Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Detox Diary: two months in...


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 it wrongly.

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 THAT!

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 bless him.

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 three …

And we’ll see.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Piano Salon Christophori: Raves for Ravel!

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 sometimes special.

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!

The Morgenstern 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.

The Boulanger (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 beautiful music.


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.