I was as nervous and knotted up as I've ever been when the bus dropped Mrs The Millbrooker and me immediately outside the Barika café in South Molton. This is Ellie and her husband's café, one of a couple of businesses that they own and run, being hard working people. I really didn't know if Ellie would be either pleased or available to see me.
The moment Ellie recognised me she grinned all over her face, wrapped her arms around me and gave me a huge hug. I was in distinct danger of crying in public; I think Ellie may have got a bit wet around the cheeks as well, but that might have just been me dribbling incoherently into her collar. The shot below is Ellie and yours truly inside her cafe shortly after we arrived:
Several of Ellie's regular customers enjoyed the moment, too. I think we may have provided several months' worth of gossip for the small market town.
As soon as Ramzi (that's Mr Ellie) arrived in Barika to take over, we repaired to The Old Coaching Inn to try and catch up on ten years' worth of news in a paltry couple of hours whilst Ellie's four year old son, Zaki, amused himself at the pool table. I'm proud to say that after only one complete table clearance he was able to say that he didn't need a cue anymore because he could use his hands now. He'll go far.It was all rather emotional and wonderful, hence the lack of my usual sardonic and cynical witterings. I'll be back to normal again soon and stop sounding like a gushing old fart (lovely image). Now we've broken the ice of ten years, I have high hopes of seeing lots more of Ellie, Ramzi and Zaki. I might even let them know I'm coming next time.
In the unlikely event that any readers find themselves in South Molton – do drop into Barika. The food's great and I can highly recommend the butternut squash soup which Ellie wouldn't let us pay for; you might not get it for free, though. I was too taken up in the moment to think of taking a photo of Barika and can't find one on the interweb, so as a pale substitute here's one of the pub just up the road where we did our all-too-brief catching up:
Postscript: BathNick left a couple of comments (click on "comments" below to read them) on this posting, one of which led me to a photo of Barika so I can now show Daily(ish) Millbrook readers Ellie and Ramzi's lovely cafe: