Tag Archives: Russia

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 Woodhouse

For those of you who know the tiny community of Kinlochard, here’s a question – what would a group of fifty Russians and Greeks be doing in the village? While you are cogitating let us tell you why we are here. As if our Trossachs correspondents don’t do enough, scouring places like Gibraltar and Lithuania for scones, they very kindly invited us to a ‘Scottish’ night at the village hall … they have already had very successful Indian and Italian nights. What a night it was … excellent Scottish themed food and drink, and even better company. Just walking the half mile from the house to the hall was exciting … us townies tend to forget what ‘dark’ means until you are in a place like this … it’s dark! Goodness knows how Rob Roy and his merry band got around without iPhone torches! Unlike larger towns and cities, little places like Kinlochard certainly know how to generate community spirit … and it’s a really nice experience. There were no Russians or Greeks at our night however.

View across Loch Ard with Ben Lomond in the distance
Loch Ard with Ben Lomond in the distance

The next day was beautiful. After a wee walk round the village we had to head for home  but decided to visit Flanders Moss on the way. Having attended a fascinating Scottish Wildlife Trust talk about the Moss the previous week we thought we should check it out. Again, it is one of these places that you know of as one of Scotland’s chief defences against the English in times gone by and as a place you drive past frequently … but not as a place you actually ever visit.

View from the viewing tower at Flanders Moss
part of Flanders Moss with Ben Lomond on the left and Ben Ledi on the right

It’s a designated National Nature Reserve and now it has a magnificent high viewing platform that provides a brilliant vantage point looking out towards Aberfoyle and the Lake of Menteith. Don’t think there is any connection with Flanders in Belgium, the name seems to be a corruption of an old gaelic word. On the edge of the Moss near to Kippen you come to The Woodhouse, another of these café farm shops that seem to be popping up everywhere. Interior view of the Woodhouse Café, KippenYou would think there would be a cut-off point where there were too many and they would become  unsustainable … not yet, they all seem to be really busy and The Woodhouse is no exception. After our walk, lunch was definitely order of the day however there was no way we could pass up the chance of a scone test so that you, dear sconeys, can know that on your own visit to Flanders Moss it is safe to come here for sustenance … the things we do! They are quite big so we decided to share one between the four of us … one of the biggest testing panels we have ever assembled, a sort of scone version of Strictly. Scones at the Woodhouse Café, KippenThe tea and scone was presented beautifully with an eclectic range of crockery … and with locally produced butter and cream as well as homemade strawberry jam – four 10s so far. Taste was excellent as well so, without too much deliberation it was declared a topscone, well done The Woodhouse! Oh yes, the Russians and Greeks! They were in Kinlochard for a St Andrew’s night dinner … St Andrew, of course, being the patron saint of Russia and Greece as well as Scotland … but you all knew that! Quite why they should find themselves in Kinlochard however is still a bit of a mystery. Earlier today, St Andrew’s Day, the Prime Minister made a speech saying how proud she was of everything Scottish (the oil price is soaring) while simultaneously Angus Robertson was jeered for wishing the Commons a happy St Andrew’s day … just have a great day everyone!Cake display at the Woodhouse Café, Kippen

FK8 3JA       tel: 01786 870156        The Woodhouse FB

Out of the Blue Bistro

It’s not often we find ourselves in Strachur, and we had no intention of being here today either! We were taking the scenic four ferry route to Arran for a few days with the Scottish Wildlife Trust, (Wemyss Bay to Rothesay, Rhubodach to Colintraive, Portavadie to Tarbert, Cloanaig to Lochranza)  only to find, when we got to Portavadie, that the Tarbert ferry  had broken down. You can plainly see Tarbert from Portavadie, it is just over there across the water, but the breakdown left us with no alternative but to drive the 90 mile detour round Loch Fyne … arrrggh!

Not far from Strachur - looking down the Kyles of Bute
Not far from Strachur – looking down the Kyles of Bute

By way of compensation of course it meant driving through some wonderful countryside but, nice as it was, one cannot live on scenery alone, so Strachur  was as far as we got before we had to stop for sustenance and, as we drove round the corner, out of the blue, we came on the Out Of The Blue Bistro .. brill!

Looking from the bistro to the shop
Looking from the bistro to the shop

No idea why it has that name except that you do come on it quite suddenly. As well as a bistro it serves as the local Post Office and shop … in other words, it is the beating heart of Strachur. Although it was quiet when we were there it is a popular place with locals and, by all accounts, has a good reputation for delicious food. We were just here for a scone of course and before long the attentive staff had us all sorted. Out of the Blue 04Unfortunately the scones, although quite acceptable, were not top notch. There was a suspicion that they might have been microwaved and that sometimes makes them a bit flabby. Loads of jam and whipped cream though so ten out of ten for effort and hospitality. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on which side you are on, Ukraine has just won the Eurovision song contest, sparking major unrest in Russia who, along with almost everyone else, thought they should have won. It didn’t help that the Ukrainian song, ‘1944’, was about the year that Stalin deported all the Tatars from their native Crimea … ouch! Hope it does not come to it but who would have thought that Eurovision had the potential to start a war. The important thing to remember is that Australia came second, otherwise it would be difficult to take the European song contest seriously. We will be in holiday mode for the next week or so and that generally means more scones than usual, so prepare yourselves for a veritable avalanche of posts. We have also started a bird list of all the different species we see during the trip … if anyone wants to guess the final score you can put it in the comments and we will reveal the final tally when we get back … exciting!

PA27 8DD      tel: 01369 860221     Out of the Blue Bistro & Shop FB

The Wee Blether Tearoom

Blether 01Before we start and for those of you who do not speak ‘pure Scots’ perhaps we should explain ‘wee blether’. It is when people get together and gossip about anything and everything. A blether can also be a noun; the act of blethering or someone who blethers .. tells stories not necessarily based in fact. You remember an earlier post about the MP for Shetland who mislead his constituents so as to get elected; well in English you would call him a liar, pure and simple, but in Scots, if we wanted to be less harsh, we might call him ‘a wee blether’ .. got it? Meanwhile back in the real world, Russia is bombing Syria, the US is bombing Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia is bombing Yemen and Britain’s nuclear submarines patrol endlessly and uselessly. Fortunately, in the midst of this mess  the Wee Blether Tearoom is a perfect oasis of light hearted good sense. We had had it on good authority from a couple of local Kinlochardians (or whatever you call people from Kinlochard) that this place was worth a visit .. they were not wrong. The menu reminds you that “we are not a fast food establishment, not even a restaurant, we’re a small family run tearoom, we strive to provide the best quality food as quickly as we can” .. a good start! Blether 04It is up to the minute with deals, in fact everywhere you look there are offers that have to be read with some care. However, for not taking themselves too seriously Ricky and Shona (the owners) do a great job of combining a lovely relaxed atmosphere and great food. Sitting in the sun looking out over Loch Ard it is not difficult to relax and the sweet potato and coconut soup accompanied by almost a half loaf of wonderfully soft brown bread was absolutely delicious.  Blether 08When our scones arrived however we realised that the soup and bread might have been a mistake .. they don’t do dainty scones and they came fully loaded with jam and cream. Now  we have said in the past that we prefer to load our own scones .. make a scone of two halves then load and eat each half separately, in our opinion that’s the way it should be done. On this occasion at least we were provided with a fork and spoon with which to tackle them .. they were fab! Even although there was not a single kid in the place Ricky came round dishing out sweets to everyone, and, like the big kids that we are, we dutifully took them .. nice touch though. We also took up their latest offer, pay double for one scone and get the second free .. great! This place is friendly and well named .. if you came here on your own it wouldn’t be long before you were having a wee blether with someone .. well done to Ricky and Shona, great place and topscone.

teapot collection
teapot collection

FK8 3TL      tel: 01877 387337         Wee Blether Tearoom