Thursday, December 3, 2015

Stresa, Lake Maggiore.& Modern Italian Painting.

Giorgio De Chirico.
Antigone, 1926

Stresa, Italian Alps & Modern Italian Painting.

One of the great surprises of our stay in Stresa on the shore of lake Maggiore in the Italian Alp was the discovery of a very fine art gallery. Not only did it stock the usual sweet Italian painting and a fine selection of art glass and silver, but some paintings by modern Italian masters.

A fine example of Giorgio De Chirico’s painting titled ‘Antigone’ 1926, from   Chirico better periods the 1920s. As many of you know de Chirico is best associated with Surrealism, but he was the originator of an art movement called Metaphysical Painting, a style of imagery were random object are arranged in a composition stripped of their true meaning. This approach to art of course was adopted by the Surrealist movement.

Another surprise in this lakeside gallery was a work by Giacomo Bella, one of the leading exponent of Italian Futurism. A movement interested in depicting aspects of modern industrialized life. That Futurism, Italy’s contribution to modern art is still freely available was surprising.

Stresa as an alpine tourist town on the shores of Lake Maggiore is quite delightful to both the eye and pocket. There are several grand hotels around the lake shore, but plenty of good budget hotels and backpackers, many with views across the lake. Taken back by first impressions we decided to stay a few days to explore some of the small villages and towns scatted around the lake’s edge. One discovery was the Botanic Garden of Villa Taranto established by Captain Neil McEacharn in the 1930s. He was a Scottish nobleman of considerable wealth and over the years collected over 20,000 trees and shrubs from all over the world. Now over ninety years old the gardens offer wonderful examples of unusual and exotic trees and shrubs.

Another worthwhile outing is the bus trip up to the top of the mountain raising behind the town to visit the Alpine Garden, a community project were they collect various alpine trees and plants from around the world. There are also visits to the islands such as Isola Bell and its castle or palace.

The town itself is very picturesque, full of earth coloured building of a few stories height each in perfect harmony with its neighbour and there is plenty to do boating, swimming if you like cold water and just sitting admiring the view.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lyon gastronomic capital of France.

Lyon roofline from pont La Feuillee. drawing Peter Kreet


To return to your past may often prove to be a daunting experience and revisiting Lyon after fifty-five years was no exception. The city first visited in my youth however did not disappoint, although our arrival to take up an apartment tenancy proved to be disappointing. Our landlord simply failed to show up and honour his agreement. But I do not wish to dwell on negatives for Lyon over the years has developed from strength to strength. It is easy to understand why the city in recent has enticing visitors in great numbers. Its delightful building painted in a variety of pastel and earthy tones throw out a welcome greeting. Lyon standing as it does between two wide rivers, the Saone and the Rhone has a spacious feel and does not force itself upon the visitor unlike some European cities. It is possible to walk around its wide squares, parks or down wide streets to feel the space the city offers.

View from Fourviere.
For our eight day stay I intended to draw many of the wonderful roof lines of the beautiful 18th cent buildings and explore the museums, restaurants and attractions at will. August unfortunately is not the best time to visit private art galleries and interesting boutiques as many owners take their annual holidays in August as well. But the Museum of Beaux Art was open home to a fine collection of historic and modern painting, along with an extensive Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquates. The city after all was capital of Roman Gaul.
rue de la Platiere  drawing Peter Kreet

Standing proudly on Place des Terreaux breathing jets of vaporised water through their nostrils are a wonderful group of rearing horses the creation of Frederic Bartholdi designer of the Statue of Liberty in New York. One of the highlights of Lyon however would have to me Basilique of Notre-Dame standing guard on Fourviere a large hill overlooking the town. This unique building built in the last years of the 19th century was constructed as a thank you to the Virgin Mary for saving the city from the plague devouring Europe at the time. The Cathedral is a wonderful example of old and modern design. Built with carved stone this neo-gothic building contains an extraordinary ornate interior. Indeed the Basilique is more like a palace than a church decorated with tens of thousands of mosaic titles depicting various biblical scenes. How the late 19th century found the hundreds of artists craftsmen to carry out the work I have no idea, but the final result is quite breathtaking. Considering the building is barely hundred years old, the stone features and general structure suggest a much older place of worship. It is possible to return to the old city via a zig zag track down the hillside a great walk in itself.

La Fontain Bartholdi
Basilique de Notre-Dame

After a few days drawing we decided to take a tour of the nearby Beaujolais wine district. In my youth I spent the odd summer holiday with my uncle who lived in Chamlet pruning a few vines on the edge of Beaujolais district. Our tour guide turned out to be a very lively commentator as we stopped at the little medieval village of Oingt considered by many as one of the prettiest in France. Built of a yellow-ochre coloured stone the buildings have a wonderful warmth and glow, I could not resist the opportunity to carry out a few drawings. We then visited a local winery. The Beaujolais is divided into twelve appellations according to soil type, so the wines vary accordingly. A more mineral flavoured wine from the blue stone soils and a softer fruity flavour from pink granite. Nearly all the vines I saw were gooseberry bush pruned, that is close to the ground to obtain maximum reflected heat to enable early ripening.

Village of Oingt.
Another don’t miss experience while in Lyon is a visit to the Sunday market along both sides of the River Saone
. Unlike most markets in Tasmania, all the stalls are grouped according to the produce they sell. The book section was all together, while on the other side of the river was devoted to arts and crafts. Many artists worked away on site, painting, drawing and even potting. Further down over the river again ran the fruit, vegetables and some great cooked on the spot take away foods. It is possible to select a chicken, select your desired spices and have it cooked while you wait. I believe these markets are to be found all over Lyon.

River walk Soade.
While on the subject of food which is central to any visit it is a must to partake of a genuine Lyonnais meal in a bouchon. One near our hotel Chez Paul offered a unique dinning experience. The menu consist of some six to eight entrees, a selection of three mains and three deserts. However unlike a normal restaurant each entrĂ©e dish is placed on the table and the dinner may take a serve of each. The same applies to the deserts all this for a fixed price. The food is traditional Lyonnais home cooking and dinners are seated on entry on the first vacant seat, table by table not unlike a farm kitchen meal. This procedure   is carried until the restaurant is full. Don’t think the dishes are plain one night I enjoyed pork cheek. The major problem for many visitors is the dishes are new and the temptation to taste them all is great.

Entrance to Cath. Of Notre-Dame
Towards the end of our stay, we took the metro to Lumiere Museum housed in their villa an architectural creation of Antoine Lumiere. The brothers registered nearly 200 hundred patents during their life time over a very diverse field. Apart from their development of all sorts of new techniques in the fields of photography and cinema, Louis invented the articulated handgrip in response to the causalities from the First World War. Later he invented the diaphragm out of folded paper, a predecessor of the acoustic membrane of to-days loudspeakers. August invented the Tulle Gras dressing, anon-adhesive dressing impregnated with active ingredient for the treatment of burns. The list goes on and Lyon must be very proud of its Lumiere brothers.

Villa Lumiere

Finally no visit to Lyon would be complete without a visit to Paul Bocuse Restaurant; unfortunately there is a year’s waiting list! Still I decided to visit Paul Bocuse Food Hall, housing a vast array of all sorts of possible ways to prepare food. Stalls producing all manner of dishes from snails to mouth-watering pastries, Lyon is always worth a return visit. 

                                                               Roman Theature.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Village Diary.

A village diary.

Several weeks ago a body of council workers arrived at our village early one morning and after several hours of discussion, started to prepare the footings for some new guttering along a small section of highway. Apparently tourists had been sighted walking along the road counter to health safety regulations.

Now the number of men required for such an operation varies from one location to another. In this case the number ran from five to thirteen depending on the weather and the day of the week. All would always be dressed regulation orange except one who wore yellow and his task seemed to be holding vertically aloft a squared off length of timber several metres long. The other attendees on these occasions would stand around in a circle around the man in yellow transfixed on every word, eyes glazed in a trance not unlike that observed in many yoga classes and other oriental activities that have become a central part of much Western social life.

There appeared to be a rule that no more than two could carry out any activity at any one time, while the others stood perfectly still, eyes transfix on any object laying nearby, it appears that many of poles, bushes and discarded objects held contained some religious reference judging by the attention bestowed on them.

On most days a couple of men would be detailed to the task of boiling the billy for the regular tea breaks this sort of activity required. Others would roll cigarettes while walking from one end of the construction work to the other. Some held aloft signs requesting motor traffic to stop or drive at timely intervals. These tasks have taken up considerable time as the work progressed over eight to ten weeks. Some wag suggested that the new concrete be painted grey to blend with the existing gutter.

One of the requirements for this new work was the removal of a clump of old cherry plums that had created a sort of private little circular path away from the road.  Over the years the trees had built up a small mound of composted leaves and fallen fruit creating a fertile mound of earth under the trees, for reasons still unknown the removal of this soil caused several people in the village to take up a petition for the earths return. Unfortunately our labouring group had taken the prized soil to a secret location. Fortunately further digging was required so that a salutation presented itself in replacing the missing treasure with freshly dug piles of subsoil and clay from the recently dug ditch. What use all these heaps of dirt are to the villagers’ remains a mystery. Still the works goes on while still more men arrive to construct this twenty metres of guttering glinting in the sun.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Concertmaster-Jun Yi Ma.

I have never really understood exactly what  role  the Concertmaster played. I knew he or she were the first violin in the orchestra, who would be the last musician to appear on stage while everyone else was intent on making a maximum racket fine tuning their instruments. They would always walk on last, flick their tail coat beyond the chair’s edge, then play middle C on his violin for the benefit of the orchestra before the conductor arrived at his podium.

He would be required solo pieces when required and generally hold the orchestra together. But the most important role was that of a bonding agent for all the musicians who over the years become his friends and confederates. His influence on the musical quality of an orchestra can be quite profound. Ma is much loved by both musicians and audience and so it was with his final concert last week with the TSO. As soloist he played a masterful performance of Korngold’s violin Concerto, a composer better known for compositions written for Hollywood.

The musicians were quite emotional as you would expect as their Concertmaster of fourteen years bid farewell.  There was to odd tear and considerable enthusiasm from both  musicians and audience alike. a  standing ovation amid much shouting and Bravos. All wished him well in his new role as Concertmaster with the Australian Opera Ballet Orchestra in Sydney

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Irish Eyes

Visiting Molly Malone

Irish Eyes:

When I first visited Ireland a few years ago I explored the west coast, after all this was often claimed to be the “real” Ireland unlike the part within the pale. A place were people were still speaking Gaelic. Were all the favourite Folk songs originated from, well those usually sung in Australian seaman’s pubs and other drunken events. The names spoke volumes, Kerry, Bantry Bay, Shannon, Limerick, Galway, endless lists of cherished memories locked away in the heads of early Irish settlers to this Australia. Knowledge of the south east corner of Ireland by comparison for me was scarce. After Dublin and Waterford crystal the cupboard became bare. I still remember the trip up to Galway and the lost weekend in Connemara were a Gaelic speaker conference was being held and I spent the night in a pub listening dirges rather than rollicking Irish jigs I had hoped for. Then on to Sligo to visit Yeats’ grave and the honeyed voice of a local guide who ferreted elderly American women up to the Big House on the hill in his horse and trap.

This more recent trip was a more sedate affair’ visiting an old friend in Wicklow and looking at the Book of Kells and Dublin in general.   Naturally there was the odd shower, but most Irish eyes seemed to be smiling despite what appeared to be major political disagreements among many citizens. Our visit to Trinity College to view this famed work was quite an eye opener. I had no idea of the scale of each page, nor the more the complex patterns of both text and decoration. Beautiful lineal control independent of its neighbour that somehow created the impression of a line shadow. Likewise paint applied in a broken manner so as to give the sparkle of stained glass windows. The question of whether the painter and writer were the same monk remains debatable, but the final work remains as one of mankind greater achievements. Walking around Trinity grounds the visitor is struck with the diverse collection of large outdoor sculptures. One that particularly caught my eye I believe was created by a South American sculptor who generously donated it to the University.

 The train journey to Wicklow next day presented a more fertile countryside in marked contrast to the many miles of the little stone plots of Western Ireland were struggling farmers in the past were forced to collect seaweed to build up their little patch of dirt in order to grow anything. At the time I felt the despair they must have felt.   

Wicklow and the surrounds proved to be a series of small villages, that seemed to hug the sea in defiance’s of the Atlantic Ocean. In one part of the coast, I observed that the ocean moved in opposite direction at the same time . Most certainly not an ideal swimming location. Looking out across the ocean it is easy to understand why many in the 19th cent consider this to be the edge of the world, those early Irish convicts who made the journey to Van Diemen’s land  in many ways must have thought they were travelling from one edge to the other.
Not a good swimming spot.
The edge of the world?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

D-Day & Saint Melo

Saint Malo

D-day and Saint Malo:

Anthony Doerr’s novel “All the light we cannot see” inspired me to visit Saint Malo on a recent visit to France. Situated on the Brittney coast this medieval town was almost totally destroyed by sea bombardment and air attack during the Second World War. A city sitting snugly within its ancient walls, witness the destruction of 683 of its 865 buildings by this attack, an attack that preluded the Normandy landing on June 6th 1944. Yet today hardly a trace of these events are in evident so thoroughly has the restoration of town been. Working with broken stone blocks and the debris of the attack a new/old town has re-emerged. It is doubtful if many of the younger generation have much understanding of the devastation that occurred.

Our journey began in the ferry town of Rossierair in southern Ireland were it is possible to make the eighteen hour voyage to Cherbourg, the port that played a major role in the D-day landing. Being the only major harbour that could be used to supply the Allied troops taking part in the Normandy landing it was vital that Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall be destroyed. Cherbourg is an artificial harbour and its neutralisation remained central to the gigantic task of re-establishment of freedom in Europe. The failure of the Dieppe Raid in August 1942 with its heavy loss of life left sour tastes in the mouths of Allied leaders. The Nazi had in response built their Atlantic Wall, a series of forts and underground chambers able to withstand any sea assault resulted in the bombardment of St Malo, along with other targeted areas along the coast.

It is important to remember that certain conditions for a predawn Normandy landing were vital. A raising tide to carry the armada of troops safely onto the beaches, a full moonlight night that would allow parachutists to perform the work of clearing a coast of blockhouses and reinforced concrete constructions. June 6 1944 provided the perfect opportunity. There were three phases to the landing, air landing on Utah Beach [code name] to the west and Sword Beach to the east. A heavy air and naval bombardment of the Atlantic Wall preceded the seaborne landings that unfortunately extracted a heavy toll on medieval St Malo.

At first light the sea from Cherbourg to the mouth of the Seine was covered with ships, thousands of boats as men and equipment pushed their way towards the coast. Allied air craft bombarded the fortifications along the Channel, navel guns poured their lethal load onto the coast, I still remember the sky blackened in southern England as wave after wave of aircraft took off for France. An image that’s been transfixed in my memory. To-day many museums and monuments along the Normandy coast commemorate the D-day landing and it is easy to compare the landing with the evacuation of three hundred thousand men from Dunkirk at the outbreak of war. An event that resulted in the death of my grandfather

Before leaving Cherbourg for St Malo we decided to offer our respect to the fallen by walking to the top of Mount Roule, past the gun battery and underground chambers dug deep into the mountain to protect the harbour. On the top of Mt Roule stands The Liberation Museum housing symbolic items and photos of the lives of the towns citizens during those unfortunate times. Our sudden appearance on foot prompted the curator to reward these two rather elderly patrons with free entry for which we were greatly touched.

Taking the afternoon train to St Malo we arrived around 4pm and our first impressions of the town being one of wonder, an old medieval town encased within massive stone walls, houses tightly packed within the battlement’s grasp. It is possible to walk right around the ancient town on the battlement and imagine that you have been transformed back to another time. The old town is built on a neck of land at the far end of a beach, whether it has always so I don’t know, but to-day the medieval city is isolated from modern day St Malo by a series of little harbours and yacht basins that give the impression that it is an island. This part of the French coast experiences rapid tide changes were a rocky out crop may disappear very rapidly as the sea comes rolling in. In front of the massive battlement, large tree length have been placed vertically into sandy beaches, I assume to help break the heavy seas that at times battery the walls, but give a good indication of how high the tide on occasion raises.

It is easy to see why Anthony Doerr chose St Malo as the location for his page turning book. His hero a blind girl who hid here during the war and learnt to find her way around by fingering a wooden model of the houses laid out as a town plan made by her father. The means by which she navigated the cobbled streets and tightly built houses as she fled a Nazi gem stone searcher create high drama and tension, it is quite wonderful and I’m sure after reading the novel you may also wish to visit St Malo. A true reconstruction of fragments from the past. 

St Malo battlement.

View of the old town.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A favourite task

My favourite volunteer job.

Strange as it may seem pruning olive trees and grape vines stand as one of my most favourite tasks. Each tree and vine has a mind of its own resulting in a full extension of both mind and body. Each often seems to possess a desire to fulfil its own desires independently of their owner, if it is possible for an individual to own a natural plant. The challenge forces the pruner to observe, evaluate and finally decide on their fate not just for the coming year, but possibly for the years to come. It is necessary to communicate with the tree before any irretrievable cut is made.   

Each vine or tree has the potential to produce many different variables, like life itself our decisions determine the future to come. This is the joy to becoming fully engaged mentally in such a task. Will the vine overcrop and reduce the quality of the wine? Will this cut reduce possible mildew or future disease. Will the new shape disfigure the appearance to such an extent that several years’ growth may be required to return it to both its aesthetic and economic wellbeing.

Each vine or tree has a life of its own, but dependent in some way on the pruner and other plants. All sorts of reasons emerge, the pollination, differences in soil fertility, position, amount of sunshine and light is it subjected to bitter winds, the list is endless.     

The pruner is not simply someone undertaking a thankless task but must feel fully engaged with this natural world. Each and every decision should advance our concept in trying to create a better world. Don’t rush, stop, think and listen to your inner instincts they are rarely wrong.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Karen Gomyo, Violinist extraordinary..

Karen Gomyo.

Concert hall packed as French-Canadian violist Karen Gomyo took centre stage to make her debut with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in Hobart. Her Stradivari violin ready to take on the task, as a ‘Russian Night’ was about to unfold. Not only was the audience about to enjoy Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, but for good measure Shostakovich’s Symphony No 10 [claimed by sum to be a portrait of the dark Stalinist times] was to follow.

The night very much belonged to Gomyo who melted into her violin creating a memorable night of music. Her extraordinary technical skill combined with the wonderful sound of a three hundred year old Strad produced an electric rending of one the world’s favourite violin pieces. Technical skill beyond the norm was required, when Tchaikovsky first composed the concerto around 1878, he used his friend Josef Kotek to play through various sections of the composition to ensure their playability.

Originally the work was dedicated to the virtuoso Leopold Auer, who however thought the concerto far too difficult and refused to play it. Gomyo, however had no such qualms virtually performed summer sorts as she swayed and moved with the music as one.  Fingers dancing across the strings in overtime, a superb performance.  
After numerous curtain calls she generously played a piece by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla whose music she has an affinity with as a encore. A delightful evening’s music and I would urge any music lover who ever has a chance to hear this talented musician play not to miss the chance

Monday, May 11, 2015



The problem with the word fundamental in a philosophic sense, other than in its scientific meaning, is its inability to adapt to comprise. This is little wonder given in its origins within Christian beliefs. However we live in a world of impermanence nothing throughout history is set in stone. This philosophical base unfortunately stands at odds with all the fundamental belief currently circulating in the world, whether they are religious, political, cultural or economic. There is no such thing as permanence, other than scientific and even that has been found at times to be incorrect. Historically everything is in a continual state of change be they metal, stone, or the world itself let alone human thought.

Fundamentalism makes compromise impossible, the reaching of satisfactory outcomes that are amicable to everyone require it. Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus in his study of change remarked ‘no one can step into the same river twice’. Fundamental wisdom he felt was not knowledge of many things or ideas, but the perception of underlying unity of warring opposites. This is fundamental to his thought.

In this age of hung parliaments made up of all sorts of fundamental groups attempting to control societies with their conflicting agendas, or the religious outpouring of fundamental believers, we would do well to search for that underlying unity. This of course is self-evident, but we seem unable to find it, rather we continually look in the opposite direction.  

Monday, May 4, 2015


Disappearing primary sources.

I can’t remember as a child ever making any association between a country’s postage stamps and their political landscape. Slowly as you grow older you become aware of a Europe that has moved from pre-war tranquillity to one of an aggressive nature. The appearance of Adolf Hitler's image on stamps, overprinting of countries names, or new currencies denominations herald a more impermanent present.  

When I turned eight, I inherited my father stamp collection containing stamps from countries that no longer seemed to exists, some with over printed names of new masters who had imposed their rule militarily or other political reasons. Stamp collecting has a larger agenda beyond its revenue role for respective government. It is in a way a primary source to reinforce new historic situations, a visual history of events that outlive their own time.

Sadly current societies march towards the electronic age is discarding many of the tangible links to the past such as the disappearance of postage stamps. Recorded history no longer written by hand, but by the touch of a finger on a computer. Unlike the written account recorded by witnesses of events in physical form, our primary source is open to alteration by other hands without necessarily any consultation with the original author.

Whether such ‘histories’ will be considered primary sources of information by future generations remains an open question. It is possible that history as we now understand it may be a thing of the past. Will we be left only with the current edited electronic interpretation of what may be considered suitable. I’m not sure that the world will be bester served by such an outcome.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

ANZAC Day poem, peter kreet.

                     Sacred Site


      Standing in the shadow of Lone Pine

      Among whirling flies,


       dead fags , too fearful to light.

        Red filmed eyes

         puffed, survey the slope,

         Studded with basking corpuses ,

         taking in the sun.

         Air humid and alive

         the song of bullets beat tarnished ground.

         What was the secret

         Still alive,

         not a politician’s promise.

         Nor glory

         This secret search of life,

         fills the soul with burning emptiness.

         Standing now on conquered ground,

         No pity

         Nor compassion

         When they fall

         Eyes do not distinguish them,

         rich nor poor
        dark nor fair

        weak nor strong

        young nor old

        What more does a conquered land desire,
        Apart from bleached bones

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Armenian Genocide and Anzac Day.

The Inconvenient Armenian Genocide.

With the one hundredth anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population in 1915, it is refreshing to hear a world leader in the form of Pope Francis describe these appalling events for what they were. How numerous Turkish Governments continue to refer to the death of 600,000 to 1,500,000 million people as a mere tragedy is beyond belief. Driven from their home at gun point, old men, women and children forced to walk half way across the Near East to a location in the Syrian desert without food or water is not the action of a civilised people. Little wonder few survived their experience, many shot, raped and killed in route. To rub salt into the wounds of the Armenians their homes were then declared abandoned by the Government   who subsequently sold them for their own profit.

The recently published book ‘An Inconvenient Genocide’, by Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. analysis the evidence, Laws of Genocide, and details of these events and leaves any fair minded reader with only one conclusion. Likewise the German Government of the day despite numerous reports from missionaries, consuls and other foreign representatives chose to disregard the information and made no attempt to put a stop to the slaughter. This charade has gone on for one hundred years and needs to stop. In Turkey anyone who raises the question is prosecuted with a likely jail sentence. What is the Turkish Government afraid of reparation why the denial, they accept that these events happened but refuse any responsibility.

The Australian, American and British Governments are no better, they likewise refer to these events as a tragedy, how one can call the forced death of 600,000 to 1,500,000 people a tragedy is beyond belief, yet this is what I believe our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop remarked. These Governments don’t wish to upset the Turkish relationship which they consider more important than the closure of the cleansing for the descendants of their lost forbearers.

One would have hoped that both our Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister could have had the decency to attend the one hundredth commemoration in Yerevan while in Turkey for Anzac Day. After all it is only next door and the fear of the Allies landing in Gallipoli prompted the Turks to round up the Armenians for fear they may assist the Western Allies on day before the landing. Still we should not expect our political masters to study history.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father.

Lee Kuan Yew.

Singaporean public lament over the death of their founding patriarch is understandable. Lee was a leader of remarkable talent in taking Singapore from an important British colonial transport hub to a first world identity in one generation.

Given Australia’s current floundering government with no inspiring leader of any political persuasion in sight, any thoughtful person would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps authoritarian government has many advantages in advancing ordinary peoples living standards.

There will be many who throw their hands up in the air in dismay at the very suggestion that dictatorial authority is compatible with democratic rule, but in Singapore’s case the result is only too plain to see. I’m old enough to remember Singapore in the early 1950s when I first visited the island. Admittedly south-east Asia was still in recovery mode after the defeat of Japan in World War Two, but even then Singapore was nowhere as economically deprived as its closest neighbours Indonesia and Malay. It’s fortunate geographical location always ensured a certain degree of prosperity in terms of world trade, but still it was a long way from first world.

Despite the multi-ethnic composition of the population where each group to some extent was always anxious to advance their own tribal interests, Lee was able to unite them into a cohesive whole no mean feat when compared to the history of its neighbours. The Chinese cleansing in Indonesia and several years of armed conflict in Malay. This most ability to unite was probably  Lee's greatest achievement, the ability to unite people in a complementary vision of their future without which progress in any field is neigh impossible. Admittedly harsh measure were from time to time employed, but there is no doubt the majority of Singaporeans enjoyed eventually a higher standard of living that made the policy worthwhile.  

Strangely in the fifties Lee was considered in conservative circles to be a communist, while today the left of politics consider him to be a right wing dictator, both sides perusing their own political agendas neither  seeming able to see real benefits in Lee’s  rule, each focusing instead on some restrictive aspect of his government. Many western governments historically have over the years   discredited their political adversaries in similar manner, while they no longer jail them as in the pas they are often fairly loose with the truth, freely discrediting their personalities.

Despite some of Lee’s questionable policies, his achievement have been remarkable taking Singapore’s GDP to levels not obtain in Australia or many other western first world countries. Turning the island state into a powerhouse of Asian affairs. Singapore will surely miss his guiding hand.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tan Dun. Contrabass Concerto. 'Wolf Totem'

Tan Dun’s ‘Wolf Totem’.

Tan Dun’s Wolf Totem stands as one of the highlights of this year’s Hobart Ten Days Festival. Commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with four other orchestras from around the world, its Hobart performance was greeted with much delight and enthusiasm.

Based on the Chinese novel Wolf Totem the concerto for double bass is packed with musical surprises. The composition entwines the ancient Mongolian culture with the suggestive western intrusion via the Silk Road. The shrinking grasslands and native animal population are integrated into the musical score of  Eastern and Western musical traditions.

In exploring this culture, Tan Dun introduces the current crises of possible destruction of the grassland’s population of wild horses and wolves. He explores the fingering techniques of ancient Mongolian Horse Fiddle playing with modern musical instruments resulting in some extraordinary musical sounds. The Hobart Festival was very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear this work from one of the world’s finest contemporary orchestrators.   

Friday, March 13, 2015

Life's Doors

Doors come in many different shades and colours, golden or bright red for happiness, sometimes black or grey, or possibly no colour at all that leave the on looker in two minds. It is important to make the right choices if you use doors to move from A to B.

No matter what the colour it is necessary to pass through doors throughout life if for no other reason than it is impossible to stand still.

Golden doors attract with their ever beckoning allure of success and advancement, whether in love or material advancement.

Black is really the opposite with its psychological suggestion of death or evil, although some cultures express grief with white. Black is a bye product of the colour’s inability to reflect light, that all important ingredient that leads to insight and hopefully happiness.

Doors have practical use for adventure and advancement throughout life too,   keeping out drafts and snow, they embrace soft breezes during overly humid weather.

Doors I like best are of a personal nature, the ones that lead to love, companionship and security. Despite all human excitement for the great outdoors, tents always have a certain lack of comfort and security. Will it hold up in the storms that continually sweep across our life journy. Its entrance offers little protection against outside intrusion.

Often it is felt that to meet out of doors suggests a healthy, refreshing experience. A picnic perhaps or a lovers’ walk to some magic location beyond the preying eyes of the world. Years ago I was once asked who I knew, who could supply a reference, such things opened doors when applying for employment. The interviewer suggested this was important in order to succeed in life. Whether this is desirable remains debatable. It is hoped personal ability and skill would be the most important, not how many doors you have been able pass through.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The world of Dreams.

The World of Dreams.

The world we actually live in is one of confusion and disorder. In many ways the world of dreams offers far more possibilities.

We create in our subconscious a world of no contractions, no one to dispute our version of events, that are free to spin in and out focus in any random manner they may wish to make.

In our dreams it is possible to be rich or poor, successful or fail or both at the same time, without the judgment of others. It is possible to imagine the unimaginable, to stand in the shadows watching life unfold in the most unlikely manner.

Anything and everything is possible, the hardest task is to retain the memory of these experiences into the conscious world, a world that is always locked unfortunately in the present.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Where to Eat?

Selecting a restaurant.

Most people, unless they are sufficiently wealthy do not have to worry about this, but still have at times during their lives searched for good and affordable places to eat. This is particularly important during your student days or when on holidays and money is getting low. I still remember a piece of advice given to me in my youth, always follow the parish priest to find the best dining. Generally you will either keep visiting the place you know and love, or will be brave and try somewhere new. Generally you don’t do this by walking down the street and taking a chance; you may be lucky, but the odds aren’t good. The true fine-dining experience is usually booked out weeks or months in advance.

Recently, a tourist book on what to look for in French restaurants arrived at my house with what purported to offer the best advice when eating out in Paris. I must say many of eating houses reviewed were Michelin, so there was no confusion about the likely cost. The advice struck me as a little over the top so I decided to pass it on.

Naturally the first thing you notice are the table cloths, perfectly ironed without creases, napkins linen and cutlery silver. This advised removed quite a lot of my eating establishments. Further each setting should have purpose when vacant with stemmed or styled water glasses. A table should have a centre piece, anything from a piece of driftwood with the chief’s name engraved on it or a tasteful piece of sculpture. Look around and make sure the tables are spaced appropriately, no more than 10 to 20 should be satisfactory. All staff appropriately dressed and their roles identifiable, apparently at least one staff member for every two guests.

Then we come to the most important item the wine list. This should have a minimum 450 different bins/labels and should be managed by a team of fully qualified sommeliers. Make sure the appropriate glassware is available for different wine varieties including aperitifs.

My guide book assures me if all this is correct it is safe to venture further. In all top-class restaurants everything is made on the premises, no buying in as once  food is brought in it becomes generic, however puff pastry and bread is another matter, but should be a freshly baked artisan product that reflects  the personality of the restaurant and its proprietor not of some commercial baker. Naturally there should be a choice of several breads. If the chef does not want bread, then there must be something similar to start the meal and clean the pallet. Butter the highest quality served at room temperature with a choice of salted and unsalted.

Every dish should use the finest ingredients and be carefully crafted by a team of highly trained chefs, a minimum of ten would be required. All the ingredients used should not be the sort of thing found in supermarkets or food stores. Truffles, caviar, line-caught fish and organic free range meats should be the order of the day. All pastries and deserts must have the Wow factor. There should be nothing an average home cook could make as well as the restaurant it could not describe itself as a fine dining establishment.

Judgement about dishes should be made with care, as a dish may seem simple but require great effort behind the scenes, many great chefs strive to produce dishes that are served modestly but cooked to perfection. Last but not least , coffee and tea should always be served with handmade chocolates and/or petit four. When you find such an establishment let me know for there are non where I live, but perhaps there are in Paris.