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DO NOT book a visit at Balkissock Lodge if you want to leave the door open when you go to the toilet!!

 

Intrigued? Read on…

 

I’ve been asked only once why I don’t display my Visit Scotland rating but the answer intrigued the enquirer to a degree that I thought it worthy of a blog post

 

For those who are not aware, it would cost me £173.28 per year every year (2015 figure) to be part of the Quality Assurance Scheme:

Annual Fee (1 to 3 bedrooms)                        £122.00 + VAT

Additional fee per bedroom                           £11.20 + VAT

Source: http://www.visitscotland.org/pdf/QualityAssurance%202015Fees.pdf

 

To be part of the Scheme, you apply, pay your money and then an inspector visits, inspects, reveals their identity and awards you the grading.

Border Collie in the garden

 

With me so far? OK! This is where is gets interesting…

My business is B&B … BED and BREAKFAST … so you’d expect the majority of the grading criteria to be based upon the quality of the bed and breakfast … yes? OK, so the manner that you greet guests is important, and the information that you provide can make their stay more enjoyable and it’s nice to have a tidy driveway or garden but did you know that of the 42 criteria that a B&B is judged against, only TWO relate to the breakfast. That’s 27 lines of a 9 page document. There is more column space dedicated to the state of my gutters than to what I’m providing for breakfast!

Check it out for yourself: Visit Scotland Grading Criteria for B&Bs

 

How did the inspector rate Balkissock Lodge B&B based on a stay in my popular Arran Room:

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  • Cleanliness: 100% (5*)
  • Hospitality and Friendliness: 100% (5*)
  • Service and Efficiency: 100% (5*)
  • Exterior, Maintenance and Car Park: 60%
  • Bedrooms (Arran room): 62%
  • Bathroom (Arran room): 60%
  • All Public areas Quality and Maintenance: 72% (4*)
  • Dining Room: 60% (Inspector not sure it would hold four guests comfortably …. even though it does)
  • Breakfast Choice and Range: 80% (4*) and awarded a Visit Scotland “Taste our Best” Award

 

Not too shabby don’t you think?

The criteria are grouped into five sections and you have to have at least the same grading in all areas but because the Arran room and its ensuite score only 62% … Balkissock Lodge is only rated:

 

I know … Shock! Horror!

Interesting that guests staying in the Arran room this summer have left seven of the 10 5* reviews on Trip Advisor and four of these couples have commented that I’m not charging enough for the room!

“The [Arran] room was comfortable, spotless with all amenities.” TA review

“…the [Arran] room was spacious and comfortable…” TA review
So what were the inspector’s comments about what I could do to get a further 8 marks in that one section in order to get a 4* grading:

  • Put more pictures on the walls in the lounge and the corridors: there is a huge, expensive, signed print on one wall in the lounge plus two free-standing photos which apparently isn’t enough and I have no pictures (in frames) in the narrow corridor for safety reasons. There are a total of seven pictures in the two bedrooms.
  • Put a light inside the wardrobe because it’s dark in there: hands up everyone who has a light inside their wardrobe? Nope? Didn’t think so!
  • Put the coffee table and tray inside the large wardrobe because the door hits it when you open it: only if you open it over 110º, ie open it further that the other door which only opens to 90º before it hits the wall which apparently is OK though!
  • Buy matching furniture: the other bedroom was fine apparently until I pointed out that the furniture didn’t match in there so what was the difference? A bit of backtracking from the inspector at this point.
  • Provide more sockets as there weren’t enough sockets to plug the hairdryer in: there were three available but the computer, tablet and TV were plugged into them and I have NEVER in five years of B&Bing had anyone pull out the bed to use the socket behind it!!!
  • Change to motion activated lighting: apparently the 11W lamp that I leave on in the corridor all night (the bulb is still cold enough to touch in the morning by the way!) uses more energy than producing these battery operated expensive devices.
  • Put pebbles from the beach and a candle in the fireplace to brighten up the black hole
  • Get rid of the lounge facility (i.e. the sofas, bookcases etc) so that the breakfast room is larger and can comfortably seat four (despite the fact that it already does!)
  • Put a folding garden chair in the room as it takes up less space and there must be a chair in there to get four stars despite it being next door to the lounge!

Table set at Balkissock B&B

… and you’re going to love this one …

Change the door on the bathroom so that it slides into the wall cavity like the 5* new-build holiday cottages in the village so that you don’t have to close the bathroom door to get passed it to get to the toilet!

Oh and apparently there were too many towels and too many mirrors in the room!

Interestingly if you live in the town and only have one hanging basket, the same grading system is used to assess it as was used to assess my almost one acre of not weed-free garden and if you live in the town and have no parking at all then that doesn’t get marked (nor does it lose you marks) but because I have ample free parking it’s marked down because it’s not kept in a pristine condition!!

Also, I provide a huge selection of quality teas and coffee and the inspector even commented that it was the only place that they’d been offered their favourite Chai Tea. It’s all from Taylors of Harrogate, Clipper, Twinings or a similar quality renowned company but the examiner went to their car to bring me a sample of a tea that they thought I should be serving because it’s promoted as “Scottish Breakfast Tea”.  I checked the company’s website.  It’s imported and packaged in Scotland…nothing special!

Twinings, Clipper and Taylors of Harrogate Tea for B&B guests

So to sum up …

Basically, if you’re OK with too many mirrors and towels and a huge range of quality teas and coffees from the UK but not necessarily packaged in Scotland, it you don’t mind looking at facebook/twitter/Pinterest/Instagram and the website for your ‘fix’ of additional photos, aren’t bothered about neon lights in your wardrobe, can sensibly open a door without hitting a table, don’t mind if the bedside table and the table that the tea tray sit on don’t match, don’t mind unplugging one of your chargers when you want to dry your hair and normally close the bathroom door to when you go for a pee then Balkissock Lodge is perfect for you!!

Afternoon tea on the lawn

Alternatively, I could spend all day doing the gardening so that the garden, driveway and car park are pristine and not cook home baked biscuits for the guests and not make evening meals and home made preserves, and not bake any bread …..!

home baked wholemeal bread

To top it all, because I would not let VS add the 3* rating to their website as I believe that it would put people off visiting, they would not display my lovely “Taste our Best” Award … now that’s just spiteful!

Visit Scotland Taste our Best Award for the B&B, Ayrshire

I spoke to 24 accommodation providers, most in Scotland and some in England, and asked them about their respective grading systems. All but five had abandoned the rating systems because they felt that it did not properly reflect the needs of the modern visitor and they did not see that paying a yearly fee was a good investment for their business.  Of the five still with the grading systems, four didn’t like them but thought it brought additional business and only one was happy with their grading!

“A lot of us in England have left the star rating scheme and seem no ill effect but then visit England website never sent us any business so we weren’t relying on that” private conversation with someone who ran a 5* Gold B&B.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that I’ll not be renewing my grading next year … or ever!!

As an aside: I do also wonder about the business acumen of an inspector that refers to the money paid for the night’s B&B as “pure profit” just because it was paid in cash.  I’m guessing that I don’t need to pay for the water purity tests, the business insurance, advertising, maintenance, the food, electricity, laundry etc. etc. etc. out of this money then?

 

Visit Scotland have not yet responded to either my letter of complaint or to the comments that I added to their on-line questionnaire despite asking if I wanted someone to contact me so I’m unable to give you information from there as yet.

Bitter? Yes, actually I am a little. I know that overall Balkissock Lodge B&B scored 172/200 points which put it firmly in the 4* bracket and that there will be businesses out there that have been awarded a 4* grading with far fewer points which seems dreadfully unfair.

I know from guests comments, from online reviews and from kind comments on Trip Advisor that my guests value the warmth and hospitality and great food and I that no one has ever complained that the Arran room is too small.

Now, I do feel better getting that lot off my chest ;0)

Ayrshire B&B

Thank you for reading,

Copyright © 2016 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

 

Well if that hasn’t put you off …

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I’ve been making a few more little jumpers to send to South Africa.


I’m thinking of leaving some wool and needles in the guest lounge and inviting guest knitters to do a few rows whilst they’re here … what do you think?

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge (c) 2015

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I’ve been registering the B&B on a few free websites and in doing so answering a lot of odd questions regarding the property (no, none of our rooms have jacuzzis) but none as bizarre as “are you gay friendly?”

What does that mean! No, seriously … I’m curious.

We’ve welcomed several same sex couples to the B&B over the years and I find it difficult to believe that in 2015 there is still a need to clarify this and other issues regarding equality.  More disturbingly, I find it sad that a couple wishing to go away on holiday may feel the need to check that a property is “gay friendly”.

It’s an historic day in Ireland today. Well done to everyone who voted and good luck for the future to all couples who will now be able to plan their weddings.

We don’t do weddings here at Balkissock Lodge but keep us in mind for honeymoons!

Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

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T. Rex terrorises SWScotland….!

Well, we have a Jurassic coastline so perhaps it could have happened! Rexy also told me that Ailsa Craig (in the background) is the plug of an ancient volcano that once dwarfed Everest if locals are to be believed.

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Today’s post is dedicated to my cousin’s late wife who passed away following bone cancer leaving three young children.

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Rexy is travelling the globe to raise awareness and here’s how the whole thing works….

“T. rex is travelling the globe promoting cancer awareness. One person keeps the T-Rex for a week and take photos portraying the T-Rex however she/he feels like, be creative, have fun. Dedicate the photos to whoever you feel like, post them here and in the social media of your choice, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, just make sure tag your photos #t_rex_planet_tour_cancer_awareness.

When the person finishes with the 7th or more photos she/he will send the T-Rex to another person in any place on the planet, and that other person will send to another one and so on…”

Check out Rexy’s fb page:
https://www.facebook.com/TRexPlanetTourCancerAwarenessProject

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Thanks for stopping by and reading….check out the link for signs and symptoms of cancer…early diagnosis can make a huge difference:
http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Aboutcancer/Signssymptoms.aspx

Cordelia 2013

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It’s been some time since I last posted … and for a good reason … my real life has over taken my virtual life (how dare it!).

I’ve barely used facebook or uploaded a picture to blipfoto and I miss all my virtual friends that I used to tweet to on a daily basis.

But my New Year’s Resolution is to remedy that … I love my new job which is consuming so much of my time but armed with my new ipad and internet access I hope to restore my work/life balance.

Happy New Year to you all and thank you so much for all the wonderful comments over the past 18 months … I hope 2013 is good to you all.

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Education in Scotland

… a personal perspective

I’ve been teaching a number of years and before moving to Scotland worked as the Head of Design Technology in a busy department in one of the top comprehensive schools in England.  A progressive school, praised by Ofsted as “outstanding” in all areas and mentioned twice in the Houses of Commons as a model of good practice.

So, with excellent references and a good honours degree perhaps you’d share my thinking that it wouldn’t take too long to find suitable teaching employment in Scotland … think again!

DEAR DIARY ….

30th June 2011: It’s the last day of term and everyone is excited and looking forward to the holiday.   I need to take off my teaching head and don my B&B head as I’ve 7 weeks of non-stop breakfasts, cleaning and evening meals ahead.

9th August 2011: Today I met up for lunch with the ladies that I’ve been working with for the past 21 months in Home Economics (HE) … naturally, we talked ‘shop’.

16th August 2011: First day of term… the Local Authority (LA), haven’t phoned … my friend & colleague has however and wonders where I am. She’s sorted all my class lists and done my food orders ready for me starting.  #Bless

18th August 2011: Friend & colleague been on phone to say that she misses me and the children are asking where I am…two were crying because I wasn’t there!

19th August 2011: Phoned LA who tell me that the job is to be advertised and they’re not filling it in the meantime.  I can’t apply because the LA won’t appoint outside of my own subject (Technical) (even though there’s no legal reason preventing them) and (apparently) I’m not qualified to teach the subject I’ve been successfully teaching for 21 months.

PS: Head Teacher (HT) telephoned me to apologise; she didn’t know of the LA’s intentions.

PPS: Telephoned the General Teaching Council in Scotland (GTCS) who suggest reminding the LA that due to a repeal of the Education Act some years ago they could legally appoint me.

PPPS: HT phoned back again and said she also got nowhere with the LA.

24th August 2011: Colleague telephoned and tells me they have a retired teacher doing the job that they’re “not filling in the meantime”.  #Annoyed

26th August 2011: LA have sent my P45 and backdated it to 15th August 2011.  #Hmmm

5th September 2011: Contacted my Union for advice.  Been emailing back and forward all day clarifying points and details.  Head’s spinning! Union contacted LA who told them that they send the P45s out every year “as a matter of course” … odd how I don’t remember one arriving last year!

9th September 2011: The LA have advertised the job today … 0.5 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Permanent.

12th September 2011: Thought “sod it” and applied for the job anyway!

13th September 2011: Union contacted to say that they think I have a case for asking LA to give me a permanent contract as I had continuous employment with them for 2 years (according to the LA’s own regulations).

14th September 2011: Sent a letter to the LA requesting permanent employment.

19th September 2011: Had an email from the LA saying that the job has been changed from permanent to temporary! Spoke to Union who don’t seem alarmed – they really need to wise up…!

3rd October 2011: Emailed recruitment to ask for an update on the advertised job … advised that the post was “in process of being leeted for” and that they’ll email when they know.

PS: No work since June … worried about paying mortgage.

9th October 2011: Held Craft Fayre today at the Lodge and raised £80 for local charity. Friend and colleague came to support and also told me that the job has vanished – the classes have been given to any teacher who had space on their timetable and they have supply in for lessons that couldn’t be covered.

11th October 2011: Letter arrived from the LA saying that I am not entitled to permanent employment as I had not worked for them for a continuous two years … I’m two weeks short apparently!!

PS: …and because they didn’t give me any work for the first few weeks of term there’s a break in my contract so I’m not entitled to any further employment rights and I’ll have to start accruing entitlement and wait another two FULL years until I’m once again eligible.  #Angry

18th October 2011: Noticed that adjoining LA have advertised a teaching job as “term time only” and adjusted the pay accordingly.  I think that should be filed under #WTF

19th October 2011: Decided that life’s too short to be away from those that you love and that the LA can shove teaching in Scotland where the sun doesn’t shine.  Telephoned the General Teaching Council in England (GTCE) to re-register: one form, 10 mins to fill in (unlike the 42 separate documents I had to photocopy and submit to the GTCS a few years ago (yes I did count them) … unnecessary bureaucracy and NO that doesn’t mean that they have higher standards!).

24th October 2011: LA still haven’t bothered to email me, as promised, to let me know about the job that they advertised as permanent but now no longer exists. Thought that I’d better update the Union … for what that’s worth!

25th October 2011: I was booked to do a day’s supply today at a different school.  The Principal Teacher (HOD) was so pleased to see that it was ME who turned up (having previously interviewed me for the job that the LA refused to employ me for) the school promptly booked me until Christmas … so the LA are now employing me FULL TIME in a HE job that “I’m not qualified to teach”…!! #Madness

30th October 2011: Friend and colleague telephoned … the retired supply teacher doing my old job was not happy that the LA have cut HER job to 5 hrs per week!

11th November 2011: Two possible jobs in the TES today … a maternity cover and a HOD job – guess I know what I’ll be doing this weekend!

12th November 2011: GTCE have sent my full registration certificate this morning #Efficient

P.S. I’ve posted my applications for the two jobs.

28th November 2011: Wow … have an interview on Friday for the Maternity job … told school and they wished me luck but said that they’d be really sorry to lose me.

2nd December 2011: Decided early this morning to withdraw from the interview … very difficult decision … I need to focus on a permanent position.

5th December 2011: Received phone call this afternoon inviting me to interview on Monday for the HOD job.

12th December 2011: Interview day – feeling very nervous – it’s the first one I’ve had in 8 years in England!  36 applicants and 4 interviewed.

PS: Didn’t get the job but I appointed and mentored the teacher who did when she was a new teacher a few years ago! #Ironic

22nd December 2011:  Today is the last day of my current contract … school have put in a request to keep me … no word from the LA. #Typical

6th January 2012:  No phone call or contract so no idea if I’m at same school on Monday or if I have any work at all. Telephoned LA.  Snotty woman on phone said that they had been done on Wednesday and mine will be with me shortly.  I’ll not hold my breath!

1st February 2012:  Emailed my HT to advise him I’ve seen a HOD job that I’m applying for … he replied: “We will certainly miss you from the school” #Bless

6th February 2012:  Received my Post Graduate Diploma Certificate from Newcastle University this morning.

9th February 2010: Phoned LA:

Me: Should I be attending school next Tuesday for the Inservice day?

LA: You have a full-time contract so yes, it’s part of your contract.

Me: I do not have a full-time contract … in fact I have no contract at all since you haven’t bothered to post one to me even though I’ve telephoned to chase it up and since you wouldn’t pay me last year for attending an Inservice day I’ll be damned if I’m coming in next week if you’re not going to pay me.

LA:  Let me check *kept on hold for a while* Yes, you’re definitely full time so you will be paid for the day and I’ll ensure that your contract is in the post straight away.

As usual, I’ll not hold my breath!

10th February 2012:  Received telephone call inviting me for an interview.

21st February 2012: Interview day. 42 applications, 4 interviewed. #Nervous

PS: Didn’t much care for some of the staff but no worries as I didn’t get the job either!

22nd March 2012: Another interview today … worst one yet. The staff were just plain awful – so relieved when I didn’t get offered the job!  Decided that I’ve had enough – it’s a long way to go each time for interview and I’m so tired and demoralised!  Confidence is at an all-time low!!  Telephoned good teaching colleagues who I know can put things into perspective for me.

13th May 2012:   Applied for an Assistant Faculty Leader job today that I really like the sound of.  It’s the highest position I’ve applied for and would be a promotion on the job I used to hold in England.

16th May 2012:  LA have advertised the HE job that I’m currently doing but cannot apply for.

23rd May 2012: Telephone call inviting me for an interview.

29th May 2012:  Interview day.  No nerves … this feels right!! 28 applications, 4 interviewed.

PS: HT phoned me at 2pm to offer me the position. #stunned

30th May 2012:  Went to school with a heavy heart … I should be feeling proud and happy but I’m sad to be leaving.  Lots of hugs from all.

PS: My P60 arrived today.  It’s wrong … again #ffs

12th June 2012: Another school in the LA that advertised for a HE teacher and got no applications phoned my HOD today to see if I was available to book for August.  Nice to be wanted

13th June 2012:  The lady who applied for the job I’m currently doing was interviewed and appointed today.  She’s lovely and I know that she’ll be very happy working with my wonderful colleagues.

26th June 2012:  Last day of teaching in Scotland … end of an era! Lunch with the ladies was sad.  HT gave me a huge hug before I left wishing me every luck and success in my new job and was so sad that I was leaving *crying* (me that is!)

31st August 2012:  Starting my new job on Monday …. beginning to get nervous!!  Had three phone calls from LA desperate for me to teach HE again this year as they’re short staffed. My P45 hasn’t arrived “as a matter of course” this year … apparently they can’t send it until I officially resign in writing!! #colddayinhell

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Selling the house and winding up my husband’s business are the next steps I guess.  We’ll miss the country life but hopefully find time to visit our Scottish friends from time-to-time.

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It’s difficult to put into words the level of contempt that I have for my previous LA.  I’ve spoken to many teachers about my predicament over the past year and been saddened to learn I’m not alone.  One said she was on short-term contracts for 18 years and another doesn’t know who’s going to be working in her department from one week to the next!

But I have a wonderful new job and I’m looking forward to seeing more of my family.

As a final note of irony … not only am I teaching Food and Textiles Technology (HE) … I’m in charge of the department!!

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Copyright © 2012 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge

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A short post to promote a worthy cause …

A Twitter and Facebook friend is raising awareness of the following three charities:

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Can I ask you to help her to support her chosen charities by heading over  to her blog at

Survivorsburg

Why not take a look and help support too? Or chat to May @Survivorsburg on Twitter.

Thank you :O)

 

 

 

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