Archive | lifestyle RSS feed for this section

To our hairy friends

27 Jul

This blog is brought about with thoughts and hugs going out to a friend who’s going through a tough time at the moment, but may make sense to anyone out there who is owned by a dog.   We might moan about them sometimes when they’ve chewed up something (usually something big and difficult to replace and definitely something they weren’t meant to chew), we might despair when they won’t do as they’re told and they’re having one of the crazy 15 minutes, we might feel a bit resentful when we leave a party early to get home because they need letting out.  But ultimately, we wouldn’t be without those beautiful, hairy heart grabbers.

When I went through my first marriage break up and all the mess that was around that, it was my dog that got me through it.  Don’t get me wrong, I had some great friends standing by me.  But on the days when I didn’t feel I could drag myself from my bed, I had to because Fergus (the beautiful dalmatian pictured below) had to be walked.  When I couldn’t be bothered to shop for food, I had to because there was no way he was going to go without eating (never, and I mean NEVER try to deprive a dally of food) and without putting too fine a point on it, when I felt like knocking back a stack of pills and just falling asleep forever, I knew I had to go on because I couldn’t bear the thought of Fergus having to go to a rescue home (he was a handful, noone else would have been insane enough to take him on!)  In no small way I owe my life to my boy.

Image

Fergus was eventually joined by Phoebe, my pretty, neurotic girl and we had some great times together.  Those dogs knew how to party – and Fergus was a huge flirt!

Image

This time round, I’ve got Ed.  Bouncy, troublesome, insane, cuddlesome Ed.   And I’m thankful for it.  He stops the house being too quiet when silence is the last thing I need.  If I’m feeling miserable he’ll stick his hairy face on my knee and stare at me with his beautiful amber eyes.  In the past I’ve used running to help me get rid of the crazy in my head.  At the moment I can’t run, but I can get out for a walk.  Who can feel bad when they’ve strolled through a field full of corn, hearing a river bubble underneath the brambles.  Stumbling across a four leaf clover that makes you just know everything is going to be fine.  In the sunshine of the last few days, when you watch the ground getting harder and more cracked, switching from heavy walking boots to lightweight Vans, you can feel your soul opening back up to bask in the warmth.  Even in the rain, you can splosh through mud and feel the freedom you last felt when you were 5 and splashed through puddles in ducky wellies!   Unlikely I’d be doing that if it wasn’t for Ed.

In the last week alone its been Ed that has brought the biggest smile to my face and made me laugh out loud even though noone else around.  Watching him point and then stalk so carefully his prey …. of a ripped plastic bag had me praising him and giggling all at the same time.  Seeing him run like Predator through cornfields – all rustling corn then the sudden appearance of a head before he disappears in a flash, has me laughing the whole walk.  (2nd biggest laugh, was when a colleague joked to me ‘keep your chin up…. both of them’ the look on his face as a universal gasp of went round the office was a sight to behold!!)

So, to our hairy friends, I say a big thank you – for always being there for us, for loving us unconditionally, for silent support, for the laughs and the fun, for getting us out of the house, you have eternal gratitude.  Now, where do I find me a man like that?!!!

Image

Advertisements

If Only ….

9 Jul

Someone asked me recently what it was that would bring me happiness and that got me thinking, hard.   Should it be that hard to work out?  I’m not sure.  But I realised that so many of the things I think will make me happy seem to be linked to ‘if only’ …

  • if only I could lose the weight I’d be happy with me
  • if only I could get promotion/do all my to do list/find the dream job I’d be happy with my work
  • if only I could meet a wonderful man I’d be happy
  • if only I could run that big race/break a pb/learn a language/tell people what I really think/cook a 5 star meal/find the perfect pair of jeans/fly across the atlantic in a balloon/prove who killed JFK …. get the picture?

It always seems so dependent on that elusive ‘something’.  But how can that work, because what happens if you don’t achieve that weight loss, or balloon ride or whatever it is you’ve pinned that happiness on?  Does it mean you can’t ever be happy?  Each goal that isn’t achieved another piece of proof that you are a failure?Do you just label yourself a loser and sink one more rung down a self-created ladder of depression?

I thought I was happy.  I’d had the broken marriage, followed by the wild times, followed by the wanting to be with someone to love and share my life with.   Then I got that, I built that whole lifestyle and it really did seem like happiness.  But then things change and you realise it was an illusion, like vaseline over the lens, and someone gives it a scrub with windolene and you look at things without the soft focus.  What then?

If I look at all the things I think I want and which I think will make me happy – I had all them, but I knew deep down that it wasn’t what I wanted and that I wasn’t happy.  I thought I’d glimpsed proper happiness, but it was fleeting.  Now, either I’m a completely ungrateful cow who just doesn’t know when she’s well off (and, trust me, that thought has gone through my head more than once, probably more than 100 times!) or I just have my happiness pinned on something too elusive and ‘dependent’.

I’m not even going to pretend I have any answers yet.  I’ve read things on living in the moment, I’ve seen the glib catch phrases and motivational sayings – can a solution ever be summed up in 140 characters?  But they just leave me thinking ‘but how?  tell me HOW?’  How do I go confidently in the direction of my dreams?  how do I live the life I’ve imagined?  how do I build the door for opportunity to knock on?   What do half these things MEAN??  This probably all sounds a bit impatient – and as someone who has to read the last few pages of a book before they can enjoy the book, I will admit that I am impatient and I want to KNOW.    Do other people think this?  Do they just get the package that should make them happy and convince themselves that they are; or are they genuinely, wonderfully, gloriously happy?  If there ever is an ‘if only’ is that just crushed under alcohol, or food, or training, or shopping or any of the other things I know I’ve used in the past to knock the doubts away?   Maybe they do, perhaps I am just greedy and ungrateful and impatient?

If you’re waiting for some momentous revelation (or catch phrase that forms the basis of a best seller!), sorry, there isn’t one.   As I said, I don’t have any answers.  Not yet.  Maybe that is a step forward, admitting I don’t know at least is facing up to the thought that I need to be more accepting of my failings and my flaws and accept that finding a ‘solution’ to them isn’t necessarily going to make me happy.  That it might put a nice bit of wrapping paper and a bow around the package, but the same package is under there.   I’m not going to use this as an excuse to not have goals or aspirations, I still need to live and to live a healthy life, so those things I’ve talked about in the past still apply.  But I need to not pin my happiness on achieving them and take that pressure off a little bit.   For now, I just have a lot of thinking to do, not least figuring out whether I am just greedy for wanting proper, true happiness and that I should just settle for ‘almost happy’  or whether I’m ok with holding out until I work out what it is that makes me truly happy and how to live that life.

Don’t think I can skip to the back of the book on this one.

New and Improved: Week One Review

6 Jun

Regarding Project Proposal: Sharon 1.2, Review

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Last week we set you some goals for getting your life back on track, looking at a few different areas although some of those areas were linked. I think its important that we review those to consider progress, barriers to progress and make sure you keep on track. In a moment we’ll go over those, but first of all could you give an overview of how you think the week went.

In general it was a positive week, with the good outweighing the bad.  There was a wobble when I climbed on the pity train, but I only stayed on it for a short while before jumping off and deciding to go for a run instead.  I had a lovely day on Saturday, with afternoon tea at local pub and several hours wandering round the kite festival and drinking coffee with friends.  (In fairness, the wandering took about 20 minutes, the drinking coffee much longer.)

If we consider the goals that were set:  firstly exercise and food.

I did get out for a couple of runs and did two yoga classes.  The yoga made me realise quite how unstretchy I am.   The lesson didn’t seem particularly challenging, but the next day when I realised I was struggling with standing up without sounding like a Wimbledon champion in the middle of a rally, I concluded that perhaps it was tougher than I thought.  On the positive side, at least I didn’t fart through the class!!  I also persevered with my gym induction despite a dodgy start.  While booking in for programme setting, I asked the personal trainer who’d been explaining the machines to me whether I’d be able to have a programme that focussed on my core.  He took a moment to look me up and down and fully take in the muffin tops and overstretched lycra, before telling me that if I wanted to lose weight I couldn’t spot reduce through exercise.  I refrained from smacking him in the mouth and instead pointed out that I did know that, but having undergone two lots of abdominal surgery in a year, I wanted to focus on rebuilding my core.   I didn’t point out that as a motivational technique, highlighting my need to lose weight wasn’t particularly helpful and that I was fully aware I wasn’t a tiny little gym bunny!! Fortunately the trainer who gave me my programme was more tactful and very helpful and on return from holiday I’ll be tackling the exercise ball-based plan he’s put together for me.  The fact that the trainer demonstrated the exercises and I could watch his rippling abs (through his t-shirt, he didn’t go topless, its not that sort of gym) did make the whole process rather fun.  The lie down in the yoga class immediately afterwards was quite a relief!!

Food wise – I’ve kept off the take aways (apologies to Dominoes if profits are down), however, I’ve developed an addiction to salt and vinegar rice cakes.  That’s wrong on a number of levels:  the main one being that who the hell develops an addiction to rice cakes, freak!  Second – just because its ‘healthy’ doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited quantities.   Must work on keeping amount of food down (not physically, I haven’t developed a bulimia habit).  

Ok, that sounds quite positive, what about feeling comfortable with your body?

Hmmm, I’m going to link that one with the ‘be ready to start a new relationship’.  I kind of realised something that I might be doing and I’m not sure how to tackle it or whether at the moment I want to.   I don’t feel ready to start dating and part of that is that I realise that if I start dating there will come a point where I have to be naked in front of someone, possibly with lights on, even if dim lights and/or with him putting dark glasses on.  I really don’t feel comfortable with the idea of someone seeing all my cellulite and gunt in all its glory!   However, I could be doing more to get that weight off (see above and the overeating – healthyish food, but still overeating).  So maybe, I’m keeping the weight on as a protection – if I’m worried about how I look, I won’t feel ready to date, I won’t be looking and therefore I won’t get hurt or be betrayed.   Not sure yet on that, at least I’m admitting it to myself so maybe that is first step in addressing it.  As I sit and type the chip shop is calling, but I’m telling myself to go for quorn and veggies instead.  

I could tell you that you are being silly, and that a bloke won’t care about the cellulite and gunt, instead he’ll just be glad there is a naked woman, but I’m pretty sure you won’t listen.  So instead lets move on to finance side of things.

I’ve put in the paperwork to do my promotion exam, so first step towards bringing in extra cash has been taken.  That said, that’s the easiest bit, now I’ve got to start revising.  I have bought a pad of paper and some post-its, but admittedly that’s still a fairly easy bit and I’ve yet to open a book.  However, I am taking one of the books on holiday with me and will aim to do at least two hours a day while I’m away.  Haven’t sorted out a budget yet as just seemed too depressing to do… promise I’ll do that when I get back …. but I did sell my moped and put the money straight into building society rather than go shopping.

Well done, I’m impressed with your restraint on the shopping, but you do need to get your head down and get some revision started.  How are you managing when things don’t go as planned?

I’m running!  When I had my blip I didn’t sit around and cry, I stuck my trainers on and headed out into the rain to run four miles.  Pounding the pavements means there isn’t the opportunity to dwell, instead I focus on the next point on the run, lifting my knees to get up a hill (I threw in a challenging hill at the start just for the hell of it), not throwing up, dodging puddles and avoiding drunks/glass/dog poo.  All that leaves little room for self-pity and by the time I was back home and relaxing in the bath, I felt much better.

All sounds very positive, what are the plans for the next week?

It has the potential to be a difficult week – I’m heading over to Spain to sort out the house to make it ready for holiday lets.  That bit is good.  The not-so-good:  ex=husband is going too as he needs to help with things.   He’s not staying at the house (at my request) but we are travelling there together.  It all just feels very weird.  However, I’m staying positive, packing my trainers and planning to work on house, revise and run – all in sunshine!  

Thank you, I think that concludes our review, I wish you luck for the coming week and we’ll get together at the end of next week to consider progress.

Cake, cake, glorious cake

17 Oct

It has been pointed out to me that I’ve been a bit remiss with updating on my blog.  So my apologies if anyone has suffered any cake withdrawal symptoms or has been aimlessly wandering the streets of Bedford, confused and dazed as to the best place to go for cake and coffee.   My only excuse, or excuses as they are two-fold – are that I was put to work at home for the last days of my recuperation and now have a beautifully painted dining room.  And that sentence gives a clue to the other bit … I’ve had to go back to work.  After 8 weeks off, that was a bit of a shocker.  Words need to be had as so far the only coffee has been instant.  I do now have my coffee machine there, so this will be fired up soon (in theory I was on 4 hour days and there was only me in the office so didn’t seem worth making a whole pot, but the 2nd person has returned from hols so I think he’ll help out).  In terms of cakes, I did try to do my bit today with a bake sale in aid of 100 marathons in 100 weeks ( http://www.raceto100.co.uk – see the link at side of this blog ). *

bake sale

Modesty, however, prevents me from giving a review of the crumbly, rich chocolate brownies; light and fluffy red velvet cupcakes or even the perfectly risen and evenly baked orange, almond and yogurt cake.  Instead, I will ask anyone who purchased one of the cakes and who is reading this, to feel free to add comments.  Message to a certain person who put in a plea for delivery … if there are any left, I’m at the big house tomorrow afternoon for a meeting and will bring some along!

Anyhow, I digress.  Those poor souls are still wandering aimlessly like cake-zombies (ooooh, little reminder – The Walking Dead starts on Friday in UK, cannot wait.)   The Review.   Today I’m going to tell you about the place that has almost become my second home.  When I die I wish my ashes to be sprinkled there (although there is probably some health and safety reason why that can’t happen, but you get the impression).

Fancies (on Facebook as Homebaked Desserts), Roff Avenue in Bedford.  In terms of geography, Fancies is a little too close for comfort to some of the less attractive parts of Bedford.  The street itself isn’t too bad – and is handily on the route to and from Bedford parkrun, making it a very useful place for a post-race recovery drink and carb re-load.  But there is a cut through to The Land of The Doomed.  The Doomed, however,  seem not to travel far from their doorsteps or maybe they are just drawn to the cafe by the bus station (where you can drink instant coffee surrounded by the aroma of, well, pee – and I’m not sure if its human or animal and I really don’t want to dwell).  All I can say is, when you enter Fancies you enter a world of old-style tea shop.  The cakes are served on a selection of unmatched, old fashioned plates that wouldn’t be out of place on your grannie’s tea table.  Quaint, chic and so, so pretty.  If I didn’t know I wanted to go back there, I’d be swiping those plates into my handbag (and by handbag I mean the special suitcase handbag I’d take in specially to do this).

Reading material:   Local newspapers, Elle Decor (had me doing some aspirational shopping which was ill-advised in the midst of decorating the house) and a handful of my magazine cast offs.  Also, The Times – which is handy as I mainly read it for Caitlin Moran’s columns, but I often forget to buy it, but this means I have an excuse to pop into Fancies to see if they have the day before’s paper when I’ve forgotten to buy it just so I can catch up.

Customers:  I’ve done some great eavesdropping in here!!  I’ve been in a few times on my own, mornings are best – you get the ladies who, not so much lunch, as ‘drop kids at the local private schools and sit and gossip’ and ‘drop kids at the local private schools and sit and plan charity events with a level of organisation generals going to war would be proud of’.   I do think I may have dropped off during one conversation though, as one minute I was hearing about someone who’d sold their house, moved out of Bedford into nearby village, hated it so moved back – to the same house they’d sold, but had then decided again they didn’t like it and wanted to move back to the village.  Somehow I think I warped out here, as next they were saying someone had been snatched by pirates and taken off to be slaves.  I hope this was a film they’d seen or book they’d read, as I’m not liking the idea that somewhere between Bedford and Bromham there are pirates roaming with a side deal in slave trade.

Seating:   No matching, regular sized tables here – its all a mish-mash of sizes and types of table with a jumble of different chairs.  If I can get a suitcase-handbag big enough, the large wooden dining table is coming with me.  The seating is all inside, but chatting to the lovely lady who works there (and I believe owns the shop), they are hoping to have outside seating in the back garden next year.

Coffee:   I tend to go for the latte – for those who prefer their coffee not on the strong side, this is the place to go.  I could do with it a bit stronger, but you know, the rest of the place is so perfect, I don’t actually care.   The cup size is perfect, not so small it runs out and not so large I feel daunted.   They also do rather delicious smoothies and the most dazzling array of teas – but I haven’t brought myself to try the tea as it just seems wrong (and Tea would spoil the alliteration of my blog heading).

Savoury:  it used to just be croissant with melted cheese and tomato, but this has expanded to bagels with cheese and onion marmalade.   I can heartily recommend either.   They take a little while to be served, and they always warn you of this, but its because they are warmed properly so you get a crisp, foil wrapped croissant, with melty cheese and flakey pastry.  Not a microwaved squidge of pastry that manages to be both hard on the bottom but soggy on the top.   Its well worth waiting for and the wait really isn’t that long as why would you want to rush away?  The only disappointment I’ve had is the cheese scone (though I admit I may have been spoiled by The Cheese Kitchen scone).  When I tried it, the scone was too crumbly so when I tried to butter it, I ended up with crumbs that I had to try and squish together with the onion marmalade (sticky, tasty, could eat it by the spoon).

Cake:   What can I say?   Oh.  My.  Oh.  My.  Oh.  My.  You enter to an plethora of cakes of every type and size displayed on the counter under old fashioned covers.  Trying to choose takes me longer than it took to pick a house.  This has been further complicated by the recent introduction of chiller cabinet – which meant Banoffee Cheesecake.  I may have developed diabetes just looking at that cheesecake.  Clearly if I was going to get diabetes just looking at it, I may as well try it and be hung for a lamb as a sheep (note:  no lambs or sheep were harmed in the making of this blog).  It was devine, but sweet, sweet, sweet!    They have ginger cake, with chunks of preserved ginger on top – sticky and moist and so gingery you think it should be singing in Girls Aloud and looking pale.  The fig and chocolate chip cake – never heard of this before, glad I tried it.  Intriguing, moist, not too sweet.  But the cake I judge by:  carrot cake.  This is how carrot cake should be.  There are nuts, there are bits of fruit, there are bits of carrot you can see and there’s a topping that melts in the mouth.  The cake is moist but not soggy, firm but not dry.  I shouldn’t have to describe it, you should be heading there NOW and trying some.  If you don’t like it, I’ll eat my hat.  Well, I won’t actually – but I’ll eat your carrot cake for you.

Overall impression:  Really? you need to ask?

Not sure why I haven’t got a photo of the carrot cake or the fig and chocolate chip cake, I think I eat it too quickly.  Instead – coffee, croissant and smoothie.  Aka – bliss!.

a blissful morning

* http://www.raceto100.co.uk   please take a look, there’s a link at the side of this blog:  Simon Buckden running 100 marathons in 100 weeks to raise money for Help for Heroes and raise awareness of PTSD

Give thanks to Jeyes Fluid

22 Sep

This was going to be an update on my running* but earlier a miraculous thing occurred.  So surprising and so humbling, it almost brought tears to my eyes and instantly decided I had to share.

Ed walked to heel.

For longer than 33 consecutive seconds (previous record was around 33 seconds, not consecutively and mainly made up of 3 second bursts).

I’d like to think it was the time I put in with him on the agility course,  maybe the respect that Ed now has for me, his desire to please me, the persisting with my plan of ‘turn around and go back in if you pull’ despite the weird looks I was getting – (in summary:  I left the house about 6 times with Ed, tried to walk, turned round when he pulled, gave him another chance, if he pulled again, went in, took off lead, sat down, tried again 10 minutes later … and again…. and again….), .  But in reality – it was the Halti.  Let me just put on record now:  I LOVE THE HALTI. 

For non-dog people, a halti is a sort of head collar – sort of like some MPs and dj’s might wear in ‘special’ basements in Soho (allegedly).  The idea is the dog doesn’t get to pull so much.  For those people with the sort of dogs that would be Head Boy and Prefect (yes, you Border Collies and Labradors) they have probably no need of such things.  Ed is more the kid in school that could be found staring out the window, planning how to get a car into the headmasters office and then encouraging others to help him do it.  He’s the one who’d be running round the playground with his coat held on only by the hood pretending to be a superhero… and then climbing up the wall of the building because the caped superhero then switched to Spiderman.  He’s the one that would cause the temporary teacher to cry … and the temporary teacher had only been brought in because Ed had made the full time one resort to keeping a bottle of whisky in his desk.  You get the picture.

We had a trial run yesterday, which mainly involved me trying to slip the collar on to Ed’s head.  Retrieving collar, attaching it to my own hand to work out how it works.  Retrieving Ed.  Rugby tackling Ed to ground and attempting to put halti on.  Retrieving halti.  sliding across floor to kick door closed and trap Ed in utility room.  Grasping Ed between my legs (those ‘special’ basements spring to mind again).  Getting halti on his head.  Retrieving bits of halti from his mouth.  Shuffling Ed against the settee and jamming him there with leg, whilst using a wrestle hold last used by Big Daddy on Giant Haystacks (yes, I know, I’m old) to keep his head still.  Retrieving halti.  Letting Ed go.  Reading instructions.  Preparing a lot of treats.  holding halti and feeding treats through the gap (back to those MPs and dj’s – allegedly).  Slipping halti on a seated Ed, whilst constantly feeding him treats.  The last part was repeated several times so that Ed could get used to wearing the halti in small bursts (I’ve paid attention to ‘Me or the Dog’.  Kind of).

Today – the Big Test.  A walk to the dog park.  The dog park is about 5 minutes walk away.  It usually takes longer to take account for the constant stopping, changing direction, trying to get Ed’s attention and every other technique we’ve been told.  Now I’ve got fairly meaty arms.  The heritage of a North England/Northern Ireland parentage is arms like a washer woman (and legs like a pit pony, but I’ll save that for a running update).  Those arms are made for hefting sacks of coal and potatoes, so I should be able to handle a 7 month puppy.  Yeah, right.  No.  That dog can take a shoulder out.  My left arm is already 2 inches longer than the right.

But with the halti (and second lead on his usual collar just in case he slipped the halti), he didn’t pull.  Ok, admittedly part of that time was because he was doing a strange walk which involved him hopping on three legs whilst scraping the head collar with a paw and gurning to the sky in attempt to get the thing off.  But at least he wasn’t pulling. In the dog park I left it on so he could get used to it, and he barely noticed it was there.  Even learnt a new trick – he can pick blackberries off the bush and eat them.

And then The Miracle.  On the walk back – he walked.  Alongside me.  Like a normal dog.  The whole way home.   It was beautiful.  Woman and dog as one (not in a special basement way, in a ‘man and beast in harmony’ way).

Oh, the Jeyes Fluid?  after a couple of weeks of trying the scary man’s advice of no treats, I’ve gone back to treats.  I needed A LOT of treats for the halti wearing and agility practice.  Sudden increase in treats might help the walking, it doesn’t help a dog’s stomach.  Or more to the point his bum.   There has been A LOT of sluicing.  But increase in Jeyes Fluid is more than worth it to save my washer women arms

Ed in the dog park, sniffing. Ok, you can’t actually see the halti, but its on.

Ed patrolling around – you will notice the strapping around face, that’s the Halti

Nothing to do with the walk, he just looks so cute!

* 5k today at 31.06 minutes.

Coffee and Cheese

21 Sep

For those who have heard me rave about various cafes, this choice of first place to review may be a little surprising.  Especially as the venue’s name would not suggest cake.  Perhaps that is with good reason.

Not sure why I felt the urge for a cheese scone, but there it was.  It may have been the memory of the one I ate at the weekend or maybe it was the lingering odour of Ed’s fart (for anyone who doesn’t know, Ed is a dog.  not my husband.  though my husband’s farts are worse).  So using the excuse of needing to get a Halti head collar for Ed (glad I specified he was my dog and not my husband or that would have taken this blog down a whole new line) and deciding I’d go to the pet shop in Castle Road rather than traipse across town to the retail park, a cafe trip could easily be built in.

Castle Road is one of the nice bits of Bedford.  For the record, there are only two nice bits of Bedford – Castle Road and Embankment.  They run parallel to each other so its probably not a coincidence.  Its the sort of place that makes you think you are in a posh suburb of London, which doesn’t necessarily make it sound good to some people, but to me, it is.  It has everything I want – numerous cafes, Spanish food, Italian Deli (ridiculously cheap and gives great hints on Limoncello), reclaim shop, art shop and an old book shop.  Haven’t actually been in the book shop but I like that its there.  To give a further clue of the sort of place it is, it also has a shop called ‘country pursuits’, which is where I was going to get the Halti.

But first the important stuff – coffee and cheese scone.  Which leads to …. the review:

The Cheese Kitchen (http://www.thecheesekitchen.co.uk/) is half cafe/half shop, selling as the name would suggest a huge variety of cheese.  I could also have bought chilli jam (nearly did as misread the price tag as £1.35 but it was actually £3.35, no jam should be over £3.00); wine; triangle shaped oat cakes or giant olives from a huge wooden bowl on the counter.

Reading material:  Independent and 220 Triathlon magazine – I could comment on this odd choice, but all I can think is that having gorged on the scones a normal person would need to do something fairly extreme to burn the calories.  I’d brought my own paper and magazine (another odd thing – in the shop across the road, most of the papers were hidden by a copy of the Daily Mail over each pile of Sun, Times, Express etc.  Is this some new marketing ploy on the part of the DM or a special protest by a local resident?)

Seating: the majority of seating is outside.  Which makes it dog friendly – in fact when we popped in at the weekend there was no space outside as it appears Cheese Kitchen is the preferred stopping point for labrador and retriever owners (Country Pursuits seems to know its market).  As it was a little chilly and threatening rain, I opted for the bench seats in the window, which does give the option of people watching and make you feel like a kid as the seats are really high and you can swing your legs (or you can if you are only 5′ 4″, taller people may struggle with this, I feel sorry for them.  Swinging your legs while on a high seat is right up there with swirling round when you where a sticky out skirt and pretending to be a pony when you run and noone is looking.)

Coffee:  large is giant.  So giant that it took all of the scone, a long wait while a couple of people were served and then a slice of cake to finish it.  I went for latte (flat white hasn’t made it to Castle Road yet).  mid strength, very hot, good flavour.  A perfectly acceptable coffee though nothing spectacular.

Savoury:  the Cheese Scone (I’m using capital letters as it deserves it).  today they warmed it and buttered it for me, at the weekend I had it cold so I’ve tried both ways.  Either is good:  warm it was slightly chewy but easy to devour in high speed; cold the flavour of the cheesy top made the mouth burn in that ‘really good cheddar and possibly hint of mustard’ sort of way.

Cake:  this was the downfall.  I wanted the rhubarb crumble cake slice, but was too late.  Instead I went for carrot cake – so disappointing was it that I didn’t even finish it.  The cake was too damp, it looked like a sponge rather than having the ‘mixed up’ texture carrot cake usually has.  Weirdly it had no nuts in it.  I know that they are probably catering to the ‘tick list’ of Castle Road children (private school, dance lessons, Kumon maths, musical instrument, food allergy) but no nuts, in a carrot cake?  frankly, that is nuts.  Worse, the topping was sweet and cloying.  Cream cheese frosting needs a slight sharp hint to it, this was like sugar cream clinging to my teeth.

Overall impression:  worth the visit for the scone, but if you want something sweet and cake-like, I’d try elsewhere.  Disappointingly, the main reason for my visit to the area was for a halti but Country Pursuits was closed so I still had to traipse over to the retail park.  But at least I had the scone.

For the record – Ed hates the Halti.