Graveyard Mooching

The weather of late in my part of the world has been somewhat damp, cold and a bit on the miserable side.

My view may be coloured by being laid low by a winter bug (which, I must admit,  isn’t too bad, just a little tiresome on the sore throat front), but on the up side, it’s the perfect sort of weather for wrapping up warmly and mooching around graveyards.

As it happens, the graveyard I mooched around the other day was, for a few moments, bathed in late afternoon sunshine.

This is the entrance to the church and graveyard of Bendochy Parish Church, just outside the Perthshire town of Blairgowrie. The bell apparently dates to 1608:

Bendochy Parish Church

The eagle-eyed might have spotted a curious stone lump to the left of the entrance arch. This is, I believe, a cheese press, although what it’s doing outside the church gates I have no idea:

Bendochy cheese press

Inside the churchyard there are quite a few headstones dating back to the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Some of them have fallen over and a few others, that are in the process of falling over, have yellow and black tape on them to warn visitors that they might fall over at any minute. Most of them, however are hanging in there even if looking slightly unstable, as in the case of this one on legs:

Gravestone on legs

One that particularly interested me had a carving of what looked to me at first glance like a robot. On closer inspection I saw that it was a skeleton with some sort of yoke across its shoulders, possibly with buckets hanging down on either side (they seem too long to be the arms).

I don’t know if there’s any religious significance to this, something to do with taking water into the afterlife in order to dowse the flames of hell perhaps? Seems a bit of an assumption on the part of the person commissioning the stone, if that’s the case.


Another stone that caught my eye had rather an unusual shape and what looked to me like a jolly sort of skull wearing a bowler hat:

Jolly bowler-hatted skull

Headstones these days seem to me to lack the variety of shapes of those from past centuries. You do get some interesting design features, such as the ones I wrote about here, but on the whole the headstone nowadays is almost always a basic slab of stone, sticking up from a flat base.

I was quite taken by this one at Bendochy, made to look like a pile of stones with a scroll at the front. I think it shows a bit of artistry on the part of the designer, not to say skill on the part of the carver:

Artistry in stonemasonry

A combination of textures in a headstone

The forecast for the next couple of days here is for colder weather and snow showers. We’ve been very lucky with the weather this winter so far, with very little snow, which is just the way I like it.

Thankfully, I’m stocked up for cossetting myself indoors, with what remains of kind donations of chocolate received from wellwishers at Christmas:



A number of hats

After I published a post about my new book being available on ebay, Scott of Land-sea-sky suggested that I should write a post about how this made me feel.

Incidentally, if you like lovely photos I strongly recommend having a look at his blog, which has some cracking shots on it. He has some superb landscapes, architectural features and still life photos, and one of my favourite shots can be found here.

I published my ebay post last Friday and was intending to get the book to the printer two days ago, on Monday, but that hasn’t happened. The book itself is finished and the printer has it ready to go, but I’ve had a few problems with the cover photos. The file sizes are huge, and I can’t send them by email, so I’ll need to take them into the printer on a data stick (I was actually there today and could have handed them in, but I didn’t realise at the time that this was going to be a problem).

So, how am I feeling about all this?

Well, I feel happy that the text is all done and has been proofread many times, by various people (although I fully expect to find mistakes when it’s printed as perfection is very hard to achieve!)

– image courtesy of The Mark Blog

but I feel frustrated by the problems with the photos and the added days that this is taking.

– photo courtesy of EduGuide

My aim was to get it all finished by the end of May and available in mid-June, but alas I will have to exercise some patience and accept that it’s going to be a week or two later than I would like.

– image courtesy of Doug Savage

Like lots of people, I’ve always wanted to write a book, and in fact I have written the first half of a completely different book, which I was originally intending would be my first. Unfortunately, I ran out of steam on it, so I decided to write a guidebook to tearooms instead.

This tearoom guidebook has dominated the past 5 months of my life, but I’ve enjoyed becoming a writer, I like wearing that hat. However, as soon as the book is available I’ll need to get a couple of new hats, and become a salesperson and a marketing person as well.

– photo courtesy of The Straight North Blog

Thankfully, I have some very nice little helpers, one of whom is my sister, who has been doing a great job of plugging my book whenever she can. She also very kindly had some bumper stickers printed for me, and this is the one on my rear windscreen:

If you want to plug your blog while you’re stuck in traffic or parked somewhere, you might like to think about having a bumper sticker made up too, I think it’s a great idea.

On the subject of advertising, my dad gave me a little poem to encourage me:

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs;

the homely hen lays one.

The codfish never cackles,

to tell you what she’s done.

So, we despise the codfish,

the homely hen we prize –

which demonstrates to you and me

that it pays to advertise!

Sales and marketing are skills that I don’t think I naturally possess, but which I am trying to learn. I want to try and make the proposition of buying my book an attractive one, and I want people to feel that if they fork out £7 for the pleasure, they’ll get something they feel has been worth the expenditure.

As much as I wanted to do it, including photos in the book would have made it too expensive to produce, and so instead I’ve done some line drawings to illustrate it. I’m no great artist, but I have quite enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a few doodles and I hope that these make the book a little bit quirky and unusual. This is one of the drawings I didn’t use, showing a few chocolates for sale:

I plan to make photos available on my teacupspress blog, so that anyone wanting to visit a specific tearoom will be able to have a look at some pictures before they go.

Amazingly, several people have already ordered my book through ebay, for which I am most grateful because it’s given me an encouraging boost just when I was beginning to flag a bit.

I understand that not everyone wants to buy a book about tearooms in Perthshire, Angus and Dundee, but it’s nice to be sharing my writing journey on this blog with you, and I will be boring you with photos of the finished article when I have copies to show off.

1 teabag for 5 cups

There are those (maybe you’re one of them?) who frequently share their teabags, or even reuse them for a second cup some time after the first, and perhaps I’m a little greedy when it comes to teabags but I do like to have a whole teabag to myself for each cup of tea I consume.

That’s not to say I’m against teapots, far from it, but if I’m using teabags to make tea for two, I put 2 teabags in the pot, 3 for three, and so on. I’m prepared to admit that this might be a failing on my part, but up till now I think it’s served me quite well as a tea making method.

Well, my eyes were opened today when I visited a certain tearoom in Perth, which is part tearoom, part gift shop (another of these perfect partnerships – see previous post).

This is where gift shop meets tearoom:

And where the tearoom comes into its own:

The tearoom features two large light shades, which I think are possibly made out of paper, suspended from the ceiling. They reminded me of daisies. When I suggested this to my botanically minded mother, she pointed out that they resembled not daisies, but dead dandelion heads. I bow to her superior knowledge on the subject, but I can’t help feeling that her more correct comparison seems a little bleak for such beautiful light fittings:

I was visiting this tearoom in the company of both of my parents, and since it was a cold day and he had come out without his own hat, my dad had borrowed one of mine:

My mum ordered coffee, my dad and I ordered tea, and it was “luxury fruit scones” all round (I gather the ‘luxury’ was a reference to the large proportion of glace cherries contained therein, and jolly nice they were, too).

The amount of crockery involved in this order required two waitresses, each with a trayful of goodies, and when the first waitress laid down the (rather full) teapot on the table, tea gushed out of the spout and straight onto my pink woollen hat, which I had unwittingly put bang in the line of fire:

Before I had time to do anything about it myself (and my hand was moving towards the hat almost instantly), the second waitress had whipped the hat off the table and begun rushing down the stairs calling in her wake that she must get the stain out.

Waitress one was very apologetic and a little distressed at the turn events had taken, but I assured her that it was fine and not to worry, and I felt very confident about saying this because of the lightning quick reactions of waitress two (whom, I should perhaps add for greater effect, was almost certainly in receipt of a free bus pass*).

Immediately after the hat incident, I remembered that I had been planning to visit the facilities when we came in, and so I made my way down the stairs (at a considerably slower pace than waitress two) towards the toilets, and caught a glimpse of waitress two with a colleague in the kitchen next to the bathroom washing my pink hat and discussing the success of having got the stain out.

When I was back upstairs again, enjoying my tea and scone, waitress two reappeared and explained that the hat was all right but a little damp, and so she was going to put it on the radiator to dry out for me. Waitress one was still apologising profusely whenever she passed our table, so I explained to them both that despite the seeming tragedy of the situation, I was still in fact the owner of one dry hat, the one my dad had borrowed. He was going straight back to his car and home after our refreshments, and so I could wear my dry hat while I did a bit of shopping after my tea. As it happened, when we left the tearoom my pink hat was still sodden, it having obviously been washed through very thoroughly, so I was extremely glad of the dry one.

But I digress. To get back to the teabags, this was the teapot our tea for two came in:

As you can see, taking into account the distorting effects of perspective, the teacup is of a fairly standard size, as compared with the size of the scone and the normal sized human hand on another scone in the background. I can tell you that this teapot contained 5 of these teacupfuls of tea.

Now here’s a view from the other side, showing the sole teabag content of the pot (to make quite sure, I did look inside the pot and prod the teabag about to see if any others were hiding alongside it, and I’m entirely satisfied that there was only one teabag present):

This is the fact of the matter: tea was served to us in a teapot containing five cupfuls, with only one teabag to share out amongst all 5 cups. But here’s the amazing truth, and I’m afraid to say I don’t know anything about Lichfields other than that they provide various items to the catering trade, but the tea in that pot was really good, and strong the way I like it when I have it with milk.

This experience has revolutionised my view of teabag sharing. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it for myself, but we got 5 cups out of that pot, and they were 5 cups of very good, strong tasting, flavourful tea.

*national bus passes, allowing free travel within Scotland, are issued to any citizens who have managed to stay alive to the ripe old age of 60. If you like a wee joke against the Scots (who have a reputation for heavy drinking, deplorable diets and a subsequently short life expectancy) this scheme makes politicians look caring while costing them virtually nothing.