Saturday, 31 July 2010

La premiere ouverture

A nervous night. can we do this? have we made the right decision? But we wake to a beautiful sunny day, forecast says it will be 29-30c, emphasising one of the other reasons we came to France.
Official opening is at 12 with the mayor but we put our sign out and dress the terrace early. just on ten a van pulls up, a delivery?, no just an elderly French gent wanting his first beer of the day. ( assumption here, it may not have been his first)
The opening goes well, 40 people here for a free drink and free canapes, so it would. The mayor speak about the up and coming village, what they have achieved, what they will achieve and why this means that "commerceants" like ourselves want to come here.
This took me back, we take the risks, we pay the money, we put in the hours of sweat and toil and a person in higher authority takes the credit.
J said a few words and people clapped so it was either very good or they felt sorry for her (not true, i know it was very good)
By 1pm they were all gone, 200 euro of drink and food gone,nothing in the till and nobody in the bar. We sat outside wondering.
But our wondering was short lived, a party of five turned up a velo, for lunch. This put my "cooking" to its first test, five orders, 3 different items, plus chips, me who hardly knows how to use a microwave yet alone a cooker.
The afternoon progressed slowly but surely, a beer here, a wine there, a couple of ices, the odd coke. Arsenal on the tele, all was well.
And then came the evening!!.
all of a sudden we didnt have enough chairs on the terrace. ( we have 24) and Laurie was moving tables and chairs from inside, outside. A table of seven ordered meals, an even bigger test. They wanted proper meals, duck, steak, brochettes not snacks. I thought we had only written them on the menu for authenticity, I didnt realise people would order. And, they all ordered different dishes. Dont they know that I have practised that!. Hasnt J told them we have only practised on all having the same dish.


An English couple we have met out here, helped us out, clearing tables, cutting bread etc and we made it through. The beer keg ran out mid evening and we thought the machinery had gone wrong, we just didnt believe we had sold the 30 litres so quickly.

We officially closed at 10pm but a table of 9 French people were still eating at 11 and J was still serving drinks. We eventually ate ourselves at 11.30, on the terrace outside our bar.
And at 1am we called a halt to a very busy and fulfilling first day. We started taking money rather than spending it and we open again at 10 am this morning.

We hope our customers enjoyed their time at Bar des Tilleuls, I am sure we are going to.

Friday, 30 July 2010

nearly there

in 14 hours the mayor will open our cafe. The Is have been dotted and the Ts crossed (in some cases very crossed!!!) we took delivery today of the pool table, the darts machine and the last of the alcohol.
Are we ready? who knows? We have no idea what to expect, would 50 euro be good for a first day or 100 or 200 or 500? Do we buy 1 bag of salad or 5 or 10 or the whole of Netto's stock?

we will find out soon

one or two differences of opinion have "helped" us on our way. Long days, little sleep and a few added extras. we found out how the burglar alarm worked at 3am this morning, when Laurie went to the WC !!!

must go, more to do

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

A double helping of Shit (sorry Mum)

As I am officially the first guest of I+J (sorry Laurie but you don't count)I am also the first official guest blogger. Here goes!!

For anyone who doesn't know I am I's sister. I offered to come and help them get ready for the grand opening which is now extremely close. Having been here for a week there are many things I could write about;the Mayor with the hair and Mutton- The sexy Baker - The Champion fly swatter - The night nature trails - Kissing strange men - Father Christmas who invited us all to a BBQ at his Grotty (slip of the tongue or should I say fingers it should be Grotto) Laurie and I decided that we should let I+J build international relations without us - a decision that we don't regret in the slightest.Picking them up p***** was enough. I could also write about J getting her fanny out every night - but have decided to let you ponder that one. I am sure all will be revealed at a later date...

I have chosen to blog about one of my favourite pastimes Shopping.

Sunday afternoon after a delicious lunch of moules frites in St Romain J+I took me to a BROCANTE. For anyone who doesn't know this is a car boot,French style. I as always saw the business potential and spent his time leafleting every car within a mile radius of the area. J and I set off in search of bargains. I haven't been to many car boot sales in England but I would say that at home 75% of the items are saleable and 25% should go straight in the bin. Well at a BROCANTE its reversed with 75% only fit for the Dechetterie (dump) and I must say these figures are generous! The French don't seem to be at all embarrassed about selling - cracked pottery, chipped glasses,bottle tops,rusty old tools, books that disintegrate if you breath near them,broken jewellery and my favourite item of the day a bargin at 50 cents a rusty nail file. Despite having to search through all this crap J and I soldiered on determined to find a bargin. As we wondered past the last few stalls I returned (perfect timing) and pointed out a familiar face The sexy baker's girlfriend.

There is an uncanny resemblance

Let me paint the picture the baker's girlfriend is a mature woman who clearly enjoys the bakers buns. She was dressed in a chic scarecrow style outfit topped off with a large, slightly squashed straw hat.Her only accessory a small grey poodle who is obviously greatly loved. We stop and say bonjour and J+I have a friendly chat (bonjour is my limit I am afraid). As they are chatting the little poodle is happy to try and trip us up by wandering round and round on it's expendable lead. After a short while we say au revoir as we turn to go we cannot help but notice the poodle having a grande poo in the middle of the walk way between the stands. Six eyes are focused on the steaming pile wondering what she will do. Amazingly she dips a hand into her pocket and walks over to the spot, we all breathe a sigh of relief and J and I are happy that she will scoop the poop. Slowly she bends over lowers her hand and wipes the dogs backside.The poo is left for an unsuspecting foot.UNBELIEVABLE!!

On a final note it's nearly time for me to go home. Its hard to believe that in such a quiet place there is so much to talk about. I+J have worked really hard and I have had a great week here. I look forward to returning when they are ouvert.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Getting Closer

10 days left to opening. There is no way we realised just what we had let ourselves in for and the amount of work involved. We have been here 5 weeks and every day has been 12 hours plus, with just two or three half days for "leisure".
We are now clean, The living accommodation is nearly fully redecorated and the bar painting is complete.
The diary is full of promised delivery dates for equipment needed by next Friday. We hope it arrives as promised!! These include the coffee mill, the pool table, darts machine, the patio furniture, new tables for the bar, a changed sign outside, getting the terrace cleaned, bar accessories, new cups and saucers, new glasses and THE BEER.
J has the list of the local "important and / or good" to invite for the opening. The Mayor, who is performing the opening. gave her the list and he had written his name at the top of the list. The quandry now is do do we ring him to remind him,

I am into menus. setting prices, ordering stock. Where do you get prices from for drinks? I was lost. The brasserie suggest a stock list and beer is price controlled so that's easy but what price should 4cl of Suze be or 2cl of Eau de Vivre Poire? I am off today to have a drink in a couple of local bars, not that I want a drink, I am going to steal their price lists.

Laurie is still with us, decorating and perfecting Gaufre making . Sister Moira arrives today for a week to help. ( not that type of Sister, no habits or hymn books)
I am going to ask her to be the first guest blogger so look out next week.
She brings with her the Zoller ice cream scoops. These are apparently the best in the world, they have a liquid in the handle which warms when you hold it and makes the ice cream boule slip out easier and be perfectly shaped.
I know this as I spent hours on the internet looking into ice cream. Two boules of ice ceam sell for €2 but what size is the boule supposed to be. Zoller make six sizes of scoop from 1oz to 4oz and tell you the number of boules you get from a gallon of ice cream. They dont say if thats an american gallon or an imperial gallon and it doesnt help anyway as I have just order my ten flavours of ice cream in litres!!!

Our friendly flies are still with us, perhaps in slightly less numbers but as annoying as ever. My fault, i didnt see the placards the little buggers were waving at me "kill me and a thousand will come to my funeral"

must go, work to do

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Uninvited Guests

we have guests and they are here in their hundreds. Flies. I dont know where they came from but they seem to like me. They land on my head, on the laptop, they walk up my legs and arms. One even came in the shower cubicle with me to have a bath

Yesterday Laurie (son and currently house painter) spent breakfast time with a swatter and had managed to create a pile big enough that when I saw it I thought he had reverted back to childhood and had removed all the currants and sultanas from the fruit and fibre pack.
we dont have a cows eye, a horses backside or a pile of dung to distract them so we have to fight back another way.
we have a couple of those 50p swatters, brightly coloured plastic with a mesh on the end with a smiley face. I thought the smiley face was there to lull the fly into a sense of security as they go to their death but it isnt, it's a reflection of my smile as another one bites the dust
we are fighting back electronically as well. Excuse me a minute, I have one trying to do an internal examination of my ear. I'm back, that's better. I swatted him on the third attempt. I may not be able to out for a while whilst the red mark on the side of my face calms down but it was worth it.
Back to electronics. We have taken delivery of two new ECOZAP fly killers. They are shining brightly, their light blue light offering us hope from the enemy. Every so often they emit a crackle and then you get the smell!!!, It's like the smell you get when your teeth are being drilled

how satisfying!!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Temperature is rising

wow! it's been over 30 degrees now for the past two weeks with one day the car showing over 40. The locals all mutter to me "c'est tres chaud c'est tres chaud" I am not sure if they actually think it's unseasonally warm or they believe that that is the only thing in French that I understand.
The cafe is moving on a pace. The web site is up and running, although only in a basic format as yet ( We have a beer supplier, food suppliers, and an "official" opening date and guest of honour. This is of course the mayor, king of all they survey in France. We had a meeting with him, we met by chance crossing the road and stopped mid way to chat for ten minutes. It seems so strange, 3 months ago when we left England, we would run across the road in fear of our lives, here we have a meeting in the middle of the road and it seems normal!
The pool table is on order as are the terrace tables and chairs, the bar is being decorated next week and we have decided on a menu. We are most probably down to under a 1000 spiders now and we have been pleasantly suprised to find that a number of darkened windows were actually transparent once the dirt was removed.

And we are practising!!! we made gaufre yesterday. Mixture in, turn it over, Nutella ready ( have you noticed how when you have something like nutella you just have to have a rather large taster first to make sure its still ok?)
Four minutes, we open the machine and our first slides out in liquid form. Not what we had anticipated. Another 4 minutes and the next one also has the viscosity of a thick olive oil. " Of course the machine is faulty. It will have to go back"
And then the moment of realisation, as it is noticed that the knob has two ends, and the one that should be pointing to setting six is actually pointing to number 2
Everything in France is hot except our gaufre machine.

we have a lot to learn and less than 3 weeks to opening and c'est tres chaud

A quick update on my previous ramblings.

Alliance and Leicester answered my letter. I dont think they had actually read it but they answered it anyway, with the normal cut and pasted bullshit. "We love our customers, and will do everything for you as long as its not what you think we should do" They gave me £25 compensation and kindly gave me instructions on how to log on to their internet site. Patronising bastards, they now have another letter and another claim to deal with.
BT they gave in on the friends and family contract and gave me back my money
Saga No more post, no more claims.