The village shop. The only shop in Thorncombe so far as we can tell. It also functions as a cafe. Two tables sit upon the veranda, looking out down the lane towards cottages in one direction, a church in the other. Beyond this, the fields spread off into the distance. A picket fence separates us from the road. I am here with Chris and Crosby. We walked from the house a mile and a quarter away, battling with the flies and scaring a few large ducks.
Chris and Crosby stay outside while I go in to order. It’s £1.99 each for a coffee with either a scone or a tea cake. Now that’s value. The folk here volunteer to run the shop, and considering the number of people knocking around it would appear that the volunteers are plentiful. And they’re a good-natured bunch, treating us like welcome guests. We feel Twin Peaks’ Agent Cooper, away from the familiarity of the city, on a mission in the country. And much like Cooper says, “I like my coffee as black as midnight, on a moonless night.”
Chris’ Americano fits this description perfectly. My latté comes in three tiers: the frothed milk, the coffee body, the milky head. She’s a beauty. Crosby opts out of the coffee, preferring instead to share some of the scone. At quarter to one an ominous bell chimes from the church.
We sit maybe for an hour, half expecting Postman Pat to whip by in his van. A man called Lawrence attempts to leave the shop a few times only to be called back by screaming women, the reason for which will remain unknown. Then we head in to buy a bottle of wine for tonight’s dinner party. A fellow customer recommends a fruity Chardonnay, and we acquiesce. We also pick out some bread, a pot of jam, and admire the bulbous fennel that proudly looks out from the vegetable rack.
“That is truly excellent coffee.”
Chris’ Final Thought
We certainly weren’t lacking sustenance after gorging on Lincolnshire sausages and mash, but we just had to indulge in a cream tea. As the old saying goes, ‘when in Dorset… etc.’ This was also to be our last visit to the Thorncombe Village Shop, and a cream tea would have been the perfect farewell. Perhaps controversially, we had ordered coffee to accompany our cream tea, thus eliminating the ‘tea’ aspect of it, but we were in need of the lucidity that coffee offered. Two scones arrive on a plate, towering structures with a charming lean to them, soon to be joined by the cavalry of strawberry jam and clotted cream, sitting proudly in their ramekins. We savour the ritual of lathering half a scone with clotted cream, and although we are met with a slight resistance, we persevere and ease into it. I relish the adornment of the jam upon the structure, and although the scone has been halved in size, its height is restored via lashings of the cream and preserve. The satisfaction of course, comes from biting through this snow-capped mountain and the dialogue of its various layers upon my palate – sweet, cool and crumbly in texture. I must sit back and take a second to relish in it. We carry on in this vain, taking occasional bites so as to savour this expedition. Towards the end we begin to struggle a bit, coming up against the richness of the cream tea, but we persevere and conquer it. Victorious and satisfied, we set off back to the farm to be rewarded by a slow roasted leg of mutton.