Monday, September 23, 2013

Goodbye Summer


Some men there are who find in nature all
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
And they hold dear communion with the hills;
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
To them a city is a prison house
Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
But where in winter they must live until
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
To me it is not so. I love the earth
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
And moonlight playing in a boat's wide wake;
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
I love the very human heart of man.
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature's changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
For life alone is creator of life,
And closest contact with the human world
Is like a lantern shining in the night
To light me to a knowledge of myself.
I love the vivid life of winter months
In constant intercourse with human minds,
When every new experience is gain
And on all sides we feel the great world's heart;
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!

"Summer" by Amy Lowell

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cursing the English Summer

Two interesting [and very pertinent] excerpts from the letters of Horace Walpole (1717-1797) were recently pointed out to me:*

To George Montagu, Esq., Strawberry Hill, June 15, 1768. 

I perceive the deluge fell upon you before it reached us. It began here but on Monday last, and then rained near eight-and-forty hours without intermission. My poor hay has not a dry thread to its back. I have had a fire these three days. In short, every summer one lives in a state of mutiny and murmur, and I have found the reason: it is because we will affect to have a summer, and we have no title to any such thing. Our poets learnt their trade of the Romans, and so adopted the terms of their masters. They talk of shady groves, purling streams, and cooling breezes, and we get sore-throats and agues with attempting to realise these visions. Master Damon writes a song, and invites Miss Chloe to enjoy the cool of the evening, and the deuce a bit have we of any such thing as a cool evening. Zephyr is a north-east wind, that makes Damon button up to the chin, and pinches Chloe’s nose till it is red and blue; and then they cry, This is a bad summer! as if we ever had any other. The best sun we have is made of Newcastle coal, and I am determined never to reckon upon any other. We ruin ourselves with inviting over foreign trees, and making our houses clamber up hills to look at prospects. How our ancestors would laugh at us, who knew there was no being comfortable, unless you had a high hill before your nose, and a thick warm wood at your back! Taste is too freezing a commodity for us, and, depend upon it, will go out of fashion again.

To the Rev. Mr. Cole, Strawberry Hill, May 28, 1774. 

Nothing will be more agreeable to me, dear Sir, than a visit from you in July. I will try to persuade Mr. Granger to meet you ; and if you had any such thing as summer in the fens, I would desire you to bring a bag with you. We are almost freezing here in the midst of beautiful verdure, with a profusion of blossoms and flowers ; but I keep good fires, and seem to feel warm weather while I look through the window; for the way to ensure summer in England, is to have it framed and glazed in a comfortable room.

  As it is

* Thank you Mom

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Don't quit...

When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.
Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit-
It's when things go wrong that you must not quit.


Monday, March 05, 2012

The end of the journey

The end of the journey

After more than four years since your brutal and meaningless murder, justice has finally been done. The possible justice. May you finally rest in peace, my dearest friend.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


The sun is out 2

Furzton Lake


Isn't it funny that on the day I'm told my myopia is gone the fog is so dense?!

Isn't it funny that my myopia is gone just when everything is becoming hazier and blurrier in my life?!

Come on, someone try to persuade me that there's no puppeteer up there.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Dali's perception...

I wish I could make time linger when it sprints and sprint when it lingers.

I wish I were a true mistress of time and not just a clumsy juggler trying to keep a lot of hot potatoes in the air.

Written on a day that only comes around every four years. (?!)

Time perception

The physics of ball juggling

Friday, February 24, 2012



Being a few feet away from Piazzolla as he was playing in Lisbon in November 1987 was an unforgettable experience. Right now, in this precise instant, Libertango is one of the tenuous, ember-like-glowing strands of my shambolically tangled feelings. Now is a moment to remember. I know that somewhere along the line I will want to look back to now with a cold and analytical mind.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Credit where it's due

My mother took a photo of this commemorative plaque in the radiology pavilion of the Portuguese Oncology Institute in Lisbon on the 21st of February 2012. We were both glad that the makers and writers of recent history in Portugal let it remain where it belongs.

Placa IPO
Placa IPO 2

English translation:

" The Portuguese Oncology Institute was created by the Public Education Minister, António Sérgio de Sousa, on the 29th of December 1923. In 1927, funds were obtained to purchase land, build two pavilions and acquire a thousand and eight hundred milligrams of radioelement, install four roentgen therapy cabinets and laboratories for scientific research.

The Oncology Institute began functioning in the new buildings, with these materials, on the 29th of December 1927.

The swift progress achieved between 1928 and 1933, the propaganda, the publications, the acquisition of new study materials and the training abroad of medical staff derive, in great measure, from Prof. Dr. Oliveira Salazar’s interest in the fight against cancer.

This pavilion, begun in May 1931, was built according to the principles agreed upon during the 2nd Congress of Radiology (Stockholm, July 1928).

This was the first construction created in Europe with efficient protection against radiation, and its existence is owed, in the greatest measure, to the Minister of Finance, Prof. Dr. Oliveira Salazar."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Sense of an Ending

Looking for a way out

"Later on in life, you expect a bit of a rest, don't you? You think you deserve it. I did, anyway. But then you begin to understand that the reward of merit is not life's business.

Also, when you are young, you think you can predict the likely pains and bleaknesses that age might bring. You imagine yourself being lonely, divorced, widowed; children growing away from you, friends dying. You imagine the loss of status, the loss of desire - of desirability. You may go further and consider your own approaching death, which, despite what company you may muster, can only be faced alone. But all of this is looking ahead. What you fail to do is look ahead, and then imagine yourself looking back from that future point. Learning the new emotions that time brings. Discovering, for example, that as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records - in words, sound, pictures - you may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of record-keeping. What was the line Adrian used to quote? 'History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.'

I still read a lot of history, and of course I've followed all the official history that's happened in my own lifetime - the fall of Communism, Mrs Thatcher, 9/11, global warming - with the normal mixture of fear, anxiety an cautious optimism. But I've never felt the same about it - I've never quite trusted it - as I do events in Greece and Rome, or the British Empire, or the Russian Revolution. Perhaps I just feel safer with the history that's been more or less agreed upon. Or perhaps it's that same paradox again: the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest and yet it's the most deliquescent. We live in time, it bonds us and defines us, and time is supposed to measure history, isn't it? But if we can't grasp its mysteries of pace and progress, what chance do we have with history - even our own small, personal, largely undocumented piece of it?"

- in The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Musee d'Orsay

Still, my memory's persistence...

the persistence of memory by salvador dali


Monday, February 20, 2012

Ave Maria

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ave Maria

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rock me to sleep


BACKWARD, turn backward, O time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;

Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;
Rock me to sleep, Mother-rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, oh, tide of the years
I am so weary of toil and of tears;
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain--
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay--
Weary of flinging my soul--wealth away,
Weary of sowing for others to reap;
Rock me to sleep, Mother rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O Mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between.
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;
Rock me to sleep, Mother-rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures-
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber's soft calms over my heavy lids creep;
Rock me to sleep, Mother-rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead tonight,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with it's sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet vision of yore;
Lovingly, softly, it's bright billows sweep:
Rock me to sleep, Mother-rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear Mother, the years been long
Since I last listened to your lullaby song.
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood's years have been only a dream.

Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;
Rock me to sleep, Mother-rock me to sleep!

By Elizabeth Akers Allen

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A lifetime

My father-in-law's 80th birthday is coming up at the end of this month. Having no clue as to what to present to him on such an important milestone, we ended up deciding on putting together a professional looking photo book with a compilation of snapshots of his family life, from his marriage 50 years ago to present day. Cousins and nephews in Switzerland were drafted into helping and sent us photos of stuff and people I had never known about. I rummaged countless dusty boxes of photographic mementoes trying to select the more significant ones and scanning them with the highest possible resolution. Michel was in charge of the final selection from the deluge of pictures pouring into his mailbox and giving the whole thing form and structure on his Mac's iPhoto. The finished product looks amazing, I must say. It is also very moving to see his life in pictures, each with a story and part of a conducting thread that hems the fabric of his existence. Two weeks of time well invested. Now let's just hope he likes it as much as we do...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Port and Spice and Everything Nice

During the festive period we baked, cooked and ate like mad, so January is a bit of a avoid-anything-sweet month. Still, if you really have to bake something with carbs and sugar to warm the soul on a cold weekend afternoon like today's (yep, typical January weather has finally arrived, shouldn't have tempted the gods with yesterday's post), this is the thing:

Port and Spice Cake

Enjoy your tea!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Spring in January

Gosh! It's been such a long time I had forgotten how to use Blogger altogether... Too many sites to keep updated these days (most of them pretty useless...).
Early January has been feeling like early Spring around here, daffodils and crocuses are blooming already. Mother Nature is perhaps a bit confused?

These were taken yesterday... with my new camera!

First daffodil 2012


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Starting Over

It's that time of the year again... So, in a bit of a spur of a moment thing, here are my top New Year's Resolutions:

1. Invest a whole lot more in me
2. Mind the news less
3. Always try to see things under a positive light
4. Smile and laugh more
5. Watch, listen, read and learn (a lot)
6. Always be there for those who ask for my help
7. Be more tolerant and broadminded
8. Let bygones be bygones, don't look back
9. Pick up my brand new camera and shoot, shoot, shoot

My children don't figure in any resolution because I'm already totally devoted to them and there will be no change there, I work for their happiness every second of my life.

On a different note, it beats me how this blog still gets 33 hits a day when I haven't posted anything for a year... Life really does go on forever in the Internet... which is a bit spooky.

Happy 2012!

No snow in England this winter...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?

Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can.

R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor, the one and only Martha, the one and only Maggie, the definitive Cleopatra.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Advice to a Friend Who Paints

cezanne.millstonePaul Cezanne (1839-1906), Woods with Millstone, 1898-1900

Paul_Cezanne-_Well,_Millstone_and_Cistern_Under_TreesPaul Cézanne: Well, Millstone and Cistern Under Trees (1892; Oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm)

Still-Life-With-ApplesPaul Cézanne: Still Life with Apples

Paul_Cezanne_Un_coin_de_tablePaul Cézanne, Un coin de table, 1895-1900

Paul_Cezanne_-_Pyramid_of_SkullsPaul Cézanne, Pyramid of Skulls

Cezanne BathersPaul Cézanne, Bathers

cezanne.grandes-baigneusesPaul Cézanne, Bathers

Paul Cezanne Card PlayersPaul Cézanne, Card Players

Cezanne The-Card-PlayersPaul Cézanne, Card Players

Consider shy Cezanne,
the lay of the land he loved,
its dumbstruck vanity polite and brute.
The bather in his sketchy suit.
The skull upon the mute pull of cloth.
In your taxing and tearing, tugging at art,
consider shy Cezanne.
His blushing apples.
His love of man.

--Kelly Cherry--

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping beauty

Sleeping Beauty pricked her thumb,
started feeling overcome.
Probably she would have died
as the witch had prophesied,
but the fairies had her blessed
so she just got beauty rest.
For a hundred fifty years
she missed balls and film premieres,
till Prince Charming came along
singing out a cheerful song.
Kneeling down he kissed her cheek
hoping that she'd wake and speak.
Sleeping Beauty raised an arm
reaching for the snooze alarm
and her waking words were these:
"Just need five more minutes please."

--Kenn Nesbitt--

Clara loves poetry.

Friday, March 04, 2011


Few things have as powerful an impact on my mood as music does. Life without it would be worse than perpetual gloomy gray, as far as I’m concerned. 

I am aware, with some fascination, that not everyone hears sound, listens or perceives a melody in quite the same way - individual reactions to music can range from complete apathy to pure ecstasy, from violent physical disgust to spiritual epiphany. Some people see colours when they hear certain musical notes (they have that marvellous gift that is synæsthesia), some get goose bumps and shivers up and down their spines at certain sound combinations, and some just hear noise no matter how hard they try to find any kind of meaning or harmony in what reaches their ears. Most just regard music as the accidental soundtrack to their lifes: whatever is played on the radio fits, especially if it's played often enough.

I am happy to be sensitive to music and I’m glad that I can enjoy it not only per se but also as a powerful form of “auto-medication”: I know exactly what I should listen to for a bit of a morale boost, for some extra energy or for relaxing. There's music to fit almost all of my needs and I'm not afraid to use it! My taste is pretty eccletic, the only thing I really can't stand is techno and death metal.

Wagner’s Liebestod inevitably leads me to the deepest emotional catharsis. I’ve just finished listening to it and my soul feels cleansed.  Now I can sleep.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A bit of grind

No excuse for having my poor blog stuck in Christmas for so long! Merry Christmas wishes should automatically vanish when they’ve long outstayed their welcome. How neglectful of me! Spring is around the corner, daffodils are blooming, and a recent few days in Lisbon have quenched my thirst for sunshine, warmth, good food, and familial bonding for a while.

I’ve got little time to blog and even less to say, recently life seems to be a succession of mundane concerns and events, not really worth blogging about. Who knows, perhaps this submersion in triviality is really an escape mechanism, a step back from the spiral of pessimism I was being drawn into, where news of what's going on in the world, near and far, got the better of me and made me increasingly apprehensive about the future. For now I’d rather not think about it all too much and just stick to doing what I can and should effectively do. I’ll think about "the big picture" some other time. “After all, tomorrow is another day” and I’ve always rather admired Scarlett O’Hara.

By the way, I’ve watched some good films recently: Mrs. Miniver, Waterloo Bridge, and, of course, The King’s Speech, all excellent stuff.

Had some good reads as well: The Hare with Amber Eyes (couldn’t put it down!), Fry’s Chronicles, Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Suite Française.

São Pedro de Alcantara
Lisbon - Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara

São Pedro de Alcantara
Lisbon - Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara

Lisbon, Belém - River Tagus and 25th April Bridge

Electric dreams
Electric cherry blossoms

Lisbon, Belém

Terreiro do Paço
Lisbon, Terreiro do Paço

Lisbon, Belém

Seagull having lunch
Lisbon, seagull and its lunch

Santo Amaro de Oeiras
Lisbon, Praia de Santo Amaro em Oeiras

Lisbon, Tavares restaurant

Lisbon, Rua António Maria Cardoso, Chiado

Costa da Caparica
Costa da Caparica

Lisbon, Jerónimos

São Carlos
Lisbon, The Opera - São Carlos 

Casa de Fernando Pessoa
Lisbon, building where Fernando Pessoa lived.