Admittedly, this is not the first place that comes to mind when seeking out a good scone a) it’s a huge furniture warehouse b) it’s situated in a pretty uninviting industrial estate … but, like us, you might be surprised. We used to come here quite often looking for the odd quirky piece of furniture but, hallelujah, since our last visit they have reorganised everything and added Café Belgica … and it seemed like the busiest part of the store. It is well set up and there is a good range of food and drinks on offer … including scones. Ours fruit scones were good and served with a generous tub of clotted cream. The friendly lady who was looking after us, however, was having to work very hard negotiating a rather odd table layout – definitely something they need to look at in future. Not topscones unfortunately but enjoyable nevertheless. Café Belgica is providing something of an oasis in what is really a huge refreshment desert … a place to chillax away from the cares of the outside world and, perhaps more importantly, away from the Winter Olympics. Never mind the brouhaha about Kim Jong-un’s sister making Mike Pence look like a bit of a plonker, or the fact that banned Russia is competing … but not as Russia? Even more ridiculous is the sight of commentators working themselves up into a lather over whether Team GB might beat Team Nigeria by 1/1000th of a second … at sledging! Does anyone seriously care? Maybe we just don’t understand. In common with 99.999% of the population we don’t know anyone involved in ‘skeleton’ (head first on a sledge) or ‘luge’ (feet first on a sledge) so are not in a position to discuss the finer points. As youths we used to take part in our own Tin Tray Championships which consisted of a group of idiots sliding down the Ochil hills on beer trays totally out of control … a bit like Brexit negotiations! Could Brexit become an Olympic event … a gold medal to anyone who can find a way to keep us in the EU.
It was way back in January that we got a tip-off about the scones at Dobbies Garden Centre just outside Stirling.
Our ever diligent Trossachs correspondents had bought some to take home only to find that they had been given some extra ones free. This was more than they could handle on their own, so they passed on a couple to us and we ate them as part of an afternoon tea we were having with some neighbours. At the time we thought they were rather good, if a little bit oversized … we had to split them up to make them more manageable for our guests. Since then, we have been promising ourselves that we would visit Dobbies and do a proper review … seven months later, today is the day.
The garden centre is big and they have a restaurant to match. It is a little bit surprising to come in and find so many people out shopping and then to find a large restaurant which is equally busy. The servery area is also big and, rather than wait in a long queue we opted to go to the automated self service part. There is normally some sort of problem with these vending machines … and so it was, however the problem was not so much with the machine as with the operators.
Basically, from the large array of cups, all of which looked identical to us, we selected what turned out to be a tea cup and of course it was far too small for the quantity of coffee being delivered … a kind of Niagara situation ensued. We were a bit bemused by this until we noticed that there were similar but slightly larger ‘coffee’ cups … trauma over. We had opted to share a cherry and coconut scone because they were all so large and also we hadn’t actually tasted that particular combination before. Perhaps we should have stuck to what we know because we found this combo somewhat insipid … the tiny pieces of cherry were relatively few and far between and the coconut, although there, did not feature strongly enough. The scone itself was fine though, still too big for our taste … no topscone here but maybe the prize for the biggest.
The problem with Westminster and Holyrood being on holiday is that there is nothing much to report – witness the BBC’s interminable coverage of athletics. But wait a minute, apparently the end of the world has just got a whole lot nigher … we should report that in case any sconeys get caught unaware. With the great big ‘Goliath’ madman in Washington threatening unimaginable fire and brimstone against the wee ‘David’ madman in Pyongyang who likes dressing up like Ruth Davidson, there may not be much time left. The big question, of course, is … will Scotland manage to become an ordinary self respecting country before armageddon? The man in the know, Alex Salmond is predicting 4 years for independence but that may be too late. However, with HMRC admitting that Scotland’s economy is actually £15b bigger than they had reported … oops, and the latest figures showing that England ran a massive trade deficit in 2014 and 2015 whereas Scotland had an even greater surplus in those years, perhaps we can just squeeze in a wee bit of self respect before we are all blown to smithereens. How to avoid complete annihilation? We think that Trump and Kim Jong should sit down together over afternoon tea … the civilising influence of a good scone cannot be overestimated and the size of the Dobbies’ scones should almost match their egos!
BREAKING NEWS: Our Tyrolean correspondents have lodged a report on what could possibly be the first ever scones to be baked in Austria … you heard it here first! They were in Scotland for a few days and became so obsessed with scones that when they returned home they baked some of their own ‘Austrian scones’. They look good and by all accounts were good. No information on whether Austrians go jam or cream first but together, dear readers, we are taking scones to the world … and the world will be a better place! Many thanks C and M.
Readers will remember from our last post regarding an unintentional visit to Bathgate and the Coffee Club that we drove around Cairnpapple Hill to get there. While we were doing that, about a mile or so out of Linlithgow, we passed a sign for the Scottish Korean War Memorial … the what? We didn’t stop but it raised our curiosity. You could probably write what we knew about the Korean War quite comfortably on the back of a postage stamp … so it made us wonder. It made us wonder so much that, in an attempt to remedy the situation, we decided to go back and actually visit the place to find out what it was all about.
Apologies to folks who know all this already but it turns out that Korea was occupied by Japan from 1910. At the end of WWII, however, when Japan was defeated, there were difficulties agreeing who was to rule thenceforth … and believe it or not, the US and the Soviet Union got involved in what the US saw as a war against communism. From 1950 to 1953 twenty one countries fought on the UN side, Britain being one of them. Five million soldiers and civilians lost their lives … incredible, so soon after the end of a very bloody World War.
The Memorial, the only one in the UK, takes the form of an arboretum of 1,114 native Scottish trees, one for every British soldier who died,
and a shrine surrounded by two mounds in the shape of the Ying and Yang on the Korean flag. It is a quiet peaceful place and judging by the fresh flowers placed beneath trees still very much a place of remembrance for the relatives of those lost. Feeling much better informed we decided to head for home but we had hardly got started when, on the other side of Torphichen, we came across signs for the Cupcake Café Bar. Not somewhere we had ever heard of in spite of it being only a few miles from home and being in existence for over three years … our ignorance knows no bounds! It had to be done. Once we had negotiated the bomb-crater sized potholes in the driveway we arrived at an old converted farmhouse set in a large nicely laid out garden. Inside, it was surprisingly modern. When we ordered our scones from a lady with a rather mischievous look in her eye, she told us in no uncertain terms “you will enjoy them” … we felt duty bound! She was right of course, we did enjoy them … nicely presented with plenty butter (local), jam and clotted cream. They were soft and light with just the right amount of fruit … the coffee was good as well. Again, not quite a topscone but yet another admirable attempt. Back in Korea, a cease fire was eventually brokered in 1953 by dividing the country into North and South with a ‘no man’s land’ in between. Both countries are still officially at war to this very day! The communist North is now led by the 34 year old Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, a man who is generally regarded by the western press as more than a little ‘unhinged’. Thank goodness we don’t have anything like that in the west … oh, hold on a minute?? Kim is the only one in the country allowed to bear the surname ‘Jong Un’ all others with the name were forced to change. We suspect that no force at all should be necessary for the Trumps of this world.