Where some choreographers start from music, Deborah Colker’s shows appear to be constructed around a very physical scene design. There was Casa (House), where the scene was built around a deconstructed house. There was 4×4, which actually had 5 parts, where the decor ranged from corners to porcelain vases.

Knot, which according to the programme is supposed to be about the philosophy of desire, had two parts. The first had a tree of ropes that later broke into four parts and then dissolved into a forest of ropes. The dancers were also connected and occasionally tied together by ropes. Desire in the sense of that which connects and binds, I guess. The second act was centred around a transparent box that the dancers climbed on, around and into – desire as yearning and frustration and voyeurism?

On the whole the performance fell short of my expectations, which were admittedly rather high after the previous two shows. Colker’s choreography is usually acrobatical, innovative and interesting, and the dancers move with energy and passion. This one seemed to have less movement and more posing. Instead of fluidity we got passages from one pose to another. Some of the pas de deux in act one were visually interesting and elegant, but even then ideas were explored for a moment and then abandoned as the dancers took a different pose. Somehow it lacked passion and felt more like physical exercise than art.

I was literally nodding off towards the end of each act, and can definitely think of better ways to spend an evening.

Downtown Manhattan (the financial district and Tribeca) is a lot livelier than it was two years ago, and so much more alive than London’s City that the comparison is almost cruel. Where the City is focuses on offices and office workers’ needs (pubs, sandwich shops, some shops), downtown Manhattan is a mixed neighbourhood with both offices and residential buildings. People actually live here. When I walk to work in the morning, there are joggers and dogwalkers – not just the ubiquitous delivery vans. And the resident population has attracted restaurants and shops that are open in the evenings and weekends. In fact I saw to my surprise that many shops here are open from the morning rush hour till late evening, 8 to 8, so even those who work long hours can do their shopping before or after work. The streets are still awake when I walk home around 7pm. In London, everything is closed by that time, and during weekends the City is like a ghost town.

The other thing that struck me is how spacious Manhattan is. Streets are wide. Pavements are really wide – wide enough for food carts and their queues, without blocking the street. There are even empty spaces between buildings. Shops in Soho are roomy and even cheaper shops feel like spacious showrooms. There are advantages to building upwards instead of sideways!

But Manhattan is just like London in that streets are in miserable shape in both places. In London streets get dug up and then half-heartedly patched over, until you can barely see the original surface and there are more bumps and patches than there is even surface. Manhattan streets just seem to degrade. Potholes, crumbling edges, sunken and slanting concrete slabs to stumble on. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I cannot remember any of Stockholm’s streets looking this sad.

A few days ago I got an email notifying me that someone had posted a comment to one of my posts here. Ooh, exciting, feedback! I thought, for a moment. It turned out to be spam, of course. It seems that some bot or other has found this site, because I’ve received another handful of them since then.

A couple of weeks ago I also had a quick look at what people read. Most of the readers just stick to the main page, of course. A few specific posts actually had incoming links, and from very odd pages. For some reason several of my music-related posts were among them. The number of people reviewing a concert by Goonga and Mithu Sain appears to be small enough that even a post by someone random like me ends up in top 20 in Google.

So now I am in New York. Managed to sleep almost all the way until 5 this morning. Well, until around 3 at least, and then doze for another two hours. Watched TV for a while, but there was nothing but news, ads and TV shops on there. Breakfast at 6, which was the earliest they could do, but still felt late to me… but it was a good breakfast; worth waiting for. Then read for an hour and a half, and then walked to the office with my colleague Paul who’s also here from London.

Now it’s past 6:30 and I’m knackered and starving. As soon as the report I’m waiting for finishes running, I’ll be out of here. Looking forward to a good dinner – I’m thinking of going to Kin Khao, which is a great Thai place in Soho I was recommended for my last visit to NY. I remember the food as excellent and the portions as… American-sized. Last time I made the mistake of ordering both a starter and a main course; I won’t be doing that again!

Sunday was our last full day, so we wanted a full-size walk again. On the other hand we were a little bit tired after the previous day’s walking – both of us somewhat out of shape, not having had much exercise in the past couple of weeks – so we didn’t feel up to anything too ambitious. Eric didn’t want any too steep descents as his knees were bothering him a bit. The walk up to Dale Head and Robinson (Duerden #19) seemed like a good compromise: two little peaks and lots of easy ridge walking, totalling 12 km and 860m ascent. Most of the walk can be seen on the map here.

The first quarter or so of the walk, starting in Little Town, was a nice and easy flat bit in a valley between two ridges. Then came the ascent, all concentrated into one long and steady, but not too strenuous uphill march. During the ascent the wind grew in strength, as we came out of the protected valley. When we reached Dale Head the wind was absolutely ferocious – we covered every bit of exposed skin except our faces to try and protect ourselves, and had to lean hard into the wind to stay upright. Our hoped-for lunch break near the top with beatiful views was cut very short because the wind was just too cold. There were even a few patches of snow up there, even though it wasn’t a particularly tall hill. In fact the top of Dale Head, the highest point during the walk, was by far the least enjoyable moment. But the views were impressive. The ridge walk from Dale Head to Robinson was a lot less windy, more sunny and more comfortable. The ground went from rocky to grassy, and was very pleasantly bouncy-soft to walk on. This continued all the way along the rest of the ridges, even though the wind picked up again occasionally.

Monday morning was rainy. This probably wouldn’t have stopped us if it had been our first day, but after two full days we were not as eager to walk any more, so we abandoned our initial plans for a shorter walk and just went for a drive: first up to Keswick, and then the loop along B5289 past Derwent Water, Buttermere and Crummock water. This passed just south of where we had walked on Sunday, giving us a different perspective of the hills we’d walked on, as well as of the views we’d had from up there. We stopped at the highest point of Honister Pass, just below the hills, to take a few pictures, and were again almost blown off our feet by the freezing wind, and hurried back into the car as soon as we’d snapped our photos.

Photos will have to wait a week or so, as I’m about to leave for New York to spend the week in our NY office.

It’s clear that my current wardrobe won’t get me far through the pregnancy, and even the “panic buy” skirts will only last a little longer, so today I went out to explore what’s available in maternity wear. A whole bunch of online shops, to start with. I’m a bit unsure about the sizing – it is generally supposed to be based on your pre-pregnancy size, but I don’t know whether some of my rapid weight gain may have taken my “base size” up a notch. So I started with some bricks’n’mortar shops, in order to figure out what size I need, and to see how these things work.

Maternity wear has come far from baggy dresses and kaftans. It is actually possible to look really good, because there are lots of really stylish clothes out there. Many of the items I tried on were also wonderfully comfortable. Such a relief after several weeks of trying to squeeze into my normal trousers, even with the buttons undone. Some of them were so pleasant to wear that I hope I can use them after the pregnancy, too. That might even be possible – they are really cleverly constructed! There’s a whole technical vocabulary I need to learn. I can choose between over-the-bump and under-the-bump trousers. There are wide jersey roll waists, elasticated waists with hidden adjustment bands, stretchy jersey side panels, and so on.

I had my first ultrasound scan this morning.

There is actually a little creature in there, believe it or not! Until now I’ve just felt like my body is growing an extra inner organ – it has been a part of me, and nothing else. (In fact some days I’ve doubted whether I am pregnant at all, because I haven’t experienced any of the things that are said to go with pregnancy – nausea, cravings etc.) But today, as I saw the creature move, it became real, in a way, and acquired an identity of its own. It already has more-or-less recognisable body parts: a head and arms and legs, and even a tiny heart that’s already pumping.

It also turns out I’m a bit more pregnant than I thought – I’d guessed maybe 10–12 weeks or so, but was told 14! That suddenly makes me feel a lot less fat. ETA was said to be 18 October. It turns out that this is calculated by simply measuring key bits of the baby (femur length, skull diameter) and then comparing that to a graph of standard sizes. Apparently all babies are roughly the same size up to week 20; individual differences come later.

Easter is a 4-day holiday in the UK – both Friday and Monday are free. Eric and I have a bit of a tradition (all of five years now!) of using the Easter weekend for exploring beautiful parts of Britain. We’ve been to Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, Isle of Wight, and now this year the Lakes.

As usual, we took the train to roughly the right part of the country, and then rented a car. If we owned a car, we’d probably feel obliged to drive all the way from London, and back again, which would be exhausting and take forever, since half of London probably heads out of the city for the long weekend. But since we don’t have one, we can relax in a comfortable train seat for a few hours instead, and leave the traffic jams to others.

We stay in B&Bs most of the time. In the past we’ve just printed out a list of potential B&B places and had no firm plans at all. Every day around midday we’d decide roughly which direction we would go in the afternoon, and where we might end up for the night, and called around until we found something in the area. It’s always worked well. This time we planned to do less driving and more walking, and were happy to stay in one place all nights, so we actually booked in advance – and besides, the Lake District is a bit more popular for holidays than Scotland for example. In fact, if we hadn’t, we might well have had trouble finding some place to stay. Almost all places we passed had their “No Vacancies” signs out. We stayed at the Elder Grove in Ambleside. Nice place, and quite professional – I’m not even sure why they call themselves a B&B and not a hotel. Very decent breakfast (home made jams!) and very helpful hosts – they even helped us find a veggie restaurant nearby.

In addition to a car and a roof over the head, a walking holiday requires maps and/or books. We had two books this time – one Pathfinder Guide to More Lake District Walks with what looked like relatively leisurely strolls, and Frank Duerden’s Best Walks in the Lake District, which seemed to have slightly more demanding walks. Duerden did have more interesting walks, in general, but its maps were horrible. All in black and white, they use his own symbols instead of conventional ones, and they only show features that lie directly along the path, i.e. walls, streams, hedges etc. There is no context, apart from crude contour lines – for a circular walk the middle of the circle is left blank on the map! This makes navigation far harder than necessary, because it ignores most of the surroundings, including such obvious navigation aids as peaks and ridges. Luckily I had also bought OS Explorer maps for most of the Lake District region, so we didn’t have to rely much on the book’s maps. Apart from our first walk, we only used them to figure out the general plan, and then used the OS maps and the book’s description to find our way.

The Pathfinder book on the other hand had detailed Ordnance Survey maps in full colour, and could be used without any additional maps at all.

We had a soft start on Friday, with a long drive and two short walks. In the morning we drove from Ambleside towards Wast Water, over Wrynose Pass and Hard Knott Pass. Interesting roads, to say the least! Very twisty and with 30% slopes. We then walked around the south end of Wast Water (Duerden, walk 4) and in the afternoon around Dunnerdale Fells (Pathfinder, #17). Both pleasant enough but not very memorable.

Feeling all warmed up, we undertook a slightly longer walk on Saturday: Place Fell and Ullswater (Duerden #17). 13 km and 700m of ascent, rough map here. From Patterdale (which is just outside the map, in the south) across the small river to the farm, then up to Boredale Hause, then up up up to Round How and on to the top of Place Fell. Then slowly descending towards the northeast while passing some smaller peaks, dropping down to Sandwick, and ambling back along the coast of Ullswater. The paths marked on the map are pretty close to where we actually walked. Good paths and good views, and the lakeside path back was very pretty – but the landscape up on the fells was pretty desolate.

Almost nicer than the walk itself was, again, the road there and back through Kirkstone pass.

It’s well past bedtime here so this will have to do for today. More to come soon, including photos of course.

I feel fat.

1. There are folds in my belly when I sit down.

2. Parts of my belly are hidden from view when I look down.


Good weather, so we went (cycled, really) to the London Wetland Centre. Part of it is sort of a bird zoo, with water birds from various parts of the world. They live out in the open but have had their wings clipped, I think. A larger part is just wetlands, open for any bird who happens to pass. A fair proportion of their guests are common ones such as mallards (Swe. gräsand, Est. sinikael-part) and Canada geese, and quite a lot of pigeons as well… Also coots and moorhens (sothöna and rörhöna / lauk and tait), gulls and terns, and then of course numerous other critters we had no names for.

(Nice to link Swedish names of birds I know, to English names of birds I’ve heard of. Google is good! I now also know that kabbleka / varsakabi is called marsh marigold in English.)

In fact we were a bit surprised that the pigeons hadn’t just taken over. There’s free food after all. We asked one of the staff what they did to control the pigeons. He didn’t really know (I guess we picked the wrong person) but mentioned that they try to make the feeding stations less appealing to pigeons – covered trays on the water’s edge, instead of open trays, etc.

Mallards are all used to people I guess, and coots were walking happily on the paths. For shyer birds, a large area had been declared off-limits for walkers. There are viewing stations (huts with lots of windows on all sides) on the edge of that area for bird-watchers. The most serious ones had obviously installed themselves for a long session, with big cameras / telescopes, books and notepads. The Wetland Centre even publish their sightings of rarer birds.

Me, I didn’t really care much about what species they all were… I just liked the sunshine, greenery and open air, and seeing birds up close. For example, one small group of ducks very kindly did their diving in shallow water just next to a wooden platform, so we could see them from above as they dived down and swam underwater. It was interesting to see how they moved – for example, how they flexed and folded their feet, how they held them out towards the side while swimming, and how they spread out their tail feathers for better control under water.

Household tasks – ironing shirts, shopping for groceries, cooking dinner. Plus baking a cake, the first one I’ve made since Christmas – I got a sudden longing for rhubarb cake. I found an Estonian recipe on the web, and it came out just like a rhubarb cake is supposed to be: juicy-soft and sour-sweet. Mmmm.