Saturday, 7 January 2012

A busy time since Christmas, and saying goodbye to a couple of friends

All of a sudden I find we are well into the New Year and it is a full 2 weeks since I last posted on this Blog. But perhaps I should resign myself to the fact that the combined responsibilities of being a wine merchant (thankfully a very busy one at this time of year) and family man/domestic god do not always allow much time for other stuff. And although I guess there may be potential "commercial" benefits in writing a wine blog (it helps me connect with customers, potential customers and like-minded all-round wine enthusiasts in a more human way than a purely retail website can ever hope to do) it has always felt more like a labour of love for me. And it is of course gratifying when so many people tell me I write well and provide the sort of content that they find interesting and/or thought-provoking. But there are times when something has to give, and around Christmas and New Year, it is blogging!

I'm heartened by the fact that, since I gave up the day job at the end of October, my sales stats are around 15% up on the same period in the previous year - hence the extra workload. So whatever I have done differently (and I'm really not sure what) it has worked. Indeed, if I could keep up that sort of growth for the rest of this year, in what is still a very difficult economic climate, I would be a very happy bunny! So my thanks go to all of those that have supported me and bought my wines over the past few months and indeed over the past year - I am truly grateful. :-)

I haven't been spending all of my time working, of course, but neither has it been all play. Since Christmas, I have attended the funerals of two friends, both of whom I got to know as a direct result of my interest in wine.

Firstly, Ian Ball, a "forumite" and regular attendee at various Nottingham wine events over the past few years. Ian was diagnosed with leukaemia a couple of years ago and fought it long and hard, even managing to attend the occasional wine evening when he felt well enough, in-between various forms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. And despite what he was going through, he always had a ready smile and a kind word - and most importantly of all, a positive outlook. Sadly, Ian died on 12 December, after almost 6 weeks in intensive care, as a result of pneumonia and immunosuppression following a bone marrow transplant. Ian clearly touched a lot of people's lives, judging by the attendance at his memorial service on 28 December. I knew he loved walking and cycling (and of course wine) but I had been unaware of his charity work and the fact that he once rode around the world on a motorcycle! To be taken at the age of 47 is far too early, but Ian clearly lived life to the full whilst he could. I should also mention his wife Ruth, who we also know well from our wine get-togethers, and has my utmost admiration for the strength and determination she showed, during what must have been a very trying and emotional couple of years. Hopefully, we will continue to enjoy the pleasure of Ruth's company for many years to come.

And then on Christmas Eve, long-standing Nottingham Wine Circle member John Houghton died at the age of 78. John was diagnosed with cancer just 2 or 3 months ago, since when I hadn't seen him, although I did speak with him on the phone just a few days before he died, when he called me with a view to helping him sell some of his wines. He knew he didn't have long to live, so was busy cataloging his wines, with a view to raising some extra money and easing the burden for Sylvia, his wife of 54 years. I would have been honoured to do such a favour for him, but sadly I never did get the follow-up email or call. John was a very popular member of the Wine Circle, with a tremendous palate and an encyclopedic knowledge of all things wine, but especially Italian wine. Many years ago, he even planted a small vineyard in his home village in south Nottinghamshire, purely for the pleasure of growing his own grapes and making a little wine for home consumption - again, something I never knew until after he died. But I did know he was very partial to good Jurancon, and he knew exactly who to come to for it! ;-)  Since I became a member of Nottingham Wine Circle around 6 years ago, I have had the privilege of sharing good wines on an almost weekly basis with John Houghton. I liked him a lot, and I shall miss him dearly.

Having not posted for a couple of weeks, I have a bit of a backlog of notes from various tastings, plus a few other thoughts that may be worth sharing. I hope to have the time to publish these over the next few days and weeks. Meanwhile, I wish you all a rather belated Happy New Year and the best of everything for 2012.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The UK forum, wine,and its fabulous posters spoke so highly of Mr Ball. I think he will be missed by many.

Bob Alberta.