Tag Archives: Canada

The Beast from the East

This is not a proper scone post. It is simply an attempt to reassure all those kind sconeys (particularly those in the southern hemisphere) who have enquired after our well-being in the face of the Beast from the East, Putin’s gift to the west. We are fine though things in general are pretty bad e.g. we have just heard that pastries from Greggs have been declared legal tender! The title picture is of our car which hasn’t moved for almost a week. We can hear readers in Canada and Norway screaming “they call that snow”? Okay, okay, don’t mock! Unlike you, when we get snow, we  just wait for it to go away the next day … but this time it has been here for days! Nothing in Britain has moved much in the last week … very few cars on the roads, no trains, no flights … but you know all that! Let us give you an instance about how Britain is coping. Yesterday, late afternoon, we decided to venture out as far as our local pub just to get out and have a walk if nothing else. We walked along the middle of the road, standing aside every time a car came along … only two passed. There was no one else out, the whole place was eerily quiet. We fully expected the pub to be  deserted, just a few hardy regulars, but no, it was ramjammed, we could hardly get in! We asked the harassed looking barmaid why it was so busy “cos nobody’s at their efing work” was the reply. That’s how Britain copes … just go to the pub! We don’t have any pictures of scones to share but we are sending you this one of a partial scone. It was sent by one of our correspondents who has a home office at the bottom of his garden. His wife had baked some scones and braved the snow and the icy wind to bring some, complete with apricot jam, to her beloved. He thought that he would send us a picture but, in his heightened state of ecstasy, promptly forgot until there was barely anything left.What's left of a scone and apricot jamWe can only apologise dear readers, but good competent scone correspondents are difficult to come by these days ..  a bit like politicians. We had to admire Theresa May saying that the EU would have to compromise  … is there a thinly veiled threat in there “if you don’t compromise we won’t leave”? Once again, thanks for all your concern but hopefully we will be out and about very soon and normal sconology will be resumed.

Second Cup

You all know by now that scones come in a variety of guises … some are so light you almost have to peg them down, others could be used as door stops. But scones are also incredibly versatile, e.g. we have just recently realised that they can even be used as a measure of cultural diversity. You would, of course, have to use a, yet to be invented, sconometer. With a scale of 1-10, it would scan the surrounding area and determine how many scone bearing establishments there were within it. Places like the melting pot that is the Portobello Road here in London might struggle to generate a 1 due to the lack of scones in its abundant cafés and restaurants … you can get all sorts of other strange and unrecognisable things … but not scones.

Photo of interior of Second Cup, Portobello Road, London
Downstairs eating area

We walked the entire length of the Market in subzero temperatures only to find that most of these places had barely heard of scones let alone serve them. We just got lots of quizzical looks, as if we were slightly mad? Okay, we know that a lot of you think that we are completely mad but bear with us. You see, some areas, such as our own home turf in Scotland, would probably generate a high reading, say 8 or 9, due to almost every café and eating-house offering scones as part of their everyday fare. According to the sconometer that area would be deemed to be not very culturally diverse … and compared to the Portobello Road, that would be completely accurate! See, not mad at all! These days the sconometer would have to take the form of an app which would, not only provide a scone distribution readout wherever you are, but would also lead you to the nearest or best scone … invaluable in places like this. Sooo, given our somewhat dire circumstances, who do you think ended up coming to our rescue? None other than a bunch of Canadians in the form of the Second Cup Coffee Company … ehh?Photo of interior of Second Cup, Portobello Road, London We have never come across Second Cup before but it has been around since 1975 and is run from Mississauga in the Toronto area and now has franchises covering 29 countries. When we did an initial visual sweep of the counter however we thought we had come across yet another scone desert but, when we asked, the assistant pointed to two solitary scones amongst all the other cakes and pastries … hallelujah!  It has to be said though that these lonesome items did not look particularly appetising, quite the opposite … but it had to be done! Would this count as our first Canadian scone?? Photo of a scone at Second Cup, Portobello Road, LondonWhatever they did to them between leaving their cabinet and landing in front of us, it looked like it would be our first grilled scone as well? Life on the edge, as always! When we looked over at the sad wee empty space these scones had vacated we felt that perhaps we should just have left them there … for their sake, and ours! When we started to eat them however we were very pleasantly surprised, they were very good and in spite of the ubiquitous tub of cornish cream we found ourselves swithering about topscone … really? It was an odd kind of place … friendly enough without anyone actually being particularly friendly … most staff were too busy on their mobile phones! Perhaps they were using the scone app to find out if anyone in the area was setting up in competition? Plus, you would think with a name like Second Cup they would offer a ‘second cup’ but no, they didn’t.  At the end of the day we decided that, although the scone itself was good, it was let down by everything else … no topscone. Photo of a coffee cup at Second Cup, Portobello Road, LondonThe scones here reminded us of Scotland’s position in relation to the rest of the UK … just a little scone surrounded by much bigger sticky pastries and flamboyant cakes, powerless to make itself seen, never mind heard.  With the recent Law Lords ruling the Scottish Parliament has been exposed as nothing other than the talking shop the UK government always intended it to be and powerless to carry out Scotland’s wishes! It’s time for change! As we were leaving Second Cup we glanced over  to the cabinet to see that … lo and behold, two new scones had replaced our ones, and it may have been our imaginations, but they seemed to be standing rather proudly among their glitzy neighbours … could it be a sign?

There are lots of pretty esoteric apps out there so, who knows, the sconometer app might yet become a reality … but in the meantime, thankyou Canada for rescuing us!

W11 1LJ    tel: 020 7460 0633   Second Cup Coffee Company

Liz MacGregor’s Coffee Shop

Those of you who know Aberfoyle probably already know that this is Rob Roy country so the name of this particular tearoom is maybe not that surprising. The reason for us being here is once again down to R B Cunninghame Graham who, you will remember, wrote about the Princess of Buckhaven. In another of his stories, ‘A Braw Day’, written in 1900 about his last day at his home in Gartmore House, he makes a passing reference  .. ‘the curious moondial, with its niches coloured blue and red’. If you Google ‘moondial’, unsurprisingly, it tells you that it is an instrument, like a sundial, for telling the time using the moon rather than the sun. It also says it is only accurate on the night of a full moon and one week before or after a full moon it is more than 5 hours out! Why on earth would you bother? We thought we should try to find out if it was still there and to see what sort of form it took. You’re probably thinking, “this pair couldn’t find a harbour the last time they went looking, what chance a tiny moon dial?” Turns out you would not be too far wrong because this particular moondial is no longer telling the time at Gartmore House .. it had been used to help fill in a harbour in Fife!! No, no,no, no, we did eventually find it tucked away round the back of the local Parish Church in a plot dedicated to the Cayzer family who bought Gartmore in 1901 .. there it was .. not at all what we expected. MacGregor 05MacGregor 12A couple of hundred years ago, someone, somewhere spent a lot of time and effort designing this thing and presumably it must be more accurate than the Google one assuming you know how to read it. It is an extremely complicated piece of kit and cries out for explanation by some of you repositories of useless information .. yes, we are thinking of the Ludbrokes and Hopwoods of this world! Having spent some considerable time trying to figure it out, we concluded that, rather than get up in the middle of the night and go out in the dark to find out what the time was, we would just keep using our iPhones .. in the traditional and time honoured manner. Now, if you have ever been engaged in hunting down moondials, you will know that time passes at a rate of knots and, before we knew it, it was late afternoon and we hadn’t yet had a scone. The solution was a couple of miles away in Aberfoyle where it was great to see everyone still sitting out at all the roadside cafés, in the mid-October sunshine. However, time was pressing and we just managed to catch Liz MacGregor’s before it closed .. and got the very last scone. MacGregor 11Rather than fight about it, Pat made the ultimate sacrifice and opted for a piece of coffee cake while I, the winner, set about my fruit scone. It came with a pot of jam and a very generous portion of cream. Not that much of a winner though. Perhaps, because it was the last one, it did not seem as fresh as it should have been .. not bad though, I enjoyed it but no ‘topscone’ award. It’s always a wee bit unfortunate when you get a place that is just about to close .. you end up the only ones there and feeling as if you are holding up proceedings .. not that anyone tried to rush us in any way whatsoever .. but you just get that feeling. But, with everything taken into account … lovely weather, a scone, a moondial … an all round ‘braw day’. MacGregor 02On the nearby Cunninghame Graham memorial the epitaph reads “Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham 1852-1936 – Famous Author – Traveller and Horseman – Patriotic Scot and Citizen of the World – As Betokened by the Stones above. Died in Argentina, interred in Inchamahome – He Was a Master of Life – A King Among Men”. He is still hugely venerated in Argentina which has its presidential elections today, something, being the politician that he was, would have hugely interested him. Canada also goes to the polls to today, it will be interesting to see if Harper’s Putinesque administration can survive. Let’s hope it’s a ‘braw day’ for the folks in Argentina and Canada as well.

FK8 3UG    tel: 01877 389376      Liz MacGregor’s Tearoom TA

ps: Why don’t you Google the word ‘subsequently’, it has a great explanation.

The Puffer

The tiny island of Easdale once had a population of over 500, all of whom were employed in the slate mining industry which exported as far as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The last slate was cut in the 1950s and most of the houses are now holiday homes with a steady population of around 60. Easdale island lies off another island, Seil, but you can reach Seil via the Bridge over the Atlantic.

Part of the large village green at Easdale
Part of the large village green at Easdale

There is no bridge to Easdale however so to get there from Seil you have to press two buttons simultaneously on the jetty at Ellenabeich village to summon the little ferry boat which only takes a couple of minutes to do the crossing. Once on Easdale the whole island is car free … so peace and quiet reigns supreme, just the sound of the sea and the birds, what a great place for kids to play. However this idyll is broken every September when hordes of enthusiasts descend on the place for the annual World Stone Skimming Championships which takes place in one of the old quarries. Easdale01You have the choice of one pub, the Puffer Bar and Restaurant, take it or leave it. Luckily it is a wee gem and on a wonderful warm day it was like a little bit of heaven sitting outside in the sunshine with our homebaked scones and homemade jam .. ours was bramble and lime. The scones were wonderfully light and the tea delicious. As we read that the new euro is to be printed on Greece proof paper this really does seem like another world.

View from Ellenabeich towards Mull and the ferry terminal on the left.
View from Ellenabeich towards Mull and the ferry terminal on the left.

PA34 4TB         tel: 01852 300022     www.pufferbar.com