Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Café Continental, Dumfries

With a name like Café Continental, you might assume that you’d be able to buy croissants fresh from the oven for breakfast. You might even assume you’d be able to enjoy an espresso, cappuccino or latte to go with it. But you’d assume wrong. This café is about as continental as a cheap scotch pie with added gristle.

Having dropped my car off to get its 37,500mile service (quite why Mazda chose every 12,500 miles as its service cycle is anyone’s guess) first thing in the morning, I needed somewhere out of the cold to sit until the library opened.

For 20 minutes I sat near the bottled gas heater, cradling the cup and sipping the dishwater-like substance, which, rumour had it, had shared a pot with a teabag at some point in the distant past. The conversation between the owner and one of his regulars covered such diverse topics as the exorbitant amount of money the local council charges for business rates, the decline of tourism in Dumfries, the fact that the council paid for, or at least subsidised, a bus to take people out to Tesco Superstore on the edge of town, but not to his café, and the fact that even recovering alcoholics should be presented with a clean cup and table when coming in for a pot of tea.

Then the customer says, “Ye ken whit annoys me? The smoking ban disnae happen in England ‘til later this year, but we had it last year. Why didnae they have the ban at the same time as us, ye ken?”

“Aye well,” begins the owner, “it just means they’re smoking for an extra 12 months so it’ll kill a few more of them aff.” Hearty chuckle.

“Aye, I shouldnae complain,” laughs the customer.

Just the kind of culturally tolerant, cosmopolitan attitude you’d expect in a Continental Café I guess.

21 comments:

Mary Witzl said...

I think I've been there! And no, it's hardly continental. Especially when they make comments like that. Cafe Provincial is more like it.

Ever since first coming here, I have been trying to understand what makes someone 'a real Scot.' My kids have friends who sound Scottish but are not, as their parents are English and they too were born in England, or who sound English but are, in fact, entirely Scottish, only born here and raised elsewhere. When we first arrived here, we had a meal in the Indian restaurant and our waiter looked Indian but sounded as though he was from Edinburgh -- because he was. So what in the world makes someone Scottish? Being born here? Speaking with a Scots accent? Liking haggis?

Eryl Shields said...

I must go, is it really sordid?

quinn said...

Sounds like quite the place. I am interested in mary witzl's question though. What makes someone scottish?

It is my understanding that my real father was born and raised in scotland and later came to canada. He had quite the accent.

restaurant gal said...

I am exactly in the mood for that cup of tepid tea and blackhearted conversation. Perfect.

The Gal

Gyrobo said...

I'm sure people will be more tolerant in the future...

After all, didn't a recent DNA analysis prove that England and Ireland were actually the same country?

Maybe Scotland is also part of the United Kingdom. You never know.

Binty McShae said...

It's an identification thing, more than anything else... a 'home is where the heart is' aspect. I haven't actually lived in Scotland for years and do not sound Scots any more (except when drunk or singing certain songs, apparently). But despite having friends in and settling in England and now South East Asia quite comfortably I never felt truly at home. Small things, probably, that just add up to making a difference.

Of course, there are many of my countrymen who will give me a look of disdain whilst saying "Youse are no' a real Scot!", some who will be quite agressive and nasty about it. Usually those who have rarely left their own street, let alone Scotland itself... I spent half my life putting up with shit for being Scottish when living in England, I feel I've earned my right to claim my heritage many more times over than those who have sat back and just been xenophobic for the sheer hell of it, all in the comfort of their 'own' country.

Kav said...

^What Binty said.

It's possible to consider a place home without bearing the attendant bigotries and nastiness that so many small-minded folk who think the world ends at the bottom of their street possess.

fatmammycat said...

Sound like home really. I have a friend who turn a nasty shade of puce whenever she hears about 'blow-ins' talking it up in the local. And by blow-ins she means people who might have lived there for nigh on ten years, but they're not 'local'.

Kim Ayres said...

Mary - I have no idea. Basically the first thing you are judged on is your accent. I've lived here nearly 20 years, but still have the southern English accent I inherited from my parents. My wife and kids are Scottish and this is my home more than anywhere I've ever lived. If we were given the option I would put Scottish on my passport, but some people will never get past my accent

Eryl - "greasy spoon" leaps to mind.

Quinn - I think it's whatever you decide to call yourself. When I was in Nova Scotia I remember meeting quite a few Canadians who insisted they were Scottish, even though they'd been in Canada for 8 generations

Restaurant Gal - When that's what you're in the mood for, there is no substitute.

Gyrobo - great link - we're all Spanish! Olé!

Binty - I love cultural diversity and heritage, but loathe xenophobia. For that reason, I find it quite hard to be proud of my English heritage which has far too much xenophobia in it.

Kav - for all the politics behind it, I do like the Scottish Executive's - One Nation, Many Cultures - slogan.

Fatmammycat - I was born in Cornwall, which means I'll never be accepted as 'local' anywhere else. But because we moved from there when I was 2 years old, I'll never be a local in Cornwall either. I've been an incomer my entire life

Tree said...

In regards to your comment Kim, Canadians always have two identities: Canadian and their ancestry. When in Canada I say I am Scottish because my ancesters came over in 1800's, however, when in Scotland I was most definately Canadian. Canada is a mosiac not as much of a melting pot as our american neighbours. When I lived in England and I explained this to people they thought it was stupid we identified ourselves like that. I think it keeps the country interesting. Although come to think of it the people of English descent say they're Canadian and never English. Now you got me thinking.

Anyway, 12,500 miles is approx. 20,000 km, which in the metric world is car maintenance time ... I don't know why I know this.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

To be fair though, there's not much that's cosmopolitan about Dumfries. Cosmopolitan is still what people ask for there when they forget the name of that chocolate-vanilla-ice-cream combination.

In this day and age you'd think we could get beyond where people come from. The countryside is always behind the cities in terms of tolerance though. I don't know what you do except just be yourself and conquer parochial minds one by one by confounding their expectations.

Mary Witzl said...

Our household is an odd mix. My husband is the one with the U.K. passport, but he is English. I have an American passport (and accent), but quite a bit of Scots ancestry. My kids can, if they want to, put on Scots accents, but are -- God knows what. When we first arrived here, they actually had Japanese accents.

My mother was from Kentucky and, like all her family, had a strong Southern accent. When she left home, she lost it, but none of her sisters or brothers did. One of her younger sisters lived next-door to us and sounded like Scarlett O'Hara. No one could believe she and my mother were sisters, given their entirely different accents.

My hunch is that people with provincial attitudes (like the Cafe Continental owner) are a dying species and know it.

Carole said...

This time I had to look up xenophobia.

Sounds like a couple of old geezers having a good time, not realizing they were quite naked and very unappealing in their nakedness. Still you have to give them kudos for not pretending they were something they weren't. Nevertheless, there is no forgiveness for bad tea.

I think if I had to give awards for blogs. Yours would be most educational. I love the new words--well old words, but I am just learning them.

Eryl Shields said...

I've lived in Scotland for over twenty years with a five year blip when we found ourselves back in England. I still have a distinclty English accent and it has got me into trouble occasionally.

My son has a Scottish accent and lives in Portsmouth (England) and he says he can drink for free every night of the week. As soon as he speaks complete strangers want to buy him drinks. He loves being a Scot in England and would never move back to Scotland, which is a bit of a bugger for me as I never want to leave, I love it here.

Pendullum said...

Kim, he has a brother and he has opened the same cafe here in Canada... it is a franchise...

Kim Ayres said...

Tree - Ah, I never thought about the kilometer connection - that makes sense!

I have noticed that the only time a Canadian becomes "Canadian" is when they are abroad and suddenly realise that people might think they're American. Before you know it, the Maple Leaf is being displayed with pride :)

Sam - isn't that Neopolitan ice cream? But you're right, Dumfries is hardly the cultural centre of Scotland.

Mary - unfortunately, all it takes is a bit of flag waving to bring out the "us and them" mentality. It's where I have such a strong distrust of patriotism.

Carole - oh no - now the pressure is on to find new words!

Eryl - It's not just the English accent, but the Southern English accent that causes me the problems. I've lived in the South of England for barely a quarter of my life, but I inherited my accent from my parents and have never been able to shake it.

Pendullum - I suspect he has a very large family...

PI said...

We stayed in Dumfries once - lovely - but the wind round the coast was unbelievable and whipped the car door back making it almost impossible to close it. Funny the things one remembers - and Rabbie.

jotcr2 said...

Watched a good doco on coffee last night. All about how it changed the culture of Europe by providing a drink that stimulated you and relaxed you at the same time. Can't stand the dishwasher variety.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - they're trying to install wind farms in the area, but its meeting with much local opposition.

I know you're a grandmother, but I would have thought you were still too young to have had a fling with Rabbie, notorious womaniser that he was.

Jo - I was never that struck on instant coffee, but since getting into real stuff, instant just tastes vile.

The Birdwatcher said...

There is one very similar to your cafe continental in Glossop. Tea is served weak slopped into the cup and saucer, coffee is instant and proud of it. Service with a grimace. Every high street should have one, just as a warning to those that complain about progress.

Kim Ayres said...

I remember a Not The 9 o'Clock News sketch where an MP is saying "an old woman came up to me the other day and said 'why can't it be like the old days?' So I took away her pension book and shoved her grandson up a chimney!"