Tag Archives: bookshop

The Scone Chronicles XIII

And yet again – no scones.

The venue was the bookshop at Brierlow Bar and though Julia looked carefully, she could see no scones.

She did, however, buy two slices of glistening home-made cake. It looked sumptuous. And delicious. And once again I had to relearn that tough life lesson that looks can be deceptive.

As you may have noticed, I’m not the cheeriest or most modern of people and I am suspicious of change. I’m still not fully convinced that the bookshop needed a cafe, or that a crowd of people and dogs is of benefit to a bookshop with narrow passageways. I’m almost certain that anyone who parks a pram in a gangway, so that fat men with walking sticks nearly fall over getting past, should be prosecuted by social services and their children put into a gloomy gothic orphanage.

In a way it’s a shame I didn’t fall as the combination of damp floor and blocked gangway is a dream for an ambulance chasing lawyer.

Much as I despise the current compensation culture it would be fun to sue and make a few cogent comments to the court about people running cafes in a space that should be filled with books.

I’m not sure whether I would then give the money to Julia for a new polytunnel or burn it on You Tube just to prove a point. (The point being that the money wasn’t important, not that I am stupid).

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Good in Parts

Anyway, back to the cake. It was apricot and some sort of nut. Julia was in “Bear of Very Little Brain” mode and forgot the details on the way from counter to table. You’d have thought she’d have been brighter after an hour and a quarter of top flight conversation with me in the car, but apparantly not.

It tasted a bit like walnut, but there was definitely a large identifiable piece of cashew in there too.

I said: “Cashew!”

Julia said: “Bless you.”

After you’ve been married 30 years this is what passes for humour.

It was confusing cake because some of it tasted of ginger too. The top, where the glaze had soaked in, was nice and moist, but the lower two thirds was dry and quickly reverted to crumbs. Fortunately we had cake forks to deal with this problem.

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Appearances can be deceptive

To sum up, and to put my personal bias to one side, the tea was good, as it always is (made with proper leaves and a strainer), the ambience is getting better as they sort things out, the cake could have been better, but even that wasn’t too bad, and the book stock seems to have improved.

I’m actually quite impressed with what they have done at Brierlow Bar, despite my resistance to the 21st Century.

 

A Bad Day – Part II (It Gets Better…)

The day started to improve as I finished the last post. There, amongst the photos of cacti were a few I’d forgotten from our visit to the garden centre. More scones! There will be a slight delay before I write that up as I want to do today’s report while it’s still fresh.

First stop was the doctor where Julia picked up a prescription and I sat in the car park making notes about people and their strange ways.Then it was up to Brierlow Bar for the tea and cake and books.

We ate at the cafe (which will feature in the next post) and bought some books. It seemed rude not to.

The cactus nursery at Matlock wasn’t obvious from the road and seemed semi-derilict when we drove in. We bought some succelents and some lithops but nothing particularly exciting. One of the factors was that they don’t have spines (which is probably a good thing for members of the group) and the other, as mentioned by the lady in the greenhouse, was that they are easy to propagate. We will see.

According to several write-ups on Trip Advisor there are collections of cacti in some of the other greenhouses and an enthusiastic owner. He was pleasant enough but didn’t seem inclined to enthuse when we spoke to him.

To be fair, we were only buying the cheapest cacti, where the other people were spending much more. However, when you are buying plants for people to kill it seems foolish to spend too much.

In the end it turned out to be a good day, despite the wind and rain.

Bad Day in Bakewell (and Brierlow Bar)

Well, it wasn’t actually a bad day, but when we went to the car park to leave I decided to use the toilet. This is what I found.

Sign at Bakewell, Derbyshire

Sign at Bakewell, Derbyshire

It would have been nice for them to have put up a big sign I could have seen earlier. Then I’d have been able to plan better.

Plan B, because I couldn’t be bothered to walk back into town, was to hang on until we got to our next stop – Brierlow Books.

The toilet bit of the shop visit went well, though there was a queue. There was a queue last time we called too – suggesting the facilities aren’t keeping up with the increasing number of customers. The book buying bit was a disaster, with nothing that caught my eye. So was the plan to buy a nice card for Julia’s sister’s birthday, as they no longer stock the cards we like. The whole place was congested and the two staff at the desk were offhand, to say the least, one to the point of rudeness, when Julia went to pay. This has never happened before – the staff (whatever I may think about the direction the shop is taking) have always been extremely pleasant over the years.

However, even this couldn’t spoil an enjoyable day. In fact, by falling short the bookshop cheered me up – I love it when predictions of doom come true.

You’ll have to read the next post to see why I was happy.

A Tale of Two Burgers (2)

On Wednesday, we took a tour of Derbyshire and, needing toilets, we stopped at the Brierlow Bar bookshop. The car park was more crowded than usual, so we deduced that the plan of converting from bookshop to cafe was working.

You can’t begrudge someone maximising their earnings, but it’s depressing to think of all this being done at the expense of the book stock.

The cake was good (we had a very nice, moist blueberry and lemon sponge), the tea was excellent but, and I am trying to suppress a smile here, standards are slipping.

Despite several members of staff bustling about, they were so slow serving that we had to eat very slowly to avoid finishing the cake before the tea arrived. As we ate and drank tea the staff then decided to talk of their urgent need for the toilet (it seems too many customers were using it). This isn’t going to spoil my appetite, but it may be upsetting for the less hardy type of customer.

The real killer moment came when a staff member with a paint pot walked behind the counter and added water to the paint from the kitchen sink. I know they like you to have one sink for hand washing and one for washing up, and, if possible, a third for vegetable preparation, but I’m not sure about paint dilution. It doesn’t contain pathogens so environmental health may not have an issue with it. On the other hand it doesn’t look very professional.

Use the outside tap, use the tap in the toilets or ask one of the kitchen staff to pass you a jug of water. Do not, if you value your reputation, walk behind the counter with a paint pot.

Even worse, in my eyes, was the fact that the tea strainer they gave us had not been washed properly. A couple of left-over tea leaves won’t kill you, but it does make you wonder what other hygiene corners are being cut.

At least I can report that the book stock seems not to have been pruned since our last visit and though some sections are still struggling the crime novels, cookery books and aviation sections seem to be improving.

I’ll leave it there, as I’m starting to remember the book stock we lost.

It looks like Part 3 will contain news of my second burger of the week.

 

More Grumbling

After we decided not to risk more garden centres we decided to drop down through the Peak District. This involved use of the satnav, and I have to say it didn’t cover itself in glory. For one thing, it kept interrupting our conversation with it’s constant chanting of taking second exits at roundabouts and turning left in 700 yards. No, I don’t know why 700 is seen as significant, that’s why it sticks in my mind. I’d be much more boring if I was designing a sat nav – 800 and 500 would do for me.

That, unfortunately, wasn’t the main problem. The infernal machine insists on using main roads, and is quite prepared to make a substantial detour to use dual carriageways and motorways, despite the map and common sense. That was how we found ourselves travelling through various unattractive industrial areas on dual carriageways, rather than the drama of the High Peak.

When we eventually got into the countryside we had an entertaining drive with some breathtaking views and impressive viaducts. Unfortunately these weren’t matched by equally impressive viewpoints, so there are no photos. I could have taken several photos of the back ends of traffic queues too, but I didn’t. Once you’ve seen the back of one car for twenty minutes, you’ve seen all you need for a lifetime.

We did manage some photos of the heather and snow fences  on the A628, just before we got to the really good scenery. Isn’t that always the way?

The good news is that we reached the bookshop in time to top up the cheese toasties with a restorative cup of tea and a good chunk of date and walnut cake. Dates and Walnuts are healthy aren’t they? Made into cake they are even better.

I do have some misgivings about the shop now the cafe is proving more popular. It’s difficult to put my finger on it, and even more difficult to defend my position, It has got to be good that the shop is more profitable, and I’m resigned to putting up with the inane chatter of customers and staff (who seem to spend more time yacking than serving) but I am concerned about the number of books, and the fact it’s getting more difficult to find books that I want to read.

We’d nearly finished the cake before the tea arrived, and struggled to find books. That, to me, means that a top class bookshop has now been replaced by a less good bookshop and a cafe that needs someone to get a grip.

Menus on clipboards, lamps made from vintage petrol cans (I shudder at the thought of the desecration) and mix-and-match crockery is all very well, but good tea, good cake and good service is essential. Two out of three isn’t good enough in this context. And the man in the kitchen needs to get some work done instead of loafing about chatting up the female staff.

If I was an anthropologist, or if he was a wild bird, I might find his courtship behavior interesting. But as a thirsty book-buyer, I really don’t need him droning on when he’d be better employed loading the dishwasher.

 

Beeston, Books and a Butterfly

I fell asleep in the car this morning. Fortunately I was in a car park. Julia. meanwhile, was at a meeting in the building attached to the car park. She was having similar trouble in keeping awake.

While she was being trained (I wish them luck – I’ve not managed to train her despite many years of effort), I went for a walk round Beeston. It’s a pleasant place, even in the rain, with a statue of a bee man, a cheap bookshop, an Oxfam bookshop and quite a few charity shops. The Sue Ryder shop has re-branded itself as a vintage and retro shop. That seems to mean it has a lot of old brown furniture.

I’ve been watching Money for Nothing on TV. The presenter goes round tips grabbing people as they throw things out and commissioning various artist/designers to make things from them. She pays them between £200 and £500 to convert the tat then sells it to specialist shops (usually making £50 – £200 profit). Goodness knows what the shops charge.

Apart from being envious of people who charge that sort of money with a straight face, I’m telling you this because the programme seems to take a lot of unsalable brown furniture, paint it and get big money for it. If you need any of it to start making a fortune try the Sue Ryder shop in Beeston.

Call me cynical if you like, but it all strikes me as a modern version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everybody in the trade is happy slapping paint about and charging £500 for a £15 piece of furniture. But just let one small child ask why people don’t just paint their own…

Anyway, enough about con tricks perpetrated on people with more money than sense, let’s talk about butterflies.

When we arrived home Julia had a good look at the plants in the front garden. There, sheltering from the wind, was a Small Copper. They are common and widespread according to the books but I’ve never seen that many of them and this is the first I’ve seen in our garden. It’s also the only one I’ve ever photographed, as the previous one was pictured by Julia as it rested on my hand.

Apparently the three white spots on the lower wings are an aberration, as listed on the website. Proper naturalists are interested in things like that.

As for the books I mentioned earlier, I limited myself to seven. This includes a book of historical craft projects and a cheap book about butterflies. These are both for Julia, so I don’t feel so bad about the others, which will be revealed in due course.

 

 

Derbyshire goes Downhill

Having successfully taken photos of Wingfield Manor we cut up through Crich, noted the crowds at the Tramway Museum and discovered the Crich Memorial was closed. Looking at the website on my return I found it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I didn’t know that.

In Matlock we noticed crowds in the paddling pool and on the boating lake, A hula hoop, if thrown at random, would have dropped round two or three people, more if you;d aimed at the ice cream queue. The cricket club and football club were both open for use as parking at £3 for the day. That’s very reasonable – at Nottingham RUFC we used to charge £5 for football parking because we were close to Nottingham Forest. It makes a useful contribution to club funds. I notice that the football club charges spectators £10 to watch. Seems like a lot of money. but maybe I’m biased. I’m sure it’s cheap by football standards but it seems like a lot for 90 minutes of semi-pro Level 7 football.

So, knowing that Derbyshire was likely to be crowded due to sun and school holidays we pressed on to Eyam, intending to visit Eyam Hall in the famous plague village.

As you may have been able to predict, both pathetically small car parks were full, street parking was difficult and the nearest public car park was too far away for a man with arthritic feet. We will go back later in the year (hopefully before the school holidays start in earnest) to have a look at the Craft Centre and the Tea Room. We might have a look at the historical and cultural bits if we have time between cakes and retail.

After a certain amount of random travel, failing to find convenient parking for photography and being hassled by lorries, we found the bookshop at Brierlow Bar (again). The tea, as you can see in the featured photograph was a nice, bright, orange colour, though the table was overburdened with foliage and the cafe as a whole was deficient in cake. If you look closely you can see Julia’s amber earings (as mentioned in a previous post) and her new amber necklace.

 

Creamless cream tea - TESCO Chesterfield

Talking of tea, we went home via Chesterfield, partly to avoid a long section of roadworks at Matlock and partly to go shopping. This isn’t really part of the travelogue, but I do want to record that TESCO’s cafe had no cream for the cream teas. They did offer squirty cream out of an aerosol as an alternative and  I tried not to let out an anguished cry. Judging by the reaction of people around me, I did not succeed.