When I came back from England, in December, I felt as though I hadn't played the piano for years. My fingers were stiff from lack of practice, and my forearms would ache if I did anything too strenuous.
I hadn't played, virtually, for six months. There was a short stint when we stayed at a house where there was a piano, and where I played a single piece of Bach I'd found in a secondhand shop in the middle of nowhere, but apart from that I did nothing.
The great advantage of writing some music (since I've come home) and then having to basically work hard at learning to play the pieces has been that my fingers and muscles are back to normal. In fact, when I played the first three pieces at a concert a few weekends back, I was still just a bit under par. Coming back to the same pieces after having worked solidly on the latest piece I've been composing, they seem like a breeze. This most recent one must be tougher than I thought!
I've just been offered an opportunity to play all four of them in a month's time. That'll keep me working at them. It's always a bonus to have some incentive to practice.
Years ago, when I was first in England, I spent the first few years constantly playing, either because I was involved with the London Opera Centre, or because I was composing a good deal. However, I took a turn away from music for a while, and went into residential child care. Pianos were few and far between. (I'd sold my piano to a flatmate who never actually paid me for it.) But I couldn't stay away from music completely, and discovered that the large children's home where I was working had a grand piano (that was never played) in one of their halls. One night I dragged some Beethoven out, and went and tried the piano out. It was a great feeling to be playing again, and though I didn't do much playing over the next couple of years, because I never had access to a piano, I knew from then on that I couldn't give the piano up completely.
I would have been foolish to. I had a gift - even if it wasn't concert level - and it would have been an insult to God, my creator, to have thrown the gift away completely. Thankfully, I didn't, and as soon as I got back to New Zealand, I was once again in the thick of playing for the local opera companies and such.