I am not going to say anything about the NHS today as my head might explode with fulminating wrath. The surgery and Pharmacy are, I appreciate, under pressure because nearly everyone is off due to being pinged by Track and Trace. However, that doesn’t excuse all the stupidity that occurred today, both with the surgery and the Pharmacy.
I want two things. I want to be allowed to put my own sticking plasters on my toe and I want my prescriptions dispensed accurately. Today I was, yet again, disappointed n both things.
I will say no more, but it does follow a pattern, as the National Lottery, once again, failed to deliver at the weekend. I hardly buy any tickets these days, as I know I won’t win, but, at a low point, and feeling that £71,000,000 might cheer me up, I did buy a ticket last week. If I’d have ignored the urge I would be £2.50 better off, and would not be feeling let down by those adverts that depict the lucky winner sitting by a swimming pool.
However, I would like to point out that if I had £71 million in the bank, I wouldn’t be wasting my time sitting by a swimming pool. I’d be reading in my magnificent library, breaking off at times to write as inspiration struck, and to dictate my blog posts to a secretary who understood how the block editor worked. At around 3.30 I would stop to sip tea and eat exquisite pastries with Julia.
Sadly, it is just a dream, but if I ever do come into a large amount of cash be assured that I will be equal to the challenge of spending it wisely. At the moment I’m just trying to work out whether I would have my own pastry chef or whether I would have cakes collected from Mrs Botham’s by one of the domestic staff. With great wealth comes a mass of complex decisions.
I’m torn between wonder that I have got to Number 39, and a sense of lost that Covid has presented me getting to Number 70, which is where it ought to be. I could try harder, and I didn’t even photograph the scones – just the gift box. It’s even taken me a month to get round to writing it up.
The Scones in question arrived in a small cardboard box from Bettys in Harrogate. My sister had ordered them on line as a treat for us. no particular reason, just because she’s a nice person. I will refer to it as a hamper, despite it being disguised as a cardboard box.
Bettys Hamper – tea, scones, cake and jam
The blue box contains tea, the brown protects the jar of strawberry jam and the other two explain themselves.
The scones had been in transit for a day and it took us another day to get clotted cream(if you’re going to have afternoon tea you may as well have all the calories and fat that go with it. Despite this, and my sister’s worries, they were still fresh.
They were also very good.
Unfortunately, Bettys advertise themselves in a way that suggests they are the best in the world, and they aren’t. Generally I’d be happy with scones that were this good, but Bettys make a rod for their own back – they really need to up their game if they want to match the adverts.. See here for more comments on this, and for a comment on the dropping of the apostrophe in the name – this criticism still stands. If you can’t be bothered to put an apostrophe in your logo what else can’t you be bothered to do?
The jam was excellent, as good as any strawberry jam I’ve ever had. It’s quite runny and has an intense flavour that grabs you under the ears (“meks yer tabs laugh” as they say in Nottingham). Top marks for that.
Same goes for the Yorkshire Tea Loaf – very good. We actually bought more scones and managed to make the contents of the box into three afternoon teas, which was even better than just having it for one. It was jam and cream scones the first day. jam and cream scone with Tea Loaf for the second day and jam scones with tea loaf the second day. It lasted well.
The tea, I’m afraid to say, was a bit overpowering for my taste, though that may be a fault of my water rather than the tea.
It was, as I recall £16 when I looked it up, which is good value, including next day delivery. At the moment they have a Christmas themed selection which doesn’t strike me as such great value.
If you are looking for a hamper you could try Mrs Botham. Botham’s of Whitby offer great food, excellent pork pies, and a reasonably-priced selection, plus they treat apostrophes with proper respect.
We had tea and cake in the garden this afternoon. As Julia had gone to the trouble of baking banana bread I thought this called for a revival of the Scone Chronicles.
She has been working away in the garden all lockdown and the patio is looking like the sort of place you might find a new species of beetle. Or even a lost tribe.
As you can see, we also had Battenberg, though that came from the shop. Life really is too short to make your own Battenberg. We’ve had Battenberg nearly every week since the start of lockdown, which is one of the brighter spots of the last couple of months.It’s a very reliable cake, and usually cheap. Other budget cakes can be a bit hit and miss, while other, pricier, cakes can be be covered in calories and three or four times more expensive. There is a case to be made which suggests Battenberg is an aid to dieting, but that might be pushing it a bit, even for me.
Banana Bread and Battenberg
The banana bread was excellent – moist, tasty and light without being soggy or crumbling. Fortunately we still have some left. This is the advantage of afternoon tea at home – plenty of chance for second helpings. I won’t recommend it too heartily as I don’t want to have to queue for a table next time I’m here. It is possible for venues to become too popular and I don’t like crowds.
It’s back to work tomorrow. However, the good news is that I have two days off after that.
As I sit and think, it occurs to me that about 68 years ago my parents were married in the time of sugar rationing. I’m now, despite the recent shortages from panic buying, able to buy more sugar than is good for me. History can be a strange thing.
Later we had banana bread for supper with a nice cup of tea. It was slightly drier than when we had last eaten it, but still good. We have enough left for a couple of good slices, but will probably butter them.
Is it just me. or does the position of dried fruit and plate decoration make this slice look like a face?
I’m short of subjects and enthusiasm, so here are a few photos to cheer the day up. I hope I can write something later, but if I can’t there are worse things to do than post pictures of Puffins and think of Mrs Botham’s delicious fresh sandwiches and cakes.
On Monday I packed parcels, as usual, then returned home for lunch. We ate what could best be called a fusion lunch (corned beef hash and pasta bake) to empty the fridge and set off on holiday.
By this time my left hand, the one with the arthritic little finger, started to feel distinctly more arthritic.
We drove through Lincolnshire, reached Norfolk and stopped for coffee at at a roadside McDonald’s. It was there that we had a phone call from Julia’s brother to tell us that the government was banning all unnecessary travel and that hotels were to be closed to act as hospitals.
We made a phone call of our own, to establish that the Travelodge was still open. It was. Listening to the radio we established that the situation was advisory, rather than a Draconian clampdown (which would come later).
We decided that as we were most of the way there the rest of our journey fell into the “necessary” category.
By evening my hand was very swollen and all the fingers were impersonating bananas. I did wonder about getting my wedding ring cut off at one point, but it didn’t quite get bad enough. I had to have it done once after injuring my finger playing rugby with the kids and it’s a simple enough procedure if you know someone with the right tool. The only problem is cutting through the hallmarks, which is a nuisance but doesn’t really affect it in wear once you weld it back again.
We had quite a good time over the next few days, with chips at Aldeburgh, a family meal at Beefeater and Afternoon Tea at the Hatfield Hotel in Lowestoft. Unfortunately I can’t get the photos off the card, so that’s three Scone Chronicles you won’t be getting. The chips on the beach were great, the family meal was excellent and the afternoon tea had the best sandwiches I’ve had so far in the series. It also had sausage roll, a cheese straw, a cheese scone, onion chutney, a fruit scone and a lot of cake. In fact, we needed a doggy bag.
Aldeburgh and Southwold were busy. People are fleeing from London and living in their second homes. They obviously think that the fresh air will preserve them from illness.
The Scallop at Aldeburgh – Julia adding colour and a sense of purpose
On the final day (which was last Thursday, and technically makes this Nine Days I Wouldn’t Want Again) we stopped at the TESCO opposite the Travelodge. Julia offered to pop in for bread and milk while I sat in the car – she is a jewel amongst wives. She reported long queues, empty selves and bad-humoured queuing. There were lines to stand behind and a ban on cash – all the shops are using the crisis to make another attempt at driving cash out of use.
On the way back we stopped at a Garden Centre to meet my sister. In contrast to TESCO it was a good-natured place with full shelves and only about a dozen customers in the place. We had tea and cake and remarked that it really needed a tumbleweeed to add the final touch.
Social distancing had needed three days to take hold, but seemed to be working.
Of course, the Government was on its way to another panic by then…
Today we selected Afternoon Tea. This proved to be a good decision.
At £12.95 it’s a mid-range option compared to the prices of the other teas we’ve had (though the comparison is with the special offer price at the St James Hotel).
It’s a typical Mrs Botham’s production, with freshly made sandwiches and a bit of salad with citrus dressing. This dressing did make a couple of the sandwiches soggy on the lower edge, as they were served on the same plate, but it wasn’t much of a problem as they didn’t have long to wait before consumption, and it’s all going to end up in the same place anyway.
They were a definite level up from the curly Bettys sandwiches. They may have benefitted from some variety of brown bread, but let’s be honest, there is a reason why soft white bread is a top seller.
Apart from being fresh they were also well-filled, the cucumber being particularly good.
The cakes were, for me, the least good bit of the meal. They were good and fresh, being baked by Bothams and sold in the shop downstairs. The meringue was fine, and about twice the size of the St James one.
The chocolate thing (my command of cakey vocabulary is buckling under the strain here) seemed to have a biscuit in it, probably with hazel nuts, and was difficult to manage with a cake fork, though it did break up when bitten, It was OK, but I wouldn’t go and buy one in the shop as a result of the one I ate.
The fondant fancy was lovely, but rather sweet. And if I say it’s too sweet that is serious sugar, as I’m not known for my sensitivity to sugar. The icing was too sweet and the creamy bit inside was too large and too sweet. I’m a lover of fondant fancies, so this is hurting me to write.
The scones were nice and soft with good texture. We had a clotted cream portion each and it was a perfect way to round off the meal, along with another cup of tea. The tea was prompt and plentiful and there was a jug of hot water to top the pot up.
Sandwiches – they best we’ve had. The salad was good, though you know my thoughts on salad. Cakes too sweet. Scone – lovely. Tea – excellent. Surroundings and service – excellent.
So far, this is the winner.
Did I mention the pork pies? We brought some home. I had one for tea, with a cheese scone and soup, and had one for lunch with my sandwiches. Don’t be tempted by the pork and apple.
If you are in Yorkshire looking for an afternoon tea, I’d definitely go for Botham’s in preference to Bettys.
This, of course, brings me to another point. Bettys has dropped the apostrophe and Botham’s have kept it. I think the lesson is clear here. Old fashioned values still rule where Afternoon Tea is concerned.
Please note the picture of the stair-lift leading up to the tea room – they know their market!
Sorry, I had intended managing one instalment of the Scone Chronicles a week, but we haven’t been out much this year and when we do go out it tends to be repetitive. Added to that, I don’t always take photos, I don’t want to admit to all the rubbish I eat and I’m not always very efficient.
This post has been maturing like a fine wine, for over a week. This probably tells you something about my definition of “fine wine”. That, in turn, reminds me of the wine kits they used to sell in Boots chemists thirty years ago. No, forty years ago…
How time flies.
However, I will return to the subject of scones rather than drift off on a digression relating to cheap wine.
Julia’s brother and sister-in-law have been up to visit and invited us to Afternoon Tea at the St James Hotel in Nottingham.
The review is a bit tricky because I don’t want to criticise a meal I’ve been treated to. Fortunately, after we’d left, the in-laws said it wasn’t a patch on their local tearoom and was more on a par with the local Patisserie Valerie. That’s not meant to be a slur on Patisserie Valerie, because they are a chain and a chain does things differently to somewhere claiming to be a boutique hotel. Or it should do.
It is, considering the deal they do, a very good value budget Afternoon Tea – if their website is correct, afternoon tea for two costs slightly less than afternoon tea for one at Bettys. If you don’t get the discount, it’s still a lot cheaper. However, don’t be fooled by the picture on the website, the sandwich fillings were much less generous in real life and the cake selection was not as good.
In fact, the sandwich fillings could accurately be described as meagre, the cakes and scones all seemed to be mass produced and they really should have been quicker on bringing the tea.
However, they surroundings are pleasant, and not as crowded as Bettys at Harlow Carr. The company was, as you would expect, excellent, and the neighbours were sufficiently far away as to be part of the background chatter, again, unlike Bettys.
So – comparisons.
Scones with jam and cream
Cakes at Bettys were far better. Sandwich fillings at Bettys were better. Scones at Bettys were better (and not dusted with icing sugar – I hate it when they do that).
However, sandwiches at St James’s were fresher, surroundings were more relaxing and the cost was more affordable.
At St James we got one pot of clotted cream between two of us – it’s enough, but it’s the only place I’ve ever been that does that. Don’t know whether I’m happy not to clot my arteries or unhappy at being short-changed.
I’m not sure which was better value, as they both had their good points, and both had their less good points. Nor am I sure if either is worth repeating.
I suppose I’ll just have to keep eating until I find a better place.
(Sorry about the quality of the photography – low lighting).
I have a report to write on yesterday’s Afternoon Tea and a brief biography of Private Dunkerley, the man commemorated on the memorial plaque I pictured yesterday.
Both things will take some concentration to do properly and, to be honest, after a day of high temperature and poor ventilation I’m not feeling up to the job. Tomorrow will be soon enough.
Meanwhile, here is Julia at the specially painted post box in the Market Square. It celebrates England winning the Cricket World Cup.
I’m guessing they won’t win it again in my lifetime.
She was in cheerful mood after eating an Afternoon Tea in the company of her brother and sister-in-law.
Tomorrow we are lunching with both brother and sisters-in-law, plus niece and great-nephew. It’s an important time in the child’s development as his father is a great football fan and we are just waiting for the right time for granddad and the wicked uncles to nip that nonsense in the bud and get him playing with a rugby ball.
I’m going to have to keep an eye on Julia as seeing so much family at one time could lead to all sorts of jovial consequences. I have to be constantly on my guard against outbreaks of cheerfulness, as you never know what it can lead to.
After some more garden viewing (which I promise I will get round to) we had a look at the alpines, walked round the plant shop, marvelled at the woollen compost and browsed the bookshop. We probably need at least one more day here to see the rest of the garden, if not two. Fortunately, with being members, we don’t have to pay extra each time we visit.
There had been a queue out of the door of Bettys when we had arrived (the main one, not the shed in the garden) but that had gone by the time we got out of the bookshop, so I suggested a cup of tea. I knew Julia had always liked the idea of afternoon tea, and that Bettys was a famous tearoom, so what better plan could a man have to treat his wife?
We had to wait by a sign, a bit like Little Chef. Then, after a man in a suit showed us to another sign, we had to wait again. Another man in a suit showed us to a table. This was quite a cosy arrangement, with us being close enough to the neighbouring tables to join in the conversation. In fact, we were so close it was difficult to avoid. You probably know from previous posts that I’m a bit of an eavesdropper, but I like it to be an option, rather than an inevitable consequence of crowded tables.
On one side a middle-aged woman talked to her mother about Doctor Who, before going on to use a noisy game on her phone.
On the other side two women in their mid-30s discussed work, dating and drinking. I know how old they were because it came up in the conversation. If only that was the only thing I knew about them…
Eventually, the food arrived.
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At £19.50 each, I was expecting something quite good. It may not be expensive compared to the £58 charged by The Ritz, but it’s still enough to pay for a few sandwiches and a bit of cake.
So, was it good?
The waitress was very pleasant. The tea (loose leaf this time) was very good. The tiny cakes were good too – a fruit tart, a rich chocolate cake and a citrus macaroon.
I liked the sandwich fillings too – cream cheese and cucumber, smoked salmon, ham and mustard and coronation chicken. I normally steer clear of coronation chicken, but I really enjoyed this one. Good flavours and plenty of filling.
The scone, though not boxed or pre-jammed, was much the same as the earlier one. Note how I have avoided the jam/cream debate by doing one of each.
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So far it’s not setting my world on fire, but it’s pretty good. What spoiled it was the bread.
Two of my sandwiches were dry. One of them had the suspicion of a curl. Two of Julia’s were a touch dry too, though not as bad as mine. That’s a pretty basic error. In my naivety I’d assumed they’d be made to order but they obviously weren’t.
I was actually so annoyed by it that I nearly complained. However, Julia doesn’t like it when I complain, and it was supposed to be her treat, so I let it slide. That doesn’t mean I can’t complain on the blog.
My verdict – if you can’t make fresh sandwiches you don’t deserve a good mark for an afternoon tea. It’s so basic it’s ridiculous not to get it right. It was excellent in parts, but that’s not what you remember. You remember the lacklustre scone, the dry bread and the feeling of being herded.
Without the dry bread you’d probably remember the excellent cake and sandwich fillings. Though I suspect you’d still think it lacked the elegance you’d hoped for.
Excellent cake at Bettys
It was pleasant enough, and not bad value in terms of afternoon teas, but I expected more from the Bettys hype and, to be honest, I don’t expect dried bread from anyone.
We will take a flask and sandwiches next time we visit, though we may well visit one of their other Bettys tearooms and give them another chance.
We’re back from the bread session, and the temperature has risen to 31 degrees. There’s a light breeze, but it’s not really helping.
In the care home everyone was so hot, despite the application of medicinal ice cream, that they found it hard to raise the enthusiasm. I didn’t get an ice cream, despite my sterling efforts at bread plaiting and various other forced jollity. However, as you can see from the main photo, I have now gathered my hot weather survival kit (fan and ice cream) and am feeling much better.
Only one lady could raise the enthusiasm to comment on my plait.
“I don’t like plaited bread.”
That put me in my place.
Another lady had been a sausage-maker in the family butchery business and many others had baked in school, so we did do some good by bringing back old memories.
However, “From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success” as they say.
Next time we are going to make sure we have a cooler day (as if we have a choice!) and we will make pizza. If there’s one thing I can do well for an audience, it’s make pizza. And, when we have our (yet to be) famous afternoon tea sessions with Quercus we are going to invite them out to the farm. Some have been to a bread-making session here and enjoyed it, others prefer not to travel. They might travel for tea and cakes. I know I would.
I’d better get planning those afternoon tea sessions…