I got the call on Saturday night at 23.39. It was kd. “Can you come over to my house, please? You need to kick in the door. We’re locked inside the building and my key won’t work.”
I realise this raises questions of fire safety, amongst other things, but this is pretty standard in Prague. kd’s house has a main door onto the street and then another entrance that leads into the house itself. You always need a key to get in, and if the door has been locked, then you need a key to get out as well. kd and the others were locked inside the house because the lock was somehow broken and kd’s key wouldn’t turn. I was in our local pub one block away when I got the call.
“Should I pop home and get my keys?” (I have kd’s spares.)
“No, I don’t think so. The lock is fucked. Just come over quickly and kick the door in.”
I am not sure if they had tried themselves to kick the door open, but that kind of thing is apparently much harder if you are going against the door’s natural direction of movement.
I got to the outside door and found it was locked. I rang kd. “The bottom left window pane is broken. Reach your hand in and you should be able to turn the handle – unless someone has locked that door.” No one had locked the door and I let myself in.
And there they were – 4 people imprisoned in a corridor behind a solidly locked door. Which conveniently had a window so that we could see each other.
“Kick it in! Kick it in!” they yelled. Rather excited at the prospect of freedom. And perhaps even more excited at the prospect of violence.
I’ve watched Bruce Lee. DD once made me study the cave scene in Enter the Dragon. I put my weight onto my right foot and carefully folded my left leg in close to my body. I leaned my body to the right and sharply lashed my leg out to the left into the door. The door shook, but nothing more. The prisoners’ faces dropped.
“That’s all right,” I said, “I’m just getting a feel for it.”
On my next go, Big Sky tried to help the door follow through from the kick, but that didn’t work at all. I confidently told them it would be better if they all stood back.
The door moved substantially more on kick number 3 and I could feel that it was almost there. Just one more kick…
I focused. I envisaged Bruce Lee. I brought my leg in towards my body and felt the energy in it coiled and ready to spring. With a quick and powerful thrust my leg smashed into the door. There was a splintering of wood and a crash of metal and the door slammed open. I’d done it, I had freed my friends.
And we went to find C who was waiting back at the pub.
The fitness is going well. I normally see my trainer 3 times per week and get into the gym at least once more on my own. Results are visible, my muscles are more solid and defined and my back feels stronger than it has in years.
The drinking is going okay. Boris was around last week and he keeps me pretty sensible in that respect. My only night of substantial over-indulgence was the night I was out with people other than Boris. However I only managed one day with no alcohol at all.
Boris is super fit. He has worked in the fitness industry forever, he has been a trainer, and it seems to me that he knows everything there is to know about health and fitness and physiology. But Boris has been having trouble lately in motivating himself to go to the gym.
Somehow last night we decided to turn our quests for self-improvement into a wager, as follows. Every week, for the next 10 weeks:
Boris has to work out 5 times per week; and
Max has to work out 3 times per week + have 2 alcohol-free days.
Whoever does not manage to fulfil their agenda for any given week has to donate £20 to the charity the other has chosen.
We also have an accumulator. As Boris too will endeavour to have alcohol-free days, we will earn one point for each workout and one point for each non-drinking day. Whoever ends the 10 weeks with the highest total of points is the winner. The loser will have to donate £50 to each of the two charities we have chosen.
The bet begins today.
I couldn’t remember ever making any serious new year’s resolutions – not for the 1st of January anyway. I was brought up to do that soul-searching and character improvement kind of stuff around the Jewish New Year so I would have done it then. Or being the impatient type that I am, I would never have waited around for an occasion – after all, if you want to make a change, just bloody make it.
But three things inspired me to make New Year’s resolutions for 2008.
The first was a conversation I had with BJ on Christmas Eve. BJ introduced the topic, reporting that he makes resolutions every year, usually a dozen, and always manages to keep about half of them.
The second was an article I saw a few days later on BBC about strategies for success with New Year’s resolutions.
The third was that I drank too much last Friday night, was stupidly drunk when Random Dan arrived from Vienna at midnight, and then nearly missed my plane to Paris on Saturday morning.
I had already been thinking about strategies to cut down my drinking. But they had to be realistic strategies, especially considering that one’s social life in Prague usually revolves around alcohol. And, yes, really, more than in other places. So on Sunday I took out my notebook and started making my rules. Over the next 3 days, this is what I came up with:
New Year’s Resolutions 2008
1) Cut down drinking.
(i) no shots. ever.
(ii) always have a glass of water next to the alcoholic beverage.
(iii) at least 2 alcohol-free days per week (unless on holiday).
(iv) eat properly before drinking.
2) Read a book on health and fitness.
3) Be nicer to people and more intellectually generous.
4) Don’t be so spoiled and petulant – be more flexible when things don’t go exactly your way.
5) Go to Košice.
The rules under (1) are because I read on BBC that you should be specific when making resolutions, that vague plans are more likely to fail. And (i), (ii) and (iv) would all have helped me on Friday night.
(2) is something that I have been meaning to do anyway and making it a resolution has made it more of a priority. Yesterday I got a recommendation from Boris and the book is now on order from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath. I know Mr & Mrs B.
(3) and (4) are the two that are doomed to failure so they serve to make it statistically more likely that I will succeed with (1).
(5) is because I have never been to Košice and I saw in the in-flight magazine on my sober way home that SkyEurope now fly Prague-Košice.
I have had requests for a report, so here goes – we’ll see how much I can remember…
I turned 42 on Friday, 7 December, but the celebrations had started earlier. Jono flew over from Paris on Wednesday night, arriving at my house at 11.15. I had been at the pub and already had a solid buzz going, but we went to my local for a couple of beers anyway. We were thrown out at 1 o’clock because that’s when they close. I went straight to bed so that I would be able to go to the gym in the morning.
Fast forward to Thursday evening. A couple of other friends were in town from England so Jono and I had arranged to have dinner with them at Passepartout, a restaurant where the food is beautiful and we know the owners. We had a lovely dinner with a couple of bottles of wine and cognacs to finish the meal. Our other friends left around midnight. Shortly thereafter Jono informed the owners that it was then my birthday, and for the next few hours we received even more free booze than we usually do. We finally stumbled into a taxi at 3.30.
My phone rang at 7.30 on Friday morning. It was my parents calling from the night before in LA to wish me a happy birthday. They were puzzled why they had woken me up – expecting that I would either be in the gym or getting ready to go to work. I explained that work would remain out of the question for another couple of hours, but that I would get there eventually. And I did make it into work promptly at 11.15. I left to go to lunch at 12.45. It was my birthday.
I worked hard all afternoon and left the office just after 5. Jono and I had planned to go to dinner that evening at a restaurant that does only tasting menus, but due to a change in plans we weren’t going to have time to indulge in a 10-course meal. After looking for inspiration on the internet, we decided to go to the Sarah Bernhardt Restaurant at the Hotel Paříž.
Dinner was wonderful. The restaurant was rather empty and too brightly lit, both of which we felt took away from the overall experience. But the food and the service were excellent. We had a glass of champagne as our aperitif and then Jono – who has really expanded his knowledge of wine since moving to France – chose a deliciously verbose Bordeaux.
Eva and Vašek arrived just as we were finishing our coffees so Jono ordered another bottle of wine. After we had drunk that, we moved to the cocktail bar formerly known as Alcohol Bar where we had several or a half dozen cocktails. It was great to see Eva and Vašek and it was all fun. Even the music was good. When the DJ put on Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, all conversation in the bar stopped because all of the drunks wanted to sing along. We left around 3 when the bar closed.
Jono and I walked Eva and Vašek back to their car where they had to wait for Modrý Anděl – one of those taxi services that comes with 2 drivers to drive your car home for you. We called a taxi from there. And when we got home we cracked open a bottle of champagne because we didn’t want the night to end.
Upon leaving the house on Saturday morning (afternoon), Jono and I walked through the park and over to Bořivojova Street so that I could show him the house where the flat we are buying will be. And the exciting thing was that we saw people working there. Meaning that they have finally started reconstructing the house.
I had a fantastic birthday weekend and I even went to the gym today right after Jono left. Boris sent me flowers.
Plans are being made for this weekend in London, and they all revolve around food and drink. And friends, of course – but that goes without saying. I know I’ll be in trouble because someone in London whom I have not called will read this blog, but hey ho – I’ll only be over there for a quick weekend, I can’t see everyone, and I refuse to make myself more insane by trying.
Anyway, meals for Friday have been determined and I am excited, probably overly so.
Lunchtime will be spent with A at the sushi bar in Kiku. I first discovered Kiku in 2003 when Christian had thrown his Time Out restaurant guide at me and said, “Find somewhere neither of us has been, and make sure it’s expensive.” Kiku is not overly expensive by London standards, but it is sushi in Mayfair and it is the best sushi I have ever eaten in Europe. The sushi chef treated me and Christian especially well because I ordered in Japanese; going there with A will be even better because she is Japanese.
Lunch will be early and dinner will be late so that I have time to re-develop my appetite in between. Although I have promised Christian that if I am not hungry enough by dinnertime I will make myself vomit.
Christian, who always comes up with reasons to reward me with dinners, is taking me to Patara. I have never been to Patara, but Christian claims that it is the best Thai food he has ever had, including in Thailand. The best Thai food I have ever had was the amazing green curry that Christian himself once made for me at my house in Guildford. Christian has also said something about cocktails and single malt whisky.
On Saturday I will certainly dine again, but I don’t yet know where.
On another note – I went out this lunchtime to buy a flash stick and accidentally bought myself a pair of seriously red D&G glasses instead.