I can't remember the last time the postman brought me so much joy. In an age of digitalisation, the only mail I seem to get these days comes in the form of bills, bill reminders and final reminder. I simply can't remember the last time I received something I enjoyed through the mail.
And so when the postman appeared at the door with something for Daddy, I groaned internally - who was chasing me for money this time?
"Paul Bradbury, Fat Englishman! Daddy, what is this?"
I looked up and smiled. So he really did write that on the address?
I have only met Zeljko Garmaz, author of the wonderful Vinske Price (Wine Stories) blog once, and the only briefly. It was at the FIJET Marco Polo awards a few years ago, when I was surprised to learn I had won the award for best international promotion of Croatia for 2014. Zeljko came over to congratulate me, and was soon telling me fascinating details about the characters on Hvar who I was dealing with on a daily basis. He is a great story teller, and always seems to find additional details in his blog. While my Croatian is not as fluent as it could be, I was delighted when Zeljko agreed to cooperate with our new project, Total Croatia Wine, so that we could bring his stories and characters to a wider English-speaking audience.
And so when I heard he was writing a book about Dalmatian winemakers, and that it would appear in both English and Croatian, I was full of anticipation. Finally the book was ready, and translated by TCN's very own Igor Nobilo, and Zeljko asked for my address, a little concerned about the lack of street names. I told him that he could address it to the Far Englishman in Jelsa, and it would arrive no problem.
And so he did. And it did.
My 10 year-old daughter has just discovered Harry Potter, and I have been marvelling at how a young lady with a growing addiction for technology has become so engrossed in this book series that she was visibly nervous at the prospect of having to wait 24 hours over the weekend until the library opened, so that she could get the next book in the series. When did I last find a book like that?
And then it arrived, delivered to the Fat Englishman. This is so much more than a book about wine, it is a book about people, passionate individuals, what drives them and how they came to be. It also goes far beyond the world of wine, and I was smiling reading about my friend Jo Ahearne MW and her love of West Ham, for example.
No book on Dalmatian wine would be complete without the legend that is Andro Tomic, of course, and what I particularly liked about the book was that it gives readers the necessary info about wines etc, and it is nicely broken into sections based on location, but the true force of the book is in telling the stories, of brining out the character of this eclectic group of individuals who are bound by one thing only - their production of quality wine in Dalmatia.
No sooner had I put the book down than my (generally) non-wine drinking wife had taken it up, then sat there for more than an hour going through it, with the occasional laugh along the way.
Dalmatia Wine Stories is a superb collection of well-written and well-researched stories about many of the top wine producers in Dalmatia, and it arouses curiosity (at least it did with me) to go out and learn more and, yes, visit some of these wonderful characters.
A tour de force, young Zeljko, congratulations. This Fat Englishman is impressed.