Sunday, December 31, 2006

Batten down the hatches

Heave to starboard, splice the mainbrace and lash yourselves to the bar me hearties.
Yes, it looks like 2007 is going to begin in stormy style. The street parties planned for Stirling and Glasgow have been cancelled already and if the Edinburgh one doesn't follow soon I'll be surprised. It's a wild night in Jed with winds of 70mph forecast throughout Scotland. The lights have been dimming periodically but we hope that our emergency generator won't be called into service.

Looking at last year's post around this time I see that my new year resolution was not to make any new year resolutions. That one has been kept.

Happy New Year to all our readers. Stay tuned for exciting developments in 2007.

John & Lorna

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas is a time for giving...

Nonsense! Christmas is a time for setting fire to things - as demonstrated last year.
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This year's exploits involved less fire but a lot more smoke.
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This device is called a salamander iron, but is usually sold as a creme brulee iron, which gives a clue to its function. Before the days of miniature blowlamps and electric grills this was how you got that nice dark caramel on top of your creme brulee. As you can see, the iron is heated until very hot...
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then pressed onto the brown sugar on top of the brulee. White sugar does not work nearly as well due, L thinks, to its higher melting point. There is much bubbling and LOTS of smoke...
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and here's the result.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas to all our readers

Wherever you are, Whoever you are.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

More deja vu

Last year I wrote that going to Tesco in Galashiels three days before Christmas probably wasn't the smartest thing to do.
So have a guess what I was doing today, two days before Christmas...

Mad Friday
The last Friday before Christmas is called "mad Friday". The past two years haven't really lived up to the name, but last night did. We had staff, but it was so busy we both ended up helping with serving and glass collection. This morning only two of the guests made it down for breakfast.

Work has finished for the holidays now. One of the last things to be done was this:
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which means that most of the public areas now have new carpets. The front hall has intentionally been left until last. The workmen will be back in January, but before that the insurance company will be sending a loss adjuster to look at the flood damage. That'll be next Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

As I was sitting on the stair

I found the carpet wasn't there
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because the carpet fitters had removed it and taken it to the skip. They've now started fitting the new carpet from 1st to 2nd floor level.

Meanwhile I went to Kelso where a farmers' market was in full swing. Having tried and failed to find Brenda Leddy's farm (Stichill Daries) it was nice to meet the lady herself at one of the stalls. I bought some of her jersey cream and some other goodies. I also met Erica Garratt who lives near Hawick and makes handmade chocolates and puddings.

Joiners and plumber(!) here today along with painters who are painting the area beside the front door. Tomorrow will be pretty well the last day's work before new year. Meanwhile estimates for the work on the outside of the hotel have arrived and are less than we thought they'd be. It's worth noting that we now regard any estimate with fewer than four zeros on the end as reasonable.

I'm skiving tomorrow. Off to Edinburgh for my niece's 19th.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Frosty in Jed (and most of the UK) last night and tonight isn't looking any warmer. I was up at 6 (completely unnecessarily - I just woke up) and had the beer lines and coffee machine cleaned by 8am. We had one guest who arrived late but declared the hotel "very nice in a wonky sort of way" but given that he was in Room 9, which hasn't got anything approaching a level surface, that's fair comment.

Stop press, Shock! Plumber arrives! Hard to believe, but yes, the plumber put in an appearance and the first floor bath is almost connected. Some painting was done in the front hall and the joiner continued the fitting out of the dining room. Another joiner attended to the bedroom windows which were supposed to have been done earlier but weren't. They now all open and all the cracked panes (thank you previous joiners) have been replaced. The carpet fitter arrived and said that they would try to get the carpet laid on the second flight of the main stair. We'd like to leave the first flight and front hall until we're nearly finished. The quote for the flood repair is apparently nearly ready - all that remains is for the electrician to supply his quote,

Monday, December 18, 2006

Now pay attention

You might remember me mentioning common reasons for fires in hotels and restaurants.

Well it seems like Cafe India weren't paying attention to that post since it went up in smoke yesterday. Reports in today's paper say that the fire began when the tandoori oven got out of hand and the flames spread to (wait for it) the extraction system. I'd intended to go there last Monday when I was in Glasgow but it was a wild windy night and we ended up
here instead.

I called the plumber this morning. He said he couldn't get into his van. Some problem with the lock apparently. Full marks for originality anyway. Two electricians and four joiners did appear and we now have power in the new dining room. That's good because it means that the external floodlights are working again, so people walking down the street might just notice that we're here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Penguin power

Yes, Mandriva 2007 has finally arrived.
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and very pretty it is too. Wizzy 3 dimensional desktops and stuff. And unlike 2006, file sharing seems to work too.

There was a brief appearance from the plumber on Friday to fit the new bath in the 1st floor bathroom. Alarm engineers were at work reducing the number of bare wires hanging through the ceilings and the joiner was installing shelves in the new function room bar. Even Belhaven's technical services got in on the act and installed the new T bar font.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Shelf-ish behaviour

Would you believe that this room used to be a bedroom? It's one of the three at the top of the main stair that we planned to turn into a double ensuite and a family ensuite. This room was going to be the ensuite of the double.

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And the fact that it isn't is the main consequence of the structural work we did during the summer. While we're waiting to see if we will get any money from the structural engineers who failed to spot the very obvious fault we've put some shelving in the room. We spent yesterday assembling it.

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This cactus is older than me. It was brought down to the Spread two years ago and treated with wanton cruelty. It got covered in plaster dust when the old kitchen ceiling was removed and I discovered it a couple of weeks ago lying on the floor in one of the unused bedrooms covered in old curtains. It had been there for a month.
And it's about to flower. Given that it's a Christmas flowering cactus that seems like a reasonable thing for it to do, but it would be just as understandable if it turned brown and died.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On the move

Furniture removals
Although we've been in Jed for two years, a lot of our possessions are still in store in Paisley. Monday saw me driving a hired van to Paisley to collect some of it. I spent Monday evening in the Republic bier halle in Glasgow (Krusovice dark beer, most excellent - may be appearing at the Spread very soon). Drove back to Jed on Tuesday to unload and then took the van back today. The weather which was bad on Monday and worse on Tuesday was worse still today: howling gale and driving rain.

Meanwhile we've got back to the situation where work is progressing so slowly that it's difficult to tell what, if anything has been done. Work on the servery in the dining room has ground to a halt, the plumber is nowhere to be seen, the electricians haven't been here for two weeks and the fire alarm engineers seem to have given up on us as well. And as for the function room- well don't try to book it any time soon.

Wicksie, thanks for your comment. No, despite being "transmitted to the logistical platform" there is no sign of the new Mandriva OS. An apologetic message from customer services about a week ago said that they were "restocking" or suchlike. How long does it take to burn a dvd I wonder.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Walter walter everywhere

Well, not exactly. But Sir Walter Scott has been restored to his rightful position on the main stair now that the painting there is complete. Sir Walter was a frequent visitor to the Spread Eagle due to his work as a judge at the court in Jedburgh.

Two new supermarkets opened in Galashiels recently. Asda opened a couple of weeks ago and Tesco opened last week. Despite being a new building costing £ nmillion (where n is a large positive integer) I see from the local newspaper that they had problems with a leaking roof:-)

The public bar's busy tonight and, as the more perceptive of you will have noticed, I'm not working there tonight. Yay! I do like working Saturday evenings because it's busy, but equally it's nice to get an evening off once in a while.

Meanwhile we've been wasting our free time here. Very addictive!

For people wishing to leave comments
Apologies if you have not been able to do this. I switched to Blogger Beta a few weeks ago and noticed today that you have to explicitly allow comments on each post. I wondered where Aarlene had got to!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A tale of two stairs

Bad things have happened this week. Let's ignore them and concentrate on good things.
For example...
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This is the main stair looking very pretty. It used to be dark wood and was extremely gloomy. Now it's the same colour scheme as the front hall, though since it was painted by proper painters it looks much better. You can also see the new handrail which was added last week. The only thing remaining to do here is the new carpet which will look something like this...
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This is the stair leading to the bedrooms and it's been carpeted, painted and generally prettied up. We need to find something to stand in the little alcove in place of the green street lamp.
Elsewhere, the 1st floor bathroom is being fitted out. We'll be using that as our own bathroom in a few weeks.

I ordered a copy of the new Linux operating system from Mandriva and tonight I got an email telling me that my order had been "transmitted to our logistical platform".

Which means, I think, that it has been put on a lorry for delivery.
Lorna's uncle Guy has enlightened me on some of my networking problems. "Routers are a pain in the neck" and "internal wireless cards are pants" seemed to summarise the situation and I think I'd come to roughly the same conclusion myself.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Food fights

Gastronomes should probably avoid Chicago now.
To see why have a look

I don't actually like the stuff that much. We had some earlier in the year with a bottle of Chateau d'Yquem which was sublime and remains by far the most expensive bottle of wine I've ever bought. The ideal accompaniment for it is supposed to be foie gras so I scampered along to Jenners and got a little tin of it. They went together beautifully but I'm sure if we had to we could find something equally calorific to complement the wine.

Of course if they ever think about banning Chateau d'Yquem (cruelty to grapes etc) then I'll be first to man the barricades!

Cruelty to hotel owners, however appears to be perfectly acceptable and not yet outlawed by the European parliament. The function room is drying out nicely, but rumour has it that the whole ceiling will have to be replaced. It's an insurance job so cost is not the problem, but the mess and time delay are. The insurance company swore on their auntie's grave that they'd be in touch to arrange a time to come and see the damage, but there has been no sign of them.

Painting continues, carpeting of the back stair began today (about 2/3 done) and plumbing in the 1st floor bathroom continues. Two guests in.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Apres le deluge, moi

Visits from joiners' and painters' supervisors today to view the depressing scene in the function room. All the ceiling paper will have to come off along with the paper on the end wall and the plasterboarding above the walkway to the beer garden. It's unclear at the moment whether the ceiling in the function room will have to be replaced. The insurance company are sending an assessor to have a look.

A family who stayed with us a week ago have written a very positive review of the hotel on laterooms. There have been times recently (lots of them) when we've had trouble remembering why on earth we're here and things like that help to remind us. Thank you!

I spent this morning (well, twenty minutes of it anyway) loading Linux Mandrake 8.2 on a spare PC. This is because Kylix, the development software I use is only certified to work on that version. It is possible to find workarounds for later distributions, but the number of annoying faults that this causes makes reverting to the earlier version worthwhile. 8.2 dates from 2002 (ancient history in software terms) and looks rather quaint - imagine the look of Windows 3.1 with the functionality of '98. It loads in a fraction of the time of the current version, though it has no idea what a DVD is! I look forward to being able to add a new form to a project without the whole thing hanging up.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Just when you think everything's under control...

At around 5pm tonight a 15 year old push fit connector on a 22mm hot water pipe under the bath in room 4 blew off. Fortunately (and completely accidentally) Lorna spotted it about twenty minutes later, but by then several hundred gallons of hot water had been dumped on the function room. Our plumber who we have been so rude about in the past attended within ten minutes and has now most favoured nation status.

Things could have been a lot worse. No paint finishes or carpets were damaged - the function room has not been carpeted yet. The room and everything in it is pretty soggy though. We'll need to wait until morning to assess any damage.

Time for another beer.