Tag Archives: cafe

Requiem for a Bookshop

There was a time you could go to the bookshop at Brierlow Bar, browse an interesting selection of books, buy a few nice greeting cards, have a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat, listen to the elderly gents discussing steam railways and come away feeling relaxed.

It was, to be honest, a bookshop from a different time and it probably wasn’t very profitable.

Judging by the crowd in the cafe it’s much more profitable now. But ithe profits, unfortunately, don’t seem to have been used for upgrading, or even maintaining, the toilets.

In terms of stock, we couldn’t buy any cards this time, as the ones we liked seem to be out of stock.

The Natural History selection seemed a bit bigger this time and the poetry seems to have grown a little in quantity, though the quality has, I think, declined. They still have a good selection of History and Military History but Julia wasn’t able to find anything in her line this time. I quite like travel and cookery books but I haven’t been able to find any decent ones for a couple of years now – both victims of the increased cafe space/reduced book-shelving.

It is also more difficult to get round, as the gangways were always quite narrow and the increasing customer numbers make access quite difficult at times, particularly as so many of them seem to drift round aimlessly and clutter the place up.

There was only one dog in today, but it was barking quite a lot. It was only a pup (though an Alsatian pup, so quite large) and the owner was bribing it to stay quiet by giving it treats. Or teaching it that if it barked it would get treats. For me this goes to prove that people should have to pass a test before being allowed to have a dog. Judging from the evidence of her kids it wouldn’t be a bad thing to make them pass a test before breeding either.

I did manage to buy a few books so it wasn’t a wasted journey, but I’m afraid it’s going to be the last time we treat it as the main destination for a day out.

Apart from the access issues, the toilets and the stock, I just don’t feel relaxed there now, and the cafe reminds me too much of what happened to our kitchen on the farm, even down to the cliched decor.

I wish them well. They’ve invested time and money in the place and made it much more lively, and presumably a more viable business. However, it’s lost something in the process and it’s not the pleasant, relaxing experience it used to be. I suppose that’s the story of life.

If you want to read a selection of opposite views try this site. Lots of people love it, and they all seem to love it in the same formulaic way. If I was a suspicious man I’d think someone was rigging the reviews. However, having seen some of the customers it’s more likely that they all belong to the Stepford Wives reading group.

There are some very informative negative reviews too, some of which echo my feelings.

I did like a few of the quirkier ones – like the one where they ate, spent an hour browsing and then bought a book.

Or the one where they found it a good place to while away a few hours with the kids.

Presumably they also spent a lot of time cluttering the place up and getting in the way of grumpy old gits like me.

In conclusion I will leave you with a nightmare vision of the future, where you can’t buy books in bookshops or plants in garden centres because they have all expanded their cafes and gift sections until there is no room for actual stock…

And having unburdened my soul of this sorrow I will enter the New Year as a happier man.

Happy New Year to you all.

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.

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.

 

Guess Where We Went Today?

The sign might be a giveaway. We started off with breakfast at Harvester, which featured rubber sausages and a severe lack of melon or crumpets. I rather disgraced myself with a couple of muffins as an alternative, despite the no bread and potatoes rule. I suppose they were under pressure with having a surge for half-term. However, they were still charging the same price so they should provide the same service.

From there we went to the garden to drop off plastic crates and donated bird feeders. Then, via an ill-fated “shortcut” we dropped into Derbyshire. At one point, with the hedges nearly touching the door mirrors and a strip of grass growing down the centre of the road, Julia started her impression of duelling banjoes…

We eventually found civilisation, in the shape of the Homebase DIY store at Ashbourne, where we bought a bag of Scottish River Cobbles and some half-price violas. It cost £10 for a bag of rocks, which Julia is going to use in a project. I was all for stopping by a river and helping ourselves to some for free but Julia pointed out that this would be irresponsible and illegal. For the purposes of the blog I’ll pretend that this was what stopped me doing it.

From there we drove into the low cloud to visit the High Peak Bookstore and Cafe. As you can see from the header picture, grey is creeping in and the cafe is getting more space on the sign. This is true in physical space too. The cookery books have been removed and were being replaced with jars of jam on the former bookshelves. We were able to sit and watch this act of sacrilage when we visited.

Tripadvisor is full of upbeat comments about book stock and prices. They must be being visited by people all love thing the same thing, and I am out of step. The fact that the shop reply is always identical adds to the impression of sameness.

The tea and cake were good and the book selection is generally holding up well though the nature section has still not recovered and the craft books are now starting to suffer. It could still be OK, but I’m still concerned. Last time I went head to head against a cafe I came off second best.

On the way back I tried a few photographs. Light hadn’t been good during the day but the view was pleasantly misty and as it coincided with passing a lay-by I thought I’d have a go. As luck would have it, the camera managed to get rid of the atmospheric haze and I resorted to the effects button.

 

 

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.

 

The New Cafe

In the last few years of our time on the farm there was a certain amount of conflict, which I hope I managed to conceal in the blog.

There were two schools of thought – one being that the kitchen had been built to deliver educational sessions and promote healthy eating. This was a view shared by me, Julia, the funders and several other people.

Then there was the view that it existed as a plaything for the farmer and his sister to hold family parties and loss-making social activities.

I think we know who won.

Looking at it now, it seems our (short-lived) replacements did a lot of work and appear to have transformed it into a replica of a South American shanty, including corrugated iron, re-used wood and coffee sacks. You half expect Indiana Jones to stroll in.

Unfortunately, the kitchen, despite the extension,The End is not now a practical venue for teaching. It will, once they have staff again, be an interesting place to eat, but we will no longer be teaching a thousand kids a year to make pizza or scones.

Nor, I feel, will it host the bread group again.

The final photograph is a young Wren. There were five of them but this was the best I could do. They are so quick! It’s a cheerful way to end the post, and a reminder of all the broods the Wrens have reared round the centre in the last five years.

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Wren at Screveton

 

 

Flower Beds and Disillusionment

I turned on my computer tonight and was not pleased to see a message that it was 51% through downloading a load of improvements. Thirty minutes later it is complete. Guess how happy I am. You never had this nonsense in the old days.

Anyway, here are some photographs of the newly extended kitchen on the farm. Note how they are burning perfectly good timber and how the pizza oven and barbecue area have been demolished. Great use of resources…

Flower beds have been wiped out, the allotment area looks like a desert and the money spent on rabbit-proof fencing has all come to nothing. However, it’s been replaced by elements of design like the “flower bed”, so it’s bound to be popular.

No matter what we say about air miles and local produce a lot of people still want colour coordinated doors and table numbers written on wooden spoons. To be fair, it does look more attractive than the old set up, but it’s been at the expense of evicting our group and emptying the bank account we filled so laboriously.

Is it worth it?

Well, I’m not the best person to ask.