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.