Sunday, April 30, 2006

The empire strikes back

It's hard to be a metric person in the UK.

Metric measures became legal in the British Empire in 1873 but it appears that your typical Brit will never accept them. There are several societies who appear to have the sole purpose of opposing metrification in the UK, and those who have been convicted of illegally selling items priced only in imperial measures are referred to as Metric Martyrs. Meanwhile, distances are given in feet, yards and miles; weights are given in ounces, pounds and stones (14 pounds, if you care!); volumes are given in fluid-ounces and pints; and temperatures are given in both Celcius and Fahrenheit. Even older measures are still in use too: allotments are still defined in rods, poles and perches - and I'm not even going to try and explain what they are....

It seems that those who oppose metrification are winning at the moment. It is legal to price and sell things in pints, pounds and ounces - just as long as you have an equivalent metric measure displayed as well. The only exceptions are beer and cider on draught, which can be sold in pints, and only in pints.

Our local Co-Op (supermarket) has just switched their packaging from whole numbers of litres of milk to whole numbers of pints.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Of course, the price has gone up, the containers are heavier and more awkward to use, and frankly, it just looks all wrong.

Then people wonder why you end up with a situation like this where the wrong units were used, and NASAs Mars Climate Orbiter crashed and burned.

And before anyone jumps down my throat, yes I know that the Imperial System is different to the American system, despite both including pounds, ounces, fluid-ounces, miles etc. One more cause of confusion.

Meanwhile: more sheep for Franklin
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lovely day

Freezing night.

Amazingly, the under-19 Rubgy sevens competition down at the Riverside today resulted in a truly beautiful spring day. There are a lot of tomato-coloured people walking around this evening. The downside of this is that once the sun went down, it got cold. And guess who was outside on bouncer duty from 20.40 to 23.15 this evening?

My fingers have just about thawed, and I have renewed respect for the women who used to stand and knit waiting for the fishing boats to come in. cold fingers = slow fingers.

Here's my progress from 3 hours in the pub, and almost as long again outside.
Regia miniringel socks

The pattern is a modification of the one I used for the Olympic Socks which is from the Autumn 2003 issue of Dawn Brocco's now discontinued Heels and Toes Gazette. The pattern has some clever shaping to help avoid the bagging which often appears above the heel flap, and I want to try a pair for me to see if it works.

Yes, I know I said that I needed to finish something, and here I am starting yet another project. I'm utterly fed up with trying to write up the pattern for Amy's hat, and so headed off on a tangent with the socks. I wanted to be able to offer a child size and an adult size using the same yarn, but mucking about with the stitch count has resulted in hats which just look wrong. Back to the original plan of using 4-ply for babies and DK for grownups.

Dawn, thank you for the reassurance. I do sometimes wonder if I'm only using this to remind DH what I've been up to!

Sheep update

I need

to finish something.



I've been rushing about like a hen with 24 different, but equally yummy, bits of grain to choose from. Sadly, this has been occasioned by rather too much work, and nothing yummy at all, but you get the picture I'm sure.

I have started (and stopped) so many different things over the past two weeks that I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever complete anything. And that is a bad place to be in.

So, I finished this:
Cabled toddler pullover
A Debbie Bliss pattern, King Cole Bounty DK (acrylic, 725m/250g) and hell to sew up
Different yarn, of course, as I find that using the specified DB stuff results in clothes that are at least three sizes too big.
Worked in the round, to what I fondly assumed were the armholes.
My first steek, occasioned by realising that a saddle-shoulder pullover worked as separate front and back does not have armholes.
I'll probably make the pattern again. It looks good to me, and practical as well, although the true test of that will be when I find an appropriate small person to give it to. I'll work it in the round again, but this time I'll work the sleeves first, so that I know how much of the body should be worked as separate front-and-back. And I'll probably cast off a few stitches at the underarms, just because I think it will work better.
The seaming really wasn't fun at all. Sewing rib onto rib at right angles is tricky at the best of times, and in an acrylic which is less-than-forgiving it was trickier. There was a certain amount of fudging involved, but I'm generally happy with how it turned out.

I'm not going to list all the things I need to get done here: just too depressing. I have five pages in my diary devoted to to-do lists, sorted by category, and that is enough.

This one's for you:
lamb legging it
I'll post more pictures of this year's lambs over the next little while....

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why move to the borders?

Well, that's one reason anyway....

However, it is a question we get asked rather a lot. Often by random strangers in the pub, it must be said, but I think it's worth taking a little time to think it through. Particularly as we're debating getting some staff through an agency, and it might help us to attract the kind of person who will see life here as a positive part of the job.

So, the Borders, or Scottish Borders if you want to be pedantic about it. You'd think that it would be the area along the border between Scotland and England, and in a sense you'd be right. However, the area as defined by the local council as well as the tourist board is a little more tightly defined than that.

So, how do you feel about living in England then?

That's the first misconception we generally have to deal with. Jedburgh is still in Scotland - only just mind, we're about 10 miles from the border, max - but because the Borders don't look like the pictures on shortbread tins, very few people actually realise that. We're very much seen as a convenient stopping-off-point on the way to the "real" Scotland of big scary hills, big scary Scotsmen, and big scary Highland cattle which you apparently find in the same area as the big scary (but completely invisible) Nessie.

A gentler side of Scotland

The scenery in the Borders is on a far less grand scale than the Great Glen or the Cairngorms. That doesn't make it any less lovely in my view. In fact, if you're a bit intimidated by the idea of a Munro (that's a hill which is over 3000 feet high) then walking up the Eildons near Melrose, or simply taking in part of the Borders Abbeys Way (quite a bit of it flat) might be possible.

The empty part of Scotland

Yes, I know most people would think of the Highlands when you said that, and there probably are fewer people actually living there. In terms of actual bodies spending time there, particularly in high season, though, I think you'll find the Borders are a lot less busy. You can go out on a country road, or off to the top of a hill, and meet nobody at all. The air is clean: there are lichens growing on the paving slabs in the town centre. We sleep in a room which looks out onto the High Street, and generally the only disturbance is people walking home from the club which closes at about 2 o'clock on a Sunday morning....

But close enough to the cities

Another disadvantage, as I see it, of living in the Highlands is the sheer time it takes you to get anywhere of a decent size. Durness to Inverness is 105 miles, and the AA thinks it will take you over four hours to drive it. I won't argue! Inverness to Edinburgh is another 160 miles, or 3-and-a-bit hours. If you want to do some serious shopping, and many Highlanders do, then your best bet is often to spend a night away from home in either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Jedburgh, by contrast, is roughly equidistant between Edinburgh and Newcastle. It's just the wrong side of 50 miles to Edinburgh, and about 56 to Newcastle, but driving will take you 80 minutes either way. If you need public transport, well, you're limited to Edinburgh, but there are at least 5 buses a day, and it takes around 2 hours at longest.

Not bad, really!

And if you love golf, or fishing....

Well, I probably won't need to sing the praises of the Borders to ardent fishermen: the Tweed and Teviot are known world-wide as wonderful trout rivers. Golfers, however, seem to be blissfully ignorant of the opportunities locally. Unlike the famous course at St Andrews, you don't need to book your tee-time months in advance at either the Roxburgh or Cardrona - and they're championship courses. As a visitor, you can buy a Passport which gives you 10 rounds of golf over 5 days, for the princely sum of £99. Not bad when you realise that there are 21 courses in the Borders which are part of the scheme, and even Cardrona only asks for an extra £20 for a round (instead of the normal £45).

The downsides

Well, there had to be some, didn't there?

For me, living in any small town was always going to be second-choice. I'm a city girl at heart, and really enjoy the busy-ness, the multiculturalism, and the open-ness that you find in a city - and which you simply wouldn't expect to find in a small town or village. Jedburgh is still very much a local town, rather than a commuter dormitory, and that applies to most of the Borders towns too. That's good in that it gives a sense of community, but it can also be stifling as change comes slowly, if at all, to an area where the same families have lived for hundreds or years.


I'm not sorry we moved here. The things which made us choose the Borders still apply, and it's as good a place as most to be trying to run a tourism business. I can't see myself staying here forever though, which shocks the locals who really can't imagine living anywhere else, and look forward to moving somewhere a bit closer to the bright lights of the Central Belt before I reach 40!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Risk assessment, anyone?

Open-plan function area

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Left - Right - Left - Right -

Or: how to go about choosing the Saturday newspapers you wish to provide for your guests.

I'm not sure if it applies in any other country, but in the UK one can make some fairly accurate, but nevertheless sweeping, generalisations about a household based on their choice of newspaper.

Left Wing:
The Guardian (otherwise known as the Grauniad due to a history of terrible proofreading)
The Independent (which claims to be neutral, and is therefore sometimes boring)

Right Wing:
The Telegraph (otherwise known as the Torygraph)
The Times (less obvious editorial interference, but it is owned by Rupert Murdoch
The Sun (rabidly so, despite being also owned by RM - and despised by the chattering classes as being beneath them)

Then you get the odd distinction between what are known as broadsheets (newspapers you have to read sitting down at a table because the sheets are just too big to hold out in front of you) and what are known as tabloids (sheets about half the size, and generally much heavier on the headlines and "shock outrage" kind of articles, as well as having one picture of a topless model). The Sun is often regarded as the most extreme of the tabloid-type (reading the pictures, rather than the text) with the London Evening Standard being the exception which proved the rule: broadsheets are impractical on crowded tubes, so it was tabloid in size, and broadsheet in attitude.

The tabloid/broadsheet distinction all started because umpity ump years ago there was a tax on newspapers based on the number of pages they contained. This tax was reduced from around 1830, and done away with in 1850! It's only in the past year or so that some of the self-styled serious papers (i.e. broadsheets) have moved to tabloid size - and the amount of soul-searching and complaint that this caused really had to be seen to be believed.

Personally, I rather like being able to read a newspaper without taking up two or three seats on a train or bus, but an awful lot of Brits seem to have liked the splendid isolation that over a meter of newsprint provided....

Sorry, I digress.

As a hotel, we like to provide newspapers for our guests in the mornings, and we need to be careful to give the right impression - at least to British guests. I suspect continental visitors are blissfully ignorant, but you never know.

This morning I have provided the Saturday editions (both more like books than newspapers in terms of actual page numbers) of the Times and the Scotsman. The Scotsman and the Herald are both Scottish papers: printed up here, and very much more focussed on Scottish affairs. I didn't used to think this was important, but since devolution it's useful to get information on what bits of legislation actually apply north of the border. The English papers (and, sadly, both the BBC and commercial TV stations) often just assume that the latest Westminster wheeze applies to the whole of the UK. The Scotsman is Edinburgh, and the Herald is Glasgow, although they will both deny this at every opportunity, and in fact changed their names to remove the respective cities not that long ago.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Spring (take II)

It's a lovely day out there, and I am in a blue funk. Nothing serious, mind, just the absence of a garden to play in (or time to do said playing) now that the weather seems finally to have decided that winter is over.

The laundry is calling (loudly) the end-of-financial-year PAYE returns are waiting (impatiently) and I am sat in an office, grumbling.

Not good!

John has posted details of the structural work going on in the hotel at the moment. I'm sure that's part of the blues: we've been waiting to be granted planning consent since last August, and still haven't got it, but this is now an emergency repair which neither the local council nor Hysterical (sorry, Historic) Scotland can stop. Sadly, it means the work is going on over Easter, and during what we hope will be the start of busier times in the hotel, rather than during January and February as we'd planned.

I was out doing my East-European border guard impersonation again last night. Full marks for brass neck to the 16-YO who came back twice after being asked to leave, and then spent a good 10 minutes commiserating on the problems of fake ID. Nice try, Leonie, but it's not going to work....

The fabric for the new curtains arrived the day after I ordered it from B.L. Joshi in London. I'm still very impressed with them, as I may have mentioned before. No progress on actually making said curtains, but at least I've got everything I need on hand.

Franklin: thank you so much for your sympathy on the misplaced leg (!) I'm hoping to go and collect the dodgy specs some time this week - hopefully without semi-rotating legs this time.
Sahara: thanks for the encouragement re. the blouse pattern I've been tweaking. I've got some seconds of broderie anglaise which I might just use to test the fit. If it works, I have a new blouse, and if it doesn't, I've lost very little.

New toys
The new Canon A620 appears good. Very fast startup, which is important to me, and good colour balance as well. The usual problems with photographing reds continue to plague me, though.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


It is, and I have. Not the best of combinations, especially when I was on bouncer duty for several hours in the rain on Saturday night.

The message about underage drinking (we won't tolerate it) seems to have got out, as most of our regular crowd of young people arrived clutching driving licenses. A few chancers were politely asked to leave, and generally a good night was had by all.

Non work
I have finally picked my birthday present: a Canon A620 digital camera. I very nearly got the Fuji F10, but it doesn't have an optical viewfinder.... Maybe next time, once they upgrade to that.

Stalled. Completely. I have reconstructed the tensioning system on my Singer (from the MIL) and am psyching myself up to the task of making muslin "net" curtains for all the bedrooms, as well as the equivalent of fitted sheets for several bed bases which are too low for valences to work (can we say muddy footprints all over clean white linen?).

More work
The H&S for the reconstruction-renovation-repair project needs to be supervised on-site. That'll be me, then.

Apologies for any long silences which ensue: I'll try and get pictures of progress up on the blog as I have time.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

You should have gone to


Non-UK readers will, no doubt, be mystified by this phrase.

Suffice it to say that I went to a local optician (not Specsavers, which is a half hour drive away) to get new glasses. Very expensive new glasses, as it turned out. Having collected them yesterday, I discovered that one leg was altogether in the wrong place once I got home (stop it - that's the leg of the specs, not the leg of the blogger!) and had to go back today to get them readjusted.

The leg is faulty. One end turns through 30 degrees. I now have another 10 day wait for my specs.

Fortunately, this will have no impact on my knitting at all, as I'm short sighted and can deal with yarn and needles perfectly well while bare-faced. What I can't do is see who's giving me cheek from the other side of the pub.

Non-knitting craft
Preparation before knitting a garment is something I've been fairly good at. The tension square is knitted, and sometimes even washed, before whatever-it-is is cast on.

Sewing, on the other hand, I tend to just leap into. Or at least, I used to, when I could still buy patterns in my size. That strikes me as a bit odd, as once you've cut out the fabric you're stuck with the shape, whereas with knitting you can generally rip it all out and start again if you've misjudged something.

I braved the tape measure several times over the past few days as a result of my fruitless search for a white blouse on my birthday shopping trip last week. I found three which will do in a pinch, but nothing which really looked good, and frankly three is just not enough for a 7-day job like this one.

Following a tip in an old fitting book, I measured across my chest, and across my back (not all the way round, just from the creases where arm meets body.) And I made a discovery. Despite the fact that I am about a pattern size 22, my front measurement is closest to a size 16, while my back measurement is even narrower. My shoulders are significantly narrower than even that size.

Bafflement ensued. I've always assumed that I had wide shoulders. They certainly don't look narrow to me, but hubby has done the measuring, and come up at about 0.75 of the pattern standard.

I've tweaked this pattern all over the place: I've narrowed the shoulders, narrowed the back, widened the bust area (front and back) and attempted to add depth for a C-cup. I've widened the waist, raised the hips, and widened the sleeve. That last is scary. I've no idea what a sleeve with a 3cm straight extension on either side of the cap will look like when sewn up, but that appears to be my shape, so we shall see.

I now need to find the spare parts for my sewing machine and fix the top and bottom tension.

All in the vast amount of spare time that I have, of course.

Monday, April 03, 2006

If I wasn't already blonde....

I would be out in search of peroxide.

I have been working (for about 3 years, on-and-off) on a cabled toddler pullover. The pattern has you work the usual front, back and sleeves, and sew them all together. Aha, thought I, this is a perfect situation for working front and back together in the round at least to the armholes. So I did.

Or at least, I thought I did.

Reading futher, and now that I've finished the sleeves, it turns out that this pullover has saddle shoulders. No armholes....

There's nothing for it: I'm going to have to 1. seam up the sleeves and work out what armhole depth I need; and 2. rib back all that lovely cabling and work front-and-back separately from the depth that the armholes shold have been made, if I'd made them.


We appear to be fighting a rearguard action against underage drinkers. This weekend I will be on the door, and if they look under 25, and there's no ID, they won't be getting in. Even if I've known them for ages. Even if they've been drinking at the Spread for year. No passport or driving licence: no drink! It is just too easy to buy fake ID on the internet now - even the Government-approved "Pass" hologrammed proof-of-age cards can be bought on ebay, it seems.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Saturday night

Which is usually our busiest night of the week. Add to that the first weekend after payday for those who are paid monthly, and the pub is (wonderfully) full.

Lots of folk standing outside smoking, as expected, and a few trying to have a fly puff in the toilets. Not good. We're going to invest in some cigarette smoke detectors at around £70 each as we have to be able to prove that we have done everything possible to comply with the legislation.

As promised, here is a sample of that sock yarn which I so loathed last week. Apologies for the quality of the image - I am still without a digital camera, and the scanner struggled with the contrast.

Image hosting by Photobucket

On my monitor the maroon areas are too red, and the yellow areas too gold, to give you a true feel for the yarn. I still think that if they had left out the raw-meat-coloured pink speckled bit, it would have been just about OK....

The colours aside, I don't think I'd be happy to use this yarn for socks. It is very soft on the hands, and quite fine compared to the Opal and Regia sock yarns that I'm familiar with. The yarn also splits very easily, which isn't a good thing when you're working with needles which aren't much thicker than the yarn itselft.

So, I am offering this single ball of "Town and Country" sock yarn, colour Volcano free of charge. I'll even pay the postage! Please send an email to me here with the subject "Town and Country" and your name and snail-mail address in the body. I'll pick a name at random on Thursday of this week.