Saturday, 7 September 2013


Over the past couple of months, I have started and left unfinished three or four blog updates.
I think that as previously mentioned what we experience now is "similar" to what has gone before or is not suitable for posting on the blog.

This has therefore brought me to the decision that I should close the blog, or at least suspend it indefinitely
I hope you have enjoyed reading it, I have enjoyed the writing

and of  course the Bar the man walked into is still open 6 days a week!!


Thursday, 18 July 2013

French Life, Posting Pooh

I have thought long and hard as to how to tell this story. ( see, first line and I have made a subtle excuse for not updating the blog more often)
As a man of a certain age here in France, the French health service wishes to check that amongst other things that I have nothing in my bowels that I shouldn't have ( not that they say what is and isn't acceptable!)
There is a picture opportunity here but I am not going to lower myself!

The means of doing this is that they send you a letter together with a box of tricks.  I ignored the first one as I felt that I wasn't up to the task but then nothing if not persistent they sent me another one.
Now how do I put this delicately?

I was to do a collection of droppings, three times in a row and send them back to them in the post.
I have many times though that my postbox was full of shite but I had never been asked to add to this before.

I plucked up the courage to start the process and opened the kit. This contains 3 what look like hammocks but a bit smaller and for collecting rather than reposing. Then there were three  cardboard spades, the use of which you can guess, and finally a piece of card with three windows on which to spread the goodies.

And then the time came, I spread my hammock making sure they stuck to the sides, sat down,set my aim and fired.  Not sure what we would have done had we had the squatter type WC so favoured in France. Then came a little spade work and a spreadsheet unlike any I have used in the past.
Three times on the trots ( sorry!) I hit the bullseye and then with the card complete to a yell of BINGO, I proceeded to seal the contents, waited until after dark and popped to the post box with my letter hoping nobody would see what I was posting .

I can only imagine the scene, and perhaps smell, at the other end as hundreds of samples arrive daily from all over France. Let's hope they never have a postal strike especially in warm times.

Thankfully about 10 days later a further letter arrived telling me that I was clear

Friday, 8 March 2013

Thursday, 14 February 2013


I haven't written anything on the blog for ages and I have been asked why not. Is it because nothing happens? Is it because things happen but are not suitable for telling the world or is it just you're a lazy sod and can't be bothered.

Well I guess it's some and some. It is said that as you get older either in age or  experience, time seems to go   quicker as you experience less new things. As they say, been there done that. So as we have now been at the bar for a couple of years, we do have less new experiences which are worthy of writing about.

And yes things do happen that can't be put on the blog, perhaps I will write a book when I retire.  I have some great stories, the 75 year old lady telling us about the singles club, two ladies discussing a change of career prostitution!!! and many more.

And yes, thirdly, I am a lazy sod!

We have just returned from our annual holidays, always taken in January to fit in with our partners. The fish and chip van takes a break in January and February and our quizzes are once a month so we had "window of opportunity"  for two or three weeks break.

It was lovely that so many of our regulars made a special trip to the bar in the few days before we went away, to wish us a "bonne vacance"
It seems people locally enjoy the atmosphere of the bar.

Sadly whilst we were away one of our French regulars passed away. He was here just about every day and was well known both in the village and to our British customers. He is most probably in Heaven now, nursing a €1 glass of chilled red wine and grunting " parlez francais"  to all around regardless of nationality.

One last thing, it has been commented that there is a continuing theme of ladies and toilets on the blog, well just to set the record straight......

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Good Life

One of the things that Brits commonly  do on arriving in France is buy chickens.  Like Tom and Barbara in The Good Life, self sufficiency means your own eggs and as previously mentioned space in the garden is normally not an issue.
        Friends of ours in the village wanted to own chickens but also return fairly frequently to the UK. Whilst they have a pet passport for their dog ( and a facebook page, would you believe)  it was not felt it was viable to take 6 hens on holiday.  (Ken did say he would happily go on holiday with 6 chicks but was firmly overridden)
Their answer was to ask the owners of the local bar if they would be stand in keepers when they were away. This would mean opening the hen house at night, feeding them, watering them, locking them in at night and the occasional shovelling of  shite, in exchange for all the eggs during the time of surrogacy and surplus eggs for the rest of the year

So with their owners back in the UK for Christmas, we are currently on Chicken Duty.  The house is a couple of kilometers from the bar and J and I each take a turn. I do the morning opening ( for those of you that know us this is easily explained) and J does the locking up at nightfall.  The last couple of days have been cold but dry so I have walked  up to the house.  Their food is there in the barn but I have to carry a large bottle of water with me as the water is turned off at the house.
I arrive with one very cold hand from carrying the bottle, get their food and go to the pen which contains their locked hen house. You have to let them out of the house first, having made sure the pen is secure, extract the water container and food tray from the "aromatic" house, take them outside and fill them with the jug of food and the bottle of water.  Simple you say but the chickens want to get in on the act.

The first day I managed to lose half of the water as the container lid wasn't tight enough ( think tupperware, filled upside down, lid clipped on and then turned back the right way and the water drips down into a tray).
I realised this was my fault and so the next day I went through the same procedure, on the way collecting a couple of warm fresh laid eggs, which I put in my jacket pocket, but this time rested the water container in the wooden bedding area so that it was supported whilst I filled it and I could use two hands to ensure the top was securely clipped.
All was going well until the chickens decided they wanted a drink, all 6 came back into the house and 4 jumped onto the water container knocking it over and spilling the lot. Bloody things I thought, don't they know there is no other water!!.   Cursing I thought I would have to go home and get more water for the ungrateful buggers  but as I walked away I saw a water butt. That will do nicely, so I returned to the pen,got the water container, filled it from the butt soaking myself as I did so but saved having to return.
I triumphantly returned to the pen and as I went to put the water container down, the hens all jumped me again as they must have been thirsty. I overbalanced and whilst putting my arm down to stop me falling, smashed the eggs in my pocket!!

By this time I was cold from the walk, wet from the butt, my fleece was dripping yolk and my ipod, sharing the pocket was a sticky mess.

So chickens take this as a warning. Do not jump me again or I will change my menu. Instead of omelette it will say free range chicken!!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Customer Contact

In all my years in retail, I cannot remember a customer with the same "complaint" as we had this weekend
This is a copy of the email we received

Hi Jeanne and Ian, 
hanks for a good  lunch today, the cerf was great, very tender. 
However, we think you undercharged us, you gave us some change from 40€. (We had cerf, 2 desserts, a carafe of house wine and 2 petit cafe, )   
Think we didn't pay for pre lunch drinks, a double expresso and a small beer. 
Please let us know how much we owe you and we will give it to you next time we call.

Kind regards,  D************ and L*********.

(cerf is venison)
How honest can you be!!

Whilst it was a lovely email to receive it was even better to realise that actually we had charged the right amount and that they had nearly 10% change from their 40€

And to our customers, rest assured we will continue to offer great value

Friday, 16 November 2012

French Life The Supermarket

I am assuming when I write this that most of the readers ( if you are still reading) know the set up of the united kingdom's supermarkets.  Sweeping all before them, creating thousands of jobs, albeit 4 hours a week ones, killing high streets and choking all competition they control the UK retail sector.

They are however competitive, customer focused ( well they say they are) and you know that a Tesco in Inverness will be broadly similar to a Tesco in London.
They open often 24  hours a day, 7 days a week and to be fair are normally superbly efficient.

But France isn't the same, the majority of supermarkets are franchised and this leads to differences even from town to town.
In nearby Civray we have 5 supermarkets, Intermarche, Super U and three discounters Lidl, Leader Price and Netto.

They all open at 9am and, how quaint, three of.them shut for lunch at 12.30 for an hour and a half. All are closed by 19.30. Super U is open from 9 until 12.30 on a Sunday but the rest are shut.
Queueing at the tills is expected, don't be suprised if there are only two or three tills open and 8 or 10 people  in each queue. Don't be suprised if the cashier gets up and walks round the shop to get a barcode or a price if a product wont scan, or if another cashier comes along, float in hand but goes to each working cashier first to give them a kiss before starting work.
One of our customers, annoyed at being in the queue asked why there weren't more tills open. The reply was
"are you retired?" to which he said yes and the girl said, well in that case you have time to wait.

They all have promotional material delivered door to door by the postman every Monday. This is normally a booklet or a flyer with their offers for the week. They must have had lessons from the DFS or MFI marketing teams as they are often misleading. A page will be headed 50% off but actually only one of the products showing is half price.
Also half price doesn't normally mean that you pay half price at the till.  For those that shop occasionally in France  it must be confusing.
Intermarche have a fidelity card which is credited with the discount after you have paid full price. This discount can be spent on another day by telling the cashier you wish to spend your credit. ( Leclerc and Auchan also use this method)
Carrefour  have a fidelity card which money is added to and then a voucher is sent through the post at intervals so that you can spend in store.
Netto have different prices for the same product depending on how many you buy.
Leader Price send out a voucher each week which can be used for discount on a certain minimum purchase
Lidl have normal offers, plus offers specific to Saturdays, and other just for Monday and Tuesdays

The pitfalls are two fold, one, the product you buy must be the same as in the flyer. Just because the coffee you pick up is the same brand, same pack size etc etc , if it doesn't match the picture eg with Prix Choc printed in the corner, it may or may not be the same price.
Secondly the offers are normally limited so you can only buy 3 a day in Intermarche, 5 in a promotion in Auchan, 13 in Leclerc etc etc.  Customers do not always pick up on this as they are paying full price for their goods on the day and perhaps don't check the amount of credit added to their account. Buying a dozen bottles of half price wine isn't so good when only 3 go through at the discounted price.

Stores also use a Bon D'achat , where the discount is added to a voucher to be spent within a certain period of time.

So there are pitfalls to shopping in France and you have to be a bit of a mathematician to work out the best price and not be in a hurry, but they do have great range.
 The fish counter in Intermarche in Civray would put just about any fish display in a UK supermarket  to shame.

 The butcheries have a much wider choice, plenty of duck, horse and different poultry as well as beef, lamb pork and chicken.

Plus there is no internet shopping for food so the aisles are not full of staff shopping and no mobility scooters,

Got to go now, have to go shopping