Having spent a minute or two researching the history of Mothers Day I find it fascinating (especially being one myself!) that this tradition is still going strong. (more…)
Posts By: Wendy Matheson
Watching the national evening news tonight. Tube strikes, massive rail fare rises, appalling state of inner city schools etc which caused me to reflect on how lucky we are up here in the Highlands of Scotland. (more…)
An Inspector Calls
We had a brace of Hotel inspectors in to see us the other week. After all
these years we know many of them, but in this case neither of them had been
before. Inspectors generally come singly, book in advance, and do not declare
themselves until checkout in the morning. At this stage they will sit down with
whomsoever wants to discuss the visit, and go through their experience.
Some individuals in the industry seem to resent the inspecting bodies, but we
have found them to be helpful, informative, and extremely knowledgeable.
Anyone who visits several hundred establishments a year, and is trained in the
job normally has a lot to offer if you care to ask questions beyond the “how did
we do?” level. Many inspectors have been chefs, hoteliers or wine bu
Greenhouse Blues (or rather BS??? Pale Stone)
We certainly live in area of outstanding natural contradictions (beauty too of
course) Last week we had howling gales and snow, this week we have T shirt
weather (if you come from round these parts) and snow drops, winter aconites,
cyclamen and crocus miraculously sprouting all around us.
I would have had more time to admire them if Wendy had not decided that the
greenhouse needed a makeover. The entire frontage came out – all eight metres-
and was replaced by new timbers. This is work enough but of course we then
had the inevitable change of paint colours, why it is inevitable is a matter of
mystery to the average male, but inevitable it invariably is.
No complaints though some thirty litres of timber preservative, floor paint and
wall coatings the greenhouse is now a thing of beauty – or it will be when we
have scraped the paint dribbles from the glass.
If you happen to be wandering round our walled garden this Spring or Summer
do pause to admire our handywork, but be warned that anyone disagreeing with
the choice of colours will be badly beaten with a four inch paint brush!
Ian and I did breathe a momentary sigh of relief as the paint pots were stowed
away, but only until we realised that this now clears the way for the frenzied
planting of the first batch of seedlings, which in turn leads on to pricking out and
then to planting out and rather a lot of weeding.
Wonder if the potting shed needs the roof replacing?
Christmas – We like the Ho Ho Ho
I was reading a rather depressing article in a magazine the other day which was quoting statistics about the increased deaths, marital break ups, crime etc which occur around Christmas (added to which we have the Mayan prophecy of Armageddon this year) – all very gloomy.
We at Boath have decided to ignore all of the above, bury our heads in the snow, and endeavour to have a really good time. To this end we have been chopping wood (to keep the home fires burning) erecting festive trees (5 to date) and strewing garlands, pine cones, holly and mistletoe around the premises with little regard to the purveyors of doom and gloom.
Charlie has Turkey, Venison, Pheasant, Pork Belly, Beef and a host of tricky and delicious accompaniments on the go (and some rather festive vegetarian dishes too) and the Mulled Wine is improving in the cellar. We find that like Christmas pudding, it improves with a little age, this of course is probably true of the majority of us too.
We have dug out the motorised snow plough (which was completely redundant las t year) in the hope that we get just a dusting of snow. It appears that the bookmakers are betting against a White Christmas, but here in the far flung North we can generally be relied on to beat the odds.
Christmas shopping has taken a bit of a back seat with us in recent years as the children have become adults, so we are hoping for a Christmas filled with friends, family, a touch of goodwill and a complete absence of Armageddon. We wish the same for all of our friends out there.
Performing Rights…. what about my rights?
It would seem that we have become a nation of involuntary renters. By this I mean that it would appear that on an increasing number of occasions when we think we have bought an article or service it turns out we have in fact only rented it.
Bruce Willis recently made headlines attempting to affirm his family to retain the rights after his death, to the thousands of iTunes music tracks he has purchased – Read the small print!
Artists are entitled to part of any profit you make from selling on one of their paintings (does it work the other way round if you sell at a loss?)
Many photographers now routinely keep the rights to photographs (particularly wedding pictures) for which they have already charged fairly large amounts of money.
My least favourite are the Performing Rights Society. I have no gripe against artists being paid for performance of their music (being a complete luddite I still buy CD’s and DVD’s and do not do free downloads) but these people are in a different league.
Anyone who purchases a TV and puts it in a room where a non resident of that property watches it appears to require a licence from PRS. Despite the fact that makers of TV programmes pay vast amounts of money to use composers tunes, and the fact that we all pay an annual licence fee the act of listening to programme theme music on the TV apparently entitles them to monies.
Do you have a phone which plays music whilst it is on hold – beware the PRS. Do you play your radio at work -beware the PRS. Does your car horn play the first four notes of “ Money, Money, Money” by Abba? Well you know the rest!
We had to cut down a very large Beech tree at the front of the house last week, it was rotten in the middle and was in danger of bringing down a fairly healthy specimen next to it. We think it was planted around the time the house was built in 1820. Apparently Beech trees are only viable for this sort of period and then start to drop large limbs and eventually die off.
It is always heartbreaking to cut down an old tree (or any tree) and this one was too far gone to use for anything but firewood. A slightly smaller one came down in the gales two years ago, it was perfectly healthy so we brought in a mobile sawmill and had it cut into planks which we hope to use in the grounds. An old gent from the village rescued some of the larger lumps and turned them into salad bowls. Most of the rest was chipped and put on the beds to stop weeds – a fairly successful recycling exercise (apart from the fact that it all cost a fortune!)
We now have some large spaces where we will plant more trees. We will not see them grow to maturity, but there again those who planted our existing trees did so as an act of faith that future generations would enjoy and cherish them.
We too have faith!!
Wendy and I were recently in London to receive an award from the Good Hotel Guide. It was a very low key affair which we enjoyed greatly, met some charming people and were able to eat at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond which is absolutely stunning in a very relaxed way.
On returning from the trip I started to reflect on what it is we do here. Awards are lovely (and the press is good for business) but they are incidental. I doubt very much whether any hotelier is making a fortune in the current climate – but it can be intensely rewarding in many other ways. We live in a lovely house in a stunning part of Scotland, we eat good food, and we get to drink decent wines, but we also get to meet the most charming and interesting people many of whom have become friends
over the years.
This weekend we had a house party for a couple who first came to see us a decade ago. Family and friends from all over the world flew in, the weather was stunning and I think that all of us here had nearly as much fun as they did. We have certainly made new friends and we are sure many of them will return to the Highlands.
Right now they are all winging their separate ways to the USA, Sweden, Greece, and all parts southerly, the sun is shining on our beautiful autumnal trees and we have had a rewarding and satisfying weekend with old friends. Not a bad job is it??
Spring has sprung at Boath
It’s been sometime since we wrote anything – which does not mean that we have been idle!! Busy over Christmas and New Year with family, friends and a number of guests who have become firm friends over the years. Apparently the firework display at New Year was one of our best and was certainly enjoyed by our neighbours and some villagers who turn out to watch each year. Thinking of passing a hat round next time!
All the snow and ice has disappeared for now (although I do not remember a February when we did not get some snow and frost) but Spring is beginning to show with our Witchhazel tree in flower and the first Snowdrop shoots appearing. Lots of pruning and hacking down of unwanted shrubbery ongoing whilst we are in the middle of a major redecoration phase in the House. Charlie retained his Michelin Star and his fourth Rosette and is planning the latest phase of his ever upwards and onwards menu changes.
Every time we look at a newspaper or hear the news there seems to be more doom and gloom, but when the house and garden are looking good and Spring greenery and lighter evenings are with us, it’s difficult not to be a little upbeat and glad to be alive!
When we first opened Boath House fifteen years ago after almost 5 years of renovations, we had small children and a complete absence of Winter trade. Most of the hotels in the north appeared to close up in October and re open in early Spring. We tried to stay open as long as possible, but the thought of depriving the children of Christmas (as well as Easter, summer hols and Halloween) just did not seem right, even though we were under huge pressure to give in and open.
Last year with the children all very grown up – Wendy and I now being the shortest members of the family – we decided to open the doors for the festive period. I had thought that after all these years of having the place to ourselves at this time we might feel ever so slightly resentful of having to share our open fires and proper Christmas tree with other people.. Actually we had two trees as the first one which, had an absolute guarantee of not losing its needles until after festivities were complete, developed sudden and acute needle drop syndrome a week after it went up. This could have been a bit of a nuisance except for the fact that we have a long tradition of donning silly red hats and drinking a bottle of Sherry whilst decorations are in progress, so two bottles of Pedro Ximinez was no real hardship.
I digress, the fact is that we all had a lovely and relaxing Christmas with plenty of time to do the things we wanted, whilst enjoying the company of some really lovely chilled out guests. One elderly lady did seem somewhat distressed by the absence of paper hats and plastic trinkets, but everyone else seemed happy with a handmade flask of Charlie’s secret festive liquor which had been brewing since the previous October. This plus some of his home made mince pies and Mulled Wine in the afternoons seemed to keep most of the Winter chill at bay.
We were so snug and self satisfied that we are going to do it again this year!