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Allô, allô, Bonjour!

Misfortune. You try your hardest to avoid it, but it inevitably thwarts your efforts. It is inextricably interwoven with life itself, like a bitter bee sting and sweet honey. But actually, after an appropriate cursing fit, you ought to embrace every incident of adversity. It is, after all, an opportunity. Adversity forces you to abandon your well-trodden path and find a new way. Try, fall on your face, get up and learn what works and what doesn't. But keep on going, always keep on going. Wasn't it the great philosopher Mike Tyson who said: 'The winner is not the one who can deal the toughest blows, but the one who can take them.' Well! Come on! Let's go! On y va!




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Turn your weakness into strength

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It is deadly silent. There is not a leaf that rustles, not a bird that sings. Even the crickets have stopped chirping. Un-stirring, as if she's afraid of wasting her life force, the vineyard basks in the sun. The air above the wilted grape leaves quivers in the heat.   But beneath the ground it is far from silent. Groping around in the darkness are hundreds of thousands of grape roots, burrowing their way through the calciferous soil. Water! Water! Intricate tangles of minute hair-like roots and thick tough roots bore right the way through cracked rocks, through ancient fossil layers and Pleistocene era stone. Deeper and deeper into the earth and back in time. Water! Water! There is rain forecast for today. But whether it will actually come is always unsure. Perhaps tonight we might put on a little rain dance. Or possibly some illegal irrigation under the cover of darkness? I have a very long hose...

Because of the cold spring, which was inadvertently overtaken by a roaring hot summer, those cursed grapes won't ripen evenly. The bunch pictured above appears to be okay but when you look closer, at the top of the picture...a rock solid, green grape! If, at harvest time, some of these unripe grapes ended up in the barrels, our 2012 harvest would yield a wine that you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy's mother in law.   Even worse: a bunch of grapes like a gumball machine. Purple, pink and green grapes all on a single bunch. The plants are nearing the end of their growth cycle and a percentage of the grapes will never be ripe in time.

We'll have to go all out to ensure that all our 100.000 grape vines will all be ready to be harvested successfully at the same time. For example by mercilessly cutting off even more beautiful juicy bunches and throwing them out just three weeks before the harvest is due to start. Later on, during the harvest, we'll use double the 'woman power' to manually remove all the green grapes at the sorting table.
But either way the volume will be lower, as will the income. Which means; angry accountants.
A pretty nasty setback.
  "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.'

Exactly! Well put, Ralph Emerson! And that is why, this year, we will harvest at NIGHT! When the moon is full and her magnetic attraction is big enough to change the tides of the oceans, then we shall harvest. Because at the moment that the moon draws all the waters of the earth towards her, she also sucks the juices from deep in the grapevines to the surface, and at the exact moment that the grapes are at their very juiciest...Snap! We chop them off! Into the barrels with them!


Turn your weakness into strength

Take for example silk weaver Laurent Mourguet (1769-1844) from Lyon. Things aren't easy for him. Just when he has got himself sorted and business is going well, with the aristocracy demanding more and more silk clothing which keeps him busy weaving away, the French revolution erupts! All silk wearers are beheaded and no one wants to buy even a millimetre of the shiny fabric! After a brief spot of depression the destitute Laurent briskly decides to change careers and become a dentist. No qualifications required; just a chair to set up on the market square, open mouth, insert pliers and pull out those teeth. Interestingly enough this service is offered free of charge by our novice dentiste, who obtains his earnings after the procedure with the sales of pain killer potions.   In order to attract more patients, Laurent builds a puppet theatre in front of his dentist's chair and comes up with the character of 'Guignol', the original archetype on which all the classic puppets, including Punch from Punch and Judy, are based. Guignol is intended for a children's audience but it turns out that adults too love the rebellious rants of this smart, bold, brave and diabolically funny puppet. Laurent has got himself a hit.

And to this day, in an era full of digital temptations, Guignol puppet shows rank high in the French entertainment charts. Hundreds of travelling puppet theatres traverse the country side, pitching their tents in a different village every week.

A neighbouring town is plastered in red and yellow posters. When the travelling ringmaster goes for lunch he leaves his megaphone sound system behind; the announcements blast across the deserted village square: "Allo, allo, publique! Grand spectacle! Le monde merveilleux de Guignol! Dimanche apres-midi 17.00 heures! Venez nombreux!"

In the sizzling heat, Theatre Guignol has descended on a patch of land behind the railway tracks that is neigh devoid of shade. The peace and quiet are roughly torn apart by the deafening sound of sledgehammer blows. While the hammer whizzes past, missing her bottle-blonde head by a hairsbreadth each time, ticket vendor, popcorn girl and fiance of all-round tent assistant Fredo, chats unflappably with her friend.

Primeval matriarch Zora, referred to in her absence as 'La Bomba', has less confidence in Fredo's engineering insight: "Don't fix that tent to my wheel, you dimwit!" the explosive gipsy lady growls from the doorway.

Finally Sunday afternoon arrives. Full of excitement the castle-lord steers his wineboer-vehicle in the direction of the festivities.

In order to secure a good seat he arrives promptly an hour before the show starts.

Old habits die hard and the wineboer intends to sneak into the theatre without buying a ticket. He scuttles around the tent looking for an opening in the canvas.   Just as the grape-grower thinks he's discovered a free entry point, Nitro the resident puppet show dog bursts out. Barking like judgment day the animal jumps up and down in front of the agitated lord.   The infernal racket awakens matriarch Zora, in charge of ticket inspection, from her siesta. She frowns suspiciously as she rises from her chair.

The wineboer mingles quickly with a group of small children. He huddles down and manages to slip into the tent unseen. Once inside he pushes the children aside and greedily secures the best seat.

The curtain lifts, the show is about to start! But just as the wineboer prepares to settle down to some optimum enjoyment, his field of vision is eclipsed. Directly in front of him, a lady of powerful proportions lowers herself into an empty chair, blocking the view for the bewildered wine-artist.

The wineboer quickly darts to the front rows and squeezes into one of the reserved child seats. Breathlessly he soaks up the shenanigans of Guignol and Gnafron.

All of a sudden the curtain is yanked closed. The canvas of the outer tent is thrown open and matriarch Zora storms in. "An intruder!" the furious gipsy lady roars. "There is an intruder in the room!" hoisting an industrial model torch over her head, she shines the light over the audience. "Where is he!? Where is the rascal!?"   Commotion ensues. Zora's son Seth emerges from behind the stage takes the microphone and tries to restore the calm. In a menacing voice he announces that the show shall NOT be resumed unless the illegitimate spectator hands himself over immediately.

Using lame excuses like "I thought it was free" and "I have hardly any money", the lord of the castle tries to wriggle out of the situation. But Zora is implacable. "You should be glad I'm letting you off lightly, buddy!" she snarls between her clenched gold teeth. "Go on! To the cash desk with you!". There is no other option, the defeated grape-grower presents himself at the caisse...

During this show Guignol used his wooden fists to deal plenty of blows but received even more. And this is how the immortal trickster triumphed over all misfortune.


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Allez, Hartelijk Santé et à la prochaine!


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