Sunday, September 2, 2018

Make the memory!

“Life is all about memories” according to Protea Hotels. So if visiting Victoria Falls is on your bucket list, get there if you can.

Here is a story from Marc Chernoff that I read a year ago and would like to make my own sometime soon:
“One warm evening nine years ago...
After spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew that I had to tell her just one thing. So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear. She smiled... the kind of smile that makes me smile back. And she said, “When I’m seventy-five, and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope that I can remember this very moment.”
A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep. The room was peaceful... almost silent. All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing. I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible. And at some point, I realized that it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone. Nor did the future hold any significance.
All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.
Just being with her and breathing with her.”
The moral of the story is: “We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery.“ as instructed by H. G. Wells.

Next time when you want to push that snooze button tell yourself this: “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.” according to Regina Brett. Then go out and make someone’s day - and this will make yours. Guaranteed!

Besides, Woody Allen’s mother always told him: “If you don’t do it, then you aren’t going to be able to do the thing.”

Feel free to sing in the shower: "So today is my new favourite day!" as Winnie-the-Pooh loves to say.

Actually I say: “Sure – work hard, but at some point just be. There’s no need to always have a plan, and even if you have a plan, there’s no rule that you should stick to it. Relax. Indulge in enjoying life with your loved ones. Know that this moment will not come again.” Now just think about that...

References:- by Marriott
The Blissful Art of Being and Breathing” by Marc Chernoff 
“Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne
"Woody Allen Interview - VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA" by Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub
Plus: H. G. Wells; Regina Brett; Anton Blignault

Photo credits:-
Kalk Bay harbour by Anton Blignault
Buffalo Bay, Cape Point Nature Reserve by Anton Blignault

© 2018 Anton BLIGNAULT, Cape Town South Africa

Friday, February 16, 2018

Just say “Hello!”

“A simple ‘Hello’ could lead to a million things.”

To prove the point, here’s the happy-ever-after story of Sorisha Naidoo: “At the time I had been hanging out with a certain friend a lot and people were absolutely convinced that we were going out... I assumed people would see that we were just friends. was during that time that Viv [Vivian Reddy] and I met and the rest is history – all because he had the guts to talk to me!”

“If you want to be interesting, be interested. Just ask questions.” Romain tells me. But don’t ever let it sound like the third degree. Interestingly, Debora Patta, presenter of “Third Degree”on eTV married the guy who at first insulted her about her show the previous night, apologising a day later. She says “Clearly, I obviously want somebody who can stand up to me!”

So who do you want to pursue? In the words of Ryk Neethling, South African swimming champion: “...‘hot’ means so many different things. Marc Lottering responded with “Hot means great feet. We’ve just established...” Ryk: “To begin with, yes. It also does mean a great personality and confidence and the way that she carries herself and what she does for a living and... So it’s a whole package.”
More advice from Pearl Thusi, star in “Isidingo” on SABC on making the right match: “A man who can make me laugh will get very far with me.”

“Zorba the Greek” with Anthony Quinn (Alexis Zorba), Alan Bates (Basil / boss), Irene Papas (widow) and Lila Kedrova (Madame) provides the perfect lesson. Being a "book man" myself I feel the pain and helplessness of the boss, longing to be the boisterous, gregarious Zorba with his astonishing love for life and women. Pushing him towards the widow Zorba told him, "This is an opportunity, you must grab it! That's why God gave you hands!"
And just to confuse you: in French “Salut !” usually means “Hello!” but it can also be “Goodbye!” as sung by Johnny Hallyday in “Salut Charlie !”.

Lastly, when you can say: “I am brighter when I am with you, I truly am”, then you’re truly with the right partner, your soul mate.

By sheer guts, instinct and confidence move from being an observer of the world to becoming a participant. I know what I'm going to do. What's your choice? At any rate whatever you do choose to Live life!
Photo credits:-

1. Cape Point, Table Mountain National Park: Juliette SALMON – Anton BLIGNAULT
2. Zorba the Greek: Zorba & Basil – Google Images

Adele “Hello” 
Debora Patta “Who’s afraid of Debora Patta?” interview by Marc Lottering in khuluma July 2011
Johnny Hallyday “Salut Charlie”
Pearl Thusi “My name is Pearl” interview by Mpho Popps Modikoane in khuluma January 2014
Ryk Neethling “Liquid Dream” interview by Marc Lottering in khuluma July 2011
Sorisha Naidoo “Multitasking millionaire” interview by Nicholas Goliath in khuluma January 2015
Wine Marketing Services SA: “Just say “Hello!”” 
“Zorba the Greek”

© 2018 Anton BLIGNAULT, Cape Town South Africa

Sunday, December 10, 2017

SWOT analysis?

We all studied this at varsity, so you know everything that needs to be done. But do you? Did you ever ask yourself:  “Why do I need to do this?”

When running a business and a project it sounds logical to go through this exercise. And I believe it is a great starting point. But once it's done, discard most of it. And specifically shrug off the weaknesses and the threats. It is an ancient truth (Proverbs 4:23) that “You get what you focus on.” According to Saras Naidoo “...concentrate on your core business objectives... and never deviate from [this]”. 

Speak life over yourself and realize that as Frans Cronje, producer of “Faith like Potatoes” noted “...things can already exist in the spiritual realm, long before you see it in the physical realm.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Hawequa Mountains & Linton Park Wines, Wellington
Don’t ever disregard your small, faltering steps at the beginning of a project. Kingsley Holgate said “Have the vision, turn the key and get going.” You need to step into the water with faith before the water will part (Joshua 3: 15-16). Meaning, you need to have the courage to take that first vital action to start the ball rolling. After that, momentum sets in and with continuous focus and effort your project quickly becomes a hive of positive activity. In brief: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

Adele asks “Should I give up, or should I just keep on chasing pavements?” Well, rest, contemplate, but don’t ever stop and don’t ever compare yourself with anyone else, because you always tend to compare your weak spots with another person’s strengths. This is almost a guaranteed way to become negative and depressed. Compete only with yourself, focusing on becoming a better you. Above all, love yourself.

Romain afirms “You should always focus on your strengths. Success is built on success. Success is achieved because of your strengths.” Forget about your weaknesses. According to Jane Raphaely rather ask: “Why am I doing this? Is it because I want to do it or because somebody else wants me to do it?” Remember “It’s all about how you finish” according to John Smit, Springbok rugby captain. To put this into perspective, Coco CHANEL came from an orphanage and built La Maison CHANEL with sheer guts and determination.
 Loading wine into a 20' container at JFH for Beijing, China
Tell yourself “I am brilliant!” every time you achieve a goal. This is not the time to ask “What’s next?” Don’t knock this milestone that you have achieved, saying “It is only the beginning”. You have worked diligently to succeed at it. This is not the time to ask “Are we there yet?” You are! Celebrate! Go overboard a little; the world is not going to tilt. Indeed, this is the moment to reflect at leisure about the grandness of life and the small part you are able to play in it. This builds your sense of self-worth, putting life into perspective.

Don’t lose sight of your weaknesses though, but manage it. To compensate, “Always choose people that are better than you. Always choose people that challenge you and are smarter than you. Always be the student. Once you find yourself to be the teacher, you’ve lost it.” Sandra Bullock states firmly. Focus on your expertise and hire someone better than you to handle another part of the project. Trust their judgement and let them get on with what they do best. It is as simple as that.

Remember, the world stands aside for someone who knows where s/he is going. See this as the grand start of a whole new life. Take a high five, you have made it! Now go out and have fun.

Photo credits:-
1.       Hawequa Mountains & Linton Park Wines, Wellington – Anton BLIGNAULT
2.       JF Hillebrand Warehouse, Cape Town  – Romaine LESAGE & Anton BLIGNAULT

Coco CHANEL “Fresh, feisty & very French” interview with Audrey TAUTOU by Michael Wolski in British Airways horizons July 2009
Frans Cronje, producer of “Faith like Potatoes”
Jane Raphaely, “Once Upon A Time...” interviewed by Marianne Thamm in khuluma August 2011
John Smit, Springbok rugby captain in “True Bru” interview with Ard Matthews in khuluma December 2011
Kingsley Holgate, “Extraordinary Man, Extraordinary Life” interviewed by Rob van Vuuren in khuluma January 2010
Sandra Bullock, story by Dana Lee in abouTime Vol 3 No 1
Saras Naidoo, “First small steps into business” in abouTime Vol 2 No 8
Dr. Soon Zevenster, Radio Tygerberg
The Holy Bible, KJV: Joshua 3: 15-16, Proverbs 4:23 & Hebrews 11:1
Wine Marketing Services SA: “SWOT analysis?”

© 2017 Anton BLIGNAULT, Cape Town South Africa

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The answer is “Yes!”

What is the question? Indeed. With such an attitude you should sail through every encounter, even against the wind. Yet, why don’t you? Why don’t I?

Taken the fact that words only account for ±7% of total face to face communication, you need to look at what makes up the majority: body language at ±55% and tone at ±38%. Even in telephonic communication words only constitute ±14% of understanding, while tone at ±86% plays the crucial part.

But that’s not all. You not only need to say “Yes” but be pretty quick about it – like 5 to 10 seconds max. James 1:5-7 puts it well. When saying “Yes” it could also be something like “Hello” – anything to stay the course, keep the momentum going. As important is showing your connection physically: a handshake, a touch, a hug. Despite trying, I fall short most of the time on both these actions.

As you’ve seen above, saying “Yes” is really only a small part of getting your message across. Your body language and voice tone give your real intention and state of mind away, no matter what you say. “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

These are the real clues to what someone means, but the most difficult to read - certainly for me. And the next part is to be sufficiently sure about these non-verbal clues so as to act on it - in the moment. To complicate things even more, men and women are from different planets, so to speak. All the above is true whether you’re in a personal relationship, or interacting at work.
Noëlline BRIENS at Arra Vineyards & Pulpit Rock Winery
Spending six months with two girls in the office I certainly learnt a lot, but nowhere did I come close to getting it right all the time. Elvis Blue sings: “Sometimes we have to start again... Hey! Have you ever lost your way?... The sun will shine again.” I must say, with wine tasting being part of your job description it smooth most things out. Add to that cellar tours, winelands trips, roadside picnics and you’re on the right track. Don’t get ahead of yourself though, just relax and go with the flow.

The next is as important. Admit your mistakes – quickly. Apologise sincerely and set things right. Move on from there, forget and bury whatever caused the disharmony.  Go forth, dance, sing songs of praise and do acts of love. Be more daring, act on your intuition and welcome surprises. Be less scared, have less regrets and bury the guilt. In short: You have a life. Live it!

So what are you and I supposed to do? Breathe deeply, exhale; and then focus on what’s happening right now in front of you. “Be present. It’s the only moment that matters.” Only then can you say “Yes” with conviction - whatever the question - and be ready to act on it immediately.

But without empathy you’re not going to get anywhere. This means: forget yourself, your own ego, put yourself in the other person’s shoes – your spouse, lover, child, sister, brother; client, boss, colleague. Reflect on what this interaction, date, task, project, means to them – why do they do what they do - because it is as valid as your reason. There are no right or wrong answers, only different points of view. Understand theirs, accept it and embrace it. Ruth 1:16-17 puts this more eloquently.
Victoria RÉMY & Noëlline BRIENS  in the Winelands plus Absolute Style Wines
Final advice: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Don’t ever give up hope. Aim to win. Do all this boldly and with absolute enthusiasm! Bonne chance !

On a personal level, I agree with Coco Chanel: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” / « Une fille devrait être deux choses: chic et fabuleuse. »

Photo credits:-
1.       Arra Vineyards plus Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines triplet; Champagne DEVAUX, Kanonkop Estate – Anton BLIGNAULT
          Absolute Style Wines – Victoria RÉMY
2.       Arra Vineyards wine tasting room & Pulpit Rock Winery barrel cellar: - Anton BLIGNAULT & Pulpit Rock Winery

JF Hillebrand SA
John Gray, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”
Noëlline BRIENS, FMS
Pierre-Samuel REYNE, Champagne DEVAUX
The Holy Bible: KJV Ruth 1:16-17 & James 1:5-7
Victoria RÉMY, FMS

© 2017 Anton BLIGNAULT, Cape Town South Africa


Wednesday, February 1, 2017


What does ‘turnaround’ mean to you? In a business sense you’re talking of turning a company back into profitability. Personally it would mean hitting some good fortune after a series of bad luck.  Bonnie Tyler demands an emotional turnaround in “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

Turnaround can also mean just that, to turn on your heels and go back as you came. Only, let us this time have a renewed mind and some vigour in our step. A good question would be: “Why would you want to?” The French like to say “Pourquoi pas.”  
Bike in FMS colours - thanks to street wire artists
So get on your bike and let’s go.  On a personal level once you know why you’ve lost there are two ways to go forward. Enjoy the memories, learn from it, and move on; or try yet again to recapture those magical moments. Being passionate about your business career, the process remains the same. Yet here you have no choice: you must turn it around. The same accounts for a company.

Reflection on the current status quo should ideally be part of a continuous quest for renewal.  To affect this successfully you first need to have a vision of what it can be, then have the guts to cut whatever doesn’t work, adding new product categories and operating platforms. How? Get the big picture first and don’t bother about the details of how you’re going to get there. Start with a broad all-encompassing view and then zoom in. View your company as a client would, from the outside.
·         What are their first impressions? How do they find you?  – Digitally, physically, staff, voice.
·         Do you ask questions that will solve their queries? Are you flexible, customer-driven?
·         Do you consistently over-deliver on value? Does the company display moral courage?
·         What product categories are you competing against? What business are you in (not what you’re selling)?
·         Do you invest in your employees and then trust them to do their job? Do they display a quest for achievement, integrity, a propensity to learn?
New Beginnings Wines - a decade of success as illustrated in Platter's SA Wine Guide
Going through this process you need to be diligent in implementing the changes and ruthless in making cuts. See your company as a corporate brand; creating a unique company culture, with each platform having an over-arching theme. Consult your top management, utilizing their expertise to gain special insights. But don’t omit getting the enthusiasm of all staff, asking for practical inputs. Then, unlike the politicians, you need to do a progress report every 30 days, not only after a 100...

FMS does this very exercise twice annually, spending two months mid-year and another two at year-end to actively reinvent the company, keeping it on an accelerated growth path. So far we are looking pretty good thank you, ahead of all expectations. What about you?  Can you parade all the staff onto a podium, turn up Tina Turner and sing: You’re simply the Best!?
Photo credits:-
FMS bike – Anton Blignault
New Beginnings & Platter’s – Arthur de Magalhaes

Arthur de Magalhaes, FMS
Bonnie Tyler “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Dave Kahle – Kahle Way® Sales Systems
Jane Zhang “Dream It Possible” c/o Huawei
Juliette Salmon, FMS
Street wire artists, Cape Town: Rasta & Victor
The Holy Bible: NKJV - Haggai 2:4; Isaiah 41:10; Jeremia 8: 4; Isaiah 43:19
Tina Turner “The Best”
Winesave® “Recapture the Moment”

© Anton Blignault, Cape Town

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why not today?

Pourquoi pas aujourd’hui? Before you even get out of bed in the morning, give thanks and ask what can I, what must I do today? No, I’m not talking of your work to-do list. I’m talking about what you should, indeed must, do for your loved ones today.

This message recently struck me hard and it hurt, second time over. It seems that Durban does me no favours, or perhaps it’s out to teach me some lessons. The first episode came about in March 2011 when I finally relented to taking aunt Sienie to say goodbye to Durban, her beloved holiday destination over many years. The whole trip was a challenge to me from the moment I collected her very early in the morning. Here is an excerpt from a film script I wrote about it.
Aunt Sienie's skirts
“05h50” André puts luggage into overhead compartment. Plane is empty. Santie is on slip-chair with several BA CABIN STAFF. She panics, hold hands up and across cabin entrance, blocking the way.

                        BA CABIN STAFF 01
          André! Kom nader sodat sy    André! Come closer so 
          jou kan sien.                that she can see you.

André spins around, steps closer, smiling.

          Hier’s ek Santie. Kom sit.   Here I am Santie. Come sit.

Her face softens when she sees him. He stretches out his hands.
Hilton Durban hotel lobby
It continued even before we got into the hire car, right through to the Hilton hotel as I constantly had to intercede since she couldn’t operate anything in her room. The return journey was equally dramatic.

André stands on tarmac next to disabled persons articulated vehicle. 4 BA women CABIN STAFF from flight march in file towards him, staring intently at him, their faces shining oddly bright. He watches them.

ANNE is the BA Cabin Chief, very professional and compassionate.

                        ANNE, BA CABIN CHIEF
              You will be blessed!
              Your children will be blessed!

They file past him to left. … Santie inside vehicle is upset.

                        ACSA DISABLED ASSISTANCE WOMAN 01
      André, klim liewers weer op!   André, rather climb up again!

André runs to vehicle’s side, climbs up steps.

Two months later aunt Sienie was smiling sweetly at me from above as her hairdresser commiserated with me.

More recently I was obliged to attend a meeting in Durban for Africa Promise, our client in New York. This was arranged three days in advance. Getting up at 04h00 to catch the 05h55 flight I’m confident that I am in good time. Much to my shock the queue through security looks like peak traffic and with passengers already boarding I run towards gate A11 when finally cleared.

Arriving one hour before my meeting I set up and prepare but am not sure what for as I’ve had no briefing. It turns out that plan A is not on the cards and I quickly have to regroup and make a counter offer after consultation with the US. The day’s work done, Vincent takes me back driving leisurely, giving me French lessons en route.  Now I’m taking strain to stay awake. Thankfully I sit down, ready for the take-off at 19h10 with a French couple next to me oblivious of everyone else. Falling asleep almost instantly despite the seats not tilting back I wake an hour later and my eyes immediately pick up a programme on Kalk Bay on the video above me. This brings back good memories of some months previously. Next the in-flight magazine falls open on an article describing the joys of Buffels Beach at Cape Point Nature Reserve, Kalk Bay and Simonstown – all on the itinerary of that blissful day. Two weeks later hopes of a reunion are shattered.

This brings me back to my question. You’d better be sure that what you do today adds real value. Remember, it’s not so much about you, but what you do with and what you say to your loved ones. Don’t count on a second chance, so use today well.
Now many photos and an unsent box filled with presents remind me daily ‘what really matters’. Clearly I have more to learn. And I am not done yet with Durban as I am about to pack my bags to do it one more time. The difference is that lately I have this incredible lightness of being and warmth inside me, as if I’m floating on a cloud next to the sun. But actually it’s never been about me... Psalms 128: 2-3
mango airlines slogan “Why not today?”
The Holy Bible: Psalms 128: 2-3 
Photo credits: Anton Blignault

© Anton Blignault, Cape Town

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cape Somm 2016

When you have served guests over several years you really appreciate it all the more when seeing a master at work. This was the case for me at the Wines Of South Africa (WOSA) Sommelier Cup 2016 finals in Cape Town. 

Having paid for my education by working holidays twice a year in train dining cars and at the Blue Room I have a pretty good idea how to serve guests at a table. CWA wine courses much later ups my game, but when Sophie introduced me to “Somm” and “Red Obsession” a year ago I was in awe of such dedication and desire to succeed. So when the invitation for Cape Somm 2016 arrives unexpectedly I rsvp immediately, looking forward to experiencing real brilliance.  Entering “The Reserve” on a red carpet I am swept away into a world of smartly dressed people, great wines and hors d’oeuvres  - all creating a vibrant and classy ambiance. The tension is almost edible when three semi-finalists are announced from the eight who spent the past week visiting many of South Africa's best wineries: Joe Yang from Macau, Marc Almert from Germany and Nathan Morrell from Canada. Look on 

Neil Grant, the MC and Chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA), describes the procedure to the audience once they are led to a waiting room - each candidate must perform three practical tests in a restaurant environment before two judges at a time. The six judges are well renowned in the industry, with three being on the board of SASA while the other three are respectively from Canada, the UK and the USA. Have a look on
Marc Almert describing 'orange wine'
Back to the onstage tests. First up is a 6-minute test to serve a 1983 Vintage Port. This involves lighting a candle which I find quite intriguing. Directly after that follows a 9-minute blind-tasting session with one red wine for which a full descriptive is required and two spirits for which basic comments are needed. Plus a bonus – an orange wine which assured some laughs. Lastly follows a 10-minute set in which wines must be paired to each dish of an extravagant 5-course meal with a South African slant. All this happens while film and stills camera crews capture their every move. With each candidate only brought onto the stage for his own test sequence I find the difference in approaches quite fascinating. Throughout the tests the judges grill the candidates on details of wines mentioned, including asking for alternative options. But they’re not done yet. A 5-minute group test with each one pouring a magnum of MCC (Méthode Cap Classique) follows which produces lots of sparkles while the serving brought about some shards.
Nathan Morrell & Joe Yang serving MCC
While the judges debate the score and it is verified by the auditors I get the opportunity to ask the six semi-finalists which wines and wineries they would choose as the best on their recent visit. Mullineux gets two mentions while Groot Constantia and Chamonix also stands out. Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc are favoured.  Cheron Cowan mentions that the best wines are not to be found in the US, while Erik Grödahl from Sweden says that our wines are far too cheap.
WOSA Sommelier Cup finalists with 3 winners
Neil announces the winners in reverse order and with two tying for second place Marc Almert is the obvious and clear winner - well-deserved and definitely on a par above in all four tests. Petra Mayer, WOSA Germany Country Manager seems every bit as happy as Marc and there are smiles all round by everyone on stage.  More photos are on
Siobhan Thompson, WOSA CEO with Marc Almert, WOSA  Sommelier Cup winner and Petra Mayer, WOSA Germany Country Manager
With the crowd once again enjoying some superb hors d’oeuvres and wines, I interrupt Marc to ask him a few questions. Here are his answers in brief.
Marc: “This is my first visit to South Africa. WOSA has done an excellent job and during the past week we’ve tasted a lot of mature wines. There is a very positive vibe about South African wines with our guests [Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg].”

For all aspiring sommeliers here is valuable advice from Marc.

A: What does your training regime consist of in terms of theory, tasting and focus on countries?
M: My training regime is mainly structured by the syllabus of the Court of Master Sommeliers. This includes all beverages, mainly of course wine, and requires details of the original product, the regions, legislation, climate and top producers. Of course classic wine regions like France, Italy etc. feature more than upcoming regions like Romania or India, but all are featured. And there is never theory without tasting the according wines.

A: What do you do to get all those information on the wines, vintages, regions, wineries, winemakers into your memory?
M: In order to make the information stick the most valuable source is travelling to the respective countries and / or interacting with the winemakers. Sadly this is not always possible. The main references are websites (i.e. Guildsomm) as well as textbooks (i.e. Oxford Wine). From these I take out the most important information and transfer it to a flashcard App, which I then use both on Tablet and Smartphone whenever time permits. In addition I attempt to attend as many specialised tastings and trainings on fairs or trade events as possible, especially to keep the tasting constant. Usually I spend about 1 to 2 hours each day outside of work for tasting and / or theory rehearsal.

A: Do you follow a specific format when tasting wines when training? Thus, by varietals, regions, vintages, wineries?
M: Tasting I try to mix two things: knowing which wines I am tasting, then I usually taste a lot of similar wines directly after each other (i.e. only Stellenbosch Pinotage). The second form is blind tasting, prepared by coaches or colleagues. Here I deliberately ask for a variety of wines to see which ones stuck. Tasting preparing for competitions or exams tends to focus on classic styles from classic varieties of classic regions, whereas privately I enjoy tasting all styles of wines, i.e. also something like a Veltliner from outside of Austria.

Now off you go, open that bottle and tell me what’s inside. Prost!

Photo credits: Anton Blignault

© Anton Blignault, Cape Town