Tag Archives: cafe

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.

 

 

 

Stone Faces of Southwell

We had a walk round the outside of Southwell Minster yesterday. We’ve never looked round the outside properly before, and we didn’t have time for a full tour.

The Minster is actually the cathedral for the Diocese of Nottingham, but it keeps the old title as part of what seems to be a policy of keeping itself hidden. Even its own website refers to it as ” the best kept secret among the forty-two English cathedrals”.

As The Association of English Cathedrals lists 44 on its website I have a suspicion that there are two English Cathedrals that are kept even more secret than Southwell. This might be explained by the presence of Royal Peculiars in the longer list. But it may not. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is full of examples of why it’s a good thing to keep out of church business, so I’m not going to dig any deeper.

Seen from the winding country roads that serve Southwell, it is a breath-taking building. I will cover it more fully in the Spring, when the light is better for photography, but for now, here is a selection from the carvings scattered around the outside, some from the 12th century, some from more modern restorations.

The ones at ground level are on the wall of the Bishop’s Palace, though I’m not sue if they started off there.

The ones from the Minster look quite crisp so I suspect they are from recent restoration work.

To round off the visit we visited the tearoom for parsnip soup with artisan bread from Welbeck. Unfortunately, for a man looking forwards to a chunk of traditional bread, it was a rather thin panini that arrived, cut to a point at one end then baked crisp before serving. It was more like a crusty weapon that a meal. The soup was excellent though.

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Soup and a dangerous panini

The misty effect was unintended, it was actually condensation on the lens as the warm air of the cafe met the cold of the camera. The perspective makes the bread look bigger than it really was, and the soup bowl look smaller. That’s what happens when a hungry man decides to photograph his food.