Staying at Home with Tony Goodman

Orthodox New Year

Living in Perpignan is an extraordinary artist we are proud to call a friend, Irena Gapkovska. Macedonian in origin, a women of strength and passion, her art generates enough power to light a good sized city. Following the Orthodox calendar, rather than the modern upstart Gregorian, we were invited to attend a light pre-curfew celebration of the Orthodox New Year.

Arriving slightly early, it was less than an eye blink before we found ourselves with a small glass of fizz in hand, seated socially distanced at an enormous table laden with traditional dishes. Moderate amounts of selected P-O wines were enjoyed as the HMV provide a background of appropriate music. Small in number, the bilingual conversation was light, easy to follow. Delightful.

Irena Gapkovska
In Places, Irena Gapkovska, 2019, 180 x 100 cm -Acrylic on canvas


We had a birthday to celebrate, not a landmark, more a useful excuse for a Covid-era subdued lunch. Thankfully we have the services of a terrace table allowing four distanced diners. The day started with a brisk appetite sharpening ramble among the vines of Opoul-Perillos to visit a 1000 year old juniper tree before we sat down under a warm winter sun to some slow roasted local lamb and Greek style fresh, local, bio vegetables from the Place Belgique market.

The very last bottle of Chateau Valmy 2013 Le Secret, having rested in the inky black depths of the pantry cupboard almost since the day of it’s birth was given a chance to star. Lovely soft southern French tannins, deep garnet in the class. As smooth and balanced as a Fonteyn & Nureyev duet.

While we could be accused of bias, we really do believe our wines are world class.

Chateau Valmy

Wild herbs

Up behind most of us, the stone shattered garrigue is home to wild rosemary, thyme and garlic. As you brush past they release their aroma. Also up in the garrigue are very shy wild goat and sheep. You are lucky if you can catch even the faintest glimpse.  No surprise I suppose, as they dine almost exclusively on wild mountain herbs.

rosemary romarin

Back to school

After a long discussion with my French language partner, and with one eye on the regulations, we have recommenced our sessions. Thankfully they have a large lounge room so its possible to place two fauteuilles at the required distance. We prepare duplicates of  lessons and texts and the room is kept well ventilated.

The first session comparing the préterit and plusque parfait past tenses was a challenge, however after a hesitant start we slipped back into our usual routine. Twenty minutes of conversation discussing current news items, around ten minutes on the prepared lesson then twenty minutes of reading to sharpen pronunciation.

It’s slow going but really is the only way ancient ossified grey cells can learn a new language.

New words in French dictionary

Grape vine

We inherited a small planter on the terrace. Apart from tossing in the occasional bunch of flowers well beyond their use by date, it gets little attention. Sunless and blasted by the Tramontane in winter, hammered by the summer sun, it’s a mystery why it was there.

Last  summer, perhaps due to the attention to a passing merlot, a grape vine appeared and threw out a 12ft tendril before winter arrived. This week out of curiosity I had a closer look and it is seems to be showing signs of life. The small buds are starting to split and wisps of what seems to be white fur are starting to poke through. I can’t see how anything so large will survive in such a small pot when the sun returns. On verra as we say.

grape vine

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