Sunday, May 11, 2008

Risi e Bisi

Not really risotto, but as far as I can tell it is just as yummy and you don't have to stir! Hurrah. Rice, peas, onion, pancetta, parsley, chicken stock and Parmesan. Voila.

High culture and sunbathing

Friday evening I went to see the Ballet Boyz 'Greatest Hits' at Sadler's Wells. For the uninitiated the Boyz are a couple of ex-Royal Ballet male dancers with a 'trendy' moniker that has unfortunately stuck (I, too, would much rather say that I went to see George Piper Dances, their preferred but sadly not quite as catchy original company name). I have seen them multiple times in the past and have never tired of their brand of top quality contemporary dance interspersed with tongue in cheek videos. It was a great pleasure to watch again Chris Wheeldon's Mesmerics. It had a huge impact on me choreographically speaking when I first saw it years ago at the Cambridge Arts Theatre and I was pleased to see that I was still, well, mesmerised -- although now that I have seen more Wheeldon I don't think Mesmerics is the best of his work.

Towards the end of the evening there were a couple of pieces which I had not yet seen. One of these, EdOx, a Rafael Bonachela pas de deux for Edward Watson and Oxana Panchenko, was for me the very best part of the show. Edward Watson! What a dancer. I am not sure that I have ever seen him before and certainly not in this kind of work (despite having a poster of him and Alina in Chroma on my wall -- a work I have always very sadly missed). Edward is unique amongst male dancers for his flexibility and probably because of this it was a very unusual pas de deux in that it was very almost completely equal. They are both able to twist and bend and throw up 180 degree extensions and for quite a lot of the work they are not in contact at all, instead dancing the same steps if not in unison -- steps that most other male dancers could probably simply not do at the same level. They both seemed to take to the style of fluidly twisted spines and shoulders in a very similar way and in this respect they must have been a perfect pair to dance together. All this alone would have made it fascinating but there were also many semi-supported lifts which again were roughly equal in terms of who was lifted and who supported -- very impressive for Oxana as besides being flexible Edward is also tall and probably solid heavy muscle. So on the rare occasions when Oxana is lifted right up into the air at arm's length, seemingly without any effort at all, it is all the more an unexpected and wonderful surprise for the audience. I am afraid I am not able to be very eloquent about this work. But I loved it all -- the style in the upper body movement, the uniqueness of the equality of the work, and of course the gorgeous performance.

Saturday was busy -- dance class and then rushing back to Cambridge for a meeting (very exciting emerging dance/music collaboration project) and in the evening going to a concert of the Dante Quartet in King's. I am a music ignomarus but it seems the Dante Quartet is very well regarded and they certainly played (to me) gorgeously even in King's Hall which does not have the best acoustics. Of all the pieces I loved the most Puccini's "Crisantemi", which is a gloriously dark elegiac work that flows and emotes in an indescribably beautiful way that seemed to take me on some kind of journey in my mind. I now think that in watching concerts or performances often all you really need is one piece that strikes you to the core and it is all worth it. EdOx; Crisantemi; and I remember a year or two ago watching the Malaysian Philharmonic play Arvo Part's Fratres, which struck me so much I went on to make possibly one of my best dances on it. There was also the world premiere of a new work by the composer Roxanna Panufnik, inspired by Canto 23 of Dante's Commedia. It was for me a rarity to be listening to completely current modern classical music, and I have to say I was slightly surprised by how much I managed to enjoy it when forced to listen properly. Dissonant and almost astructural, certainly, but also so wonderfully rich and with such wonderfully disturbing emotional currents and quite simply very beautiful in parts.

Today, so far, has been spent in a far less culturally aspiring way -- chiefly lolling about on the backs in the sun with a horrendously expensive iced coffee concoction, watching the punts go by (always good entertainment as not only do you get tour guides repeatedly giving you a potted history of Trinity and the Wren Library, but also, well, lots of people falling in, other people trying to retrieve stuck punt poles, Canada geese having hissy fits, and even, bizarrely, two people actually going for a proper swim in our disease-and-old-bicyle-infested river) and reading an old Coupland. One of the benefits of living finally in the main part of college really is being so much closer to the backs, I have been there so much more often since moving here and it is always so beautiful and idyllic, and often wonderfully peaceful.

More experimental cooking tonight in the form of risotto. Yum.. hopefully!

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Perfectly Lazy Sunday

Ah, I have been reminded why at heart I really am a lazy bum. At first I bemoaned the fact that once off Lizard my urge to work slaloms downhill at a precipitious pace, leaving me with that frustrating feeling (that I am alliterating too much) that procrastination provokes (still doing it). But the joy, the joy of a day off in an incipient summer, is that when not on Lizard I actually can enjoy it fully. Despite improving by leaps and bounds I never quite figured out how to totally switch off whilst living at a research station that, however wonderful, does suck my research money out of me second by second. But here in Cambridge I am a master at the art.

So. Sunday was a very nice day indeed and I should warn you that I am probably going to be sickeningly smug about how much I enjoyed doing nothing all through it. I woke about lunchtime, which to me is very much the Right Time to wake up on a weekend, and after all I had been up late the night before industriously updating a society website (, so I felt that I deserved that glorious feeling when you wake up under the quilt and stretch out and all is sweet and silky and swept with late morning light filtering in through the curtain, and then you go back to sleep. Whilst still in this pleasant drowsiness the boyfriend called, and there is a no better way to be introduced to the day.

Having eventually gotten up I went to market and had my weekly ostrich burger, which is according to the stall that sells it the "low fat red meat of the future" but in my books just exceedingly yummy, and wandered about peering at the crafts and Caribbean pasties whilst munching. And then to get a Caffe Nero mocha, takeaway because it is really so beautifully warm of late, and then chats with my Mum and sister on the phone variously whilst walking through Cambridge, sitting at Jesus Lock watching the ducks who were in turn watching small children smearing ice creams all over their faces, and standing in Sainsbury's in the midst of an enormous pre-experimental-cooking shop.

During this walk I saw a couple walking seven, yes seven, full grown Golden Retrievers at once! They were all so well-behaved. A pack of beauties. Then half a minute later I saw a Great Dane, who was so well behaved he wasn't even on a lead. He was kind of trotting along between his owners looking longingly at the ice creams they were eating which were, after all, held at about the same height as his head. What a temptation.

This took most of the early afternoon, and by the time I'd gotten home there was not much to do but sit and read Peter Carey's Theft: A Love Story, which I'd bought for one pound (!) on Euston Road on Saturday whilst dawdling on the way to dance class at The Place, and which was rollickingly enjoyable. Eventually I bestirred myself to laboriously work out the combination setting of my microwave oven and make a potato bake and chicken cacciatore out of my new Italian cookbook. What fun! In the end both were not entries for the Greatest Hits of my cooking repertoire, but certainly tasty enough, and they had better be too because I foolishly made enough to feed me for most of the rest of this week; but I've put some in the freezer so I can have a break in the form of good old garlic fried rice tomorrow.

And then I meant to do some work in the evening. But of course instead I just sat reading my book, and reading my book, in a more and more horizontal position on my sofa, and of course at 11pm what was there for it but to transfer my horizontal self to the bed where it could be more satisfyingly horizontal, and then of course it was a matter of just feeling pleased as punch that I could enjoy a book so thoroughly that I'd read the whole thing by the night after I'd bought it (and it weren't no Harry Potter neither).

Of course I made up for it all today by going into department on a Bank Holiday and making myself rather sad but at least virtuous feeling by banging my head against stats for the best part of the day. Work hard and play harder, eh. I came back through the late May dusk to microwaved chicken cacciatore and Ian McEwan's absolutely gorgeously written Saturday, which both very pleasantly drove the stats from my mind. Life is good.