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A few days ago, having not been to a new tearoom for some considerable time, I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms.

There being only one sure fire way to fix that, I whisked a small delightful assistant south-eastwards to where the BBC promised us decent weather. (Well, I say decent, what I mean is it wasn’t raining.)

I had read a review of a certain tearoom in Cupar, Fife, which made a bold claim and I was eager to pop down there and have a look:

Cupar Tearoom sign, Cupar, Fife

There used to be an advert for Carlsberg that had the tagline “Probably the best lager in the world”, and I’m assuming that The Cupar Tearoom has borrowed this line for its tearoom, a little tongue in cheek.

When you approach this tearoom, you find it behind the main street in Cupar, in a paved area called Ferguson Square. On entering this area I felt I was walking into a 1960s council housing estate. Not the most promising of beginnings, and yet the outside of the tearoom looked surprisingly at odds with its surroundings:

The Cupar Tearoom exterior

Inside, it was busy, with only one free table. The counter at one side of the room was reassuringly piled with large and attractive looking scones, and there were books in bookcases dotted around the walls. There were also packets of Teapigs tea for sale in one bookcase, and these teas were also on the tearoom menu, which pleased me.

We opted to share a pot of Teapigs English Breakfast tea for two, which came in an unexpectedly decorative teapot:

Decorative teapot

To accompany her tea, my delightful assistant chose a slice of lemon drizzle cake, which was served on a rather worn, but nevertheless prettily floral, plate:

Lemon drizzle cake

I opted for a fruit scone, which I’m delighted to say was delicious.

The teacups were also patterned, and I was quite impressed that when the waitress saw that one of them had a piece of cake in it, she whipped it away and brought a clean one.

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One question I always ask myself when visiting a new tearoom is “Would I include this tearoom in a tearoom guidebook?” I like to visit a new place at least twice to make sure, but I’m confident that this one would be a contender.

Is it the best tearoom in the world? Well, that’s a matter of personal taste and I can only speak for myself, but I’ve been to many establishments I would rank above this one. I’ve also been to many that have been considerably lower in standard. On balance, I’d say it sits somewhere just above average.

Some of the things a really top tearoom has to have, in my opinion, is homemade jam for the scones, sugar cubes or granulated sugar in a bowl with a nice set of tongs or a teaspoon, salt and pepper you can grind yourself, elegant table settings and a beautifully presented menu. The Cupar Tearoom didn’t quite come up to scratch in these areas:

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On the other hand, I would also include excellent home baking, a good range of teas, nice china, quiet surroundings and cheerful, pleasant staff, all of which The Cupar Tearoom provided.

I apologise for my negative comments, I wouldn’t normally mention down sides in a review, but I felt I couldn’t include the first picture without addressing the claim in some way.

Despite all of that, I enjoyed my visit to The Cupar Tearoom, and would certainly visit again.

Although it was a dry day, it was overcast and quite cold. We had a short wander round the town centre after our tea, and I was reminded of how many narrow closes (‘close’ is a Scottish term for an alleyway) the town has.

I need to return on a warmer day and take pictures of some of the other closes there. I did photograph one close though, which had a sign above it saying “Tannage Close” which makes me wonder if leather was treated there in the past, but I really don’t know the history of it.

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Cupar on a dark, damp, January day is not perhaps the most inspiring of places, but one thing I must commend the town for is its parking charges – only 40p to park for up to 2 hours in the central car park. Very good value for money, I’d say.

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If you happen to be free next weekend, Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 October, and you’re in reach of the Birnam Hotel in Perthshire, you might like to pop along to the “Meet the Makers” fayre being held there from 10am to 5pm on both days.

It’s hosted by Exclusively Highlands, who are advertising it on their Facebook page.

The reason I mention it is because I’m going to have a stall there, flogging my little book,

some lovely vintage china (not the best of photos, the china looks much better in real life – come and see for yourself),

my sister’s handmade teacosies,

and her cushion covers.

I attended the fayre (I don’t know why they’ve adopted this spelling of the word) last year, the very first time it had been held there, and this year when I found myself with things to sell I thought it might be nice to take a stall and see if I could do a bit of business.

I’ve attended a couple of craft fairs elsewhere in the last few days and noticed that, although there were plenty of punters milling around showing an interest, there was a distinct lack of money changing hands. I’ve spoken to stall holders and other retailers, and they’ve all reported sluggish sales this year.

Quite understandable of course, I myself haven’t bought anything from any of the fairs I’ve been to this year, and in previous years I would almost certainly have shelled out for something.

I watched an interesting series of TV documentaries recently about economics (that might sound a tad dull, but they were enthusiastically presented and well researched), in which the point was made that in order for an economy to work money has to change hands frequently. The problem at the moment seems to be that most of us don’t feel inclined to let go of what we have.

photo courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Part of what makes us feel a bit nervous about spending, even if we have a regular income, is that our money doesn’t seem to be worth as much as it used to be. Only a few years ago my savings account yielded twice as much interest as it gives now, and the media is full of doom and gloom about how things are only going to get worse. Not surprisingly, all of this makes the ordinary chap in the street feel a little protective of the money he’s got.

My dad made the point this morning that, in terms of starting up in business, I’ve picked just about the worst time to do it, which is quite true. I also chose the worst time possible to leave a secure, well-paid, job in 2008, just when the recession struck and companies put a freeze on hiring new staff. However, when you get yourself into a bit of a hole like that, it forces you to use your resourcefulness and challenges you to find new ways of staying optimistic. I can’t say that I always manage to do either of these things, and I confess to spending far too much time worrying about it and feeling somewhat demoralised, but learning to count your blessings is a very useful tool in life, and one that can be equally valuable whether you’re living on the breadline or lounging on your megayacht shovelling away the caviar.

From what I remember of the Birnam Fayre last year, crafts on sale included photographs, sculpture, jewellery, handmade chocolates, children’s books, tweed handbags, glassware, biscuits and wood carvings. I can’t remember how many stalls there were but I would guess at 30+ and most of them were housed in the hotel’s rather grand and very spacious hall upstairs.

I don’t think my stall will be in that room, which is a pity, so if you do call in be sure to have a peek into the other little areas dotted about. I might even give you something for a knock-down price. In fact, if you quote ‘Lorna’s little bargain’ I’ll guarantee you a quid off any item you buy. Can’t say fairer than that in these straitened times.

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Yesterday my lovely assistant and I headed off to one of our many local antiques centres to take morning refreshments. It’s not just one antique shop, this place, it’s like a huge aircraft hangar full of different antiques companies, each selling their wares in their own little area. There are specialist sellers of furniture, books, pictures, jewellery, ornaments, postcards, clothing, china, cutlery, and a lot more besides.

It’s so big that my assistant and I, having mooched off in different directions for a while, then spent about 10 minutes just trying to find each other again. There was no mobile phone reception so we couldn’t even text or ring each other. Fortunately, they have a tannoy system so if I hadn’t found her when I did I might have gone to the front desk and ask them to put a call out; I feel sure this must happen to missing companions frequently.

Anyway, before all that happened we took ourselves into the tearoom:

I only had my mobile phone camera on me, but I snapped away all the same. The cafe here is more of a restaurant really, with a large dining area and a very nice lunch menu, but there are a few sofas as well, and we flopped onto a couple of them and ordered English breakfast tea (me), an Americano (my delightful assistant) and a cream scone between us. The nice waitress even brought us an extra plate and extra cutlery:

Cream scones are not something I allow myself to have very often, but I just felt in need of a little treat on this occasion, and since we were sharing one it wasn’t so bad. I was a bit unsure about the cream at first, it being that air-filled fluffed up stuff, but in fact it slipped down a treat with the strawberry jam.

En route to the toilets, I noticed some antlers being put to good use:

After our refreshments, and before we lost each other, we enjoyed a leisurely amble round some of the antiques stalls. Quite often when I’m out for a walk, especially on a warm summer’s day nowhere near a tearoom, or sitting in the garden feeling extremely lazy, I dream of having a butler appear out of nowhere with tea on a silver tray, something like this:

Ideally I would like him to present me with a pretty cake stand full of small sandwiches, scones and dainty cakes, but failing that I might be interested in chocolate bars full of sweets:

Especially the one full of chunks of Cadbury’s Twirl, although I worry that the background chocolate might not be as good as the Cadbury’s bits:

On the way out of the antiques centre I passed this beautiful old till, which isn’t used as a till any more but adds a bit of class to the reception area:

I wanted to visit a tearoom in the very Scottish sounding town of Auchtermuchty and in order to work up an appetite for lunch we had a little walk in the hills above the town.

On our way to park the car on a quiet bit of road we passed a garden with a notice in it that caught my eye. I am very fond of rabbits and this little sign made my day:

I was quite surprised to find that they have a website (my assistant thought that perhaps it was put up by an indulgent parent with a rabbit-loving child) and that it appears to be a well established little business. The website contains advice about keeping rabbits that was completely new to me (although I’ve never kept real rabbits, myself). This advice includes the following:

“Your Rabbit needs daily exercise outdoors in the sunshine. Around 4 hours a day is best, maybe split up into morning and evening. Remember to give them a bolthole to run into if they want to hide and also a shady spot if they get too warm. Your rabbit may be cooler in their hutch in a shaded place in the garden when it is very hot. Supply some toys for them to play with, and lots of fresh water. Provide tunnels for them to play hide and seek and watch them have fun.”

Some of the toys suggested for rabbits are: old telephone books, plastic keys and rolled up newspaper. I was particularly surprised to learn that 99% of a rabbit’s diet should be hay and that you should not feed your rabbit with lettuce. I thought lettuce was a close second to carrots when it came to what bunnies like to munch, but it seems I’ve been misguided for all these years. Even carrots, apparently, should only be given in small amounts as a special treat.

Beyond the rabbit rescue place we had a walk along a small road. It was a very dull dark day but I took a few photos in the gloom:

I always like a dry stone wall:

I thought this looked an interesting house. It had a new bit added onto the right hand side, but I left that out of the photo because it didn’t really enhance the building, to my mind:

It was quite an energetic walk and by the end of it I was very ready for a bite to eat in Auchtermuchty.

It often astonishes me that people manage to get through the posts on this blog, because I’m afraid they do tend to drag on and become quite intolerably long. In light of that fact, I’m going to save the Auchtermuchty tearoom for a separate entry.

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