Monday 28 December 2020

Best National Trust Scone of 2020

It has all the elements of a Greek tragedy: I announce in January 2020 that I am going to finish the National Trust Scone Odyssey in the next 12 months. It's taken me seven years so far and this will be the year when I visit the final 30 properties on my list. Several people politely ask if this is a little over-ambitious. "Nooooooo!" I tell them. "I am going to TRIUMPH in 2020!"

Well, we all know how that ended up. But the motto of the National Trust Scone Blog is "NEVER MIND" and we ploughed on together, facing the ups and downs with as much cheerfulness as we could muster.

But when I sat down with a heavy heart to write up the obligatory review of the year, knowing I'd only managed to eat three official National Trust scones so couldn't even stretch to a top five, I realised how many lovely things had happened in 2020. And it's all thanks to the Sconepals.

So here it is - instead of Scone of the Year, here's the National Trust Scone Blogger's List of Seven Lovely Things That Happened in 2020:

7. The Year of 100% Five-Star Scones

The silver lining to my only managing three proper National Trust scones in 2020 is that all three of them scored 5 out of 5 to deliver my first annus hundredpercentus. I started off at Lavenham Guildhall in Suffolk in January for a perfect scone. I then made it to Wentworth Castle Gardens near Barnsley shortly before everything closed down, before making a bold dash to Stackpole in Pembrokeshire when things opened up again in the summer.  

This is how I will remember the scones of 2020 - they were few but they were memorable:

6. The Year of the National Trust's 125th Birthday

Did you, like me, have times this year when you had to sit quietly just to contemplate the magnitude of the utter disaster that was unfolding in front of you? For me, not getting to see Brentford's last game at Griffin Park was such a moment, as was the National Trust's 125th birthday. The one bright spot here is that the NT hadn't actually sent out the invitations confirming which lucky members had had their names drawn out of a hat and would be going to a celebratory Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. (To all of my friends and family who received WhatsApp messages at 3am reminding them to apply and that they would be taking me as their guest if they got through; thank you anyway.) We'll never know who missed out and I'll never know what the scones at BP taste like. 

I received many pictures of the Sconepals' substitute garden parties and they were all brilliant - I'm not sure the Palace could have lived up to some of them, frankly. Special mention goes to Fussy the Explorer (top left below) and to our man Sconepal Ole of the Canine Division. Like Kate Moss getting spotted at JFK airport, Ole's dedication to appropriately regal attire got him noticed by the editor of the National Trust magazine and we were all starstruck to see him in print.

5. The Year I Tried to Bake 50 Scone Recipes in One Day

I am no stranger to the question "What were you thinking?" but I outdid myself in April. I decided to emulate Kristen Wiig in the film Bridesmaids, where she bakes and decorates one cupcake, then eats it. I, however, decided to try and bake one scone from every recipe in the National Trust Book of Scones...and there are 50 recipes. I tweeted the experience, which obviously ended in abject failure. You can relive it here: 50 National Trust Scones in One Day.

4. The Year of the Sconestice at Sconehenge

I must be clear that I didn't invent the Sconestice and Sconehenge. But seeing as I had a fairly large window in my diary in late June, I decided to bake my own prehistoric monument, get up early and experience a Sconehenge sunrise. My efforts, of course, turned out to be rubbish compared to those sent in by the Sconepals that also found themselves with a spot of time on their hands at midsummer. I particularly loved the one that looked like it might transform into a squadron of police cars and the one in a wheelbarrow:

3. The Year of Not-The-National-Trust House Tours 

This one still makes me laugh: several bored Sconepals sent in Not-The-National-Trust tours of their own homes. My own effort included an unkempt lawn, a very poorly stocked shop, and my star attraction: a spectacular water feature, which I have helpfully compared to that at Cliveden to give you some idea of the general theme: 

If you do a search for the hashtag #notthenationaltrust on Twitter you can still enjoy many of the Sconepals' efforts. A few highlights:

2. The Year Sconepal Ole Kept Our Spirits Up

You know when actors win an Oscar and they shout "I love you man!" at a co-star during their acceptance speech and you think 'oh for God's sake stop being so ridiculous'? Well, when the Book of Scones finally wins the Nobel Prize for Literature I will be shouting "I love you dog!" at Sconepal Ole because he has kept me going this year, quite frankly. His marvellous assistant, Corinne, has shared photos of him on Twitter throughout the year, celebrating VE Day (middle top below), doing a spot of DIY, going to Scotland before lockdown (middle centre and bottom), enjoying the summer, enjoying Christmas, not enjoying a bath, and getting his deserved moment of fame in the National Trust magazine. He has never failed to make me laugh. To Corinne and her husband: a heartfelt thank you for sharing Ole with us. 

1. The Year of Amazing Sconepals

Which brings us to the biggest highlight of 2020: the enthusiastic home-baking of scones that took off during the first lockdown. You can see pictures of all 275 scone bakes here. Every single picture was brilliant but three stuck out for a special mention:

The Moomin scone from Catherine:

The Googly-eyed Chocolate scone from Jo:

And finally, my favourite picture of 2020. Sent in by Dr Joe Flatman, I named it "The Green, Green Grass of Scones" as it evokes so much: the sun so bright yet casting prison bar shadows onto a lawn this is actually a carpet. The scones looking spectacular, yet served with gin jam because, well, coronavirus. The perfect picture for a year that promised plenty, denied us all so much, and yet we persevered.

In all seriousness, I know this has been a very difficult year for many of you. To all affected by redundancy or work shortages, this will not last forever and brighter times lie ahead. Here's to a happier 2021.

Until then, I say a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone that is part of the National Trust Scone Community. Thank you for sharing your pictures, thank you for making us all laugh and for laughing at each other (in a good way), and thank you for the scones. You have helped to make 2020 bearable for everyone else.