Author Archives: tearoomdelights

About tearoomdelights

I started my Tearoom Delights blog (in January 2012) in order to write pretty much exclusively about tearooms. Nowadays I prefer to vary the topics I write about, with only the occasional tearoom thrown in for good measure. I live in Scotland, and love lots of things about this country, although not always the weather.

What to do on a cold day in January

At the end of January last year the delightful assistants and I took ourselves off to one of the surprising number of large parks surrounding the city of Glasgow. We opted for one of the smaller ones, Calderglen Country Park, in the town of East Kilbride about 8 miles southeast of Glasgow.

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One of Calderglen’s many attractions: a play park with impressive wooden structures.

The ‘glen’ in the name refers to a wooded river valley which extends for over 3 miles. The waterway that cuts through the glen is a tributary of the River Clyde that flows through Glasgow. As it passes through the park it goes by the unfortunate name of Rotten Calder River. Undeterred by the somewhat offputting name, we toddled along the riverside paths taking in the glen’s natural wonders.

We crossed bridges,

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Delightful assistant no.2 descending the steps towards South Bridge in Calderglen Country Park.

watched water dribbling down rockfaces,

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admired clusters of snowdrops,

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and bark patterns on trees,

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and marvelled at the glen’s interesting geological structures.

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Delightful assistants drawn towards big lumps of rock.

It was such a bitterly cold day that we didn’t want to stop moving for fear of freezing to the spot. I did, however, manage to get the delightful assistants to pose in front of a small weir, a place at which delightful assistant no.1 was particularly pleased to find herself feeling taller than usual.

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An illusion, dear readers.

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Thankfully, there was a cafe close to where our riverside walk ended and we retreated there out of the cold.

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We ordered tea and toasted sandwiches.

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One particularly joyous aspect of the toasties was that they were triple decker.

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I should imagine that in the warmer weather Calderglen Country Park would be a popular place with families. As well as the riverside walks and play area, the park contains ornamental gardens, a small zoo, glasshouses, a golf course and a gift shop.

If it weren’t for the fact that there are so many other parks to be explored I might well go back to Calderglen for another visit. It was certainly a pleasant surprise and an excellent resource for the community of East Kilbride.

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Categories: Lanarkshire, Photography, Scotland, Snowdrop, Tea | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A life stripped bare

I recently finished reading the book, “A life stripped bare”. The author, Leo Hickman, is a journalist at The Guardian newspaper and this book came about after his employer set him the challenge of trying to see if he and his family could live more ethically over the course of a year.

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He began his experiment by inviting three auditors into his home, to assess his family’s green credentials. The auditors consisted of a director of Friends of the Earth, the founder of the Planet Organic shops in London and a researcher at Ethical Consumer magazine. These three people went through Leo’s home, pulling things out of his kitchen cupboards, reading the labels on cleaning products and probing him about all aspects of his lifestyle. As I read the book I felt mighty glad that nobody was rifling through my cupboards in a similar manner, but some of the what they said was certainly relevant to me.

I admire people who make big changes to their lives in order to lower their carbon footprint or try to live in a more community minded way. My brother Fergus, who went missing in September, was one such person. On his website he recorded his thoughts about a variety of ethical concerns, some of which caused him a great deal of mental anguish. He suffered from depression, and in his darker moments felt overwhelmed by the huge scale of many of the world’s problems. He didn’t just worry about them, however, but made a concerted effort to do something practical in response. A lot of what I read in this book reminded me of him. It also made me think more about which aspects of ethical living instinctively appeal to me, and which I’d find much harder to take on board. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing, for example, that I don’t know where my bank invests its customers’ money, or if the companies I choose to interact with have a poor track record when it comes to human rights or environmental issues. Those things should matter to me, but because they don’t impinge on my day to day life I find it easy to put them to the back of my mind.

On the reverse cover of the book are the following three questions:

How often in life does convenience triumph over ‘doing the right thing’?

Can you really make a difference?

What does ‘ethical living’ mean anyway?

I now have a better idea of how to answer those questions for myself and I imagine most people would agree, in theory at least, that it’s worth trying to live more ethically by making choices that cause less harm to ourselves, to others, and to the local and global environment. An interesting aspect of the book is the inclusion of letters that were sent to Leo from all over the world. Although he did receive a few discouraging messages, the majority of correspondents were positive and encouraging.

The main message I took away was that although none of us can do everything to solve the world’s problems, we can each do something, and something is better than nothing. As Leo Hickman says, “you can’t save the world single-handedly, but you can make more of an effort than you did yesterday.”

I think I have now become more aware of what is meant by ‘ethical living’. If all we do initially is to give a bit more thought to our actions, we’ll be in a better position to have a positive effect on society. I hope I can not only keep that message at the forefront of my mind, but get into the habit of applying it in practical ways. I don’t think this book would have had the same impact on me had I not witnessed first hand someone deliberately living as ethically as they could. For that, I have Fergus to thank. Unfortunately, I can’t tell him about this in person but it’s a comfort to know that he’s left such a positive legacy.

Categories: Books, Organic, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Chocolate biscuit tasting challenge

After writing a recent review about the Polish chocolate biscuit sensation, Prince Polo, I felt inclined to set myself the challenge of tasting several wafer biscuits at once. In my review I mentioned the similarity between Prince Polo and the British Blue Riband biscuit. I also mentioned Kit-Kat, the king of wafer biscuits in the UK.

There are lots of chocolate covered wafer biscuits on the market, many of which contain layers of toffee or other flavours. If I were to attempt to include all of them in a tasting I would quickly feel a) overwhelmed and b) sick.

For this tasting, I decided to stick to basic wafer/chocolate combinations and chose the following five biscuits as my tasting treats:

Prince Polo   *   Blue Riband   *   Blue Riband Dark   *   Kit-Kat   *   Kit-Kat Dark

I hunted high and low for the Blue Riband Dark, which proved an elusive beast. After failing to find any, my original five biscuit list was reduced to four. Here are the biscuits, resplendent in their packaging.

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A quick description of each biscuit seems prudent.

Prince Polo4 wafer layers interspersed with chocolate cream, all covered in a thin layer of dark chocolate.

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Blue Riband - 4 wafer layers interspersed with chocolate cream, all covered in milk chocolate.

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Kit-Kat Dark3 wafer layers interspersed with chocolate cream, all covered in a thick layer of dark chocolate.

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Kit-Kat3 wafer layers interspersed with chocolate cream, all covered in a thick layer of milk chocolate.

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To assist me with this challenge I roped in my trusty associates, the delightful assistants. Delightful assistant no.2 has a great passion for biscuits of all sorts and was enthusiastic about participating. Delightful assistant no.1, while less keen on biscuits is decidedly keen on chocolate and particularly partial to a Kit-Kat. Coffee was prepared and the biscuits laid out on a tasting plate.

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We all sampled the biscuits in the same order: Prince Polo, Blue Riband, Kit-Kat Dark and Kit-Kat Original.

As we did this, we sipped at our coffees and made tasting notes.

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Delightful assistants assiduously making notes on chocolate covered wafer biscuits.

After munching through the biscuits, we read out our notes and were surprised by each other’s comments. For example, we all mentioned the sweetness of our first biscuit, the Prince Polo, but our opinions differed significantly:

Delightful assistant no.1 – “rather sweet”

Delightful assistant no.2 – “not too sweet”

Me – “not sweet enough”

And so it went on, with disagreements aplenty and definite variations in preference.

We each ranked the biscuits from 1-4, with 1 being our favourite and 4 our least favourite. Here are the final results in order of preference:

Delightful assistant no.1: Kit-KatKit-Kat DarkBlue RibandPrince Polo

Delightful assistant no.2: Blue Riband, Prince Polo, Kit-Kat, Kit-Kat Dark

Lorna: Kit-Kat Dark, Blue Riband, Kit-Kat, Prince Polo

One of the few things we did agree on was that the chocolate coating on Kit-Kats was noticeably thicker than that on Blue Riband or Prince Polo. As delightful assistant no.1 put it, the Kit-Kats were more like a sweet than a biscuit, whereas Blue Riband and Prince Polo were distinctly more biscuity.

I don’t suppose all this is of much use to anyone, but if it achieves anything it at least confirms that one really ought to try every possible biscuit for oneself rather than relying on the reviews of others.

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Categories: Biscuits, Chocolate, Photography, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

The world’s biggest hedge

About 5 miles along the main road south from where I live there stands a colossus of the botanical world.

The Meikleour (pronounced M’kloor) beech hedge is believed to be the tallest and longest hedge in the world.

Planted in 1745, this year it celebrates its 270th birthday.

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A bit of foliage, but not just any old bit of foliage.

The hedge is about a third of a mile long and has an average height of 100ft (varying from 80ft at one end to over 120ft at the other).

It’s looked after by the Meikleour Trust and, according to the information board nearby, “it is cut and remeasured every ten years utilizing a hydraulic platform and hand-held equipment, a complex operation which takes 4 men approximately 6 weeks”.

In the autumn the hedge can look spectacular, with leaves of red, orange and yellow. I’ve yet to get photos of that but at the end of May 2014, while it was all green and leafy, I toddled along there early one morning before there was much traffic about.

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Meikleour beech hedge looking south along the A93, Perthshire, Scotland.

 

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Meikleour beech hedge looking north.

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Meikleour beech hedge with a car for scale.

Close to the hedge is the small village of Meikleour where, as it happens, the delightful assistants once lived. I had parked there, and as I was walking back to the car several deer leapt out at me. After legging it across the road they ended up in a field. They were such delightful creatures that despite the poor quality of these photographs, I thought I’d pop them in anyway.

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Categories: Perthshire, Photography, Scotland, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

New year, different perspective

I pinched the title of this post from Annie of An Unrefined Vegan, because the post she wrote on this subject rang true with me.

When I started this blog, in January 2012, I was intent on writing about tearooms and little else. For that reason the blog name I chose, Lorna’s Tearoom Delights, seemed fitting. I started the blog in tandem with a book I was writing about tearooms, and my vision for the future was a series of books about tearooms and endless blog articles on the same subject.

Recently, however, I’ve felt rather restricted by this title and that’s probably why I’ve branched out and started new blogs dedicated to different subjects. I currently have eight WordPress blogs on the go, some of which I haven’t made public, but it seems ridiculous and unnecessary to have so many.

Thanks to Annie’s post, I’ve decided it’s high time I stopped feeling restricted by Lorna’s Tearoom Delights. A number of my loyal readers have assured me in the past that they don’t mind what I write about, but I’ve always felt guilty about new people following me and expecting this blog to do what it says on the tin, so to speak.

I don’t want to lose all my followers by closing the door on Lorna’s Tearoom Delights, so I’m hoping a change in perspective won’t put too many people off.

I’ve been writing about chocolate bars on my newest blog, Any old excuse, but from now on I’m going to do my chocolate posts on this blog, along with anything else I feel like writing about.

If you follow this blog for tearooms alone, I apologise for the dearth of them lately. I can’t promise that tearooms will ever be such a feature of this blog as they were in the beginning, but since I do still enjoy visiting such places I’m sure the odd tearoom post will pop up from time to time.

Thank you to everyone who follows this blog, particularly those who’ve been dropping in for years and leaving comments. Getting to know people through blogging has been, and still is, a real pleasure. It’s something I wouldn’t want to give up now.

To finish off this post, here are the delightful assistants on a recent trip to Crieff. After a nice lunch at Crieff Hydro we took a stroll around the grounds. I led them along muddy paths and across a rocky field, made all the more interesting by low angle sunlight dazzling them as they walked. They appear to have enjoyed the element of uncertainty, which got me to thinking that perhaps there’s a gap in the market. If I were an entrepreneurial type I might start up a company running assault courses for geriatrics, but I think I’ll stick to providing the occasional treat for the assistants.

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The delightful assistants – shielding themselves from the glare, or not sure they want to see where this blog might be heading?

 

Categories: Blogging, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 30 Comments

List of books read in 2014

In response to a request from Connie in my last post, this post contains a list of the books I read last year.

Divided into fiction and non fiction, they’re listed in the order that I read them (although I jumped about between fiction and non fiction throughout the year).

Although the oldest non fiction title was published in 1997, about half of the fiction was published before that. The oldest fiction title on the list is Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”, which was first published in 1901. This edition (below) was printed in 1957 and belonged to my grandmother.

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It’s probably not very difficult after skimming the list to guess that Agatha Christie is one of my favourite authors. I had previously read all of those on the list, bar one. I’m extremely grateful that she was so prolific, because I can read and re-read her books without returning to the same ones too soon after they were last read. There are 12 of her books on my 2014 list, and I fully anticipate devouring a similar number this year.

One of the best finds for me last year was Eric Ambler (1909-1998), who wrote spy stories. After reading “Cause for alarm”, which I came across by chance in the library, I sought out some others and three of them are on this list. I did start a fourth one that he wrote later in life, but I couldn’t get through it.

Another highlight last year was reading two creations by fellow bloggers, Shona Patel and Annie Oliverio. Shona’s book is a fictional story set in India and Annie’s is a non fiction guide to caring for someone who’s dying. I found both of these books outstandingly well written and compelling.

Fiction

“Hector and the search for happiness” by François Lelord (2002)

“Mutiny on the Bounty” by John Boyne (2008)

“Maskerade” by Terry Pratchett (1995)

“Seven dials” by Anne Perry (2003)

“Murder in the museum” by Simon Brett (2004)

“The curious incident at Claridge’s” by R T Raichev (2010)

“The scheme for full employment” by Magnus Mills (2003)

“A judgement in stone” by Ruth Rendell (1997)

“Miss Buncle’s Book” by D E Stevenson (1934)

“Teatime for the firefly” by Shona Patel (2013)

“The collected stories of Rumpole” by John Mortimer (2012)

“The affair of the bloodstained egg cosy” by James Anderson (1975)

“Five star billionaire” by Tash Aw (2013)

“The island” by Victoria Hislop (2005)

“The witness at the wedding” by Simon Brett (2005)

“Second time around” by Marcia Willett (1997)

“The house on the cliff” by D E Stevenson (1966)

“Sleeping murder” by Agatha Christie (1976)

“The best man to die” by Ruth Rendell (1969)

“Shroud for a nightingale” by P D James (1971)

“The behaviour of moths” by Poppy Adams (2008)

“Easter Island” by Jennifer Vanderbes (2003)

“Sleeping Tiger” by Rosamunde Pilcher (1967)

“Dumb witness” by Agatha Christie (1937)

“Deadline” by Barbara Nadel (2013)

“Cause for alarm” by Eric Ambler (1938)

“Cover her face” by P D James (1962)

“The good thief’s guide to Vegas” by Chris Ewan (2010)

“Skios” by Michael Frayn (2012)

“Kim” by Rudyard Kipling (1901)

“Journey into fear” by Eric Ambler (1940)

“The Bad Quarto” by Jill Paton Walsh (2007)

“Every man for himself” by Beryl Bainbridge (1996)

“Epitaph for a spy” by Eric Ambler (1938)

“Gaudy night” by Dorothy L Sayers (1935)

“The bride’s farwell” by Meg Rosoff (2009)

“Devices and desires” by P D James (1989)

“Trent’s own case” by E C Bentley and H Warner Allen (1936)

“The pale horse” by Agatha Christie (1961)

“They came to Baghdad” by Agatha Christie (1951)

“The body in the library” by Agatha Christie (1942)

“A pocket full of rye” by Agatha Christie (1953)

“A murder is announced” by Agatha Christie (1950)

“The Thief” by Ruth Rendell (2006)

“The moving finger” by Agatha Christie (1943)

“The Sittaford Mystery” by Agatha Christie (1931)

“Blood at the bookies” by Simon Brett (2008)

“Destination unknown” by Agatha Christie (1954)

“Ordeal by innocence” by Agatha Christie (1958)

“And then there were none” by Agatha Christie (1939)


Non-fiction

“Pirates, Plants and Plunder” by Stewart Ross (2005)

“The idle traveller’ by Dan Kieran (2012)

“The lost city of Z” by David Grann (2009)

“A terminal illness primer for caregivers” by Ann Oliverio (2014)

“Mindset” by Carol Dweck (2006)

“Sea legs” by Guy Grieve (2013)

“59 seconds” by Professor Richard Wiseman (2009)

“Affluenza” by Oliver James (2007)

“Arthur Conan Doyle – beyond Sherlock Holmes” by Dr Andrew Norman (2007)

“Up with the larks” by Tessa Hainsworth (2009)

“Quirkology” by Professor Richard Wiseman (2007)

“Seagulls in the attic” by Tessa Hainsworth (2010)

“Round Ireland with a fridge” by Tony Hawks (1997)

“The mould in Dr Florey’s coat” by Eric Lax (2004)

“Screw it, let’s do it” by Richard Branson (2006)

“Himalaya” by Michael Palin (2004)

*   *   *   *   *

This morning I finished a non fiction book I started reading a couple of weeks ago. Having got into the habit of keeping a note of books last year I might as well carry on and see if I can do it for two years running.

Thanks to Professor Richard Wiseman, my year got off to a spooky start with the book below. I like a bit of the paranormal now and then, so I’m hoping for a few more ghoulish surprises in the next 12 months.

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Categories: Books, Photography, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Enter 2015

I was inspired the other day by reading a post by fellow blogger, Darlene Foster, about building on the success of 2014. (You can read it by clicking on her name.)

In the post she details the goals she set herself for 2014, and reports on how she got on with them.

Towards the end of December 2013,  I did a post about my resolutions for the coming year. My main aim was to keep a note of all the books I read throughout 2014.

I started a blog about it, which I made private after a while to take the pressure off having to write decent English, and I’m pleased to report that I managed to stick to my goal.

I was hoping for a minimum of 60 books, and by last night my final count was 66, with more than three times as many fiction as non fiction. I had imagined the split would be more equal, but since I’m attempting to get my own stories published, perhaps it’s advisable to spend more time immersed in fictional worlds.

On that topic, I entered a number of short story competitions last year, none of which I won. I also failed to get any stories published in magazines that I submitted to. I felt despondent at the time, but now that we’re starting a new year I’m putting all that behind me and cracking on with more writing, in the hope that one of these days I’ll produce something publishable.

When it comes to resolutions and, for that matter, daily ‘to-do’ lists, it’s helpful to throw in some easily achievable targets alongside the more challenging ones, which leads me to my other main goal for 2015.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m aiming to consume at least 52 different chocolate confections throughout the year and write about them on one of my other blogs, Any Old Excuse. I’ve posted about a few already, as a sort of warm-up act.

Whatever your goals or ambitions for 2015, I wish you well with them and hope that the coming year is full of pleasant events that cheer and comfort you.

Happy new year!

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I’m looking forward to seeing some spring flowers, like these beauties outside the excellent Storehouse of Foulis near Dingwall (top tip for lunch if you’re ever in that neck of the woods needing refreshments).

Categories: Blogging, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Merry Christmas

This summer, when I took a break from blogging, I was expecting to spend a few months concentrating on writing fiction. When my brother Fergus went missing in September those plans went awry.

Having a member of your family suddenly disappear without trace has a range of unexpected repercussions. It’s now over three months since Fergus vanished in Switzerland and we still don’t know what happened to him, or indeed whether he’s alive or dead. It’s strange being in limbo, not knowing if he will ever come back, but sadly after this length of time I’ve come to the conclusion that he won’t.

For the past few weeks my dad and I have been going down to Edinburgh as often as we can to try and sort things out at Fergus’s flat. There is much to do and I imagine that this situation will dominate our lives well into the coming year.

Although I have been visiting tearooms during this process, I haven’t had the energy or inclination to photograph and review them. However, as a small distraction for myself I’ve set up a new blog called Any old excuse.

On this new blog I aim to review at least one item of chocolate-based confectionery a week. 

Tea and chocolate, two of the things that make life worth living.

Click on the picture above to find chocolate posts in 2015.

I appreciate that reading reviews of chocolate isn’t everyone’s idea of a good way to spend their time, especially if they don’t actually get any chocolate out of it. I’ve disabled comments to make it easier for me to manage, but if you ever feel like dropping by it would be lovely to have your company.

In the meantime, to all my wonderful fellow bloggers, readers and chums:

A very happy Christmas and new year,
and many good things to come in 2015.

Six wee dogs hoping for Christmas treats under the tree.

Six little dogs hoping for Christmas treats under the tree.

Categories: Blogging, Chocolate, Photography, Scotland, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 49 Comments

Fergus McInnes

By brother, Fergus McInnes, went missing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday 9 September 2014.

Fergus Facebook profile photograph hillwalking

Fergus walking in the hills, one of his many hobbies.

He was due to attend a work conference in the Swiss town of Martigny the following day, and to meet his colleagues that evening for a meal.

He boarded the 09:35 EasyJet flight at Edinburgh airport and was seen on CCTV in Geneva airport around 13:00, where he bought a train ticket that we believe was a return to Martigny.

Nothing has been seen of him since.

He did not arrive at the meeting point that evening to go for a meal, he did not check into his hotel room and he did not appear at the conference. He also failed to catch his return flight to Edinburgh on 11 September.

His mobile phone has not been switched on since he switched it off for the flight, nor has he checked his emails since the morning of Tuesday 9 September. The last bank transaction he made was the purchase of a train ticket in Geneva airport when he used a debit card.

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CCTV picture of Fergus at Geneva Airport on 9 September 2014.

One of his colleagues who attended the conference in Martigny reported him missing to the Scottish Police, and they launched a missing person inquiry. Shortly after that it became a separate Swiss inquiry, and both inquiries are ongoing.

We are all utterly mystified about his disappearance and, with a lack of clues about where he might have gone or what might have happened to him, we fall back on endless and wide-ranging theories.

Friends of his have set up a blog called Missing Fergus McInnes, to keep people updated on the investigation into his disappearance. You can get to it by clicking on the blog name below:

 

Missing Fergus McInnes

 

They are monitoring all comments, and passing anything that might be relevant on to the police.

Fergus headshot 2009

It’s now been over three weeks since he disappeared and, despite media campaigns in Switzerland and France, as well as in the UK, there is no indication of where he might be.

The blog contains a list of unanswered questions, which we dearly wish we could get answers to.

The police in both Switzerland and Scotland are doing all they can to discover what happened to him after he was last seen in Geneva.

We remain hopeful of a good outcome.

Family lunch at Flora's July 09_1

Family gathering (Fergus top left).

 

Categories: Photography, Scotland | Tags: , , , , , , , | 121 Comments

Thank you and goodnight

Much as I enjoy lounging around in the blogosphere – reading other people’s blogs as well as writing my own – it does take up a considerable amount of time.

Sometimes one has to let go of one thing in order to take hold of another, and so it is that I’m taking a sabbatical from this blog in order to attend to other things.

A big thank you to all the tearooms that have provided much of this blog’s fodder, to everyone who’s read my posts and to those who have been so loyal with their comments. Thanks also to all my fellow bloggers who have provided me with such entertaining and stimulating reading material on their own blogs.

I wish you all the very best in the meantime, and look forward to a reunion in the future (with scones).

– Lorna

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A treacle scone recently consumed at Woodlea Tearoom, Sandhead.

Categories: Blogging, Scone, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 66 Comments

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