Tag Archives: cake

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.

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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.

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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.

 

TGIF

First job of the day was to wake up. I did not achieve total success in carrying out this task. My mistake had been uttering those immortal words “I’ll just have another few minutes.” I set my new phone to give me 15 more minutes and, 25 minutes after it went off, was found cuddling it affectionately to my bosom.

Julia soon put a stop to that.

We visited the Mencap garden next and I had a look at the progress made during the week. Julia is aiming to build some interest amongst group members and to tidy up a bit. It’s never going to be immaculate, and that isn’t the intention, but she is aiming to make the garden more productive and define the wildlife areas more clearly. We know from bitter experience that visitors are all to keen to complain about weeds, and that this always causes problems.

Then, after coffee and cake (the remains of our stash from Mrs Botham) it was time to go home. It also seemed a good time to take Julia’s new Facebook profile photo.  She always looks happier after cake.

I realise that cake for breakfast is probably frowned on by Big NHS Brother but what harm can a bit of cake do? The sultanas alone must be worth one of my five a day, and if they really want us to go to ten a day I’m going to struggle without cake.

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Great job, cake, wonderful husband – you just have to smile

From home, it was off to the anticoagulant clinic again. I won’t bore you will the details, but after struggling to get my blood to respond to anticoagulants they are now struggling to stop it responding. I let them flap for a bit, but as stress is a killer I decided not to worry about it.

Final job of the morning is checking out a few blogs and writing my first post of the day. That is now done, and after loading a few pictures I will be doing my first job of the afternoon, which is eating lunch. The other plans are collect prescription, shop for evening meal, visit duck pond, eat ice cream and watch Pointless.

In the evening I shall coerce Number One son into washing up, collect Number Two son from the station, cook tea, dispense unwanted fatherly advice on a variety of subjects, and complain that nobody speaks clearly these days. They will counter this final assertion by pointing to hearing aid adverts on the TV, though I may well be asleep before any come on.

 

 

Wandering, not lost

Not all those who wander are lost

J R R Tolkien

I dropped Julia off at work this morning. The gates into the school car park were open today, as it’s school holidays, so we were able to drive right up to the garden gates and unload plants. Yes, unload plants. We’re at it again, making up gardens from scrounged plants.

After that I took a turn through the countryside between Nottingham and Loughborough. It’s scenic, though unexciting countryside, with some pleasant villages. The weather was a bit dull for photography and I wasn’t on top of my game so there are no photographs today. If there were, they would be pictures of gently rolling countryside with lots of greenery.

The trouble was that I started off mentally listing the things I need to do to set my life right, I’ve been letting things drift over the last few years and need to get organised.

Unfortunately this line of thought has a habit of sliding into thoughts of things that went wrong, things I should have done better and bad decisions I have made. It’s often sparked off by looking at a biggish house and thinking “I could have had one like that if I’d worked harder and planned better.”

However, I enjoyed my life as an unprofitable antique dealer and gardener. I also enjoyed the unprofitable time I spent with the kids. And I have two neighbours who ply me with cake.

All in all, it could be worse.

Eventually, I decided I was lost. Strictly speaking I couldn’t have been lost because I wasn’t going anywhere. That’s often been the subject of some discussion between me and Julia when I’ve been happily exploring country lanes over the years. Just because I don’t know where I am doesn’t mean I’m lost. And if I’ve got nowhere particular to go I can’t be going the wrong way.

After that I succumbed to the lure of the Oxfam bookshop in West Bridgford. It’s been refitted since last time I was here and is much better lit and laid out. This isn’t necessarily a good thing as I liked the poky old shop. In fact part of the experience of buying second-hand books ought to be in the dim, cramped, slightly musty conditions.

I resisted the temptation to buy books on Shakespeare, Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III, but did buy books on Percy Toplis, Moorcroft Pottery and historical trivia.

The Moorcroft book cost me £3.49. It was originally £35. Unfortunately, just as I was feeling  economically prudent I took a look at the prices on the Moorcroft site.

I’m going for a nice lie down in a darkened room now.