Here’s a tip for you young whippersnappers: don’t get old, but if you do, you can fool Father Time by training the smart way. By this I don’t mean you should follow all that bull that floats around online. I don’t use social media, but I’m told that a system exists, which reaches millions across multiple platforms, that spreads misinformation about health, and then some. The wellness industry means big moolah, and is as phony as Hollywood morality.
Take it from Taki: all you need to feel good and be able to enjoy yourself is a little exercise before breakfast, and some semi-hard training in the afternoon. C’est tout, mes amis, as they say in gay Paree. Then you can drink all you want, eat within reason and chase the opposite sex to your heart’s content. During lockdown, exercise became more important than ever, and I was lucky to be stuck in Gstaad because the place was empty, the mountain paths emptier, and the only living things one ran into while climbing the verdant hills were the cows.
So, how should an oldie start the day? What the poor little Greek boy does, with or without a hangover, is stretch. After a couple of minutes of stretching — all this is done outdoors no matter the weather — a two-minute stationary bike at full tilt is in order. This gets the heart rate up, and then it’s time for forty push-ups, twenty with the hands close together, and another twenty with the hands far apart. Isometrics follow, pushing against a wall while standing, and sitting on an imaginary stool against a wall for one minute. Then it’s front kicks and reverse punches for speed and accuracy using a bag and a makiwara. By now twenty minutes have gone by and it’s time for breakfast. In the afternoon a session of kickboxing or karate with an opponent and a brisk walk before dinner mean you are ready for anything the night might suddenly offer.
I’ve been following this routine since giving up the tennis that I coupled with karate throughout my youth and middle age. I still ski, mostly cross-country, but no longer ride, as I gave up polo long ago. Martial arts have kept me hungry and fit, and they help when some loudmouth bully starts throwing his weight around. Not that it happens very often, especially here in Gstaad where young men are not known to carry knives or guns in nightclubs.
Which brings me to a parenthesis on how to stay young and healthy. Gstaad is not a violent place, but neither is it what it used to be. When I first came here back in 1958 no one, but no one, locked their doors in the hotels or the few chalets that existed back then. There was one policeman and the joke was that he was the laziest man in town. There was absolutely no crime, no theft and no violence of any sort except that of drunken farmers taking it out on their poor wives from time to time. Now things are different. Chalets built by the newly rich are a dime a dozen, including those with swimming pools and auditoriums. Once the nouveaux riches arrived, crime was bound to follow. Jewelry stores have been held up at gunpoint and chalets have been broken into and robbed. The Alpina hotel’s concierge was recently tied up by an armed gang who took twenty minutes to break into a jewelry shop. The fuzz was asleep.
The reason I cannot state exactly how many robberies have taken place is that the commune refuses to acknowledge that any- thing out of the ordinary is happening. It’s the Swiss way: don’t rock the boat and deny everything. There are strong rumors that Slavica Ecclestone, the giant ex-wife of billionaire Bernie, got roughed up by bandits in her rather posh chalet. Apparently there have been around twenty robberies this season, although the fuzz denies everything.
Here’s the scoop: there was a vote some time ago for more cops, but the locals voted against it. This made sense. Thieves don’t steal from the locals but from rich foreigners, so why should the locals get stuck with higher taxes to pay for more fuzz? My own security people, whom I hired once I moved to an area outside the village in a private road, explained it very well: “It comes from inside information, from disgruntled staff who pass vital info to professional crooks lurking around Switzerland.”
Saudis and Gulfers are notorious for the way they treat servants, especially staff from the Philippines. The servants, in turn, know where the bullies keep their jewels and moolah, as well as the hours they keep. It becomes elementary, my dear Watsons. Most of the bandits, I suspect, are from the Balkans, and very few have been caught. So, be nice to staff, do not leave jewelry and gold watches lying around, keep your cash in the bank, and you’re pretty safe. When I asked my security man man whether one should fight or hand it over, he said that Gstaad crooks are not violent and one should not look for confrontation. My advice is do your exercises, take up martial arts, keep a low profile, be kind to your staff, and if the bandits come in and are not carrying guns or knives, what the hell, have a go.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s November 2023 World edition.