Tuesday, January 31, 2006


So I'm supposed to have finished writing up the pattern of Nudibranch to give to Jean so that she can test knit it for me.

Have I done so? Nope. I have been thoroughly distracted by Grumperina's blog, specifically, the lovely lacey hat she has been making. I recently bought the two books of Modern Lace Knitting by Marianne Kinzell, and although I won't be making anything from the patterns as is, I started to wonder about using the centre of some of her tablecloth patterns as the crown of a hat.

I've been knitting and tinking on-and-off for several hours last night, and again this afternoon in the pub (can you tell it's been deader than a dodo), and I think I've come up with something that will work. The rate of increase is not quite what I would like but, having spent much too long trying to chart out modifications that worked, I winged it and will wait and see how the hat looks once it's finished.

Things aren't going to plan with the renovation. A howler along the lines of Harry Potter was dispatched to the project managers today, and we await a response.

The plastering that was finished... isn't quite. I decided to take off the skirting and found a lovely woodworm infestation in one corner (dead, I hope) and a little more plastering needing done. In the meantime I've sealed the rest of the new plaster, and hope to do some painting on Thursday.

Tomorrow I'm off to Edinburgh to a Tourist Forum meeting on Eastern Europe. Apparently this is the next big market for the industry in the UK.

Still absolutely freezing. It was my turn to clean beer lines this week, and the cellar was sitting at 4C i.e. the temperature the beer is normally served at after passing through a huge chiller.

More distrations
I mentioned on Sunday that I was going out for a walk. I took the digital camera with me, and saw lots of things I wouln't necessarily have noticed if I'd just been walking without the camera.

A case in point:
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I didn't even know that house was there, and it's less than five minutes walk from the hotel! I need to try and go back when the light is a bit better, as I could see the path more clearly than the camera could.

Speaking of photos: Franklin, this one's for you....
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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Knitting Olympics: Team Scotland

Yes, I know that we don't compete as a nation in the Real Thing, but the thought of a Knitting Olympics without a Team Scotland seems a bit odd to me.


So, for the purposes of discussion, here are my initial criteria for membership of Team Scotland (tick at least one):
  • You were born in Scotland
  • You live in Scotland
  • You are of Scottish descent (Murray, Campbell, MacAnything, McAnything - yes I know some of those are Irish, but we'll stretch a point, etc)
  • You are cohabiting with someone of Scottish descent
  • You wish you lived in Scotland
  • You can play the bagpipes (or at least like to listen to them)
  • You know what a Dashing White Sargeant is
  • You have eaten haggis
  • You know at least one line of a Rabbie Burns poem
  • You have been bitten by a midgie
  • You have knitted or worn a Fair Isle sweater
  • You have drunk Irn Bru

Any other suggestions?

If anyone knows of someone who is already hosting a Team Scotland, please post here! Otherwise, I'll get to work on a few buttons. As with all other teams, do please post at the Knitting Olympics athletes page if you're going to be taking part.

The plastering is finished. Finally. It's still drying, but yesterday I put the skim plaster on, and I'm really very pleased with how it's turned out. Now all I've got to do is seal, paint, new vinyl, new loo seat, new light fitting.... Hmm, rather more than I thought.

Truly gorgeous today: cold, clear, and I'm going out for a walk!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Thank you, Flanders and Swann

Twas on a Monday morning that the gas man came to call....

In my case it was Sunday, but we'll stretch the point a little.

To summarise:
Due to some deconstructive vandalism, I have been patching up the plaster in the Ladies' loo. Just as I was about to start painting the walls, I noticed another bit of bulging plaster near the door, which I duly chipped off in preparation for more sealing, patching, skimming, and sealing. And then I wondered what could be behind the 1.5m square bit of plywood that was on the wall between the bit I had just patched, and the bit I had just spotted.


Behind the plywood was:
  • 1x2 wooden strapping, the lower parts of which were most definitely rotten. Dry rot: that lovely black, almost burnt-looking effect with square cracks which is unmistakable once you've seen it.
  • old plaster: not horsehair plaster this time (unlike the bedroom wall) but so old that it had pretty much reverted to sand right down to the layer of (possibly) cement or old bond plaster which was still mostly stuck to the stone wall behind.
  • new plaster: a bit about 30cm square, right in the middle of the wall, which wasn't budging at all, and which had to be removed if I was to have any chance at all of getting the new plaster level

As seems to have been the case throughout the building, if something was broken, damaged, or otherwise needing attention, the response was to hide it.

So, we hauled off the wooden strapping (easy peasy) and I then spent three-ish hours with a chisel and hammer, and earplugs, removing the chunk of new plaster in the middle of the wall and as much of the loose old plaster and cement/bond plaster as I could.

At worst, the depth I'm going to have to fill is in the region of 15 - 20cm, so it's going to be a three-to-four-day process just to get the bond plastering done. Too much plaster too quickly tends to result in a disheartening schlopp sort of sound, as it all falls of the wall about 10 minutes after you've cleaned up.

Silver lining
We've suspected, from old maps, that what is now the Ladies' was originally an entrance either into the building, or to a narrow covered walkway called either a close or a vennel depending on where in Scotland it is.

Underneath all the perished plaster I found the first faced stone I've seen in the construction of the building. It certainly looks like a possible entrance, and the size and shape match the now-defunct second front door to the building which is directly behind (or in front, depending on whether you're facing the street or not) the putative entrance.

Pictures will follow, but first I need to get the cement off my fingers!

Friday, January 13, 2006

I know I'm being unrealistic

But everyone's allowed to dream a little.

In my stash I have some burgundy Kidsilk Haze. I had planned to make Summer in Kansas when I bought it, and even bought the pattern from America at the time. That was several years ago, and I'm starting to wonder if lace shawl knitting is something I will ever do.

However, I was sitting and thinking (a total luxury for me - both sitting and thinking time have been severely curtailed over the past year) and wondered what some of the Bavarian travelling stitch patterns would look like worked in Kidsilk Haze and a lacework tension.

OK, so I haven't got time to knit anything that complicated, and probably won't for years, but unless someone who's tried tells me that the game's a bogey, I will continue to think, and dream, of a burgundy lace coverup to wear over that elusive perfect little black dress.

Actual sitting with needles in hand: none.

I did however deconstruct the Royalty booties and have a draft pattern waiting for formatting, pictures etc. I've decided that I'm not happy enough with the hat to write out the pattern, and will simply send it off to Amy without recording the details for further use. The idea was good, but the execution didn't quite match up to what I had in mind.

Jean, I haven't forgotten about reknitting and writing up the pattern for Nudibranch. I've decided on the colour scheme for MkII, but that's as far as I've got.

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Still no sign of our project manager. I eventually tracked him down somewhere in Sunderland, and hope to see him on Wednesday. A week late before we've started. Can you say Scottish Parliament? I do hope it's not an omen of things to come.

Otherwise, dealing with the laundry monster after nine guests checked out this morning.

3 double beds: 3 duvet covers, 12 pillowslips, 6 sheets, 6 towels
6 single beds: 6 duvet covers, 12 pillowslips, 12 sheets, 12 towels
4 rooms: 8 bathroom floor mats, 4 table cloths

Thank heavens for two washing machines and two tumble driers. Next year we'll probably use a contract laundry service for sheets & pillowslips, and just do the duvet covers and towels ourselves. This year it was too big an outlay when we really didn't know how busy we were going to get.

Random other stuff
I have found myself a talking book to listen to while I do the ironing: one by Hannah Hauxwell. Before I can actually listen to it I'll need to find a heater for the linen store, and connect up the little HiFi, not to mention moving the huge wardrobe which has appeared just where I need to set the ironing board up.

Ah yes, the joys of preparing for renovation....

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The windy city

As Jean will tell you, Edinburgh can be very breezy indeed. Today it was both windy and cold which made my trip rather shorter than I had hoped. I didn't manage to do most of the shopping I'd half planned, but did get some useful information out of the SLTA seminar on what worked (and didn't) in Ireland when they banned smoking in enclosed public spaces. The only actual purchase: a new recipe book from Ottakars in the Drownacentre at Cameron Toll. Hopefully I'll be able to find a way to fatten John up while slimming down myself. Tricky!

Driving back was actually rather hair-raising at times, particularly on the descent into Lauderdale, with the wind gusting whenever the land opened out to either side. It's on days like these that the snow gates on the A68 on either side of Soutra make a lot of sense. I'm very glad indeed that it was mild and only drizzling a little.

None at all.

Up at 06.20 to do breakfast for the workmen, drive to Edinburgh, SLTA seminar, meeting with lawyer, drive back, 1 hour in pub, dinner ....

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Splish splash

Although in my case it was a swim, rather than a bath. Only 20 25m lengths in about 15 minutes, but I'm trying to schedule this 90 min outing into my week, just to get a break from the hotel. It's funny how some songs seep into the national memory, and even if you've never heard the original, you know the key lines. A bit like some Monty Python sketches, in fact.

Thank you very much indeed for the advice on bear eyes, nose and ears, Franklin. I am planning to do satin-stitch eyes as being the hardest to pull, bite or chew off, and will provide a bear hospitalisation policy for the inevitable reattachment of limbs etc. I won't be working on the bear (I really must come up with a name) before the weekend, but I'll keep you posted.

Dawn, thanks for your email. If you're thinking of running a hotel, then do read John's blog which details more about the day-to-day stuff than mine ever will. If you're used to a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 job, then I would seriously advise taking a temporary management job in a hotel before you took it on yourself. We're both used to odd shift patterns, and long hours, but even so it has been very hard work indeed and shows no sign of easing up.

Not a lot today. About 8 rows on the Jaeger jumper, and the purchase of some yarn for Nudibranch II. I'm planning a variation on the theme, just to see if it works: more soon.

Much hunting of paperwork today. I'm off to a seminar on the upcoming ban on smoking in public places in Scotland, and then to see a lawyer. I'm not sure we want to go down the legal route, but the structural survey of the hotel completely missed both the dry rot and dodgy beams which are costing us rather a lot to fix (see earlier postings and pictures) and I need to know what my options are.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Well I never....

I have a volunteer to test-knit my next pattern: Nudibranch (see previous postings) just as soon as we've both finished our current busy-ness.

Jean, thank you so much. This may just be the incentive I need to find the time to get the pattern written out properly. I do need to knit it again for myself, as the prototype ended up looking rather like a lei and was given away to a lovely Polish regular of ours:
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Magda with the elaborated Nudibranch and a bottle of Polish beer

Before that, however, I need to take notes on how I think I made the Royalty set, and package them up and send them off to London. Foolishly, I just knitted away rather than taking notes as I went, and I find that trying to deconstruct the process afterwards is less than satisfactory.

In defiance of the grumpy old man (probably trademarked by the TV program, but anyway) I spent some time knitting in the pub today. Not a lot, and progress is slow because the Jaeger Odessa has a strand of 'sparkly stuff' which runs along with the yarn, and the strands don't always slip through my fingers at the same rate. It would be a serious problem if I was a knitter who strangled both yarn and needles, but even so I have to stop and fiddle with it every-so-often to get it all to behave.

Plastering again today. No, not plastered. After fixing the plaster in one of the bedrooms a few weeks ago hubby has decided that since I'm so good at it, I can do any other plastering that needs done.
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My mistake.

Sadly, he knows me far too well, and realises that I find a challenge irresistible. The locals think he's mad, allowing a woman to to "men's work".... Thank you Dad for letting me use almost all of the tools in the garage (except the radial arm saw), and help with fixing cars, mending drains, and all sorts of other fun things that so many girls still don't get to do.

Anyway, someone decided to remove a lot of the wallpaper in the Ladies' loo over the weekend. We finished the job yesterday, and chipped off some old bulgy plaster (I know there's a word for it, but can't find it). Today I brushed off as much of the old plaster dust and horsehair as I could, hauled out an old wooden dook, sprayed the rest with dilute PVA glue, and plastered up the hole. Tonight or tomorrow I will put on the skim plaster, and once that has dried I'll paint all the walls with bonding liquid (aka slightly less dilute PVA glue) and paint the whole thing.

Then hubby will help me put up a new mirror and shelf, and we'll wait for them to get vandalised.

Actually, it's not that bad. Most of our customers are very well behaved, and it's generally only after we've had to ask someone to leave that we find some revenge has been taken somewhere in the building.

We've decided we need to get a new mobile phone for the hotel. Living where we do, the choice of network is rather limited: it's O2 or O2 if you want reception indoors. So, I toddled off to the O2 website, chose a phone, tariff and accessories, and attempted to pay with the company debit card.


So I tried to phone the O2 customer service line. If ever there was a name which didn't apply.... After about three minutes on hold, you are simply cut off. Four times, in my case, as I was daft enough to keep trying the national rate number in an attempt to buy the pesky phone. After that, I got a dalek saying "The voicemailbox for O2 online sales is full, to transfer to another number....." at which point I did what Brits do at all times of stress, and went and had a cup of tea.

For more on that, do read "Watching the English" - a very funny book, particularly for me as an incomer. I hadn't realised just how much of the culture applied on both sides of the border, nor how much I had assimilated in my efforts to fit in.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Happy Dance

The first version of Chantelle knitted by someone other than me is complete! As it has now officially been test-knitted, I have put the pattern up for sale at the Knitting Vault. We'll see how my idea of appealing tallies with the rest of the knitting world's.

Next, to write up the pattern for Royalty (see below) and the Nudibranch Scarf.

That rather neatly balances a very odd two hours in the pub this evening. Three of our regulars spent all that time telling us that we had no idea how to run a pub, because "pubs are different here: people expect shouting and swearing, and this will never be other than a working man's pub". Oh, and we'll never get the pub to work until we get the pub to work (no I didn't understand that one either). And finally, knitting behind the bar makes me look frumpy and granny-ish, apparently, and the whole town is talking about it.

Good! As Oscar Wilde said: The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. It's a good conversation starter, but perhaps I'll put it away at 5pm when the old men come in (well, old in attitude anyway: most of them aren't even 50 yet).

They finished off their evening by telling me that I look about 45. Not the way to a woman's heart, particularly me who hits the big 30 this year!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Man-bear (yeti?)

As promised, pictures of the faceless, earless teddy-to-be:
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As you can see, it's rather hard to tell that it's supposed to be a bear, but perhaps this picture will help a little (it's also closer to the real colour on my monitor):
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I am putting off sewing on the ears and face for the simple reason that I'm not quite sure how to go about it. Getting that bit right will make the bear a bear, so if anyone (Franklin, are you out there?) has any suggestions, I'll be very grateful indeed.

In the meantime, I've started the calculations and test-knitting for my next big project. It's a pullover for mememememe based on a design in an old Jaeger magazine.
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I'm going to need to make a few modifications so that it will fit me. Most crucially, I've calculated that the sleeve is far too narrow in the biceps area (well, look at the shape of the model!) and I'm going to have to add about 1/3 more stitches before I get there and then lose them quickly enough for the sleeve cap to fit the armhole.

I've asked for input on the Ample Knitters list, and think I've found a solution of sorts. It involves decreasing fairly sharply in the last half-dozen rows of the sleeve cap, but spread out rather than making the equivalent of a dart which had been my first idea.

I'm going to start on the sleeve in lieu of a tension square. I'm working in Jaeger Odessa which is a lovely dark purple with a sparkly thread running through it, and although it's a bit finer than a normal DK I hope to get close enough to the correct tension to avoid having to rip it out. It's a fairly fragile yarn, and I don't think it will survive the experience very well at all.

On the hotel front, last night was our last music session in the lounge bar. We almost made a profit, which is the main reason why it was the last session. After an hour's setup time, four or more hours of staffing, cleanup, and paying the band, we simply don't make any money. We don't seem to get any benefit in terms of increased custom either, as the kind of people who come in for music generally don't seem to be the sort who come into the pub at other times.

We had a bit of hassle from a repeat offender last night: she's barred from the pub (for very good reasons), and has been for years, but keeps coming in and trying to get served along with a big group of friends/family to back her up. It took nearly an hour to get her to leave, but when she did, she took all her friends with her. Theoretically I suppose I should have been upset at the loss of trade, but it was good to be able to relax and enjoy the music after they'd gone. That kind of thing takes it out of you emotionally....

Cold, and as one wall of this office is the old front door, I'm freezing. I made the mistake of putting on a cotton cardigan this morning, and I really need to go and find a wool one!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The twelfth day of Christmas

And that is a scary thing, because the last time I posted was on the big day itself.

Life started to return to normal for January yesterday: freezing fog, an empty pub, and a list of to-do's that I despair of ever completing. I did get out for a walk, although it was more of a scamper due to the temperature. Fifteen minutes down to the Jed, along the Newcastle Road, up past the bowling club, up past the cemetary, and down the Castlegate. Up is definitely the word, and I was very glad of a woolly scarf to breathe through on the steepest (stepped) bit of the walk. My legs were OK, but my lungs ached!

At this time of year the public bar in the hotel is not a fun place to work. Not because it's uncomfortable (it is nice and warm, and there's a stool behind the bar to perch on when your legs get tired), but because it is BORING. Yesterday we turned over the grand total of £25, which means we had fewer than 10 customers over an 11 hour day - and there is only so much daytime TV you can watch, even with SKY (the satellite TV operator).

Meanwhile, thanks to Franklin, I am making a teddy bear. Some time ago, he posted about his adventures with the bear formerly known as Jack which he dubbed Istvan. Thanks to Franklin's glowing review, and very unusually for me, I bought something on impulse: Sandra Polley's The Knitted Teddy Bear. I knew that if the book went out of print I would really regret not having bought it immediately.

The bear is now knitted, stuffed, and assembled except for the ears, eyes, nose and claws. It really doesn't look anything like a bear at all! You will have to take my word for this for now, as the man/bear-shaped thing is upstairs, as is the camera, and I know I won't have time to take and edit piccies for a while.

Aside from that, there has been a new arrival in our family: Amy Elizabeth was born in London on Hogmanay, and I have a little something to send down to her proud but shell-shocked parents.
Red and yellow booties . Red and yellow hat
I still need to find a card (our two small card-and-gift shops are closed until Monday) and box the booties and matching (but bigger) hat up, but that should all be done by early next week at the latest.