Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Itsy bitsy spider

I'm scared to death of spiders. It's a completely irrational fear, this arachnophobia of mine, that leaves me paralyzed in the presence of any arachnid specimen I may find roaming about freely (the ones that are confined don't bother me in the least). Not in a million years would they catch me in these cure trials, though !
P.S. - I completely understand being driven out of one's wits by spiders but this poor woman really totally lost it.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Joyous Malingerer

Who is the happy husband? Why, indeed,
'Tis he who's useless in the time of need;
Who, asked to unclasp a bracelet or a neckless,
Contrives to be utterly futile, fumbling, feckless,
Or when a zipper nips his loved one's back
Cannot restore the zipper to its track.
Another time, not wishing to be flayed,
She will not use him as a lady's maid.

Stove-wise he's the perpetual backward learner
Who can't turn on or off the proper burner.
If faced with washing up he never gripes,
But simply drops more dishes than he wipes.
She finds his absence preferable to his aid,
And thus all mealtime chores doth he evade.

He can, attempting to replace a fuse,
Black out the coast from Boston to Newport News,
Or, hanging pictures, be the rookie wizard
Who fills the parlor with a plaster blizzard.
He'll not again be called to competition
With decorator or with electrician.

At last it dawns upon his patient spouse
He's better at his desk than round the house.

poem by
Ogden Nash

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The 'because I'm worth it' generation

It's worth reading this article in today's Observer about the profound impact on society caused by the new breed of 'elite women'. Here's an excerpt:
Alison Wolf, a professor at Kings College London, argues that the meteoric rise of this new generation of 'go-getting women' who want high-powered, well-paid jobs has dire consequences for society. Wolf says it has diverted the most talented away from the caring professions such as teaching, stopped them volunteering, is in danger of ending the notion of 'female altruism', has turned many women off having children - and has effectively killed off feminism.
'[It is] the death of the sisterhood,' Wolf writes. 'An end to the millennia during which women of all classes shared the same major life experiences to a far greater degree than men. 'In the past, women of all classes shared lives centred on explicitly female concerns. Now it makes little sense to discuss women in general. The statistics are clear: among young, educated, full-time professionals, being female is no longer a drag on earnings or progress.'
The article argues that the most educated women will now earn as much as men over a lifetime if they have no children. Even with children, the gap will be small. The desire to be successful acts as a major disincentive to women starting a family, Wolf argues.
'Families remain central to the care of the old and sick, as well as raising the next generation, and yet our economy and society steer ever more educated women away from marriage or childbearing,' she writes. 'The repercussions for our future are enormous, and we should at least recognise the fact.' The growth, Wolf argues, of the 'because I'm worth it' generation has led to the end of 'female altruism', where women would see the caring part of their life as normal.

Mother's day update

The day didn't turn out to be as pleasant as we had hoped for. Just as I finished my last post and was starting to get ready for lunch, Clara said that she had a headache and she didn't want to go out. I felt her forehead and she had a temperature. She spent the rest of the day in bed, sleeping, coughing and being sick, but feeling mildly better whenever she was under the influence of the blessed Nurofen I'm giving her every 6 hours. I invented two fairly long and quirky stories to amuse her, read her a couple of books, did God knows how many puzzles with her and so passed the time. My princess. She's sleeping with me tonight and staying home tomorrow.
P.S. - How I miss the good old mercury thermometers: each of my three digital temperature reading gizmos presents me with a different reading and I feel that none of them is even remotely reliable.

Mother's Day



Today is Mother's Day in the UK and, hey, when in Rome do as Romans do: even though in Portugal Mother's Day isn't until the first Sunday in May, we are celebrating it today and I'm positively being pampered to death: breakfast in bed, flowers, a book and a CD. And the kitchen was decreed a no-go zone for me today. Hurray !!! We're going out to our local for lunch in a little while (our biological clocks still haven't adjusted to the newly arrived summer time).
A very Happy Mother's Day to my Mami, who gets to receive Mother's Day Greetings twice a year ! Not bad, uh?
Playing on the iPod is one of my favorite Elvis songs that's on the CD my lovely daughters presented me with today: "You were always on my mind".

ALWAYS ON MY MIND (Elvis Presley)

Maybe I didn't love you quite as good as I should have,
Maybe I didn't hold you quite as often as I could have,
Little things I should have said and done,
I just never took the time.

You were always on my mind,
You were always on my mind.

Maybe I didn't hold you all those lonely, lonely times,
And I guess I never told you, I'm so happy that you're mine,
If I made you feel second best,
I'm sorry, I was blind.

You were always on my mind,
You were always on my mind,

Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn't died,
Give me, give me one more chance to keep you satisfied,
If I made you feel second best,
I'm sorry, I was blind.

You were always on my mind,
You were always on my mind.

Sunday morning greeting

From my garden's flower bed

Summer time


Gosh ! It's 2 am already and I don't even know where the last hour went ! Ha ha ha ! !

Seriously now, I gladly welcome summer time with its brighter evenings. It's a shame that clocks have to go forward one hour, depriving us of precious sleep, though.

I'm impressed with my Windows clock ! It changed right on cue. In a few hours I'll have to go around the house changing all the other clocks. How thrilling.

Self-mutilation

Ana and I went out and got our ears pierced on Friday. She gave in to peer pressure (as of two weeks ago she was, and I quote, "the only girl in her class who still hadn't pierced her ears and now that there's a school disco coming up, it is really important to have nice earrings because that's what everybody's talking about") and I gave in to her constant nagging because it's really no big deal to have your ears pierced when you're 11.

OK. I could have gone with her, she'd get her ears pierced and be happy and I'd just stay put and watch and be happy. But no. I decided to pierce mine too! Why on earth did I do it after almost 39 years of happily going without having holes in my ear-lobes? I don't know, but I expect it might have something to do with the growing need to re-invent myself as a younger, happier, more appearance-conscious person... If you dig in and get to the core of it, my motives must surely have been that silly.

Pity I don't know anyone with a psychology degree.

An Arundel Tomb

Arundel Tomb in Chichester Cathedral

Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.

They would no guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-littered ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

Poem by Philip Larkin

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hungarian Dances

Playing on the iPod is Johannes Brahms's Hungarian Dance No.5 in G minor. It's always a joy to listen to it.

The Hungarian Dances are a set of 21 short and lively dance tunes based on Hungarian themes. They are among Brahms's most popular works and were certainly the most profitable for him.

The Pretty Lady

Painting by Claude Monet (1840-1926), Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877

He asked the lady in the train
If he might smoke: she smiled consent.
So lighting his cigar and fain
To talk he puffed away content,
Reflecting: how delightful are
Fair dame and fine cigar.

Then from his bulging wallet he
A photograph with pride displayed,
His charming wife and children three,
When suddenly he was dismayed
To hear her say: 'These notes you've got,--
I want the lot.'

He scarcely could believe his ears.
He laughed: 'The money isn't mine.
To pay it back would take me years,
And so politely I decline.
Madame, I think you speak in fun:
Have you a gun?'

She smiled. 'No weapon have I got,
Only my virtue, but I swear
If you don't hand me out the lot
I'll rip my blouse, let down my hair,
Denounce you as a fiend accurst . . .'
He told her: 'Do your worst.'

She did. Her silken gown she tore,
Let down her locks and pulled the cord
That stopped the train, and from the floor
She greeted engineer and guard:
'I fought and fought in vain,' she cried.
'Save me,--I'm terrified!'

The man was calm; he stood aloof.
Said he: 'Her game you understand;
But if you doubt, behold the proof
Of innocence is in my hand.'
And as they stared into the car
They saw his logic in a flash . . .
Aloft he held a lit cigar
With two inches of ash.

Poem by Robert William Service
P.S. - It's almost 3 years now since I gave up smoking. Sometimes, however, though fortunately not often, the craving still drives me mad ...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Kisses and hugs

Some kids hate being kissed and hugged. I remember that when I was a child, too much touching or just too close proximity caused me considerable physical and psychological unease. This was so irrepressible and obvious that our dear old cleaning lady used to say that I wouldn't stand being married later on in life.
Now, later on in life and married with children, I find that my oldest daughter, Ana, is exactly as I was: she gets along fine with just verbal praise and the occasional hug or kiss.
My youngest daughter, Clara, on the other hand, is completely the opposite. She needs to be hugged - tightly, kissed - frequently, cuddled and physically pampered. She sleeps much better if I hold her hand or massage the back of her head until she falls asleep, she frequently comes up to me to give me (or ask me for) a hug or a kiss and when she sits next to me she likes to be really, really up close and tight. This not only goes for me but for any other person she likes. She very much needs the warmth of physical proximity and touch (which really works out well in the end because everybody loves to hold, hug and kiss her, even at school, where she seems to be treated as some kind of a cute and cuddly mascot).
As I am an older sister, I wonder if as a rule older sisters tend to be more like myself and Ana and younger sisters more like Clara...
Any thoughts on this ?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Twelve books that changed the World

Excerpt from "Twelve Books that Changed the World", by Melvyn Bragg (to be published on April 10):

... A mere book seems a very unlikely contender as a world-changing catalyst.

Yet for those of us who love to read, the idea that a book can have an influence is not news. Our perceptions have been shaped through books, our store of information heaped up, our tastes extended, perhaps refined, our sense of humour tickled, our sense of well-being restored or reinforced; we have been excited, alerted, moved, consoled, felt less alone, even felt morally improved and inspired — at least for a while. We know that books can change us as individuals.

On a different level books have often been and still are the agents of creeds that have shaped and reshaped humanity. These generally religious books would, I think, have figured prominently in the reckoning for a list of the 12 most influential books in the world. At one stage I had a list dominated by the ancient Greeks, books of God, Marx and Mao and two or three books of science. It felt unsatisfactory; too ambitious and, despite the undoubted importance, not very lively as a selection.

Out of the several lists that followed, I eventually saw that a number of books by British authors had a fair claim to have changed the world. Indeed it was difficult to cut down the number to 12 — James Clerk Maxwell, Tom Paine and Dr Johnson, for instance, were hard to omit. The British have produced and still do produce a high yield in key thoughts, inventions and proposals. By omitting the definite article — these are not the 12 books — I believed a case could be made for 12 books from these islands and that is what I try to do. The British provide a surprisingly rich crop.

From the beginning I wanted to enjoy a range. Leisure and literature would, if I could make it work, figure alongside science and the constitution; changes in society as well as changes in technology would be addressed. This has meant taking a risk and, now and then, elasticating the strict meaning of the word “book”.
...
(continue reading this excerpt in today's Times)

TWELVE BOOKS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

Principia Mathematica (1687) by Isaac Newton

Married Love (1918) by Marie Stopes

Magna Carta (1215) by members of the English ruling classes

Book of Rules of Association Football (1863) by a group of former English public-school men

On the Origin of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin

On the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1789) by William Wilberforce in Parliament, immediately printed in several versions

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft

Experimental Researches in Electricity (three volumes, 1839, 1844, 1855) by Michael Faraday

Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine (1769) by Richard Arkwright

The King James Bible (1611) by William Tyndale and 54 scholars appointed by the king

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) by Adam Smith

The First Folio (1623) by William Shakespeare

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day in Portugal and I wish my wonderful Dad a very happy day!
PS - This picture of us is a repeat on this blog but it really is one of my all-time favourites.
PS2 - Around here, Father's Day isn't until the third Sunday in June and Mother's Day is next Sunday.

Day of Wrath

Playing on the iPod is the "Dies Iræ" from Mozart's Requiem (see this post).

Dies Irae, which means Day of Wrath, is a famous 13th century poem describing the Day of Judgement, when the last trumpet will summon souls before the throne of God where the good will be delivered and the evil will be cast into eternal flames. The hymn was used as a sequence in the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass until the 1970 revision of the Roman Missal.
In Mozart's Requiem, the extensive medieval poem was condensed to these lyrics:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla,
Teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus
Quando judex est venturus
Cuncta stricte discussurus


meaning

Day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the age in ashes
As David and the Sibyl bear witness.
What dread there will be
When the Judge shall come
To judge all things strictly.


Mozart finished the four part vocal score of the "Dies Irae", the instrumental bass, and the motivic portions of the instrumentation. Joseph Eybler wrote the instrumentation; later Sussmayr copied Eybler's instrumentation with some minor revisions.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Downfall

Yesterday I finally got round to seeing "The Downfall", a 2004 German film portraying Berlin's fall and Hitler's final days, in April 1945. It is a powerful, disturbing and remarkably well done film that leaves you praying that your children be spared the horrors of war.
The film has one particularly shattering scene that left me devastated: Magda Goebbels breaking a cyanide capsule inside the mouth of each of her six sleeping children (a sleep that she had induced earlier on with a potion). It wounds you deeply to know that it's not fiction. It really did happen and what made it happen sends shivers down your spine.
War is indeed a terrible thing. The most despicable and inhumane atrocities are committed in the name of the ideals of a few power-thirsty strategists or madmen who, through fear or powerful propaganda, brainwash millions of people into committing the most horrific acts without thinking twice or even feeling a twinge of remorse.
I think everyone who's ever seen a French, English or American WW2 film should absolutely see this pioneer and exceptional German film. History for the masses is written by those who win and the defeated have no place in it except as unidimensional "bad guys". This film shows the very human ordeal of Berliners and the people surrounding a complex, lunatic, hallucinating, physically frail and defeated Adolph Hitler. Everyone has a tremendous share of suffering in a war and it shouldn't be forgotten that people are still people in spite of having been on the loosing side.
But I guess that, in the end, what really strikes you the most in any serious film about Hitler is the fact in itself that such a delusional, charismatic madman held so much power and unleashed so much terror in a supposedly civilized 20th century Europe.
You can watch the movie's trailer here.

Amazon.co.uk Review
The riveting subject of Downfall is nothing less than the disintegration of Adolph Hitler in mind, body, and soul. A 2005 Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film, this German historical drama stars Bruno Ganz as Hitler, whose psychic meltdown is depicted in sobering detail, suggesting a fallen, pathetic dictator on the verge on insanity, resorting to suicide (along with Eva Braun and Joseph and Magda Goebbels) as his Nazi empire burns amidst chaos in mid-1945. While staging most of the film in the claustrophobic bunker where Hitler spent his final days, director Oliver Hirschbiegel dares to show the gentler human side of der Fuehrer, as opposed to the pure embodiment of evil so familiar from many other Nazi-era dramas. This balanced portrayal does not inspire sympathy, however: We simply see the complexity of Hitler's character in the greater context of his inevitable downfall, and a more realistic (and therefore more horrifying) biographical portrait of madness on both epic and intimate scales. By ending with a chilling clip from the 2002 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, this unforgettable film gains another dimension of sobering authenticity. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

Thursday, March 16, 2006

All that jazz

Playing on the iPod is the jazzy "All that jazz" from the musical Chicago (the 1996 Broadway version, with Ann Reinking and Bebe Neuwirth in the roles later played on the big screen by Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Zones).
To cheer myself up.

Bad vibes

Every little thing seems to be going wrong lately and I'm beginning to wonder if what doesn't kill you really does make you stronger or just drives you out of your wits
First. Last week I had to send my laptop to be repaired, disbursing a small fortune. When I got it back today, together with a flimsy service report, the hard disk connection still wasn't working. I had to send it back again and I'm bracing myself for yet another week without my invaluable window to the world.
Second. Even though one of the leading players in the central heating saga has finally been substituted, the curtain still hasn't been drawn on what's beginning to feel like a Greek tragedy of epic proportions. I don't know if it's the thermostat, I don't know if it's the wiring, I don't know what the b... h... it is and it's not my place to know it, either. All I know is that it's -1º C outside and we still do not have central heating. Basically, we've gone the whole winter without it, which if you consider the outrageous rent we're paying is nothing but preposterous.
Third. Our landlord called yesterday saying that he's sending someone round on Monday to evaluate the house. We didn't ask if he was going back on his word and he didn't volunteer anymore information, either.
Needless to say WE ARE NOT AMUSED !!!
PS - A couple of good things today: Clara's homemade-hat parade at school (in freezing weather) and Ana's good grades and performance. Clara's hat was really cute, if I, who made it, may say so myself.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mozart's Requiem

Playing on the iPod is the first movement of Mozart's Requiem, one of my all-time favorite musical pieces. As far as I'm concerned, it is clearly inspired by divinity.
This first movement was the only one which was entirely composed and finished by Mozart himself. All the others were worked on or composed by Joseph von Eybler and/or Franz Xaver Süssmayr after Mozart's death in 1791.
Some interesting facts and myths about Mozart and this exquisite creation, which led him to his deathbed and was left unfinished, can be read here and here.
Enjoy.

Monday, March 13, 2006

We'll meet again


We'll Meet Again

We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day

Keep smilin' through
Just like you always do
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away

So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won't be long
They'll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song

We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day


Words & Music by:Ross Parker & Hughie Charles 1939
Sung by Vera Lynn


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Quiet girl

Painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), A Girl, 1878

I would liken you
To a night without stars
Were it not for your eyes.
I would liken you
To a sleep without dreams
Were it not for your songs.

Poem by
Langston Hughes

Video - Supper ...

... is almost ready. And for dessert, zze chocolat moose!

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Playing on the iPod is Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade in G major, K 525). Bobby McFerrin conducts the The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

History
According to Mozart’s personal notes, the Serenade had five
movements; for reasons unknown, one of the two minuets and its trio got lost. The four remaining movements have been named:
Allegro, Romanze (Andante), Menuetto (Allegretto) and Rondo (Allegro). According to an authentic autograph the work was intended for "Two violins, viola, violoncello e basso", i.e. a string quintet, but in modern performances the orchestra is enlarged at the conductor’s discretion.

Origin of the composition
The purpose of this most popular of Mozart’s compositions is unknown. What is known is that, according to Mozart’s personal notes, it was finished on August 10th, 1787 in Vienna, at a time when he was busy with the second act of his opera Don Giovanni.

Summary
"Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" is the apogee of Mozart’s occupation with symphonic instrumental branch forms. It is an example of party music, written as a commission for a special cast of instruments (e.g. big orchestra, string ensemble, quartet, wind instruments, trio). Mozart, but also Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert have composed similar works; for the listener it was entertainment, but it made high demands on the composer’s art.

"Eine kleine Nachtmusik" documents a divine musical talent and an unsurpassed mastery in the application of musical forms. In spite of the brevity (the duration of the performance is around 16 minutes) this work is as perfect in its form as a big symphony. There is hardly a parallel in musical history that a piece is so identified with its composer as Mozart’s most popular composition, K 525.

Flowers, flowers and more flowers

In the Kitchen

In the Dining Room

In the Sitting Room

Friday, March 10, 2006

Astor Piazzolla

Playing on the iPod, is a great Astor Piazzolla tango: Duo de Amor. It might not be to everyone's taste but I certainly like it!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Little random e-jottings

1. I always feel a pang of pride and get a bit emotional when I hear my country's national anthem being played on a solemn occasion (especially if I'm abroad).
2. Portugal's new president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, was sworn in today. I'm wishing he can really make a difference for the better. I believe that he can AND that he will.
3. Ana's teacher complimented her on her English pronunciation saying that it was very "proper" English. (!!!)
4. The new boiler's being installed on Saturday at 9 am (oooooh! no getting up late ...). Just as the weather is getting milder and we don't feel cold any more. Just the same, it has to be done ...
5. This week's Zeitgeist: solicitors, surveyors, mortgages and banks. Really boring but important stuff that gives me a necessary headache; as the saying goes, no pain no gain. On the other hand, exciting plans for our "new" house and garden are slowly taking shape.
6. Rewarding read: "The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith (whose books I'll read with great expectations from now on). I will write about it later.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dream Deferred

Painting by René Magritte(1898-1967), Le Modèle Rouge, 1935

Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore--
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Poem by
Langston Hughes

Let's call the whole thing off

Playing on the iPod is Fred Astaire singing Ira Gershwin's Let's call the whole thing off: an English pronunciation joke in the begining of the 20th century.
Click on the picture of the CD cover to listen. Go on. It's worth it.


Another version:

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Play

Painting by Joan Miró (1893-1983), The singing fish

I am the only actor.
It is difficult for one woman
to act out a whole play.
The play is my life,
my solo act.
My running after the hands
and never catching up.
(The hands are out of sight -
that is, offstage.)
All I am doing onstage is running,
running to keep up,
but never making it.

Suddenly I stop running.
(This moves the plot along a bit.)
I give speeches, hundreds,
all prayers, all soliloquies.
I say absurd things like:
eggs must not quarrel with stones
or, keep your broken arm inside your sleeve
or, I am standing upright
but my shadow is crooked.
And such and such.
Many boos. Many boos.

Despite that I go on to the last lines:
To be without God is to be a snake
who wants to swallow an elephant.
The curtain falls.
The audience rushes out.
It was a bad performance.
That’s because I’m the only actor
and there are few humans whose lives
will make an interesting play.
Don’t you agree?

Poem by
Anne Sexton

Video - Time to cook

Un bel dì, vedremo

Un bel dì, vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo
sull'estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.

[One fine, clear day, we shall see
a thin trail of smoke arising,
on the distant horizon, far out to sea.
And then the ship appears. ]

Angela Gheorghiu sings Puccini's Madama Butterfly

Touched by an Angel

Sculpture by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), The Kiss, 1886

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Poem by
Maya Angelou

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Hallelujah

Our offer has been accepted !!!
A full £50,000 below the asking price !

A kiss to build a dream on

Playing on the iPod is Louis Armstrong's throaty, rough and very warm voice singing A kiss to build a dream on from the 1935 musical The Strip.
Perfect for a very cold Saturday night when you're ready to be whisked away to some nice and warm moonlit paradise.

Give me a kiss to build a dream on,
And my imagination will thrive upon that kiss.
Sweetheart, I ask no more than this:
A kiss to build a dream on.
Give me a kiss before you leave me,
And my imagination will feed my hungry heart.
Leave me one thing before we part,
A kiss to build a dream on.
When I'm alone with my fancies, I'll be with you,
Weaving romances, making believe they're true.
Give me your lips for just a moment,
And my imagination will make that moment live.
Give me what you alone can give,
A kiss to build a dream on.

words & music: Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby & Oscar Hammerstein II
copyright: 1935 Miller Music Corp. New York
Note: from MGM movie, "The Strip"


Déjà vu

We're back to the big freeze, only this time the boiler is gone for good. I can't believe that after three months of complaining about the central heating system to the rentals agency, no one was able to prevent this. The plumber who came in today said that the blasted thing was completely rotten inside and was not reparable. Apparently it had been leaking for ever and if someone had done something about it earlier it could have been saved but now it is far beyond repair. He sealed it off. We've been here for 18 months. Since then there has been an official gas (Corgi) inspection that detected nothing wrong and four visits by technicians regarding our complaints about the heating. Was it really necessary to let the whole thing bust beyond repair to find out what was wrong with it ?? Yesterday we got ourselves some portable heaters from Argos because at night temperatures are dropping to -9ºC/17ºF. We do have running hot water because of the emergency boiler but we're bracing ourselves for another couple of weeks without a warm house. At least the £1000 for the new boiler and its installation is not coming out of our pocket...
Meanwhile, our landlord has told us that he wants the house back by the beginning of May. We've let him know that we're interested in buying it from him but negotiations are going to be delicate: of course he would prefer to sell the house directly to us without involving a real estate agency but he tentatively started out asking for a lot more than what the property is worth. We've just made him an offer that's a long way off from what he asked and we're waiting for his feedback. In the mean time we're, once again, out looking at properties for sale, in case things turn out for the worse ... there's some truly lovely houses out there but I really DO NOT feel like packing up and moving again!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Rembrandt

Painting by Rembrandt, The Jewish Bride, 1667

This article draws attention to the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt. I wish I could go to this exposition in Amsterdam, where Rembrandt and Caravaggio, the two 17th century giants, finally face each other ...

Spring is coming

This year's first daffodil

Life pushing death aside

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Good news !

Ana was offered a place in her first choice secondary school, one of the best and most sought after in this area. Some of her best friends will also be going there next year.
We were quite impressed with it when we visited, last November: excellent (state of the art, really) labs for science, design technology, information technology, food technology and music; excellent sports facilities; good library with quite a few PC's with internet access; good facilities for drama related activities; lots of space and light; excellent organization of the Open Evening; loads of after school clubs and activities; good Ofsted report; good ranking in the national performance tables. Really top of the mark.

Offside remark: I just can't imagine Ana having to wear a tie everyday when not even her father does so !