I look forward to more Poetry in Paradise meetings next year.
It is also a wonderful get-together where social occasions have
been included this year as with Banjo's camp-fire poetry and
Joan Small's Hawaii -theme Celebration Party.

Best wishes

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Hacienda: My Venezuelan Years by Lisa St Aubin de Teran

I loved this story which is a fascinating account of
Lisa St Aubin de Teran's early years living on a hacienda
in Venezuela. The hacienda was located in the Andes
mountains, a remote area and a place which seemed to
have been lost in another era of time.

There were the molienda harvests of the sugar cane and
later the avocado crops. There were “la gente” the people
of the estate, the workers and their families. Gradually,
by the late 1970's and with the drop in the sugar prices, many
of the families who had lived on the hacienda for generations
were moving to the cities.

The author of the book was given a unique and very powerful
role from a young age when she found that she was in charge
of the hacienda and the many workers who lived there. She
married at a young age and left London to live in Venezuela.
Thee Teran family had been the first settlers from
Spain who arrived on the second voyage of Christopher Columbus
via Santo Domingo.

She often assisted with medicines for the people, helping with
their health-care and also assisting to teach some of the children

Throughout the theme of the story was the thought
“Que diran?” (What would people say?) if the author might do
or say something unexpected out of the ordinary, e.g. standing on the
road in the pouring rain trying to get a
lift into the town to take her baby to see a doctor.

A graphic description of the hospitals of the time (early 1970's)
is also given in the novel. Lisa St Aubin de Teran certainly
had to look out for her baby in the hospital as the nurses were
preoccupied watching television and her baby had inadvertently
been given medicine which was prescribed for another patient.

The author mentions in her story that the people of the hacienda
“la gente” have been the greatest influence on her life and work.
She also describes her early attempts at writing.

This book gives
wonderful descriptions of life on the hacienda, the lives of the
poor people, their beliefs and also gives an understanding and unique
observations of life in a remote area of the Andes in Venezuela,
which people would not otherwise have known about. Descriptions
are also given of the magnificence of the beauty of the plantations,
the sugar cane, and the verdant lush scenery. This was a tropical
place and there were incessant rains during the rainy season and
steaming heat after the rainfall. It must have given a beautiful
aspect to the mountain ranges with the changes of colour when the
sun came shining through after the rain. There are black and white
photographs included in the book with pictures of the hacienda.

I did a read a book by the same author “The Palace” which was set
in Venice and was impressed by the wonder
of a book where a palace was built for the love of a woman.

I love reading books of interesting and exciting places. This book
describing life on a hacienda, the early Venezuelan years is quite
special and different. Touching, sensitive also, as the author befriends
people of the hacienda. Worth reading! I enjoyed reading the book
of the author who became a Dona at such a young age. Eventually,
she returned to live in London.

There was once a book I read of an English family living in a castle
in Italy in the early years of the twentieth century. There was a man
in the village who remembered seeing the last Duke riding through the town
in his carriage and horses.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hawaii-theme Celebration Party

A wonderful Hawaii -theme celebration party was held
by Joan Small in which talented poets and singers
contributed their works.

The songs by Deborah were magnificent, some old favourites:
an Andrew Lloyd Weber song, “Love changes everything” “The
Prayer” an Italian opera song, “Mi Babino Caro” which was very
beautiful and Deborah's last song was “Climb Every Mountain”
from the Sound of Music which was a wonderful rendition. Deborah
chose this song as she was brought up in a convent by the Blue Mountains
of Sydney and she did get to see two musicals which she loved. “My Fair Lady”
and “The Sound of Music.” The
mother superior in the film, The Sound of Music, told Maria that love
between a man and a woman also came from God. The Mother Superior
did not wish for Maria to remain in the convent. Maria may have believed
that she would be serving God by staying in the convent.
Deborah had not sung in public for
12 months previously and she sang beautifully.

There was also a folk singer, though I did leave before I
heard this singer. I am sure that the folk songs would have been
wonderful also.

Poems were recited by talented poets and an actress gave a
comical show of living a prim and proper existence in England and
then leaving to live her life in Australia, where customs, clothing and
manner of speech altered. This acting was very good.

There were many published authors which was very inspirational.
A veterinarian who had written a book of holistic medicine for animals, who
attended with her 91 year old mother and a poet who had published
a book of poetry. Another writer, who had written a book of his time
in Poland during the Second World War.

Some people were celebrating milestones and hardships which they
had overcome in the previous year and were looking forward to the
next year with hope and a positive outlook with good wishes for the

The food was wonderful, deserts included, though did miss out on the
chocolate treat as I left early. A writer had written a book
of natural chocolate and there were to be treats of this chocolate also.
Joan also made wonderful fruit punch for the occasion.

The bright colours and Hawaii- theme with leis
worn by so many people enhanced the magic of the happy occasion.
A short speech was given of the seven principles of the Hawaii Way
which help to gain a more positive approach to life.

Joan Small gives workshops to assist people with publishing their own
works and I am thinking that it would be good to attend one of
these work shops early next year or when there is a next available
work shop. I am finding that writing a blog is good practice for self- expression.

For further information:

My best wishes

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More on favourite characters of the French Court

While looking at blogs in my spare time I have noted
that there is a blog of “I wish I were living in France”
and “I wish I was living at Versailles.” I have not clicked
on to this later blog yet as I am often pressed for time on
the internet.

However, this question, I have often asked myself: “Would I
be happy to live at Versailles?” I believe that the answer to this
all empowering question is “No.” Life could not be the same
living there without the enduring presence of the king. Perhaps
if Louis XIV was to be there life would be different. The reign of
the Sun King is believed to have been the best of times. I love
wandering through the magnificent chateau and viewing the places
where Louis XIV lived with his court. The atmosphere of warmth
can be felt in the king's bedroom and it must have been a beautiful
place at one time in which to live. The galleries and paintings,
furnishings, art works and chapel can easily take a day's viewing
leaving little time to view the beautiful gardens.

Versailles and the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna can also be remembered
as happy places for the last queen, Marie Antoinette.

It is interesting that recently a new hotel is being established to
overlook the Orangerie. It is difficult to contemplate thelP reaction
of Louis XIV to this concept as the mass tourist market would
not have existed during his time. However, people always did travel,
but most likely in those times, they may have been diplomats,
pilgrims or members
of the aristocracy and later in the century perhaps people involved in trade.

Of my favourite characters of the seventeenth century court of France, Louis XIV
comes first, closely followed by the beautiful and elegant Louise
de la Valliere, a popular favourite of the court.

The wife of the Duc de Saint-Simon was also noted as being very nice,
friendly and popular and was often invited by the king to attend Trianon or
Marly with a few select friends.

The Palatinate Princess, Liselotte, as mentioned in a previous post, called a spade
a spade, but at the same time there was a special quality about Liselotte, which
brought people to her and she was admired and was popular at court.

She was the second Duchess of Orleans, after the misfortune of the first Duchess
d'Orleans, Princess Henriette
of England, dying at a young age. She seemed to be more in control in her marriage
to the King's brother. This had not been the case with Princess Henriette's marriage
to the Duc d'Orleans. This may have been as Liselotte was older by this time. Her son
became the Regent following the demise of the king, Louis XIV in 1715. This would
have been a source of pride for Liselotte.

Princess Henriette was beautiful, waif-like, sister of Charles II of England. She had
been sent with her servant to the court of France at a young age. Her mother, Queen
Maria of England may have wished for a marriage for Princess Henriette with
Louis XIV. As Henriette was young at the time she arrived at the court, Louis XIV never noticed her until
after she was married to his brother, Philippe d'Orleans. Princess Henriette would have danced
in many of the ballets in the earlier years at the court.

At the time of her marriage
Princess Henriette was sister to a king of England without a throne and who was living
his life in dire poverty travelling in Europe. Princess Henriette may not have been seen
as a suitable candidate for the prospective bride of Louis XIV. For reasons beyond the control of Louis XIV
at the time, as he was still young and Cardinal Mazarin and his mother, Anne of Austria, were in control, Charles II found that his time at the French Court was limited and he had to move on.
He eventually made his way to
The Netherlands and fathered a child with Lucy Walters, the Duke of Monmouth. In the book “Mad Madge: The extrordinary life of Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle: The First Woman to live by her Pen” ( a story of the second Duchess
of Newcastle) by Katie Whitaker, it is
mentioned that the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle requested a loan from Charles II while in exile. They had
followed the king into exile along with many of his royalist supporters. However the king
said that they were probably better off than he was but that he hoped that one day he might be
able to help them. Even though Charles II did not have children to succeed him on the throne
of England, from his mistress Louise de la Kerouaille, (who had been in the retinue of Princess Henriette of England) Princess Diana is a descendant from the son with Louise de la Keroualle, the Duke of Richmond.

A favourable account has been given of the Duke de Gramont who was a friend of Louis XIV.
This account is given in the book “Louis XIV” by historian, Vincent Cronin. He was very upset and retired to his room in tears when it was believed that the king would not survive his last illness.

Louis XIV also made friends with creative and talented people and his court would have been very lively at times with the flourishing arts, music and literature.

The Grande Mademoiselle, Duchess of Montpensier, was also likeable and popular at the court. Unfortunately,
she may have been vulnerable at times, falling in love with the
Duc de Lauzun, whom she subsequently married after many disappointments and let -downs
by people she believed she could trust. The Duc de Lauzun, who had spent many years in
prison until the Duchess de Montpensier eventually bought him his freedom.

More favourite characters of the court to follow at a later stage.

My best wishes

A Christmas Song

I am the intrepid wanderer:
Looking to the Night-time Sky:
which paves its way
across my Universe
Twinkling in time honoured memories:

Shining stars from Heaven's grace
Falling leaves
and the Song of the Meadows chaste:
Of magic in the night-time air,
the sound of crickets stir so near
and in the day-time the birds so dear
Ring with magic loud and clear:

Gliding across the Great Milky Way
The Stepping Stone gems-
guiding my Way
on Life's Pathway:

Crystals so near and far
and furtherest star
Finding the magic
On Christmas Day.

Ring the truth from the night-time sky:
There the reasons are found on high:
Beauty of the night-time sky:

Joy-bells ring
On the clear night sky
And Angels sing
of a birth on nigh:-

Sing forth your love to us
On this Christmas Day
Heaven will call to thee
Guiding thy Way:-

Joy-bells ring
Wise men bring
In from the night-time cold
as was told
by travel on camel
Myrrh, incense and gold
for the new-born king;

Shepherds tending flocks of sheep
Saw from afar
the beauteous “Star”
A Message to keep
“The Promise” of Christmas Day:

For all the lonely ones
alone on the hills
Heaven will sing to thee
As God only wills:

The Song of the Universe
Sing unto thee:-
Play your sweet Melody
In thy Rhyming Verse:
Balance and Harmony
In the great Universe
Time takes a step,
As Angels rehearse:
Glorious the wondrous chime
In Sacred Time:

Sing choirs of angels
Sing in the air;
This is the Song of Love
This Christmas Year:

Over the hills of love
As green turns to gold
The desert flower springs to life
From sands of old:-

Trumpets will hail the Lord
Snow – bells on high:
Lamp-light from Heaven
Shines down from the Sky:

On little Bethlehem
Where a baby is born:
The bright new message
Of a new Christmas Dawn:

Palm-trees and oceans
enhance from within
The Song of the Leaves
whispering in the wind:

Of all the magic
Of this Christmas Day
Peace and serenity
come into Play:

And to Bethlehem
A great Holy Town
The Little Christ Jesus
was to be found:

Pilgrims and worshippers
Praise unto thee-
For the world
He set free:

Shine forth your Grace on us
on this Christmas Day
Lend forth your Light to us
from Heaven's Way.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

Gliding down the River Nile on a “dahabieh” would
have been an idyllic way of visiting the ancient sites
and temples of Egypt in the nineteenth century. A time
when Egypt was a popular destination for English

The sands of the desert, the summer sand-storms, the stifling
heat of the summer months and the beauty of ancient ruins and
towns are depicted so evocatively in the book “The Mistress of
Nothing” that it is almost as though the reader is there.
It is with empathy and understanding that the reader can relate to
Sally's story
which is told in the first person. Sally,
who had been indentured into
service at a young age by her aunt when she and her sister were
orphaned. Sally's story is quite poignant. At a later stage in the
book Sally does wonder about her aunt and the reasons that she
and her sister were sent into domestic service in the first place.
Sally eventually becomes a lady's maid for Lucie Duff Gordon, who because
of ill health is advised to spend the English winters abroad. Eventually
Lucie Duff Gordon settles for Egypt and adapts well to her new environment over many
years. Unfortunately, she does miss her family, mother, children and husband.

For many years
Sally was a devoted lady's maid. During the times in Egypt
when Lucie Duff Gordon's family was not visiting, over the months the
boundaries often blurred between employer, servant and dragoman (An
Egyptian servant who assisted Lucie Duff Gordon and Sally in the ways of Egypt.) They became
more as friends, did away with the formal Victorian English clothing in
the heat of Egypt and chose more comfortable Egyptian style clothing,
which was seen at first as a little scandalous by Sally, but she also finally succumbed
to more comfortable Egyptian clothing as also many of the formalities of lady
and lady's maid were disregarded by this time.

After months of travelling on the Nile River and visiting temples and ancient
ruins of great beauty and mystery Lady Duff Gordon chose to settle in Luxor at a
French House, notable for literary talent of famous people who had previously
stayed there. When diseases broke out in the towns and distant villages the house
was used as a base to dispense medicines and help the poor people overcome their illnesses.
Sally often assisted Lucie Duff Gordon in this regard.

Over time with months spent travelling with Lucie Duff Gordon and her dragoman,
Sally does eventually fall in love with Lucie Duff Gordon's dragoman. This is quite
a riveting story and extremely well written with great understanding and beauty. However,
Lucie Duff Gordon's attitude was entirely unexpected and in this regard the reader is left
with a mystery as to the reason for Lucie Duff Gordon's attitude. Sally also spent much time in
speculation regarding these matters. She certainly did have the time as she was cast adrift. However, given the social mores and customs of the time in England and the requirements of service as a lady's maid, Lucie Duff Gordon's attitude towards Sally may not have been entirely unexpected. Later,
Sally is informed by her sister, who was acting as a Lady's maid for Lucie Duff Gordon's daughter, that it was believed by members of the family, that Lucie Duff Gordon had been unnecessarily harsh on Sally.

The story is excellent for the descriptions of market places and life as it was in nineteenth
century Egypt.

The colours of the market places and towns, the beauty of the moonlit nights over the temples and ruins, the river, the palm- tree and desert scenery and authentic
depictions of the characters in the story, including English
gentry and Egyptians whom Lady Duff Gordon befriended are wonderful and make for
a descriptive and lively novel. Lady Duff Gordon enjoyed her entertaining and discussions
with her friends. Both Lady Duff Gordon and Sally became fluent in the Egyptian language
and read many novels. Sally became well versed and educated from reading so many novels
and on many levels she was indebted to Lady Duff Gordon. Lady Duff Gordon, in her turn,
was an excellent employer, provider, educator and dispenser of medicines and also
proved to be an effective mid-wife when unexpectedly required, this being over many years.

The story is based on a true story of Sally and the Dragoman who fell in love. There is a
picture of Lucie Duff Gordon on the inside cover of the book and a picture which seems
to be an early photograph of her Egyptian dragoman, Omar.

The idyllic settings and beauty of her surroundings eventually become but a distant past
for Sally, who attempts to find her way in Egypt on her own with a baby. As the title indicates,
“The Mistress of Nothing!”

All in all, a wonderful read of a novel which says so much about life and gives a sympathetic
account of Sally and Omar's love. Sally became a welcome visitor at the home of Omar's
parents and his first wife. In Egypt, the laws of marriage were different and
Omar was allowed to have two wives. Lucie Duff Gordon may not have approved of this. This may
be another reason for Lucie Duff Gordon's attitude. Sally also had not informed Lucie Duff Gordon
of her situation and had kept her pregnancy a secret from her. Sally was quite old by
nineteenth century English mores and customs. She had not married and was well past the
age of 30 by the time she eventually married Omar.

A beautiful story of endurance, hardship and love. Love also for a little baby, Abdullah, who meant so much
for Sally. A wonderful story of
nineteenth century Egypt! I loved the descriptions of life in Egypt at a time which now seems so distant from twenty-first century living today. For me this was one of the fascinating aspects of the book. The seemingly idyllic life-styles in Egypt, also the descriptions of the employer-servant relationship in England of the nineteenth century, when at the beginning of the book the story was based in England. The servants arguing amongst themselves about whose turn it was to take in the cups of tea and cakes when Lady Duff Gordon and her husband were entertaining.

A fascinating page-turner of a story with all the elements of charm, grace and beauty enlivening this novel. Wonderful summer reading!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Pictures from London (2009)

On a visit to London in autumn 2009 it was wonderful to
revisit some of the places I had been so many years earlier
when on my travels.

Even though it was autumn in London, the streets seemed vibrant
with colour and the flowers in Hyde Park were magnificent.  Hyde Park
is beautiful with the Serpentine Lake and on this visit I enjoyed walking
through the park and admiring he autumn colours of the leaves. 

coloured baskets of flowers were hanging from balconies and I had also
noticed this in Los Angeles.  This was noticeable as I made my way
to the British Museum.  It was so wonderful to visit these places and
hope to return.
  At the British Museum are wonderful exhibits of Egyptian
jewellery and artifacts which are also quite fascinating to view. 

By the Embankment/Temple area of London by the Thames is the place
where John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster had his great palace of the Savoy,
with terraced gardens going down to the river and pennants flying high so
all could see from a distance the Savoy Palace.  It is fascinating to wander
around this area where there is also a medieval church from tudor times.
Looking down the Thames River from a bridge can be seen all of the
wonderful splendour and architecture of London.  Domes, spires, cathedrals.
Even on an overcast day of autumn the magnificence seems to tell its own story.

I wrote this poem earlier in the year:


Through these splendoured Halls of Fame
Whence the courtiers and kings came
In the whirls of worlds before
In the in-between shadows
and times forestalled;-
Of life and love
and a reign supreme-
As time turned around
from before
the in-betwixt time
the kings and queens also did shine:

Time is an open book, they say:-
Never to stop,
Not look back
and which, in its path
all life must brook
As the jackdaws at a tower do stalk;

Bells chiming merrily
beside the Thames-
And good wishes from all her friends-

Beautiful London,
green and treasured,
magnificent city
Palaces and shrines;

Old London Town,
which could tell
A thousand stories
many glories;

As Henry VIII and his six wives
moved on,
at a relentless pace,
From a time, the Pilgrimage of Grace;
Reformation, new ideas, - queens
The tower for two, divorce for two,
Survival for one, loss of another one.

And now at the Abbey did she shine:-
Kate looking happy,
“The Most Happy” -
Anne Boleyn's motto
From a not so distant past:-

Westminster Abbey,
beautiful, serene,
a resting place
of kings and queens,
and poet's corner;
A Magnificent Setting,
A Perfect Wedding Theme:-

And now today
the accolades and cheers
A Duchess of Cambridge
at the Stairs:

A magnificent history of Time-
And from whence now,
The King James Bible doth shine:-
400 years, this year,
an anniversary,
and now time revolves again,
A Thousand years of history
And the Wedding Bells did chime
A beautiful, London Wedding fine:

The silver line of
Old Father Thames-
beautiful, picturesque postcard
Atop the bridge,
Tower Green,
the saddest place on earth,
tells its own story;
From along the banks of the riverside-
A feast of sights,
of old churches, domes, beside
Stand out prominently
beneath the gaze
of a traveller who looks in wonderment
at this maze:-

Old London Town comes alive
with its cobbled streets,
horses and carts,
akin to the time of Shakespeare;
and later,
of the Globe and theatres
of the time of Nell Gwynn:-
Herein also lies a story,
Of the magnificent restoration of Charles II
to the throne.

London with its stories
old and new
will never cease to amaze:-
And we can all lift our hearts
to praise:

Mighty London
and strength of kings,
Therein lies a secret
of a Destiny:

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Kaleidoscope of Dreams


Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Romantic Road, Germany from wikipedia:

Old Town of Dubrovnik from wikipedia:

Renaissance splendour in Venice at Ca Rezzonico:

A wonderful travel evening of European travel
was held at the Gold Coast Arts Centre last week.
This was an enjoyable event to attend.
Refreshments were served and there was a great deal of
interest in the European evening with many in attendance.

Wonderful slide shows and presentations were given
of the various options available for touring in Europe.

The beautiful, wonderful scenery of the Romantic Road
of Germany with images of the magnificent towns and
castles found along the Rhine Valley.

In so many places
it is as though travelling in time for the unique aspect of the
medieval architecture of the towns and cobblestone lanes and

The markets of France, the spectacular scenery of travelling
by train in Switzerland, the different and unique advantages
of travelling on a river cruise boat were some of the insights
Travelling on a river gives a different perspective as many
of the old towns and villages are accessible which may not always
be seen when travelling by coach or car. The rivers were also the mode of
transport for the trade of goods from the earliest times.

Russia and Eastern Europe have opened up more for travel since the fall of
the USSR and these places also offer wonderful attractions.
Beautiful medieval architecture and magnificent little villages and towns.
Krakow in Poland, once the old capital of Poland and home of the kings
has beautiful architecture and is a popular destination.
Warsaw is also a city of beauty. I remember admiring the beautiful colours
and architecture of the city and the rolling green fields of the countryside.
Warsaw was rebuilt after the war to the specifications of its appearance
before the war. A city
of unique splendour.

Romania with its folk-lore and images still of horses and carts. I recall seeing
a procession of a brightly coloured wagon and horses and gypsy travellers
once travelling in the rural areas of Romania. I once visited a folk lore
museum in the city of Bucharest, which unfortunately was heavily bombed
during the second world war.

Dubrovnik, the city of marble, was also shown. A picturesque walled town on the
coast with crystal clear sea for swimming.
The Dalmatian Coast and Italy were the first holiday destinations and the
Dalmatian Coast was also
popular with royalty in the earlier years.
Pictures of Montenegro were also shown which looks pristine and beautiful.

Magnificent Russia and its unique and beautiful cathedrals and architecture
is a splendour. Gold domes of churches and monasteries bring magic and opulence
to splendid views and the bell towers and cathedral of St Sergiyev
is a wonder.
Set in a quiet and peaceful setting of gardens and trees
the cathedral is a centre of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Peterhof Palace with its fountains of beauty, statues and gardens
on the Baltic Sea is a place of beauty.
The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg with its
collection of paintings and beauty is wonderful. This is a magnificent palace
of the Tsars, formerly the Winter Palace.
St Petersburg is a beautiful city, built by Peter the Great in 1703
with European concepts of architecture and design. He had spent time
in Western Europe and some of the designs would have been inspired by
the architecture of France, England, and the Netherlands.

Many of the palaces in Russia were renovated.
The Amber Room of Katherine's Palace was also described. It was also replaced
after the war.

For art, architecture and beauty European travel does seem to have much to offer.
Also the colours, the magical wind-mills, the tulips in the spring time and the reflections
of beauty cast on the rivers by the magnificent castles and palaces, to see Paris in the fall when the colours of the leaves are changing on the trees, it is all a splendour of magnificence.
Well recommended.

So, a feast of places to think about for future travel!

What can I say but a kaleidoscope of dreams!

Last Christmas I booked to go on a trip to Mont St Michel in France, Giverny
(to view the gardens of Claude Monet), Chartres, Normandy towns and villages
and chateaux of the Loire Valley of France and also to Venice for travel in April of
this year.
Beautiful Venice with its magnificent palaces glimmering in reflections
on the waters of the Grand Canal and the lively colours of fishing villages on the islands
of Murano, (famous for glass blowing) and Burano. These are places
which I still hope to visit though unfortunately did not get away this year.

St Michael's Mount in Marazion, Cornwall, England is spectacular, a marvellous castle overlooking
the beautiful sea where can be seen windsurfers and the yachts of sails. I thought
at the time that this was a magnificent setting. There is a causeway to walk across
when the tide is out. I expect that the famous Abbey of Mont St. Michel is similar
also set in a dramatic setting of sea, landscape and sky. Wonderful!

Campfire Poetry

Poetry in Paradise celebrated a wonderful
evening with poetry under the moon and stars in the
wilderness area and mountains of Mudgeeraba
on the Gold Coast.
An enjoyable evening was had by all with some
wonderful renditions of poetry. Bush poetry is
often a favourite of the group of Poetry in Paradise.

Lovely damper cakes (similar to rock cakes with raisins) had been freshly baked by Dawn and
the evening was quite enjoyable.

Banjo may put on a similar camp fire poetry evening
next year, depending on the level of interest of the group.
There was a very good turn out with wonderful friendly folk.
Poetry by night was very nice
and the evening was cool and clear.

For further information Joan Small also has a link regarding the
Campfire Poetry Evening: a fascinating time:

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Golden Book of Venice

The Golden Book of Venice: a Historical
Romance of the Sixteenth Century
by Francese
Litchfield Turnball

What a splendour this book is,
an absolute gem!

I loved this inspirational story set in Venice
of a historical romance set in sixteenth century
Venice, the times of the magnificence
and pageantry of the Doges.

A scholastic work of art, a prose piece of beauty.

This book is available for download by Project Gutenberg
and details the quarrel of Rome and the Republic of Venice.

Fascinating characters from the nobility to the peasantry, of
gondoliers, artists, fisher-folk and ecclesiastics reflect Venetian society
as it was during these times. The clothing and fashions, including
the decorative attire of gondoliers of the noble houses give colour and also
a sense of the opulence and the exotic in this novel of such wonderful
descriptions which evokes the Venetian world in all of its majesty
of the sixteenth century.
Tradition, pageantry, governance, precedence,
family history and pride feature prominently as do also the
the magnificent lions of St Mark's Square, signifying justice
above all and with the motto of Venice decorated in allegory form
“Strong, just, I put the furies
beneath me and the sea beneath my foot.”
The beauty of Venice forms a
special compelling backdrop to the story and the struggle of
Church and State is highlighted as a main theme of the story.

A son of the nobility, whose name appears in the “libro d'oro”
(the Golden Book of Venice) marries a daughter of the people whose
father lives on the island of Murano, famous for its magnificent
designs and glass works.
The spiritual element of the settings
and inspirational aspect of the story is not lost and
the story gives solace for its beauty.

Descriptions of Venice and the times are authentic. The descriptive
quality of the writing is beautiful. Almost as
a play well rehearsed and ready for the stage.
The story is magical.
An older style book with wonderful turns of phrase and beauty.
Well recommended!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Maid

The Maid by Kimberly Cutter

Statue of Joan of Arc in Paris from wikipedia:
(of gilt bronze)

A powerful and beautifully scripted story
of Joan of Arc. Magnificent in its scope
and also an inspirational story of an inspirational
young woman who inspired thousands of soldiers
to follow her.

I enjoyed reading this book. It is as though the reader
travels with Joan of Arc through her tumultuous life,
relating to her sadness and also her joy of life.

This book is descriptive and evokes a time in France of
the early fifteenth century when life was very different with
the English and Burgundy in opposition to the Holy Kingdom
of France, as Joan of Arc at the time believed the kingdom was
and that she had been sent on a holy mission from God to
free France and crown the king, Charles VII, at Reims Cathedral,
where all previous kings had been crowned.

The story is quite extraordinary as Joan of Arc was a young peasant
girl without material support or influence initially,
but who showed true faith, strength in opposition and determination.

Unfortunately, there are also gruesome battle accounts in the story
however the author does portray the times authentically and is most
likely reflecting the harsh reality of some of those more distant battles
in the past. Also, sometimes perhaps the harshness of life.

The sword of Charles Martel, who had freed France from the Saracens
was also carried by Joan of Arc. In her magnificent armour and splendid
war horse she must have presented quite a spectacle, a radiant vision, leading her soldiers on to
battle and riding with the wind across the beautiful fields of France holding her
white satin banner aloft with the inscription of Jesu Maria on both sides
and a picture of Jesus on the globe and two winged angels with golden lilies
in the background and was also trimmed with golden fringe.
Joan of Arc showed bravery and was a fearless
warrior. She also had many loyal supporters. She became quite the heroine
after the siege of Orleans.

This book gives an incentive to
Joan of Arc. There is a site “Maid of Heaven” of poetry written by a
contemporary poet of the time, Christine de Pisan who wrote of Joan of Arc.

“The Maid” is a wonderful story to read with magnificent settings in the Valley
of the Loire and the castles where Joan of Arc often stayed with the king and
his courtiers.
The depiction of the characters surrounding Joan of Arc, her supporters and fellow
soldiers, including the The Duc D'Alencon, who had been a prisoner of the English
for five years, gives a personal perspective.
The dialogue is crisp and clear and the story flows from the pages.
A wonderful story to behold! Beautiful.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Vision of Beauty

A Vision of Beauty

In 1693 at the time of his retirement, Le Notre, the King's gardener,
gave a gift to the King. He invited Louis XIV to select any paintings
he wished from his art collection of 250 paintings.

It is significant and noteworthy that many of the paintings which Louis XIV
selected are now available to view at the Louvre in Paris.

Included paintings of the 20 paintings which the king initially included in his small gallery are:

Albani's “Acteon Changing into a Stag”
“Apollo and Daphne”
“Salmacis and Hermaphrodite”
Claude Lorraine's “Seaport at Sunset”
“Village Fete”
Poussin's “Woman Taken in Adultery”
“Moses Saved from the Waters”
“Saint John Baptising the People”

Significant also that the themes of the paintings selected
were of a mythological nature, beauty (“Sea Port at Sunset” is
mystical, magical, beautiful) and religion.

The king had an eye for beauty, wished to create beauty.
He had a vision of Versailles from a young age. He had
often gone hunting there in his earlier days.

Where had stood atop the hill a little windmill which
his father would sleep in at nights after hunting in the
nearby forest of St Leger. Thereafter a little pavilion
was built by Louis XIII.

Nicholas Fouquet's “Vaux-le-Vicomte” may have been the
time for change and which eventually did inspire him to
start his own building plan. Prior to this time, Louis XIV
had been confined to older style palaces in Paris or Fontainebleu.
Vaux le Vicomte may have given him a glimpse of what was
achievable with new concepts, space and light, entertainment
areas and gardens.

His new finance Minister, Colbert, would have liked to have seen
Louis XIV devote more time and energy to the Louvre. However,
over time Louis XIV became so inspired by Versailles that he actually
would oversee personally the decorating and arranging of art works
himself at Versailles, including the gardens also.
If the king was not in attendance,
as he may have been away, he would write for updates to be given of
the progress of the works, fountains, flowers.
Louise de la Valliere was at one
time an inspiration for the beautiful gardens of Versailles. Being of a serene
and peaceful nature the softer images of the flowers and parterres would have
complemented her beauty also.

The Grand Canal and gondolas which were given by the Senate of
Venice enhanced the colours and magic of the landscaped scene with
their flags and pennants and sailors in bright coloured livery.
Beautiful white swans glided gracefully along the Grand Canal.

The king enjoyed water concerts and fire-works displays but at one time
his doctor told him he should forgo these activities.
In winter the royal party enjoyed sleigh rides and ice-
skating on the Grand Canal. The king's son enjoyed
these winter sports.

The fountains were magical. It was almost as a gift that the two
Francini brothers arrived at the right time to enhance the
fountains and gardens with beautiful water works.
Wonderful arches of spray would form on a summer's day
where the courtiers and ladies could walk
under the jets of water without becoming wet.
So many fountains and jets of spray, at least fourteen hundred.

The Labyrinthe being quite magical was the place of mythological
statues, animals and stories with the figures of Cupid and Aesop
at the entrance. Unfortunately, this Labyrinthe no longer exists.
At the time it was a marvel and admired by many influential people.

There was also a Marais which had belonged to Madame de Montespan,
creating the artificial with nature, lights from a fountain and tree.
Louis XIV ordered the Marais to be
replaced later. As also, the Trianon de Porcelaine, known as a Palace of
Flora, for its beautiful and rare flowers. Flowers of every kind. This was
subsequently replaced by the Marble Trianon. Sometimes in the evenings
the king and some of his attendants and ladies would visit these flower gardens.

There is a note written by an English author: from Project Gutenburg's
“The Story of Versailles” by Francis Loring Payne:

"In the midst of all the austerities imposed upon him by the ambition of Madame de Maintenon, the King went to Trianon to inhale the breath of the flowers which he had planted there, of the rarest and most odoriferous kind. On the infrequent occasions when the Court was permitted to accompany him thither to share in his evening collation, it was a beautiful spectacle to see so many charming women wandering in the midst of the flowers on the terrace rising from the banks of the canal. The air was so rich with the mingled perfume of violets, orange flowers, jessamines, tuberoses, hyacinths and narcissuses that the King and his visitors were sometimes obliged to fly from the overpowering sweets. The flowers in the parterres were arranged in a thousand different figures, which were constantly changed, so that one might have supposed it to be the work of some fairy, who, passing over the gardens, threw upon them each time a new robe aglow with color."

The Hall of Mirrors, the “Galerie des Glaces” was a wonderful show piece.
Thousands of wax candles glimmered in chandeliers of crystal
and silver ware creating an effect of extreme beauty. Silverware, beautiful
views overlooking the gardens, the rays of the sunlight which at different times
of the day would pattern the marble floor would have created a beauteous
and peaceful image.
At sunset the rays would have shone directly into the Hall of Mirrors in all of
its gilded splendour creating a magical scene, sublime with the beauty and
colour of the sun.
The marble floor and silverware, including orange trees in silver vases,
were subsequently replaced.

Flowers, clothing, ornamentation and entertainments created a wonderful
theatre of life.
Louis XIV was a magical king who created a show piece of magnificence
and wonderful landscaped gardens which were admired
and followed by other European courts.
Tradition and ceremony, religion, were all important to him.
He was also loved by the people.

I have visited Versailles three times and each time it is with a sense of wonder
that I first see a statue of the king on a horse at the entrance gates and the grand
setting of the courtyard and buildings which housed so many people when the
court and courtiers lived at Versailles. The centre of court and government.
A scheme of things.

Don't Fence Me In and A Visit to the Park

Once again the poetry of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson proves popular
at Poetry in Paradise which was held at the library in the week-end.  These
poets wrote bush poetry of Australia and stories of the outback which is a
popular genre.

I include two poems which I wrote for the occasion.
(For poems of Versailles, please refer to earlier postings.)

I have commenced reading the powerful novel of Joan of Arc and read to
chapter 25 last night.  I will continue reading this riveting story and write a
review later.  The book
is "The Maid" by Kimberly Cutter and this is powerful writing indeed!  I
am finding the book enjoyable to read as it is set in early times in rural France,
 Domremy, the little village where Joan of Arc grew up with her family.
I love books which are set in France and also enjoyed reading of the early years
of Louise de la Valliere in rural French towns and villages in the Loire region
of France and Paris in Sandra Gulland's
novel of "Mistress of the Sun."

I sometimes think I would like to write a novel.  The  standard of writing by
new and contemporary writers is quite extraordinary. I am always impressed.

Don't Fence Me In

What a wonderful song!
A reminder of old times round a piano
A sing-song
Don't Fence Me In:
The Song would go
From a long time ago:

I think of beautiful meadows
where elk and deer roam free
Tall grasses, wild swan
And trees of glorious colour would see

And the antelope chases down a mountain stream
The Song of the antelope
As a dream

Wild nature at its best
Natural environment forms the rest;

Shingle pathways with wild flowers
Swaying in the breeze

fields and fields of corn and maize
and in the distance
a setting sun
glimmering in its haze-

A Sun's haze-
beautiful, enduring
creating a golden landscape
of spectacle;

The darkening shadows
The land at Sun-fall

an eclipse, a Star-light glimpse,
where Earth and Sun and Moon collide
“Now you see me,
Now you don't”-
In a magical Earth-like slide
And the Sun and the Moon do glide
In glorious wonder from Heaven's side
“Oh, to be a fairy on a magical Moon trip ride”
Through the celestial stars and skies so wide:

Nature and magic
It is so blessed
A beauteous world
golden, carressed;

Glimpsed with wonder in my eyes
The sparkling lights of Texas lie
Flying across American skies:
So beautiful for sure
This wondrous world
with sights unfurled;

“Beauty” and “Light”
Falls within
and falls without-
Now we know what the Song's about
“Don't Fence Me In.”

As the seasons are now changing and on the
Gold Coast the spring colours are quite vibrant,
noticeable and beautiful I will take some more
pictures and post some of the photos.

Next poem:
Visiting the Park

Visiting the Park
spring colours
Bright and stark.

Oranges, yellows
greens and blue
In shades and shadows
Budding flowers of every hue-

What a gift of nature be
Glorious in majesty:-

Lilies on a gleaming pond
Star-light, Star-bright
A glittering Sun:-
ducklings, starlings
can be found;
In trees of ever-green
bird song echoes
a magical sound
swirling in a care-free scene:

A beauteous light
Patterned bright
sets the scene:
A world is free:-

And here it was
that a golden friend
was met be chance
came across my path:

For as the day
deepened and became dark
He needed shelter from the park:

Golden labrador,
that he was-
His name “Amber” was because:
Amber eyes with golden coat
Knew instructions as by rote:
“Sit Down,
Come here.”-
Friendly, happy
As with people
he could cope:
Such a good boy
A cherished friend
And to his home
I had to send.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Brother of Fire by Christian Jacq

The Brother of Fire by Christian Jacq

On New Year's Day in New Zealand Concert FM
would play the most popular pieces of music which
had been voted by the listeners. Invariably a musical
score by Mozart was in the top few favourite pieces of

I remember listening to some of Mozart's music and found it
so beautiful, sublime, incredibly moving, spiritual and magical.
This was often the best.

Having read “The Brother of Fire” by Christian Jacq now gives me
more insights into the wonderful music of Mozart. As was mentioned
in the book, Mozart's music would echo through the centuries which
of course it has done.

The spiritual dimension of the music, the life and tribulations of Mozart,
his father, Leopold, his wife, Constanze, his bird, Star, and dog, Gaukerl,
his musical friends and fellow brothers of freemasonry all make for a wonderful
story in the setting of Vienna, a musically inspiring
city itself.

The story of freemasonry in this setting is also a major part of the
book. The rituals, the spiritual nature and the quest for the mysteries of
Ancient Egypt to be revealed give fascinating insights of a spiritual nature.
The dialogue, flow of conversation and story of Vienna in the eighteenth
century governed by the Emperor, Josef II are magnificent. This city was
soon to be engaged in battle with the Turks which was frightening for many
of its citizens.

I found this book to be one of the best of the Mozart series of books. There was
deep meaning to be found in the operas, “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don
Giovanni” which gave an extra dimension to the book and understanding of
the beauty and spiritual nature of the music of Mozart. The writer has a
clear affinity with the composer and an understanding of the composer's
life, music, world and need for perfection. The music of Mozart could
transport people to new dimensions, and Mozart did like to sometimes
listen to the music of the great Johann Sebastian Bach.

For great adventure and a wonderful read I would recommend this book
“The Brother of Fire” for people with a love of the beautiful music of
Mozart. This book is historical fiction with a ring of truth about it. It is
wonderful to read.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Winner of Six Books!

A Winner of Six Books!

I am pleased to announce that I have won six books
from a Book Coasters promotion of Gold Coast City Libraries
by entering into a competition of writing book reviews.

When I have read these books I will give more details about the

There certainly is a variety of different authors and genres from
a book of “What Miscellaneous Abnormality Is That?” A Field Guide
(257th edition) with a stamp on the back of The Federal Department
of Odds and Ends to a fascinating and inspiring book by Natascha
Kampusch “3,096 Days” a story of her kidnapping at a young age
and imprisonment in Vienna, where she did not escape until 8 years later.

Other books included are:
Bryce Courtenay's “Fortune Cookie”

“The Plantation” by Di Morrissey; (from the cover of the book it looks like it is
set in an idyllic setting;

Jefferey Deaver, a thriller writer and New York Times bestselling author,

“10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2010” by a selection of different authors.

Plenty of reading to keep me busy!
This has been very exciting for me to win these books and I am very appreciative
of the librarians at Gold Coast City Libraries for their help and inspiration and

I will give an update later when I have read some of these books.

Best wishes from Sandra