Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Then, all of a sudden

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Regular visitors to this site will know that since mid November last year the beer garden has been closed to the public due to the structural work in the function room above. A month ago... forget that, a day ago, the area was thick with dust, sand and builders' junk.

Today that was all cleared away and, while we can't open the beer garden to the public until the boarding is replaced under the pend, we can go out there.

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So here's the inaugural pint of Wylam's golden tankard.

There was work inside today too. The steelwork was fitted in the old kitchen and brickwork fitted round it. Now we wait for the joiners on Monday...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

After the dust settles...

There's certainly been a lot of dust today. The builders were here knocking holes for a steel beam in the upstairs kitchen. This is the last piece of steelwork to go in and should happen this week assuming the b***dy thing arrives. D**** was here today too and met the joiners, fire alarm people, plumber, butcher, baker and candlestick maker all of whom have a valuable contribution to make, The joiners will be here next Monday, or earlier if the job in Hawick gets finished sooner than expected. That's more fallout from Denholm school going up in smoke - they're building the temporary replacement.

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The big props were removed from the function room yesterday and the doors on the top floor either jam or don't close properly now. The overall movement at the centre of the room is probably under half a centimetre, but that seems to have been enough.


I'm sometimes asked if I regret buying the Spread Eagle. My usual reply is - about three times a day, but only in eight hour stretches.

It's five to seven on a bright sunny morning and I'm up to serve breakfast to one of our resident workmen before getting ready for the other six residents at about half past seven. In between I'll start cleaning the beer lines.

Or I'll sit here and drink coffee and play sudoku...

I'm reluctant to say that this is the week when the renovations really get going because I'm sure I've said that every week since January. However, Finlaysons take over as principal contractor today and the manpower problems that have caused delays in the past have been resolved. So nothing can go wrong - can it? D**** (project manager) will be here today to check progress and discuss the finer detail of the work with Finlaysons.

The ceiling in the old kitchen has been removed revealing some very dodgy looking beams. Most of the timbers are staying in place only because the woodworm are holding hands. A steel beam is going in there, once the old hoist has been taken out. The new hoist, despite being called a microlift, is 100mm deeper than the old one. We're not installing it now due to the cost, but the space for it has to be left for later installation.

Real ale arrives from the Wylam brewery today. Because of low sales we don't keep a large stock (see previous postings) so if we have a couple of moderately busy days we sell out. We haven't had any ale since Sunday, but today's delivery is "bright" beer which should be able to go on sale immediately.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ask me about pins

Beer comes in all sorts of containers.
The biggest, the tun is 216 gallons. Half a tun (108 gallons)is a butt often used to hold rainwater.

A hogshead is half the size of a butt. Halfway between a butt and a hogshead is a puncheon at 72 gallons.

A barrel at 36 gallons is half a puncheon and used to be the size distributed to pubs. That's why the Cross Keys up the road at Ancrum has a huge winch in the restaurant area which was used to move barrels of beer when the cellar was there. Breweries still price everything in barrels which is extremely confusing.

A kilderkin is half a barrel (18 gallons) and a firkin is half a kilderkin (9 gallons). The firkin is the normal size for cask ale. Keg beer is distributed in 11 gallon containers (nominally 50 litres - though everyone still calls them "elevens" just as firkins are "nines")

At the bottom of the heap all alone is the pin, the runt of the litter holding only 4.5 gallons. We've been using pins for our cask ale because of low sales. We can usually clear a pin in a week where we'd be struggling to sell a nine.

But not this weekend. Farne Island went on sale on Friday and we'd sold three gallons of it by 7pm this evening. At this rate it won't last until tomorrow. We're getting a delivery from the Wylam brewery on Tuesday, but we may have a real ale-free day on Monday.

Late check-in

11pm to be exact. A trio from Colorado who had understimated the time taken to travel in this country. They hadn't even had time for dinner, so we sent them down to the Indian restaurant which, thankfully was still serving. We also had a couple from Normandy who are taking part in the continental market which is taking place today and tomorrow. A nice selection of wine, Spanish sausages, smelly cheese, Breton biscuits, flowers and nougat. It seemed to be well attended, it's just a pity it's a one off.

Building work
A wee bit of finishing off of the brickwork round the new steel beams. Nothing more til Wednesday.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Inaccurate information

I've just realised, from looking here that one piece of information on our website is wrong. The hotel was first licensed in 1604 not 1603. The other two, as you'll see from that link above were The Kings House and The Crook Inn , though the Crook Inn got Art - Deco-ed with a vengeance and doesn't actually look that old. It does claim to be the oldest licensed coaching inn in Scotland which may well be right since we're a hotel. Whether we were a hotel or an Inn in 1604 (or even 1603) is open to debate.

Market forces
There's a continental market this weekend in Jedburgh. Rain is forecast. We have two of the stall holders staying with us tonight and tomorrow. They are from Normandy and make Calvados.

Nothing likely to happen this weekend. There is a changeover of principal contractor with the building firm finishing off and the joinery/roofing/decorating firm taking over.

No room at the Inn

Four friendly Austrians showed up last night looking for two double rooms. We only had one double room left, so they stayed at Mrs Irvine's B&B instead. They did come back later for some malt whisky. They liked Glenfiddich and Glenlivet but were not so keen on Talisker which, although from Skye has the smoky antiseptic taste characteristic of Islay malts. Glenlivet is a milder tasting malt and Glenfiddich is just plain boring.

Currently there's no-one booked in tonight, but we are full for the following four days. It's a bank holiday weekend you see (the third this month) and the weather has turned cold and wet in preparation for it.

Thanks for your comments Aarlene. The picture makes the hall look better than it is - it's actually very dark despite the new lights, so we're going to paint the bottom half a light terracotta with contrasting colour on the mouldings. The walls above will be white as will the front doors.

The current work involves restoring the function room (where all the structural stuff happened), a complete refit of one of the family rooms and a refit of the bathroom of the other one, refitting the upstairs kitchen and turning the old lounge bar into a breakfast/dining room.
All that should be finished at the end of the first week of July.
There's also work going on with electrical, water and drainage throughout the building.

After that we need to stop and see if we can afford to do anything else this year. If we can, we'll get the four rooms at the front of the building refurbished and do some general decoration of the public areas. That may have to wait until later in the year though. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Siberian summer

It's bright and sunny in Jed, but the temperature is in single figures. That didn't stop the blacksmiths yesterday and the steelwork is now finished.

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There will be some big double doors between the two nearest posts. The joiners are going to start next Wednesday with a small team concentrating mainly on bedroom 5. The following week the reinstatement of the function room, old lounge bar and upstairs kitchen will start in earnest,

Meanwhile, we've been looking at colour charts and trying to decide what colour to paint the bar. We've decide to paint only the top half of the walls and leave the rest wood coloured. The colour we've decided on is called "buttermilk" and is... well, sort of buttermilk coloured.

Some nice new lights for the back bar have arrived and they will allow us to use low energy spotlights there.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Typical. You wait all week for a tradesman and then four turn up at once

It would have been five, but the blacksmiths were on a first aid course. They'll be here tomorrow.
Take a look at this:
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This used to be the old kitchen and the corridor leading to the bedrooms. The partition wall was removed today and you can see how the room looked before it was turned into a kitchen. A steel beam is going to be fitted to the ceiling this week and then a new (fireproof) partition will be fitted.

All of which poses a problem for the National Museum of Scotland who want that lift contraption at the back of the room. We will have to try to avoid reducing it to matchsticks when we take it out.

Also installed today were some new lights in the front hall.
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Nice aren't they?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

It's a gas

Persistent problems with "fobbing" (that's too much froth) on our beers has seen several visits from tech services. This morning they were back. John Smiths. Belhaven Best and Guinness were all pouring badly and a lot of wasted beer was resulting. Much head scratching until he noticed the cylinder of mixed gases which feeds these three beers...

The correct mix is 70/30 - 70% Nitrogen and 30% CO2. The cylinder had 70/30 written on the side of it, but the little tag attached to the tap at the top said 60/40. The extra 10% CO2 was enough to cause the problems we'd been having.

The builders were back today to do some brickwork. No more activty expected until Monday. I'll take some pictures when the steelwork's complete.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Out of cheese error

A recent request for gaelic coffee had me scurrying down to the Co-op for a pot of cream. Yes, we're prepared for any eventuality here.
Most of the day, however, was spent wrestling with a recalcitrant computer program. I can't be too rude about the author of this software though as it was me. Lorna knits interesting wooly creations and I knit interesting wooly programs. Hers may well have more practical value in the long run.

Todays's software train-smash was a procedure to close the accounts for year 2004-2005. The fact that our financial year ended on the 31st of October last year and I'm only now writing closing entries is not entirely my fault - I had to wait for adjustments and stuff from the accountant.
Anyway, the "closing the books" procedure was badly written. Extraordinarily badly written. I found myself looking at blocks of code in total bewilderment thinking "what halfwit wrote this nonsense!" and then remembering that I did. I wrote most of it three years ago when I knew very little about accounting and not much more about Delphi programming.

Anyway. It's done, the books are closed and all the entries seem to make sense. It's a diversion from the building site.

Ah, you were wondering about that? Well, apart from a brief visit from the joiners to finish the temporary platform nothing today. Tomorrow the blacksmiths will arrive with their scissor hoist and the remaining steelwork will be fitted. Also, the plumber will be here to start the replacement of the water main. There may be some other activity, but I wouldn't place any bets.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Museum piece

I emailed the national museum of scotland a few weeks ago concerning the old mechanical dumbwaiter. As I hadn't heard anything I assumed that they weren't interested.

Today, however, we got a phone call from someone at the museum who was very interested indeed. The main reason seemed to be that the manufacturer (John Bryden of Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow) was one that they had never heard of. They're checking their collection and will be in touch later.

Although there's been good progress so far this week we are still months behind schedule and the busiest season is worryingly close. No planning permission yet.
I contacted planning again today and was told that a few minor problems remained. The architectural advisory committee (who they? - ed) has expressed concerns about our intention to replace the main lettering on the front of the building with plastic ones and think that the replacements should be made of wood. In a rare outbreak of common sense Borders Council think this as silly as we do - they're about 7 metres up: no-one running for their life will notice. However a report has to be prepared for them. "Planning consent should be fairly soon now" says the planning officer. She's been saying that for weeks now. Grrrrrrrr.

Two steps forward, one step backwards

Take a look at this...
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The timber joists are in place and a temporary floor has been installed for the blacksmiths and builders to work off. The builders were in to cut holes in the wall for the high level steelwork. At one end everything went fine. At the other...
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There's a big hole. There's also what looks like a steel beam holding the wall above, but of course this being the Spread Eagle, it's actually wood.
The solution? Another vertical steel beam joining the end of the low level frame already installed. That'll be happening on Thursday. MEANWHILE...

A big hole has appeared outside the back kitchen door and that's where the new water main will be installed tomorrow. This will bypass the current plumbing nightmare of lead joining copper joining plastic joining iron and not a stop valve in sight.

Room 5 has been taken out of commission and a complete strip out will begin tomorrow. Here's how it looked this morning...
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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Highly decorated

We've had the estimator in from a painting company. He looked at the plywood panelling round the bar which we want painted and looked dubious. Very dubious. He didn't exactly rock back on his heels and suck air in through his teeth, but you get the idea. The problem, it seems, is that the existing wood is varnished and, to paint it, you first have to remove the varnish.

That takes time.
And time is money.

We'd very much like to brighten up both the bar and entrance hall. After all, the entrance hall is the first thing guests see when they walk in off the street and at present it's half dark and distincly shabby. Paint, new carpets and better lighting will make a big difference. I see long paint-smeared weeks stretching ahead of me...

Lorna's uncle has been in the news... for not being in the news... well - he was, but it wasn't him.
Confused? Have a look here

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Promises promises

The joiners will be here tomorrow. Really they will. Definitely, absolutely, certainly.
Well, we'll believe it when we see it.
They will also be working Saturday to make up for lost time. So that means the blacksmiths and builders should be back on Tuesday.
Not too much of delay then, but with the good weather forecast to end soon, we could do with access to the beer garden.

Tired by my own pet hoist

Would anyone like this?

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The frame is largely wooden and I can't guarantee that it will be possible to remove it in a working condition. The hoist mechanism is cast iron, very heavy and in working order. Currently operating between two floors (about 8ft drop).

If you are interested please contact the hotel or leave a comment on the blog.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

(Three) phased upgrade

Electricians turned up this morning to start a complete re-installation of the electrical systems in the building. The current layout consists of an ancient main switch feeding an equally ancient distribution board which feeds domestic fuse boards tastefully attached to the walls in positions which are both unsightly and inaccessible.

New main switches (4 in total) are being installed and big 3 phase cables are being run to strategic locations (mainly around the old kitchen) where new distribution boards will be installed. Lots of hammering banging and sawing, but all the boards were replaced before the guests arrived back.

No joiners though. That's annoying because they said they would definitely be here today and their non-appearance is holding everything up. D**** is trying to get another firm to carry out the work instead.

Brownie points to the maker of the dishwasher (see yesterday's post) as the required spare part arrived this morning and the machine is working again:-)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Once more unto the bleach

There was a pool of water under the dishwasher this morning and it seemed to be getting bigger as I did the breakfast washing up. So, once the bar was open it was out with the screwdrivers and off with the front cover of the machine.

Nothing visible. Odd. I took the bottom off the machine as well, but nothing was visibly wet. Then I decided to mop up the water with kitchen paper. This led to a number of interesting sensations.

Sensation #1 This water feels slimy
Sensation #2 This water smells of chlorine
Sensation #3 My fingers are burning- Aaarghhh!

The detergent (which in commercial machines is basically concentrated bleach) is pumped into the machine by a peristaltic pump - a smaller version of the kind used in medical situations. Two little rotating wheels squeeze a rubber tube and the detergent is moved along into the machine.

Or in our case out of the split in the tube and all over the floor.

With memories or £90 call out charges fresh in the memory I phoned the manufacturer and the part's on its way for a grand total of £12. L says the kitchen smells like a forensic lab. The floor is certainly very very clean.

No building work today, though the estimator for one of the joiners turned up thinking D*** was here (he's here a week tomorrow). There should be some joinery activity tomorrow. Oh, and the electrician's coming to install some new main switchgear and run four new feeds to various parts of the building.

And it's lovely weather. There's no-one in the bar, but lots of people standing outside holding pints in one hand and cigarettes in the other.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Turning the tables

It's been a brilliantly sunny day in Jed and our new aluminium tables have been in use outside the bar. Until the beer garden's accessible again, these tables will be very useful.

Progress remains maddeningly slow on the building front. The blacksmiths turned up this morning to weld some extra pieces to the horizontal girders (very minor - not worth a picture) and the joiners will be here on Wednesday to install the timber flooring. That will take more than one day, so we're probably looking at next week before the remaining steelwork can be put in.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Jed Sevens

"So, Who won?"
"Who won - you know, the rugby"
"Oh, right. Sorry I was in the tent the whole afternoon"
"Do you know who won?"
"Won what?"
"The sevens. Who won it?"
"Err. I think we got put out in the quarter finals"
"That wasn't what I asked"
"Ask him he was playing"
"Who won the sevens?"
"Don't know. We got put out in the quarter finals"
"I know. I just heard that - Any idea who won the sevens mate?"
"Naw sorry I was in the tent all afternoon. I think we got put out in..."
".. the quarter finals. Yes I heard."

Heriots won.

We think.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Drowning laundry.
For reasons unknown neither of us managed to set foot inside the laundry today. This gave the laundry monster plenty of time to grow, so that when I went in this morning there was an enormous heap of sheets and towels lurking within. We've been attacking it steadily today, but when the new rooms are finished we will have to outsource our laundry. Most people around here use NHS direct which is part of the Borders General Hospital in Melrose. They do the sheets and towels - we do the duvet covers and anything else that needs more than just a basic wash.

Building work - none today. Builders will be here early tomorrow.
Also tomorrow is the Jed sevens. Take cover!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Progress is slow

... very slow.

Slower than a very slow thing that isn't moving very fast.
The steelwork should have been almost completed by now. Some additional work was done on Wednesday but there has been no action today.
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Here's today's view (and yestedays for that matter) The original plan was to continue fitting the rest of the steelwork before the joiners arrived to fit the floor and clad the wall.

However, a decision was made that, now that the floor level steel is in, it would be a better idea to fit a temporary floor for the blacksmiths to work off. This means that the joiners are needed earlier than planned.

And the joiners are busy. Very busy. All the building and joinery firms in the Borders seem to have more than enough work and getting hold of anyone, even with a project manager - appears to be difficult in the extreme. It's all very annoying.

But not nearly as annoying as Scottish Borders Council. Our architect phoned them a couple of days ago and was told that they hadn't had any information back from Historic Scotland.
I phoned Historic Scotland this morning and was told that all the plans had been passed and returned to the council two weeks ago.


The builders will be in tomorrow to brick up the ends of the cross beams. The joiners will be back on Monday or maybe Tuesday to fit the temporary floor.

Better news is that the electrician is raring to go and will start installation of a completely new distribution system for the hotel on Wedneday. It would have been even earlier but we have to clear the former lounge bar first.

But first
We have the Jed Sevens on Saturday which, last year anyway, was our busiest night of the year. So we'll be kind of preoccupied this weekend.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Unexpected action

Roofers turned up this morning to carry out some repairs on the derelict shed nearest the main building. This is a quick fix to prevent water running down the wall between the shed and the building. I wasn't expecting anyone to turn up since this is a public holiday.

I'm off to Edinburgh today and Paisley/Glasgow tomorrow to pick up some more Andechs beer and take some stuff to our store in Paisley. L will be left minding the shop for the moment. The blacksmiths will be back tomorrow, D**** will be here on Wednesday.

The painter's estimate arrived - how we laughed. So my trip to Edinburgh will include a visit to B&Q to get some paint samples.

With the builders skip out the back we decided to have a grand throw-out this morning. Old tellies, microwaves and unwanted junk have been unceremonially dumped in the skip.