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Allô allô, Bonjour!

As a novice human being one cannot always be sure where ones talents are hiding. If you are lucky you might succeed in finding your undercover talent(s), pulling them from the undergrowth and exploring them sooner rather than later. But not everyone is that lucky. In most cases talent doesn't reveal itself until later in life. And so a lot of people don't make it past dreaming their dreams. Nothing wrong with that but, realize that you can also make your dreams come true. And, it’s never too late for that.

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To be, or not to be there…

Fish of Fantasy

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To be, or not to be there…
On a musician who followed his dream and became a winemaker

I am writing a book. To help me escape the many distractions that are preventing me from doing so, my publisher has banished me to a cute little blue and white cottage on the beach in Albufeira, Portugal.

Fortunately it’s not all that unpleasant a place. It’s February but the sun feels warm, the ocean is blue and the beach is as of yet touristfree?

The town itself as well is most alluring. In the morning we partake in a light fitness breakfast followed by some recreational shopping. A tasteful beach towel for example.

The choice of exquisite haute cuisine makes picking a restaurant for lunch into a tantalising torment.

As if struck by lightning I halt in front of a JCDecaux-sign. My idol! Cliff Richard. When I was a kid, my bedroom walls used to be covered in pictures of him. I learnt my first drum-riff to the intro of his hit 'Do you wanna dance'. And, I nearly forgot but Sir Cliff, as he's called these days, owns a winery around here! I close my eyes and drift off in a daydream.   Cliff and myself…both of us have come from music and have gone into wine. Two fellow winemakers. Feverishly I start ringing acquainted winemakers. I'm in luck: in two days time the new harvest will be presented to the press and Cliff Himself shall be attending! We are allowed to come.

Two days later we are cruising out of town. While crossing the next village I suddenly hit the brakes. There he is! My hero! He's waiting for us! But alas! We have come across a so-called Cut-out. With the restaurant manager we enquire as to whether Cliff ever visits this restaurant, it turns out he’s never been here.   Somewhere in the outback we get lost. We approach a native who is on his way to making his daily sacrificial offering to Cliff and ask him for directions.
'Does Cliff ever come to these parts?'
'No never seen him around here, but his vineyard is meant to be somewhere nearby.'
'Where exactly?'
'Around Guia someplace, ask again when you get there.'

In an orchard we encounter a lady picking mandarins. 'Cliff?' she shrieks when for the third time we repeat the name that makes our heart beat faster.   'Straight on, left and then left again. But wait, here you go…' She hands us a mandarin, 'you better take this, I hear you don't get much to eat over there.'

'Adega do Cantor', the singer's vineyard. When we arrive the gate is already open. Palm trees sway welcomingly in the wind.   Does this road lead to heaven? Will I find long sought after fulfilment at the end of it? Will I finally be residing in Cliff's direct presence? Even touch him? Speak to him? I am definitely going to ask for his autograph!

The courtyard is utterly silent. The quietude even more highlighted by a light splashing sound coming from the artfully designed fountain made up of tree man sized wine glasses. But, more importantly, behind the water feature we notice Cliff’s road train!

Cautiously we peer around the corner of the winery. Nothing much seems to be happening. The palpable excitement of the presence of a mega-star is absent.   The marquee, which will be used to provide Cliff and his illustrious company with some much-needed shade, sits empty.

Other fans and autograph hunters too, have been waiting in vain for hours.   John and Mary, Cliffs personal pattisiers, don't know either. 'No,' Mary smiles, 'he was meant to be here, and we have gone to great lengths getting everything ready in time'. She piles Cliff's favourite whole wheat bagels into a pyramid. 'You just never know with him…'

Ben and Jerry, Clif's private chefs are equally uncertain about their masters' whereabouts. 'Everything is ready,' Jerry says. 'Argentinean sirloin steak. Matured for two months, just the way he likes it. Not much good if he's not going to be here…'   Cliff’s press leaflets are ready on the tasting table. His name buzzes around like a mysterious incantation. But the star himself is conspicuous only in his absence.

An employee, who wishes to remain anonymous whispers: 'Cliff? I never see him here. We are trying to make a decent wine here and the deal is that Cliff promotes that wine. But he rather spends his time in his Barbados villa than out here helping us.'
Cliff’s winemaker Max (L) admits that it isn’t easy. 'The wine market is tough right now, you have to grab every opportunity for promotion.'
'But surely Cliff will be here today, won’t he?'
By way of an answer Max produces a grimace that doesn't bode well.
  Across the way Cliff’s personal pastry chefs are having a private joke. Do they know something we don't?

Hoping to find a sign of life of my hero we sneak off. At the back of the building we find a door that’s half open.
A treasure trove of Cliff paraphernalia! For a brief moment I am again fooled into believing I'm face to face with my hero, yet again it turns out to be a cut-out. We take a closer look, driven by the futile hope that maybe… But suddenly a voice like a chainsaw cuts through the empty room. 'Don’t touch!'

It's Liz; supervisor of Cliff’s cultural heritage until death do them part.   Desperate for more information, the wineboer pounces on Cliff's Cerberus. He praises, flatters and jokes, but it appears that his charms bounce right off the stainless steel armor of this guardian from hell.

But when he admits, having come to the end of his tether, that he used to be kind of in love with Cliff, something in her snaps. Meekly she hangs her head. 'Me too,' she whispers softly. 'And I still love him even now.'   It’s like a weight has lifted from her. Nimble like a young gazelle Liz bounces from behind her desk. 'Look!' she points. 'That's me and him together in that photo!'.

'And that one there, top left, oh, he was so young back then…'
Her head is lifted in an expression of devout worship, her face radiates like the rising sun.
  'Come,' she ushers the wineboer, 'I'll show you my scrapbook.' The two hardcore fans are mesmerized while they leaf through the well worn album.
The weathered winemakers' hands glide lovingly across the pages. Never before was he this close to his idol.

Cliff posing with the wineglasses, Cliff drinking wine, Cliff among the grape leaves, Cliff with a bottle, Cliff in the vineyard. Willingly my hero allows himself to be photographed over and over.

'What do you think,' the wineboer asks eagerly, 'will Cliff be here today?'
A glimmer of hope shoots across Liz' face when she contemplates the notion. But then she shakes her head sadly, 'I wish it were true,' she sighs. 'But you know something? How about one of those lovely Cut-outs? That full-sizer there is only fifty euro!'
  Suddenly the wineboer is overcome with diffidence. Is there someone, somewhere who would be willing to hand over fifty euro for a cut-out of him?   He quickly casts these unpleasant thoughts aside and spontaneously purchases a half-sizer: half a Cliff for 35 euro.

Overcome by mixed emotions we set out on our homeward journey. So close and yet so far. So many similarities and at the same time none at all. At a shabby off-license in Albufeira we find yet another Cliff. He looks us in the eye from behind a pile of cardboard boxes, the bottle, as always, held up invitingly to the camera.

jong oud
Will this be my destiny too? A cardboard doll, held together by sticky tape, left with the thrash?

In our writers' gulag we relax with a simple lunch and a fresh bottle of Matteus. That book will turn out fine.

Don’t click here!
Behind this link you'll find the technical stuff that you really don't want to know.

Fish of Fantasy
To grill a fish. I used to think that it was merely a matter of making a fire and throwing a fish on it. Hence I had come to accept that I always ended up scraping those half-charred fishes from our barbecue. When I met João, my fish life was overturned. He has been roasting fish for thirty years in restaurant A Ruina in Albufeira. With love, expertise and incredible skill. He has made fish grilling into an art form. He is a Zenmaster of the grill.

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