Saturday, May 08, 2004

Climb ev'ry south London

When we go on holiday, we usually head for Swiss mountains, which Tom immediately wants to go up. I love mountains. I love the air, the atmosphere & the views. I don't much like having to walk up such steep slopes, though, often in intense summer heat, for hours on end. Somehow it's always the same: Tom striding on ahead in his Thomas-of-Arabia anti-sun headgear, with me gasping along behind, trying to keep up and stopping for water every 10 minutes. And the question hangs in the air: why walk when you can take the cable car?

Playing the Franck sonata feels somewhat the same. This afternoon, with just three and a half hours to go before Our Concert Begins, I'm wondering who is the bigger sadist: Cesar Franck or my husband? Why am I doing this when I could sit back and listen to someone else instead? Why did I let him cajole me into this in the first place?

Seriously, guys, how do you do it? How do you COPE? My shoulders hurt, my arms hurt, my hands hurt and a good night's sleep without waking up at 5am thinking 'Oh My God, Franck!' would be very welcome indeed. I'm behind on my feature-writing and keep telling various e-mail correspondents that I'll get back to them after 8 May when I can think straight again. There are musicians out there who play 80 concerts a year - some do more - and to have to feel this way one day out of every 4, on average, would be my idea of living hell. Perhaps you get used to it if you do it all the time? Or perhaps you simply have to be the sort of person who enjoys it. The sort of person who will always walk up a mountain instead of taking the cable car, however hard it feels at the time, for the sheer thrill of Knowing You've Done It.

The things you have to contend with and remember to do...Making sure the heating is ON in the church (it may be May but it's all of 12 degrees out there today, and raining), taking in lamps, an adapter and an extension lead, trying to get the most out of what is really a very nice, rather elderly Bluthner without making the poor thing collapse, attempting to rehearse Franck while the church flower ladies do their stuff with cellophane and bubble-wrap and their children run athletics races unchecked among the pews. Making sure your brother, his heavily pregnant girlfriend, his 11-year-old son, his new Italian mother-in-law who speaks no English and the honorary auntie who introduced you to your husband leave Hampstead together in plenty of time to get to Clapham (to Hampstead dwellers, Clapham=ends of earth). Wondering how you can even go to a piano, let alone touch it, when the audience contains at least three concert pianists and the editor of Classic FM Magazine. Remembering to pack chocolate, bananas, spare tights, a cardy and a portable blowy heater.

Never mind. It'll all be over soon. Except...Tom wants to do Faure next.

Oh my God. Faure...