Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Looking at a Painting

Have you ever looked at painting - I mean really looked closely? Examined the brush strokes up close? Looked at the colours and the different shades within each part of the picture? It doesn’t really matter what the picture is, although I must admit that I am quite partial to landscape, it’s how the artist has meticulous constructed his painting, his vision.
Stand back from the canvas and then stand back further. As you move back, the individual brush strokes lose their coarseness and start to smooth out to produce an even shade, and as you move back further the form of the image starts to become clear. The green shades magically become a field, and the blue the sky, or perhaps a lake – a bit plastic perhaps, but that change as you move back further.
Then the picture starts to gain life and depth. The colours no longer look uniform; you can see the subtle differences and shades. The pale bits in the sky suddenly become clouds and the trees have leaves. A little bit further back and there is movement. You can see that there is a breeze blowing from left to right and leaves on the trees look like they are in mid-sway. The smudge of yellow in the field is somebody’s hat, and the pale red is the shirt of her companion.
This is the magic of a painting. On their own the brushstrokes are simply a line of paint on a piece of canvas. But the artist has, through clever use of colour and an eye for the texture of their subject, made a group of colours into a picture that can draw you in and let you almost feel the scene in front of you. This is an awesome talent.
It doesn't matter if it's Lenoardo da Vinci, Reubens, Van Gogh, Monet, or Joe Bloggs from up the road who's never been heard of. They have the talent, and seeing it is one of the great joys of life.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Red Wine

Red wine is a fantastic liquid. I think it provides untold pleasure, and I’m not talking about the rolling around drunken pleasure that ends in a hangover the next morning. No, wine complements so many other activities.
The traditional wine and cheese combination provides a combination of tastes and textures that makes the muscles relax and the mind take notice. A piece of crumbly mature cheddar cheese eaten with a Cabernet Merlot, or my favourite, a Malbec, will dissolve in your mouth in such a way that the two tastes meld into one delicious experience.  Cheese on its own won’t do this – it needs the wine. And it should not be disappointed by being left on its own.
A good red wine will also add an extra element to a well-cooked steak, the type that just falls apart when you go to cut it. This sort of steak needs a strong red wine to help it down your throat and aids digestion - well it might not, but said wine will bring an extra dimension to the meal and probably encourage lively discussion around the table.
I could go on, wine complements so many different  types of food. And, a bit like, a cold beer, a glass of wine at the end of the day is a wonderful way to relax and cleanse your mind from the hassles you may have had at work, or just to simply enjoy the feeling of sitting and relaxing.
People also use wine to cook or as an investment, but I’m not a huge fan of either. Somebody has spent a great deal of time and effort to make such a great thing, then the least you can do is do them the courtesy of drinking it. Yes, red wine is a wonderful thing.

Monday, September 17, 2012


 I just love mountains. Whether it’s the view once you get up to the top, or staring up at a magnificent snow-capped peak from the valley below, they have a presence that dominates. I have spent many serene moments sitting t the top of a pass and staring at the scenes around me. I can’t think of too many more relaxing things to do.
There is silence. There is often a gentle, cool breeze drifting down from above. There is the sun that glistens off the top of the peaks, where the snow and ice still hugs the rock.
At night you can still feel the presence of the mountains towering over you. They have a sense of weight, of gravity, pulling you towards them. They block out the stars with their bulk and the ice reflects the twinkling stars.
Lying on your back watching the clouds swirl around a peak, each little eddy curling back on itself; listening to the rumbling of distant avalanches; sinking your hands into the fresh icy snow as you sit looking down into a valley from the top of a mountain; drinking a cup of lemon tea as you just appreciate the serenity; these are all magical experiences.
There is just something very comforting about mountains; they provide an aesthetic experience, and if you are so inclined, a physical one. A world without mountains would be a poor world indeed.

Table Mountain (7100m), taken from the village of Chozo on the Snowman Trek in Bhutan, 2007)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Day with Nothing Planned

There is something rather wonderful about waking up in the morning knowing that there is no urgency to get out of bed. You can simply lie there and watch the light brighten the room. For busy people these days are like gold. You can stretch and glory in the fact that you did not need to set the alarm; you might even want to turn over, hug your pillow and snooze for another half-an-hour.
Then you can have a leisurely breakfast while you unhurriedly read the paper and consider what you want to do with your time. If it is a nice day you might take a book outside and sit in the sun; if it is a cold day you might decide to stay in watch some television. Sometimes you might decide to stroll up the cinema and watch a movie in the middle of the day, or go down to the beach to swim in the glorious ocean.
Days where you have nothing planned give you time to think about things in a clear and undistracted way. They remind us of what a day is, and the fact that we often don’t appreciate how precious days are because we are so busy. Days with nothing planned is 24 hours of total ‘me’ time that is all your own. Treasure them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


              It’s everywhere and most of us could not imagine a world without it – so we take it for granted. It’s colour, and it is simply the refraction and reflection of light of different wavelengths. The sky is a pleasing blue because light is refracted through the atmosphere – can you imagine a sky of a different colour? Perhaps you could, but would it bring you the uplifting experience that comes with opening up the curtains in the morning and seeing a clear blue sky?
                You choose your car for its colour, your phone for it colour, you carefully choose the colours to paint your house, and so many more things as well. And what about the pleasing green of a nice lawn, the deep blue of the ocean, the bright white of a cloud against the sky, or the myriad of colours that flowers provide. You only have to look at a city to see what a lack of colour does. How many times have you walked down a street surrounded by grey buildings situated on grey streets, with grey footpaths, that suck the life out of the day? And then you go out of the city and there are fields of yellow canola, green grass, freshly ploughed brown fields, and the wildflowers growing by the side of the road. As soon as you are out of the greys your heart lifts and the day feels better.
                But colour is everywhere. Your workspace at wherever it is that you work is going to have colour. Even the mundane things like files have colour codes that, as well as making them easier to find, brighten them up. There might be a pot plant that brings a softness and colour to your area, your own choice of highlighter pen, as well as your favourite coloured ‘sticky’ notes.
                We all have a favourite colour(s). Colour lifts us, keeps us interested. Colour adds texture to life, and it comes in uncountable shades and hues. Colour makes art come to life, defines different sporting teams, defines national flags, makes people smile. Colour makes the world go round and is all too often overlooked. Colour is one of the joys of life.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Beer At The End Of A Hot Day

        There is a very special moment that can happen at the end of a stinking hot summer’s day. I live in a city that suffers hot summers, and during the peak months of that season, the temperature soars over 40 degrees Celsius with a relentless regularity. On days when the sea breeze doesn’t arrive to cool the city down, the maximum can occur between 4 and 5pm.
By that time the clouds would have had over five hours to build up and start to rumble their song around the skies. The cottonwool style cumulus is boiling up to the north and gradually blocking the sunlight. After a long day at work it is time to sit on the veranda and watch the evening’s entertainment. All of the storms are bound to be drifting east and there is only a very slim chance of any rain coming to cool down the air. It would only increase the humidity and make the evening more uncomfortable.
The hot air is pleasant on the skin and the warm easterly breeze reminds the city that summer packs a punch even at night. By 7pm the temperature is still over 30 degrees Celsius and there is a cold bottle in your hand and a sheen of sweat on your face. Rubbing the bottle over your brow brings instant relief, but nothing a good as the first sip of the ice-cold liquid slides down your throat. Ahhh!
For a short time, sitting feet up, there is hope that this time the rain will come, but it is not to be; they drift off to the east content to tantalise and torture with hope, leaving you to enjoy the beer and watch the lightning illuminate the sky and the enormous clouds. As the thunder fades it is time to retreat into the air-conditioned comfort of your home and settle in for the evening. But tomorrow may provide the chance to do it again; the chance to watch the grandeur of nature put on a free firework show. Then you can crack open another beer and relax once again while enjoying a refreshing drink.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Hug

One of the many pleasures of life is getting a hug. There is not much better a feeling than having some arms wrapped round you and feeling the warmth of somebody else. And a hug is such a versatile thing. It can be used to signify compassion, joy, or even just a simple acknowledgement of your existence. I’m not talking about the hug for appearances’ sake, I’m talking about the hug that comes with strong arms and long embrace.
When you hug your partner and close your eyes you can simply stand there with a feeling of absolute belonging and acceptance. If you are unhappy and somebody hugs you, you immediately feel comforted by their concern and not so alone in the world. They might not be able to solve your problem, but they’ve shown they care.
 If everybody is ecstatic and leaping around for joy as part of a team, a hug seems the most natural and necessary thing to do to show that you’ve all achieved something together.
And a hug can also signify forgiveness. A simple sorry might not carry much weight, but a hug at the same time will show that there is genuine meaning behind the apology.
So go home and hug your partner - a hug is wonderful thing.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Let’s get back to something that happens every day, just like sunrise. I’m talking about sunset. It is one of the most beautiful times of the day.
It happens no matter where you are; up in the mountains watching the sun drop between two snow-capped peaks, it’s rays glistening off the ice against a darkening sky; sitting on your back porch watching the sunset between the trees while you sip a cool drink; and my personal favourite, sitting a beach looking to the west at the end of a summer’s day.
On such days the sea breeze has stopped blowing and I am sitting on the warm sand, feeling it's rough texture between my toes before the cool ocean washes rhythmically up the slope to gently cleanse the skin.
On the horizon the sky has begun to cycle through its evening colours that reflect off the base of the clouds, providing an ever-changing oil painting for a view. The blue is replaced by a bright yellow that then fades into an orange when the sun finally lowers itself beneath the horizon. The sea is then a brilliant blue against the still light sky, before that colour fades to grey with the departing light.
Then a deep scarlet hue infuses itself across the cloud base, before it gradually fades to a darkening purple.  At this time the brighter stars are poking through the gloom and night is encroaching. Soon the light will have gone completely.
All you are left with the gentle puffs off the cool humid air that carries the memory of a summer’s day and leaves the taste of salt on your lips. Just perfect.