A few years ago one of my good friends blew a fuse or two. Not just the indicators or the interior light: the serious fuses. Engine management. One of those red lights that actually mean something. And those who know will tell you: these are difficult fuses to replace. The nadir of my friend’s combustion, or rather my understanding of it, took place on a balmy evening in Alton. It was the moment I understood what a broken man looks like. Before you see one, it’s just a phrase. When you do see one, and I hope you don’t, you remember it. Some readers will know who I’m talking about here.
When the chips are down – and I mean down here: not just a bad day at the office or a fight with the Mrs – you find out who your friends are. You find out who cares and who doesn’t. And the blown fuses don’t help. And you alienate the right people and court the wrong ones. And logic disappears. And it’s over, and you search, wish, yearn, pray for a better place. The one before the fuses went. The one before it all went wrong. You picture a moment. A barbecue, a breakfast. Happiness. And you can’t get it back; you can’t climb back into the photo.
The Benevolent is the wine trade charity. The charity that looks after the damaged, the needy and the helpless in the wine trade. The Benevolent helped my friend – helped him without question – and still does. And those that help him don’t necessarily know the legend of a salesman, the electric renegade that he was. Someone who was, and still is, a man that will bring a smile to your face. A man who, in his brighter moments, will make jokes – and very funny ones – about his condition. A man with the most beautiful family, and a man who taught me much of what I know about how to buy and sell wine. A man that I miss.
Another good friend of mine is Chris Porter, the current Chairman of the Benevolent. Those that know Chris will know that he is quite possibly the nicest bloke on the planet. Occasionally so nice you want to give him a slap; often so nice that you take a closer look at yourself in the mirror.
And on May the 12th he starts his Around the Grounds Challenge. 91 football grounds in two weeks armed with a railcard, a Brompton bike, and a strangely becoming purple crash helmet. An ambitious challenge and a very, very, worthy cause.
Vinolent gets a lot of wine trade traffic. Many readers know who I am talking about. Both brilliant and broken. It could be one of us next. Support Chris, support Benny, support the challenge.