By: SKIP BANDELE
WHAT DO you dream of? Is it flying to the moon, winning the Euromillions jackpot, or perhaps meeting that perfect someone you have always been looking for?
When I was a little boy I wanted to become an architect. Don’t ask me why, maybe I wanted to build my mother a nice house, but the dream died anyway as soon as my complete lack of technical drawing ability became painfully obvious during the first month or so of design and technology classes at school.
Journalism became my new passion but the daunting prospect of making tea while covering weddings, funerals and purple rinse dog shows for the local rag (at the time the only means of entry into that noble calling) eventually resulted in a more instantly lucrative four-year stint as a financial consultant, an activity which allowed me to repay the monstrous debts accumulated at the university student’s union bar.
The flow of ‘easy money’ was, however, terminated by the 1987 Financial Services Act. City sharks were forced to adopt more sophisticated methods of lining their expansive pockets with other people’s savings, while more conscientious operators such as myself left the industry altogether.
Next I tried my hand at bookmaking, an activity not vastly dissimilar from my previous one. A meteoric rise through the managerial ranks soon lead to Ladbrokes shipping me out of London to Germany, the country of my parents’ birth which I had only ever lived in as a very young child.
There I presided over an always destined to fail mega-venture, then labelled “the world’s most luxurious betting shop” by the press, but in actuality more akin to an American-style off-track casino. As it proved, our Teutonic cousins are less liable to gamble their livelihoods away than other nationalities.
Their more conservative trench warfare mentality gained the upper hand over Blitzkrieg tactics when confronted by temperamental horseflesh or moody greyhounds, an attitude taken note of by the highest European law-makers in Brussels who failed to support my then employer’s desire to corrupt and ‘harvest’ the virgin territory I had been given charge of.
Although often rewarding and exciting, none of these paths were paved by the stuff my real dreams were made of. All that glitters is not gold, and years previously I had discovered that money could not buy love – believe you me, I tried – and my revised aim, my dream, became the pursuit of happiness of a less materialistic nature.
The process involved the uncovering of many a would-be Princess, although none proved to possess the fairytale qualities I sought. My quest for the ‘holy grail’ eventually led me away from the morally polluted streets and alleyways of boom-town Berlin and to the tranquil backwaters of the Algarve, a 48-hour life-changing journey accomplished by train. A quick flight seemed devoid of meaning at that juncture destined to radically alter my future, irreverent and lacking in adventure and the time needed for reflection.
Arriving in Portimão under my own ‘steam’, albeit now powered by electricity, my metamorphosis appeared to be more complete.
In the Algarve, the paradise I craved finally and very gradually unfolded. The sunshine, both from above and within the local people I met and am still meeting here, makes for a far more agreeable and worthwhile existence than those I endured, traversed, wallowed in and explored previously.
Away from the more fast-paced, less tolerant and already partly superficial aspects of the constantly expanding tourism sector, the region and its inhabitants still have a lot to offer the disillusioned and weary traveller in terms of genuine warmth and uncomplicated humanity. I am writing without “making the tea”, the views and climate are at the same time stunning and soothing to the soul and I have met that perfect girl. I feel at home and my dreams are turning into reality.
Other people have different dreams, of untold monetary wealth, for example. As enticing as vast sums of money at times seem, I remain unconvinced that they alone present the solution to unhappiness and a less than fulfilled life.
I rarely hear of happy, rich people, only about their worries and neurosis-ridden personalities, their troubled relationships, rehab clinic confinements and occasional violent or self-inflicted premature demises.
This equally applies to those cushioned and cosseted from birth by inherited wealth as to those showered in sudden and unexpected lottery millions. A bulging bank balance may provide the means of affording the distractions which keep real issues at bay, but it does not bring the account holder any closer to fulfilling his or her dream than some of us financially less well-endowed mortals.
Happiness is a state of mind permeating through heart and soul, more often than not aided by the discovery of a like-minded person special to us and capable of filling that omnipresent universal void. Money can buy any amount of company at best mercenary in nature, creature comforts stripped of meaning during the bleak and lonely waking hours of each new dawn. Real dreams and their fulfilment, banishing the secret nightmares of the past, are woven of entirely different materials not found kept under lock and key.