Monday, 20 November 2017


Occasionally two large wolfhounds are walked up the drive to the tea rooms by a couple who live in the village.
Last week one of them, Bran, was brought on his own. His back is about level with the tables. His head is bigger than mine. He was a little muddy from the track and Jean, his owner, insisted they stay in the cold conservatory while she had her tea and cake.
I brought her drink and slice of Victoria sponge and we chatted about her five dogs. YES,  FIVE. All Irish wolfhounds. All massive. As we talked Bran sidled up to the table, put his head on one side and took a great big bite out of the cake.
She chastised him, made him lie down and said he was always embarrassing her. She also insisted I didn't replace the cake, that she would cut off where he'd chomped down and would eat the rest.
Her other dogs are much better behaved but he's the youngest and gets away with all sorts of mischief, she says and went on to explain where they live and how long they've bred and trained dogs.
Bran stood up suddenly, made a swift move to the table and swiped the rest of the cake. In one mouthful.
He did not look at all guilty.
I brought a second piece of cake, put it on the other side of the table and left them to it.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Busman's holiday

One of the joys of my job is that a piece of cake in another establishment can be deemed to be work.
Yesterday I found myself in Knaresborough, which is a four hour train journey away.
I had been lured by a friend with the promise of a lovely tearoom which is open all year round. She thought it would be useful to see it and I could pick their brains....
It's called Marigold, family run, right on the river near the gorgeous railway bridge, warm and friendly and right up my street.

I talked at length to owner Jo about the good things and the trickier things which go hand in hand with serving tea for a living. It was marvellous therapy. And with a cream-filled scone and a hot chocolate alongside the counselling session I came away very happy.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Will you share our joys?

We like the winter season so far.
We're just dealing with one room, the heating is on, the customers aren't in a hurry to leave so we spend the day making coffee and lunches, chatting and fiddling with the gift display.
There was one downside yesterday.
Three people came for lunch and sat near the window. I was pricing up Sophie Allport mugs and Heyland and Whittle soaps when I overheard one of them mention Ovaltine and the ovaltineys song.
My mum used to sing it around the house. It's originally from the 1930s but was used on an advert in the 70s.
I know all the words.
It is now firmly stuck in my head.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

New shoes

A new era has begun in my world.
Having ended the main season on Sunday we reopened today for our new winter hours:
Wed-Fri 9am-3pm and weekends from 11am-4pm.
Bev slept fitfully, worried that we might not have enough staff.
Annie woke up worried we may not see any customers at all.
We landed somewhere in the middle with a fine mix of regulars and new visitors.
Perfect for a first day.
Everyone who came sat in the main tearoom - the conservatory is already proving too cold.

This morning I went to the garage to pick up my car.
It had to have new handbrake shoes.
Who knew that was even a thing?

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Winter longing

Another good Sunday following what was a mediocre Saturday.
Today saw 98% of people sitting inside as it was pretty chilly but it didn't rain and we had enough tables as families came and left and more families arrived.
Two soups today - spiced pumpkin and butternut squash & carrot. Very autumnal.
We now have daily conversations with people expressing their happiness that we're staying open for the winter months.
Let's hope the weather is kind to us and they hanker after a bit of cake.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Rat (a-touille) in the kitchen.

Today was going to be one of those days when very few customers would brave the rain, so we decided to cook a trial batch of ratatouille. This will be added to the menu of jacket potato fillings for the autumn/winter. It's hot, vegetarian, gluten-and-dairy-free and full of colourful vegetables. Thus ticks quite a few boxes.
We all played a part. Bev sliced the aubergines and onions, Nancie worked on the peppers and courgettes, Annie chopped the garlic cloves.
Then a strange thing happened.
In the midst of the cutting and chopping and softening and adding and seasoning came the coffee drinkers. More than we would ever imagine ventured out on a very rainy day to take refuge with hot drinks, lunches and teas.
And the ratatouille is a winner.
Therefore, all in all, a pretty good day thank you.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017


It is impossible not to become attached to some people.
They start off as customers, ordering a couple of coffees and passing the time of day.
Then one day they tell you what their favourite cake is, or say what they had last time or say something about having something different, or sitting somewhere different and you realise that, actually, they come quite often. They are, in a word, regulars.
Next time when they arrive they might greet me by name.
They always boost my spirits, always make me feel I'm doing something right, always reassure me that there are some truly lovely people in the world who ask for very little and give a great deal.
Over the last eight years (yes that's how long it's been) I have had the great joy of sharing a little bit of life with quite a few "regulars".
If I am allowed a favourite then it would have to be Jim.
Jim "americano with hot milk and a slice of lemon drizzle" Grant who celebrated his 90th birthday a couple of years ago at the tearooms with a family tea.
Jim, father of three, always accompanied by one or more of his kids, two of whom retired last year. Jim who, when we closed last season for the winter, brought us a box of chocolates to say thank you and then emailed me in late November saying he was looking out of his window on a grey day dreaming of Spring and his next visit.
Jim, who died on Boxing Day, aged 92.
A few years ago he walked around the garden with one of his daughters. When they reached the raised area above the former tennis court he stopped and looked back at the tearoom building.
"You can sprinkle me here, if you like," he told her, "I'd be happy here."
Today Martin, Lesley, Cathy and Bob brought Jim's ashes and sprinkled him liberally, laughing as the wind made him difficult to control, scattered him at the base of trees and among the fallen leaves, on their shoes and trousers. They then sat in the garden, drinking americanos with hot milk and eating lemon drizzle. They split the fifth piece (Jim's piece) between the four of them.
They didn't stop smiling.

We miss you. So very much.