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
It is perhaps fitting that with just one day left before polling starts in the General Election that we find ourselves on the edge of the Roman Empire. Here in Callander the Roman Camp Country Hotel reminds us of the fact that this was about as far as the Romans got before they gave up with troublesome Scots and retreated south where things were easier to manage. Like the Romans many UK unionist politicians are currently wondering if they should do the same. The conservatives may do better than predicted and if they manage to retain power I will have to concur with Aneurin Bevan when he asked “How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power?” Anyway this close to polling it would seem unlikely that a scone blog will change the outcome substantially. However, another recent and troubling phenomena has been the arrival of a Royal baby. Very nice and all that, but the near hysteria it has created is worrying. 120 years ago, when King Edward VIII was born, Keir Hardie said “From childhood onwards this boy will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers and will be taught to believe himself as of a superior creation”. I fear the same fate awaits baby Charlotte .. and her big brother. Sitting, cocooned by a roaring fire in one of the Roman Camp’s sumptuous sitting rooms you could easily forget about all such matters and just sit back and watch the rain thrashing down outside. This is a lovely place and they boast quite openly, and as it happens quite justifiably, about their afternoon teas. They serve it slightly differently … in courses. Most places serve everything at once so this was a welcome variation. Our first course was a Haggis Bon Bon .. sounds unlikely but it was delicious. Second course was all the savouries, a range of sandwiches, sausage rolls, quiche, gougére .. delicious. The sweet stuff followed in the third course, cupcakes, panna cotta, drizzle cake, tiffin, meringues .. delicious. All done at a very leasurely and relaxed pace over a couple of hours with as much tea or coffee as you wanted. The scones were perfect, light and fluffy, and definitely get ‘topscone’ status, no problem. There was both fruit and a plain each accompanied by plenty jam and cream. The fruit one was packed full of goodies and was particularly yummy. All in all this was a wonderful experience and, given half a chance, we would definitely go back for more of the same .. first class. We will leave you with this little piece of advice (don’t know who to attribute it to but hope they don’t mind) prior to the election results being announced.
- How To Start The Day
- Open a new file on your computer
- Name it ‘David Cameron’.
- Send it to the recycle bin
- Empty the recycle bin.
- Your PC will ask “Do you want to get rid of David Cameron?”
- Firmly click ‘Yes’.
- Feel better
FK17 8BG tel: 01877 330003 Roman Camp
McTears is one of many well run auction houses in Scotland and one which we use on a fairly regular basis. This time we had to go through and pick up a bottle of whisky and a sextant (don’t ask) that had been bought on line. It is always good fun at auctions but even just visiting can be interesting, lots of stuff going on and lots of interesting people. By the time we had paid for and acquired all our goodies it was scone time and it just so happens that McTears have a great wee café serving hungry antique hunters. We were served by a very friendly lady who soon had us fixed up. When I asked if the scones were home baked she shrieked and said “if I had baked them you would have to go to the dentist to get your broken teeth mended” .. such honesty. So no home baking here but then again you come here to buy antiques not scones. Last night there was the three leaders debate on QT. Normally these things are notable for their lack of excitement and, to some extent, this one was no exception. PoshDave maintained his track record by telling a whole load of half truths as well as some blatant lies, LibNick maintained his track record by not saying anything .. but, RedEd, as well as stumbling off the podium (that will be the headlines) seemed to say that he would prefer that PoshDave carried on in power rather than him do a deal with the vile NatNic. Coming from a Labour leader that is quite extraordinary and perhaps explains why in Scotland, RedEd’s party is known as the RedTories and poor old Keir Hardie is spinning in his grave. As it happened the scones were okay, exactly what you would tend to expect from bought-in and no dental damage whatsoever!