Category: Tea shops
You may have seen them on the streets: people that seem to have given up before they've begun. Slobbing around in their onesies and slippers - garments that should only be worn (if they must) within the privacy of one's home.
Celebrated romantic Barbara Cartland; prolific author, campaigner and 'pink crusader' would have undoubtedly rolled her heavily-mascaraed eyes at this relaxing of standards. The indomitable dame was an unmissable feature on the landscape of the twentieth century. She monopolised the world of romantic fiction, selling a (disputed) billion copies of her books. As one of 1920s society's Bright Young People, she received countless marriage proposals. She was a champion of sustainability - recycling wedding dresses for forces brides over half a century before EcoIsland had been invented. In the final years of her life the grand dame's star was fading but undiminished. Determined to keep up appearances, she always wore her trademark pink froufrou and lashings of make-up, which one wit described as 'cruelty without beauty'. However, she wasn't just a caricature; she kept her eye on the ball and had a reputation for being razor sharp to the end.
Ryde's Elizabeth Pack department store seems to have held a position in sartorial society similar to that of the formidable dame. Founded and developed from various respected Island retailers, the existing incarnation opened in 1987 with the laudable aim of continuing the standards established by its owner Elizabeth Barrow: standards that go back to before the Second World War. But just because it's old, and - like the novelist's - its exterior has succumbed to the ravages of time, the store's not yet turned up its toes.
Cat was born in Essex. Not quite within the sound of Bow Bells, but surely it makes her more of a Cockney than Sussex lad Matt?
Yet it’s been a while since she cavorted in the streets of Dagenham - Cat is now a confirmed Wightophile. But they say that you can’t take Essex out of the girl so Cat, in an attempt to introduce Matt to a bit of estuary culture, took him by the hand and led him on a mystery tour which started with a walk along Ryde seafront. There they admired the expanse of flat sands, home to a variety of edible shellfish, including the saucy-looking razor clam.
Onwards they went to Ryde Esplanade station. Here they could have swerved northwards and caught a ferry then a train to Rainham and purchased a punnet of cockles from a chirpy street vendor. But there is more to East End cliché than salty molluscs and pearly royalty.
Instead Matt and Cat climbed aboard the ex-London tube train and enjoyed a rattling journey southwards to Sandown station. By now Matt was seriously intrigued. The seaside town was his childhood home but he has no memories of eating winkles and jellied eels in the vicarage. These days one could be forgiven for imagining that Sandown's eating-out firmament is illuminated only by the singular but impossibly bright magnificence of the constant stream of celebrities and government ministers enjoying the facilities of Rapanui's eponymous coffee shop. But far from it. Sandown still has plenty else to offer, and in 2012 the new café at Sandown railway station was awarded an impressive third prize in the national Community Rail Awards Best Station/Train Retail Awards. So suddenly, the reason for Matt and Cat's culinary journey became clear. As the metaphorical steam from the engine cleared away, they spotted the sign for refreshments and Matt finally knew he’d been brought to the Larder and Pie House.
It’s all over. The sun has resolutely taken off its hat, brushed it down and stashed it away until next year.
The summer of 2012, with its diamond jubilee, record-breaking rainfall, Olympics and Paralympics is a distant memory. Wenlock has closed his vast single eye and Mandeville’s name is tainted with the scandal of the late Sir Jimmy Savile’s association with his namesake hospital. Also consigned to the past is the day the Olympic torch came to the Isle of Wight.
Like most of the summer, the torch’s national tour was played out with a backdrop of typically British weather; yet the drizzle didn’t stop the crowds from gathering to see one of the eight thousand torches flicker through their neighbourhood. On the day the relay visited the Isle of Wight - passing through Yarmouth to East Cowes before you could say £11,000 pounds well-spent - Matt and Cat somehow missed the entire razzmatazz.
While hosts of their fellow Islanders were gawping ten-deep at joyous but sodden torchbearers, Matt and Cat were snug inside the dining room of Dandelion Café, enjoying the spectacular view of the heritage coast across Freshwater Bay and beyond.
How many Islanders does it take to change a light bulb?
"CHANGE? We don't like change!". Everyone must have heard that joke by now and presumably there are regional versions of it being laughed at around the world. And change? Well, Islanders embrace it, don't they?
Now, Matt and Cat love the Island, its heritage, culture and community. They engage on many levels with all of these elements, both personally and professionally. Yet sometimes they are dismayed to see the proverbial baby thrown out with the bathwater in the name of progress. Hands up who thinks that the medieval market town of Newport has had its skyline improved by the tin behemoth that is the Cineworld complex? Can the addition of 800 new homes really enhance a lovely bit of urban fringe pasture-land?
Despite these subjective blots on the landscape, Islanders are a resilient lot; after all, it's never long before they've got another contentious local issue in their sights. The latest is the controversy over Ventnor Botanic Garden; after forty years under council control it has recently passed into private management. But this review is not about the politics of the disposal of the Botanic Garden. If you want to discuss that there are other far more appropriate forums. Matt and Cat are interested in food, and eating out. So it was very much with those matters in mind that they made their way down to Ventnor and in through the familiar gateway of the Botanic Garden to try the café in its new non-council incarnation.
How does Yarmouth’s Old Gaffers Festival do it?
Every year without fail the organisers manage to pick a scorching weekend on which to hold this celebration of classic boats, street acts and local produce. In 2012, because of the diamond jubilee celebrations, the event was brought forward a week and the decent weather came with it. The summer tempest was in abeyance - saving itself for the Isle of Wight Festival.
Matt and Cat love the Old Gaffers Festival as it gives them the chance to sample food, enjoy the eclectic entertainment and buy the Isle of Wight Cheese Company’s annual Old Gaffer Blue. They’d spent the day hoofing around the historic town and, having stocked up on the limited unpasteurised, they found themselves unexpectedly going down an alleyway. In the twitten was a café and outside the café were some tables: and lo, the sun shone invitingly on a pair of recently-vacated seats. The gods had clearly spoken so Matt and Cat, not a couple to defy the deities, slumped down into the chairs. Well, it would be rude not to.