Sunday, November 17, 2013

Where everybody knows your name.

Where everybody knows your name

Some time back we decided to give our nearest eating place Bistro 16 a try.  We liked the food, the ambience and especially Kym (with a Y) and Robin the husband and wife team who ran it.  During the last nine months since MTL left me I have really grown to  appreciate a place ‘where everybody knows your name’ and you are  made welcome – not just by Kym and the staff but by the other customers who react like flowers to the sunshine of Kym’s smile and banter.  Many of the clientele go every day and Kym knows all their little idiosyncrasies.  It amuses me how many of them sit at separate tables whilst joining in the general conversation.

The other day Kym said:

‘I hope you don’t mind my asking but didn’t you used to be a model.  I’d love to see your photos sometime.’
 Normally this makes me groan inwardly as I always think people expect Richard Avedon type shots whereas I was more ‘the girl next door’ type model.  However for a while I had been trying to pluck up courage to ask her for an interview as I had always felt a connection - so it was good to know she was happy about my doing a profile on her.

Kym is in her early fifties with a vibrant personality. Robin - and yes he is her true love, is her second husband and like me, she waited until her children had left home before ending her marriage.  She met Robin through a dating agency which was a postal service.  Both of them were sent five possibilities and both their names were top of each other’s list as being most suitable.  Robin was the fifth candidate that Kym met and she said:

‘It was like coming home.’ 

 I recognised the deep contentment of a woman whose husband’s chief aim is to make his wife happy.

 Kym spent her first 43 years in Droitwich Spa – a town in northern Worcestershire situated on massive deposits of salt which have been extracted there since ancient times.  The water is ten times stronger in salt than sea water and is rivalled only by the Dead Sea.

An only child Kym used to love to visit her Bompits (grandfather) in Minehead and she remembers, aged 12 - buying a book on horses in a shop opposite to what is now Bistro 16.  Way back the Bistro was a bank – the basement has been concreted over and myth has it there is still money stored in the sealed up coffers.

Bompits was an amateur photographer and Kym used to sleep in his dark room which was painted black.  To take her mind off the resident spiders she would pretend to be a Dalek and recited the alphabet in a Dalek voice so – naturally - Granddad became Bompits.  I remembered she told me recently that she made up recipes when she couldn’t sleep and I enjoyed one of the results - a liquorice cheese cake.

She was trained in horsemanship by the Olympic champion John Lassiter, is still extremely fit and loves her golf.  She had three children and her first marriage lasted 23 years. She is trained in aerobics, has sold children’s clothes, jewellery and in her thirties started acting – which she loved – and gained an equity card.  She did some TV and photographic work and at one time had her own business selling overseas a fuel saving device for the poultry industry.

In her thirties there was a contest to choose the Carnival Queen - Miss Bromsgrove and she and a friend wrote a comedy skit on beauty contests.  Then one of the contestants had to withdraw and Kym was invited to take her place.  To everybody’s surprise Kym won it and there was muttering from the teenage contestants and their followers.  So much so that Kym was ignored and didn’t get any of the normal invitations that a Carnival Queen expects.  The unfairness of this was taken up by the Press and as a result Kym appeared on The David Frost show, That’s Life. ITV’s Today and all the papers.

During her year as Queen she earned a great deal of money for charity by organising a fashion show for Debenhams with a story line

Eventually her marriage failed because she and her husband had widely differing interests.

After Kym met Robin they visited Bruges where Kym had an Epiphany.
They were strolling down a boulevard of cafes with customers sitting outside when Kym was entranced by some beautiful music.  She persuaded Robin they should sit inside - the better to hear this fantastic musical trio. Not only did the beauty of the music bring tears to her eyes but she was fascinated by the Madame – a soignée woman who glided round the restaurant ensuring all was running smoothly and gracing the room with her presence. There and then Kym determined she was going to be that woman.

Meanwhile the musicians noticed they had moved a customer to tears and clustered round her whilst she tried to eat her steak and sob without slobbering too much.

Back in Minehead they bought a guesthouse with 8 bedrooms and Kim learned the importance of the green baize door.  She freely admits that she was going through the menopause at this time so on one side of the door side she was a monster blaming Robin for anything and everything whilst on the other side she was the adorable Madame.  Then they planned to buy The Rectory which required much renovation but were beaten to the post by someone else who then went bust.

So they bought Peppercorns which morphed into Bistro 16.  It hasn’t all been plain sailing.  They inherited a group of elderly ladies who believed they owned the restaurant.  They would come every day at coffee time and sit there till the afternoon demanding their quite grubby cushions which had been stored behind the bar.  Kym had to point out that behind the bar was out of bounds for customers. 

It was only a matter of time before Kym heard the ringleader bad mouthing the food to new customers and was forced to bar her.

Very different from today’s happy customers.

Sadly nothing lasts forever and tragedy struck when Robin’s son died.  Now they both want to be nearer to their extended family so they can see their grandchildren’s school concert and similar occasions – not too close to be constant baby sitters however.  Businesses are slow to move but sooner or later theirs will be sold – we shall be the losers and Kym and Robin will start their next big adventure.

See photos below.



Chef Files said...

An enlightened, interesting subject has made for a very intelligent post Pat, a pleasure to read.

Ms Scarlet said...

Money in the vaults? Now there's a selling point!
Kym seems to be a lovely lady and I hope she is happy wherever she goes.

Pat said...

Chef: nice to hear - thank you. Now I can skive for the rest of the day and feel virtuous.

Scarlet: I wonder whatever happened to the the machine I used to have to record speech? It's so hard trying to decipher my scribble.

Kim Ayres said...

You could show Kym the Hollywood-style photo we did of you last year as part of your modelling portfolio :)

Pat said...

Kim: I know it's silly but Daphne's comment put me off.

Exile on Pain Street said...

Everyone has a story to tell. Nice work regaling us with this one. Do you have any others? More of the same, please.

kenju said...

It sounds as if it is a wonderful place and I don't blame you for being disappointed in their selling it.

Mage said...

She's lovely, and I am sorry they have it up for sale just when you found a place that knows your name. :)

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Very interesting article on Kym, my dear...And so sad that they will be closing--selling? Nothing stays the same,does it? And much doesn't change. This sounds like a change you could do without, Sad To Say. I LOVE a place where they know you and care....Few and Far Between.

John Greenwood said...

Lovely story, Pat!

Kim Ayres said...

Reclaim it, Pat. I've shown loads of people the photo and it's universally enjoyed. I never understood her comment and I've never had another like it. I love that photo; you love that photo. Reclaim it :)

Pat said...

Kim: xoxoxoxox

angryparsnip said...

Lovely post today. Wonderful interview.
I have a few places that know me and it is wonderful.
I don't remember or know about the comment. I loved the photo that Kim did for you !

cheers, parsnip

Gadjo Dilo said...

A charming interview, and yes, Kym does look like a wonderful hostess - I think I'd be willing to buy anything from her.... coffee, scones, liquorice cheese cake, fuel saving devices for the poultry industry.... you name it.

Pat said...

Exile: you are soooooooo demanding.

Judy: we'll make the most of it whilst it's here.

Mage: it has certainly helped me through a difficult time.

Naomi: I wish then the best but meanwhile things aren't moving and I'll enjoy them whilst I can.

John: thank you:)

Parsnip: I've just been talking to my younger son and he is going to investigate recording stuff as in recording an interview which would make it all easier.

Pat said...

Gadjo: I get the picture:)

Guyana-Gyal said...

I agree with Exile. You tell it so well...and it's such a great story.

There's so much I enjoyed here, the green door, the grumpy elderly gals.

And there's so much to learn from you and Kym - a gal doesn't have to stick to only one role in life.

Granny Annie said...

I know what you mean about being known within the community. We lived here almost 8 years and hardly knew a soul. Since Ron died I have become acquainted more than I realized and have those moments in the local restaurant with shared conversations, etc. I attend the local Methodist church and go to the Senior Center and it was strange to go to the community Chili supper the other night and have a table tap and empty chair and the people said,"Here Ann, sit with us." Maybe I will find some nice people to interview as well:)

Chef Files said...

Patricia, dear lady, surely you are not another victim of the dreaded Brussels poisoning epidemic?

I must send you an invite to a rather select club of people who have also fell foul of the dreadful 'D' virus.

You are sure to recognise several old friends.

Pat said...

GG: now you've got me thinking: what should be my next role:)

Granny Annie: sound as if you have met some nice people already.

Chef: I suppose if one raises one's head above the parapet one should accept the slings and arrows as par for the course.
Retaliation isn't worth the sweat but I may well drop in for a drink
just now.

Tom Epfinger said...

interesting subject and really a pleasure to read

Pat said...

Tom: thank you.

About Last Weekend said...

I LOVE the sounds of this place and I love the sound of Kym with a Y. She leaves me breathless with her energy "She is trained in aerobics, has sold children’s clothes, jewellery and in her thirties started acting – which she loved – and gained an equity card. She did some TV and photographic work and at one time had her own business selling overseas a fuel saving device for the poultry industry." Wow! Also love the story how she beat out the teens with her skit writing skills, that is a truly Brit story, wonderful. I always think a place is not just about the food but also a great deal about how the owners make you feel and the picture of her below with the warm and inviting oranges and soft lighting and welcoming smiles says it all!

LL Cool Joe said...

What a fascinating story, I loved reading it. How sad that they have to sell their business and move, more for you than them.

I wonder if we all hate seeing photos of ourselves? I know I do.

Pat said...

ALW: now I'm looking forward to my next lunch there on Tuesday.
I wonder if she has read any of the comments?

Joey: I love seeing photos of myself as long as I look gorgeous but sadly it doesn't often happen now:(

Kym Francis-hill said...

Pat, I love the way you have made me sound quite interesting, you tell a lovely story! I am looking forward to finding a little time to read your blog from the beginning. see you soon x

Pat said...

Kym: it was a pleasure and has inspired me to buy a recorder (which I hope my granddaughter will school me in when she stays the next few days.)
Very brave of you to attempt to read the whole thing. Good luck:)