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!