Tag Archives: National Trust

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 Orangery – Ham House

FOR SALE des-res in Ham – Thames side location just a short walk from Richmond … price £1,131! Okay, that was in 1650, just 40 years after it was built by by Sir Thomas Vavasour, goodness knows what it would be worth today … only Russian oligarchs need apply. Back then however it seemed to be mainly Scots who had the money. Firstly it was William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart, then Lord Elgin, then John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale, then Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll … in fact several Dukes of Argyll were born here?? The last Earl of Dysart, the 9th, died in 1935 leaving almost £5million but with no direct heirs so in 1948 it passed to the National Trust … and hence they let riffraff like us in. The Orangery Café at Ham HouseThe interior of the house is supposed to be spectacular but we didn’t bother going in … scones we were after! The gardens are extensive and beautifully manicured and apparently the oldest Christ’s thorn bush in the country is situated right here on the tea terrace outside the orangery. Not old enough to have provided anything for the crucifixion … but old. The orangery itself is said to be the oldest in the country but then again, the country is not exactly stacked out with orangeries. It was a lovely day for sitting out so once we had acquired everything from the self service counter that’s what we did. A scone at the Orangery Café at Ham HouseThe scones were good and were accompanied by the ubiquitous Rhodda’s Cornish Cream that we are always going on about. Down here it seems much more acceptable than it does in the Highlands of Scotland where there is plenty of local cream. There was also ‘National Trust’ jam and a pat of butter. We were here with our daughter who lives not far away from here. Before we realised what was happening she had done her scone cream first … arrgghh, dragged up!

A cream first scone at the Orangery Café at Ham House
What a mess!

Nevertheless, no matter which way you prepared these scones they were very good, not topscones but very good. All in all this was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. A friend from Maryland who had stayed with us some months back had become fascinated by the word ‘dreich’ … which in Scottish means ‘inclement’ or ‘pretty miserable’. He emailed to see if it could be applied to hurricanes or if we had another word for that. We had to let him know that ‘dreich’ was about as serious as our weather gets so, no, we didn’t have another word. It made us realise, though, with Hurricane Irma reaking havoc all through the Caribbean, how lucky we are to have the weather we have … even though all we do is complain about it.

TW10 7RS     tel: 020 8940 1950      The Orangery TA