Tag Archives: Bo’ness

Brian’s Café

Yesterday morning we were back at the Hippodrome in Bo’ness to see The Shape Of Water … an unexpectedly enjoyable film. It’s really a love fantasy but it also turns out to be surprisingly topical. The Americans had captured a unique South American water monster with peculiarly human characteristics … honestly, it’s better than it sounds! Rather than let the US acquire any  advantage by studying the beast and unearthing its secrets the Russians, in the form of KGB agents, plotted to kill it with a lethal injection. Have you heard of any similar stories recently? It is amusing to see the media in a frenzy wondering where the nerve agents directed against Sergei Skripal and his daughter could have come from without ever mentioning the world’s biggest stockpile of such chemical weapons at Porton Down … only eight miles from Salisbury where Skripal was found. Interior view of Brian's Café in BonessAll fingers seem to be pointing at Vladimir Putin however and probably with good reason. Have you noticed a rather worrying trend among world leaders recently? Putin, who unexpectedly came to power because Boris Yeltsin hadn’t enough blood in his vodka system, now finds himself drunk on power itself. He has manufactured a situation where he can remain in power indefinitely. Likewise with President Xi of China. Power is a great corrupter and both men now seem to think that they are omnipotent. Meanwhile, back in the USA, President Trump  knows he is omnipotent but, unlike Putin and Xi, hasn’t yet worked out a scam to keep the job for a life … watch this space. Theresa May on the other hand will be forced to keep her job for life whether she likes it or not simply because it’s such a mess no one else wants it. Interior view of Brian's Café in BonessEnough of all that. Just across the road from the Hippodrome is the imaginatively named Brian’s Cafe which, would you believe it, is owned by a chap called Brian, surname Curry. Its outward appearance is somewhat uninspiring and we did not have high hopes as we entered. A scone at Brian's Café in BonessThe interior is pleasant enough though and the staff were very friendly and helpful. We were soon settled down with some tea and sharing a fruit scone … okay, we sometimes indulge in reckless extravagance! There was no cream and the butter and jam were prepackaged but the scone itself was very good, not quite a topscone but pretty close.  The café has lots of what appeared to be family photographs hanging on the walls and when we asked about them we ended up being introduced to Brian himself who had been sitting at another table with some friends. He’s a lovely guy who proceeded to take us round and explain his family history. Turns out that he is part of the Serafini family who not only had a cafe in Bo’ness but operated the York Café in Falkirk, a place we know very well.

Serafini family group from Brian's Café in Bo'ness
The Serafini family from Barga in Italy with Brian’s aunt in the centre

What amazed us was that Brian’s aunt, a Bo’nessian born and bred, had married a Serafini and as a result was interned during WWII. It had never before occurred to us that Scots were also interned simply because of their association with Italians … unbelievable!

The Serafini's original café and their fish and chip van
The Serafini’s original café in Bo’ness  … and their fish and chip van c1950s

It was great listening to the many delightful childhood stories Brian had to tell … a far cry from today’s world of all-powerful autocrats and dastardly subterfuge.

EH51 0AA       tel: 01506 823815       Brian’s Café TA

p.s. News of an even bigger controversy came to us the other day courtesy of our correspondent, the Stenibrainfart. He reported that the National Trust in England had organised a cream tea at one of their venues in Cornwall and to publicise it they used a picture of a scone with a dollop of jam on top of the cream … arrgghh! National Trust picture of a cream tea sconeNow all self respecting sconeys worth their salt know that that is how they do it in Devon … and it’s just plain wrong! It is definitely not how they do it in Cornwall and Cornish folks have reportedly been resigning their NT membership in droves. A #JamFirst badgeThey felt so strongly they even produced #JamFirst badges to support the cause. Well done Cornwall, you tell ’em!

The Ivy Tearoom

One of the marvelous things about being of a certain vintage is that you can visit the cinema in the middle of the week, see a film and still be out in time for lunch. You also get a cup of tea and a biscuit on the way in … what’s not to like? So it was that we ended up in the Hippodrome in Bo’ness to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The town’s name, Bo’ness, is an abbreviated version of Barrowstounness meaning Burgh Town on the Point referring to the promontory on which it’s located. Once one of Scotland’s main ports, second only to Leith, nowadays, in common with many such towns, it has that rather sad post-industrial look about it.

External view of the Hippodrome Cinema in Bo'ness
Opened in 1911,the Hippodrome is Scotland’s oldest purpose built cinema    and its dome

Our film, Three Billboards, was much feted at the BAFTAs and we certainly enjoyed it. We won’t explain why (we review scones not films) but suffice to say that when we came along the street to The Ivy Tea Room we overheard people at the next table talking about the film. One of them said ” oooo .. she was like a dog with a bone!” and that pretty well sums it up … but go see for yourselves! The Ivy is one of these places that cannot quite make up its mind what it wants to be. Internal view of the Ivy Tea Room in Bo'nessMostly it’s a tearoom, of course, but there is also an area dedicated to selling books and knick-knacks and another selling antiques, or what might more accurately be described as bric-a-brac. We think it should stick to being a tearoom and try and get rid of the slightly cluttered appearance of the place. However, a very smiley lady took our order and soon had us sorted with some lunch as well as a scone to share. Among some of the aforesaid clutter there were a few illustrations reminiscent of a more gracious world when things were not so frenetic.Pictures at the Ivy Tea Room in Bo'ness Okay, we hear you cry “they’ve been sitting in a cinema all morning with tea and biscuits, what are they going on about … frenetic??” You’re right, of course, we are fortunate indeed but nevertheless these images seemed almost ‘other worldly’ when set against a modern backdrop of school shootings, misogyny, paedophilia and generally failing services. All right, that rather misty eyed world probably never actually existed but we still think you would have to use mightily rose tinted glasses to illustrate today’s world in a similar vein. Will this time be looked back on as the golden age of anything? A scone at the Ivy Tea Room in Bo'nessUnfortunately, unlike Three Billboards, our fruit scone was very forgettable … not much fruit, no cream and the scone itself was just soft with no real texture at all! We won’t be rushing back here the next time we have to spend a morning in the Hippodrome cinema … or … while we are in nostalgic mood lets call it the Hippodrome picture palace. That may not be too far away, they have an interesting list of upcoming films. They also have an annual silent movie week in March called Hippfest … but we’re not old enough to remember any of that sort of stuff … no we’re not!

EH51 9HA       tel: 01506 823389      The Ivy Tea Room FB

Sundial Café

Kidnapped by Robert Louis StevensonWhen Robert Louis Stevenson was writing Kidnapped he chose Limekilns as the final point of escape for David Balfour and Alan Breck as they fled the redcoats in 1752 . An odd choice when you look at the sleepy little village today, however, it wasn’t always like this. Its sheltered natural harbour meant that it once had a thriving fishing industry and, as its name suggests, burning lime was another. However, in the 18th century, the harbour also served as the northern terminus for a ferry service from Bo’ness on the opposite shore … maybe that’s why Stevenson chose this place? Anyway, Alison Hastie, the local innkeeper’s daughter rowed them across and the two young fugitives successfully escaped … hurrah! Nowadays, of course, they could just have walked across the river using any one of three bridges … okay, you are not supposed to walk on the rail bridge but if you were fleeing for your life?? We got here by using the new Queensferry Crossing … without expansion joints it is a very smooth drive … but how have they done that, where does the expansion go? Having arrived in Fife we decided to take the more more indirect but more picturesque coastal route back home on the north side of the Forth and Limekilns is one of the first villages you come across. It is home to the Sundial Café.

The sundial at the Sundial Cafe in Limekilns
Sundial dated 1689

Unsurprisingly it gets its name from the sundial high up on the corner of the building. In Scotland, these things are only of use on the rare occasions when the sun actually shines but presumably when this one was installed there were not that many alternatives. Inside, on the ground floor, it is small and cosy with a large log burning stove but there is also a fairly large seating area upstairs. It has only been open a few years but it is pretty obvious that the renovation of the 400 year old building has been done very sympathetically. When we arrived mid afternoon they only had two scones left, one fruit and the other cheese and bacon. We decide to have them both and share, half each … what are we like?

Internal view of the Sundial Café in Limekilns
Upstairs and downstairs in the Sundial

They were very good – the fruit one came with plenty of jam but they didn’t have any cream … boo! No topscone but a lovely place with friendly people … highly recommended. A scone at the Sundial Café in LimekilnsIn 1362 King David II, as kings do, gave Limekilns harbour to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey  to encourage trade with europe … oh, with the shambles that is Brexit, for that sort of initiative these days!  Shock horror,  as we sit gazing out towards the North Sea, BP has announced that it is to double its North Sea oil production and keep extracting for the next forty years. In 2014 it was explained, in no uncertain terms, what a liability the dribble of oil that was left was for Scotland … so now the liability has just got a whole lot bigger … thanks Westminster, what would we do without you? If Scotland ever gets its independence the maritime border with England, surreptitiously redrawn in 1999 to run just off Aberdeen will have to be extended yet again to take in all the oilfields around Shetland … what fun!

KY11 3HN     tel: 01383 873370      Sundial Café TA

ps something for all our telephone box enthusiasts, not a K2 or a K6 or even made of iron. A wooden Post Office telephone box from the 1930sOne of our wonderful correspondents has just sent this picture of a wooden telephone box taken at the National Museum of Scotland. According to the information it is dated 1930s and is from the Hope Street Post Office in Edinburgh. Apparently a lot of post offices provided these payphones for customers when few people had telephones at home. Things have changed since then. Thank goodness for social media, otherwise how else would we know that Scotland’s thirteen Tory MPs had voted to remove powers from the Scottish Parliament?

Forth Valley Royal Hospital

We would not suggest that you actually come here just for a scone, heaven forbid, but if you have to come here for whatever reason then it might be worth knowing if the scones are worth a try. Forth Valley Royal Hospital was opened in 2010 in Larbert as a replacement for both Falkirk and Stirling Royal Infirmaries. It covers a geographical area stretching from Tyndrum in the NW to Bo’ness in the SE and serves a population of 300,000. It’s very much a state-of-the-art facility with much of the work being done by robots … though we are assured that, if you need an operation, it will still be carried out by highly intelligent human beings … phew! Amongst the wide variety of therapies available is retail therapy … Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, Starbucks, StockShop are all present and ready to remedy your shopping cravings. FVRH 04We were just here visiting, and having some time to spare, we ended up here in what is imaginatively called ‘The Restaurant’. It has received a Healthy Living Award so we wondered what form a healthy scone would take? At the self service counter there is plenty of variety on offer but we by-passed all the healthy stuff and went straight for a scone which, it has to be said, did not look any different from any other. FVRH 06It didn’t taste much different either, but it was perfectly acceptable – nothing more or less than what you would expect in a place like this. Fortunately NHS Scotland seems able to cope much better than NHS England with the financial stresses and strains of running a modern Health Service. Although there is no mention in the media whatsoever, when you have one half of the UK getting on just fine with it’s junior doctors and the other half driving their junior doctors to take full strike action without even emergency cover, it has to say something about the governance of the ‘United’ Kingdom. Let’s hope  the threatened strike by doctors south of the border gets resolved without mishap. We hope that none of you ever have to come here, but as hospitals go, Forth Valley Royal Hospital is up there with the best in the world .. and the scones aren’t too shabby either but probably not any healthier than any other.

FK5 4WR    tel: 01324 566000    Forth Valley Royal Hospital