There´s a young chap called Stan who is helping around our little farm in Portugal. He is clearing all of the fallen, burnt and dead trees and boughs which are left after the fires which ripped through just over a year ago.
Some of the wood is just dead, as it has never been coppiced, too, so there is quite a lot of work.
He saws and strims and collects and piles up logs for the woodshed.
He piles up great heaps of woody detritus which can be burnt in October when the permission-to-burn notices are issued.
He even prunes the olive and citrus trees and mows the rapidly growing grass. We have about two hectares, so there´s a lot of work.
He is not alone, of course. He is ably assisted by ´she who must be obeyed´ and I do a bit too.
He is a delightful bloke: Polite, quietly spoken and considerate.
He always says thanks when he has a cup of tea and is scrupulously tidy.
Just the other day, during a welcome tea break, he was talking about his upbringing. It turns out that his mum and dad were in Portugal when he was little and so he went to a local Portuguese school until he was 10 or so, then moved to Spain.
He left school and went to work in Bulgaria and then ended up back home in Blighty, where he trained as a thatcher in Devon.
There isn´t much call for thatched roofs in Portugal, of course, so he has developed a little land-clearing business.
So, here we have a young chap, maybe 30, who speaks four languages, is a trained thatcher and has a little business clearing land. It made me think about the skillsets that different people have and how talented people can be.
I am a big believer that we are all good at something. It may be academic, it may be a talent, or skill, but we are all good at something.
As an example, I know people who are positively gifted when it comes to dealing with others, they just seem to be able to empathise and ´click´.
It´s probably called ´emotional intelligence´ by the HR people. I know others who are really brainy and clever but are hopeless at relationships. Others still, who are really handy and creative.
What good schools and caring parents do is to find this ´something´ and encourage it. This fosters talent and develops a skill which is great for life.
This is what Stan has.
Somehow, his parents managed to allow him to acquire formidable language skills, develop a keenness to learn a useful skill, but remain sufficiently adaptable to develop new, more needed skills.
Along the way, they instilled good manners, considerate behaviour and a pleasant character. The schools he attended probably helped, too.
As a parent, one of the things we all want is for our children to not only have opportunities which we may not have had, but to hopefully make more of them than we did and succeed in life.
Congratulations to Stan´s mum and dad.
l Mike Gaunt is a former assistant headmaster at St Christopher’s School, Bahrain – firstname.lastname@example.org