Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The lights are going out all over Jedburgh

and to prove it...

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here's the infamous street light about to be consigned to the scrap heap by Lorna...

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and here it is on the skip. Guess who carried it downstairs (clue - he does not appear in the photos)

Meanwhile, our tepid hero continues his attempt to drag the Spread Eagle into the 21st century by installing network cables. He locates a position above the ceiling of the corridor leading to the bar, carefully measures the distance between spotlight and wall and drills a hole in the ceiling...

..which can't be found from above. Also, the drill bit seems to be drilling through lots of wood.

Much swearing (under breath of course - this is a family blog)

Another hole is drilled slightly closer to the spotlight. Distances are measured to the millimetre. Hole is not visible from above.

Much swearing (louder this time)

Her ladyship swans in in her dressing gown and asks stupid questions such as "Are you sure it's the right spotlight?" (there are three in a row)

Our hero goes very quiet, goes downstairs and re-measures everything from below, then drills yet another hole - this time next to the middle spotlight...

Returns to find her ladyship looking smug. This happens quite often.

The cables are now mostly installed...

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Here is a picture showing both the network cables and the truly disastrous state of the floorboards. Visitors through the summer who noticed that the floor went "DOINK" when you stood on it - here's why.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stand by to repel boarders

We're closed. Well, the hotel is - until about four weeks on Friday. We've spent the morning clearing rooms 2 - 4. Some of the furniture was unceremonially dumped on the skip, the rest was put into room 5 for the time being. New furniture will arrive before the renovation work finishes, but being of a pessimistic nature we're assuming that something will go wrong.
But so far so good. Everyone's turned up - carpet fitters to remove carpets, electricians, plumbers, painters, joiners. D***** is here tomorrow to check that everything is happening as planned.

There is a green street lamp in the alcove on the stairs to the bedrooms. Why it's there is a mystery. Why it's still there after two years was even more of a mystery. It seems that L*** thought I liked it, while I thought she liked it. Today we realised that we both think it's horrible. So it's in the skip too:-)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dismal days

It was dark, drizzly and damp this morning. The bar's been very quiet for the past few days but hopefully Friday and Saturday will make up for it. When we were looking for a property we included a public bar as one of the essentials since it would bring in money during the quiet periods.

It wouldn't be included now.

Although it pays its way even in the darkest months of winter it's not a huge moneyspinner. It also means that at least one of us has to be here all the time. Standing in an almost empty bar for long periods is not the most exciting pastime and it promises to be a long winter.

But that quietness might just be a selling point. Lots of guests comment on how quiet the bedrooms are and there's a big potential market just an hour up the road in Edinburgh. With nice food, a comfortable lounge to... er lounge in, nice bedrooms and beautiful countryside who could resist:-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Facing facts

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Yes, the door facings have been fitted! Only eight weeks late! They were subcontracted and the subcontractor... didn't. so these ones were made by our tame joiner. I would mention him by name, but I know he reads this and I don't want him to get big headed:-) Anyway "Be nice to joiners" week was last week.

Other stuff. The new light fittings are up in the function room and look fab, but I'm going to wait for completion before showing a photo. The painters have now moved next door and are working on the residents' lounge. There have been plasterers working in the new dining room too.

The new kitchen has power now and the extractor seems to extract. It's much less noisy than the current one as the motor is outside (and a lot quieter anyway) so we should be able to communicate without having to lip read.

Monday is the grand close down. We'll be shut until almost the end of November. The floors will be up which will give ample opportunity to run all those network and telephone cables that I meant to do last month.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


A newspaper advertisement for an English ale has been banned, according to today's paper. The advert apparently showed a young girl dressed in low cut mediaeval dress sitting on a bale of hay with the caption "I love a session on the Bishop's Finger"

I suppose they have a point. (Bishop's finger is the name of the beer)

When we were thinking of advertising slogans, one early suggestion was "Come and get Spreadeagled in Jedburgh" which, on reflection would probably have attracted the wrong kind of customers.

A couple of walkers were in our bar the night before last - attracted by our real ale. They weren't staying with us though, because they'd looked on the website of the walk they were doing and we weren't on it.

Clearly we should be.

Aarlene - thanks for your comments. We have of course done a huge amount over the past year, but very little of it was planned or predicted at this time last year. It's been a very difficult year and behind all those (hopefully) entertaining blog postings have been two very stressed, very frazzled owners trying hard not to bite each other's heads off. There have been times (lots of them) during the past year when we felt like going for a long drive and not coming back. Hopefully things will be better this year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The best laid plans of mice and men...

End of year two. Here's what I predicted would happen this year. Let's see if any of it did happen.

In the next 12 months we intend to...

Refurbish both kitchens
Almost finished one

Begin serving food in the rooms which are currently the lounge bar and tv room
That didn't happen. Forecast for Eater, but don't book just yet

Create two new bedrooms in the rooms at the top of the main stair
Nope, didn't do that either. We have done a lot of work in the other bedrooms though

Create a suite half way up the main stair (to be used by us in the medium term)
Amazingly enough that didn't happen either. It still looks like a mediaeval dungeon in there.

Replace the main stair railings
Not done due to excessive cost. We're planning to add a handrail to make the current railings look more finished, but no instruction has been issued.

Turn the current room 9 into an office
Oh, I remember that! We were going to turn the current office into the new ladies' toilet or something. Didn't happen.

Improve the toilets on the first floor
That's actually going to happen to a limited extent as part of the November works

Stabilise the derelict outbuildings

Improve the decor
Getting there!

Increase our customer base
From pretty close to zero. Yes, I suppose we have to some extent.

Best thing we've done in the last 12 months: Appointed JDI of Nottingham as our project managers.
Ah, what a difference a year makes! We had a bit of a falling out with them and now use D**** who was then employed as a consultant. JDI have since gone into receivership (Ahhh shame!)

Worst thing we've done in the last 12 months: Employed Roofing Direct of Edinburgh.
They've also gone into receivership. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of cowboys!

OK, so that was the year that was. With most of the scary building work nearing completion it's time to make predictions for 2006/7 Here we go:

1) We're going to start serving evening meals to residents only and bar meals to the general public in April 2007

2) We're going to attract the kind of people we want to stay here. That's walkers, cyclists, bikers, golfers and shooting and fishing folk.

3) We're going to improve occupancy outwith weekends by offering midweek dinner B&B packages.

4) We may get the outside of the hotel improved with new paint, lettering and lighting.

Last year's list was mostly concerned with renovation work and, apart from work already instructed, we're not planning to do any more in the coming year. So the list this year is a bit shorter. Let's have another look in 12 months time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The long dark days of winter

Remaining to do
A lot of painting has been done, but there's still a lot to do. The function room is nearly finished but the other two rooms (residents' lounge and new dining room) haven't been started yet.
New furniture for the bedrooms arrives in the second week of November and it'll be stored in the function room until the bedrooms are ready for it.

November closedown
We've just given the go-ahead for the last major work in the hotel. This includes rewiring and redecoration work in the bedrooms, renovation of the ground floor and first floor gents' toilet and new carpets almost everywhere. The only other thing we want to get done is new lettering, lighting and painting on the front of the hotel. That involves scaffolding the whole front of the building and will therefore be expensive. We'll need to wait until the November work is finished and paid before we make a decision to continue.

"Loose the winter blues" urged an advertisement for Crieff Hydro which we spotted in the Saturday paper. We've got enough problems without winter blues on the loose!

Second anniversary
We've been here two years on Wednesday! Can you believe that? Time to make bold (and completely wrong) predictions for the coming year. Whatever happens it can't be as bad as this one!

Meanwhile it's been a beautiful day here in Jed. Lorna went out for a walk and took some pictures. Here's one I like...
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Special delivery

A week past Friday I ordered a reel of network cable so that I could have telephone and computer points in the bar, new breakfast room and other locations. I wanted to get it before the plywood sheeting was fixed to the floor in the breakfast room and was told that delivery would take 2 - 3 working days.

It hadn't arrived by Thursday so I checked the DHL parcel tracking service.
The parcel had started its journey in Manchester
Then it had travelled to Carlisle
Then it had travelled to Dumfries
Then it had taken fright and scuttled back to Manchester and finally had made its way to the south of England with its tail between its legs.

I emailed DHL asking what had happened and I got a reply

"We apologise for the delay of you parcel but we believe that the senders have put the
wrong postcode on the parcel and because our systems run off postcodes they can not recognise

The parcel arrived today. It had the correct postcode on it.
Meanwhile the joiners have been busy laying plywood sheeting in the new breakfast room and fixing it to the floor with lots of screws.


Bad words!

Sunday, October 15, 2006


I was watching a report on News24 about the new Wembley stadium which is months behind schedule and squillions of pounds over budget.

It's not just us then.

Saturday was busy and just about made up for the shortcomings of the previous week. We have two guests tonight and the bar has been busy today too. We have a few bookings for the week ahead and then a busy weekend.

The finishing tape is in sight, but doesn't seem to be getting any closer. The function room ceiling was papered and carpets and paint colours have been chosen. The second phase of work starts on the 30th of October which will probably be the same day as the first phase is signed off.

There are some big scary bills heading our way this week. The joiners, who are the main contractors didn't submit an invoice last month, so we have to pay for most of the work that's gone on over the summer. I won't go into details, but suffice to say it's going to cost considerably more than my first flat in Glasgow.

But the scope of work has increased - quite substantially - so that after the second stage of renovations in November we will have the majority of the hotel fully restored, with only the unused rooms on the main stair untouched. We'll have five refurbished ensuite bedrooms, a new function room, residents lounge (with woodstove) a new breakfast room (eventually becoming the dining room) and a small but perfectly formed kitchen.

We'll also have new carpets, new lighting, a substantial part of a new fire alarm system, new plumbing and improved decoration in the public corridors.

Mary Walker who lived here in the past (see here for details) dropped by last week on her way to a holiday. She was last here a year ago and was impressed by how much we'd done. Because we live here and see the progress or lack of it at first hand we tend to get a bit jaded and cynical (not that you could tell from my blog - Oh no!) about the whole thing. But two years ago we had no experience of running any business, none of running a hotel and limited experience of building works. It's nearly the end of our second year here, so it might soon be time to sit down and work out exactly what has happened this year.

Friday, October 13, 2006

First impressions

The exterior of the hotel needs work. It currently looks at best run down and at worst closed. Until recently that reflected the actual state of the place pretty accurately but with our renovation of the bedrooms and public area entering its final stages we need to make improvements to what the visitors see as they approach.

What do they see at present?

The building is dark because the floodlights aren't working. That's temporary but it adds to the closed feeling. The front windows are dark because the rooms at the front are not in use and the lettering is falling to pieces.

So, you say. Why not just give it a lick of paint and some new lettering? Well, it's not that simple. Because it's a listed building we have to have paint colours, lettering and lighting approved both by Borders Council and Historic Scotland. I want to change the lighting - there are currently two big floodlights which light up the wall and nothing else.

Surprisingly the council approves of the kind of lights I want - small floodlights above the lettering. But we still need to submit pictures of what they look like. Then we have to get the front of the building scaffolded and while we're doing that we may as well get any roof repairs done.

We're going to close during November to get the remainder of the rewiring and redecoration of the bedrooms done. Once we've worked out how much money we have left we can decide whether or not to go ahead with the front.

Meanwhile it's been a truly crap week. I mean absolutely rubbish, About three hotel guests and not many more bar customers. Tonight is relatively busy and we hope tomorrow will go some way to making up for it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

board stiff

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If you didn't see yesterday's picture then you'll say "what a mess", but if you did, you'll say "what an improvement". Our plasterer has been a busy fellow and as well as plastering this entire wall he's also been filling in gaps and finishing off bits in the other rooms.

We've chosen some very nice light fittings for the three rooms. Frazer - you'll know what I mean...
To see a picture of them go to lighting styles website (the link is in the previous post) and type harlech into the "search for" box. We're getting the bronze finish ones.

The bar has been very quiet today and, due to the ongoing staff shortage we were doing the whole lot ourselves. We have a new start on Saturday though, so it looks as though we will have some help through the winter.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Traditional building methods

Scotland beating France 1-0 at football? That's something you don't see very often.

Here's another thing you don't see very often
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It's the new dining room and it's looking far from finished.

The wall to the left of the picture is called a "stud partition" and consists of wooden beams with wee strips of wood called lath attached to them. The plaster is applied to the lath and sticks to it.

Well, usually it does, but as you can see here it's all fallen off. The wall to the right of the picture didn't have any lath - the plaster was stuck straight onto the stone and, again, it's all fallen off.

Looking a bit less like a bomb site...
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we have the function room nearing completion. The new bar is taking shape and the cornicing and ceiling are pretty well complete. We have to decide on colours. Soon.

Ages ago I promised you pictures of the bathroom of Room 5.
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and here it is. The lighted mirrors are very pretty and less than £100 each. Available from lighting styles if you fancy one.

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The bath looks pretty good as well. We'll be closing in November to complete the renovation of the other two bathrooms and the rest of the rewiring of that side of the building. Room 9 on the other side of the building will be made ensuite and the gents toilet on the ground floor will be getting renovated.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The perils of cleaning...

"You alright?"
"Where are you?"
"Ladies toilet"
"Ah, you stood up underneath the hand dryer didn't you?"

In case you're all getting worried about what I was doing in the ladies' toilet - I was cleaning the floor with a cloth. I have a large lump on my head to prove this and am generally not a happy bunny:-(


Photos have returned from the chemist (how quaint) which show some views of Arran taken on my trip last week.

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Back home, the niche discovered in the old lounge bar has now been uncovered in all its glory...
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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Stone soup

I'm reading "Never had it so good", Dominic Sandbrook's history of postwar britain. It's a social as well as political history and contains this wonderful description (from Egon Ronay) of what was on offer in a West Country hotel in 1957:

"Grapefruit cut into segments which were put back with all the pith left on, sour but heavily sugared. Minestrone which was some sliced vegetables in coloured water. Scampi, the Mediterranean fish but still tough and tasteless, served with 'mayonnaise' poured from a bottle into a sauceboat round the corner. Roast beef, cut thin, overcooked to brownness, lying in weak beef extract gravy..."

My father used to like to go to places like that - starched tablecloths, shiny silverware, high prices and bloody awful food.

I get the feeling that this is the kind of stuff that the Spread Eagle would have been serving until quite recently. The setup in the old still room said it all: the dumbwaiter up which the unfortunate chunk of meat would be sent, the old hot cupboard to keep it warm and the wee aluminium rings that remind me of school dinners which were to keep the plates apart.

We've been mopping up the odd bottle of nice pink wine from the Co-op along with kettle chips and dips. Tonight we had run out of dips and chips and the co-op was shut (Sunday you see) so I went to Alldays which is open later. The only dip they had was a "Pringles sour cream and chive" dip which, when we opened it tasted like cheap salad cream mixed with wallpaper paste. L suggested adding yoghurt.
"What does it need now?"
"More yoghurt"
We added more yoghurt, paprika and lime juice after which it was just about edible. Perhaps they should put the following instructions on the jar:
Step 1: Open jar
Step 2: Empty jar down sink
Step 3: Fill jar with something that vaguely resembles sour cream and chive dip

Still, the pink wine and kettle chips were nice.