Tea Rooms -Fact and Fiction!


Tea RoomOne of the most popular chapters  in the book “Our Best Attention” is set in the Tea Room of a large  department store and concerns the nefarious activities of a group of Edinburgh ladies. People are always asking about the ‘Tea Room Ladies’ and whether they will reappear in book 2. Well, the short answer is that, yes, they most certainly will. This is due partly to my enjoying  writing about this particular set of ladies, and partly because I love Tea Rooms!  I always have.

At a recent author event, a former employee of a certain large department store brought me in all sorts of memorabilia. This included information about the restaurants and tea rooms there. Well it was a goldmine for me!

An 1895 advertisement for  the “Luncheon and Tea Rooms,”  a novel feature of Edinburgh life,  described them as having, “everything served in first class style at moderate prices.” The elegant mezzanine floor with a gallery was treated in Alhambra style and decorated in cream and gold. A Writing Room, “fitted with every requisite for Ladies,” was immediately beside the Luncheon and Tea room and beside that a cloakroom where, “ladies may leave their wraps or have parcels addressed to them from other shops in town.”

All was clearly well for the ladies of Edinburgh. However, things weren’t too bad for the staff either. One irresistible fact I discovered was that staff could opt to have meals included as part of their pay. “Those who did ate lavishly and without restriction. A man was employed solely to carve the joints which were served to the staff. This was his only task and was a full time occupation.”

A happy staff then to provide the advertised, “refined service of the dainty and varied meals.”

Those were the days!



Old ladies have more fun?



I like old ladies. I like the way they speak. I enjoy their reminiscences. I spend a great deal of time eavesdropping on them in public places. I’m not being creepy-I’m on the way to being one!

When I say old I suppose I mean older rather than chronologically ancient. Their personalities have been shaped by their life experience. Their style of dress conveys much about how they see themselves: some always dressed up to the nines in public others who don’t give a toss and dress for comfort rather than style and every variation in between.

These ladies have been the backbone of their families, the mainstay of many occupations and valiant contributors to life in an infinite variety of ways. Most still contribute and can be found in every nook and cranny of society.

When I started to write “Our Best Attention,” I wanted to be sure to include some older ladies among the characters. Although they are sprinkled throughout the book, the main chapter in which they feature is “Weepers”. In this a group of typical “Edinburgh Ladies” congregate in a typical Edinburgh way in a typical Edinburgh tea room every week and have done so for many years. They know every aspect of each other’s lives yet still find much to talk about at every meeting. While sharing life’s gradual downward spiral they come up with a cunning plan. Like so many older ladies they certainly make their own entertainment!