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Posts Tagged ‘Sunshine’

Just outside the village of Stanley in Perthshire there’s a small car park that’s often filled with vehicles sporting colourful roof rack items.

The colourful items, which are generally canoes and kayaks, are brought here by their owners and carried along a narrow pathway across the road. You could easily miss it if you didn’t know where to look (right of centre in this picture, to the left of the red car):

After a short walk on the flat you come to a long set of steps going downhill:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe reason for carrying canoes along this path is to reach the River Tay at the bottom, where there is apparently some challenging paddling to be had.

Here’s the river, looking quite benign:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the occasion of these photographs there were no canoeists in sight, but Delightful Assistant no.2 and I enjoyed a pleasant riverside stroll, ducking underneath low-hanging trees:

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On the other side of the river we spotted a small beach, where a lady and her dog were enjoying the sunshine:

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The path we were walking along was built up a bit from the water, but there were one or two opportunities to get down to the waterside.

I opted for a route which was made of a sort of stone ladder, just visible in the next photo on the left, but more clearly shown in the picture after that, taken from down below looking up to the higher path:

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Although it was lovely down by the river, we were on the shady side and I thought it would be nice to hop into a small boat and row across into the sunshine.

Some time soon, on a similarly sunny day, I’ll take the delightful assistants to the path on the other side of the river, and perhaps we can have a little seat on the beach and pretend we’re on our holidays.

It’s a bit too snowy for that today though.

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As you may be aware, a British royal baby is due to see the light of day in the middle of July this year, first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge playing at being Canadian Rangers.

Coincidentally, Twinings have brought out a bit of inspiration for anyone wondering how to toast the new infant, in the form of three new caddies featuring their Earl Grey, English Breakfast and Peppermint teabags.

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Rather splendidly I’ve received one of each of these delightful caddies, along with a Twinings pinny. The pinny pocket can, at a squeeze, accommodate all three caddies.

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You may already know the origins and rituals of afternoon tea, but if you’d like a little education or instruction, Twinings have helpfully devoted a page to the subject, entitled English Afternoon Tea, on their website.

I don’t know what time of day the average aristocrat gets up in the morning these days, but I suspect that in the Victorian era they liked a lie-in. I deduce this from the fact that they took their dinner rather late in the evening, which was what prompted Anne, the 7th Duchess of Bedford to popularise the business of taking afternoon tea.

The Duchess was Queen Victoria’s personal assistant, and I daresay that meant she had to eat her main meals at times dictated by the monarch. However, she found the stretch between lunch and dinner too long to bear without sustenance, and so she came up with the idea of taking tea and a few snacks mid-afternoon to keep the wolf from the door.

I can understand the Duchess’s problem, for I myself begin to get hunger pangs at the traditional afternoon tea stage (between 4pm and 6pm). However, I deal with this by eating my evening meal shortly after 5pm, and getting tucked up in bed nice and early, around the time the Duchess would have been sitting down to her evening repast. Due to dining so early, I don’t often indulge in the tradition that is afternoon tea, but I have a cunning solution that makes sure I don’t miss out, viz. every now and then I take afternoon tea in place of luncheon.

What with getting these lovely tea caddies, and the sun blazing from a blue sky on Saturday, the delightful assistants and I plumped for an afternoon tea picnic in the garden.

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We drank our fill of Twinings English Breakfast tea and, not for the first time, it occurred to me that this tea is misnamed. English Breakfast seems to me to be much more an afternoon type beverage than a morning one, and it certainly slipped down a treat with our teatime fare.

It was the perfect opportunity to make use of my tea and toast sets (or, as I like to call them, teacuplates), saucers that merge into plates, providing an ideal afternoon-tea-size treat area.

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There are certain things one ought to produce for an afternoon tea, namely tea, dainty crustless sandwiches (I saved the crusts to make breadcrumbs), small scones and nibbles of cake. (Twinings have more afternoon tea ideas on their website.)

Here we have some finger sandwiches made from soya and linseed bread with spinach and roasted ‘chicken’ (actually meat-free Quorn):

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Fluffy white bread sandwiches with sliced Quorn cocktail sausages, and cheese scones:

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I enjoyed making butter curls for the scones with a clever little metal gadget.

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The cheese scones were available in two sizes – small:

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and tiny:

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My dad perched a blueberry on one half of his tiny scone to give an idea of scale (the cutter I used has a diameter of 3cm):

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The reason I made savoury, rather than sweet, scones was because afternoon tea tends to veer towards the sweet and I often find myself craving a bit more savoury to balance all the cakes out.

On the topic of cakes, we had mini raspberry buns (a vanilla cake mix with a blob of raspberry jam in the middle of the bun), topped with whipped cream and a raspberry:

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On a few of the buns the jam was visible from the outside, owing to me being somewhat heavy handed with the jam.

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There were also chocolate fruit and nut clusters (melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk with as many currants and chopped nuts as I could squash into a petit fours case),

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small slices of Border tart (a rich fruit tart in a pastry-type base, which I discovered is very difficult to cut into thin slices), and my mum’s excellent seed and peel cake.

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I can’t remember how old I was when I first developed a taste for tea and small treats, but I feel fairly certain that this somewhat disgruntled photograph was taken when I had been put into my pram for a sleep while my parents were sitting down to afternoon tea without me:

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And this one was taken on a far happier occasion, when I was informed that I was to join them in their tea taking:

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I hope that the new royal baby will have many happy years ahead of him/her devouring a wide variety of afternoon tea treats, and that he/she will become an excellent ambassador for the institution that is a good British* afternoon tea.

*Great British traditions such as taking afternoon tea, obsessing about the weather, apologising when someone bumps into you in the street and supporting the underdog at Wimbledon are some of the things that might just tip the balance against Scotland becoming an independent country next year. I like being Scottish but equally I like being British and I don’t relish having to choose between the two.

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Recently, with the very slow start of spring in Scotland (when I began typing this it was pouring with rain and about 10ºC), my thoughts have been straying towards happy memories of warm sunshine.

I used to have a terrible problem with itchy feet (I refer to wanderlust, as opposed to athlete’s foot-type afflictions which I have thankfully never suffered from).

All through my 20s and early 30s, I had daily dreams about dashing off hither and thither. Every now and then my dreams translated into reality, but before long I’d be back home again cogitating where to go next. I got so used to this state of affairs that I doubted I would ever grow out of it.

Then, when I started working offshore and was miraculously paid to go abroad, I thought my itchy feet problem had been cured. When I was at work I was usually on a boat bobbing about at sea, which satisfied my need for adventure, and when I wasn’t at work I was relaxing at home and perfectly happy not to be popping off anywhere else.

However, it’s now about 18 months since I more or less decided to stop working offshore, and just lately I’ve been aware of an irritation in the soles of my feet. It’s very slight, barely perceptible most of the time, but it’s on the edge of my consciousness.

And so, to the point of this post, which is to relive sunny days of travels past.

Mallorca (aka Majorca) is one of the places I have some sunny pictures of and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the small Spanish island twice, first with my friend Sheila, and then with my dear mama.

On both visits I stayed in the lovely seaside resort of Puerto Pollensa:

Pier at Puerto Pollensa

Me at the end of the pier looking into the lovely, clear (and surprisingly cold) water at Puerto Pollensa

Lorna at Port de Pollensa

Finding shade is my usual habit when faced with glorious sunshine, even when I’ve gone somewhere deliberately to soak up the rays.

I stayed in the same hotel both times, too; it was pleasantly situated close to the beach with a quiet road and some hills at the back.

View from Mum's room

As always, food was of the utmost importance, and I ate well in Mallorca. The salads were particularly welcome in the hot weather.

A big tomato salad

My delightful assistant with a massive plate of tomato and mozzarella salad with olives

Even in the heat, however, one doesn’t want to forego the option of sweet treats.

Mum's chocolate cake at Sispins

My delightful assistant’s highly understandable choice of chocolate cake for pudding

I couldn’t get enough of the hot chocolate that was on offer at a cafe near the hotel; it was thick, silky and intensely chocolatey:

The chocolate was so thick!

If I was able to leave it for long enough (extremely difficult), a little skin formed on top, which pleased me more than I can say.

Just look at the way it coated this little biscuit:

Thick chocolate coating a biscuit at Gran Cafe in Port de Pollensa

This chocolate was so good that a version of it appears in my novel. I wanted to let my main character experience it, because I know how much she likes her little treats.

In addition to delicious food there were some beautiful buildings, particularly in the old town of Pollensa, a short bus journey inland from the port.

Interesting architecture at Pollensa

Lovely wooden shutters in Pollensa old town

Attractive house in Pollensa

A hot slog up a long flight of steps in the old town was worth it for the view from the top.

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Only 365 steps till you reach the top…

View from hilltop at Pollensa

Why isn’t there a tearoom up here?

There were houses all the way up the sides of the steps, many of which had nicely tiled roofs and flourishing pot plants:

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One of the things that makes Puerto Pollensa such an attractive spot is the line of pine trees bowing out over the water:

Mum looking out to sea at Port de Pollensa

My delightful assistant alone with her thoughts, gazing out over the blue sea.

In Scotland, evenings on which one can stroll outside without a jacket or cardigan are few and far between. In fact, even on the warmest of summer evenings in this fair country I can’t imagine ever leaving the house to go for a walk without a sleeved covering of some sort.

Balmy summer evenings are one of the things we Brits prize when holidaying abroad in warmer climes.

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As the sun sets over Puerto Pollensa the warmth of the air is sufficient to allow pleasant cardigan-less wandering along the beach. A treat for all the Brits on their hols.

As I finish this post,  I am delighted to report that not only is the sun shining but the forecast for the weekend isn’t too bad at all.

Perhaps this is indeed the proper start of spring, from which we will move seamlessly into summer.

If this jolly weather keeps up, I can possibly even shelve any thoughts of absconding and content myself with the delights of living in this lovely country.

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I recently received an email from a company offering to send me some free Twinings tea of my choice to review.

Looking in the kitchen tea cupboard, I observed that there were already 7 boxes of different Twinings teas lurking there, 5 black teas, 1 herbal and 1 green tea:

Taken in the context of the 115 varieties on offer from Twinings, this is a very small sample.

A quick squiz at their website suggested a few others I’d like to try, so I wrote back requesting some teas and a couple of days later a substantial box arrived.

The box contained not the handful of individual selected teabags I had been expecting, but no less than four full boxes of Twinings tea. Also enclosed was a high quality ‘with compliments’ card, adorned with a gold lion:

It felt a bit like Christmas.

Of all of the teas enclosed, the Yunnan tea was perhaps the one I was most excited to try, simply because I had no idea what to expect and it sounded intriguing.

According to the blurb on the box, “Yunnan, in South West China is well known for it’s* magically fertile land and spectacular fields of beautiful flowers. It may be no surprise then to learn that Yunnan is where tea was born over 2000 years ago, and many of the ancient tea trees are still nurtured and picked from today.”

(*A superfluous apostrophe; when I saw this mistake I was reminded of just how difficult it is to achieve perfection. When I was writing my tearoom guidebook I read and re-read the text numerous times, checking for errors. I also had two other proofreaders, and yet when it was published several mistakes were discovered. Frustrating, but part of life!)

The front of the box showed a golden land and an appealing description of the tea inside:

The tea came in teabags:
The first time I brewed this tea, I made it for myself and my two most delightful assistants. I should have taken photographs at the time but I’m afraid I was too intent on the tea consumption.

Brewing it again for myself this morning, I had a second bash at the tasting.

The instructions on the box say that you should “drink it black, or with a drop of milk”. When tasting with the delightful assistants, we all started off trying it black. The thing that struck me most about it was a smokiness that reminded me of Lapsang Souchong.

It reminded me of Lapsang Souchong again today, although the smoke was less prominent than I’ve found it to be in Lapsang Souchong. The other thing that struck me was a silkiness, which was perhaps my interpretation of the “mellow” alluded to on the packet.

When I first tasted it black I found it a little too bitter, but tasting it today I wasn’t put off by the slight bitterness.

In my mind, I was whisked off to the lounge of some quiet country house hotel. The room contained good quality, but comfortably worn, soft furnishings and a log fire producing sweet smelling wood smoke. A grandfather clock ticked soothingly in the corner, there was the gentle murmur of background chatter from other guests, and time slowed to a pleasantly relaxed pace.

I had been fully intending to add milk after the first couple of sips, but looking into my teacup I found that I had polished off the whole cupful before getting round to it.

Luckily I still had some in the teapot for another cup:

During our first tasting, both assistants declared that the flavour was improved by the addition of milk. It then improved for both of them again with the addition of sugar. I didn’t go that far myself, having tasted a sip of a sugared tea, and stuck to the addition to milk only.

Although I would have been completely happy to drink another cup black this morning, there was something nice about it milked up.

The taste became smoother, and the little bitterness present when black disappeared.

Drinking it with milk transported me to the grounds of the aforementioned country house hotel, where I sat in an elegant outdoor chair on a patio, looking out over beautiful gardens under a bright blue sky and blissful sunshine. The twittering of small birds and the buzzing of bees filled the air.

Being ever ready for a small snack, I didn’t drink the tea without a little comestible. A piece of fruit cake slipped down just as well with milky tea as it did with the unmilked version.

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What I deduce from these tea tastings is:

a) I initially enjoyed Yunnan with a splash of milk
b) On second tasting, I found I enjoyed it just as much black
c) I am utterly delighted to have been given a free box of this delightful beverage

I still have another three teas to taste, but I’ll keep them for other posts. In the meantime, I raise my teacup to you, dear bloggers, and say a hearty thank you to Twinings for introducing me to the joy of Yunnan tea.

If you’ve never tried Twinings teas, or even if you have, you might like to know about the free samples you can obtain from their website. I don’t know if this is restricted to the UK or not, but I took advantage of it myself some time ago and it led to me buying a box of tea I might not otherwise have tried.

Incidentally, I wasn’t the only one taking an interest in the tea tasting this morning:

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A few days ago, on a morning when the sun shone out of a blue sky for the first time in what seemed like ages, I whisked the two delighful assistants off to a big hut in Fife:

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St Andrew’s cheese farm and coffee shop

This fine establishment bills itself as “Fife’s only artisan farmhouse cheesemakers” and has been on the go for about 5 years.

I do like a bit of cheese, but what particularly attracted me to the St Andrew’s cheese farm was the fact that it had the Butterpat Coffee Shop attached to it and that, according to the website, cheese scones were likely to be on offer.

Although the sun was shining beautifully, the wind was the sort that laughs through layers of warm clothing, chilling one to the bone in seconds.

The dash from the car was astonishingly cold, but inside the cafe the sun was sweeping in through big windows warming the room like a greenhouse.

We nipped into a sunny seat and settled down to peruse the menu.

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Our table was next to one of the large windows, giving us an open view out across farmland to the sea a few miles away. There was a decking area with seating immediately outside, which I expect would be lovely to sit out on in the summer (I fully intend to return later in the year and try this out):

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The menu contained a lot of things that attracted me, including a vegetable ragu, which was the vegetarian dish of the day. However, I plumped for the vegetable soup, and could not have been more pleased about my choice. For one thing, it came with a cheese scone, made using the farm’s own Anster cheese (the farm is close to the coastal town of Anstruther, pronounced ‘Anster’ by the locals):

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I’ve eaten a fair number of cheese scones in my time, but rarely have I had one with a texture quite as magnificently fluffy as this one was. It was also, rather unusually, abounding in mustard seeds:

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The soup was a perfect partner to the scone, and was absolutely chock-full of lovely tasty chunky veggies.

Here’s a sample spoonful containing carrot, leek, celery, onion and turnip, and possibly other things I didn’t identify:

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Delightful assistant no.1 opted for the leek and potato soup, which also came with a delectable cheese scone:

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Delightful assistant no.2 bypassed the soup and went instead for a cheese and ham toastie, which came with spring onions inside, and more cheese and tomato on top:

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We were all exceptionally pleased with our food, as well as our drinks (water for me and delightful assistant no.1; apple juice for delightful assistant no.2):

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Above the cake counter were some words that I found inspiring. “….always striving to be the best we can be”:

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I look forward to seeing how things strike me on a second visit, but I can’t imagine that with any more striving they could have created a better cheese scone, or served it up with a more satisfyingly vegetable-filled hearty soup.

Following consumption of savouries, I unfortunately had no room for a sweet. I settled for a decaf cappuccino instead, which was jolly nice and had the right sort of chocolate on top (the sweet sort, as opposed to the unsweetened cocoa I’ve occasionally been shocked to receive):

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Delightful assistant no.1 had tea, and delightful assistant no.2 had the same as me but with a significant addition:

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That slab of brown cakey stuff is a slice of iced gingerbread, something that claims to be Scottish in origin. Such gingerbread is not always iced but it is often served with butter, although this seems to me a little superfluous when icing is present.

When butter is offered to either of my delightful assistants, however, it is never turned away:

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I tasted the gingerbread, with a little bit of the thick fondant icing. It was delicious and the icing melted in the mouth.

Through a door from the cafe there was a cheesemaking viewing gallery, allowing members of the public to pop in and see the cheese hard at work. You can only see this on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and, as luck would have it, we were there on a Wednesday.

Here’s the cheese vat we saw, filled with liquid in the process of becoming cheese:

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Before leaving the cheese farm, I stopped by the cheese counter in the cafe and selected a little wedge of Anster to take home and try. The assistant did it up very nicely in a sheet of paper with a sticker to seal it up:

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Before leaving the premises I popped in to the facilities, and was delighted by lovely hand painted tiles of Fife coastal scenes above the sinks:

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I was so full after all the noshing at the cheese farm that I could easily have lasted the 1.5 hour drive home without stopping for more refreshments, but the delightful assistants twisted my arm up my back and made me stop at Culdees tearoom in Abernethy, roughly halfway home.

Delightful assistant no.1 is very partial to a piece of tiffin (a chocolate-topped biscuity traybake, usually containing some dried fruit), and I like it too but am wary because I’ve had more than one bad experience with the stuff. To my mind, the tiffin on offer at Culdees didn’t look especially appetising, but this didn’t put my delightful assistant off and on tasting a little nibble I discovered that I had completely misjudged it.

The chocolate was of a high quality and the fudgy biscuit bit underneath was almost cakey in texture, rather than biscuity. It was a very fine tiffin, and she selected a coffee to sloosh it down with:

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Delightful assistant no.2 plumped for tea and a cherry and almond slice (also excellent):

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And I fell back on that old staple, the chocolate cake (complete with two giant chocolate buttons), and a lovely pot of lemon tea:

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By the time I’d finished my last mouthful I really was fit to burst and had no room for further food, that is until teatime a couple of hours later.

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, as I do, you might be longing for a bit of summer sunshine round about now.

The UK has been exceptionally wet in recent days, with numerous flood warnings and TV pictures of dramatic rescues by the Fire Brigade of people in cars stranded in deep water. It’s also been very dark, with constant heavy cloud, and all of this has made my thoughts wander back to happy summer days of sunshine and warmth.

Scotland is prone to a lot of cloud, but that doesn’t always mean it’s wet and cold to boot. One particular day in early August was quite cloudy, but it was one of those still, jacket-free days where the sun, when it does break through the cloud, feels gloriously warm on the skin.

My dear mama had told me about a tearoom in the little town of Thornhill, in Dumfries and Galloway, in which she and the pater had taken a very pleasant luncheon while on holiday in those parts.

Thornhill is a fair distance from where I live, and a bit further than I would normally venture on a day out, but since the weather was fine and we got an early start, I whisked the small assistant (said maternal parent) off south-westwards towards the Dumfriesshire hills.

This picture was taken on a different occasion, but as it happens to be en route to Thornhill, I’m bunging it in to give an idea of some of the scenery we passed through:

The Borders hills

We arrived there around lunchtime, but since we’d stopped for a snack on the way we took a stroll around the town to work up our appetites. I don’t appear to have taken any photographs of the main street in Thornhill and so I’ve borrowed this one from the excellent website, Undiscovered Scotland:

The main street, Thornhill

We ambled along the backstreets, which were quiet and had lovely views of distant hills, as well as some strange-looking trees:

Thornhill

Along one little street I was surprised to see a fairly impressive memorial, remembering one Joseph Thomson (Explorer):

Joseph Thomson, Explorer, Memorial

According to Wikipedia, this Thomson  (1858-1895) was “a Scottish geologist and explorer”, who not only has an African beast named after him (Thomson’s Gazelle) but avoided confrontations among his porters or with indigenous peoples, neither killing any native nor losing any of his men to violence.”

The same article claims that he is the originator of this apparently oft-quoted motto: “He who goes gently, goes safely; he who goes safely, goes far.”

I can’t say I’m familiar with the quote, but at least now if I ever come across it I’ll know who said it.

Thomson was born in the village of Penpont, a couple of miles from Thornhill, and some time I would like to have a mosey round there to see if there are any references to him. I seem to remember that Penpont, despite its small size, also hosts an interesting looking tearoom, which gives me an added reason to investigate it.

The memorial has rather a nice bas-relief (if that’s the term I want) on one side, showing a lady holding an unfurled scroll displaying a map of Africa:

Bas-relief on Joseph Thomson memorial

Just beyond this memorial a sign caught our attention:

Coo Lane sign

The lane in question enticed us to walk down it:

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I’m assuming that the lane was named after the Scottish word for ‘cow’ because at the end of this lane there was a field, and perhaps in days gone by this was a busy highway for travelling cattle. There were no coos there when we visited, but there were some sheep, many of which were flopped out on the grass soaking up the rays:

Relaxing sheep

The delightful assistant and I were both very warm by this time, after plodding all over the place in the unusually balmy weather, and luncheon was calling.

The tearoom we were bound for was called “Thomas Tosh”, which I think has a splendid ring to it. I particularly like the idea of using the shortened version of Thomas and ending up with the name “Thos Tosh”. Unfortunately, I don’t know who Mr Tosh is, or was, but he’s given his name to rather a nice eatery.

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The building housed not only a tearoom, but an art gallery and a shop selling gifts, crafts and food.  I believe it used to be some sort of church hall:

Thos Tosh indoors

Each table had a little stack of blue serviettes packed into a rack made from two sets of crossed teaspooons. From a distance they looked quite like the Scottish flag. You can see them at the nearest table in the picture above, and close-up below:

Teaspoon racks

We both chose to have salads, which were large and packed with interesting ingredients. The delightful assistant had a chicken salad:

Chicken salad at Thos ToshAnd I had a tuna salad:

Tuna salad at Thos Tosh

We were so full after our salads that we didn’t have room for pudding (a tragedy, since there were delicious looking cakes and hot puddings on offer), and so we tootled off back to the car and headed north for home.

About half an hour after leaving Thornhill we felt the need of a cup of tea, and ventured into Starbucks, which is handily just off the road in a service station at Abington. I don’t often admit to going to places like Starbucks, but I must say they do a very lovely chai tea.

Not being a very frequent visitor to Starbucks, I forget each time that I need to lie to the baristas. When I ask for a chai tea, they ask if I take milk. Being a reasonably honest sort of cove, I say ‘yes’, which results in them giving me what I consider to be a measly half cup. The problem with this is that a) I love their chai tea enough to drink a large quantity of it, and b) I only take a dash of milk.

My delightful assistant prefers the chai tea latte, which comes sweetened and puffed up with hot fluffy milk and the cup filled, as a good beverage should be, absolutely to the brim.

Here, for comparison is the difference between our two drinks, my black chai tea with a dash of milk on the right, and her chai tea latte on the left. I hadn’t drunk any of mine when this was taken:

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I’m hoping that by reminding myself of this recurring misdemeanour, I will have imprinted the nightmare of it on my brain, so that the next time I visit Starbucks I go in fully prepared for their misleading and devious questions.

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The autumn colours in Perthshire are particularly good this year and, thinking that the Scottish Borders would be putting on a similarly spectacular show, I took the delightful assistants down there for a gawp at the weekend.

We were most surprised to find that, despite being further south, it felt like winter rather than autumn in the Borders. Many of the trees were completely bare and most of the leaves that were left on the trees were well past their flame-grilled best.

However, I’m happy to say that at our destination of Dawyck Botanic Gardens, nature’s loveliness was abounding:

A couple of beech trees had curious wrappings round their trunks:

There was a poem, entitled The Bandaged Trees, attached to one of the trunks, but I found it a tad depressing so I won’t burden you with it.

Looking up into the trees was beautiful with the sunlight on the leaves:

Dawyck (more or less pronounced Daw-ik) is a beautiful place to walk around, and even though there were a lot of cars in the car park, we met very few people as we strolled through the gardens.

Here are a couple of tiny assistants perched atop a lovely bridge:

The air smelled very fresh and I took lots of deep breaths. The amount of lichen on the trees was perhaps a good indicator of just how pollution-free the atmosphere was. Some of the birches looked as if they were dressed in furs and feather boas:

Bits of the garden were in the shade and quite frosty, an ideal hiding place for ice nymphs and frost elves. Apparently, if you run backwards making chirpy little whistling noises they sometimes pop out. I tried this, but I didn’t see any. Mind you, I find that trying to stay upright while running backwards takes up most of my concentration.

My camera battery died just past this bench,

which was a pity as I had been hoping to take photos of the lunch we had after our walk.

However, I wouldn’t like to sign off without a small morsel to share with you, so here’s a Christmas pudding scone* I made yesterday instead:

*so called because it was inspired by Christmas pudding, and contains sultanas, mixed peel, slivered almonds, cherries, dates, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and treacle, as well as the standard scone ingredients

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There is a small town on the Fife coast that has, for years, been home to award winning fish and chips. Despite having visited this little place on a number of occasions, up until recently I had completely failed to sample the famous food.

I am delighted to say I have now rectified the situation. True vegetarians or vegans look away now:

It was amongst the best fish I’ve ever tasted, very fresh and cooked to perfection:

The town that supplied this fish is called Anstruther, and it was originally a fishing village. It’s home to another award winning business, also connected with fish – the Scottish Fisheries Museum:

On my next trip to Anstruther I would very much like to visit the museum and, as if an extra lure were needed, it boasts a tearoom.

The fish and chips above appeared on a glorious summer’s day a few weeks ago, when my delightful assistant and I were moseying around the Fife coast lapping up a bit of holiday atmosphere. If you want to feel in the thick of things on a sunny afternoon in Fife, Anstruther is the place to be. It always seems to be buzzing with life and the queues for fish suppers (aka fish and chips, I don’t know if this is a Scottish or British expression) never seem to dwindle.

Part of the reason I hadn’t partaken of this excellent fish before was due to offputting queues on previous visits. I suppose there must be a saturation point and some quiet periods, but going by what I’ve observed it would seem that the punters just can’t get enough fish suppers in Anstruther at any time of day, on any day of the week. Providing fish suppers to the people of Fife is, quite obviously, a thriving and profitable business.

As well as excellent fish, Anstruther has a harbour full of lovely boats, including this beautiful lady:

The elegant 70ft long Reaper is what’s known as a herring drifter. She was built in 1902 and spent many years at sea, mainly around the Shetland Islands, picking up herring. She also did a bit of work for the Admiralty in the south of England during the war years, and in 1979 she was purchased by the Scottish Fisheries Museum. She’s been featured in films and on TV, and if you fancy calling her your home for a few hours, you can rent her out for events.

Curving around the harbour are some pretty buildings, many featuring the distinctive red pantiles associated with much of the Fife coast:

It was an unusually warm day for Scotland, with a cloudless blue sky (not all that common on Scotland’s east coast). At least I could remove my outer layers, unlike this fluffy fellow taking respite in a shady spot:

When Anstruther got too much for us with its busyness and bustle, we popped into the car and drove off to a quiet hillside for a little amble. If you’ve seen my Capture the Colour post, you might recognise the subject of this next picture:

The foxgloves on top of the little hill we climbed had a fine view over fields to the sea. I was unreasonably proud of myself for managing to snap some without being stampeded by savage equine beasts (my apologies to any horse fanciers, my terror-induced language belies my admiration of the fine creatures):

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If you’re ever thinking of having a little self-catering holiday in the south-west of Scotland, and fancy staying in a most comfortable and splendidly well equipped cottage, I can heartily recommend Culmore Bridge Cottages as a first class option.

The truly delightful Jim and Marilyn Sime have built four excellent self-catering bungalows next to their own cottage, in an area of grass and woodland near the sleepy village of Sandhead (about 8 miles south-east of Stranraer), and have taken great care to make them fully accessible with a range of thoughtful design ideas for disabled, as well as able-bodied, guests.

I spent last week there with my two most delightful assistants (as well as a special guest assistant), and we had a marvellous time. We’ve all stayed there before, never want to leave and are always looking forward to our next visit.

Here’s a picture of Rowan Cottage, the house we stayed in. The paintwork was being redone during our stay, which is why it looks a little fuzzy round the edges, but I’m sure that it will be looking tip-top by now with all the black paint round the windows touched up. This was taken halfway through the repainting, with the whitewashing already done and just the window surrounds to finish:

Inside, the house was spacious, well laid out, warm, cosy and comfortable.

The very well equipped kitchen:

With dining area next to it and light streaming in from the French doors that led onto a small decking area outside (outdoor chairs and a table provided for those al fresco moments):

The view from the decking area (there was a road beyond the trees but apart from that peace and tranquility reigned):

There were paths around the demesne, some of which led to ponds full of wildlife, including several species of newt. I’ve seen at least two different species here, including the great crested newt. They like to hide in murky water and lurk amongst foliage so this was the best shot I could get:

The cottage had three lovely relaxing bedrooms (2 doubles and a twin). This was my room, where I did a lot of happy snoozing:

Snoozing opportunities were to be had elsewhere in the house, too, as weary assistant no.2 discovered after breakfast in the lounge one day (well, he is nearly 83 after all, and if you can’t take a nap after breakfast at that age, when can you?):

The lounge led onto the dining area and kitchen, all open plan but very nicely designed so that they felt like separate areas:

While some of us were indulging in a doze, others were perusing improving literature on the subject:

Many delicious tearoom experiences were had on this holiday (of which more to come) but before I get onto that, I will leave you with a health-giving salad (the cucumber was pushed to one edge so as not to offend those who didn’t care for it):

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At this time of year in my part of the world we don’t expect the weather to be up to much, and we certainly don’t expect clear blue skies with no clouds. However, to the delight of many, this is what we’ve had lately, along with record breaking temperatures.

With such amazing weather yesterday, I thought it only right to take my delightful assistant out for a jolly jaunt, and to give my poor pained wrists a rest from typing.

It’s not only typing that aggravates them, it seems that whatever I do, or don’t do, the pain persists. While having a moan to a friend about this the other day, I suggested rather sarcastically that perhaps I should stay at home and twiddle my thumbs, but, as he quite rightly pointed out, twiddling my thumbs is one thing I probably shouldn’t do. So, even thumb twiddling is off the menu at the moment. Am I tugging at your heartstrings yet? Cue sad violin music:

Thank you to Musicasa2ndlanguage for that beautiful little interlude.

We chose to go north, to the village of Braemar (featured in a previous post) for our first refreshment stop. Next to the tearoom there was a wee hoose with window surrounds that matched the daffodils in the garden.

I wonder if the owners change the paintwork with the seasons, to match whatever’s in the garden. Unlikely, but you never know.

Braemar is blessed with three tearooms, which is impressive for such a small place, and this is probably my favourite one.

The main body of the kirk, so to speak:

There was also a little side area boasting a superfluity of paper lampshades:

Up at the counter there was an extremely tempting vanilla sponge on display, but because we were already looking forward to lunch we resisted it and instead shared an attractive plain scone, which came with some very nice plum jam:

The tearoom had done a little Easter decorating, with lights and tiny fluffy yellow chicks perched amongst a pile of logs in an old fireplace:

I thought the chicks were delightful:

In the main room the tearoom was quite plainly decorated, with solid cream or dark brown walls and not many pictures. This provided the perfect backdrop for the table decorations: a single beautiful yellow daffodil in a vase on each table:

We sat in window seats, partly to look out and partly, I think, because we were drawn by the cushion covers:

There aren’t many days in the year when I’d choose to sit outside a tearoom in Scotland, but while we were taking tea indoors the staff put seats outside in the sunshine, which looked very inviting:

Before we left I made use of the facilities and was amused by a glass framed photograph (I couldn’t altogether avoid reflections, unfortunately) on the wall outside the toilets.

I don’t wish to be unpatriotic, but when it comes to bagpipes this is a child after my own heart:

From Braemar we drove east towards the Royal town of Ballater, stopping en route to admire the wonderful Invercauld Bridge or, to give it it’s quainter name, the Old Brig O’ Dee, but I’ll keep the details of that for another post.

In the meantime, here’s a shot of the lovely old bridge to whet your appetite:

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