Sunday, 19 September 2010


A 'fine piece' helps the world go around. It's just a fact.

Anyone acquainted with the North East of Scotland will know very well that a 'fine piece' is a treat, a little of what you fancy, naughty but nice, something a wee bit sweet, a wee bit tasty and a wee bit thrilling. In other words, a cake.

We all know that such delights should be approached in moderation, if not rationed. But in certain settings, preferably social ones, the opportunity to indulge in a 'fine piece' can produce more than mere pleasure and satisfaction. I have learnt that a 'fine piece' served at an appropriate moment can make things happen.

A friend of mine, a good citizen who contributes on a daily basis to our local community and to wider society in general, told me her view of how to run the perfect meeting. In addition to making sure that everyone was able to say their bit without people blethering on until we were at wrist-slitting point, she has adhered to a certain trick for most of her committee-filled life.

'Ye'll nae get onything done and decided wi'oot the offer o' a fine piece at half-time.'

How true. I have sat on many a committee in the past, and even chaired a few, and there is nothing finer than being able to say, 'Och, now, let's have a wee breather and scoff a plate o' French Fancies wi' a wee cup o' tea'. Just when things are getting a bit sticky, when the argy-bargy is threatening unpleasantness, when the bossiest person at the table is starting to needle the pedant (for most committees can provide such characters), oil can be poured on troubled waters with the offer of a 'fine piece' and a cup of tea.

I mention this because I was once witness to the Norwegian amusement at we Brits, particularly over the 'cup of tea' issue, although the 'fine piece' was all part of the joke. This Norwegian laddie had been a student in Scotland, and could not get over the fact that his fellow-students and flat-mates, about every five minutes, said things like, 'Time for a cuppa', or 'anyone fancy a brew-up,' or 'char's ready' or 'I could just murder a cup o' tea right now.' The Norwegian fell about laughing at the memory of his student days, slapping his thighs with mirth at the very thought of this tea-obsessed nation in which he was seeking to further his education.

'I thought it was all a huge cliché until I actually lived with you guys,' he chortled as he mopped his tear-filled eyes. 'But every time I entered a room, or stood up, or spoke, I was instantly offered a cup of was Brits really are totally hooked on tea and little cakes.'

I tried to explain. I pointed out that this habit is probably a relic of our imperial past....what better way to ensure the prosperity of a nation and its empire than to create a population of addicts? Whether it be tea, sugar or some rather more dodgy commodity, there is no doubt that we fell for it all and haven't recovered yet.

But why worry? If you need to cajole and persuade people to do things, if our PM Mr Cameron is to achieve his aim of establishing a 'Big Society' (we are all still trying to work out exactly what this means, but we THINK it means we all have to contribute more, in one way or another) then I reckon a 'fine piece' strategy won't do any harm. So, if you'll excuse me for a tick, I must, in my capacity to contribute to The Big Society, email Number 10 and tell the Coalition to get baking.


  1. That reminds me - must put the kettle on.....

  2. This made me laugh, it is SO true. And the Scots who travelled the world in the days of Empire took the habit with them. I went to a boarding school in Cape Town where every weekday afternoon at 4.30pm a mug of tea and a 'jeelie piece' as they called it was served. Needless to say, none of us knew the origins of the expression, and sometimes the 'piece' was not bread and jam, but a piece of fruit. Generations of girls have passed through that school and are now scattered around Africa and the world and I'll bet that like me, they all need a cuppa and a piece at about 4.30 every day!

  3. Freda...nothing like a decent cuppa.
    Herschelian...interesting...I reckon 'jeelie' or 'jeely piece' is Glaswegian, while a 'fine piece' is more North East of Scotland. Thing is, every Glasgwegian should know how to throw a jeely piece oot a 20 storey flat. It's a skill.

  4. I think this blogpost comes into the category of being a fine piece itself.
    It induced waves of nostalgia in this exiled Scot.
    In my family, we still talk about needing something right fine when the teeth are bored.

    I'm also reminded of that other famous north-east comestible - the fly piece.

  5., yeah...a fly piece...excellent expression....but I've never heard 'when the teeth are bored'...splendid.