One year on

A year ago today, on 9 September 2014, my eldest brother Fergus went missing in Switzerland.

Fergus Facebook profile photograph hillwalking

He travelled there to attend work meetings in the town of Martigny. Although we believe he did reach the town on a train from Geneva Airport, he failed to meet up with his colleagues and nothing has been seen or heard of him since.

My dad recently put out the following statement, which has been posted on Fergus’s Facebook page. One year on, I think it sums things up very well.

I and the rest of Fergus’s family are very grateful to everyone who has been involved in the investigation of his disappearance. We miss him more than we can say, and we would have been delighted if he had been found alive and well. Other members of the family still have some hope for that outcome, but I am now even more convinced than I was before that he must have suffered a fatal accident in the Swiss mountains in September 2014.

Over the past year we have been doing our best to look after his flat and his finances, but acting on his behalf with no power of attorney and with no death certificate has been challenging. If his body is not found, there cannot be a presumption of death until seven years after he was last seen alive and well. If his body is found or if we receive any other significant information we shall post it here.

I should like to repeat what has been written in previous updates, that I and the rest of the family are very grateful for the many expressions of sympathy and support that we have received, and for the kind words sent to us about Fergus by his colleagues and other friends.

Shortly after his disappearance some of Fergus’s friends set up a blog, which can be found here: Missing Fergus McInnes. The blog gives more details about Fergus and the mystery surrounding his disappearance.

I hope we might get answers to some of our questions one day, but sadly we may never find out what exactly happened to him in Switzerland on that day. We can, however, remember the many good things about him, and are grateful for our happy memories.

Biscuit Cafe

After picking up delightful assistant no.1 from South Queensferry (see previous post), we all trundled across the Forth Road Bridge, admiring the Rail Bridge on one side and the construction of the new road bridge on the other (delightful assistant no.2 is endlessly fascinated by this process and gets very excited whenever we go anywhere near the Firth of Forth).

Our destination was the Biscuit Cafe in Culross, a little eatery attached to a pottery and gallery.


This next picture makes it look deceptively quiet but it was in fact very busy both inside and out (there’s a little garden area round the back). We sat at the table in the photo, which was the only one free at the time.


It was quite a cold day and I was in the mood for soup, but unfortunately it had all been eaten up by previous diners. However, toasted sandwiches were available on a choice of ciabatta or seeded rye sourdough. Delightful assistant no.1 chose the sourdough with cheese and I went for the same with the addition of chutney. The bread looked as it if was going to be solid and heavy, but in fact it was surprisingly light and delicious.


Delightful assistant no.2 opted for ciabatta with ham and mustard.


The last time I was in the Biscuit Cafe there was a very interesting and informative tea menu. I asked to see it on this occasion, but was told it was no longer available. The business seemed to have changed hands since my previous visit, but fortunately a good variety of leaf teas was still on offer.

After drinking so much black tea earlier in the day at Brodies in Linlithgow I plumped for a caffeine-free Rooibos. Delightful assistant no.2 went for Darjeeling, and delightful assistant no.1 had a mug of standard black teabag tea. The leaf teas came in small tetsubin (cast iron Japanese teapots).


My sandwich was excellent, as was the tea, but to my mind the teapot didn’t have enough capacity. I finished the tea before I finished the sandwich, but this problem was easily addressed by popping up to the counter and asking for more water to be put in the pot.

After lunch we took a little wander through the quiet streets and up the hill towards the abbey. The delightful assistants managed very well on the cobbles with their trusty sticks.


As we got closer to the abbey the cobbles were replaced by smooth tarmac.


Growing weary, as the ageing adventurers toiled up the hill…


… they were delighted to come upon an open gateway leading into a lovely garden. The garden was privately owned but open to visitors to raise funds for charity. On the gate it said that donations could be put into the box in the garden, but hunt as we might we failed to find any sign of a box.

Two tiny assistants can been seen coming into the garden to right of centre in the picture below.

lovely garden at culross

After we’d all wandered round the garden for a bit, I left the assistants sitting on a bench looking out to sea while I went back down the hill to collect the car. En route I passed an old water pump, no longer being used for its original purpose but looking decorative.


Rather than go back down the cobbled road we’d come up, I opted for a narrow, somewhat overgrown, alleyway leading to a steep stone staircase.


steep steps in Culross

When I got to the bottom I discovered that the staircase had a name.


Bessie Bar also has a well and a building in the village named after her. She was a local woman who ran a business malting cereal grains in Culross in the late 1600s.

When I had driven back up the cobbles to collect the assistants from their peaceful haven in the garden, I had a small task for delightful assistant no.2.

Culross has many narrow alleyways, known in Scotland as ‘closes’. Delightful assistant no.2’s task was to demonstrate the width of one of them. The alleyway shown below is called Cat’s Close and it’s part of a boundary wall with listed building status (i.e. it’s on the Scottish Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest).

Don't push too hard now, young fellow, that's a listed building, remember.

Don’t push too hard now, young fellow, that’s a listed building, remember.

Linlithgow delights

A couple of days ago, after dropping delightful assistant no.1 off with chums in South Queensferry, delightful assistant no.2 and I took ourselves off to Linlithgow for tea and a wander.

Our first stop was Brodies tearoom on the main street in Linlithgow. Having seen photos online of their large and excellent looking scones I was keen to sample their wares.


The exterior of Brodies tearoom. Words on the windows read ‘A feast for body and soul’.

Inside, the tearoom consisted of one room with seating for about 22 people. It was busy, but a table in the corner was being vacated when we arrived. We nabbed it post haste.

Inside Brodies

The chairs were unusual for a tearoom, being made of clear perspex. We found them very comfortable.


There were a few seats outside, and from the cushions placed on the windowsill inside it looked as if perching there was another option.


When I went to the counter to look at the edibles on offer I was unable to locate any scones. I asked the waitress about this and she said that some fruit scones were just coming out of the oven. Thrilled by this prospect, we ordered freshly baked scones and breakfast tea for two.

The scones came to the table on long plates with tubs of butter and raspberry jam.

scone on long plate

The generous size of the scones can be appreciated by comparing one with a standard teacup and saucer.

scone and teacup

Since it had come directly out of the oven, I pulled my scone apart and tasted it without putting anything on it. It was perfectly cooked, soft, fluffy and truly delicious.


Delightful assistant no.2, however, is not one to waste butter when it’s put in front of him. He buttered and jammed first one half and then the other, carefully dotting the scone with butter before adding the jam.


He raved about the jam so much that I tried it for myself, and it was indeed toothsome.

scone with butter and jam

There was a lot of tea in the large teapot that came with the scones (we drank 8 cups between us and left quite a bit untouched). Delightful assistant no.2 took the opportunity of so much tea drinking to work on his pinkie-sticking-out skills (and not only on the teacup-wielding hand, as can be seen in these pictures).

pinkie 2

pinkie 1

When we had finished our scones and drunk as much tea as we could, we got up and toddled at a leisurely pace towards nearby Linlithgow Loch.


The loch sits at the foot of Linlithgow Palace, which is now a ruin, but a pretty spectacular one at that. Building on the palace began in 1424, and both James V and Mary Queen of Scots were born here in the 1500s.


Next to the palace sits the impressive St Michael’s Parish church.

Linlithgow Palace on the right with St Michael's Church on the left and a fine set of steps leading up between the two.

Linlithgow Palace on the right with St Michael’s Church on the left and a fine set of steps leading up between the two.

We didn’t have much time, but since the church was open we popped in for a quick shufti.


Much of the building dates to the mid 15th Century, and it was within these walls that Mary Queen of Scots was baptised in 1542.

The church has several splendid stained glass windows, including this one of modern design.

modern stained glass window

I thought it a beautiful building, both inside and out.


One of the unusual things about it is the church spire. In 1821 the stone steeple was in such a poor state of repair that it had to be dismantled. It wasn’t replaced until 1964, when a controversial aluminium crown was put in its place. It’s certainly a distinctive feature, and although it looks a little at odds with the old stonework, I quite like it.


Scones I have known – no.8

Yesterday afternoon, on our way home from Edinburgh, the delightful assistants and I called into Loch Leven’s Larder near Kinross for afternoon tea.

During the drive I had been considering the possible scone options that might greet us on arrival. They usually have four varieties to choose from: plain, fruit, cheese and a daily special. I nearly always go for the special, and I was curious to know what it might be.

We arrived a little before 15:00 to find that the fruit scones had sold out. That left plain, cheese and the special which, on this occasion, was billed as ‘plum drizzle’. Having had a ‘drizzle’ scone here before I knew that it came with icing on top. On the whole, I prefer my scones without icing, but I did like the sound of the plums.

When we put in our order (breakfast tea and slices of summer berry pie for the assistants; ginger chai tea for me along with the plum drizzle scone) I was informed by the waitress that the scone was, in fact, cherry and not plum. Delightful assistant no.2 had suggested as much when he’d gone up to the cake counter to investigate the options and seen the scones for himself.

Cherry scones tend to be sweeter than most other varieties and so I briefly wondered if the added icing was enough to put me off. ‘I’m not sure if it is cherry actually,’ said the waitress. ‘Not to worry,’ said I, boldly. ‘Whatever it is, I’ll have it.’

When the scone arrived at the table there was an extra element of excitement involved in the proceedings. Was it cherry, or was it in fact plum? Going by this picture, what would you think?

mystery scone

If you said plum, I can inform you that you’re 100% spot on. There wasn’t a single cherry in that scone, but there were plenty of pieces of moist fresh plum.


The heaviest bit of the treat was the icing; the scone itself was light, fluffy and utterly delicious.

In case you’re interested in what the summer berry pie looked like, here it is without cream, as consumed by delightful assistant no.2 (who is very good about watching his cholesterol).

summer berry pie sans cream

And here’s the other piece, as consumed by delightful assistant no.1 (who, when it comes to cream, takes full advantage of her daily prescription of statins).

summer berry pie avec cream

East Neuk treasures

A few days ago, on a beautifully sunny morning, delightful assistant no.1 and I tootled off to the Fife coast.

We made first for Crail, a small fishing village in the East Neuk (‘neuk’ is a Scots word for ‘corner’, referring in this case to the north-east corner of the county of Fife).


Crail harbour

Sitting on a bench watching people enjoying the small sandy bay next to the harbour, we felt as as if we were on our holidays.


As with the village of Culross, which lies at the western end of the county, Crail is full of interesting buildings that have been very nicely restored by the National Trust for Scotland.

Crail house with flowers

Crail houses

Crail building near harbour

Quite a few of those near the harbour are holiday cottages available to rent, such as this one with the unusual name of ‘Peppers’.


Across the road from Peppers is a small house squeezed in between two taller ones. Curiously, it appears to have two front doors, one above the other.


The nameplate above the lower door reads ‘Lobster Cottage’. Very fittingly, above the topmost door, two lobsters cling to the panelling around a dormer window.


Like the other East Neuk villages, Crail is known for its seafood and there is a fish and chip shop in the main street that was doing a roaring trade when we went there for lunch.

Delightful assistant no.1 ordered a small portion of breaded haddock with chips and peas, and I ordered the battered version.

Shortly after we arrived, a group of foreigners sat down at the next table. When the waiter came to take their order they asked him to explain the difference between breaded and battered fish. He did his best, but because of the language barrier it was difficult for them to understand. We offered our plates to them for inspection, which appeared to assist them in their decision making.

breaded haddock

Breaded haddock: white fish coated in breadcrumbs and grilled.

battered haddock

Battered haddock: white fish coated in batter and fried.

After lunch we enjoyed a leisurely mooch around the village before heading for our next refreshment stop, a coffee shop called Simpatica in the village of Kingsbarns a few miles away. It had an attractive postbox outside it.


The left hand side of the building contained a few tables, while the right hand side was given over to an antique shop.


After resisting the temptation to buy a small bookcase in the shop, we sidled over to the coffee shop and inspected its wares.

Delightful assistant no.1 plumped for a pot of English Breakfast tea and a slice of fruit loaf.


I chose a bit of nutty ginger chocolate traybake and a pot of Lady Grey tea.


The china was of the mismatched vintage variety, and I was fortunate to get an abundantly floral teacup and saucer.


Still feeling quite well filled after lunch, I had thought I might wrap up some of my cake to take home. Somehow or other, however, it completely vanished in the tearoom.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a tearoom on this blog, not because I haven’t been to any recently but because it’s been some time since I’ve been to a particularly good one. I’m delighted to say that Simpatica got a big thumbs up from me and my delightful assistant, and we’re looking forward to another visit.


Intriguing sights no.10

I was walking along a street in the seaside town of Arbroath recently, when I passed a front door that had an unusual protuberance near the bottom of it.


On closer inspection, it appeared to be a dispensary of medicinal liquid.


I didn’t try it out but I felt reassured by its presence.

Scottish 2016 Calendars for sale

Roll up, roll up, get your 2016 Scottish calendars here (or, rather, on ebay).

Scotland 2016 calendar cover

A4 size, wire bound at the top with a hanging hook.


13 bonnie Scottish scenes (one per month plus an extra one on the front) to brighten up your wall throughout the year.

back page 2

Big clear numbers for easy reading at a distance.


£10* a pop (plus postage).


*I’m sorry they’re so expensive for what is quite a small calendar. The larger the quantity I ordered from the printers the lower the price per item, but I was wary of making the same mistake I made with my tearoom book (ordering far too many), so I played it safe with a small order.

On the up side, each calendar is accompanied by a four page information document, giving a bit of background about the locations photographed.

calendar and notes

A free teabag is also included with every calendar. You can choose from Earl Grey (blended black tea flavoured with oil of bergamot and lemon) or Bold Kenyan (a bold and earthy black tea grown in Kenya), or leave it entirely up to chance and get a surprise when it arrives through the post.


Delivery worldwide by Royal Mail (1st or 2nd class within the UK; airmail or economy to the rest of the world).