This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Newnham girls, you walk in beauty

newnham-5The beauty of Newnham college in Cambridge is hidden behind brick walls – girls need to be protected from the outside world. But let me show you the way in, through the gates…

newnham-6…and you are welcomed by roses, peonies, squirrels, and majestic red-brick buildings. And sometimes the faint melody of a flute or violin drifting through an open window.

There is true beauty on the inside, too. Winding stairs…newnham-1…and Victorian wallpaper by William Morrisnewnham-2…and less winding stairs…

newnham-3…and sunlight…

newnham-4…and the ghost of a 19th century curly-haired girl in a pastel-colored muslin dress, reading a love letter by the window…

(Newnham College, University of Cambridge, UK; June 2011)


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Oh, who can ever be tired of Bath!

bath-2When I lived in the UK I wandered around the lovely streets of Bath for a weekend. Just like Catherine from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey I wonder, who can ever be tired of Bath?

“A fine Sunday in Bath empties every house of its inhabitants, and all the world appears on such an occasion to walk”bath-16“they hastened away to the Crescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company”

This lovely piece of green pasture is marked on an old map as “never to be built upon”. The Bath city layout is sprinkled with circles, squares, and crescents, and even contains one circus.

bath-12They set off in good time for the Pump-room, where the ordinary course of events took place; Mr Allen, after drinking his glass of water, joined some gentlemen to talk over the politics of the day and compare the accounts of their news-papers; and the ladies walked about together, noticing every new face, and almost every new bonnet in the room”

The Pump Room is open for a delicious breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea. Wander in at breakfast time, after 9.30 am, and the sunny room, with light tunes of violin and piano floating in the air, will be all yours. Try the spa water – it’s not half as ill-tasting as in many other places. These are the “lower rooms” of Jane Austen, where ladies and gentlemen “took the waters”, along with “Oliver bisquits” (delicious but heavy on calories), during the day, and enjoyed conversation and dance during the night.

bath-14bath-1“Edward has been pretty well this last week, and as the waters have never disagreed with him in any respect, we are inclined to hope he will derive advantage from them in the end”

The thermal waters of Bath bubble up from three springs in the Roman Baths, over a million liters per day. The baths are beautifully restored and the excellent audio tour easily keeps your wandering around for 3 hours.

bath-15

bath-5Hoping to dip your toes into the famous thermal water? Finally Bath has a spa again. The Cross Bath, and the all-new Bath Thermae Spa, are located behind the Roman baths. Half a day just flows by in the hot thermal waters, aromatherapy steam rooms, spa treatments, lovely restaurant, and rooftop pool.

““I could not tell whether you would be for some meat, or only a dish of tea, after your journey, or else I would have got something ready… Perhaps you would like some tea, as soon as it can be got.” They both declared they should prefer it to anything”

Afternoon tea in Bath is not to be had without the Bath Bun, or the Sally Lunn Bun. Fluffy and round, split in half, dripping with hot butter and brown sugar syrup with a hearty dash of cinnamon… the secret recipe and the tea room have served thirsty and hungry visitors for over 300 years, which I think Sally Lunn would have been very proud to know.bath-2All quotes by Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, personal letters)(Bath, United Kingdom; June 2011)


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The baseline

baselineWhich is better: to always chase the next thing, or to be truly content with what one has? And yet, can there be improvement if we did not actively seek it? What is the difference between contentedness and lethargy? Is ambition healthy? If we all simply let life happen to us, as taught by many wise souls, would anyone of us have the drive to make the world a better place?

Many big questions for a little weekend break. In the meantime, happy Easter and spring break to you all.

(Helsinki, Finland; April 2015)


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What do you imagine when you think of Sherlock Holmes’s London?

holmesOn a day off I made a quick nip into the world of Doyle and the London of Sherlock Holmes. In the sunshine, under a clear blue sky, it was odd to imagine the smog-filled city of 120 years ago, where so much splendor of the upper classes mixed with so much filth and poverty of the lower classes.

In the times of Sherlock Holmes lived also Charles Booth. Instead of investigating mysteries, he investigated social classes. With his team he color-mapped all of central London, house by house, by the social class of the inhabitants.

povertymap-3My usual haunts of Marylebone/Mayfair/Bayswater were among the wealthiest areas of town (see below – the street with a horizontal line is Oxford Street). How interesting to note that the blocks had wealthier people inhabiting the street sides, and poorer people living in the courtyards.

povertymap-2Whereas Union Street, nowadays Riding House Street, was labeled poor and criminal. povertymap-1 How easy it is then, to forget that the world of Sherlock Holmes and Oscar Wilde’s heroes encompass a vanishing 10% of the worlds within London. Most of the remaining 90% never saw more than a glimpse of the splendor of living, entertaining, and society of the people we think of when we think of turn-of-the-century London. Many of those 90% were happy to have a pair of shoes on their feet, and food for the following day.

(Museum of London, London, United Kingdom; March 2015)