For almost as many months as make a year, I’ve been working in a wine shop. From an outsider’s view, its a big leap from running an IT company. But for me it has felt easy, natural. I wanted my work to be more aligned with my passions, escape the soul crushing corporate world and take some time to decompress and work out how to take my life in another direction. I wanted to give up using the ‘w’ word. Enjoy going to work.
I love talking with people, meeting them, seeing the sparkle in their eyes when they talk about who and what they love. I am lucky that in my work now I get to see that sparkle every day. Customers celebrating with family and friends, choosing wine to share with their lover, their mates, their colleagues. Conversations that spark and fly off in many directions with passionate winemakers. Tales of the pursuit and discovery of beauty. The problems I solve for customers may seem meaningless, but they can make for a moment of reflection and joy in someone’s day. It is a pleasurable thing, to be able to do that for someone. Customers, particularly regulars are quick to share their gratitude when our recommendations have this result.
A little while ago, I got to talk with Enise and help her choose wine. At first we didn’t remember one another, and she asked for help to find the sauvignon blanc. That’s what threw me. She wanted Marlborough sauvignon blanc for her granddaughter, Sancerre, Pouilly Fume for herself and once we recognised one another she also decided to get the old and the new Adelaide Hills classics, Shaw and Smith and Marko’s Vineyard (made by another member of the Hill Smith family and to my tastes, just like Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc tasted in the mid 90′s) after I suggested she might enjoy comparing them. We had a great chat about fashions in wine, food, aesthetics as she piled sauvignon blanc of every style into my arms.
Enise has been living in Abu Dhabi but is making her home in Brisbane again. She’s an interesting lady who has worked in politics and more recently in humanitarian aid organisations. Her husband, a nuclear physicist for whom her adoration overflows, is continuing to work overseas while she directs work on their new home. She always buys him a bottle of whisky, something rare and interesting, though its some months yet until he joins here here. But Enise wants to ensure that when he’s back she has plenty of the things he likes so they can enjoy them together.
I feel privileged that from our brief interactions in the service of choosing wine, Enise has shared so much of her life and her effusive personality.
As we chatted, the lights caught Enise’s beautiful carved silver pendant, a square framing flowing Arabic script. A proverb from the Koran she told me. About beauty and trusting your heart. I wish I’d written down the words, but in that moment their beauty moved me. With a lump in my throat I told her so, and she responded, her eyes intensely on mine, illustrating the riches of Arabic culture through stories of her encounters in the region. I agreed and said how disappointing it was to see many Australian judge Arabic and people of other Middle Eastern cultures on the actions of a minority. My colleagues joined our conversation at this point as Enise’s granddaughter listened on. The conversation turned then to the treatment of refugees by our own government and the shame of detentions centres, as we expressed our disappointment and despair at the human cost of populist policy, the enormous contribution of migrants and refugees to Australia’s development as a nation and the need for action and vocal opposition. The need to find a better way and what shape that might take. How to make the leap from the way things are today, the need to start a national conversation. How to make a change we all strongly agreed is needed.
This conversation was unusual in context – from a conversation about wine – a shared passion – to a conversation of shared resolve, a sparkle in our eyes of a different kind and a fire in our bellies for change. To see our nation treat our brothers and sisters from coming across the seas with with dignity. To welcome them.