It’s the first of
July. Not the fourth or the fourteenth. My fête nationale is the first. It’s
the end of the second month of my Personal Improvement Project. My second month
in the hands of Holmes Place, Potsdamer Place, Berlin, and all who work there.
So, what have I
done, and what is the result feeling and looking like?
Well, I’ve worked
pretty hard, in much the same manner as I did in month one. Nik has introduced
me to a heap more exercises, some of which have become part of my daily
routine, some of which have been consigned to the ‘too hard’ box. I don’t mean
‘too hard’ as in work ‘hard’, but I don’t feel comfortable or safe doing prone
barbell work alone, or floor roller exercises without supervision, and oh!
having to re-learn the rules of a lifetime! No fourth position, don’t point
your feet, don’t over-extend and, worst of all, ‘arch your back’. I’ve been
trying to NOT arch my back for 60 years! That’s worse than ‘stomach in, butt
in’! But the lurking lads in red shirts will always tell you if you are doing
Anyway, I promise,
I really am trying. I trot down to Holmes Place nearly every day, I do my
forty-ish minute full-on routine (a bit more these last days), with increasing
weights, then my water exercises, and finally I take my dip-n-sauna. Paul was
with his Aussie family, over in Europe for a holiday, for ten days, and my
stickability was tested. But I did the voyage alone (one rainy day missed), did
my stuff and enjoyed it, had a plate of yummy soup in the wee canteen, and felt
quite a cavalier. Especially when, one day, just for one day, the scales
announced: 77.4kg. Mostly now its just over 78.0kg.
That’s six kilos
gone. Six kilos. That’s the weight of the dumbbell which I still can’t manage
to stand-press five times consecutively with the bad arm. My body has lost
Of course, size,
or rather weight, isn’t everything. Shape is what I’m after. Balance.
Steadiness. And, needless to say, general fitness. I’d like to be able to walk
freely and surely. And, here, I’ve made a discovery…
I’ve been back to
Sascha the masseur. This time I told him, ‘hit it’. ‘It’ being the right hip
and groin which have given me trouble off and on for forty years, and wholly ‘trouble
on’ since the stroke. Well, not everyone wants to massage that area of a chap,
but Sascha is a pro, and he ‘hit it’. Bloody Hell. ‘Hasn’t anybody dealt with
this?’, he asked. I had to admit ‘no’. Not because of MY modesty (I haven’t
any), but because of theirs.
Sascha has been on
holiday since then. He’s back this week and I’m booked in. I’m walking better
than I have for years, and with almost no pain, since his ministrations. Zeus
This weekend, Paul
returned, having tasted the delights of the Parisian Disneyland and Berlin in
the company of Ella (9), James (7) and Josie (4).
He said: ‘your
belly’s shrunk’? Hmmm … the mirror tells me that a lot of it is still there! We
did another photo session. I don’t know. Is it better? The belly, I mean. All
that weight must have gone from somewhere. Well, I’ll just carry on! I’ve got
aches and pains in places where muscles (?) are being awakened from their Sleeping Beauty hundred years’ sleep, though
the bags under my eyes and down-creases from my mouth (ugh!) haven’t budged (they
are difficult to exercise) … but folks still say ‘you look a different man’…. I
only notice that spare flaps of flesh under my arms seems to have gone …
So, on into month
There was a
question mark in my diary for last night. Piano salon? One of the ‘possibles’
that I’d marked in back in April, I guess …
Morgenstern Trio: piano, fiddle and ‘cello … Ravel, Mendelssohn,
Boulanger (Nadia or Pierre?) … better ask Paul.
Paul said an
enthusiastic ‘yes’. I would really love the Ravel, he assured me. Well, he
should know. He played it himself, in concert, a year or three back. So, book
us in. A night at the Piano salon Christophori is always enjoyable. And
Tonight was one of
the special ones.
The evening at the
Piano salon doesn’t start till 8.30, so we had time for a visit to the gym,
some shopping, a photo-session (my latest slimming pix), and we even got to
miss France scoring two goals, sometime during our walk from Humboldthaim to
the Uferstrasse. But at least they scored them!
Arrive at the
concert room, half empty (oh! the football), a nice glass of red wine in my hand
(‘vive la France!’), and I’m ready for a first half of suitably French music.
The warm-up act at
the Piano Salon is traditionally a gentleman with a grey ponytail tuning the
pianoforte. Tonight he was tuning two. Steinway and Erard. Interesting. But the
tuning sounded like Mr Reich again. Bring on Ravel, I thought. However, when
you have two pianos, they have to be moved, and when the elderly Erard was
asked to budge … its back wheel fell off. So it had to play its part sitting on
a block of wood! Maybe talking to the wobbly violin-stool. But hey, they
couldn’t be in a better place: right in the middle of a piano workshop!
Trio are Catherine Klipfel (piano), Stefan Hempel (violin) and Emanuel Wehse
(‘cello) … aided by a valiant if under-dressed young page turner … and all I
can say of them is ‘I love you, guys’. I’m not going to try to be analytic, for
I don’t have the technical expertise (that’s Paul’s department): I just say ‘I
love you’. The three players all performed with the most amazing warmth,
feeling and, in turn, tenderness and temperament. The piano flowed. Even in the
most voluminous passages, it was strong and firm rather than loud and showy.
Just the sort of playing I prefer. The fiddle never cried out: it sang. Mezzo-soprano.
Some of the time, I felt I was listening to a viola. Beautiful. And the ‘cello!
Such glorious soft playing – actually, that goes for the trio as a whole (for
it’s very much a whole) – the pianissimo bits of the Ravel, the delicate bits
of the Mendelssohn … a true treat.
I have but one
complaint. The shaping of the programme. Well, it wasn’t shaped. Is it wise to
start the evening with … well, I think, one of the most amazing bits of chamber
music I have ever heard? Yes, Ravel’s
trio, discovered by yours truly this very night, is very, very special. The
first movement was my favourite, but that may have just been the joy of
discovery and the pianissimi. Anyway, whatever, it was one of my best (go on,
THE best?) chamber music moments ever.
(which turned out to be Lili), which followed, was a pleasant, lightweight
filler, but it meant we came to half-time on a frivolous note rather than
floating on Ravel. Pity.
Part two, the Mendelssohn
second trio. Another lovely work, played beautifully. Interesting to hear it
with the taste of the Ravel still around. A demonstration of how musical styles
changed in those 19th-to-20th century years. In Mendelssohn’s time, I guess,
the ‘Thalberg-style’ of virtuosity was more in favour than it was in 1914: and
there was plenty of florid playing to go with the flowing, tuneful and skittish
melody. The skittish bits were great fun (watching the ‘cellist was almost as
good as listening to him!) … and the whole was utterly enjoyable.
The ‘encore’ of
the night was one movement of a Schumann trio. I actually have to admit to
liking it even more than the Mendelssohn, but, really, it wasn’t a traditional ‘encore’,
and it rather destablised the evening. Lili Boulanger would have made a good
encore. But a whole movement of a major work?
Well, who cares?
Stable or unstable, conventional or unconventional, every bit of the evening
was a joy. Players and music. I happily emptied my wallet into the tube at the
door – held this time by the agreeable, hands-on boss of the lieux – and walked
out into the night, and the … rain. The pub screens showed us that it was
Germany 0 Algeria 0, as my espadrilles sank uncaringly into irretrievable ruin
in the sludge on the road to Humboldthaim.
Back at the Piano salon,
I guess they were re-shoeing Monsieur Erard for the next night’s concert. Me, I
didn’t even make it to Germany’s and Algeria’s goals. I had to get up at 2am to
find out who had won. For I was very soon sleeping happily on my bed of
PS The 14 euro
minimum ‘donation’ does seem to have become policy. So maybe it wasn’t only the
football which shrank last night’s audience.