This a lovely little cafe tucked away in Kings Court, just off the High Street in Falkirk. Originally called Kings Arms Court, any hostelry of that name has long since vanished into the mists of time. It is great to see establishments like Tea Jennys thriving in spite of the tax avoiding multinationals like Starbucks, Costa and Caffé Nero snapping up all the prime sites in town. Of course, as we reported in an earlier post some places could do with taking a leaf out of the multinationals book because, aside from the tax stuff which isn’t really their fault, they really do know their business. You get the feeling though that Tea Jennys, has probably looked closely at what the multinationals are doing, noted it, then decided to take a totally alternative approach … it does everything the big boys do but just does it differently.
The meals, cakes and scones are home made for a start, all excellent, but it is the other little touches that set it apart .. the home-knitted tea cosys, a different one for each teapot … santa hat and a christmas pudding on ours. No tea bags here either, the tea is proper leaf tea served in proper tea pots, in proper tea cups .. with a proper tea strainer. The decor is a bit chintzy .. but different, certainly not like any multinational that we have visited. The service is warm and friendly. Unfortunately when we visited they only had cheese scones left and equally unfortunately they forgot about the scones in our order. A gentle reminder, however, brought profuse apologies .. and our scones, nicely toasted. Not topscones but very good, we may have to come back earlier in the day to catch a plain or a fruit scone .. something to look forward to next year. It is not as if Tea Jennys is simply holding its own against the multinational competition it appears to be thriving having recently opened a deli and an additional cafe further along the street .. long may they continue to prosper. This is probably our last scone of 2015 so it only leaves us to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year .. and thank you for all the support and enthusiasm throughout the year .. here’s to 2016, may all your scones be topscones.
FK1 1PG tel: 01324 228185 Tea Jennys TA
Have not been here, to the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) for some time so it is nice to be back. It should be said right at the start that this gallery has become most famous in Glasgow folklore and indeed throughout the world, not for any of it’s exhibitions but for the traffic cone on the head of the Duke of Wellington outside … today his horse was having a turn of wearing it. There are dedicated followers of the cone .. called ‘coneys‘ … like sconeys but not as sensible, and they are very active on social media to the point that there is now a worldwide coney movement.
Originally placed there by a drunken student almost thirty years ago, the city fathers used to religiously remove it because they thought it was not fitting for a city of Glasgow’s stature. However, faced with an endless supply of drunken students, they came up with a cunning plan to raise the height of the plinth in a such a way that the cone would be banished forever. After a massive ‘keep the cone’ march and protest on social media however they backed down and now the cone is a fairly permanent feature with many tourists coming to see it and buy postcards, teeshirts etc. Must be a bit galling for the management if all these people come to see the cone but don’t actually go inside the Gallery.
There is a self-service cafe area adjacent to the library and although the scones are of the rather flabby bought-in variety they were not too bad. On a previous visit, many years ago, we had a lovely young French art student with us who explained everything with amazing clarity but unfortunately, on this occasion, she was absent and appreciation of what was on offer was left to our own somewhat limited powers of artistic interpretation. Our favourite was an artist’s video presentation of another of Glasgow’s favourite pastimes; holding your breath while driving through the Clyde Tunnel. It was of children and you get so involved you end up holding your own breath. This Youtube video is not the exhibit we saw but you can try it for yourself … let us know how you get on. Another exhibit took us back to an earlier post about suffragettes .. one suffragette in particular, Christabel Pankhurst .. and here she was again … isn’t it great that these two events have been brought together by the power of scones! Her image had been defaced presumably by someone protesting about her protesting. Feeling inspired by what we had seen; the refugee crisis in europe; Scotland’s place in the UK and the difficulties some sconeys have fitting into normal society, we have created our own artwork entitled ‘Isolation’ … a reflection on being different and trying to integrate with a strange and sometimes bewildering world. Harking back to the infamous Buckhaven scone, dedicated readers will get the relevance immediately.
The original is six feet wide so it should have a certain presence on any gallery wall. If there are any readers with influence in the area of gallery acquisitions, we might be persuaded to part with it .. lottery funding may be necessary! Seriously, if you are in Glasgow, Royal Exchange Square is lovely at this time of year and GoMA is definitely worth a visit … you might be inspired as well!
In this post we are visiting Glamis Castle for their Christmas Fayre but we did not expect it to be anything like as busy as it was … it was mobbed; great for fund raising and for all the locally based traders who had set up stalls in the castle grounds .. but maybe not so good if you are waiting for a scone in a long queue. Situated near the pretty village of Glamis there has been a castle here since 1376 though most of the present building dates from the 18th century. It has had a fairly chequered history with tales of witchcraft, ghosts, monsters and people being bricked up in rooms .. must be great to have enough rooms that, if you take a dislike to one of your guests, you just brick’em up! The castle was the setting for Shakespeare’s MacBeth and was also the birthplace of Princess Margaret, however, it is probably most famous as the childhood home of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon who eventually became the wife of King George VI in 1937 and after his death went on to become Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. There is not much we can say about the obscene wealth and privilege of monarchy without the distinct risk of being cast into the Tower of London and left to rot for ever … so perhaps the least said the better. Having said that, the Queen Mum is a bit of a hero .. she had a magnificent wine cellar which we are trying hard to replicate, but best of all she managed to die owing umpteen millions, something we would love to emulate but are still looking for the right backer. Despite their largesse with royalty, we suspect that Coutts bank would not happily entertain rather lowly sconeys .. even with our equally hedonistic lifestyle!
Because of the Christmas Fayre the castle’s old kitchen, which serves as a restaurant/tearoom, was busy busy busy. The staff were all working their socks off but in spite of lengthy queues everyone seemed happily imbued with Christmas spirit and content to wait their turn, chatting to each other. Don’t think there would have been any direct royal involvement in the making of our scones .. probably just a minion somewhere, but they were very good; well endowed with fruit; lots of jam and cream; nice crunchy exterior, but just one problem … a tad overdone on the bottom … a relatively small problem for us but, since the royals are obviously avid readers of ‘thescones’, that poor minion is probably being bricked up as we speak!
Just to go off at a tangent for a minute … the NHS figures recently released by the government showing that NHS Scotland is the best performer in the UK is good news. We mention it here simply because, despite extensive coverage of these figures, you will not find that particular nugget mentioned anywhere by the BBC, not even BBC Scotland, so you may have missed it. Another thing you may have missed is the arrival of a new dictionary word; refuweegee … a person who upon arrival in Glasgow is embraced by the people of the city, a person considered to be a local .. isn’t that rather nice in this season of goodwill to all men .. a sentiment very much in evidence amongst all the holly, mince-pies and of course, the scones, at Glamis.Unfortunately, if you are one of the few who did not make it to the Christmas Fayre you will just have to wait until next year .. it is on for three days but by the time you read this it will be too late .. sorry!
Well, well, well, look where we are. Once you have endured the airport style security this is quite a pleasant building to be in, not grand and imposing like it’s southern counterpart, but friendly and, even with the slightly austere design, welcoming. It’s very much a talking shop, rather than a coffee shop (is there a difference) and although we have been here several times before it has never been when the Parliament has been in session so the hope was that today was to be one of glorious enlightenment .. and maybe a scone. But, for the moment, never mind the controversies raging in the debating chamber, the entire history of the Scottish Parliament is highly controversial. In spite of the very British illusion of democracy embedded in the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ and all that, almost thirty years ago the EU found the UK to be one of the most undemocratic states in the EU, and as a result the European Commission forced devolution on John Major’s government to try and create more localised accountability. Major hated the whole idea but was perhaps fortunate in being deposed and was thus able to hand on the poisoned chalice to Tony Blair who hated it as much, if not more. In fact he hated it so much that on the eve of the inauguration of the Scottish Parliament he secretly redrew the border between Scotland and England so that the ownership of seven North Sea oil fields could be transferred to England with consequentially dramatic effects on each country’s GDP figures … and presumably in case the Scots got a bit above themselves. Controversy also followed the construction program with an eventual cost overrun of almost £400m .. ouch!!
Designed by a Catalan architect, Enric Miralles, it has been described it as “a Celtic-Spanish cocktail to blow both minds and budgets, it doesn’t play safe, energetically mining a new seam of National Romanticism refined and reinterpreted for the twenty-first century” … whatever … we rather like it. The debating chamber is built above the public areas to remind those in it that they are only there at the behest of those below them .. not sure that bit is working too well but the theory is good. We already know that the First Minister is a dab hand at making scones but if the 129 MSPs had anything to do with the scones in the tearoom, there must have been some sort of cross party rapprochement, because they were not too bad .. nowhere near topscone but quite good all the same .. packaged jam; butter a bit too hard; on the expensive side for self-service … perhaps a scone designed by a committee?
We listened with interest to a session in the chamber but much of it was fairly opaque. A plethora of acronyms, can make it difficult to follow proceedings if you are not familiar with each and every one. Nevertheless we did find it an enlightening experience and it was good to see it all in full flow. You would think that with the formation of the Scottish Parliament that the UK democracy issue would have dramatically improved, but it hasn’t, if anything this place is akin to a sticking plaster. Recently, 97% of Scottish MPs voted against bombing Syria, but you all know what happened there. There are countless examples like this; nuclear weapons; the EU; trade union laws; the Scotland Bill; human rights; tax credits, where the Scottish voice matters not a jot .. if you live in Scotland it is almost pointless voting. Any system where one set of MPs is outnumbered 12 to 1 is self evidently flawed and certainly not geared to Scotland’s best interests. If Scotland were not in a union with England and the top 100 UK secondhand car salesmen were given the task of selling the current union deal to the Scottish electorate they would not have a snowball’s. On top of all this the current government is intent on reducing our democracy even further .. chipping away at trade unions and eroding our human rights, they might as well be open about it and hand the whole thing over to the corporates and banksters who actually run everything at the moment. It’s enough to make you choke on your committee scone!
The Corinthian Club is a large complex of highly decorative rooms dating back to it’s original incarnation as the Glasgow and Ship Bank in 1842. Since then it has seen several different uses but has been the rather swanky Corinthian since 2010. It consists of several function rooms, dining rooms, a casino and the Tellers Bar where we were ensconced. This is a big operation and they can probably do many things extremely well however our order for coffee and scones tested them to the absolute limit … they simply could not get their head round the fact that we did not want afternoon tea. Every time we asked for coffee and scones they offered us afternoon tea and when we explained that we just wanted coffee and scones they would say “absolutely no problem” .. but we had to go through this process at least six times with different people .. aarrgghh! Eventually the penny dropped and quite quickly the coffee arrived … but no scones; it gave us time to look around at the rather splendiferous surroundings. More than twenty minutes later however, having observed every nook and cranny, and just as we were about to get up and leave, they arrived. Apparently there was a technological problem in the kitchen?? Fresh coffee was brought along with profuse apologies. By this time, of course, our dander was well and truly up. We had already decided that this was the last place on earth to get anywhere near a topscone award .. but, damn it, the scones were extremely good! Two plain and two cinnamon and all of them just right; warm and crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, lovely jam and cream .. how utterly annoying? In normal circumstances we would have had no problem with a topscone award however there are only so many allowances you can make .. so, although we thoroughly enjoyed them, they were disqualified due to technological problems .. heyho. Technological problems cannot be blamed for us heading off to war in yet another country .. just sheer warmongering stupidity. Perhaps it makes no difference since 1968 has been the only year in the last fifty that Britain has not been at war with somebody. At the grand old age of 111, Harry Patch, the last surviving soldier of WW1 summed it up very well “I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder”.
Scones are a small test for a place like this but, for all its grandeur, we think the Corinthian Club needs to pay more attention to a few basics.