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Monday, 4 June 2018

RIP GEORGE - WE KNEW YOU BUT WE DIDN'T KNOW YOU



From as far back as I remember I have always absorbed the credits at the end of films and television programmes. I have built up a store of knowledge that is useful occasionally but otherwise useless, but it's a bit of an obsession. In fact, if I don't see the opening credits to a film, it spoils the whole thing for me. Similarly, if I don't see the end the credits, I feel shortchanged. These days, TV does that very irritating thing of reducing the size of closing credits in order to advertise what is coming next. A load of names of skilled and talented people are reduced to tiny letters that even the sharpest of eyeballs would fail to decipher. It's insulting really. After the names of the big stars, co-stars, familiar writers and directors, most names on movie reels are of people we may never hear of again, but they have been involved in what we have just experienced. In their own ways, they are important ingredients. They deserve a nod at the very least.

And so to life. We grow up with key people in our lives taking centre stage - parents, teachers, employers, etc. - and in the company of 'extras', people we see from time to time during the course of every day life. In my terms, I am talking about bus conductors, shop assistants, checkout operators, postmen and women, local trades people and so on. People I know but really don't know in terms of friendships, people who become part of a sort of tapestry illustrating my existence.

For thirty years, we have had annual holidays in Portugal, the Algarve to be precise, Oura in Albufeira to be more so. We know the area very well and it takes next to no time to get our bearings once we unpack at the apartment. We have our preferred restaurants and the one we go to most often is Paulu's Pizzeria. It is a typical pasta/pizza place with a signature starter dish of garlic mushrooms, unlike any I have eaten anywhere else. Once I taste those mushrooms, I know for sure I am on holiday. The service is efficient, sometimes, amongst the waiting staff, a smile-free zone, but that's the way it is.

Over the years, we got to know the owner of the restaurant, George (we never knew his surname), a charming host always ready with a smile, a wave, a handshake or a chat. In our lives, he has indeed been an 'extra' but without seeing George, the Paulu's experience is a diminished one, slightly.

We have just returned from a week in that part of Portugal and we ate twice at Paulu's, as great as ever. The first night, the Sunday, no George. We thought it must be a night off. The second time was Saturday when my wife enquired about him only to be told that he had died. It was a shock. We don't know the cause of death but, estimating George's age at around 50, and seeing his face in my head now, he looked a healthy, energetic man. It makes no sense.

We knew him but didn't know him. He was and always will be part of our holiday memories. He is a name on the list of credits in our family's life story, deserving of not just a nod but a salute.

We'll miss him very much, all the more so when we are sitting in his restaurant on future holidays.

RIP and thank you, George.


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