Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Life in the freezer

It's freezing here. Not down to Eastern European standards but still enough to make you go Aaaaaaaaaaaggggggghhhhhhh! when you set foot out of doors. We've had a portable heater running in the front hall all day to try to keep it slightly warmer than the street outside.

I spent Sunday painting room 8. It was carpeted on Monday and we've set it up as our bedroom. It's a nice wee room and most importantly has central heating in it. The top floor rooms which we were in before weren't included in the original installation as they're due to be stripped out as part of the...

...ah, yes. The renovation project. Remember that? We sent an email to the project managers today which will probably explode on impact. Hopefully that will get the project heading back in the right direction.

Sorry to be rather vague about all this - all (well, some) will be revealed once things have been sorted out.

Gotta go - I have to do 10 - 11 in the bar

Sunday, January 29, 2006

World news

The building collapse in Poland is rightly headline news. All too often n thousand people killed is relegated to "other news" unless someone British is involved. I spent six hours in Katowice railway station in 1992. I was waiting for a night train to Praque and had, unwisely spent all my Polish money.

Last Tuesday was the kind of day that makes you want to emigrate. Pitch dark, freezing cold and icy drizzle falling. Today was one of those dazzling icy blue winter days that make you change your mind. I was in Hawick briefly and the view from the Dunion Hill was beautiful. There are currently plans to put a wind farm on top of it and we've had protests arranged by earnest green-welly types who've been handing out posters and suchlike. In fact the hill is festooned with radio antennae already so a couple of dozen 3MW wind turbines would probably go unnoticed.


The aim of the trip to Hawick was to get some paint to paint Room 8. It was formerly a bedroom but opens off the residents' lounge so it's not of much practical use. We're going to use it as our bedroom while the rooms we're in just now are transformed into letting rooms. The carpet's being fitted tomorrow so there was the usual mad dash to get the painting done first. The woodwork's been done - all that remains is the walls and ceiling. It's a low ceilinged room (the doorway is absurdly low) so there's no need for ladders.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Spanner in the works

Let's just say that things aren't going exactly to plan restoration-wise. That's probably all I should say at this stage.

The limited work that has taken place has involved clearing the attic of debris and clearing the area beyond the beer garden.

The kitchen re-fit can go ahead too, but our idea of what we want and the project manager's are a little different.

More later

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The best laid plans...

Exactly two weeks ago I said that Lorna was doing a small plastering job in the ladies loo and that it would be finished the next day. She's still at it. A portion of the plaster had fallen off some years earlier and instead of repairing it, someone had the splendid idea of putting battens on the wall and nailing plywood onto them. The battens had rotted to powder and L has had a much bigger plastering job to do as a result.

Image hosting by Photobucket When we removed the mirror from the ladies toilet this fluttered out from behind it. "Bob" Broystedt owned the Spread Eagle between 1964 and 1974. Cath and Charlie Smibert sold it to him. The brochure says that the main railway line runs within five miles of the town. That would be the Waverley line which closed in 1969, so the brochure must be before then. The hanging sign above the eagle has gone, but otherwise the place looks similar. Broystedt is remembered amongst the older locals by his habit of announcing opening time on Sunday by going out into the High Street and blowing a bugle (very badly by all accounts). Most of the fixtures and fittings in the hotel disappeared during his tenure and the original railings on the main stair "got broken when someone fell on them" in this period too. Clearly Saturday nights were a bit livelier then!

No smoke and some ire

"So, how do you think the no smoking ban will affect you?" asked Andrew from Border Events magazine last week. He's not alone - almost everyone calls it that. I've tried to point out that if it was actually a "no smoking ban" then I'd have to take up smoking, but people just look at me oddly.

Work has started - Yay! I've taken some "before" pics of the old kitchen and will pop up and take some "during" ones in a moment. The room's been stripped out and we've uncovered an old fireplace just to the right of the dumbwaiter. The old kitchen and the corridor next to it used to be a single room; the cornice extends through the partition wall which is little more than a wooden partition. We're not sure when the division took place, but the dumbwaiter and shelving (now gone) were probably installed at the same time.

Since it's difficult to separate the running of the place from the renovations I have abandoned the "reviving the eagle" blog - all future posts will appear here.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I was going to include a link to an article from the BBC's news site which stated that "A team from Napier University were working on a project to break down electricity into hydrogen and oxygen" but someone must have told them cos it's been corrected.

here is the link anyway as it's quite an interesting article. I've always thought that the best use of intermittently available renewable energy sources (wind, solar, tidal) was to generate hydrogen for use later since that's what all our cars will be running on in a few years - won't they?

We are hoping to be allowed to put solar slates on the old stables when they are refurbished. It's about 20 metres long, unshaded and faces due south so it's ideal. Historic Scotland and Borders Council don't agree at present. However, energy prices are only likely to increase and anything that helps reduce costs has to be worthwhile. For more on photovoltaic technology look here

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Learning curve

L was at a seminar on the smoking ban (synopsis - we're doomed) last week and met a nice couple who had been running a B&B in Edinburgh and then decided to take the "little step" of selling up and moving to a place with a public bar.

As they quickly found out, that's not a little step! Without a bar you're busy in the morning doing breakfast, room reset and cleaning. Then you're free until guests arrive in the evening. You can go out, do things. Add a public bar and your working day becomes just a teensy bit longer. And you have to have staff, and rotas, and payroll and health and safety policies and 101 other things that you didn't have before.

L asked me why they didn't realise all that. We knew before we started that we would have long days, hard work, virtually no free time an definitely no money for the forseeable future. The only answer I could come up with was that maybe we weren't quite as naive as we thought we were.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I love the smell of polyphosphates first thing in the morning

I've been cooking bacon for our resident workmen's sandwiches. We use a sweetcure bacon from the nearby butcher, so it's not cheap rubbish and it looks and tastes good. It does however have a large amount of added water and that has two effects.

The first is that it doesn't really fry. It boils and gives off huge clouds of steam. The other effect is that the polyphosphates which are added to keep the water in place come out of the bacon and burn on the griddle.

We tried using the dry cured bacon from the same butcher and it did cook better, but it wasn't always available and looked a bit scrappy on the plate.

Full last night - our 9 workmen and two touring kiwis.

Monday, January 16, 2006


The renovations were supposed to kick off this week and may still do, but there's been a shortage of information from our project managers so we're assuming it'll be late this week or early next. JDI's man on the ground (who will be here while the work is going on) is arriving on Wednesday and nothing will happen before then. At this stage we don't even know who's been awarded the contract.

Meanwhile it's been a busy enough week to preclude any blogging. The words "Wednesday" and "busy" are not ofen seen together, but last Wednesday was very good indeed. Friday was as busy as a Saturday with the young crowd engaging in truly dire singing. Don't try to sing Bee Gees songs guys - please!

Saturday was busy too and last night we had one of our increasingly common visits from Neil, Magda and Tomas from the Jedforest Hotel. Another crate of Zywiec was consumed along with a good number of our German beers. They've asked us to get some Polish vodka and we're trying to source it. It's green. You drink it with apple juice and it's supposed to taste like apple pie. Somehow I think I'd prefer apple pie.

Here's Magda modelling a scarf that Lorna knitted (and with the obligatory bottle of Zywiec)
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pheasantly pleased

A chap who's a loader on one of the shoots nearby comes into our bar occasionally. Shamefully I don't know his name, but he promised us a brace of pheasants and they duly arrived just after new year. The old meat store has a large iron frame festooned with pointy hooks for hanging bits of meat from. We hung them up there and left them.

On advice, we decided to simply remove the breasts and ditch the remainder since gutting a 10 day old bird didn't sound like fun. The procedure was quite simple apart from the inevitability of stabbing my finger with the scalpel blade I was using. (Memo to self - buy some decent knives)

A very good night in the bar for a Wednesday. Our Polish friends Magda and Thomas from the Jedforest hotel along with Neil their new chef turned up and finished the first crate of Polish beer. Fortunately fresh supplies arrived this morning.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Restricted view

A dreich day today which saw me on my bi-weekly trip to the cash and carry at Galashiels. The Eildon hills were barely visible due to low cloud and the rain was falling steadily by the time I got to Gala.

The decor in the ladies' toilet had reached a state that required immediate attention, so there was an additional stop at B&Q for some damp repelling paint and new mirror, shelf and light. I also got a new tv for room 9 with a built in DVD player. Meanwhile, Lorna was engaged in re-plastering a portion of the wall. This'll be finished tomorrow and then the whole lot can be painted and the new fittings attached. We're going for a relatively quick fix at the moment since the location of the ladies' will be changing eventually.

The supervisor for stage 1/3 of the refurbishment project will be arriving tomorrow and staying until Thursday. Then he'll be here pretty much continually until the work's done.

Pics of the music session will be ready tomorrow.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bath time

A bit about keg beer. The kegs sit upright in the cellar and the connector goes on the top. The keg contains a spring loaded spear through which the beer travels. When you put the connector on it pushes the spear down and lets the beer out. When you take the connector off, the spear moves up and seals the keg.


I was lucky. The spear closed about a second and a half after I took the connector off, so I only got two or three pints of lager sprayed over me. If it doesn't close at all, roughly half the keg comes out.

Very very quiet in the bar today. Everyone's back to work. Fortunately our resident workmen are also back to work so we're near enough full tonight.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A closing note

Our music session took place in the lounge bar yesterday evening with local lad Gary and friends and, after a none too promising start turned out to be the best yet.

It was also the last. Partly because once the band's been paid there's no money left even if the place is full, and partly because the lounge bar will cease to exist shortly when the renovations start.

Some pics of the evening will appear shortly. Meanwhile here's a photo Rob took on a frosty evening recently that we like... Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Shelf image

Things are being moved around in preparation for the refurbishment.

A lot of rooms are affected by the phase 1/3 renovation works so there's almost nowhere to move the stuff to. We've got to find space for all the stuff out of the dining room, lounge bar, function room, old kitchen, residents' lounge, old laundry store, our bedroom and numerous storage rooms and cupboards.

There's plenty of space in the cellars beneath the dining room and function room, but they're not exactly dry, so storage there is limited to stuff that isn't going to be affected by damp.

Better go and get the bar ready for opening...

Friday, January 06, 2006


It seems that microsoft is in the news again for the wrong reasons. We can feel quite smug about all these security scares and virus since the system we use at the Spread Eagle is relatively immune to viruses.

I spent yesterday afternoon fitting a new water management system to the gents toilet. The old control unit had been torn off the wall on a particularly boisterous Saturday night. It should have been a simple job, but due to a very low ceiling it involved a lot of grated knuckles and muffled swearing. The new system is now working.

Which is a good thing because this morning the guy from PHS turned up to reclaim the old one despite our having asked them to give us a week's notice. He took the soggy remains of the water management system and the two hand driers.

So this afternoon was spent fitting the new hand driers. The wall was peppered with old rawlplugs, but inevitably they were all at slightly different spacings to the new unit.

We're also preparing to move to a different room in the hotel since our existing bedroom is scheduled to be refurbished and become one of the new letting bedrooms. This involves a lot of moving, rearranging and reorganising. It all has to be done by the end of next week. The residents' lounge will be our sitting room and the adjacent room will be our bedroom.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Normal service has been resumed

Which means it's the post New Year hangover when everyone has run out of money. We had around 7 customers in the bar yesterday and a grand total of £25 for 11 hours work.

We did have some residents though - four Italians who had decided to tour Scotland in January. They're from somewhere even colder than us so it makes sense I suppose.

I was booted out and told to go for a walk this morning. Headed up the Lanton road which is about 1 in 4 at the start, but levels out after a while. From the top you get a great view of the surrounding countryside which improves further up as you lose sight of the town:-)