My journey to the tearoom takes anything from thirty minutes to two hours depending on the traffic on the M80 motorway between Kirkintilloch and Falkirk. I’m usually the passenger with Mr M doing the driving so I have the luxury of a wee snooze on the way if I need one (and who doesn’t need a sneaky snooze!). Believe it or not, the car journey is where me and Mr M have to do a lot of compromise with each other. Given the choice, I’d listen to my chosen music via a CD but Mr M likes to listen to the news – again and again! Well my moaning and sighing over the last four years about listening to the same thing over and over again has finally had the desired effect and Mr M will now eventually switch the radio from Radio Scotland and the ever repeating news stories to a station with actual music. That in itself presents even more grumbles from both us though, as we then have to listen to the seemingly relentless adverts on these other stations. Sometimes I can even get Mr M to switch to Radio 2 but usually before we get to the tearoom the radio has been turned off by either one of us and we chat.
However, sometimes the news items generate interesting discussions and ideas. One morning last week the news item was about the need to get mental health support included in the treatment of diabetes. The lady in the discussion was telling us of the effect that diabetes has in life - having to think about checking your blood sugar before and after eating, before and after exercise and before and after stressful events. She was telling us that the psychological effect of diabetes needs to be taken seriously and help and support for this must be provided by the NHS for all those with this terrible disease.
The morning we were listening to this discussion was gloriously sunny but one of the first really cold mornings of the winter. As we travelled along the M80 and then the M876 I was looking at the snow-dusted mountains in the distance. Suddenly I couldn’t stop myself and the anger burst out of me. “What about other illnesses”, I shouted at the radio. “What about people like me who have had a heart attack? Where is the psychological help for me? I’m fed up with not being able to go out onto the hills. I don’t want to be looking at the snow-capped mountains from a distance; I want to be amongst them. I’m cross with the world because this has happened to me. I don’t smoke, don’t take drugs and drink alcohol only occasionally. I keep myself fit by walking the Scottish mountains and cycling. I might be a little over weight but I eat a good diet – give or take a cake or two. Why me?” I grumbled.
Then I realised that I do have psychological support, just not on the NHS. So where does mine come from then? Firstly I’m very fortunate that I have the unconditional support of Mr M and Beatrix who seem to know when I’m down or just not feeling great. There is always the offer a cuddle and the sharing of a biscuit (and that’s just Beatrix!)
Then there’s the tearoom - my place of work. Except that it’s not just a place to work is it. Over the last four years we have enjoyed seeing the tearoom become a place for everyone – especially those who are lonely, those who need a friendly face and those who are too timid to visit the large, busy, noisy cafes and tearooms. It has become, in the words of our customers, The Magical Tearoom on the Hill.
It’s not just magical for the customers though. It really has been magical for me and Mr M. Where else can you go to work and have a constant supply of friendship, love, support and concern from a whole range of people – both in the tearoom and on social media. Our tearoom family provide that unconditionally to both of us – and let’s not forget that over the different things that have happened to me in the last few years, Mr M has been there to support me and he needs support too.
What is it about the tearoom then that provides this to us all? Well the tea and cake always work for me. There is nothing quite like a hot steaming cup of real tea with a proper home-made cake or biscuit. Add the cosy, homely and clean surroundings, with perhaps a friendly face alongside you and the smiles soon begin.
We both like to talk. We like to talk to anyone and everyone. Whether you’re regular customer or a new customer, we like to talk. We like to talk about anything. But we also like to listen. We know when you need us to listen. We know when you just want to sit and not talk. We don’t judge.
The tearoom family members like to talk. They like to talk about anything. They also like to listen. They know when you need them to listen. They know when you just want to sit and not talk. They don’t judge. (It’s starting to sound like a Christmas song now…. They know when you are sleeping…).
After my unplanned heart attack it would have been very easy for me to just lie on the couch covered in a blanket (hand-made of course), watching TV and feeling sorry for myself. But then we don’t actually have a TV and haven’t for nearly five years now. Slipping into my own little solitary, silent world would have been easy. Of course there were times when I did just that but my body probably needed me to do so.
Beatrix kept me company, sitting beside the couch and following me to the toilet. She was still a bit traumatised but she still needed to go out. I’m not sure she was all that keen on going out with me alone to start with though. She hasn’t forgotten that the last time I was on the hills with her I left her and disappeared in a helicopter!
Then there was the tearoom. Where would everyone go if we were closed? Where would people go for their usual safe gluten and dairy free treats? Where would they go for their chats, for their laughs and would they miss us? I was already missing them. I was missing the tearoom. I was missing baking.
Very soon, the voices in my head started to remind me of the things I wanted to do. I need to finish the cross stitched eagle because I know how much it will mean to Mr M when he gets this as his Christmas present after waiting for 15 years for it. I want to finish some Christmas Eve boxes for two special teenagers who will be having Christmas with us this year because I can already see their faces when they receive them. I want to finish more little mice like Vivien and Violet because they just look so cute and I see people smile when they see them.
So now let’s add in the crafting at the tearoom, or as we call it, Craft, Chat and Cake. It might be taking part in something you can do well, something you’ve never tried before, something you want to improve in or simply just watching others craft.
Crafts don’t have to be difficult. Sometimes the simple crafts are those that provide the most relaxation. Take crochet. Once you have learned the basics there are so many simple patterns that involve only one stitch. You can simply enjoy the feel of the yarn and the repetitive, soothing crochet rhythm with no need to constantly check difficult patterns or count stitches. You can simply crochet away. Before you know it, an hour or so has passed, your tea has gone cold, different people have been and gone from the tearoom and you are feeling more relaxed and peaceful than you were.
It’s not just crochet that does this. What about trying iris folding? This is a craft that looks so fiddly and difficult but one that’s very straight forward. If you can count and cut a piece of ribbon or paper you can do this. You will often see iris folding in the tearoom craft sessions and we have organised classes for this regularly too. At the last class we were doing Christmas Trees using different ribbons. One lady commented that the two hours had just flown by as she lost herself in creating her picture.
How about colouring? We have lots of adult colouring books. Colouring can have a relaxing effect too. Just try it.
Really, any craft that involves a repetitive action can have a relaxing, de-stressing effect if you allow it to. When you focus on a particular activity you are, for a time, not focusing on your worries. Your breathing will slow, which will slow down your heart rate, making you more relaxed. Crafting in a group such as at our Craft, Chat and Cake sessions, helps to make you feel that you belong and you can just feel the support you get from each other or share with each other. It’s also not just about the chatting. There are often times in the tearoom when we are all quiet – crafting, reading or simply enjoying just being in the company of the tearoom family.
So let’s go back to the diabetes discussion on the radio. Yes, I fully agree with providing emotional and mental health treatment alongside the physical support for those with diabetes but I would argue that this should be provided for any illness, disease or injury.
Who votes that we should have the Magical Tearoom on the Hill with our Craft, Chat and Cake sessions provided on the NHS!
And what should the song for this week’s blog be? Easy like a Sunday Morning by the Commodores of course.
It will come as no surprise that this week I have no exciting tales of walks up a Munro or cycling adventures. I could write about cabin fever, lack of concentration and a dog that still doesn’t trust me, but there would be no fun in reading that would there.
One of my favourite ever things to eat in life has got to be a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. I remember when growing up I would always have one of these delights in my Christmas stocking, along with a satsuma. I loved (and still love) the way the wrapper cuddled the chocolate and you could almost imagine there to be real orange segments underneath the foil. In the advert with Dawn French, she said to “tap it and unwrap it”. I love to put mine in the fridge so that the segments really do fall apart when you tap the orange on the table. When the chocolate’s cold from the fridge, you also end up with a chocolate orange core! Who needs satsumas when you can have these! I am with Ms French here when she says, “It’s not Terry’s, it’s mine”. It’s a rare day that I will readily share my chocolate orange!
Anyway, moving on from dreaming of the chocolate orange, the next best thing has to be a chocolate orange cake. It does of course, need to be moist, contain chocolate and must, absolutely must, taste of freshly squeezed oranges. Chocolate must then of course either coat or be drizzled thickly over the cake to finish it off to perfection.
I’d like to take you back to May 2016 when I decided to have a month living as a coeliac to see how well the tearoom was catering for those with coeliac disease and also to experience how it felt trying to hunt down safe gluten free food when eating out. In my Facebook posts I wrote daily notes from my diary to let people know how I was doing and what I’d experienced each day. I have to say there were many grim days trying to eat out away from home and our tearoom. Sunday 30th May 2016 had to be one of the worst experiences and it did indeed involve a chocolate orange cake. I thought I would share my experience with you again as this is what ultimately let me to create our very own Chocolate Orange Cake.
Debra's Gluten Free Month – Monday May 30th 2016
Thirty days into the month and I’ve just had the worst experience of the whole month - or perhaps I’ve just had the perfect experience of how it feels to be coeliac trying to eat out.
Today being Monday was our playing out day with no baking. I decided that a trip out on the bikes was well deserved so planned a ride just short of 40 miles. We were going to cycle from Kirkintilloch, along the old railway path to Strathblane, up to Killearn, across to Fintry then over Crow Road down into Lennoxtown and then back to Kirkintilloch.
Being a sunny day, the legs were shaved (mine, not Mr M’s!) and the lycra dug out. By the way, you may mock lycra but it really is the best material when cycling. The shorts have lots of padding and don’t ride up your leg when peddling and leggings don’t get caught in the chain. It's also very good when racing as lycra is far less wind resistant than a big thick tweed coat. It also shows off our fabulous figures!!
Our picnics were made - mine gluten free and Mr M’s not. Can I just point out here that I found out at lunch time I had one tiny gluten free sandwich and Mr M had two massive rolls!
Anyway, we cycled along the old railway line out to Strathblane - a nice easy start to the day but a little flat so I was glad to get out onto the road and do some real cycling. We made our way up to Killearn and decided, as it was a hot, sunny day, to treat ourselves to morning coffee and cakes. I’ll not name the place we went into!
When we first got there I went in (whilst I waited for Jim to cycle up the hill to catch up with me) and asked the waitress if she had any gluten free cakes. "We have a flourless chocolate cake", was the reply. "Is it gluten free?" I asked. "It's made with almonds so yes it must be gluten free" was the reply.
Smiling to myself, I went back out to tell Jim it was ok to go in as I could indeed get a gluten free cake. Bikes locked up outside, we made our entrance with the whole cafe watching these two sweaty, lycra-clad folk sliding and clipping across the shiny wooden floor in cycling shoes with cleats (metal bits for fastening your shoes to the pedals).
We slinked our way to the table and the waitress brought us a menu. "You can only sit there until 1.00 pm as it's booked from then", she informed us. "You'll only be wanting a cake and drink though won't you". Obviously we were not the most welcome customers in their establishment!
"I'll have the gluten free chocolate cake and a cup of tea please," I said, with Jim just opting for the tea - there being no biscuits to choose from and the scones were uncovered.
So the tea came and very welcome it was too. The lovely looking chocolate cake was put down in front of me. Drooling, I again asked if it was totally gluten free. "Yes, it's made with almonds", was the reply.
As I was just about to dig in I noticed the piece of Terry's Chocolate Orange on the top. I couldn't remember if this was one of the chocolates I could eat in my role as a coeliac. Mr M took great delight in telling me that if I was doing this experiment I had to be absolutely thorough with it. So I asked the waitress "Is this chocolate gluten free?" She went away to check.
By this time the people at the other tables were obviously having a good giggle at us. I saw the waitress asking somebody who looked to be the boss (she didn’t have an apron on and was leaning against the counter so she must have been the boss!).
The waitress came back and told me that they thought it was gluten free. I asked her if she could double check for me (more giggles from the table next to us). I watched her ask this person again who looked over at us, rolled her eyes, sighed and marched off into the kitchen.
The waitress finally came back to and said that the chocolate may in fact contain gluten. I said that in that case I couldn’t eat the cake so the waitress took the cake back to the counter. The Terry’s Chocolate Orange Cake taken away from me!
A discussion was obviously took place between the waitress and her very informed manager and the waitress came marching back to us. Wait for it....."Can't you just take the chocolate off the cake and then you could eat it".
So, we sat outside as Mr M ate his banana and I ate my nut bar.
What poor service, poor staff training and even more poor knowledge from the person running the place (they claim to do their own baking so should know what is in each item). It was very clear to me that they had no understanding of what gluten is or the consequences for people with an intolerance eating it.
I am starting to understand how people must feel every time they go out to eat somewhere. It is one thing to say that people must voice their complaints at the time in an establishment if something is not right, but once you already feel the laughing stock of the place the only thing you want to do is to leave.
I can honestly say that the first time anybody is made to feel like this in Mother Murphy's Tearoom will be the day I close my business!
So with this experience fresh in my mind, I set about making my own chocolate orange cake. It took a few attempts to get it just as I wanted it – light, moist, chocolatey and tasting like freshly squeezed oranges.
It was round about this time that we had some new customers, Laura and her Mum, who came looking for gluten free delights. On one of the first visits, we did indeed have Chocolate Orange cake on the menu and Laura fell in love with it. She declared that it was her Chocolate Orange Cake, so it became Laura’s Chocolate Orange Cake. We even made Laura a full cake for her birthday one year (as well as a Battenberg another year). Happy customers indeed I think. So a terrible experience for me gave me the opportunity to ensure this did not happen in our tearoom.
So come along and taste for yourself our Chocolate Orange Cake.
And the song for this blog has to be Bicycle Race by Queen.
I guess Tuesday 13th August 2019 will stick in my mind for a long time (and is probably etched on Mr M’s mind for ever). As usual I was heading out onto the hills with my walking pal, Beatrix the Collie dog. No Mr M as his knees no longer allow him to tackle the high Munro peaks. So off the two of us set with my rucksack packed with plenty warm clothes, a picnic for me, a picnic for Beatrix, a flask of tea and a drink of juice. Of course, there was Kendal Mint Cake too.
Now those of you who have read my previous tales of heading out towards Glen Lyon, will already know that the drive itself is a bit of an adventure up from Killin on the single track road. It’s not so scary when there is no snow or ice about though (or when you don’t have a backseat driver).
Anyway, arriving at the car park on the Ben Lawers Reserve, the views were already great. I could see a few ominous black clouds but there was a fair old wind about so they’d be blown away, hopefully to give a day of sunshine and showers. It was decidedly chilly for the time of year though so I already had my long trousers and jacket on before I set off.
Ben Lawers is probably one of my favourite climbs (and still remains so even after this latest adventure). Sitting high above Killin, it is the highest mountain in the southern part of the Scottish Highlands and is actually the tenth highest Munro in Scotland. Is that why I love to climb it? Not really. I love this range of mountains because of the remoteness you feel even though in reality you are only a short distance away from civilisation. The route I prefer takes you first up the smaller Munro of Beinn Ghlas. The route twists and winds its way up the first mountain and with every turn you are blessed with views that seem to open up even more, revealing mountain after mountain. The route is a mixture of a bit of scrambling at times but also a feeling of strolling along a grassy path, with the extra bonus of a short ridge to descend before the final ascent to the goal of Ben Lawers at 1,214m (3,984ft). To put it in perspective, Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain is 1,345m (4412ft).
I was having a fabulous day. I chatted to lots of different people, including a lovely lady and her son who spent time throwing stones for Beatrix (who would soon become my heroes). Shortly after leaving the car park I found myself surrounded by the biggest, juiciest bilberries I have seen for many years. I worked out that by the time me and Beatrix had eaten our picnics on route, our sandwich bags would be empty and I would be able to amaze Mr M with a huge batch of bilberries for turning into our lovely wild berry jelly jam. Usually you have to spend all day picking these tiny berries to gather enough for even a small batch, but today would be different. So I made a plan to gather these lovely bilberries on my way back down to the car.
Before long, the heat of the sun and the shelter of the mountains brought out the dreaded midges on mass. I stopped and smothered my midge spray over my face and hands and even rubbed it into my hair as I could feel them munching on my scalp. Always one for taking a bit of reaction to midge bites I am always armed with midge spray.
However I was soon laughing at the midges as before too long the afore mentioned ominous black clouds opened and my waterproofs were swiftly put on. The rain was soon blown away again but I left my waterproofs on to be fore armed for the next downpours (a move that proved very helpful later as I lay on the ground).
So we progressed up the twisting path of Beinn Glas. Beatrix found her stone for the day and encouraged everyone she met to throw it for her. Trust me! Collies have a way of letting everyone know exactly what they want you to do.
It was turning into a glorious day. The views were, as always, just stunning, the sun was shining and I was feeling great. As you near the top of Beinn Glas there is a little respite where you almost feel to be walking along a grassy field. The steep twisting climb has been conquered and there is a good long section of level walking before the next final haul to complete the first Munroe of the day. The wind at this point starts to pick up as you gain height and exit the shelter of the lower mountains so my trusty woolly hat was now on (again another good move for later).
Once over the final ascent to Beinn Glas you get your first view of the summit of Ben Lawers and the route now descends over a shoulder ridge. I always put Beatrix on her lead at this point as the ridge has some step drops. It’s funny to watch her because she always waits at for me here as though she knows the lead will be coming out. Maybe she is glad of the security of the lead over this section (or maybe she thinks I need her help over this section!). Anyway, as we descend we have a bit of a chat (yes I chat to my dog!), Beatrix gets a couple of her biscuits, I have my Kendal Mint Cake and I take lots of photos.
As we approach the final section of Ben Lawers, we stop to have a chat to a couple of other walkers who also have a collie. Beatrix and the dog have a bit of a run about together and I chat away to the walkers for a good 10 minutes. We parted company once more and they set off down the mountain and I set off to finish Ben Lawers. That’s when totally out of the blue my head started swimming and I felt like I was spinning round. Sit down a minute Debra I told myself. I sat on a rock and watched the world literally go round and round. I must be a bit dehydrated I told myself so I sat a little longer and ate my apple. Looking up at Ben Lawers I suddenly lost all inclination to climb to the summit.
Just at this point is actually where you can join an old deer stalker’s path around Beinn Ghlas that eventually takes you back down to join the path down to the car park. I decided that not feeling too clever, the best thing would be take the easier track down. I could gather myself on the easy walk down, find a good spot for lunch and then pick the bilberries on my way back to the car.
Standing up felt a little strange and I was certainly light headed. Undeterred, I started down the track. Now going along a track on a slight descent you would imagine would be an easy task. All of a sudden I felt like I was carrying an elephant on my chest, I had pins and needles down both arms and across my face and breathing was, well, a bit difficult. Just putting a foot in front of the other was so difficult but I managed to get myself to a flat looking rock and plonked myself down. A little voice said to me, “Debra, get your lunch out, have a sandwich and a cup of tea”. So I tried this but not very successfully. The little voice laughed at me now and said, “You’re trained in first aid Debra, you know what’s happening really”. So lots of things started going through my mind. I was fit, healthy and not even out of breath at the top of the mountain, why would I be having a heart attack. Seriously? What to do? Laugh as you will, but I got out my iphone and took a selfie of myself to see how I actually looked. Well, that scared me even more than how I felt. Yep, I was having a heart attack. Right, let’s phone 999 and summon help. Well it’s at this point that I realised by walking down the track that little way had in fact taken me away from the phone signal you get at the top of the mountain. Oh flip! I know I thought. That WhatsApp thing that Benjamin told me about is good when you don’t have a signal. Not wanting to alarm Mr M at this point, I sent a message to my trusty pal, Crafty Sal. I told her how I felt, where I was and that I had no signal to call 999. Oh flip and more flip! I could see that the message did not go.
It was at this point I really started to have a bit of a panic. I looked back up the hill and saw the lady and her son I had been talking to earlier. Right Debra, calm down, try to relax and wait for them to get to you. Beatrix by this point was starting to have a bit of her own panic as she realised all was not good with her walking pal and was barking away to tell the whole world. As they approached me I told the lady I did not feel too good, though I guess she could probably tell this. I remember having a discussion about what to do and she said that she would go back up to the top of the mountain and summon help.
So, I waited. I moved myself down onto the ground, and waited. To be fair, there was not much I could do by then because my whole body felt like it was getting buried in cement. My arms would not move. It’s funny the things that cross your mind at times like this. I thought how sad it was that I now could not manage to send a message to Mr M. What if I died of this and he then found out I had sent a message to Salena and not him. I was sure that Salena would have enough about her not to tell him though. What about Ben and Chloe?
So from there, things get a bit blurrey. I remember hearing Beatrix barking and barking like she has never done before. She was licking my face and bringing more stones for me (stones make everything ok in Beatrix’s eyes). I was aware that more people came and told me everything was going to be ok. They wrapped me up in my spare jackets and I told them I had emergency blankets in my rucksack. Emergency blankets that I have carried around with me for over 30 years and never needed to use! It’s at times like this that the closeness of a stranger’s face, the feeling of somebody holding your hand and a reassuring voice is everything to you.
Amidst my confusion, shock and nausea I was aware that somebody said the helicopter was on its way and that somebody had spoken to Jim. I was conscious enough to worry then that Beatrix would be afraid of the helicopter and even more afraid that I was getting lifted into it. It was also at this point I realised just how strong the down-draught of a helicopter is!
I remember bits of the helicopter ride and getting aspirin to chew. To be honest, by the time I was Ninewell’s Hospital, the heart pain had diminished and I was just exhausted. I no longer felt that the worse was imminent and even told myself that I had been exaggerating how I felt.
Fast forward a few hours – Salena by now had received my message and was phoning me to tell me to calm down and to phone 999. Can I just tell you that twice I have needed Salena’s help and twice she has not answered my call so her friendship membership was well and truly cancelled. (We have laughed about this since though and I reinstated her friendship membership).
What followed was a blur of blood tests, drugs, more tests, more drugs and a tired Mr M eventually finding his way up to me after hours of worrying and driving. He of course, had the tough decision, knowing that I had suffered a heart attack and was being airlifted to Dundee, to have to get one of our lovely neighbours, Chris, to drive up to his favourite Glen Lyon, collect Beatrix and my car, drive all the way to Kirkintilloch then drive all the way up to Dundee.
Anyway, over the next week or so, I was fastened to a heart monitor, had blood tests, echograms, an angiogram, more blood tests, was discharged home, re-admitted to hospital in Glasgow, more echoes, more blood tests and an MRI.
All the results showed that yes I had suffered a heart attack and my heart has suffered a little muscle damage. However, my angiogram and MRI show that all my arteries are perfectly fine. So, although there has been a heart attack, the cause is most likely to be an infection of some sort attacking my heart rather than my heart being in poor shape. Tests are being carried out for Lyme’s Disease and I am being pumped full of antibiotics after I told them of an infected bite on my ankle a few weeks back. As the consultant told me, get back to your usual self as quickly as possible, rest when you want to rest and before long you will be back making scones and climbing Monroe’s as normal. I am at no greater risk of suffering another heart attack than any other person. This could have happened to me at any time and was not caused by climbing the Munroe.
So now I need to recover. I am tired. I am sore. I am a bit emotional. But I am Debra and those of you who know me well will know that I will aim to be back in action before long. I am on a bucket load of drugs that lower my already low blood pressure, lower my already low pulse and lower my already low cholesterol so I am a little unsteady on my feet and constantly feel light headed. My body will adjust to this soon though. My right arm is still sore from the angiogram so I can’t roll out pastry at the moment! My veins look like every one of them has been punctured and I am bruised everywhere. But that’s all.
I am incredibly grateful for the amazing people who helped me, both on the mountain, in the helicopter, in Ninewell’s Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary. A bit of public investigation has told me that it was a lovely Sarah and her son who originally found me and ran back up and down the mountain to get in touch with the emergency services and Jim. Judith and Colin were the young couple who helped get me covered in jackets and my emergency blankets. Caroline was the lovely lady who sat alongside me, kept me calm, warm and held my hand. Niall and his brother were amongst those on the hill helping to keep me warm and safe and took the most amazing video of my helicopter rescue. There were so many people whose names I have not found out.
Beatrix did what she thought best and barked the whole world to my rescue. Dogs really are man’s best friend.
The comments I have received on Facebook have been absolutely overwhelming and really have kept me going over this last couple of weeks. You are all amazing.
Of course, I am blessed to have the magnificent Mr M at my side. I will always be eternally grateful for this and for the fact that he loves and knows me enough to not have said those words, “you will never go on the hills alone again”. He is though getting me a new GPS device that will allow me to contact emergency services when I am out of phone signal!
And where do the Lemon Wannabes come in? Well fortunately I had a stash of these with me on the hill and at home so these kept me going in the hospital when I just needed some of my home baking.
Of course, the song for this blog has to be How Long Have I Been Sleeping by Jackson Browne.
I have lived in Scotland now for over 15 years and truly feel at home here. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten my roots as I’ll always be a Yorkshire girl at heart. I even have a mug in the tearoom that reads “You can take the girl out of Yorkshire but you can’t take Yorkshire out of the girl”. Very true indeed.
Living in Yorkshire was fabulous as it really is a great central place to go travelling in any direction. I have had great holidays, both walking and cycling, in Devon, Cornwall, Wales and of course, the beautiful Lake District. If I were ever to consider moving away from Scotland, much as I love Yorkshire, I truly believe that it would be to the Lake District, the village of Grasmere especially.
In my teens my love of cycling took me all over Yorkshire but my own cycle runs and club runs never really managed to get beyond Horton-in-Ribblesdale or Ingleton in North Yorkshire. I was, however, introduced to the Lake District by my son’s father, long before Benjamin even came along, and I still remember vividly my first journey up to the beautiful Cumbrian Lake District.
As I have mentioned before, I was a troubled soul growing up and had lots of demons to fight but never had the strength or confidence to allow anyone to fight them with me. One early summer evening though found me as a passenger in a Triumph Vitesse convertible with the roof down, travelling up the A65 through Keighley, Skipton, Kirby Lonsdale and finally onto the dual carriage way towards the Lakes. The evening sun was shining and as we travelled the final miles from Kirby Lonsdale, the views of the Lake District hills started to come into view. I was in awe. There in front of me was the most beautiful backdrop of hills I had ever seen (and coming from Yorkshire that is saying something!). I now know that what I was looking at was the profile of the magnificent mountains of the Langdale Pikes, Wetherlam and The Old Man of Coniston.
In the car there was a cassette player (some people may need to google what a cassette player is) and I selected “Born To Run” by somebody called Bruce Springsteen. As I listened to the tracks on the cassette they just seemed to blend into each with no long pause between each new song - Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Nights, Backstreets, Born to Run, She’s The One, Meeting Across The River, and finally Jungleland. The music, the wonderful sound of Bruce’s voice, the breeze blowing around the open topped car, the warm evening sunshine and the vision of the Lake District appearing in front of me seemed to be warming my soul. Gradually, I could feel the heavy load I carried constantly on my young shoulders start to lift. I was transported into an unknown world of peace, calmness and of unbelievable solace. For the first time in many years, I was able to be at one with myself.
That memory has stayed with me and if I am honest has been a life line for me over many years. When my demons take over my mind again I find myself a quiet space, turn out the lights, draw the curtains, block out the world, turn on the album “Born to Run” and take my mind back to that journey. That album can now take me back to that moment in time when I first remember feeling peace, calmness and safety. For me, this works. Everyone needs their own way of coping with life when it becomes too much to handle and you should look for yours.
I have spoken to Mr M about this and he is grateful for the love that has grown between us which allowed me to let him slowly into to my deepest and darkest world. Now when he sees me disappear with Bruce, he knows that the demons are tapping me on the shoulder and understands a little more.
Many years later I, of course, had to introduce Mr M to the Lake District and he too has fallen under its spell. For me, it is wonderful that his favourite place in the Lakes is also Grasmere. Grasmere is a small village between Ambleside and Keswick and was the home of the poet William Wordsworth. William Wordsworth lived in Grasmere for 14 years and called it “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. I would totally agree with him. One of Mr M’s favourite poems is by Wordsworth, “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and you will often hear him reciting this in the tearoom. I have even managed to get a daffodil planted for him in the Daffodil Garden next to the church yard where Wordsworth and his family are buried.
Next door to the church is the amazing Grasmere Gingerbread Shop selling the most fantastic gingerbread invented by Sarah Nelson in 1854. This is a spicy-sweet cross between a cake and biscuit. As you walk the road down to the church through the village you get the wonderful smell drifting from the small shop as this is baked fresh each day. I think I tasted this delight the first time I visited Grasmere all those years ago and I just love it. They sell it in packs of 2, 6 or 12 pieces. To be honest, I can’t see the point in the packs of 2 or 6! This Grasmere Gingerbread is still to this day made to the same secret family recipe and is not sold anywhere other than this tiny shop in Grasmere.
Over the years I have tried to replicate this gingerbread with varying degrees of success. I finally thought I had a good recipe that tasted great but still not a patch on the real thing. Then of course once we started to expand our range of gluten and dairy free cakes and bakes in the tearoom I had to start experimenting again. Again, I changed the ingredients, changed the texture and added different spices. Once again I thought I had a good recipe and I loved my own version of Grasmere Gingerbread. Mr M even said that he preferred my version to the Sarah Nelson’s!
The problem I had in the tearoom in Scotland was that not many people had actually tasted the original Grasmere Gingerbread so they didn’t really understand exactly what I was trying achieve. They couldn’t understand why I kept trying to change the recipe as they liked each version I made. That was of course until one Friday afternoon when into the tearoom strolled two young men. “I hear you do gluten free cakes”, said one of them, who I now know to be the lovely Myles. Myles and his husband Garry quickly became regulars in the tearoom. We have shared ideas about books, this and that and I have taught Myles to crochet. It even turns out that Myles was a left-hander like myself. Not only that, but Myles and Garry love the Lake District, especially Grasmere and, of course, Grasmere Gingerbread. Now Myles is coeliac so can no longer have the lovely gingerbread and is heartbroken over this, so was keen to try my version. He agreed that it was lovely but not like the real thing. Myles gave me a link to a recipe by a certain Mr Oliver which was described as the next best thing to the original Grasmere Gingerbread. Myles said he had every faith in me to re-produce this in a gluten free version. The challenge was set.
In Mr Oliver’s recipe he uses ready-made shortbread. Mmmm. Using ready-made gluten free shortbread would ensure that my next version of the gingerbread would be dire. There was only one thing to do. I would use my new gluten and dairy free empire biscuit base to use as the shortbread. I would change the flour to gluten free flour, use stork block instead of butter and add a touch of xanthan gum. I knew when I was making it that this was a much improved version and really did look like and smell like the real thing. What would it taste like? Oh my! It was amazing though I say it myself.
Myles and Garry came into the tearoom and were my official taste testers for this. They both agreed that it was pretty awesome but still needed a tweak or two to be just perfect. What was it that was missing? I really was running out of ideas for the missing flavour. Then one day, Mr M was reading through a book, Dining with the Wordsworths. There it was. Caraway seeds! That could be the missing spice.
A new batch was made and caraway seeds added. The smell when it was cooking was just like being transported back to Grasmere. I could hardly wait for it to cool down to taste it. It was fabulous – a strong smell of ginger and nicely browned. It didn’t snap when I bit into it but had a slightly chewy centre. The crumble topping, which is the most important part, was just right. I thought my version was the closest thing to the real thing.
Never one to rest on my laurels though, I wondered if there was something I could use instead of caraway seeds that are so difficult to grind. I scoured the internet for different substitutes and anise kept popping up. Anise, aniseed and fennel were all suggested as they all give the lovely licorice flavour. Licorice in the Grasmere Gingerbread I wondered. Well let’s just try it. I figured that a licorice flavour would not spoil the bake and it if took away from the authentic taste of the original Grasmere Gingerbread I could always go back to using caraway seeds.
Well if you ask me, I think that I have really cracked it this time. I have made the gingerbread thinner and cut it into rectangles rather than my usual squares. If I didn’t know, I could be fooled into believing I was already back in Grasmere. Of course, the real test will be the verdict of the customers in the tearoom, especially those who have tasted the real think. Perhaps I will bring some back with my from our holidays – though of course those needing gluten and dairy free will only be able to taste my version. Even better, maybe I will take a batch down with me and sit outside the Grasmere Gingerbread shop and sell my own gluten and dairy free version.
Why am I telling this story?
I am sure there are many people out there who are just beginning or already travelling their own difficult journey and I want them to know that they too will be ok.
Some people know me as Mother Murphy. Others know me as Ben and Chloe’s mum or Mr M’s wife. There are probably some people in Halifax who will still remember me as that quiet school girl who always used to look miserable. Others will not know me at all.
It doesn’t matter how anybody knows me because this talk today is my journey to find Debra.
It’s taken me a lifetime to be able to tell this story and it is only with the help and support of some very special people in my life that I am now ready, wanting, needing and glad to be given the opportunity to tell this.
There is so much of my difficult journey that I have not included in this talk. Decisions I made, things I did. There are so many different people who hurt me – some intentionally and some unintentionally. There are people who I probably hurt, but never intentionally.
There are lots of people who themselves have been affected by my story, especially my two children. I have no doubt whatsoever that how I lived my life caused upset, heartache and pain for them too. I wish I had been able to give them the perfect life, but I couldn’t and I didn’t. I just hope that they love me for the person I am now and know that I truly love them for the people they are. Only Ben and Chloe can tell their own stories of growing up with mum.
There are probably some people who would be saddened and horrified to hear me tell this story, but this is my story and my story to tell. I now know that I am not responsible for other people’s thoughts and actions. We are all responsible only for our own thoughts and actions.
So here goes.
Let’s get the shocking information over first. I am one of the hundreds, probably thousands of people who suffered abuse at the hands of a relative. Mine was at the hands of my step-father. Sexual abuse, emotional abuse and verbal abuse in one form or another from my early years as a 6 year old right up to the day I walked out of the house as a very broken 16 year old.
I could talk to you about the day to day happenings in the abusive situations and how it made me feel because when I close my eyes I can relive every single event, every word, every inappropriate look or inappropriate touch but that’s not what this is about. I want to talk to you about how I can now live my life even with the memories. The memories are now becoming my past and you can’t change the past.
Growing up I did what most abused people do. I kept it to myself. Why? Because I didn’t understand what was happening at first. I just knew that I was miserable inside. As the days, months and years went by; the feelings of confusion grew, along with sadness, fear, shame and hate.
Who did I hate?
I hated me because I had caused this. I was the pretty sister and that’s why HE chose me.
I must have asked for it.
If only I had not been pretty.
Everyone kept telling me how pretty I was.
HE kept telling me how pretty I was.
But life just carried on.
Nobody asked if I was ok.
Nobody asked why I looked sad.
As I moved my way through infant, then junior school, life just always seemed to be a struggle. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. I didn’t have all the friends that everyone else did.
I didn’t deserve to have friends.
Oh but I found I was good at sport. I was the best runner, the best swimmer, the best rounders player. This made me popular in sports lessons and I was always the first to be picked for teams. Sometimes they even made me the captain.
If only they knew what I had done!
I have always enjoyed the countryside and having time to myself. Sometimes when the world seemed heavy around me and I didn’t know where or who to turn to, I found that walking alone helped, especially if I could walk surrounded by lovely scenery. It didn’t really matter where you lived in Halifax as countryside was always only a stone’s throw away.
Even now, I find solitude, peace and a chance to breathe on the snow-covered mountains in Scotland.
In my early teens I lived in a place called Northowram. The views as you walk around Northowram and Shibden Valley are just stunning and this area became my haven. How ironic it is that years later I was to visit a psychologist in the grounds of Northowram hospital and start my long journey home.
People who know me will know that one my true loves is cycling. I started cycling when I was 9 or 10 years old. I quickly moved from cycling round the back roads of Shibden Valley to joining a cycling club, then a racing club and found that I was quite good at this cycling stuff. The freedom, the space, the views, the air, the peace. Unless you are a cyclist it’s difficult to explain the feeling that cycling gives you.
There was only one thing lingered in my troubled mind that made me question myself. It was HIM who introduced me to cycling. HE made sure I had a bike and all the cycling gear they could afford at the time.
But slowly a different person started fighting to be seen. I knew HE was the one who introduced me to cycling so really I shouldn’t even want to go anywhere near a bike. But love cycling I did. I was good at cycling. I could take the pain. This took away my other pain.
Then I realised.
I was better than HIM at cycling.
For once, I had the upper hand.
It’s difficult to explain how hard it is to lead a normal life when your heart and mind are constantly fighting tourmoil.
Would it happen today?
Why did it happen yesterday?
Will it happen tomorrow?
As I became a teenager I became very good at reducing the episodes. I would make sure that I was not alone in the house with HIM. It only ever happened at home.
It affected me in other ways. I would not wear a skirt or a dress (and still don’t). I was a tomboy. I’d play football at school, climb trees and garages with the boys. I’d keep my hair short. I’d do everything I could to make sure that I didn’t encourage anyone else to like me.
Let’s not forget of course that it was all my fault that this was happening.
I was asking for it.
I never said no.
I finally left home but that’s when my problems really started to grow.
I had boyfriends. I got married. I had a son. Yet I couldn’t stop my mind spinning. My heart was always racing. I thought about things constantly.
How did I even deserve to be in a happy marriage?
How was I ever going to be a good mum?
I was a bad person.
I needed to get away.
By the time I was 26 I had been married three times and had two children. Two wonderful children I might add. But I was on a path of self-destruction.
I couldn’t talk to my mum because she wouldn’t believe me.
I couldn’t talk to my older sister because she hated me.
I couldn’t talk to my younger sister because HE was her Dad and it would upset her to hear me say such things about her lovely Dad. She was 10 years younger than me and really loved her Dad. HIM!
How could I spoil that for her?
It wouldn’t be fair on her would it?
One of the many very low points in my life was when my older sister got married. From the back of the reception room I watched as my own father sat alongside him. She said they were both her Dad so they both had to be there.
The top table – My Dad, his wife, HIM, my sister, her new husband, my little sister, my brother, the chief bridesmaid and her husband.
Where was I?
I was at the back of the room with my 2 year old son. The person sitting next to me asked how I knew the bride!
“Oh I’m her sister,” was my reply.
I don’t know who was most embarrassed, me or the rest of the guests at the table I was sitting at.
I watched as my Dad laughed, joked and drank with HIM and toasted their amazing daughter.
The following day my Dad’s wife phoned me and told me my Dad was furious with me for being miserable at my sister’s wedding.
I told her I was miserable because the man who had abused me was sitting on the top table with my Dad.
Well it really hit the fan then I can tell you!
My Dad came round to see me.
“Is it true”, he roared at me.
“Yes” I replied.
Did he hug me?
Did he tell me it was ok?
Did he ask how I was?
He said, “Right, we will get the police involved and take him to court”.
“No”, I said, “I don’t want to do that”.
“Well it can’t be true then”, said my Dad.
Imagine a giant well filled with mud.
I was in that well and sinking.
I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t stand. I was physically sick.
The fear. The shame. The guilt.
They were overwhelming.
Look what I had done!
Look how sad and cross people were becoming because I had said something.
I knew I should never have said anything.
I was always the black sheep of the family.
Now I was the lying black sheep of the family.
What right did I have to upset people so much?
My Mum found out.
“Why didn’t you tell me? I would have left him you know”, she said.
Did she hold me?
Did she tell me it was ok?
Did she ask how I was?
“I can’t believe it of him. I just can’t believe it”, she told me.
If anyone ever wonders why abused people never speak about it to their family, here is your answer!
Then HE died.
I was so disappointed.
I had nothing to do with HIS death!
God I am evil!
My older sister was grieving. She loved HIM as much as her Dad. Our Dad supported her. My Dad told me it was terrible what had happened to HIM because “he was a good Dad to you and your sister when I left your Mum”.
A good Dad! In my mind I was screaming.
I supported my little sister as she was only 16 and HE was her Dad. She loved HIM. HE was a great Dad to her.
“Don’t you dare turn up at the funeral”, shouted my older sister at me. “You are just evil”.
I didn’t go.
My older sister went.
My little sister went.
My Mum went to say goodbye to HIM.
I think even my Dad went.
Shortly after funeral my older sister contacted me.
“He didn’t leave you anything in his will. He left it all to us. It’s only what you deserve”.
It was a lot of money – because she told me!
Did anyone question it?
Did anyone ask why?
Did my sisters say how wrong it was?
Heck, HE could even get to me when HE was dead!
Did I want HIS money?
Not at all.
Did I want my sisters to say how wrong HE had been?
So who could I talk to?
Cider. Sometimes Caffreys. That’s who I spoke to. Lots of it sometimes.
Then came a turning point. I found myself in a job in a training company. I was also single again. I started to grow as a person. The owner of the training company was an amazing lady, Sue. She obviously saw something in me. She encouraged me to undertake a teaching qualification at night school. Me, training to be a teacher!
Of course, nobody knew my history.
Nobody knew how wicked I had been in my childhood.
Nobody knew what a terrible wife I had been.
Nobody knew how bad I really was.
But Sue probably saved my life. I opened up to her. I talked. I cried and told her everything.
I remember that afternoon Sue would not let me leave her office until I had phoned my GP to arrange an appointment.
Soon after that I found myself with an appointment with a psychologist at Northowram Hospital.
Every week I went to see him.
Every week Sue let me take time off work.
She even encouraged me to take my time coming back to work after each appointment to recover.
The psychologist talked but didn’t pressure me to talk.
He continued to talk gently to me.
Gradually I started to talk.
One appointment he didn’t talk.
I didn’t talk.
The whole appointment.
No words, just sobs.
The following appointment I talked. Then I couldn’t stop talking.
The psychologist told me it wasn’t my fault. That I was not to blame.
I wanted to believe him. Could that really be true?
Then the appointments came to an end.
The talking came to an end.
Life continued but so did the self-destruction and self-loathing continued.
Everyone who saw me in the street knew me.
They knew who I was.
They knew what I had done.
They knew my sordid history.
I needed to get away.
I found myself with a new job in Scotland. I thought that would make everything better.
Still the self-destruction and self-hate continued.
I bought myself a motorbike.
I made friends with another biker. She made me feel like a person. She spoke to me about my qualities and my faults. We discussed each other’s pasts. We laughed, we cried, but most of all she encouraged me to remember and talk about the psychologist meetings. She helped me start to like myself.
Slowly, I started to realise that it was true. It was not my fault. I didn’t cause the abuse. I didn’t ask for it.
I started to think about my life and all the choices I had made. Each failed relationship was doomed from the start – either because of my self-destruction or because they abused me in some form. I realised I had spent my life seeking out people who would take advantage of me and then control me.
By now I was the training manager of a care company and travelled throughout Scotland and Northern Ireland. I was good at my job. People thought I was good at my job. They enjoyed the training courses I had written.
Do you know what was the most successful training course I wrote? Preventing Abuse!
It was working for this company that I got to know a lady called Michelle. One of the loveliest people I have had the pleasure to call my friend. Sometimes people come into your life and your life just all the better because of it. She started to make me believe in myself.
I was lonely though. Lonely because I had nobody to come home to at night to discuss the day. Nobody to share my adult thoughts with.
So, a friend organised a blind date for me with her brother-in-law, Jim.
Instant attraction. This man was something totally different. He liked me. The real me. He didn’t want to change me. He didn’t want to control me. He certainly didn’t want to abuse me.
I didn’t need him but I wanted to be with him.
Love. For the first time in my life I had a sense of what it was like to be in love with somebody.
My journey continued though.
In 2013 I had major surgery to remove two football sized growths on my ovaries.
I thought I was going to die.
For the first time in my life I really didn’t want to die. I had too much to live for.
Fast forward a few months. The mass (or masses to be precise) turned out to be ovarian cysts and very fortunately for me, non-malignant. However, as the surgeon at the time was not too sure what he was looking at, he decided the best course of action whilst I was under the knife was to remove both my ovaries. Instant menopause for me then!
There was a period of time when I was really quite unwell and unsure of the prognosis. During this time I decided that if I was going to die that I wanted to make sure I did not say on my death bed, “I wish I had done...” I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but anyone who has been in that position will understand my mentality at that point.
My all-time dream was to run my own tearoom so I put plans in action to make sure that happened.
At first, I did not think the tearoom itself would be a possibility but I did think that I could start my plans for a home baking business and sell my cakes and bakes at farmers’ markets, highland games and fetes. By the 2014, our kitchen extension at home was complete, the food standards agency had given us a certificate of food safety and we could now start selling our cakes and bakes.
What would we call this new venture? As we were debating about an appropriate name, my son, Benjamin, sent a Mother’s Day card to me and put “Mother Murphy” on the envelope. This, I decided, was the name of our new business.
Mother Murphy’s was here.
We did farmers’ markets, fayres, galas and the good food show. We developed our range of cakes, bakes, jellies and jams and started producing gluten and dairy free goods.
Most of all though, I knew that my true dream was to run my own tearoom. Selling cakes and bakes was great, but I wanted to give people that experience of enjoying tea and cakes in a relaxed, cosy, friendly environment - an experience that was actually very sadly lacking from the Good Food Show itself.
I already had in my mind how my tearoom would look and feel and I found no places out there to compare to this idea, except perhaps the fabulous, but every expensive Betty’s in York.
I wanted my tearoom to be a place where my Grandma would have liked to visit. We would use only china tea cups. We would use leaf tea and tea strainers. All our cakes would be made by us. All ingredients would be sourced as locally as possible and the best quality we could afford. As for the décor, it would be simple but would, of course, have to be shades of purple and white.
Most of all, I wanted it to be a place where people would come and feel relaxed. I wanted to talk to people when they came into my tearoom. I wanted to get to know them.
1st April 2015 came and the tearoom opened. My perfect tearoom was gleaming. Purple and white, serving real leaf tea, proper coffee, china crockery and, most importantly, all the cakes baked by us. I was bursting with pride. Bursting with pride for what I had achieved but bursting with pride and joy that I had not done it alone but with my soul mate alongside me, the magnificent Mr M.
I needed the tearoom.
The tearoom needed me.
The customers needed the tearoom.
The customers wanted to talk.
The tearoom became a place of comfort, security and safety for many people.
Sometimes I think we have a sign up outside saying come to us, we will listen.
We do listen. We don’t judge. We laugh, we chat, we cry, we hold a hand or offer a shoulder to cry on when needed.
This is where I belong.
I can’t tell you how many people have come into the tearoom and on their first visit they have cried and told us their life history. We have listened, wiped their tears, filled them up with tea and cake but most of all, given them hope that there is a place for them.
If only I had found a place like the tearoom when I was growing up.
If only somebody had listened to me, wiped my tears and given me hope.
Yes my dream has always been to open a tearoom, serving tea and home-made cakes. But I now know that my path in life is more than this. The tearoom is there as a doorway to help others. My path is to help others.
The tearoom has also helped me. The customers have helped me. Customers have become friends.
In the tearoom people share their joy, chat and laughter, but also their troubles, problems, grief and their fears. As they talk and share these with each other, they help each other. It’s not just me. It’s not just Jim. It’s everything. The tearoom is the healing.
I now know that I also needed the tearoom to help me find myself, to strengthen me, to give me the power to be a support to my daughter on her journey.
I know that I am not the first person to become a Grandma, but what follows is why I feel the need to tell the whole world about my new baby Granddaughter. Sadly, I know that I am not the only person to have such a tale to tell.
I have already found though that by telling Chloe’s story it has helped so many different people. People have shared with me their deepest sadness, their grief, their own fears and their hopes.
It is just another example of how hope, determination and love will conquer.
Let’s take a little trip back to 2007. A short conversation from my 16 year old daughter, Chloe, was to change my whole outlook on life. “I’m pregnant”. Ok, so this was not the news I was looking forward to hearing from my young daughter, but pregnant she was. So, I was going to be a Grandma. I think it probably took about 30 minutes for me to change from being concerned at how young Chloe was to being excited about being Grandma.
Unfortunately, this was not going to be as smooth a journey as I would have hoped for my daughter. This pregnancy sadly ended in an early miscarriage and was then followed by another miscarriage.
In 2009, Chloe became pregnant again and this time she passed all the usual milestones and, flying by the usual 12 week worrying period, we thought this was her time. Two days after my birthday, 20 October, 2009, Chloe went into premature labour and suffered the unbearable pain of her first angel baby Michael. Too early to survive but too early for a funeral!
I can’t explain the pain of seeing your daughter going through such terrible heartache whilst being unable to do anything to help. No words, no actions, no money, nothing. Nothing I could do would make this easier for Chloe. Behind this heartache of Chloe’s my own heart was breaking for the grandchildren that were not to be. How could it be fair that one person could have to endure such pain? How could one person deal with such pain?
The next few years past and more miscarriages followed. Tests were carried out, therapy given, but still the miscarriages happened.
2012 seemed to start well though. Chloe was pregnant again. As usual, Chloe shared this information with me almost from day one. Every day I spoke to Chloe and every day we spoke about the pregnancy and how well it was going. 6 weeks passed. 12 weeks approached and the first scan. Everything was perfect. We took the pregnancy day by day and eventually the date for the 20 week scan arrived. The scan showed that this little baby was going to be girl. Oh my! This was going to be Chloe’s time. Every day we talked about things to look forward to. We talked about the things Chloe would be doing with her daughter. A name was chosen, Nieve Debra Olive. I can’t tell you how my heart was bursting with pride at this.
1st November 2012 found me at home making smiley face biscuits for our bonfire night supper up here in Scotland. That day I got the phone call that has probably changed my life for ever. It was Chloe. Just as though she was saying hello, Chloe simply said, “The baby has died”. I heard a noise and realised that I was wailing. Jim standing next to me picked me up from the kitchen floor. “Will you come down please”, asked Chloe.
What followed is still a bit of a blur. I remember having a long, dark, cold, icy journey down from Kirkintilloch to Halifax. I recall stopping at Tebay services on the M6 and trying to eat something but feeling sick at the very thought. I needed to be in Halifax. I needed to be with Chloe.
On Saturday 3 November 2012, two days after learning that her baby had died, my incredibly brave and amazing daughter endured, with no complaining, no tears, no words, the unbearable labour of her angel baby Nieve. My Granddaughter! It is no exaggeration to say that every day since then I have seen my daughter’s face as she held her still-born baby. The shock, the pain, the heartache but somehow I could see the acceptance. I held my Granddaughter, my perfect little Granddaughter who had somehow just fallen asleep for ever.
What followed was just a nightmare. A funeral. A small white coffin. Holding my daughter up whilst we buried her daughter.
How on earth was Chloe going to get through this. How could I help her through this. It was my job, no my aim in life, to make everything ok for my children. How could I have let this happen? How could I have stopped this from happening? How could anyone have stopped this happening? How can anyone help Chloe now?
Over the coming months I shed tears by the bucket full. Every time I closed my eyes I saw my daughter’s haunted face; I saw my perfect but sleeping Granddaughter and my heart was breaking. How on earth was Chloe going to get through this pain and heartache?
However, get through this Chloe did. She got through it day by day. What I could see though was a girl who was sad from the core. There was no happiness in her. My beautiful daughter was completely broken. I was broken.
Meanwhile, Mother Murphy’s Tearoom opened. Chloe found the strength to come and be with us for the open day. She came to celebrate our 1st birthday at the tearoom. But still she was broken. Still her heart ached for her lost babies and how she ached to be a mum.
Over the next few years there followed more miscarriages. More pain, more heartache, more tears.
Then in 2018 Chloe told me she thought she was pregnant. Only a few days. Pregnancy tests followed. Yes, it was true, Chloe was pregnant. My only thought was that I could not bear any more heartache for my daughter.
With the past history, Chloe was going to be monitored and monitored during this pregnancy. There was nothing extra that could be done because there were no known medical reasons for the previous losses. So, day by day, we held our breaths as the pregnancy developed. 6 weeks, 12 weeks. First scan, second scan. Everything looked perfect. Chloe had the most awful morning sickness, which everyone told her was a good sign. Regular scans followed, along with heartbeat monitoring. 20 weeks and the scan showed that the baby was another girl. A small baby on the scan, but the pregnancy was going perfectly otherwise.
I think I probably stopped breathing at this point. I could not concentrate. I ate chocolate. I ate cake. I ate more chocolate. I ate more cake. I could not sleep. I could not craft. But the tearoom still had to be run.
I was under strict instructions from Chloe that I could not tell anyone that she was pregnant. I did wonder how she was going to hide the growing bump but I understood her concerns. Of course, there were a few people I told in the tearoom. Ok, so I told lots of people. Chloe had a bit of a laugh at the idea that I had not told anyone, but I didn’t, of course, tell anyone on the wide, wide world of facebook, so really I’d not told anyone.
Over the next few months, I have to say that the tearoom was probably my haven. I had to bake, I had to organise crafts, I had to talk to people, I had to listen to people’s concerns, I had to be a shoulder to cry on when they needed it, I had to laugh with people. Inside I was a mess. There were times when I cried, many, many times. I cried because I was scared. I was scared that something would happen and my daughter would have to go through terrible heartache again.
Eventually, a date was set for induction at 38 weeks. Everything was perfect except for baby being a bit small. Scans were carried out every two weeks. As the time progressed and baby stayed small, the induction date was brought forward to 13th December, just about 36 weeks.
Wednesday 12 December 2018 I travelled down to Halifax. The train journey was a bit of a blur. So many memories! Oh my mind was running in overdrive. Jim had long since stopped expecting any common sense from me and he was just amazing dealing with my anxiety. He held me and ignored my tantrums. He wiped my tears and did everything he could to reassure me. Only one thing was going to reassure me though.
So 13 December 2018 came. We took Chloe into the Calderdale Royal Hospital. Induction medication was given in the manner it is given! I started to crochet a blanket as I waited with Chloe. I was going nowhere until this labour was over. Not one for praying usually, I can tell you that I prayed hard that night. I am sure that everyone in the tearoom was praying and waiting. Jim was holding the fort and I was giving regular updates. The blanket was growing but that was the only thing progressing. 24 hours later, Chloe’s waters were broken. The labour room was full of every piece of equipment you could imagine. The consultant was not expecting anything to go wrong but as she put it, “we are prepared for everything”.
As things suddenly progressed, standing next to me the nurse pressed the emergency button and the room was suddenly filled with about 100 people (or so it seemed). “One more push and she will be here”.
Then she was here. No suction, no help, no respirator. This perfect, perfect, pink, tiny breathing baby was in her Mother’s arms. Yes I cried. But this time the tears were of joy, relief and love.
I have the most amazing photo of Chloe holding her baby and the love in her eyes is amazing. Minnie Violet is just perfect. Chloe is just perfect.
That night, I slept like a baby.
Chloe’s story is a tale of sadness, heartache, tears and love. Most of all though, this is a tale of one girl’s determination, strength and endurance to become a Mother. I have no doubt that Chloe will be the most amazing Mother and, if little Minnie Violet loves me half as much as I loved my Grandma, than all will be great.
It is also a tale of the support, warmth, thoughts and concern that a whole group of people who have never even met Chloe gave us. I keep saying that we created our tearoom to be a place in the community where everyone could come along, feel safe, feel loved and feel needed. I did not fully realise until this last few months that the tearoom and our wonderful customers are also providing that love and support to me. Thank you.
Behind this story of course there is a tale of hope. Chloe never once gave up hope that she would become a Mother.
Now we have our miracle baby Minnie, we are starting to build new memories. The grief for the lost babies will never go. With tiny steps, one day at a time, Minnie will help Chloe to smile again and, one day in the near future, I hope that I will see my daughter laugh like she used to laugh, something I have not seen for a long, long time.
And Me? Is the real Debra here?
So don’t feel sorry for me.
Don’t pity me.
I’m doing ok. Yes, it’s been hell along the way.
If by telling my story I can reach and help just one person then it has been worth telling.
I believe that by telling my story I will be making myself available and those needing to talk to me will find me. People hearing my story will also be able to guide those lost people to me and the magical tearoom.
Through the power of Facebook, after not seeing or hearing from the lovely Michelle for over 10 years, she popped back into my life. Where was she? Just around the corner from the tearoom!
Michelle sent me a link to join a new group, Soul Sistas – group for women supporting women. Soul Sistas has been a new guide and support along my path. I am looking at things in a different light. I am looking at me in a different light.
My memories are still there.
I was still abused.
Am I a victim?
Not at all.
I have survived. I survived because I chose to. I took the long way round but now I am ready to continue my journey. I believe it is time for me to blossom and that my role now is to help others.
I want everyone who goes through the same things as I did to know that there is somebody out there for them.
What if I am that person who can guide somebody along their journey to find themselves?
What if I can help somebody to believe that it was not their fault?
They did not cause it.
They did not ask for it.
They are not evil.
They are not bad.
They will survive.
They will smile again.
It’s ok to talk about it.
You will be believed.
I am here. I will listen.
And of course, whilst I do all this, I will feed you tea and cakes. Gluten and dairy free of course!
What a fantastic day we had on Sunday at the tearoom with our Britain at War Afternoon Tea. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did.
We had been planning the event for a couple of months, thinking about the food, the songs, the jokes, the quiz and the little bags of sweet things for everyone. For the last few weeks you could have been forgiven for thinking the tearoom was open late on a Thursday night as planning meetings and singing practice were had by me, Mr M and the fabulous Elaine. As usual, we started out with a couple of obvious choice songs such as There’ll be Blue Birds Over. It didn’t take long though for the three of us to be depressed by the songs and wondering how we would ever turn drab sounding songs into a fun afternoon for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the famous songs are poor, but the way we were singing them, as Mr M said, was making them all sound like Dirges – (a lament for the dead, especially one forming part of a funeral rite). Elaine and I sulked a little at our choir master’s criticism but then realised that we actually agreed with him. So we had more tea and cake and went away to think again.
Over the next few weeks, songs were suggested and dismissed. Some that were dismissed were re-suggested in a different form and finally we had a good handful of songs. We all had a song that we demanded be included at all costs. Elaine chose “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”. I chose “The Music Man” and Mr M picked “Where have all the flowers gone”. I did have a bit of a fight with Mr M about my song and he would insist that the song had nothing to do with Britain at War. “But there is the verse about Dam Busters,” I cried. I do believe that I even took tips from Bev, the Girl with the Puppy Dog Eyes and eventually he agreed that The Music Man could be included. Not only that, it would be first song! Victory!
Elaine suggested that we could do I’d Like To Teach The World to Sing as our duet piece. Well you wouldn’t believe the laughs, tears and more laughs we had over this song in our practices. Firstly, I don’t need to remind you that I am no singer. I open my mouth and sounds come out. Sometimes they are in tune, most times they are not. Now Mr M really is the Music Man. Many years ago he was in a band playing the guitar and strutting his stuff with his long black hair and yellow boots. Mr M did forget sometimes that it was me and not Tina Turner he was working with. I think I got more reprimands that Elaine I have to say!
Going back to this song though. Do you know what a high key the Seekers sang this in? Well Mr M could actually tell us what key they had sung in. I could tell him that there was no way on this earth I would be able to get anywhere near that key, whatever they called it! Elaine decided that she was going to do the harmonies. You know the ones – la, di, da, di da. That was great and Elaine sounded perfect. The only problem was that we very quickly realised I could not concentrate on singing the words of the songs whilst Elaine was singing the harmonies next to me. I do believe that at one point Mr M was ready for sacking me from the group and having Elaine as a solo artist! Anyway, finally I managed to crack this by ignoring the girl singing lovely harmonies in my ear and concentrate on the words I should be singing. Perfect. Oh no! No sooner had I managed to conquer this problem when Elaine said, “We need tambourines!” So the following week, Miss Tipsy wandered into the practice session with two tambourines. We laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed so much that we cried when we realised that getting me to sing, listen to harmonies being sung in my ear, play the tambourine, keep in tune and keep to the beat was just too much of an asking for me. Elaine was much better at this so she was able to keep the beat going and I just made noises with the tambourine. I have to admit to having sleepless nights about doing this song as a duet and could see it all falling apart on the night!
During one of practice sessions though, our rendition of “Where have all the flowers gone” just fell into place, helped of course by the guitar man keeping us in tune, keeping the beat and doing his own little solo bit in the middle. Me and Elaine looked at each other and said, “That’s our song!” Our duet was changed from teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony (I was never ever going to achieve that one!) to the lovely and moving Where Have All The Flowers Gone.
Thursday last week was our last practice. All our props were ready, our outfits sorted and our songs sounding as good as they were going to sound. We sang, we laughed, we chatted, we drank tea and we ate cake. That’s the benefit of practice sessions in the tearoom – there is always tea and cake to be had.
Sometimes, actually quite often, I am amazed by things that happen in the tearoom and it always seems there is a reason for things happening. On the Friday before the event in popped Colin Mitchell for his first visit to the tearoom. I have to admit that I had not a clue who he was. To me he was a customer and all customers are as special and important as each other in my eyes. Anyway, he was in with a few other people and I chatted away to them as I do with everyone whenever I have the chance. Colin saw the notice for the Britain at War event, told me about his poetry, explained that he had poems that would fit in nicely with our theme and that he would send me some to use on the Sunday if I wished.
Now I am always amazed and eternally grateful that people remember our little tearoom once they have gone out of the door. It is always a lovely surprise to receive a message from Trip Advisor telling me there is a new review or for a face book message to pop up. Checking my emails that night I was humbled that Colin had sent me a lovely message and 8 of his poems for me to look at and use at the event. As soon as I had read A Place of Safety, I knew that I wanted to read that poem at the event. I showed the poems to Elaine and asked her if she would like to read one of the poems. Elaine chose The Garden Shed. All these poems were looking at the war from different perspectives and certainly very emotional. If you check our videos on facebook you can see both Elaine and myself reading our chosen poem. I hope that we did justice to these amazing poems.
Just as a matter of interest, I am currently trying to organise a night of poetry with Colin so watch this space.
So Sunday arrived and it was time for the Britain At War Afternoon Tea. Everyone arrived and it was great fun seeing what everyone was wearing. We had an Admiral, Air Warden, Soldier, Medic, Posh Women, Air Force Men, Waitress and Amy Johnson.
The Afternoon Teas were served with lashings of tea, each person getting their own 3 tier stand with their selection of sandwiches, two small scones and 3 home-made cakes. Well, not everyone, I had to share with Mr M as there were only enough for the 16 lucky ticket holders.
The food was followed by the sing-song and everyone had a great time. Songs were sung, poems recited, jokes told and stories remembered. The quiz was marked and turned out to be a tie with Bev, The Girl With Puppy Dog Eyes and Teresa, The Cover Girl. The tie-break question was needed. When everyone arrived they had to pick up their evacuation cards I had ready for them. The tie-break question was “Imagine you are an 8 year old evacuee. Use the ticket given to you to make your own evacuation card and write on it why you think the tearoom should give you safe haven”. The Girl With the Puppy Dog Eyes made her answer way too mushy but Teresa’s was the winner with, “Because I’m Worth It”.
Slowly the tearoom emptied as everyone left to go home but with the questions of “when is the next one”, “what is the next theme”, hanging in the air.
The Temptress, The Girl With The Puppy Dog Eyes and Miss Tipsy stayed a while to give us a hand clearing all the tables. It was not long before we were all sitting listening to the hum of the dishwasher whilst we all chatted, laughed and, of course, had more tea and cake.
We are now planning our next event.
Did I tell you I love our little tearoom?
What a fun week we had at the tearoom last week. There was lots of crafting, lots of laughs and certainly lots of chat at the tearoom this last week. It did start with a video by me and Mr M, as is now the norm on a Wednesday morning. With the saga of the missing domino and whether the domino was wild card or not – let’s not even go there – we thought we would have a bit of a laugh and see how many times we could use the word blank in our little video. Oops, most people missed this and just thought Mr M was feeling a bit sad and sorry for himself because I had made him go out on the bike. Anyway….
People in at the weekend were curious as to why there is an airfix kit in the tearoom. With our Britain at War Afternoon Tea coming up soon (no tickets left sorry) I have found myself thinking back to the hobby I had as a youngster. Believe it or not, I was a bit of a tomboy when I was growing up. Never, I hear you all cry! Yep, that was me, the girl who liked to climb trees, cycle and make model planes from airfix kits. I loved doing these and would spend hours painting all the small parts before assembling them. I loved making sure that the wheels and propellers would still spin round and doors that should open still opened. I had many of these models but my pride and joy was a Lockheed C130E Hercules. I think I would be about 12 or 13 year old when I cycled with a friend from Halifax to York to stay with his Grandma for the weekend. We had a roam round the Shambles when we got there and there was, to my delight, an airfix model shop. I had saved up my pocket money to go to York and it was really burning a hole in my pocket. I remember my young pal rolling his eyes at my obvious joy at seeing this shop but in we went. I saw it straight away. There in the front of the shop looking at me. A Hercules! There was nothing else in the shop I wanted to see, that was it. “We are on our bikes don’t forget”, voiced my pal. So, in discussion with the shop owner we worked out that I had enough pocket money to buy the kit and the shop owner kindly found luggage straps to fasten the huge box to the top of my saddle bag. I can tell you I have never cycled as fast as I did that day to get home to start my new kit. Along the A64 Tadcaster, Horsforth, Pudsey and Bradford were just a blur. Mind you, not that you would want to cycle along that busy road now!
Anyway, over the next week weeks I painstakingly sanded the pieces, painted them, glued them, painted them again, attached the stickers and finally varnished the finished Hercules. Oh my. I were reight chuffed wi mi sen I can tell you. Everything was perfect. The propellers rotated, the wheels spun round and the rear door opened and closed just as it should do. It was huge mind you. I wondered where to put this to take pride of place over all the other models I had completed. To be fair to my mum, I was really given free rein in my bedroom. By today’s standards I guess I was ahead of the time and doing my form of decoupage across all the walls. Everything I had ever collected, postcards, medals, certificates, badges, posters of Bob Dylan, they were all on the walls. So there was only one thing to do with the Hercules, it had to hang from the ceiling. I can’t actually remember how I did this or even if I did this myself or if I had help but hang from the ceiling it did. Perfection in my eyes.
Now, my little sister, Rebecca, was a few years younger than me (and still is of course!). She was allowed in my bedroom sometimes when I was feeling friendly. What I didn’t know of course was that my little sister used to go in my bedroom when I was not there! I never! So, one day, Rebecca, who was obviously so in awe of my model making skills, thought that I had created a real plane and decided to see how well my Hercules flew. It would appear that although I had managed to get the propellers to rotate, the wheels to spin and the back door to open and close, the Hercules did not fly across the bedroom. Well, actually it did fly across the bedroom, but the landing was not quite so successful. Rebecca is still my favourite younger sister though!
Anyway, fast forward many years and lives to me telling Mr M tales of my childhood. Let’s not forget of course, that when I first met Mr M I told him I was a pole dancer in my younger years so he was by now in total awe of me. It was, I suspect, a great disappointment to him to find out that being a Yorkshire lass, the pole dancing was actually Maypole Dancing! However, he was quite impressed that I used to make the model planes and I told him how my heart still ached for my model Hercules. A few years ago one of my Christmas presents from Mr M was an airfix model. As I opened the box and saw airfix I was beside myself. He had bought me another Hercules to make! Do you know how difficult it was for me not to look disappointed when I saw that it was not a Hercules but a Spitfire. “I couldn’t get a Hercules so I thought a Spitfire would be the same thing for you”. The Spitfire has been on top of the cupboard at home waiting for me to get over my disappointment.
So, now with the Britain at War afternoon tea event coming up, I have told myself that it is time for me to get over my disappointment and finally get round to making the Spitfire. I am not sure it will be finished in time for the Afternoon Tea, but I will have made a good start on it. Who knows, maybe there may be Hercules airfix model in my Christmas stocking this year?
Those lucky people who have managed to get tickets to this event, don’t forget to get your stories, songs or jokes ready for sharing with us.
Moving on to this week at the tearoom there will be lots of yummy treats as usual – Fab Slice, Apricot & Ginger, Myle’s Grasmere Gingerbread, Salena’s Coffee Cake to mention a few.
Check out our new Book Club too – the first book is by Millie Johnson, The Marvellous Mrs Meyhew. Wait till you hear this, I have had an email from Millie herself who has given me some questions for our first book club meeting on Thursday 23 May.
There are more events to be added so keep an eye out for them – Tea Leaf and Card Reading, Candle and Cake, Journal Making, Silk Painting – phew, we certainly are not just a tearoom.
I think though the main event for me in May is that Miracle Minnie will be coming to visit us. I think I will have to get system in place for people to sign up for cuddle time with this little Miracle.
Finally, the video tomorrow should be amazing as I am just getting ready to go on a course for using videos in social media – thanks to the lovely Business Gateway people.
Of course, the song for this week just has to be If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher.
Caramel slice, millionaire shortbread, caramel shortbread – whatever you call it, who does not love this indulgent treat? With its crumbly shortbread base, gooey caramel centre and a thick chocolate topping, what’s not to love? Ok so it’s not the easiest or quickest recipe to make and, of course, is not without calories. It is, however, a treat to be enjoyed over a cup of tea and a chat. You can always go for a brisk walk or a cycle afterwards to use up some of the calories.
In the tearoom I have been making caramel slice since we opened and the customers just adore it. Firstly there is the crumbly shortbread base. For this I use my Empire Biscuit recipe and it never fails me. Then we come to the caramel filling. It took a little while for me to produce one I was happy with and could replicate time and again. Like the base, this loyal caramel never lets me down. It splashes and burns me every time when I am making it but never lets me down. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, we finish with the chocolate topping. For me there is no contest. It just has to be Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. I know people will say that this is not really chocolate and there are lots of other superior makes but for me, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk hits the spot all the time. Even Mr M knows now that if he wants to make me feel special (which he does all the time of course!) he just needs to put Dairy Milk down in front of me. If this should be in the form of a large box of Milk Tray, then he has me hands down.
But why Nicola’s Caramel Slice I hear you cry? Nicola’s first visit to the tearoom was probably away back in 2017. We have a hairdresser next door to the tearoom and Nicola was in desperate need of a cuppa as she waited for her Aunty getting her hair done. It was late in the day and I was rushing away to take Beatrix for a walk. Mr M took pity on the harassed young lady and served tea and cake after hours. It was only after eating the cake that Nicola was told it was gluten and dairy free and she thought about her nephew Charlie needing dairy free goodies. I think the Craft, Chat and Cake signs may have also caught Nicola’s interest. It was not long before Nicola, her partner Craig (of Craig’s Coconut Cake) and nephew Charlie became regulars and joined the tearoom family. It also transpired that Nicola is a crafty young lady too and soon started to join us for the crafting sessions. You should see some of Nicola’s cross stitching. Everything she does is just perfection. Nicola is working on her own business, Nicola’s Cards and Crafts and I am sure she will be a household name before long. Anyway, Nicola has a bit of a sweet tooth and is especially partial to a piece of caramel slice. She absolutely loves our original version and if she can twist Mr M’s arm a little, even when he is rushed of his feet (which is of course all the time), she enjoys nothing better than a piece of caramel slice with hot custard and a steaming pot of tea.
Always wanting to cater for the gluten and dairy free people, I had many attempts at making a gluten and dairy free caramel slice but just could not produce one to compare with our original version. After finally managing to make my empire biscuits gluten and dairy free, I thought I would have one last attempt to use this shortbread to make a caramel slice. The first dairy free caramel burned. There were a few that separated when once set. One tasted wonderful but was really dairy free toffee and came with a free dentist appointment. Then it happened. I had produced a gluten and dairy free caramel slice. I was beside myself. When I posted a picture of this on our face book page, the response was amazing – we even had one person offering to be our quality assurance taste tester! However, my rejoicing was short-lived as I quickly discovered that the dairy free caramel, lovely as it was, did not have the same structure as the original version. In the heat of the tearoom, the dairy free caramel quickly became almost liquid again. Served as a pudding with custard, this was still lovely, but caramel slice it was not.
Back to the drawing board once more. I thought I had a brilliant idea and would make it as a caramel tart. I used the gluten and dairy free pastry I make for the Bakewell tarts, added the dairy free caramel and topped it with our lovely gluten and dairy free chocolate I have now sourced. Perfection I thought. Of course, what I had not taken into account was that once I had taken the first piece out of the tart, the caramel would again be able to escape.
The drawing board again then! Finally, I came up with the idea of the mini caramel pie. Individual gluten and dairy free pastry tarts filled with the gluten and dairy free caramel and topped with the gluten and dairy free chocolate. Oh my! These were divine.
I can tell you that if the customers thought these were good, they thought the individual caramel meringue pies were heaven.
Now there is a saying though, “You can’t please everyone all of the time”. How true this is. No matter how hard I try to produce scrummy cakes and bakes that are gluten and dairy free, there is always somebody who is not happy. Let me point out here that this is not a complaint, just an observation. The saying is very appropriate when it comes to our caramel slice. Some people preferred the new version whilst others preferred the original version. There is also the problem that the evaporated milk and butter used in the original version had to be replaced by something. My final choice was to replace this with soya as soya cream has a creaminess that almost mimics the evaporated milk. Do you know how many people are unable to tolerate soya in their diet. I have a fairly good idea now!
In the tearoom as you know, we have our range Delicious Without, which is all gluten and dairy free. It seems that being gluten intolerant often goes hand in hand with dairy intolerances so it made sense to make the range both gluten and dairy free. If I am honest, I think baking dairy free is more problematic than baking gluten free. Sometimes I despair that I can’t make the fabulous looking cakes and bakes I see in other cafes and tearooms where they have used different sweets and chocolates as decoration on theirs. Then I get somebody in who is so overwhelmed by our choice of dairy free products that it is all worthwhile again.
Sometimes though, just sometimes, we get customers who beg and beg and beg and beg some more for me to make something that sits somewhere between the gluten and dairy free Delicious Without and our Wi Nowt Tekken Owt range (you need to say this with a Yorkshire Accent of course). This week I have succumbed to pleas of one of our regular customers, Beverley. Now Bev is partial to a caramel slice but is not able to have our original one because of the gluten and couldn’t have the new version because of the soya. “Please can you make the caramel slice with a gluten free shortbread but the original caramel”, said Bev, who has obviously been taking tips from Trixie and Beatrix for the puppy dog eye trick. How could I refuse?
Now this is where I have to remind you all that you all let me down a couple of years ago when I published my manifesto for Mother Murphy for Prime Minister. If I could draw your minds back to this, especially to point number 3…
MOTHER MURPHY FOR PRIME MINISTER
1) Everyone will wear purple (one item a day will suffice).
2) Everyone will eat Cadbury's Dairy Milk every day. (Other Chocolate will be available if your taste buds are not as plain as mine).
3) To enable those special people who have coeliac disease adhere to rule number 2, Mr Cadbury will guarantee that all Cadbury's Dairy Milk is gluten free.
4) Cooked cabbage will be banned. Raw cabbage will still be permitted so that we can continue to make our home made coleslaw
5) Chocolate brownies (better known as under-cooked chocolate cake) will be banned in all forms.
6) Any debate causing tension will be discussed whilst undertaking some form of Iris Folding during one of our Craft, Chat and Cake Sessions.
7) The missing triangles in Toblerone will replaced immediately. Any delay in this will result in a further rule that Mondelez will be forced to replace the triangle and make the whole lot larger to fully represent the Alps.
8) As a further development on the Toblerone, the dark chocolate version will be made available all year round (along with Terry's Chocolate Oranges).
9) All train carriages will be quiet coaches. The only headphones or devices allowed in these will be those playing the sound of silence. At the same time, all radios, noise and music (except for organised concerts) will be banned from nature parks and from passing cars. This does, however, exclude anyone playing Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road as this must always be played at full volume.
10) Everyone will live as left-handed for one month to get an understanding of how we left-handers have to adapt every day to a right-handed world. I think a month is a fair time scale as I did live as a Coeliac for a month last year.
Going back to the adaptation of Nicola’s Caramel Slice then. So Beverley with the puppy dog eyes wanted a gluten free shortbread base but the same lovely caramel and chocolate topping. No problem I thought. I’ll just swap the shortbread to my now successful gluten and dairy free empire biscuit mix, use my original caramel recipe and top with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Except of course now that I am not Prime Minister and my manifesto was not passed, Mr Cadbury can still put “may contain gluten” on his large bars of Dairy Milk. Shame on you Mr Cadbury and shame on you all for not voting for Mother Murphy as Prime Minister. Anyway, I discussed with another long standing member of the Tearoom Family, Crafty Sal, the Coeliac, whether there were any gluten free chocolates to match Dairy Milk. No was the short answer. So a hunt around the chocolate isles looking at all the Cadbury’s delights came up with the answer – giant Cadbury’s Chocolate buttons do not contain gluten and do not carry the “may contain” warning. A bit of an expense, but for an exception, it would be worth it.
I have, of course, ensured that some quality assurance has been undertaken on this new batch of Nicola’s Caramel Slice. I am positive that Beverley will be a happy bunny but the real test will be whether Nicola likes the new version as much as the original version. I will keep you updated.
Now on the theme of adaptation, another problem with some customers is sugar. Yes, sugar. It would seem this is now the drug of the century and to be avoided at all costs. I am often asked if I can make sugar free cakes. I am a little reluctant to go down this route because if I remove the gluten, the dairy, the soya, the nuts and the sugar, I will just be serving an empty plate. However, sometimes I do try. This week as well as Bev with the Puppy Dog Eyes, I have had Caroline the Shy Victorian Swimmer (think Victorian Afternoon Tea in February) asking for sugar free cakes. Well, asking is not really the truth. It was more “oh I don’t suppose you will be able to make sugar free cakes will you”, and walking out of the tearoom with I am sure a tear in her eye. I do believe the customers have me wrapped around their little fingers (but I love it).
So, reducing sugar for Caroline. Could this be done? Could this be done during Easter week? Easter is all about chocolate isn’t it? Anyway, I decided I would make a low sugar chocolate cake for Easter in the tearoom. I even managed to get a recipe where I could make it gluten, wheat, dairy, egg free and with only golden syrup for sugar. Ok, so I have now filled and coated the three sponges with chocolate ganache. I am trying though Caroline.
I wanted the top of the cake to have mini Easter eggs on it but of course, gluten and dairy free versions are non-existent in the local supermarkets and I did not have time to order some. So Mr M and I set out on an Easter sweet hunt in Cumbernauld to find sweets for the top of the chocolate cake that looked to have an Easter theme. We looked high and low and in the end found something that resembles small eggs. You will of course be able to make your own judgment on the success of these in the tearoom this week.
Now I am still following a gluten free diet to keep the arthritic hips functioning, which does seem to be working. Once the sweets had been found it was time for a coffee and a cake. How ironic it was that I had spent the best part of two days trying to source bits and pieces for my bakes only to find that I had to make do with a bought Bakewell tart from Costa as the sole gluten free cake I could find in the whole of Cumbernauld. No, I lie, but if can refer you back to point number 5 of my manifesto, there was a café with a huge gluten free sign pointing to the saddest looking, dry, 3 week old looking chocolate brownie. Pre-packed Bakewell tart in Costa it was then whilst Mr M tucked into his lovely toasted current teacake oozing with lashings of butter. Sometimes I can see why people give in and eat some gluten when they are out and starving.
If only that lovely tearoom on the hill in Falkirk had been open!
And this week’s song? Well it just has to be, “How Much is That Doggy In the Window” by Bob Merrill.
Very often when people first meet me they think that there is a little bit of madness about me. It doesn’t take them long though to realise that they are mistaken and that I am actually completely stark raving bonkers. I have to say that I would probably agree with most people but like to think I might be mad but never reckless.
Today this theory was put to the test once again on the Scottish mountains. I usually spend most of the week planning where I going to walk on my day off. This week I had decided that I would climb up The Cobbler (Ben Arthur) in the Arrochar Alps. Should I go Monday or Tuesday? I discovered that Mr M had a day planned on Tuesday with his brother involving the horses. Tuesday was the day for walking then!
Now as we all know, Mr M is actually the Health and Safety Chief Officer for the Tearoom (and for my life it sometimes feels!). “You can’t go walking on Tuesday, Storm Gareth is coming,” announced Mr H&S. So I checked the forecast, checked the warnings and checked the Mountain Rescue sites for weather in the Arrochar Alps for Tuesday. It told me that the bad weather would not actually arrive until later in the after and that there would be sunshine and showers in the morning.
I know the area quite well and have walked the hills on numerous occasions, in both summer and winter. Usually the weather is pretty similar regardless of the season I have to say. The walk starts very low down at Arrochar and climbs up a zig zag track through the forest to climb up to the dam and the start of the open hills. Walking this track, it would be quite remarkable if you managed to get lost, no matter what the weather. This is a very well defined track, a bit of a steady climb, but well defined. The walk then opens out, giving a fantastic view of the Cobbler and providing that remote feeling I crave. The mountains around seem to give protection from the weather all along the track right up to the point where you decide whether to climb the Cobbler on the left or up Beinn Ime or Beinn Narnain on the right. In my defence for choosing to go walking up here on the day the Storm was predicted, I knew that I could walk all the way up to the foot of The Cobbler and be relatively safe from exposure. Ok, so there was a bit a wind at times and there were a few snow showers on the way, but on the whole, the walk was great and the sun was out for much of the morning. I had decided that I would walk until I reached a point when I needed to put my crampons on, take stock, have a snack and choose what do to – go to the top or head back. I had a few snowy bits to negotiate on route, but nothing that a good, new pair of boots and two walking poles could not handle. As I climbed up the valley, I could feel the wind getting a little stronger so I made my decision that I would go to the point where you start the final climb up The Cobbler where I knew there were a few rocks to shelter by and have a rest. Beatrix agreed that was a good plan as she was ready for her roast ham that Mr M had packed for her. I wonder if she realises that she is probably the only dog that gets a picnic of special roast ham made up for. Very soon I was about 10 minutes walking from my planned turning point, which takes you beyond the protection of the hills. Well, that’s when the wind really hit me and practically blew me and Beatrix off our feet. We had a bit of giggle with each other and decided that we would just turn around now.
Now the wind was behind us and I am convinced that I could have been like Mary Poppins at one point and just flown down the hill. Walking back without the final climb to the summit in my legs, I was able to savour the walk more than usual. I even had the treat of catching sight of an enormous stag on the other side of the valley. All of a sudden, there were about 20 deer all looking at me and then, as quickly as they appeared, they just blended back into the hills.
We had fabulous lunch stop at the Narnain Boulders, which provide brilliant shelter from any weather and also allow you to sit a while and look out onto the amazing vista of Ben Lomond across the Valley. Of course, today was not really a day for sitting too long. Even though the sun was out and I was under the shelter of the rocks, it was still cold, the wind was blowing and the storm was coming. Flask of tea finished, butties eaten and Candy Road enjoyed, I packed my rucksack back up again and set off for the final walk back down the hill to the car. Just as we got back to the car, the heavens opened! It rained on us and blew us all the way back home across the Erskine Bridge, M8 and back to Kirkintilloch and the only time during the whole day when I got wet was getting my things out of the car into the house.
The only sadness of the day being a slow realisation that for the past two weeks, my walking pal has not been as lively at the end of the walk as she used to be. She is still full of energy on the way up the hills, darting backwards and forwards, but on the way down she is less so and I can sense she is now happy to be back at the car and sleep instead of being a bundle of energy all day. I sometimes forget she is getting old too. She is currently sleeping at my feet as I type, enjoying the warmth of the central heating and a full tummy from her tea.
So, thoughts now turn to the tearoom and the week ahead. Sometime after Mother Murphy’s opened, Fiona found her way into the tearoom, sometimes with her friends, sometimes with her daughter, sometimes with her granddaughter, but always with a smile. Fiona soon became a regular to the tearoom, liking nothing better than to sit and relax, chat, enjoy the tearoom and, of course, try all the different cakes. Very quickly, Fiona found her favourite, Stem Ginger Cake with Ginger Frosting and if this was one of the cakes that week, Fiona always chose this. If anyone came in and was trying to decide on which cake to have, Fiona would quickly jump in and recommend the ginger cake.
Long after Fiona’s first visit to the tearoom, I was having a chat to a new customer about all the different cakes and bakes. I was explaining that DW was short for Delicious Without, which shows which cakes and bakes are gluten and dairy free. Fiona joined in the chat at this point and said, “Yes, but the ginger cake is not gluten free is it because I don’t like gluten free cakes”. I can tell you, it took some convincing to get Fiona to believe that for the last year or so she had in fact been tucking in to gluten and dairy free delights every time she came into the tearoom.
Anyway, Fiona then mentioned that she had a friend who has coeliac disease and would bring her in next time she was meeting her as they always struggled to find somewhere for her friend to get good food in cafes.
Fast forward another year or so, on a Thursday morning in the tearoom you will usually find Fiona and Margaret whiling away the hours, chatting, laughing, having a late breakfast/early lunch, chatting, more laughing, persuading Mr M to serenade them with his guitar playing and of course, eating cake.
When Margaret first came in to the tearoom, she was as quiet as a mouse but was just blown away with the choices she could have that would be ok for her coeliac disease - pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, toasted sandwiches made with home-made gluten free bread, French toast with home-made gluten free bread. Just as Fiona had found her favourite cake, Margaret quickly found her own favourite cake (or two) and now has her name against our Lemon Drizzle Cake and the Cherry and Almond Cake.
Now I have told you this story, it will come as no surprise to find out that one of our cakes this week is of course Fiona’s Stem Ginger Cake with Ginger Frosting. We also have Pear and Ginger Cake (is it a cake or is it a crumble?), Shona’s Candy Road, Sir Wannabe Mint Cream Biscuits (think of a Viscount biscuit). Also back after a long absence is our Strawberry Heaven. This is a lovely crunchy toffee flavoured base, with a strawberry filling, topped with a layer of chocolate. When I made this some time ago, one of the customers described it as like eating a strawberry flavoured toffee crisp.
Craft Chat and Cake
This week at the crafting, there will be some sewing with the machine, some crochet of course, card making and we have our Crafting Special on Saturday, Box Frame Picture Making. We still have a couple of places let of this – come along and make a stunning large box frame picture. All the resources and help will be provided, along with cake and lashings of tea. (Booking required for the Crafting Special).
I wonder if I could make a request to all those lovely crafters amongst us. Now we have a sewing machine for the tearoom for people to use during the crafting sessions, I am trying to build up a sewing kit/box for the tearoom. We are looking for fabric scissors, pins, machine thread, etc. If anyone has any space items that they would like to give a new home to we would be very grateful. Thank you.
Don’t forget also that with Mother’s Day around the corner, we now have a small selection of the fantastic pens made by young Cameron. These are all individually unique and hand made by a 16 year old. If we do not have one in the colour you like, we can get one ordered for you from Cameron, with an order time of 2/3 weeks. I think these would be perfect for birthday presents, graduations, signing the register and Christmas presents so name a few.
We are still on our search for small hand-made gifts for sale in the tearoom as Something New is our theme for our 5th year in the tearoom. I am hoping that very soon we may also have some handmade candles so watch this space. So you will be able to come in for tea and cake, buy a card, buy a pen to go with it and a candle to set the scene. Where else?
Mother Murphy’s Diaries
Another aim for 2019 is for me to finish my book, Mother Murphy’s Diaries, a recipe book with a story. Of course, now that I do not have any crafting projects on the go at the moment……
Of course, the song for this week just has to be Paperback Writer by Dire Straits.
6.00 am, 22 January 2019 and all was quiet. The weather men had been warning us that the Beast from the East was going to return (though maybe not from the East!). It had certainly been cold over the last couple of days and last night was positively Baltic. However, when you only have two days away from the tearoom, you just have to make the most of what ever weather comes along on a Monday or Tuesday.
Last night, we were visiting one of our lovely customers. It does seem strange referring to people as customers because of course people are more than customers. They may well have been strangers and new customers when they first entered the tearoom, but they very quickly become friends. This is certainly the case with Dashing Tom. Tom had a bit of a tumble last week and broke his hip so we were had popped in to see him at hospital. If you can’t come to the tearoom Tom, we will bring the tearoom to you.
Anyway, I was discussing with Tom, his daughter and Mr M that I was planning to go up Ben Ledi from Callander in the morning. Well you would have thought I was talking about going up Mount Everest. (Actually, that is on my bucket list). I was trying to explain why I liked to go walking on the hills, especially in the winter and snow. It’s not because I am an intrepid explorer and live for the adrenalin rush, but quiet simply being on the hills is where my peace and tranquillity is. Everyone finds their own space, and the hills are mine.
First thing this morning Kirkintilloch was a bit on the chilly side and the ground a bit icy when I took Beatrix for a 10 minute walk before breakfast. There was no snow though. All will be well I told myself.
Back home for a bowl of steaming porridge and blueberries. I was expecting the usual, “are you sure it’s safe to go…..” from Mr M but he just said, “be careful”. So off we went. Flasks of tea (one for after the walk if needed), plenty layers and of course, crampons, were packed into the car along with the excited Border collie.
The drive to the start of the walk, just past Callander, was quite non-eventful. There were a few snow flurries but nothing to shout about. I could see Ben Ledi and the surrounding hills in the distance and they were indeed covered in snow. Parking the car, there was a good covering of snow, which is unusual for so low down in the valley.
5 minutes after leaving the car, it seemed that the Beast had caught up with us. I did lots of detailed calculations in my head. Ok, I thought, “Well, I’m here now”. No, honestly I thought that I would be better to have a bit of walk now and let the snow pass over us and let the gritters, ploughs and traffic clear the main A84 ready for us to go home later.
Usually the walk up Ben Ledi takes you along a forestry road then up a forest track before opening out onto the real hills. I know the forest track and it can be a bit tricky in good weather so I opted to go the long way round and follow the forestry road to the end before going into Stank Glen. I planned to get as far as the end of the glen and not attempt the full climb up Ben Ledi.
The highlight of the day today has to be the point along the forestry track when the snow was falling but there was not a soul about except for me and Beatrix. There was no wind, no sound, nothing. Imagine walking alone with your dog and listening to the sound of your own footsteps in crunching and your dog running in the snow. I stopped for a while and watched Beatrix playing, rolling and jumping in the snow. Once Beatrix had stopped alongside me, I just waited a while and enjoyed the silence.
As we climbed up the valley and reached the track to take us into the glen, the snow eased, and then stopped. The clouds started to lift and before long, the sunshine had joined us on our walk. At the end of the Glen, we had our picnic and flask of tea looking at the amazing scenery and I have to admit that I was very, very tempted to go up to the top of Ben Ledi. However, I did listen to my little voice of reason and agreed that Ben Ledi will be there another day when I have not used up all my limited energy walking in the deep snow. So I lingered a while and enjoyed an extra cup of tea and a boozy fruit slice. (Imagine a fruit slice but rather than just a fruit filling, this one is filled with my homemade Christmas mincemeat).
I am sure that there would have been many people cursing the snow and struggling to get to their work today, but for me, the snow provide the just what I needed. Now I have had a hot shower, a nap and had my tea cooked by Mr M. I am fit for the week ahead at the tearoom.
The Beast of the East (but from the West) was trying to scare us, but was certainly put into the shadows by the beauty of nature today.
Where will we go next week?
Of course, the song for this week just has to be Walking in Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves.
FRUIT SLICE (GF/DF/Egg Free)
Fruit Filling (or simply use some homemade Christmas mincemeat)
Making the fruit filling
1 Preheat oven to 190oc/170oc fan oven.
2 Grease and line a tray bake tin with parchment paper.
3 Put all the fruit filling ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
4 Boil for 4 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
5 Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Making the pastry
6 Put the flour, baking powder and xanthan gum into a free standing mixer (or a large bowl) and whisk to mix.
7 Cut the stork into small cubes and add to the flour mix. Have the mixer running at low speed and mix until you have rough breadcrumbs (or rub in with your fingers).
8 Add cold water, a little at a time, with the mixer still running (or mixing with a knife) until you have a soft but not sticky dough.
9 Cut the dough into two equal pieces and roll out each piece until they are large enough to cover the baking tray.
10 Carefully lift one of the pieces (use the rolling pin to help here) and place in the baking tray.
11 Cover the pastry with the cooled fruit mixture and spread out covering all the pastry.
12 Carefully life the second piece of pastry (again use the rolling pin to help here) and place this over the fruit.
13 Prick the pastry all over with a fork and then brush down with almond milk.
14 Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes until lightly browned.
15 Remove from the oven and (if you are not coating it in icing later) sprinkle with caster sugar.
16 Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into 24 equal pieces.
17 If you want to add icing to this, wait until completely cold. Mix the icing sugar with enough cold water to make a thick paste and carefully spread over the pastry and leave to set before slicing.