This is a bit of a nostalgia trip for us, or at least for me … and it’s only three miles from home! In spite of the short distance we hardly ever visit Grangemouth because it’s not the place it used to be … not that a town whose main feature is a petrochemical refinery was ever a must-see destination for anyone. Having said that, Grangemouth during the day unfortunately always looks like Grangemouth but at night, if you squidge your eyes a bit, with all its myriad of twinkly lights, it looks like Vegas. Back in the good old days, however, it did have a lot more going for it. I started my working life directly across from the Portonian Bakery and Tea Rooms in what was then Lumley Street. The architect Philip Cocker, in his offices next to the Bon Accord pub, was my lucky employer. I was head dogsbody … used and abused by all the staff but it was a great, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. At lunchtime we could wander down to the refinery, then owned by BP, and use their excellent canteen facilities … not sure we were supposed to be there but, in those days, no one seemed to mind. After work, on the way home, you could take a wee detour through the docks gazing up at the ships, wondering where they had come from and where they were going to next. Today, everything is very different and none of it for the better. Cocker’s and the Bon Accord no longer exist. In fact Lumley Street itself has disappeared, replaced by the awful concrete edifice that is the La Porte Precinct shopping centre. The refinery, now Ineos, is still there but owned by one man and there is no way he is going to allow you anywhere near the place never mind let you in for lunch. The docks are fenced off … Bin Laden saw to that. As Trump so eloquently puts it … sad! When I worked across the road, the 60s style building that now houses The Portonian Bakery & Tea Rooms was a Victorian tenement with shops on the ground floor and houses above accessed by open spiral stone stairs round the back. The tearoom gets its name from the fact that natives of Grangemouth are referred to as Portonians. Already depressed by the state of the shopping centre we came in here for a spot of lunch and, at first, it didn’t do much to lighten our mood. The multinational Costa coffee house across the road was strangely empty but this place was busy busy … what was going on? Eventually we worked out that it had to be down to price … we had a light lunch of sandwiches and a scone with coffee and a peppermint tea for the price of a couple of coffees in Costa. If it’s a price war that’s going on we know who is winning. That did lighten the mood considerably. With it being a bakery we had relatively high hopes that the scones would be topnotch. They were good but with an overall softness which is not to our own particular taste. Now, answer this question … why are packs of frozen butter so often served with soft scones?? Unless you put them in your trouser pocket our down your cleavage for a couple of minutes it is nigh on impossible to achieve any kind of satisfactory outcome. In the end they were okay but probably not as good as their strawberry tarts. We didn’t have any strawberry tarts but we thought the picture might stimulate your salivary glands.Since Westminster has been going about bullying other countries into agreeing with them about how utterly dastardly Russia is, there has been barely a mention of Brexit … as distraction politics goes it has worked perfectly … what next? In 2013, politics, or at least Labour politics, took a bit of a bashing here in Grangemouth in what became known in some quarters as the Battle of Grangemouth. It wasn’t a battle as such but more of an almighty industrial dispute but it did mark the moment when labour movement finally lost its way. It descended into factionalism and Jim Ratcliffe, the owner of Ineos, rode off into the sunset with a grin like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Even with Corbyn in charge, the Labour party still has not found its way … the other day they voted with the Conservatives to oust the popularly elected SNP administration in our own Falkirk Council … unbelievable … poor old Keir Hardie, would be spinning in his grave. Nice as this trip down memory lane was we probably won’t be back anytime soon … too many memories.
FK3 8AW no telephone Portonian Bakery & Tea Rooms FB