“Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider his ways and be wise.”
These words are firmly in my head, not only because of their appropriateness given my logarhythmic indolence but also because I can hear their cadences clearly as an echo from the past via the vocal chords of my parents.
I have left undone those pieces of writing that I ought to have done, and there is no health in me. Actually I am feeling quite well, though I think that the Book of Common Prayer did not have physical robustness in mind when the words were written.
And I might also add in relation to health that after my swim this morning (made even more delightful by seeing so many children being driven to school) I met my doctor who seemed pleased that I was taking exercise, but tapped my tummy and indicated that my girth was still a problem. I lamely muttered “Tiempo!” to give myself some width-reducing time and felt the usual guilt that meeting one’s medical advisor usually provokes.
Later, however I was mortified to see the same doctor sitting under the trees in the café courtyard blatantly smoking! Yet another case of do as I say and not as I do! I shall harbour this knowledge against future admonitions.
Today is the first real day of my retirement.
Pupils will be clogging up the corridors of The School on the Hill with their bodies and the extraneous sound that is such an irritating characteristic of the semi-formed humans who prowl around places of learning.
The summer is truly over and for my poor ex-colleagues darkness is come upon the face of the earth. And Christmas is a very inchoate idea in the far, far distant future.
Eschewing the future let me turn to the past.
My fingers are stiff with the unaccustomed actions of key hitting and my erudite comments on so much that has occurred within the space of two month have now drifted into the misty ether of lost expression.
The guests we have had: the Pauls; Emma; Ceri and Dianne have all come and gone and their various exploits remain unrecorded.
Sun, sea, the Third Floor; restaurants; cafes; bars; shops; telephone conversations; the Olympics and Paralympics; reading; cameras; Kindles; swimming; finance; funeral; visits – all have played their part in making this a summer to remember, but without my prose to kick start the process it all risks fading into a sepia wash of half grasped thought. All gone until I start remembering the names of the kids who were in my Primary School classes – a sure sign of senility I am told and a way of opening up early memories!
I am determined not to forget The Meal in Girona and intend to describe this artistic foodie art in some detail.
El Celler de Can Roca in run by three brothers: Joan Roca i Fontané who is the chef; Josep Roca i Fontané who is the “Cambrer de vins (or as we say in English the Sommelier) and Jordi Roca i Fantané who is the pastry chef. We saw two of the brothers during the meal and Toni had his photo taking with Josep as he is a fan of the television programme on which he appears.
The restaurant is roughly L-shaped around a thrusting glass-enclosed and tree-filled courtyard and the atmosphere is quietly but refreshingly opulent.
The price for the menu we had is eye-wateringly large and the bill for four of us came to just under a thousand euros – and it only failed to make four figures because Toni did not have the “samples” of the fifteen wines that came and went throughout the evening!
The first course was enclosed in a sort of Chinese paper lantern and, when opened it revealed a chunk of wood with six metal prongs on each of which was a national appetizer to represent Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Morocco and Japan: a caramelized olive; truffled bombon; ring calamari adapted; Campari bombon; marinated mussels and lastly truffled brioche.
Oyster with black pearl, wrapped in its own juice with melon juice, dots of cucumber, celery, apple, lime jelly, oxalis acetosella, melon flower and heartleaf iceplant followed.
Next was green wheat with smoked sardine, grapes, ice cream of toasted bread with olive oil and yeast foam.
Black olive gazpacho with spicy gordal-olive mousse, black-olive fritter, manzanilla-olive ice cream, tasted bread with oil, fennel jelly, winter savory jelly and picual olive was a refreshing dish.
One of my favourites followed: white asparagus comtesse and truffles – a truly astonishing ice cream.
This was followed by a rippled plate of ice-whiteness on which was a charcoal-grilled king prawn, king-prawn sand, ink rocks, fired legs, head juice and king prawn essence. You really had to be there to see it, let alone eat it!
Red sea bream with yuzu and capers was almost prosaic when compared to the preceding extravagances!
Salt-cod brandade with braised salt cod tripe, salt-cod foam, olive-oil soup, shallots and honey, thyme and chilli pepper with vegetable contrast was the next course in a seemingly unending sequence.
Iberian suckling pig blanquette with Riesling and mango terrine, melon and beetroot, beetroot puree, black garlic, onion and orange concentrate followed.
Red mullet cooked at a low temperature was a striking contrast to the previous complexity.
The common wook pigeon liver and onion with curry caramelized walnuts, juniper, orange peel and herbs was the last of the savour dishes – and the only one at which Toni balked.
The first dessert was caramelised apricot which consisted of a blown-sugar apricot with vanilla and caramelised apricot cream. This was beyond remarkable and a favourite of all.
The next desserts included strawberries and cream (where the cream was inside the strawberries) moka mille-feuille with anise mille-feuille with moka foam and coffee and a multitude of little cakes and sweets with a clear favourite being the cherries to which something had been done to make them exist on an ethereal plane of deliciousness.
We arrived at the restaurant at 9.30 pm and left just before 1.00 am.
It was (thank god) the best meal (though that word seems entirely too prosaic to define what we experienced) I have ever had. A wonderful experience that everyone should try if they don’t mind paying a few hundred euros for a meal!
I suppose staying within a penitent’s crawl of Girona cathedral one feels that the excess of the meal can be mitigated by the proximity of ancient religiosity and somehow justify the expenditure of so much money for something so transitory. It worked for me!
I think that I will try and work in other memories in the days to come to give my resumed writing the depth of scope that rejects the quotidian in favour of the more spacious view.
Worth the effort anyway.