Find some wine down time
There’s never been a better time to take a wine course and learn about wine.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the back of the dreaded Coronavirus and all of the freedom-crunching restrictions that go with it as much as anyone, but as the light at the end of the tunnel gets closer and brighter and with it the promise of ‘normal life’ returning before too long, I can’t help feeling a slight pang of trepidation about what awaits us when we emerge into the light.
For many of us, our lives have been on pause for the last year. The question is: do we press rewind and go back to the way things were or will the next part of the tape offer something different and better? For me I hope it’s the latter and here’s why.
Clutching at straws perhaps but what the last year of the enforced curtailment of our liberties has at least given us, is a new perspective on time and how we shape our lives accordingly. We have suddenly found ourselves with more of this precious commodity and, for many of us used to a non-stop 24/7 world, it has made for a strange new reality. It should provide us with an ideal opportunity to use that time to do something life enhancing, that thing we’ve being putting off, to connect us to ourselves and to the world again. Oh, if it were that simple? Old habits die hard.
Excuse the cliché, but whilst we have been living through a pandemic in the truest sense of the word with all the terrible physical and mental consequences, I would argue that prior to its unwelcome arrival, society suffered from an epidemic that had more subtle but in some ways as serious mental health consequences. It was an epidemic that sapped and diminished the human soul and experience, that of an insane need to fill one’s lives with things to do from the moment we got up in the morning until the moment we crashed out in an exhausted heap at night.
I include myself as an acute sufferer of this ‘busyness’ syndrome. When someone asked me, ‘How’s it going?’, I would reply, ‘Great thanks, keeping busy,’ or something similar. This automatic answer to the question is based on the acceptance that it is better to be busy than not and that not being busy is a kind of inferior state. I would give the same reply even if I wasn’t particularly busy. If I really had to think about it, I probably couldn’t itemise all the things I was supposed to be busy with, it was just a general overwhelming sense that I couldn’t keep up with the world. The problem with busyness is that even things we do for pleasure – in my case playing football on Tuesday evenings or even going to the pub – get written into the dreaded diary to be lumped in with this wretched feeling. They become another thing to be ticked off the endless to-do list for that day, adding to a general sense of never having any time to really do what I want to do.
The problem with these to do-lists is that before you’ve ticked off one item, another thing to do comes along and a snowball effect takes place. It’s like climbing to the top of a hill, only to see another hill ahead. You never ever fully finish doing and this becomes exhausting.
I don’t know where this insanity all started. Probably the 80s, and most likely in America with the yuppies and other uber-humans with their designer filo-faxes boasting about how enormously full their lives were. Then came the inexorable rise of technology from fax machines to pagers to mobile phones all geared to making our lives more organised and therefore by definition better. We became addicted to ‘now’ and it grew and grew. There was no space to be idle or lazy. You just had to be doing something worthwhile with your time, and what worthwhile normally meant was endless tasks to make you feel better that you were busy because busyness meant validation that you were a proper human.
But as the world got faster and we got busier and less patient, we began to act like computerised versions of ourselves fuelled by caffeine. Everyone gave up smoking which obviously makes sense from a general health point of view, but what was also given up was those few minutes of peace and contemplation that seemed to slow down the pace of life and join us to others. Having a moment with ourselves was at odds with that nagging voice in the back of our minds telling us we should be doing something else more useful and worthwhile.
I get that feeling on Sundays after buying the Sunday papers. My intention is to spend my Sunday sprawled out on the sofa nourishing my mind by reading long, thought-provoking pieces about Renaissance artists or some up and coming indie band from Margate, but in reality I end up just skimming the pages. There’s just too much to take in and I don’t have the time and I should be doing something else and a sense of agitation and restlessness sweeps over me. A kind of despair. This despair can be summed up as: ‘There’s so much to do but not enough time for me to do it’, leading to a perpetual state of being unfulfilled because we never succeed in achieving the things we really want to do. Although the modern world is full of limitless possibilities, there is a limit to what we can do as human beings. There is an old saying – ‘less is more’ – and it has never been truer now.
How many of us, in the spirit of self-improvement, say they’re going to do something but never get round to doing it? For instance, vowing to finally read Proust, but instead monging out on the sofa binging on the latest Netflix drama with the book unopened. Or committing to learn how to cook but still unable to resist the allure of Saturday night takeaway. The list is endless: learning a foreign language, a musical instrument or redecorating the house. There has been an upsurge in DIY, home baking and creativity during the pandemic, which is welcome, but how much of it is long lasting and in many ways life-changing?
Wine certainly changed my life. The more I learnt about it, the more I appreciated it. I’ve made a successful career out of it. Not everyone wants to learn about wine for career reasons, however. Some just do it for pleasure, a curiosity to learn more. How many who enjoy wine have said, ‘I must learn about wine one day?’ but then never get around to enrolling on that course because life is too busy with that to-do list full of things that drain rather than enhance.
The last year has given us an opportunity to slow down and value the things that make us human. For instance, I have enjoyed the routine of regular exercise and putting my mind on autopilot, allowing myself to be idle and prioritising just being and not doing. It needn’t be a huge commitment, perhaps a couple of hours a day but I feel I have used my time in a fulfilling way rather than waste it fretting about what I should or must be doing.
So, if you’ve ever thought how much you would like to learn about one of the greatest life enhancing products known to man, there has never been a better time. Do it for yourself, now, before it’s too late. Take a little time out and enrol on that wine course you’ve always wanted to do. Make a stand against that nagging voice in your head saying you really ought to be doing something more useful and valuable with all that spare time. Don’t listen to that voice. Start a revolution in your head and get your life back. Do something that you really, REALLY want to do. The world of wine is waiting for you. You won’t regret it.