Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Favourite Writings - Marcus Aurelius - Meditations

Remind yourself constantly of all the physicians, now dead, who used to knit their brows over their ailing patients; all the astrologers who so solemnly predicted their clients' doom; the philosophers who expiated so endlessly on death or immortality; the great commanders who slew their thousands; the despots who wielded powers of life and death with such terrible arrogance as if themselves were gods who could never die; the whole cities which have perished completely, Helice, Pompeii, Herculaneum and others without number.

After that recall, one by one each of your own acquaintances, how one buried another, only to be laid low himself, and be buried in turn by a third, and all in so brief a space of time. Observe, in short, how transient and trivial is all mortal life; yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a handful of spice or ashes. Spend therefore these fleeting moments on earth as Nature would have you spend them, and then go to your rest with a good grace,as an olive falls in its season, with a blessing for the earth that bore it and a thanksgiving for the tree that gave it life.

Marcus Aurelius - Meditations

This reminds me much of The Rubiyat of Omar Khyyam and somewhat of The Tale of the Heike

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Religion Flowchart

Favourite Poems - Animals

I think I could turn and live with animals,
They are so placid and self-contained
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied,
Not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another,
Nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.

Walt Whitman - Animals

Favourite Photos

Starlings by Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 Danny Green. Click the photo for a larger view

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Favourite Places

The entrance hall

I am reluctant to tell anyone about this magical place, an hotel high in the hills to the south of Florence. These photos tell only part of the story; it is like staying in the house of someone like Guiseppe di Lampedusa. It's usually almost completely empty and one only rarely sees a member of staff. There are dark bars full of the arms of long-perished families -the house was built by a friend of Dante's - and breakfast is served on a shady terrace, but there is no restaurant. The rooms look out over the city or back to the cypress-cloaked hills behind. It's a place of perfect peace. 

The hills behind, from the terrace, on a rainy morning

Florence in the evening from the terrace

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


The new Valentina in Putney. Click the heading for more photos

Valentina, the best Italian delicatessen in south London for almost twenty years, has now opened a branch in Putney, and it's another star. The original deli added a cafe last year that serves delicious pasta, risottos and other Italian dishes, but the Putney sibling is a more striking design and has a cafe area where Guispeppe and his team serve 'spuntini' - small dishes in the manner of tapas (but better and more substantial) - for £3-4 each and there is also a larger restaurant and bar upstairs. As in the Sheen cafe, there's free wi-fi, a godsend if you are a visitor from overseas.

The delicatessen is still the main event here, and it's superbly well stocked with wonderful breads, oils and pastas, but also offers cooked foods such lasagne and raviolis to take away. The spuntini menu contains delicious antipasto di mare and a frittatina - and omlette made with courgettes and onions finished with mozarella - and other delicacies.

Upstairs the bar and restaurant are decorated with photos of the owner, Bruno Zoccola's ancestors and those of his cousins, who also work in the business, a still-life with scooter and sidecar, and a flat-screen TV showing old black-and white Italian films. Wines are spectacular, from the highly prized and highly priced Tuscans to more modest but still delicious chiantis and atelier wines. My favourite is the La Grola from Allegrini.

Altogether a perfect place to shop for food, relax with a plate of something or go with friends for a meal. If I'm not at home, you'll probably find me there.

Saturday, 3 October 2009