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.
Two days ago, delightful assistant no.1 had her first walk outside since her operation at the end of January.
A few days earlier, a physiotherapist had visited her at home and given her some strength exercises to add to the balance exercises she was already doing. By the time the next sunny day came round, she felt ready to take her first steps out of doors.
It was the perfect opportunity for a short stroll, with virtually no wind and the sun melting what remained of the recent snow. She got into the car with her spouse and their chauffeur, and they drove for a few minutes to the outskirts of Blairgowrie.
With a stick in one hand and delightful assistant no.2 on her other side to steady her, she set off at a surprisingly brisk pace.
Keeping to the sunny side of the road, they enjoyed the warmth on their faces and the fresh air in their lungs.
As they walked along, a lark nearly caused delightful assistant no.1 to topple over, when she stopped abruptly to look up and try to see where the singing was coming from. Thankfully, delightful assistant no.2 was on hand to keep her upright.
Looking up had caused delightful assistant no.1’s woolly hat to shift forwards and she asked her spouse to adjust it for her. He sprang to the rescue and righted the knitted item post haste.
They resumed their walk, and continued toddling along until delightful assistant no.1 began to feel her legs getting weary. By the time they stopped they’d covered a third of a mile on foot. It was a small beginning, but an encouraging one, and they appreciated their lunchtime soups all the more for it when they got back home.
Readers of this blog with excellent memories may recall that January 2017 was marked with a hospital stay for delightful assistant no.1. Back then, she was having a knee replacement operation, a piece of surgery that proved highly successful following several months of recuperation and exercise.
This January, almost a year to the day since she went into hospital for the knee operation, the poor assistant found herself again taking up a hospital bed. On this occasion it wasn’t a planned visit, but the result of stomach pains and sickness that led to the diagnosis of a twisted bowel.
In the early hours of a Friday night/Saturday morning, she was whisked away in an ambulance and operated on the following day. It was a major operation and one that left her feeling considerably below par, but relieved to have survived the trauma.
After nine days in a high dependency unit, where she was linked up to numerous tubes and machines constantly monitoring her condition, she was transferred to a surgical recovery ward. That’s where she is now, two and a half weeks after the operation.
Her spouse and their chauffeur have been making daily visits to the patient, and were delighted to discover today that she had eaten solid food for the first time since the operation. Prior to this she had been receiving nutrition through a tube, feeling too sick to eat anything.
This morning she enjoyed a bowl of Rice Krispies with milk for breakfast, along with a glass of orange juice and a cup of tea. When lunchtime came round she ate most of a bowl of soup and a few spoons of jelly, and was glad to be given another cup of tea.
In the past couple of days she’s made quite a bit of good progress, including sitting in a chair for a few hours at a time (something she finds surprisingly tiring) and walking with a zimmer (her muscles have become very weak from lying in bed for so long).
Today also saw her writing for the first time in weeks, adding a note to a card for a friend. Her handwriting was a bit wobbly, but she took her time and no doubt felt quite pleased with her achievement.
Shortly after Christmas, about a month before she was admitted to hospital for the operation, she fell and broke a small bone in her hand. That required a one night stay in another hospital, and several weeks of wearing a splint on the broken hand. No sooner had she recovered from that than she got the stomach pains that led to her current hospital stay.
It’s been quite a challenging start to the year for the delightful assistants, but their resilience and positivity are keeping them going. The patient will have to stay in hospital for a while yet, but she’s keen to get home as soon as possible, and her spouse and chauffeur are keen to have her back. For one thing, there’s been a noticeable dearth of countryside walks and tearoom visits lately, a wrong they look forward to righting in the months to come.
Two days ago, on a cold but beautiful morning, the delightful assistants got themselves warmly kitted up and headed off to a quiet road not far from their home for a little health-giving trot.
Although the temperature was below freezing, the air was dry and the sunshine very welcome. They strode out briskly, hand in hand, to keep each other upright.
Thankfully, the road was only icy at the very edges; fallen leaves on the verges were covered in a thick frost.
Most of the trees had lost their leaves, but swathes of green grass softened the scenery, provided pleasing blocks of colour against a bright blue sky.
In one of the fields they passed, the assistants were delighted to spot four horses of varying sizes, each clad in its own nicely fitting blue blanket.
Whenever they’re out for a walk, there’s discussion between the assistants about when to turn back. Delightful assistant no.2 is usually for stopping when he feels he’s had enough, but his spouse always wants to go to the next bend. On long straight stretches with no bends in sight, something else has to mark the turnaround point for her. On this occasion it was a hedge of beech trees, still sporting quite a lot of orange leaves. This is the sort of turnaround point delightful assistant no.2 finds quite satisfying, since it avoids walking in a shaded area (she likes as much sunshine as possible at all times).
As they walked back past the field of horses, they met a lady who was on her way to remove the coats from her beasts. They watched as the horses bounded around, free from their garments and apparently delighted to be shot of them. Delightful assistant no.2 wondered if he should remove his coat to see if it had a similar effect, but the prospect of getting any colder wasn’t in the least attractive.
In the latter stages of the walk, despite the sunshine and their brisker than usual pace, the assistants were beginning to feel rather chilled. By the time they passed an oak tree with some of its leaves still clinging on, they were relieved to be nearly at the car and only a few minutes’ drive from home.
Arriving back at their cosy house, with the heating turned up nice and high, they sat down hungrily to hot bowls of leek and potato soup with crusty rolls, pleased with their exercise and glad to be in out of the cold.