Thursday, November 23, 2006

Return of the Pictures: The Focusing

More Coylet interior photos (see previous post).

The back of the dining room (on the other side of the windows is where us staff peer in and watch people eat). The main kitchen is to the right of those windows in back, and the small kitchen for coffee and stuff is to the left in back.

The back side of the bar.

The front side of the bar, as viewed from the door.

Pictures 2: The Coylet Interior

I was bored a bit on Tuesday so I wandered around the inn and took some photos. Here they are in no particular order.

This is in the "lounge"; the first part of the restaurant after you enter from the hallway (which is on the right in this picture). The table in the bay window is table 9, where the staff tend to have our meals and hang about when the place is closed. The heater is actually under the window seat by the table so I like to sit on the heater on one end with my feet stretched out over the heater on the other end.

The front of the dining room (the lounge is to the right of here), showing the conservatory.

Here's our lovely steep spiral staircase (original, i.e. 16th century according to everything I've read). It presents quite a challenge to the drunken and elderly. It's almost like a ladder instead of a stair. And no it's not slanty; I was when I took this picture I guess. Oh, and the other doors are to the toilets. The view here is from the front door, so the bar is to the left and the restaurant is to the right.

The hall fireplace with door to the bar on the left and door to the women's washroom on the right. And some pictures of the Coylet years ago and a moose that someone killed.

A darkish picture of the other end of the lounge, showing the fireplace that divides it from the dining room (and another moose head - there's a hunting and fishing theme to the place as you may have gathered).

Few more pictures to come in another post.

Rainy reverie

Rain, rain, and more rain. I think it's been raining some each day for at least two weeks. I got out running on Monday when it was clear for about 30 minutes but it started raining again on my way back. That was a miserable day actually, as the wind was gusting and it was pretty chilly. Tuesday the weather was teasing - it would start to clear up and I would start getting dressed to go outside and it would be raining again before I finished, sometime with the sun still shining. I did see the most intense rainbow I have ever experienced and it seemed very close as well. Here's a photo that doesn't do it justice:

Rain is so advanced in Scotland that it can rain without clouds being present. Honest. Sometime last week there was a shower, a pretty good one too, and the sun was shining with no clouds overhead. The only cloud that I could spot was some little white whisp off in the distance.

Whilst standing in line at the bank on Monday, a customer ahead of me started speaking to the teller in an American accent, mid-West I think. The sound of it jarred me out of my standing-in-a-long-line-at-the-bank-soaking-wet reverie. I've become accustomed to every one around me speaking in Scottish accents, or other UK and Commonwealth accents that still sound closer to a Scottish accent than an American one. So the flat sound of an American accent seemed really out of place. (Oddly enough, I can watch movies with that accent and it doesn't seem out of place, but I guess it must be similar for Scottish folk watching those movies as well.) I then realized that out-of-place is how I sound to everyone else when I'm going about my business in town or at work. For all I know, every time I speak in a bank or a grocery store or whatever, I'm jarring people out of their reveries with my Canadian vowels. I seem "normal" to them until I open my mouth and speak. Actually, come to think of it, that's probably true in Canada as well ;)

The word "wean" is used for kids over here, pronounced something like "wain". It is so common a word that in a bookstore in Dunoon I saw a shelf in the cooking section labelled "wean food". It seemed to me like "weans" are some sort of other species that have a special diet.

Something I find interesting: I've been told that it's hard to measure the true depth of lochs because they are so dark, owing to little sunlight because of northerness and mountains surrounding them blocking out the light. However, you can get a general idea of the depth of a loch by looking at the height of the surrounding mountains. The loch is about as deep as the mountains are high. So here's a picture of the mountain beside Loch Eck for your consideration (taken from part-way up the mountain on the other side - on a sunny day nonetheless!).

That's some deep water.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's bloody Baltic out!

To start, my apologies to my loyal readers (I think I have a few of those) for not updating for a while. I really don't have any excuse as it's not been too busy around the hotel with the exception of Saturday evening. Not being busy, however, seems to make me and everyone else here feel lazy and tired and I so I simply haven't felt much like updating. And I haven't had much to update on.

It's raining today - a really cold, sloppy sort of rain. It's been raining pretty much straight since Monday or maybe even Sunday. The temperature has gone down this week so that it's often just around or above freezing overnight and around 8 or so degrees during the day. It's been snowing on the higher hills and so the mountains around the inn are now topped with snow, as you can sort of see in this picture that I took of the moutain straight across the loch just at sunset.

When the weather gets a damp chill to it like now the Scots describe it as Baltic. I think it's a brillant sounding word for it, but I really don't know if the weather feels like this in the Baltic states. Actually, every time I hear the word "Baltic" I think of Monopoly first and Eastern Europe is an afterthought.

With the colder weather we've been keeping fires going all the time and my hands are getting stained from coal in the cracks of them and I can't get it out from under my nails all the time which is somewhat annoying as it doesn't look so good to be serving food with blackened hands. Even wearing gloves doesn't seem to keep the coal from getting on them. I was out to shovel coal into the buckets and for some reason the act of shovelling coal makes me feel very historic whereas burning coal doesn't so much. It seems very Dickensian to shovel coal (It's not easy stuff to shovel either - I wouldn't want to do it for a living all day or anything.). When I was in Edmonton my office mate Aaron said that we Maritimers were Dickensian for burning oil for heat as it's natural gas that's burned in the West. I guess everyone has their own definition of what is behind the times - for me it's coal.

I'm taking an indoor rock-climbing class down at the Benmore Outdoor Centre which is 3 km down the road inside the Botanic Gardens. It's a three week class on Wednesday night and I missed the first class because I didn't know about it but I got up to speed this past Wednesday. I heard about it when some men who were taking the class came by the Coylet after class for some drinks and were telling me about it. Anyway, once I finish the class that gets me certified to use the climbing wall facility on the practice nights every Thursday. That will give me somewhere indoors to get some exercise when it's dark and rainy over the winter. Climbing is something I've wanted to do for some time and I enjoyed it the night I was there. It's nice to do a sport that also involves my arms since I seem to be leg heavy.

There's also a fencing club in Dunoon that I just found out about but I've just heard that it's a kids club. There's a possiblity of them setting up some adult fencing activities, or if they need some help teaching kids I'll be up for that. They only fence foil which isn't so great but if I'm desperate enough I'll pick up a foil again.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Finally got pictures off my camera so that I can post them. We'll see how many Blogger will let me put up. I may have to use my MSN Space for some of them.

Let's start with around the Coylet Inn and Lock Eck, since that's where I am now. I'll leave my journeys in Edinburgh (seems so long ago now) for later.

Here's the view of Loch Eck, looking southward on the road, from room 3 of the inn. I took this while cleaning the room because it shows the mists rising off the mountain that I see pretty much every day that it's not "pissing" rain. And yes, those are small palm trees you're seeing.

I took this one the day I went to Glagow. It was so foggy it looked as though the world ended a dozen feet or so out into the loch. Amazing.

Here's a nice one of Loch Eck that I took from a walk on what I think is Stroncullin Hill, about 1-2km south of the Coylet.

An unfortunately dark picture of the stream at Puck's Glen. There's also loads of little streams along the roadside like this - they drain under the road and where the culverts are no grass grows on top because they're covered with stone so I have to jump over them (they're sunken compared to the surrounding grassy areas) when I'm running on the shoulder of the road.

These trees actually scare me. I first saw them at Benmore Botanic Gardens and I didn't have my camera with me and the only label on them was Latin and it was something like Aracinthea aracina or whatever. This specimen I spied on my walk along the road back from Puck's Glen. It appears to be dying and good riddance. What frightens me is how thick the branches are and the needles - the needles are sort of succulent and it just looks like the thing is waiting to reach out and grab you. Please note that I have never before in my life been frightened of a tree.

This is the trickiest part of my usual jog, which I do going southward on the road. The shoulder here is narrow on both sides. I should be jogging on the right hand side because I'm going northward but because of that rock face I always cross the road and run on the grassy part next to the short stone wall with my back to oncoming traffic but checking behind me all the time for cars. If one comes from behind me I stop running and shimmy up to the wall ready to jump into the loch if need be.

Finally, some poor photos of my room for anyone who's really curious. I should post some interior photos of the hotel but I haven't really taken any. That's for another day I guess. Or you could check out this website on the ghost investigators who were here some time last year and who took some interior photos of very weird things. And some video which I'm unable to hear since I have no speakers. I'll probably write some more on the ghosty stuff another time, but not tonight since I'm tired after all this.

Here's my bed and door (these were taken the day I moved in by the way so my stuff is all over the place)

The other side of my room, showing window, chair, dresser, and the edge of the sink. Beside the sink the roof comes in and there is a cot stored there that I am using for a table but the plan is to get some shelves to put in its place.

Finally, the view of the hillside that comes up sharply beyond my window.

Sweep, sweep, sweep, balayer

Brownie points to anyone who recognizes where I took the post title from.

It's been a quiet week business-wise. November is a dead month at the hotel, so I'm told, until December when it gets busy again. Other than the odd day when we had steady business - like lunch on Wednesday, which I attribute to it being sunny so people decided to leave their homes and have food - it's been very quiet. So quiet that us staff have been occupying ourselves with extra tasks or by reading, writing, playing cards, and knitting. I taught Karen, the manager, how to knit on Thursday afternoon and she has become addicted and is well on her way to making a scarf as tall as her.

We've also started doing things like cleaning and organizing closets and doing work outside. I voluntarily swept and bagged leaves the Saturday before last because it was sunny out and I wanted to get outside and get some exercise, and we had more people working at lunch time than we needed. But by this weekend they had accumulated again, and Karen asked me to do that again plus haul wood for the fireplaces. I was quite happy to as the weather was nice and it meant getting outside instead of sitting around inside (we had four people working out front for lunch which was way more than we needed). So I swept the leaves and pine needles from the "car park" and put them in "bin bags", then I used the wheel barrow to haul wood from the woodshed up to the door by the bar where I stacked up as much of it as I could, then I swept some more and filled up the coal buckets. That pretty much took me 4 hours.

And if I had a dime for every time someone told me that I was silly to be sweeping up leaves as it was a losing battle... well, I'd have about 90 cents, but the point is I was told by every customer who walked by me, and every workman that stopped in front of the place. The attitude about getting rid of leaves is entirely different over here than it is in Canada. In Canada, if a business left them to rot on the ground and clog up the drains and totally cover the pavement, it would be considered sloppy. The same with not raking up all your leaves from your yard - the neighbours would talk about you just like if you didn't cut your grass. Over here, every one seems to be of the viewpoint that the trees have an infinite supply of leaves and that to gather them up is senseless because there will be more on the ground later. Well, there will be more, but soon the trees will be out of leaves and the ones I bagged up won't be blowing around anymore. And it's all about appearances, since we are running a hotel.

One man from British Telecom accounts for about 30 cents of the money that I would have as he talked to me for about 15 minutes on various topics but always coming back to the fact that I was wasting my time. He said I should have work gloves and that he didn't like to see a woman do hard work. I had about 3 comments on the tip of my tongue in response to that which I didn't give - the first one was that he probably goes home and sits down on the couch while his wife does all the cooking and laundry and cleaning. The second was that if you wanted a hard job done right you were probably better off to get a woman to do it as it would be done right and she wouldn't complain about it like a man (I mean look at that man - he was complaining for me doing work - imagine the complaints if he had to do it himself). And I can't remember the third one, but maybe there wasn't any.

Anyway, all those people who told me that I was wasting my time seemed to forget that I was getting paid to sweep those leaves.

The weather has been pretty mild really, as evidenced by me cleaning up leaves in the first week of November and there still being more leaves on the trees. It's about 11 degrees out today. I still have not yet figured out how to dress for the weather entirely. I went down to Puck's Glen on Thursday via the forest road that is halfway up the mountain and runs roughly parallel to the main road. I dressed in far too many layers for the weather, but I was dressed according to what I saw other people doing - wearing big coats and winter hats. Also because I was going up the mountain I figured it would be colder up there and windy. So I put on a tank top, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a wool sweater and a puffy vest, and I had a hat and gloves in my bag. The climb up the mountain made me feel too warm for the vest and then it was sunny on the forest road so I certainly didn't need it. By the time I got to Puck's Glen I had stashed my vest in a bush to collect on my way back and had my sweater tied around my waist. I have learned my lesson - the Scots overdress for the weather - they've been wearing winter hats all week and it's been 3 to 15 degrees. So I'm just going to dress for what I think I should wear.

Puck's Glen itself was a really cool walk. I came up on it at the top of the glen which is sort of like a gorge with a rocky stream running down through it. The trail is along the bank of the stream and there is cliffs on either side. Along much of the cliffs there is moss growing and water dripping down them in drops from the trees and grass growing on the tops. It's quite pretty as each droplet catches the sunlight at different points while it falls so the cliffside is sparkling. The drops make small sounds that you can just hear over the sound of the water in the stream rushing over the rocks.

Now that Daylight Savings Time has ended it's getting dark very early in the day. The sunrise time is about 7:30am and the sunset time is about 4:30pm. If I work 8am-4pm I basically have only an hour after work to get outside and back before it gets dark. By 5:30pm it's completely black out. I asked how dark it would be by the shortest day of the year and I was told it would be dark by 3:30-4pm. Also, given the position of a mountain to the south of the Coylet the sun is blocked from view for all but a few hours at midday. By the solstice it will be so low that we probably won't be able to see the sun directly for very long. I will have to take walks down the road to visit the sun.

I had today and yesterday off as the hotel is now closed for Mondays and Tuesdays until the Christmas season. I slept in a bit yesterday then went into Dunoon to take care of some banking and get some contact lens solution which is really expensive and hard to find in Dunoon. I eventually went to an optician and the woman there told me that people are generally given solution when they purchase soft lenses so I guess that's why there's not so much of a demand for it to be stocked in drug stores.

Spent yesterday evening once it got dark up at the Coylet-owned caravan (mobile home) where Matt lives at the moment watching Ryan Reynolds movies with him and Pip. There was 3 on the DVD set which is two more than I was aware that Ryan Reynolds had made. Today the three of us took the Coylet van and went for a drive around the Cowal Peninsula, down to Colatraive and then up to Strachur and around to Ardentinny and back to Loch Eck. It was a very pleasant drive as the scenery is splendid and it was good to get a sense of the area around where I'm staying.

It's 5:30pm and once again pitch-black out. I think I'm going to make so tea, grab some of my McVittie's Hob-Nob cookies that I bought in town (they're crispy oat digestive cookies - I love them) and sit down in one of the restaurant windows over the heater and read my book. I'm reading Catch-22 at the moment, just started it really. It's bizarre but in an interesting way, though still not really sure what to make of it.

Later all.