They say all roads lead to Rome, but mine (no doubt en route) led me late at night to Andrea Calek’s mobile home where I now live. No mom don’t worry, not in the mobile home; but just up the slope past the verbena above the cellar in a barn, which, geographically is halfway between the villages of Alba-la-Romaine and Valvignères, and viticulturally where I wanted to work when I started this whole ‘I wanna wine internship’ business.
So success, yes, but success is a long journey. Literally because Amsterdam is 1,117 km away, and emotionally because when we left – expensive cat and house packed (the latter surrendered for six months to Brexit refugees), tyres pumped to bear maximum load of stuff we wouldn’t need because the next apartment was furnished – we were moving to Banyuls where you left me, and where a month ago I left the person to let me into his cellar and his life and house every day for lunch when I’d asked, “Can I do a stage?”
The Ardèche was just a stopover.
Not so by the time we reached Lyon. Roundabout then, my soon-to-be landlord in Banyuls (but in actual fact, Cairo) WhatsApp-ed into existence an additional €1,000 deposit on top of the half years’ advance rent which, to cut a long following week of anxiety short, I wasn’t able or willing to pay. So that and a pineapple-forward skin-macerated Savagnin later, was that.
Except it wasn’t, of course, because we still had to get to our 3/4-way stop for the night chez Andrea Calek sans address but more problematically, sans daylight. Which made it difficult to spot the landmarks we said we’d remember from last time, namely Andrea’s fabled graveyard of vintage or more accurately just various stages of broken Citroëns. But no matter (and no one to call because bedtime round here is 10) because there was still trial and error and 4-wheel drive where the error ended in mud, which it did a couple of times.
Over the crunch of local apricot jam, yellow sheep’s butter and toast at next morning’s breakfast, 30 minutes before the wine’s served cold bang on 12, I’m told there’s work to do; that it’s been a bad spring. That basically (my words), we can live where I wanted to live and (hers) stay here until we find our own place. Today we’d sleep out the heat and later train the old Syrah’s fragile new growth up wires.
One week and thousands of hours of lifting wires later and I’m thinking how it’s funny the places life can drop you, and how quick I am to call it fate when it works out. And it’s funny how quick I’ve come to think of my situation as normal: Living in an unfinished restaurant, washing dishes in a grape crate, starting work at six, parking our ’98 LPG Volvo behind his older Citröen CX and taking turns to cook and bring dinner like neighbours to a potluck except not quite, because things don’t seem so pot-lucky when your neighbour’s in a ‘Legalise heroin’ t-shirt telling you how he smuggled Nicolas Joly in a pair of crocodile shoes over the Austrian-Czech border because N.J didn’t bring a passport and was expected to give a talk on biodynamics. So success, I guess, no not guess: 10,000%, I love it here.
So what’s the hitch? Well I guess I wouldn’t dare redirect my FT Weekend here.