Friday, 21 February 2014

Eating alone - I'm not the only one who likes it…

I'd really started to think I was unique when I said if I couldn't eat with my family I'd rather eat alone. Lo and behold, here's an article from today's Le Figaro which offers me a little company. But not at lunch, thanks all the same:

INTERVIEW - Pourquoi devrions-nous toujours déjeuner avec quelqu'un ? Philippe Silberzahn, professeur à Polytechnique, à l'EM Lyon et spécialiste de l'innovation en entreprise, explique les bienfaits de déjeuner seul, et pourquoi cela doit être un choix personnel assumé.
«Dans le monde du travail actuel, une journée est composée de multiples tâches diverses, de ‘moments' qu'il est nécessaire de rendre utiles et productives», analyse Philippe Silberzahn, professeur à Polytechnique, à l'EM Lyon et spécialiste des questions d'innovation dans les entreprises. Dans un billet publié sur son blog et intitulé «Ne déjeunez jamais seul! Et autres slogans stupides qui tuent l'innovation» il écrit pourquoi, en entreprise, tout ce qui n'est pas action est inutile. Il explique au Figaro.fr pourquoi un salarié doit à tout prix conserver son droit de faire des choses inutiles... comme déjeuner seul! Car déjeuner en paix, ce n'est pas une tare. Loin s'en faut.
LE FIGARO.FR - Les connotations du «déjeuner seul» sont-elles si négatives? Un site intitulé colunching.com propose de mettre en relation les personnes pour déjeuner, comme si déjeuner seul était quelque chose qu'il fallait à tout prix éviter!
PHILIPPE SILBERZAHN - Assurément, déjeuner seul n'est pas une tare! Mais c'est quelque chose qui est pour beaucoup difficile à assumer: il n'y a qu'à constater les petites remarques d'étonnement si un collègue nous surprend à déjeuner seul comme «tiens tu déjeunes seul? Tu n'as personne avec qui déjeuner?», et les regards quasi réprobateurs que l'on peut subir! Déjeuner seul doit être un acte assumé, mais le système actuel nous a fait intégrer l'idée que cette action était directement liée à du laisser aller, où un élément d'improductivité.
Pourquoi déjeuner seul? Quels en sont - s'ils existent! - les bienfaits?
Dans la vie - privée comme professionnelle - les moments de solitude permettent de se retrouver, de faire le point avec soi-même: se laver les dents, prendre sa douche, se balader seul... Il est simple de perdre du temps! Mais c'est aussi pendant ces moments avec soi-même que l'on peut avoir ses idées les plus brillantes. Déjeuner seul fait partie de ces moments: on peut, bien-sûr, réfléchir, mais on peut aussi faire des rencontres fortuites, qui peuvent par la suite s'avérer décisives.
Organiser des déjeuners est-il indispensable pour bien réseauter, et réussir sa carrière?
Naturellement! C'est indispensable. Le déjeuner de réseautage fait et fera toujours partie des éléments pour progresser professionnellement. Mais il ne doit en aucun cas être systématiquement associé à une occasion de «profiter» de tel ou tel personne: nouveaux contrats, potentiels clients... Le déjeuner est aussi l'occasion de voir des personnes avec qui vous avez des affinités et des points communs: ne pas déjeuner uniquement pour le côté business, mais aussi par plaisir! Il n'y a rien de plus agréable de déjeuner avec quelqu'un dont on sait que la conversation sera passionnante, mais qui est encore inconnue. C'est aussi l'occasion de faire une sorte de «blind date» et de rencontrer des personnes complètement inconnues.
À l'heure où le temps de la pause déjeuner se réduit comme peau de chagrin (et où la crise implique toujours plus de productivité, de stress) peut-on multiplier les déjeuners en toute impunité et ne pas céder au sandwich jambon beurre à son bureau?
Cette notion de culpabilité liée à la prise d'une pause, quel qu'elle soit, doit absolument disparaître! Il faut simplement se forcer à être responsable, et ne pas partir déjeuner quand toute l'équipe est sous l'eau, par exemple. Mais c'est vrai que si vos collègues restent au bureau et avalent un sandwich, partir déjeuner peut vous attirer les foudres de vos collaborateurs... Si cette pratique devient une habitude, on peut facilement se laisser aller à des réflexions primaires. Il ne faut en aucun cas se laisser influencer par une culture bêtement productiviste.
Quel rythme préconiseriez-vous?
Chacun doit trouver le sien! Si l'on se sent exclusivement bien dans l'un des deux extrêmes, il est cependant inutile de se priver.
Vous arrive-t-il de déjeuner seul? Pourquoi?
Je dois admettre que cela m'arrive rarement. Et le plus souvent, cela arrive de manière hasardeuse, les jours où je n'ai rien prévu. En revanche, je ne «choisis» jamais les jours où je déjeune seul. De même, je ne me suis jamais dit «tiens, je n'ai rien de prévu ce midi, il faut absolument que je trouve quelqu'un pour déjeuner!»

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Old Europe, and all that's wonderful about it.

I have to get this off my chest before I forget it. Every now and then, someone asks me why I love Europe so much. Due to maybe being three-quarters of the way through an excellent bottle of Bordeaux I'm not always able to give a coherent answer, but on this occasion I'll just tell you a story and leave you to ponder the rest.

I've been working at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany for ten years, now. I know it's ten years because I was awarded a little trophy by the town of Bayreuth this summer for my services to the music of Richard Wagner. OK. Next. Every year, I and my ilk are sent a very friendly letter by Udo Steingraeber of Steingraeber Pianos of Bayreuth, informing us of events we may find interesting taking place in his factory that summer. This year, I was invited to come and try out the newly-reconditioned Gralsglocke - the 'Grail Bell' - that his great-great uncle had made for Richard Wagner himself for the première of Parsifal in Bayreuth in 1882. Steingraeber set up a factory in Bayreuth in 1852, a full twenty years before Wagner moved to Bayreuth and twenty-four before the festival proper got under way. The fact that you can just turn up to a building bearing the same name as it did around 160 years ago and ask if someone of the same family and name is available is awe-inspiring in itself, but what followed just blew my mind.

Udo Steingraeber came out to meet us. I'd asked him if the Fingernails could come and play the Grail Bell too, to which he'd replied via e-mail that children were almost more welcome than adults, so I knew this bloke had a sense of whimsy I could relate to. He grabbed a key and led us off  to his workshop.

We went over the road and he unlocked the workshop where all Steingraeber hand-made pianos are created. No computers are used in the process; every instrument is created with human hand and hearing, natural judgement, sweat and tears. That's why they're bloody expensive, but hey…Anyway, he showed us the Grail Bell, handed us beaters and explained how to strike the strings. It's basically a piano with four notes, each note consisting of around fifteen strings, twelve to strike and three to vibrate sympathetically. Boulez and Solti both used it for their Parsifal recordings. Mrs. F, the Fingernails and I beat the strings, C - G - A - E - and I, at least, imagined what had happened in the Festspielhaus back in 1882 as this work was being rehearsed for the first time.

Udo showed us around the rest of his studio, pointing out where Wagner and Liszt had been, then ushered us back to the main building in the Friedrichstrasse. It was then that my head began to spin.

Knowing I was a pianist, he said "Come with me; this might interest you". He led us up the grand central staircase and showed us into a room called the Barocksaal, the Baroque Room. "Try this grand, it's rather fun". I sat down. There were three grands in the room, but I started to tinkle the ivories of the one where I was sat. "That was Liszt's piano; we built it for him. He gave many concerts and lessons on it. Let your children play it, too". The Fingernails had a go. "The other two are ones he just used when he was here, but you can play all of them if you want".  Udo Steingraeber left the room and just let a family of perfect strangers play a trio of pianos that had been played by Franz Liszt. I was speechless. As a homage to his generosity, I played the Liebestraum N°3 (Who wouldn't?), but I have to say: at no point in recent history was I more in contact with what it means to be a classical performing artist in Europe in the early twenty-first century as I was that afternoon. We're so surrounded by names and dates that you become rather blasé about the whole thing. Until, it is, that history steps up and grabs you by the bollocks and says: "Right, get this. Understand, now?". And all you can do is nod meekly and say "Yes".

A word to anyone even remotely interested in what I've just written: get yourselves over here and grab it while it's still around.





That's the Gralsglocke on the left. It was supported by four enormous barrel drums, each one corresponding to a note in the Parsifal C - G - A - E sequence.

And that's Udo Steingraeber. Great bloke.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Nigella Lawson talks dirty

I realise I'm probably a hundred years behind with this discovery, but I don't care. For those who don't know her, Nigella Lawson is the daughter of former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson (clearly not a modest man, judging by his daughter's name) a TV celebrity chef/person famous for being famous. Her first husband, journalist John Diamond, died of cancer. Her current husband is Charles Saatchi, but that doesn't seem to be valid for much longer. Still, she has some tips for being a domestic goddess:


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Motivation

I've come to the conclusion that, apart from journalists, those who continually publish blog posts have much too much time on their hands. Either that or their private lives are in tatters and they're desperately seeking contact with a supposed better world outside. Why have I reached this possibly controversial and provocative point of view? Because when I posted a lot I had too much time on my hands and was basically neglecting my nearest and dearest. I'm basing my evidence for this on the fact I currently have an awful lot of work to deal with and, consequently, have no interest in posting my vacuous witterings on French Fingers. My nearest and dearest are a long way away in darkest Toulouse and that's no fun, particularly as I've not seen or spoken to the Fingernails for about two weeks, mostly due to my workload here in Northern Bavaria but partly due to Mrs. F's computer developing tummy ache and needing a bit of TLC. At least, that's what she told me…If they'd been available and I'd have had half an hour spare you can be sure I'd have spent it skyping with them and not posting pictures of Denise Milani's tits on my blog.

As I can't really reveal anything about the project I'm working on I feel a bit hamstrung. I suppose I could go on about all the other exciting, X-rated things I do when not in rehearsal, like, er, getting up early to go the bakery, doing half an hour of yoga every morning or religiously packing a thermos of yerba maté in my rucksack every day, but I think you'd all rather be drooling over Denise Milani's tits, wouldn't you? And there's my dilemma. I can't comment sardonically on Bayreuth as it does what it says on the tin and my sense of humour has worn thin with the centre of Toulouse, which is just a rather attractive, selfish open sewer. Our bijou rat cage is back on the market, so if anybody wants to get up close and dirty with our delightful neighbours just tip me the wink and it's yours for three hundred grand. The real estate prices in French cities are utterly ridiculous: a friend of mine bought a 300 sqm house in Bad Berneck, here in Oberfranken  - in need of renovation, admittedly - with two acres of land for €36000 two years ago. The house next door to him is on sale as we speak. It has a garden and passarelles and is about 250 sqm. Yours for €25000. Needs work, but still…Incredible to think our 66sqm will probably go for between €270000 - 290000. We're keeping the little studio in the same building and paying through the nose for a new window, a new door and new God knows what else. It's one square foot too small to be let officially so it'll all have to be informal stuff. Possibly a blessing in a land seemingly exclusively populated by non-paying tenants.

I'm off to bed. Not content with boring you rigid I've managed to do it to myself.