A few weeks ago the delightful assistants walked up a small road near Blairgowrie they’d last walked along just over two years ago, in 2016.
Back in July 2016, delightful assistant no.1 hadn’t yet had her knee replacement operation and was very reliant on a walking stick in her right hand, to make up for the weakness in that leg.
Having successfully undergone the operation in January 2017, by August 2018 her right leg was much stronger. At the same time, the ageing process and several hospital admissions for other conditions had left her generally weaker. These days she tends to walk either with two walking poles, or one walking pole and the hand of a helpful companion.
In the past two years the walking speed of both assistants, but particularly no.1, has slowed considerably. They were amused by an unnecessary road sign that had popped up in their absence.
Leaving his spouse in the hands of their chauffeur, delightful assistant no.2 walked on ahead to get his heart rate up a bit.
When he stopped to turn round and signal to them, they thought he was warning them of an oncoming vehicle and they hopped up onto the grass verge. (In fact, he was attempting to point out a deer in a field.)
This action had the effect of bringing to their notice something that had certainly been there before but which they had failed to notice previously. Using the roadside wall as a support, delightful assistant no.1 found she was holding on to a little piece of history in the form of an inscription carved under her elbow in the photo above.
The inscription read: ‘Built 1726. Repaired 1948. W. Hovelsroud. J. Watson. 26/3/48.’ Presumably, Mr Hovelsroud was the owner of the estate on which the wall stood in 1726, and 222 years later it had passed into the possession of Mr Watson.
On the way back down the road, the inscription was brought to the attention of delightful assistant no.2. As can be seen in the photo below, it was easy to miss if you didn’t happen to be looking in the right direction.
Back in 2016, delightful assistant no.2 had been rather taken with a hole further along in the same wall. Both assistants very much enjoy using their walking poles to point at things, and the hole in the wall was a perfect candidate for a bit of stick pointing.
For old times’ sake he got busy with the stick again in 2018.
In addition to its hole and historical inscription, the wall was home to some thriving ferny foliage in 2018.
The road had proved more of a challenge this year than it had in 2016. The assistants hadn’t been able to walk quite as far along it this time, due to a slower walking pace and reduced stamina, but were reassured that despite their increasing frailty they still had the energy and enthusiasm to tackle roughish slopes. They think of such terrain as ‘obstacle courses for old people’, and as the years go by such obstacle courses appear to increase in number. A perfectly level, flat and well-finished surface is their preferred topography for small trots these days, but every now and then more demanding surfaces provide a satisfying test of their balance and co-ordination.
As mentioned in the previous post, this summer the delightful assistants visited two gardens that had been in their minds for some time. The second of these was Cambo, near St Andrews in Fife.
Their visit began with lunch at the rustic cafe adjoining the visitor centre on the Cambo Estate.
Following carrot soup for delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur, and a bacon roll for delightful assistant no.1, they opted for hot beverages which came in large, handmade, quirky, bowl-like mugs. The delightful assistants paired their drinks with apple pie slices, while their chauffeur went for a fluffy plain scone with butter and jam.
Thus refreshed, the happy trio trotted off to avail themselves of the facilities before purchasing tickets for the walled garden.
On their way to the shop to purchase tickets they passed through the visitor centre, created from an old stable block. A wooden sculpture of a horse was an interesting and fitting decoration.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon as the assistants strolled along a path towards a gate that led into the walled garden.
Inside the garden a large glasshouse contained a variety of potted plants.
Near the glasshouse a little bridge crossed a river gulley so filled with wildflowers it was hard to see the water.
There was much to admire throughout the garden, with an extensive array of colourful flowers and many beautiful waving grasses. Some of the grasses were soft and feathery and delightful to touch.
The garden walls provided an excellent sun trap, enabling the establishment of a number of exotic plants, including palm trees and a selection of flowers native to South Africa.
At one edge of the garden, delightful assistant no.2 found a welcome seat placed beneath a sculpture of two cartwheeling figures atop the wall.
After quite a bit of walking they were pleased when they came upon more bench seats, ideally placed for their requirements.
Delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur perched themselves in the shade, while delightful assistant no.1 plumped for the sunnier spot.
When they had sat for some time admiring the scenery and enjoying the ambience, they got up and toddled along past some fruit trees towards the exit.
Having finished their tour of the garden, all three visitors were feeling quite thirsty. Rather than call in again at the Cambo cafe (tempting as it was, given the large, bowl-like cups), they whizzed off to the nearby village of Kingsbarns. They parked outside Simpatica, a small antique shop and cafe delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur had visited once before.
After a quick squiz at the edible offerings on display, delightful assistant no.1 opted for St Clement’s cake, a deliciously citrussy confection. Her spouse wasn’t hungry, but agreed to partake of small pieces of buttered fruit loaf that was the choice of their chauffeur. Their comestibles were pleasantly flushed down with cafetieres of decaf coffee.
It had been a lovely day out in a beautiful garden, with the added attraction of two excellent cafes. On the way home, as delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur discussed how much they’d enjoyed the wonderfully soft, wafting grasses of Cambo, delightful assistant no.2 was swayed into a pleasant slumber of feathery dreams.
The delightful assistants very much enjoy looking at other people’s gardens, and this summer have visited two gardens they’ve been meaning to explore for years. The first of these was Pitmuies Gardens, near Forfar in the county of Angus.
In the middle of July, on a beautiful sunny day, after lunching in a pleasant farm cafe, they trotted along to Pitmuies. Leaving the car in a designated parking area, they walked along a small lane lined on one side with low, stone-built cottages bedecked with foliage.
They admired the roses and other plants as they walked along the lane.
Opposite the cottages, next to the entrance to Pitmuies, the roof of another low, stone-built building was festooned with ferns. The ferns no doubt provided a good bit of insulation, not to mention providing homes to countless mini-beasts.
Passing through the entrance to Pitmuies the assistants were met with a sign asking each visitor to put £5 into an honesty box. They slipped their fees into the box, picked up a laminated leaflet about the garden, and strolled along a gravel pathway between low box hedges.
Straight ahead of them, two white-painted gates set into a high wall were flung open to entice them into a walled garden.
What they saw fairly took their breath away. Grassy paths between long, broad flower borders stacked with tall blooms lured them in to explore.
It was hot in the walled garden, with the summer sun beating down from a still blue sky. They moved slowly, admiring the flowers and marvelling at the lushness of it all.
Alongside the grassy-pathed borders, a slash of bright blue caught their attention: a magnificent display of delphiniums.
Negotiating some stone steps, they made their way through a well-stocked rose garden towards an inviting stone bench.
There were more broad flower borders to explore before they made their way back towards the house and conservatory in one corner of the walled garden.
As they walked round the garden, they came upon a small family of wild boar. They had seen similar metal sculptures elsewhere, but baby ones were a novelty.
Following a little chat with the boars, the assistants found some welcome shade in a cherry tree walk, leading to what had once been a grass tennis court but was now a small meadow.
In a corner of the meadow they found an elaborately-windowed stone building. According to the leaflet, this building had been a wash house in days gone by and was built over 200 years ago.
Beyond the wash house, the assistants passed over a white-painted bridge to a riverside walk shaded by stately beech and lime trees.
As they strolled along in the shade of the trees they passed another interesting little building with unusual windows. The leaflet informed them that this was a doocot, thought to have been built in 1643 and still containing hundreds of nest boxes for pigeons.
The river went on for quite some distance, and the assistants were glad to find a seat near the end of the path.
After a refreshing few minutes’ rest, they got up and crossed another bridge over the river, walking back towards Pitmuies House along a path dotted with native hornbeams.
The path took them alongside a beautiful wildflower meadow to the front of Pitmuies House, from where they passed through a small gateway back into the walled garden.
Back in the walled garden they took a little look inside the conservatory, where there were a few potted plants for sale. The conservatory was beautiful; all that was missing was a tray of tea things and some scones for the visitors.
The assistants had thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Pitmuies. They hadn’t seen all that the estate had to offer, but vowed to return on another occasion to view the Black Loch, woodland garden and Pictish stone mentioned in the leaflet.
A few weeks ago, on a lovely sunny Sunday, the delightful assistants trotted off to the pleasant village of Dunning to take lunch out. It was a while since they’d been to The Tee Room, Dunning Golf Club’s punningly-named eatery, and they were pleased to find it still open and ready to serve them tasty treats.
All the tables inside were taken, so they slithered onto a picnic bench outside, donned their sunglasses, and lapped up the Vitamin D while they waited for their food to come.
Despite the warm weather, it was hot food all round. Delightful assistant no.1 plumped for a small roast chicken dinner, her spouse opted for traditional Scottish fare in the form of haggis, neeps and tatties, and their chauffeur fell upon a vegetarian breakfast.
Savouries consumed, their thoughts turned to something sweet. Delightful assistant no.1 wasn’t sure she could manage a whole one of anything, so they ordered two cakes to share between the three of them.
As they slooshed their cakes down with cafetieres of coffee they contemplated a little gentle exercise in the vicinity.
Setting off from The Tee Room, they headed in the direction of a small grassy mound situated on the edge of the golf course. To get there they had to cross a large expanse of grass where it looked as if games had recently been held, perhaps for a school sports day. When they came upon a series of parallel lines they wasted no time in positioning themselves for a race.
They didn’t actually race each other, but enjoyed walking beside the lines reminiscing about such youthful events.
On top of the grassy mound an enticing bench seat was waiting for them to make use of it. They shimmied up the mound, sat down and enjoyed the view.
It was very pleasant on the mound and they sat there for quite a while drinking in the greenery spread out beneath them.
Eventually, they agreed it was time to make a move. They heaved themselves up and toddled back to the car.
Whisking home through the afternoon sunshine, they felt very well satisfied with their lunch at The Tee Room and the relaxing time they’d spent on the little mound above the golf course in Dunning.
In the third week of April (which seems a long time ago now), the delightful assistants had a trip down to the Scottish Borders.
[Since then, delightful assistant no.1 has unfortunately had a number of hospital visits, which is partly why it’s taken me so long to get round to doing this post, but I’m happy to say she’s getting better again now and is looking forward to more outings in the near future.]
It was a beautiful spring day when they headed south in search of sunshine and flowers, making Dawyck Botanic Garden their ultimate destination.
Before arriving there, they stopped at the Laurel Bank Tearoom in the small village of Broughton for a spot of luncheon. The Laurel Bank has gone through several incarnations since they started going there many years ago. Under the present management it’s about as good as it’s ever been and seems to be doing a roaring trade every time they visit.
They settled themselves at a table and quickly made their choices. Delightful assistant no.1 wasn’t feeling terribly hungry and felt a bacon roll would be just the right size. Her spouse opted for a cheese and onion toastie and their chauffeur went for a baked potato with cheese.
Having had only a small thing for her main course, delightful assistant no.1 felt she had room for a slice of apple pie and a jug of cream. Her spouse was intrigued by one of the special puddings: chocolate marshmallow pie, and their chauffeur decided she fancied a hot chocolate more than any sort of cake.
Highly satisfied with their lunches, they made their way with smiles of contentment to nearby Dawyck. The garden was bathed in sunshine and awash with glowing daffodils.
With a walking pole in one hand and a spouse in the other, the assistants set off at a leisurely pace along paths often trod in the past.
Rhododendrons were flowering magnificently and it wasn’t long before bench seats were starting to look rather inviting.
After a decent bit of walking, they succumbed to a bench seat pleasantly positioned in the sun next to a Tibetan cherry tree with striking red bark.
Delightful assistant no.2 was keen to see the wooden statue of a native American Indian, which meant getting on to a path above the level they were sitting at.
Having had a few falls in recent months which had left her feeling a bit unsteady on her feet, delightful assistant no.1 was nervous about taking the short cut up a steep grassy slope to reach the path. Encouraged by her chauffeur to use two walking poles, with the promise of assistance if she needed it, she gamely faced her fears and tackled the incline while her spouse dozed peacefully on the bench below.
At the top she heaved a sigh of relief and was rewarded with a swathe of daffodils cheering her along on the upper path.
Having concluded his nap, delightful assistant no.2 joined his wife and they made their way along to the statue he wanted to see. Getting up close meant tackling another steep slope, something delightful assistant no.1 had no inclination for. Her spouse made his way up with a bit of help, and posed joyfully next to the big man.
They continued their stroll through the garden, enjoying the sunshine and signs of new growth on trees and shrubs.
Eventually, the heat of the sun led to delightful assistant no.2 reluctantly divesting himself of his jacket, and he felt far more comfortable for it.
As they toddled towards the cafe by the entrance to the garden, they saw someone up ahead sniffing at a rhododendron. When they passed the same plant themselves, delightful assistant no.1 paused to inhale its scent. Her spouse is not one for flower-sniffing and waited patiently while his wife knocked herself out (so to speak).
Carefully negotiating a short flight of steps, they made it into the home straight and headed straight for refreshments.
Feeling warm after their walk, all three visitors opted for ice creams rather than hot beverages and sweet treats. The delightful assistants both chose Magnum Classics while their chauffeur went for a small tub of strawberry ice cream manufactured in a town just a few miles west of Dawyck.
When they had finished their ice creams and made use of the facilities, it was time for the long drive home. It had been their most distant day out of the year and they had thoroughly enjoyed the change of scene and the wonderful weather.
Last weekend, with sunshine forecast for the Fife coast, delightful assistant no.1 felt ready for her first whole day out since getting out of hospital in early February. She and her spouse hopped into the car and were whisked off to the Fife village of St Monans (also sometimes spelt St Monance) in nice time for lunch.
After parking near the harbour, they walked with a stick and a handhold each, past cheerful houses painted in seaside colours, some of which had crow-stepped gables and pantiled roofs.
Although the assistants have often enjoyed a jaunt to Fife, they didn’t think they’d visited St Monans together before. Delightful assistant no.2 remembered being taken there as a small child on holiday.
The eatery they’d chosen to lunch in, The Diving Gannet, was located up a side street. After a good bit of faffing about, deciding where to sit and shifting the furniture to suit them, they settled in and had a look at the menu.
Delightful assistant no.1 decided she fancied one of the cafe’s salads of the day, and opted for a chicken and bacon mayonnaise affair. Delightful assistant no.2 also went for one of the daily specials: a smoked haddock and cheddar tart with side salad. Their chauffeur, meanwhile, plumped for a bowl of curried parsnip soup with a cheese scone.
They all enjoyed their meals, although delightful assistant no.1 was beaten by the size of her salad, and their chauffeur could easily have scoffed a bowl of soup twice the size of the one she was given. Since not all of them had room for a hot drink or pudding, they decided to leave The Diving Gannet and take a walk along the seafront before finding somewhere else for sweet treats.
Although delightful assistant no.1 had done some short walks outdoors since her operation, she hadn’t been out for long at a time, and in St Monans she felt decidedly wobbly on her pins. Thankfully, her devoted spouse kept her steady and she took great care with any changes in altitude.
As they walked along the shore road, they passed an ancient-looking forestair (an outside staircase, leading up from ground level to the first floor of a building). Many of the older buildings in St Monans date back to the 17th and 18th Centuries, so the forestair had no doubt been supporting pattering feet for hundreds of years.
St Monans has three piers, which combine to make a very sheltered harbour. The oldest of the three piers was built in 1596, and the most recent in 1900.
In days gone by St Monans was one of Scotland’s busiest fishing ports, but these days the fishing fleet is small and many of the boats using the harbour were pleasure craft.
At the western end of the seafront, the assistants came across a curious collection of footwear nicely arranged on a slipway.
A nearby sign explained the sight, and requested monetary donations towards the upkeep of the installation. Donations of Wellington boots were, it seemed, also welcome.
After enjoying the welly garden, the assistants veered off the shore road and headed towards some benches on a grassy patch looking out to sea.
While the octogenarians enjoyed a little sit down, their chauffeur popped down to the beach to have a look at the rocks.
Although the sun was shining, the air was cold and it wasn’t long before the assistants were ready to get up and stretch their chilling limbs again.
They trotted back along the shore road, past the welly garden and along to where they’d left the car at the east end of the village. On the way they passed a sign for the cafe they’d had lunch in. The wording amused them and reminded delightful assistant no.1 of a fish and chip shop in Edinburgh that had once borne the message: ‘Fish teas to sit in.’
Back at the car, they decided to move on to pastures new for their sweet treats. Their chauffeur had a couple of nice places in mind further along the coast. Unfortunately, due to her not paying full attention, they missed the first place, and when they reached the second it was full. They drove on, eventually reaching St Andrews, and found that another possibility was not yet open for the season. Feeling desperate, they dashed off to Balgove Larder cafe and farm shop on the outskirts of St Andrews, and were relieved to find empty seats awaiting them.
As soon as he went up to the cake counter, delightful assistant no.2 knew exactly what he wanted. Likewise, a quick glance at the menu convinced his spouse what she fancied. Their chauffeur umm-ed and aah-ed until she ended up plumping for her defaut option.
With tummies filled, they trotted out into the sunshine for the last leg of the journey home.
As first days out after operations go, delightful assistant no.1 (who is becoming something of a connoisseur of such events) declared it a great success, despite her occasional unsteadiness. The combination of a sunny spring day, pleasantly bracing sea air and a good amount of vegetables at lunchtime helped them all feel they’d had a healthful time of it.
Memories of interesting sights enjoyed during the day put smiles on their faces as they drove home in the evening sunshine.
A week ago, having business to attend to in Edinburgh, delightful assistant no.2 left his dear spouse in the capable hands of his eldest daughter, while he and his chauffeur popped down to the capital.
They set off just before 09:00 and made their first stop at Le Jardin Cafe, near Kinross, to partake of morning refreshments.
The cafe had not long opened for the day and they had their pick of the tables. Choosing a quiet corner, they perused the drinks menu and both opted for Darjeeling tea. After a look at the sweet counter, delightful assistant no.2 decided on a cherry and coconut traybake, while his chauffeur fell back on her old favourite, the fruit scone.
Refreshed and invigorated, they drove on to Ingliston Park & Ride, next to Edinburgh Airport, where they planned to leave their car and catch a tram into the city centre.
To their dismay, the car park was absolutely stowed out, with vehicles parked up off the road on pavements and daringly positioned along double yellow lines. Undeterred, delightful assistant no.2 encouraged his chauffeur to follow suit. Although not quite brazen enough to park on a double yellow line, she compromised by parking on the only bit of free pavement available. Happy to have succeeded in this venture, they hopped out of the car and made their way to the tram stop a few minutes’ walk away.
After the stresses of the car park, they enjoyed the smooth and soothing half hour journey into Edinburgh city centre, spotting familiar landmarks on the way.
By the time they had concluded their business in Edinburgh, they were ready for a spot of luncheon. Being in the unusual position of not having to find a parking space, they stayed in the city centre and tried a Turkish restaurant they hadn’t been to before on Hanover Street.
They settled themselves in at a table by the window in Yeni Meze Bar and perused the tempting lunchtime menu. While they waited for their food to arrive they enjoyed the drinks they had chosen: elderflower and pomegranate juice for delightful assistant no.2 and a glass mug of steaming Turkish apple tea for his chauffeur. The tea came with a piece of Turkish delight, which they sawed in half to share.
The restaurant had a special lunch deal of 3 mezes (small snacks, like Spanish tapas) for £10.50, and there were plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.
It being a cold day, the corba (lentil and vegetable soup) was appealing to both diners. It came in an interestingly-shaped bowl with a slice of lemon on the side, and was unlike any lentil soup they’d had before. It slipped down very nicely with pieces of complementary pitta bread.
Along with the soups they both ordered falafel, and borek (fried filo pastries stuffed with a savoury filling). Delightful assistant no.2 tried the sweet potato and roast red pepper borek, while his chauffeur opted for the feta and spinach.
Falafel with a mayo dip at Yeni Meze Bar in Edinburgh.
Neither of them had ever had borek before and agreed that the sweet potato and roast red pepper version was a particularly delicious dish.
It had been difficult to choose from the menu, but when they had finished their meal they left content with the prospect of returning on another occasion to try different dishes.
Well-filled, but surprisingly not over-full, they trotted out into the sunshine and took a short stroll along George Street and into Frederick Street. Rather than have a pudding and/or coffee at Yeni Meze Bar they fancied the idea of calling in at one of Edinburgh’s chocolate cafes for a hot chocolate.
They plumped for Hotel Chocolat, and found seats at the back of the shop in front of a serving counter. While they were sitting there considering the drinks on offer, the chauffeur’s camera batteries ran out. Thankfully, she had her mobile phone and was able to snap the drinks when they came along.
Delightful assistant no.2 chose a dark mint hot chocolate, while his chauffeur went for a hazelnut affair. Each drink came on its own wooden tray with a shiny silver spoon and an interesting serviette describing the different parts of a cocoa plant.
The hot chocolates were sublime: just the right temperature for swift consumption, and not too sweet, but subtly flavoured with their chosen ingredients.
While they were sitting in the cafe, a young man came up from the shop adjoining it, carrying a large tray and offering free chocolate bunny samples. Delightful assistant no.2 and his chauffeur gladly accepted a bunny a-piece.
The bunnies were filled with runny caramel and were very sweet. On being offered a second bunny as they left the shop, the delightful assistant and his chauffeur both declined, feeling that one had been just enough.
Having a little time available before they needed to catch the tram back to the car park, they decided to call in at the Scottish National Gallery, to have a look at some pictures and make use of the rather grand facilities.
They both enjoyed revisiting this old haunt that had, at various times in the past, provided a place of peace and contemplation for their more youthful selves.
They departed the gallery feeling relaxed and ready for a pleasant journey home in the late afternoon sunshine, well pleased with their day and looking forward to telling delightful assistant no.1 all about it.