Bed and Breakfast:21st Century style…(Part 1)



Once upon a time, if you wanted to book a holiday you started by looking at brochures or adverts in the local papers.  I can remember as a child looking at columns of adverts in the Sunday papers for guest houses in Bute, Arran, Cornwall; anywhere you might want to go, but not abroad – that was for the truly adventurous.  You chose from the places on offer and wrote to the establishment to book your room, perhaps enclosing a postal order as a deposit.  In due course, a reply would arrive confirming the booking, or if there was no space left perhaps suggesting another establishment that could accommodate you.  All very calm, very personal.

Travelling further afield meant employing a travel agent.  Thoma Cook was the big player, and many folk travelled all over the world courtesy of their kind and competent ministrations.  There was a sense of a safety net when a travel agent was used.  If things went wrong, help was at hand. And they would get you home.

These days we are more likely to  book our holidays ourselves over the internet, happily planning trips based on what other travellers have reported.  I have done this a few times now, and I thought you might find my travel tales entertaining as we share a plate of pancakes and homemade lemon curd (recipe to follow!)

Last year we (husband and I) decided to tour Donegal.  Although of Irish descent, we have travelled little in the Emerald Isle.  It was time to rectify this omission, and with the help of Airbnb, we did.

For those of you who have not heard of the Airbnb phenomenon, it allows people with a spare room to rent it out to travellers who want to experience the real country, and meet the real people of the country in which they are travelling.  In practice, although some of the accommodation on offer is simply the spare room others use Airbnb as a way of marketing their existing Bed and Breakfast business.  We have experienced both.

What we liked about Airbnb was that there were reviews of the properties written by those who had stayed there!  So we knew (sort of) what we were going to find.  Of course, it doesn’t aways work that way – but it is a good idea:-)

We set off, full of high hopes, singing ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday’, streamers flapping out of the windows, balloons fluttering … get the idea.  The sun shone, the roads were quiet, and we were determined to enjoy our well-earned break.  After a calm sea crossing, we docked at Belfast and the adventure truly began.

If you have never driven across Ulster to Lough Foyle you have missed one of the loveliest roads.  Moving from rolling farm land to mountain bleakness over the course of a 2 hour drive, it is a beautiful journey.

At Limavady (the birthplace of The Londonderry Air – O Danny Boy) we decided to take the ferry from Magiligan Point over to Greencastle.  This short sail across the mouth of the Foyle was accompanied by dolphins – what luck!

Our first overnight stop was at Malin Head; a great rock of a place, windblown and remote.  They have a lighthouse there, and a memorial to the first Telegraph Office.  This was where the news of the Titanic’s sinking was first received.  All good stuff…

Our accommodation was in a modest modern house, and was “the spare bedroom”!  Our delightful host sent us off to the nearest restaurant for excellent food.  Returning later, we sat in the living room, drinking tea with the family.  Chatting away I became convinced I had met our host before.  Gentle enquiry revealed that yes, we had met!  10 years previously we had worked together for a few weeks!  It is amazing how much growing a beard changes a man’s appearance.  The night wore on with gossip about shared acquaintances.  What a way to start a holiday:-)

Next day we wandered on around the Wild Atlantic Way  .  It is difficult to really describe the scenery.  Rocks and fields. Precipitous gradients. Roads so narrow that there is scarcely space for the wheels of the car.  Lots of lovely new houses, but no people!  Few places to have a cup of tea (a flask was essential).  The sun shone, the sky was blue with scattered clouds, and all was well – until we arrived at our next place of rest.

(to be continued)

A question of comfort…..


It is spring, and as the weather changes, so does my wardrobe.  Out goes the heavy stuff and in comes the light.  Spring sunshine is not kind to a winter silhouette, and so I found myself in need of new bras.  What I had been wearing over the winter was not really fit for purpose.  Summer clothes look better when the undershape has….well…shape.

So I took myself to a large, prestigious department store  to “get fitted”.  It is not something I do often: disrobing in front of a stranger to have them look and measure my personal areas does not fill me with joy.  But sometimes it has to be done.  This time, it turned out to be a bit of a saga.

The lingerie department was large but remarkably empty at 11 o’clock of a Friday morning.  I  marveled at the amount of lace and scantiness on display. Do women really wear these things?  From choice?  Then I found an assistant.  She was kind, thoughtful, and she had a bust!   I have found in the past that Slender Sally’s cannot comprehend what it is like to bounce as you walk (lol)!

So I was measured.  My new friend told me  I was just under one chest size, but might be able to cope with the next size down, if the cup size suited.  Off she went and found some bras – right cup size, but the smaller than ideal chest size. She apologised, but said stock was low in this popular size!  I tried one on, and although the cup fitted, the chest band all but cut off my circulation.  I am too old to suffer for beauty so took it off.  She went in search of the right chest measurement and I was left, surrounded by mirrors, to contemplate my pulchritude…..Why was I not born when larger ladies were in favour?

Her supervisor appeared, a skelf of a woman.  Without so much as an introduction, she had me put on one of the painful objects.  She enthused about how happy she was with the fit.  I disagreed.  She told me that she had been fitting bras for 8 years, and this monstrosity was a perfect fit.   Having worn bras for 50 years I felt I was in a position to place my comfort over her happiness – as should she, since I was, after all, the customer.  I told her so.  She commented that I would have difficulty getting the right size as most of her stock was for a 36 inch chest.  I suggested this might be why the department was so empty……

She left…..

My original assistant appeared with the ideal size bra, and whispered sympathy.  I bought the bra, and left for a well deserved coffee.  And a lot of thought.

If, as we are constantly being told, up to 80% of us wear wrong fitting bras, something is surely wrong with the way we are advised when we buy them.  We are not stupid!  If assistants (aka experts) insist that the fit is right – why would we disagree even if we know it is wrong?  Because they can be very forceful women, and it is difficult to be assertive when standing naked in front of a stranger.  I know this from personal experience!

When I am faced with a problem or a question I go in search of an answer.  And friends, I have found it:-)

Next time you go bra shopping, read this first, and go armed with the knowledge it contains. (

Then pop by and tell me how you got on.  Over tea and pancakes we can plot a revolution to rid us all of red marks, and pinched flesh forever!

Starting out……..

Kitchens are where life is lived.  They are the places that see us at our worst, and at our best.  In my house, the kitchen is where I am usually to be found, and where I probably spend the most time.  So it is no surprise that when I wanted to start blogging, my starting point should be pancakes!

Why Pancakes35?  Searching WordPress for a domain name no one else had, I eventually settled on my favourite ‘cure-all’ and my house number.  So there is sense in it all, for it is to my house that folk come, and where I feed them pancakes, and tea, and we talk, and laugh and listen and sort the world:-)

This blog space is my attempt to take my kitchen, and my pancakes, and open their magic up to a wider audience.  Although it would be nice if you could visit, and you are extremely welcome to come, it is not practical for everyone to make their way to my green front door, walk into my kitchen, and come to rest leaning on Constance!  (Constance is a cream, three oven, gas fired Aga, and a constant source of joy, heat and great baking – hence her name.)

In this blog, I want to create an online kitchen with an online Constance to cook my lovely pancakes, and lots of online friends to stop by and drink virtual tea and eat virtual pancakes.

And we will chat, and share, and laugh and perhaps cry.  But most of all, we will be together.