Thursday, 30 September 2010

Two months on

Today is the 1st October so we have been open two full months. In that two months we have grown up, we are now confident in what we do, we have learned, in some cases the hard way, better ways of working and how to work together for the first time.
We now know what a diablo is, lemonade and syrup (squash), a monaco, a shandy with grenadine syrup, and even a baby, a small whisky.
We have met many interesting and friendly people, some who live here permanently, some who split their time between the UK and France and many holidaymakers. Our clients are a good mix of French and British but we have served Dutch, Kiwis, Aussies,Germans and belgiums. ( we have also met a couple of right miserable fatherless people but that's for another day)

We have hosted our first wedding reception, had a line dancing group practice in the function room, had the local hunters use the bar as an office for distributing permits,had our first function meal and in three weeks had over 100 people eating fish and chips in the bar on a Monday night.

We have more to come. Next Friday sees the first of our monthly Quiz and Curry night, hosted by an external company and on the 16th we have a free music night, featuring a guitar and keyboard playing duo and at the same time a Hog Roast

What else have we learned?
Nobody coming to visit gets away without helping!!!
That you can wear shorts every day until October (and beyond we hope)
That cash and carry's are more expensive than supermarkets
You never close on time.
The drink drive limit here seems to be a litre of wine (please don't try this)
That sometimes when the phone rings the caller can speak English
Who we kiss, who we shake hands with and who we just say hello to when they enter the bar
That Gilbert thinks our house wine is "too good" so we must buy him plonk instead for his daily 4 glasses
That we have made the right decision both in buying a cafe and in particular buying the Bar Les Tilleuls
That a good business is not built on focus groups, customer surveys, bullshit, lowest prices, or 50% plus 20%, or taking people out of the marketplace. Business is about making your customers welcome, having a smile, having time for them and making them feel at home and comfortable.

A few thank you's if I may indulge

J for putting up with me and "the lists"
Laurie for 5 weeks of decorating and general help to make the house a home
Moira for her help pre opening, thinking of many things that we hadn't
Jan and Terry for their help on opening night, the brocante and the wedding
Terry and Pat for their ten day " working holiday"
Our guest bloggers, Laurie, Moira and Pat
Cliff Brenda and Samantha for being our first customers (thanks for the postcard, I will send an email soon!)and becoming our first cafe friends
Gary, Chris and Richard and the senior team at MFI. Thanks again for your ineptitude. If you hadn't screwed the business I would still be there and would never have found out just what a great time you can have running a cafe in rural France

And onward we go, today as every day except Thursday, we are open from 11am until 10pm
Every day is different, every day we meet new people and learn new things

PS new menu available as of today!!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

guest blog 3 Bikes and Bruises (Pat Cook)

It has taking over half a century but I have finally done it, I have moved round the car park on two wheels. It couldn't be called cycling as on the first turn I managed to fall off, good job I thought it was better to be safe and wear J,s helmet as with the momentum of hitting the ground I managed to hit my head on a tree! Many moons ago I was told by my Nan if at first you don't succeed try try again, so I got back on adjusting the saddle as low as possible I had another go. I was going great guns and even thought I may venture out of the car park,however the confidence was short lived when I realised that i couldn't brake steer and peddle all at the same time (like when you first learn to drive and think I will never be able to mirror signal manoeuvre all at once )although I have to say I have found driving considerably easier than riding a bike .The next fall was even more spectacular as I wasn't riding at the time but trying to dismount and got caught up with the crossbar J,s trainers that I was wearing as all my own footwear was totally unsuitable (another lifetime habit).
Giving up on the physical stuff, we reverted to eating and drinking! Terry and I managed to masquerade as Miss Marple and Poirot trying lunch at a nearby bar. Not normally one to strike up a lengthy conversation with complete strangers we managed to find out why this bars trade was on the decline without being found out as snoopers from the Bar Des Tilleuls. Of course the reason had nothing to do with the fact that if I hadn't spoken to the owner he had no intention of passing the time of day with the clientele he was running a French bar English style and the TV probably came from his lounge back home.
its amazing the number of people who don't try to learn the language but still get by with Bonjour Bonsoir.Still we met some real characters of both nationalities especially the two guys last Saturday who were dropped of for the footie by their wives who uttered the words we can score another couple of goals in extra time( Man U ) only for the other team to then do just that Oh they wont live that one down for a while, but they were great fun.
We met some lovely people, all without exception love the Bar Des Tilleuls the warm welcome,the food and the house speciality the waffle is to die for (sorry cant spell the french word for waffle) (it's Gaufre ) I am still not sure how I gets away with the claim that the waffles are all only one calorie though!
.Finally the wedding reception last saturday what a great night. We had a buffet by Dawn from the cafe in Civray mentioned in Toute Allure, carrot cake her speciality although the Irish band wasn't Irish they were nevertheless very good .I suppose I would have liked to have Karen Wheeler sign my copy of her book however after my cycling attempt the thought of my two left feet line dancing is just a step to far. Well until our next trip to Champniers under the guise of a little support for J and I , we had great fun.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

How Sad

Sorry to be serious for once but we had an incident here worth reporting.
Two british couples came to dine early one evening bringing with them two children, a toddler and a baby in a pram
J served them their meals on the terrace but one of the mothers wasn't at the table. She was pushing the pram around the car park, trying to get the baby to sleep. A few minutes later with her dinner getting cold, she was still walking round. J went across to her and offered to take over whilst the lady ate.
She walked the baby for a couple of minutes and then decided to take the pram onto a different surface so went out of the car park round the corner.
At this one of the gents jumped up and looked over, started across the car park and then returned. A lively discussion was going on and the second gent then got up and ran across the car park, and up the road to where J was with the pram. J had turned round and was heading back when she was met by the gent who announced that " we were very worried when we couldn't see the baby"

What have we done to our society where we have got to the point we have so little trust or so much mistrust. They were sitting on our terrace, outside our home and panicked when the baby was out of their sight for no more than 5 minutes and I was in the bar.
What will become of those kids if the are so protected as they grow up? They will never learn to fend for themselves if the parents are forever looking out for them. I agree there are dangers in this world but what chance have we got if we trust nobody.
Surely we should consider the "dangers" on their merits, a granny who offers baby pushing services whilst a mother eats, seems to be a fairly low risk.

And the worst thing, no other customer is likley to get asked if we can help them in the same way

Monday, 13 September 2010

Poisson Frites

Our joint venture with David and Suzanne of "Fish and Chips" started last night. They run a mobile chippie six nights a week normally parking up in town centre car parks for the Brits to come and get their fix. This is fine on a nice warm evening but on a cold or damp night the option of standing out eating your chips, or taking them home in the car with the resultant smell, means that customers stay away.

We offer the best of both worlds, fresh fish and chips and a place to eat them. The chippie sells take away as before but if a customer wishes to eat here, their meal is served on a plate and they take a seat in the bar or on the terrace. There is no extra charge for the plate or the seat but they feel obliged to buy a drink or three.

First night, with little advertising was very pleasing.

Maggie, with the first portion of Champniers fish and chips

Our challenge now is to get the French eating Ce plat traditionnel britannique sera disponible à la vente à emporter ou à consommer au Bar les Tilleuls tous les lundi de 19h30 à 20h.30 sur le parking municipal.

The chippie will now be here every Monday evening from February to December

Friday, 3 September 2010

Toute Allure They're Back

The Civray Stetsons are back together. Each and every Friday, they and Biff the dog don their boots and hats for some yee ha.......

more later


We had a "visit" from James(son no 2) and 7 of his mates. They were "road tripping" travelling from the UK to the Tomato festival nr Valencia in a couple of old decorated cars.

I suppose it would come as no suprise that they wanted to come and stay over for a night en route. The chance to stay with Dad, who has a pub looked like too good an opportunity to miss.
However miss it they nearly did as James, highly organised, very intelligent, plans to the nth degree, was found to be taking the convoy to the other Champniers 100kms away!!

The evening was very warm,the terrace was full and the atmosphere was great. We cooked them a dinner (hopefully to remember)together with a rather large bottle each of Desperados. They were introduced to "Barry the Brit" who was eating here that night and offered autographs. ( He had intended eating in Civray but had got lost)

We must also thank them for their help in the kitchen, washing up and clearing away.

They all slept around the house and were treated to, in most cases their first taste of, a french country thunder storm. The thunder was very loud and like storms do here, went round in circles, just when you think it's finished, it comes rolling back.

Breakfast was fresh croissants from the boulanger, eggs from a customer and off.
They travelled from us to Biarritz, then to San Sebastian, across Spain to valencia where they threw the tomatoes. then to Alicante where they had arranged to scrap the cars and fly home.

An Invite from The Mayor

Today was a big day. We have had an invitation from the mayor proudly sitting on our notice board for a couple of weeks.
Regretfully I cant go as I have to man the bar. J went,dressed up accordingly, together with the President of the General Council, the Prefect of Poitio Charente, the Deputy of the Vienne.
The highly distinguished meeting was for the inauguration of the village waste water works!! I sent my apologies and a double flush