Tag Archives: cake

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).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 Rest from Scones

Time, I think, for a change of gear.

We went to Harlow Carr on Tuesday, the Yorkshire coast on Wednesday and Lincolnshire today. On Thursday I went to see my Dad. I’ve eaten scones, sandwiches and afternoon tea, plus a vegan sausage roll. I’ve ticked off another pier and another non-pier. And I have been to three garden centres

As I sit here typing I’m trying to digest two slices of Mrs Botham’s excellent Date & Walnut Spelt Cake. I would have been happy with one slice but Julia likes to ensure I’m well fed. I looked in the mirror last night and can confirm that she is succeeding in her endeavour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scones at Bettys – Devon Style or Cornish Style?

Devon Style – Cream first, then jam on top. Cornish Style – Jam first, then cream on top.

A few days without cake, some exercise and a meal or two consisting of vegetable soup may be in order.

Tonight’s healthy tea was veggie burgers (pumpkin, spinach and quinoa from Tesco’s freezer) with potatoes and organic baked beans.

I thought I’d try something healthy but the beans cost more and had less flavour than the normal budget beans. Back to budget beans, I think.

I did the shopping in Corby last night, on my way back from Peterborough. If you know about Corby you won’t be surprised to learn I bought tinned haggis in addition to veggie burgers and organic beans. Actually you might be surprised – I was. Until last night I didn’t even know it existed.

Sorry for the repeat photos – I wanted to go further back but WP is stopping me.

Tea, scones and sunshine. Bettys, Harlow Carr

Tea, scones and sunshine. Bettys, Harlow Carr

 

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.

 

Lagging Behind, and Misery in Derbyshire

It’s Wednesday today and I’m still blogging about Monday.

Eventually we reached Carsington Water, where I discovered I had left my stick at home. Though I have a spare one in the car it is one of my Dad’s and is about two inches too short. It actually causes more problems than it solves and is only there for emergencies.

It was a handy excuse for not walking round and freezing. So we went to the shops. Julia spent the points off the RSPB loyalty card on crackers and cards and I poked through the books and bird food before deciding that I didn’t feel like spending money.  I never feel like spending money, but at Christmas I can at least get into the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge and claim I’m entering the spirit of Christmas.

We went into the Air Ambulance charity shop after that. It was a miserable experience.  They seemed to have taken delivery of a new consignment of stock, and most of it was stacked in front of the books so I couldn’t see the interesting books.  To make things worse, the staff member who was on duty seemed to go out of her way to obstruct Julia as she tried to look round. It takes a lot to wind Julia up but she wasn’t very pleased by the time she’d finished.

We like the air ambulance, and though the kids never needed it, we have been at events where other rugby players have been whisked off for treatment. We also like charity shops. Things are bad when I use the words “miserable experience” about a visit.

I was able to look at a cookery book – James Martin’s Great British Winter Cookbook. I won’t add a link as that might tempt someone to buy it. None of the recipes grabbed me, and one, Tomato and Cumin Soup, didn’t seem particularly British or wintery. I mean, where are all the winter tomatoes? In Spain.

Then we went for tea and cake. A day that features tea and cake can’t be all bad can it? And the restaurant is always good. I say “always”…

Julia liked her mince pie. I thought my raspberry and orange cake was a bit dry. And deficient in raspberries, though as I served myself I only had myself to blame. Then I started to think I detected the aftertaste of artificial sweetener. It may not have been, but it was definitely an unpleasant aftertaste.

To cheer things up I suggested a trip to the bookshop at Brierlow Bar.  I wasn’t expecting much, but as we were on the doorstep thought we might as well go.  To be fair, some of the book stock does seem to be improving, after a bit of a slump, as does the card stock. However, we bought cards and stationery and no books, which doesn’t look good for the future.

We couldn’t even eat cake as we are dieting and had already had our daily ration.

In my dreams of next year I see myself standing outside the shop with my nose pressed up against the window looking in at the bright lights. Inside, people enjoy tea and cake, buy expensive bird food and select books that I wouldn’t enjoy.

Sadly, I cannot participate and I gradually fade away like the ghost of readers past…

I will leave you with that picture.

The next post will be more cheery.

 

Reflections, Shopping and Scent

We went to the doctor his morning as Julia has now been caught up in the excitement of the endless round of blood tests and unwanted health advice. She had two appointments so I waited in the car park and did some paperwork.

After that we had breakfast and headed off for Springfields. I first went there when I was a small child, feeling like I was being punished by being made to walk round ornamental gardens full of tulips. On a really bad day we had to stand and watch an entire tulip festival. It was like a visit to the garden but the tulips drove past, so you didn’t even get the excitement of walking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Fragrance Shop, Springfields

There are clearly big savings to be had if you like scent. However, as I am explaining to Julia, reflected in the window, it still looks expensive to me. Aftershave, as you may gather from looking at my reflection, does not play a big part in my life.

The gardens were looking good in the sun, though the autumn colour has been disappointing this year. I’m sure we will be back in Spring and will take more pictures, which will give a better idea of the gardens and sculptures.

Things don’t change much, even after the passage of fifty years. There’s a large shopping complex and garden centre built on half the gardens now, but as I walk round the shops with Julia I still get the feeling of being punished. Only the presence of a bookshop lightens my load.

And cake. Even the worst pre-Christmas shopping trip can be brightened by the presence of a good slab of clementine drizzle cake.

 

Birthdays and Blue Butterflies

It was the Birthday Party today, and we had cake. It was actually an 86th birthday rather than an 85th, as I previously said, so I got an extra year for free.

I also got a present, even though it isn’t my birthday. Bill has completed a marathon cutting session and gave me 112 pieces of wood. Eventually they will become 16 nest boxes, but for now they are merely a dream.

Combined ages 169!

Combined age 169 years and still eating cake

On the way down to the farm I stopped for a few minutes to take some photographs of bales in a field when a blue flash fluttered past. It took a bit of stalking but I eventually got a decent shot.

The tractor is in that phase of restoration where the Men in Sheds have actually removed even more bits in order to get at other bits that need mending. If you look at the back wheel you may be able to pick out the cardboard box they are using to make a gasket. Farmers and Mne in Sheds rarely spend money when they can cut up the box the cake came in.

P8252240.JPGP8252252.JPG

P8252248.JPGP8252245.JPG

There is evidence of progress as some parts have been put back. I could start a competition asking people to compare the last post and see what has been done. But I won’t.

There’s certainly been more done to the tractor than the butterfly garden. The dwarf buddleias are now getting on for 6 feet tall and the full size ones are 9 foot monsters. There were plenty of Small Tortoiseshells (about 20 I should think) but only a handful of whites and a solitary Peacock.

You’d think that a wild and unkempt garden was best for wildlife but according to something I read recently it isn’t true. An untidy garden is good, and better for wildlif,e than a totally wild one. Strangely, the monster buddleias are acconpanied by patches of bare earth where useful plants (like borage and daisies) have been ripped out and little has grown back due to shadows and inhospitable clay.

This is certainly true for photography – the out of control buddleia makes it a lot harder to get decent photos.

The last six guineafowl are still around (the white one refused to be photographed) and several of the bantams seem to be living the free-range lifestyle. They were too quick for me to get a decent shot, but they are looking good.

Fortunately I was luckier with my morning and evening visits to Julia’s garden, which I will report on later.

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.