When he first introduced himself to us, his future students of the Hotel Management School, he said: ‘My name is Vlasman, not Jan Vlasman, just Vlasman’. We came to love his classes for a simple reason: there was wine to taste!
Vlasman would open a bottle and carefully pour a glass. He would than hold it up as if it were his most precious possession. He would shake the glass, look at how the wine ‘cried’, say something about glycerine. Then he would stick his nose in deep and sniff. He would shake the glass again and finally he would take a sip. Breathless and envious, I admit, we looked on as he performed the tasting ritual. We knew he would oblige us with some beautiful prose afterwards!
Vlasman was a story teller if ever there was one. He spoke of ‘picturesque villages on dreamy hillsides' and of 'whitewashed houses on southern slopes with draped branches of the vine’. And of how in the scorching summer sun their special taste would develop. Time and again we felt like he had just tasted the best wine of his life.
One particular tasting session came back to me a couple of years ago. Vlasman completed the entire procedure of opening, pouring, shaking, smelling, drinking, tongue rolling and swallowing. For dramatic effect he took a few seconds - we were dead silent - and then he said solemnly:
‘This wine is like a crimson bedroom, four-poster with red velvet canopies, satin sheets and pillows…all very exciting….’, here he pauzed, put down the glass with a quick gesture and stepping back at the same time he said: ‘…..but easily forgotten!’
An analogy struck me. In our work, how often have we experienced the speed with which the initial excitement wears off? Having spent our time on urgent, adrenaline releasing stuff, we sometimes go home at the end of the day without even remembering what we have done. Busy, no impact! Very exciting indeed, but short lived and easily forgotten like a glass of mediocre wine…