After a long, languid supper at home we decided to take a stroll through the village and enjoy the mild early evening air.Our village boasts a traditional red telephone box that has been ingeniously recycled into a book exchange. It frequently tempts us in, to rumage through the abandoned tomes with the hope of unearthing a hidden gem. It was as if the telephone was ringing out to Stef to come in that night because he quickly pulled out a perfect match. A hasty flick through “The authentic Bistros of Paris” unveiled dozens of inspiring images, photos of quirky bars stuck in the past, eccentric signage, out of date interiors, chalk boards scribbled with menus, wines, slogans and homespun philosophy.
|Le Bistrot du Peintre|
|Le Temps des Cerises|
As French Living celebrates its 20 year birthday, this little book appeared like magic , to remind Stephane and I of heritage, of our creation, to revitalise and inspire us as we move French Living forward.
French Living is like so many of the bistros described in this book – “at a bistro, it’s more about the men and women who spend time there, and whose souls, after they’re gone, will still haunt the back rooms, the booths and dark corners. Its about bits of conversation ricocheting off the tobacco-stained walls, little bursts of laughter, tears shared at the bar.”
Over the years we have shared weddings, births and deaths, divorce, proposals of marriage, re-marriage, illness and heart-break with so many of our customers. Many are friends, more than just acquaintances, or bill-paying guests, they are the soul, the heart-beat of our business and of our life.
I read a little more to Stephane: “Most of the owners of the bistros in these pages have a single word on their lips: soul. They feel as if everything they’ve created is hanging by a thread, built on a fragile foundation of ghosts and time. Many of them told us they were afraid to expand, to repaint, to resurface mirrors that have become clouded with age, to change their tablecloths, their hours of operation, their brand of coffee. It isn’t nostalgia. They’re afraid they might break the spell. Afraid they might chase away the guardian angels who bring them business.”
We both grinned knowingly. I was distraught when we had to say goodbye to our original antique cheese fridge. We are both firmly adamant that cassoulet should always remain on the menu. And above all, I am determined that our shabby decor should always stay just a little bit shabby.
All posts since 2007 are on http://www.frenchlivingdiaries.blogspot.co.uk/