Tag Archives: Labour party

The Portonian Bakery & Tea Rooms

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!Internal view of the Portonian Bakery and Tea Room in Grangemouth 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. A scone at the Portonian Bakery and Tea Room in GrangemouthWith 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.Strawberry tarts at the Portonian Bakery and Tea Room in GrangemouthSince 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

The Walled Garden

You know how you can drive past something on a regular basis without giving it a second thought, you see the signs but never venture. So it was with Devilla Forest, just a ten minute drive from where we live. Turns out that within the bounds of this relatively small piece of pine forest all sorts have happened. There is the ‘Standard Stone’, its carved square holes are said to have held the standards of King Duncan and his lieutenants, Macbeth and Banquo in a battle with the Danes at Bordie Moor in 1038. There is ‘Maggie Duncan’s stone’. Maggie was a 17th century witch who tried to carry the boulder in her apron to the top of a nearby hill but it slipped and her apron strings cut strange deep grooves into the stone. You can also find the graves of children who died of plaque over three hundred years ago. There’s the remains of a WW II explosives research establishment .. oh, and lots of sightings of big black cats!! Goodness, we didn’t know the half of it … and virtually on our doorstep. As well as all that, and on a slightly lighter note, you can find red squirrels, otters … and scones. Walled Garden 09The scones can be located at The Walled Garden, brainchild of the farmers at Righead Farm … who just wanted their own walled garden … so they built one about four years ago.

Inside the Walled Garden
Inside the Walled Garden

They started selling teas and coffees in the Potting Shed but it proved so popular that they have now built a large purpose built café and the Potting Shed is now a well stocked shop selling plants and knick-knacks.  Walled Garden 05We were offered plain, fruit or date and apricot scones. Pat opted for the fruit, while I, living on the edge as usual, went for the date and apricot, a new and and untried sconological combination! Sitting out in the sunshine it did not take long before they arrived, nicely presented with little pots of jam and whipped cream. The scones themselves were delicious and we didn’t have too much trouble giving them a topscone award. By the way, the date and apricot combo works a treat!Walled Garden 07If you view tales of large black cats with a slightly raised eyebrow, then both eyebrows will go into to some sort of earth orbit looking at the current machinations of the Labour party. Unbelievable … when will they realise that Corbyn is not only their best bet at gaining power but probably their only one? Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Scottish Labour party continues its policy of self harming, abandoning everything … Corbyn, a chance at autonomy, and no doubt, all hope, if they side with the Tories again on Indyref2.

View to the north from the Walled Garden
View to the north from the Walled Garden

Besides all that, hats off to people who build walled gardens these days … it is open Wednesday to Sunday but, perplexingly in these modern times, does not take cards – cash only.

FK10 4AT    tel: 07951 530571    The Walled Garden FB

Hendersons

Life, after the result of the EU referendum, seems somehow surreal. To make matters worse, in escaping from a boiling hot auction house in Edinburgh, we find ourselves here in what is, for us, almost some sort of parallel universe .. a vegan restaurant … Henderson’s, to be precise. Hendersons 03Now, we are the sort of people who will eat pretty much anything without thinking too much about it .. and thoroughly enjoy it. So coming face to face with a vegan scone made us realise that our understanding of veganism was somewhat sketchy. Google to the rescue!! Apologies to those who already know, but the Vegan Society definition is “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” Great, all very laudable so long as they understand that that approach is a luxury afforded to them by modern day living where supermarkets provide a ridiculous variety and range of just about everything. Hendersons 02If they had to apply that principle in ‘Scotland of old’ their state of health would be best described as ‘dead’. Anyway, apart from all that, this is a nice place with very friendly staff. Our one regret is that we chickened out on the vegan scone and opted for a cheese one .. our duty as sconeys should have been to try the vegan variety and report back to you, the reader … a mistake, one we will rectify in due course. This place was started in 1962 by Janet Henderson to provide an outlet for produce from her East Lothian farm. It is still owned by the Henderson family and has expanded over the years. Hendersons 06We were in the ‘Salad Table’ on the corner of Hanover and Thistle Street but there is also a dedicated Vegan restaurant at the opposite end of the block (joined by an underground tunnel) and a shop/deli in the basement. Our cheese scone was very good, not quite a topscone but pretty close. The coffee was excellent and, in keeping with their health philosophy, water is supplied with everything. Maybe it is just our prejudice coming to the fore but it seemed to us that most of the people coming and going, including the staff, just needed a good square meal to cheer them up.Hendersons 04 Back to the real world … ah yes, everything is broken … the EU, the UK, the markets. To try and solve a rift within the Tory party, Cameron gambled big time on ‘remain’ winning. They didn’t and now he has crawled off under a stone and left the resultant mess for others to clear up. The ‘Leave’ campaign obviously did not expect to win since they have no strategy whatsoever for the way forward. The Labour party, useless as ever! The EU does have a strategy though … they want rid of us as soon as possible and who could blame them, the UK has always been a shabby member of the EU. After we leave, vegans will probably thrive on the diet of baked beans we will all be on … maybe we should all think about converting?

EH2 1DR          tel: 0131 225 2131            Hendersons

The Biscuit Café

Culross 11On a nice day there are fewer nicer places to be than Culross in Fife. Maybe the only even nicer place would be The Biscuit Café in the centre of Culross. It is part of the Culross Pottery and Gallery whose resident potter Camilla Garrett-Jones makes lots of lovely stuff and runs pottery classes here and in the South of France.

A piece by Camilla Garrett-Jones
A piece by Camilla Garrett-Jones

The café is upstairs above the shop and its interior is very homely and welcoming. At the back there is also a small but lovely sheltered garden area set out with tables and chairs. The Caffia coffee was the best we had had in a long time; we even got the very obliging staff to grind some beans for us to take home. The scones were also very good though Pat’s cheese scone could have done with a touch more cheese and the fruit in my fruit scone was also a wee bit sparse .. so no ‘topscone’ award here but these are tiny criticisms in the overall scheme of things.Culross 09  All in all Culross is a great wee place and well worth a visit. It was founded by St Serf in the  6th century and legend states that when the British princess (and future saint) Teneu, daughter of the king of Lothian, became pregnant before marriage, her family threw her from a cliff. She survived the fall unharmed, and was soon met by an unmanned boat. Knowing she had no home to go to, she got into the boat which sailed her across the Firth of Forth to land at Culross where she was cared for by St Serf who became a kind of father of her son. He ultimately became St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow. As a rank outsider, Jeremy Corbyn must have felt a bit like Teneu in the Labour party leadership race but, like her, he has triumphed beyond all expectation. Doubtful that he will ever be sainted but perhaps we will now see a more humane side to British politics. If nothing else, at least we can now see some daylight between Labour and the Conservatives, so hooray for that. A cheer also for this café with its combination of arts and crafts, shop and cafe .. in fact you could say it ‘takes the biscuit’ .. sorry!

Fruit and veg are also on offer
Fruit and veg is also on offer

 KY12 8JG            tel: 01383 882176            The Biscuit

Inchyra Grange Hotel

On the outskirts Grangemouth this is part of the MacDonald Hotel group and as such you have probably been in one not too far removed from this one. It has a Spa and swimming pool but was obviously a much smaller place at one time because all the external walls of the original building are now inside and the crisply carved sandstone lends a certain quality ambience to the dining room at least. Many places refuse to take afternoon tea bookings on the day “because it does not give chef enough time”?? Inchyra 04We arrived at the Inchyra Grange Hotel mob handed having phoned ahead to ask for afternoon tea for eight adults and two children .. no problem .. what a delightful change to some of the other places we tried. Still no problem when we upset their seating plan by actually turning up with three children instead of two, great! We each got a couple of scones as well as loads of sandwiches and cakes. The scones were very good and almost made the topscone award. Awards are not exactly being thrown at Jeremy Corbyn who, although being extremely popular with the voters, is vilified by the  rest of his party. He actually thinks that the Labour party should be slightly socialist .. perish the thought! All, except Corbyn, seem to have forgotten that at the last General Election there was virtually nothing to differentiate the two main parties and voters thought they might as well vote Tory  .. or not at all. 30% chose ‘not at all’. Perhaps that 30% is stirring because they now see the possibility of a viable alternative. One of the biggest criticisms of Corbyn seems to be that he does not ‘look’ like a prime minister .. so we will just elect the prettiest one then, never mind the policies? He has certainly enlivened the debate and the other three (who are they?) should take note. Anyway, Labour party machinations aside, the Inchyra Grange coped extremely well with everything we threw at them and even boxed up all the leftovers for us to take home … well done.

FK2 0YB        tel: 01324 711911         MacDonald Hotels

Big Jessie’s tearoom – Tayinloan

God must be bemused at the shenanigans of the Labour party seemingly intent on ripping itself apart in it’s leadership elections, both in the UK and Scotland. He must wonder how on earth they could get themselves into such a mess. So it is that we find ourselves heading for God’s Island, Gigha, not in search of answers, because we are sure even He does not have any, but simply to get away from it all because it is too painful to watch. Ferry Inn02Tayinloan, on the Mull of Kintyre, is the jumping off point for Gigha and so we find ourselves in Big Jessie’s tearoom, waiting for the ferry and having a scone. There appears to be some confusion about the name of this place .. it is either Big Jessie’s tearoom, or the Ferry Inn .. think we prefer Big Jessie’s tearoom. Ferry Inn04It is a great wee place that someone has worked hard to create and maintain in its spotless condition with a wide range of goodies on offer. We just had a few minutes so it was one of Lorraine’s home baked scones while sitting outside in the sunshine. Very friendly staff and the scones were brilliant, well done Lorraine .. topscone award. No idea who Big Jessie is, or was, but she sounds like the sort of woman who could sort out the Labour party! If she can, then maybe she could move on to the Tory party and sort them out as well .. or is that too much to ask, even for Big Jessie.

PA29 6XG           tel:01583 441387           Ferry Inn TripAd

JamJar Café

Bridge of Allan is the kind of Belgravia of central Scotland .. a favourite hangout for the well off to live and play so there are lots of hotels, cafés, bars etc. Today we decided to stop off at the JamJar Café.  A nice day though not quite warm enough to sit outside on their pavement patio area but inside it is toasty no matter what the weather with a couple of big log burning stoves blazing away all day. It has the atmosphere of a well run but relaxed bistro and you can get pretty much anything you want from a Sunday lunch to a snack. Jamjar04
Needless to say we were after the scones so I got my usual fruit one and Pat got a savoury cheese one. Since our last post, of course, the election has come and gone .. and what an election. The media are having a field day trying to figure out what happened with the loss of three party leaders within as many hours. Scotland, typically some might say, has gone off on its own in a direction almost diametrically opposed to England which managed to get PoshDave returned with an overall majority thus proving that polls are not worth the paper they are written on. Again typically, Scotland seems to be getting blamed for all the ensuing problems; bringing down Labour , bringing down LibDems and, for all I know, bringing down UKIP, though I am not sure that can actually be classified as a problem. NastyNige bleating on about his 4 million votes being worth only one seat whereas the SNP’s 1.5 million  votes gets them 56 seats … conveniently forgetting that the SNP only stood in 59 seats compared to over 600 for UKIP. However, the most interesting statistic to emerge was the one that determined that if every single voter in Scotland had voted Labour (or any other party) it would not have made the slightest difference to the result .. and that for me encapsulates ‘the Scottish problem’. When it comes to voting, Scotland may as well not bother .. except maybe this time with virtually the whole country turning yellow, it might be different .. emphasis on ‘might’. Anyway PoshDave and his classmates can pretty well do as they want now but I suspect that most of England will not be happy with the results .. and that, along with the EU, the Union, and him being unpopular within his own party, may turn out to be the least of his problems .. “he is gonna catch a cold, from the ice inside his sole” as Christina Perri would say. Jamjar02It will be fascinating to see how it all pans out. Meanwhile the scones in the JamJar Café were consumed with varying degrees of indifference. Pat didn’t finish her cheese one and although I finished both of mine (I got two because they said that they were a little bit small but they probably just wanted rid of them) it was only because I was peckish. They did not seem fresh and certainly not produced on the day.  Everything else looks good in the JamJar, and it’s busy so they are obviously not depending on their scones. On the plus side log burning stoves are great, the service was efficient if not overly friendly, the daughters of Bridge of Allan are probably forced to work here so they can experience ‘the real world’. No passwords for the wifi, it is just there, brill … so why is the website so useless?

FK9 4HR      tel: 01786 831616      www.jamjarcafe.co.uk