Saturday, 28 August 2010

A wedding in town

Our village has two tourist attractions locally, apart from our bar. There is the Valley du Singe already blogged about and Le Vieux Cormenier which is a museum of life in the early 1900's in rural France.
Visitors to the museum are shown among other things, films of life in those times and this weekend a new film was being filmed in the church. This was a wedding scene.
We first found about it when the car park filled up with what looked like a coach load of Amish followed by a cart horse and old style cart.
The filming took place in and around the church and then the "bride and groom" were filmed riding through the village in the cart whilst the extras cheered and waved them on.

Following their exertions all of the cast and film crew came to the bar for the traditional wedding toast. It must have been a strange sight for passers by seeing a couple of dozen throwbacks from the 1900s sitting on the terrace drinking cold Kro.

They say that women love weddings and there was a crowd of onlookers as the filming went ahead, but not J, she wasnt interested, You may spot the reason from the photo

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Michael the Aussie and Barry the Brit

Champniers is sleepy. Tres tres calme. Life moves slowly. But yesterday we had two events worth a mention.

Michael the Aussie
Michael came in at lunchtme yesterday for a couple of beers together with one of our regulars. Michael, it turned out is from Sydney and is over here on holiday visiting friends and relatives. The conversation got to music and Michael said he was a very keen guitarist, and had just treated himself to a new acoustic guitar. I am not sure how it happened, if he offered or was invited but when he said he was coming back to eat with us in the evening, talk of a "concert" started. No sooner said than done and J was telling people, music on the terrace tonight and gratuit.

Michael duly arrived back about 7pm, complete with guitar. Having settled his kids on the pool table he set about the free concert.
He sang for about an hour and a half, a variety of songs which all went down well and by the time he had finished the terrace was just about full, not what we expected on a Tuesday evening.

Barry The Brit

So there we were, busy cooking and serving, young boys showing spurs how to play football on the tele, a full terrace outside and then Barry showed up.
We didnt know him as Barry then, he was just an english guy that walked into the bar mid evening, sweating profusely, dressed in jogging gear asking for some water. J duly obliged, waved away his offer of euros and off he went.
An hour later he was back but this time he stopped and told us his story. Barry and his wife are staying with some friends nearby. He had left them at about 7.30 for a jog, straight up the road to the village and back. But, he had tried a circuit and was lost. In his attempt to find home he had run to Civray and back, about 10kms, only to find himself back at the bar. He had asked directions of a couple of people en route but this had been slightly flawed, he speaks no french and didnt know where he wanted to be directed to. His "knowledge" amounted to his hosts first names, the fact they drive a freelander and live in a hamlet to the east of the D1. He had no phone and didnt know a number to ring anyway.
I offered to drive him home, a task easier said than done. He recalled the road he had taken, or thought he did. In reality he had run down so many roads looking for the right one, he remembered them all but not which one he should be on. He said he had run past sunflower fields but that hardly narrows it down in this land of yellow. So we went driving, here there and everywhere. By now it was 11pm and dark, and we were trying to find lamdmarks easily visible in the daylight but somewhat different in the glow of xenons. "it's near the big haybales" "the house across the road has a chain across the entrace" "there's a sign nearby but it's in French so I dont know what it says"
Poor Barry was embarrassed, recalling that the last thing his friends had said to him was "enjoy your run, don't get lost"
On and on we drove, exploring every road big enough for the car to go down and a few that really weren't. Our hope was that we would see the house he was staying in and spot his transit and caravan in the garden

after an hour I had to give up and return to base, it was nearly midnight and we were looking for a needle in a haystack. We sat Barry down and eventually persuaded him to have a drink and a sandwich whilst J rang the police.

Half an hour later the Gendarmes arrived. It transpired that they knew there was an homme perdu somewhere as his wife had reported him missing. They had the address we wanted and the last we saw of Barry was him climbing into the back of a police van to be taken back to his, I guess, frantic wife and friends.
The moral of the story is dont go jogging, stay in the bar with a nice glass of red or three, it's better for your mental health if not the physical.

As I said at the start the village is tres tres calme, on the surface anyway!!

An update

in answer to the comment left by PQ, I can report as yet we have killed nobody!!
the local french have been visiting our bar for the odd galopin ( 15ml of beer one mouthful), a glass or two of wine or a ricard. The british locals come for a coffee creme, a croque monsieur and a chat. we have traded six days a week so far from 10am until about 8pm, so days are long and its so tiring sitting in the sun on the terrace chatting you wouldn't believe. (in reality we trade until there are no more customers so it's often 10-11pm)
we are both getting into the swing of the job. I is cooking, a major change from the UK J is bar and french co=ordinator.
we offer an all day menu which can be seen at ( very good value, worth a detour if you happen to be passing)
Business wise we have spoken to an outside caterer so we can now look at using the large room for events (its 100 sq meters and seats 80 we have our first wedding reception booked complete with 4 piece Irish band and have just agreed with a local fish and chip van for them to be based in our car park one night a week from september

All in all, for early days we are very pleased with both our and the bar's progress

Thanks for asking

Sunday, 8 August 2010

French Life The Village Brocante

Yesterday was Champnier's brocante day. Each village has one "boot fair" per year and this is used as a fundraiser for the various village associations.
My brocante started on Saturday when I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss and so armed with A3 laminated ads, extolling the virtues of our new venture, went to strap them to posts and trees around the brocante site.
I had only put one up when I was stopped by two gents ( one the assistant mayor) telling me that this was a no no and that I was taking money from their buvette ( a stand selling drinks and food on the day) In a conversation in two languages, neither really understanding the other, I explained I was looking to grow the business of their village for the next year, not to take their beer sales on the day. A compromise was reached ( I think!!) I was allowed a sign stating Bar Ouvert for cars to see but no posters that could be read on foot.
J. concerned that I had blown the goodwill of the village went to see the gents as soon as I arrived back and the compromise was agreed with no harm done. I can do marketing but I dont think I will ever be a candidate for a CD number plate

Sunday was a hot sunny day (as most are!!) and the field starting filling at 7am with people selling their wares. Moira has already described a brocante so I wont repeat.
The brocante lasts all day with stalls closing down about 5pm. The village was very busy and our cafe had a great day (first wine sold at 10am, first cognac at half past)
The evening highlighted a huge difference in the culture of our two countries. The village had arranged a Moule Frite evening in the school playground. Ten euros a person including an aperitif, cake and coffee. The moules werent great, we all sat on benches drinking beer that was more expensive than we sell and in plastic cups but the place was packed. Old and young, rich and poor were there. Lots of noise, lots of kissing and handshaking, lots of beer and no trouble. No sign of any gendarme or officious prats in yellow jackets. It was just a great night of community.

As the stunning sunset disappeared, the village walk started, a tour of the village (this takes 10 minutes at a slow pace) behind children carrying lanterns and flaming torches.

It was great except for one thing. I hadnt realised where the walk went and as we passed the bar all I could think of was " why hadnt I left the outside lights on?
The walk to us to the petanque pitch where we were treated to a firework display of high quality and then it was back to the bar, more hand shaking before retiring just before midnight.

we look forward to next year's

Tuesday, 3 August 2010


Laurie's Blog with comments from the editor in brackets
(the views of this blogger may not be the views of the editor )

It was the 4th of July when my journey begun; although I have driven in France before this would be the first time that I had been on my own. Understandable nobody wanted to spend 8 hours with me in a car,(or not with the windows closed anyway). It was just me and Henry the hoover. After arriving in Calais my journey starts, having brought a map of France just in case "I's" directions got me lost (as if!!!). I was feeling pretty confident that it would be a nice smooth trip down. It wasn't until 380 miles and with only 40 to go did it all goes wrong; no clear sign of the direction I'm meant to be heading, I drive round Poitiers for twenty minutes before giving up and calling for better directions.( try following the direction!!) You might think it ends there but no another 30 miles and one final call. As I arrive into Champniers village there looks to be a farmer strolling along with his herd of cows, no actually its "I" come to meet me (looking tanned , fit and french) .

As we arrive at the bar I realise the size of the property is much bigger than I imagined from the pictures I had seen. They dont do it justice.
A beer in hand, we're off on a quick tour of the place and a description in each room of what needs to be done. A big list and EVERY room.

Over the next few weeks one room is transformed. Tea breaks come at regular intervals, "J" and "I" both come to inspect with smiles and praises, conformation that they should have gone to specsavers before leaving. The decorating goes on

I coped at first but after a few days the flies start to really get on your nerves, trying to cut into a ceiling whilst several flies are tickling the backs of your legs, honestly the most frustrating thing ever. Not to worry this wouldn't last long as my next task would be to get the fly swatter and go on a killing spree.( see earlier blog)

After finding the dart board that has been hidden in the main room and after a few days of hinting, well moaning, the board is erected and the competions begin.
( he plays frequently, I play almost never so I let him win rather than upset him)

"I" and "J" took early leads in the evening boules competitions but after a few games and a change of luck, thanks "J", the wins just kept coming. With the arrival of Moira, the game changes to teams, new rules, different tactics same results, and "J" and myself take a healthy lead. Athough I may suggest it was due to his patner; i think we would all agree "I" just didn't turn up. ( again,you have to let the kids win or they sulk!!) With each nights series of games ending as the sun falls, every walk home brings a new route and a little nature hunt, but you'll have to go to find out what for.

As the days tick by it seems like everyone is working as hard as they can but things just dont seem to be pushing on. The volume of the tasks ahead begins to hit home. So a few ideas and lists are made, each person has allocate jobs and a day when they have to to done. One by one jobs are crossed off, but with every ten that come off, five more are added. Will we ever finish the list?

Five days to go before opening and we have all called some time out; a day to chill out have some fun and enjoy just one of the attractions that the area has to offer. It is decided to go to the Vallee of the Singe. (valley of the monkeys )

you walk in not really knowing what to expect and then see the first group of monkeys three foot away from you, no cages, and free to do as the please. Just three rules, no feeding, no touching and funny enough no grabbing their tails. Well of course if an opportunity arises of course I would have to touch one and after four different area's finally a lemur that likes people. :-). For all those people that have been called a little monkey or have called someone a little monkey; please have a look and the french version, ouistiti pygmee, it will give you a new meaning to "a little monkey".

It was Thursday before opening arrives and it's time to lose one member of staff, time for "M" to go home for a holiday. Left on my own, my list is smashed to bist as one job after the other is completed. After a late arrival home from "I" and "J", my list consisting now of only one item soon grows, ten new things to do. Funny enough "I's" list seems to be going down at a rapid rate and he's not even here, ummmmmm ??????.

Saturday morning and the previous days worries are clear to see, to be honest none of us are sure what the day will bring, one smart arse (Laurie), predicting a busy afternoon. The official event goes smoothly; I could hear lots of noise, just the forty french people talking and every so often an english word, then all of a sudden quiet, and it's empty. Over the next cople of hours the first customers arrive and with that, the first food order. I have been the taste dummy for I's cooking, and not always very good ! This order was a selection of lunches and suprisingly they were easily, calmly cooked, plated and served. The intial orders completed with sucess. With every new arrival a twenty minute chat it's not long till "I" and "J"realise that there is no way that they can talk to everyone, as customers flood into the bar. Before they realise there were easily fifty poeple out the front. Panic as there are no tables and chairs left. Luckily the had little helpers on hand (laurie, jan terry) to retrieve the tables and chairs that we thought would never be needed again and a few days before had been stored away, little did we know.

The till was in full action and "J" has been kept busy but with every demi and now the introduction of spirts and liquors. The fear and frowns that once was on the face of "J" had turned into a smile. "I" has had a steady cooking schedule with odd meal orders arriving. Then suddendly an order of seven meals and five different dishes. From once, a stoned faced man with no emotion, a moment to remeber as his eyes widen and his jaw dropped. (WTF) The intial panic sets in, it doesn't last long as I'm sure the days at MFI come flooding back;

Step one : Inital Contact, find out what the custmer wants and how they would like each of they products.
StepTwo : Anaylise the informaiton you have been given to achieve the necessary requirements of the customer.
Step Three : Plan and Presentation.
Step Four : Delivery your product to the customer and await response.

Well the seven plates arrived back empty, the customers order more drinks and smiles all round, who says MFI training was a waste of time. ( if it had been MFI, jeanne would most probably have given then 50% off plus an extra 20% plus a deal. We wouldnt have made any money but would have "taken them out of the market" and the salesperson would still have been paid)

On That note I will say good bye from France and wish "I" and "J" the best of luck in the future and will look forward to seeing them later in the year.

Monday, 2 August 2010


we had a call from the local cattery. They have had a sign in their barn for 3 years advertising the Bar, we went and looked and found a sign about 3ft high, 4ft wide on a pole 8/9 ft high. seemed too good to waste,
found a long stretch of road with a sign on , seemed too good to waste
so later that evening, armed with cleaning materials and a piece of rope we went to work.
as you can see Laurie was somewhat pleased with the outcome

The Opening

J and Laurie with the very first customer "un demi sil vous plait"

The terrace early evening

The opening
The mayor is the one in white in the foreground. He kept looking round, we think he was trying to find where Moira had gone!!