Well, that was quite a year.
My last blogs of the year, or sometimes the first, have been a summary of the major things we have achieved in the previous 12 months. I do this more to remind Dave and I of what we have done but hope they are of interest to others. I hope nobody minds if I do the same again.
COVID and the coronavirus pandemic has been the global event of 2020 impacting everyone to a greater or lesser extent. Being part of the tourist and travel industry it is fair to say that we were heavily affected and the year hasn’t gone quite as we’d hoped, or planned. Indeed, re-reading my summary at the end of 2019 with the list of things I’d hope to achieve in 2020 I have only managed 3 of the 7 specified.
Having re-read of all my blogs for 2020 they seemed to have the same theme as previous years with many saying that we hadn’t made as much progress in the preceding week as we’d had hoped. What was different last year was that a number also said that we weren’t expecting any guests for a while with the various periods of confinement, so it hadn’t mattered so much whatever project we were working on hadn’t been finished.
Thankfully, the year hasn’t been the disaster it could have been, and that we feared it would have been in March. The French government put in place a number of means to support those most impacted, which was gratefully received, and we were lucky enough to welcome lots of new guests to Kergudon, but if we wanted luxuries like food, electricity and heating the house it wasn’t a great year! It was certainly the first time I considered the sanity of leaving secure government employment to be our own boss!
We are conscious, and grateful, that we haven’t been impacted as badly as many others and especially as we don’t have anyone close who has passed away as a result of the virus. Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones
The year started off with such promise for us. At the end of 2019 we had more reservations for the following year than at the same point in any previous year and we had lots of plans to continue our investments in Kergudon not least a major refurbishment of our family gîte, Priory.
Priory was by far the biggest obvious change we made last year and the project began in earnest the first week of January expecting to take 3 months and be ready for Easter in early April. We had made reasonably good progress but my blog on 15th March was the first to mention COVID by which time the French government had already limited public gatherings and closed all non-essential businesses including the gym Dave worked at in Brest. This allowed Dave a little more time to work on a major project for 2020 that wasn’t impacted by the confinement – our new website.
The biggest impact for us was that the electrician and builder / plumber who were working with us were unable to continue effectively putting the project on hold. At that stage, we were also unable to welcome guests to the gîtes so with David at home, we were both able to focus on other projects.
With amazing spring weather we were able to work outside and focus on clearing up the large sycamore trees we had felled in the autumn of 2019. Because it was cheaper not to ask the tree surgeon to clear away the wood (and we can use it), the branches had lain in the orchard for over 5 months as we had had a very wet winter and the grass was starting to suffer.
With a minor delay having broken the shredder we cleared the wood in time to allow us to then scarify all the lawns making them look scruffy. It didn’t matter at that stage as we were in the first, and arguably only proper, period of confinement.
With the sycamores felled we were able to then plant over 70 lonicera plants in their place which will, in time, make for a more attractive boundary to the garden. We were also able to cut down some smaller trees behind Stable which will, again in time, allow us to create a hidden private terrace for the B&B.
With Dave working from home we connected his salle de sport to the wifi enabling him to conduct his group classes without having to travel to Brest and to continue with his Skype Personal Training clients from his gym rather than our lounge. A win for us both!
With all the wood we had been cutting needed somewhere to be stored to season and, with the destruction of our cheap serre in one of the many winter storms of January 2020, we replaced it with something much more robust in May.
With the confinement lifted we were able to welcome our first guests of 2020 at the start of July. We were also able to continue Priory on the return of our electrician and a new plumber. The 3 month schedule had become closer to 6½ and, despite having taken so much longer, in true Kergudon style we were working very long days in the last week. If it weren’t for the assistance of a couple of good friends the day before our first Priory guests arrived we would have been working round the clock to get it done. Whose law is it that work expands to fill the time available?
However, hard work though it was, we love the transformation and think it was definitely worth doing. More importantly, all our guests who have stayed there have loved it, especially when it was decorated for Christmas.
The Priory project meant that I hadn’t completed one task on my ‘To Do 2020’ list which was to clear the garage bays and my man shed. In fact, because of the Priory project they have become even more chaotic. We did manage to concrete one of the garage bays, but then have quickly filled it up again!
The garage got more love when I managed to stain the exterior for the first time since we built it in 2017 so making it look good and protecting the wood for a number of years to come.
This year has allowed us to even make some improvements to our own house with my final project being to refurbish our laundry and cloakroom. This was on the back of having our ancient fuel boiler replaced for a more efficient air source heat pump and so needing to strip the room out completely. This project was also delayed by the second confinement which prevented our plumber from coming to us and meant that we had a tumble dryer in our lounge until Christmas Eve.
The wait was worth it however and, when completely finished, will make an amazing space.
The year ended almost as it began with us having a number of trees felled on the boundary. Ash this time on the north east side of the garden, which we shredded and cleared before planting new, more attractive trees which will look amazing in years to come.
This week we have had a relaxed time enjoying the festive period. We have taken a couple of long walks with the dogs, including a lovely walk from Térénez on the north coast around a bay attached to the Bay of Morlaix.
This New Year walk preceded our traditional New Year high tea when we eat up as many of the left over Christmas treats as we can before we start on a dry and more abstemious January.
During the walk we were also caught out by a sudden, heavy and long rain storm. As the forecast hadn’t shown any risk of this we didn’t have our waterproofs so weren’t well prepared for this and had to change our plans changing from one long circular walk to 2 smaller circuits.
Hopefully this experience is more reflective of how 2020 was rather than an omen of how 2021 will be. COVID will continue to affect how we live and holiday for many months to come not to mention the changes required with the UK’s final departure from the EU.
However these changes impact travellers we hope to be able to welcome lots of guests, new and previous, to Kergudon in the coming year. We have lots of projects to start and progress to continue to develop and improve the gardens and properties some of which were on my list 12 months ago! Most importantly, we wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe 2021 and hope to see you soon.