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.
The day that Matt and Cat visited was the third and final day of the Old Gaffers Festival and, as it had been an untypically hot weekend, everyone had rejoiced in the opportunity to mothball their kagouls. Festival-goers filled the streets, faces upturned to the sky; arms and legs exposed in unarchived summer clothes, like people from the land of the polar night who are abruptly reintroduced to the sun. Suddenly after hours of all this goodwill and stimulation, all Matt and Cat wanted to do was have a nice cup of tea and a sit down. They were already sitting down so it was just the tea to wrangle.
Cat limped to the café’s counter to place their order. There were plenty of delicious-looking cakes but cream tea was really what was on her mind. Cat was impressed by the good humour of the staff at the tail-end what must have been a particularly intense session. With the tea on its way, Cat finally parked her barking dogs and let out a big sigh.
Matt and Cat have had many cups of tea in a broad range of places. Some arrived in builder’s style, with a bag in a cup and no other refinements – other than the option of several sugars. Some were delivered in tiny teacups with saucers, along with stacks of dainty nibbles displayed on the teetering tiers of a china cake stand. Veterans like M&C can usually predict what sort of tea they will get. However, with Butterflies, their expectations were surpassed.
Cream tea for one £5.50
Teapigs tea £1.65
The indefatigably perky waitress had followed Cat back to the table to distribute the appropriate tools for tea. With foresight worthy of celebrity psychic Sally Morgan, she brought an extra plate, knife and napkin on the assumption that Matt was going to share the cream tea. She was right, of course.
The tea itself was an excellent example of the genre: two firm – but not crumbly – fruit scones, and a very generous allowance of jam, butter and clotted cream. The tea itself was trendy Teapigs tea. With its Rainforest Alliance credentials and – for the parsimonious – reuseable tea bags, this tea is fast becoming the afternoon drink of choice for tea nerds. Each Teapig ‘tea temple’ bobbed in a tall glass allowing Matt and Cat to make their choice of its strength. Usually M&C are unimpressed by the tea-bag-in-a-cup option, as their famous exchange with Orrery Café owner James Bissel-Thomas will attest. However, with such comprehensive accessories – long spoons, receptacles for the discarded bags and milk in a jug – Matt and Cat reconsidered their tea benchmark. The tea itself was extremely welcome and helped wash down the fabulous scones.
It almost seemed remarkable that in the ancient town’s busy square Matt and Cat had participated in the lively ongoing gaffers celebrations; yet just a step away in the haven of Butterflies of Yarmouth, M&C had a peaceful and relaxing cuppa. Warmed by tea and bonhomie, they soon found themselves chatting to the folks at the next table. Cat was unable to resist engaging with one chap – drawn to his authentic 1950s shirt, Brylcreemed hair and forearms inked with a variety of old school tattoos – swallows, pin-up girls and the like – the sort of gnarly and smudged arms that Amy Winehouse may have had in the unlikely event that she’d lived to a ripe old age. It turned out that he was a musician from one of the street acts. And, although he charmed Cat in his Cockney accent it transpired he was from Dorset – a curious amalgam of East End and West Country.
Butterflies surpassed expectations; clean and tidy with delicious tea and cake, it was the perfect place for Matt and Cat to recharge their batteries. The café’s major asset was its charming staff who, as M&C were leaving, were politely making room for a chap on a mobility scooter. If Butterflies did this well on what must be one of the the busiest days of the year, it would undoubtedly be a venue worth seeking out at other times, too. Bidding adieu to the waitress and the Teddy boy, they positively skipped to the harbour where they boarded the bus back home.