I don’t know where this week has gone. Life is very different for us in France but it still seems to pass very quickly – more so now, during high season, when we are full and Stable, our chambre d’hôte, is changing over regularly.
As last week, the principal activity has been continuing to cut the hedges – and I’m still not done! I have managed to hack back a couple of hedges that we hadn’t managed to cut at all last year while I was focussed on the garage. I am getting quite concerned that, when all of the hedges we have planted have grown to the point that they require cutting it will be weeks of work! Hopefully however, by then our major projects will be completed and it will only be maintenance required ….
It is encouraging that, where we have cut the hedges regularly, they are starting to thicken out and make a decent boundary. The laurel we cut back to the ground in 2016 has also started to look really good – although there are a few gaps which will take a little longer to fill.
It is taking a little longer to finish all the hedges than it should as I try not to make too much noise in the mornings when we have guests staying and relaxing on holiday so I generally don’t start the hedge cutters until gone 10. Conscious that most people reading this will probably be in the office, or at least commuting, many hours before this please don’t think 10 a.m. is the start of our day!
While Dave is chef for our 3 course meals, I am responsible for breakfasts (as long as there are poached eggs or hollandaise sauce to be made when Dave takes over again!) With Stable proving very popular there are lots of breakfasts to be made and delivered; vast amounts of laundry to be hung out to dry; and dogs to be exercised there is generally lots of things to be done before 10. I did say that our lives are very different here!
Last week I mentioned that we would likely be making a short, Brexit related, visit to Quimper, because, even though the UK referendum was over 2 years ago, there is still uncertainty about the status of UK citizens in France. Unlike other EU members, France never required other EU citizens to register when they first move here so there is no official record of when we arrived. We have no concerns that we will be deported but we would like some certainty about how we will be envisaged by the French state.
The only recommendation about how to do this is to apply for a Carte de Sejour (effectively a Residence Permit.) This requires an interview and, in true French bureaucratic style, creating a dossier or paperwork to prove how long we have been here and that we won’t be a drain on the French state (yet!) Last week’s meeting was just to arrange the interview which, because of the number of Brits doing the same thing now, is now booked – for late March 2019. Still, gives us plenty of time to generate the rainforest of paper that we will need.
Today has been a very relaxed day. We have had a, much needed, deluge of rain – the last one oddly was a Sunday too – so we have sheltered in the house – and our Priory guests have booked the cinema for this evening, the first guests to do so. At least this time the deluge has started to fill up our new water butts and our guests are getting use of our new accoutrements.
A couple of week’s ago we had some guests stay with us in Hayloft one of whom was a photographer and they sent us some lovely pictures of the boys. Hope you like them.
Finally, Brittany Ferries have some amazing offers for short autumn breaks in France travelling from Plymouth to Roscoff which is only 40 minutes from us. Come and see us. Or, if you can’t make it here for autumn but are already looking ahead to your summer holiday 2019, they have released their sailing times now. We’d love to see you.
As I write this blog at the end of another sweltering day’s heat, the rain of last Sunday is a very distant memory. We are not surprised that the farmers of the UK are concerned about the state of crops and grazing land as this has proven to be an exceptional year – it’s unfortunate it is also the year we chose to plant 100 new yews – I’m concerned how many will make it through the summer despite our best efforts.
Last Sunday’s storm was evidently windier than it seemed. I listed the damage that we sustained ourselves, including the electrical supply cable pulling out of the back wall of Granary. We had been told the electricity company would be coming that night to repair although was sceptical that we would see them. I was right!
However, they did telephone to say that there were a number of homes without power at all which they were rightly prioritising. They promised to be with us on Monday and they arrived shortly after 9 am and repaired the cable pretty quickly so our faith has been restored!
I spent some of Monday clearing up the fallen apple bough in the orchard of our last apple tree. Despite it being old and unloved for many years, this year, despite the winter cold, spring wet and summer drought, the crop was so heavy it was what caused the bough to break.
The tree has always been growing at an odd angle and, now with the top branch gone, it is an even odder shape and, sadly as the last remaining apple tree in the orchard, it is probably a candidate for felling in the autumn.
The main activity for the remainder of the week was hedge cutting. Normally, I try and cut the hedges at least twice and year and would have normally done this earlier but this year I was told it is better to wait until August in case there are any nesting birds. With the jungle bed having been cleared in the spring this cut was less of a life-endangering activity than previously and so we decided to be a little more brutal with the hedges around the orchard and lower them slightly more than previously – generating a lot of waste. Start a compost heap also on the list!
The finished hedges look great – those that I have managed to complete – although the drought has taken its toll even on some of the privet plants which are supposed to be among the toughest of hedging. Again, we’ll have to see what needs replacing when / if the rain returns.
My other success was repairing the drain under what will be the new patio at our back door and, in preparation for the next drought, plumbing in the water butts we installed around Grange – if only I had managed to do that pre-drought!
We did manage to select what we will use for the replaced patio having spent a morning in Brest trawling around the brico stores, and others of course. We don’t go to Brest often and compile a comprehensive list of things that we need to get when we are there. Having chosen the paving, when we came home we tried to order it online having calculated exactly how much we needed only to find we can’t, or over the phone, and need to go back and order in person! Grrrr!!
More successful was a visit to Morlaix to visit the historic house called the Duchesse Anne (a historic Breton heroine). The house has been under near permanent renovation since we moved here which is now very near completion and they have organised a number of evening torchlight tours to show off their efforts.
The house is known as a lantern house owing to its shape, fundamentally 2 separate houses one behind the other, with a roofed enclosed ‘courtyard’ between the 2 with a huge fireplace. For me, the most interesting feature of the house was a spectacular carved oak staircase winding up the corner of the central atrium. Well worth a visit.
Next week will be more hedging, and more and more in years to come as all of the hedges we have planted mature, and probably a brief, Brexit related, trip to Quimper.
I wish I wouldn’t make these bold claims at the end of my blogs as, last week, I thought that everything was set fair for me to make some good progress. However, as we have now very definitely entered the high season and have guests in all of our gîtes, there are is lot to keep us busy looking after things. David, as chef, has been especially occupied with 3 three-course meals prepared on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights all well received and looked, and smelt, amazing.
The main job that I started during the week is one that we had further down the priority list – relaying the terrace at our own back door. However, with the aim of tidying the whole area in front of the garage and eventually laying new gravel there it made sense to make a start. This was principally because, at present, there is no clear boundary between the drive and our terrace which would have meant that any gravel laid would simply roll onto the patio.
The terrace was laid, we believe, by our predecessors using some of the huge amounts of slate there is around. As such the surface isn’t completely level and the stones don’t join well together. Also, slate not being porous, over the years more and more of the stones have come loose and would have needed replacing anyway but we thought that, at some point, we would relay the whole terrace with paving – which we haven’t chosen!
Some of the slates had been re-laid more recently as the concrete underneath was much harder in some places than others. Thankfully, with a bit of brute force all eventually gave way giving me a trailer-full of hardcore. I would love to have kept it for when we eventually build our formal pond but, keeping it would have made another areas look more like Steptoe’s yard, so, reluctantly, it has gone to the tip. At least the slate we lifted is being very useful to make the small wall required – yet another one!
What I did discover, was that some of the drainage pipework under the terrace had been pierced some time ago before being buried under the slate and it has started to create its own mini-sinkhole! Sadly, I don’t have the bits to repair the pipe yet so it has extended and slowed the job. What we will also be able to do is build a fence to hide the oil tank which has been something we have wanted to do almost since we arrived. We understand there used to be a panel there which was blown down many years ago.
Last night, traditionally a couple of weeks after the Fête Nationale, Commana held its firework display on the Lac du Drennec. They were quite good, and the location is obviously fabulous, but we still think Sizun has been the most impressive of those that we have attended.
Thankfully, the fireworks had finished before the weather broke and, as the UK, the fantastic heatwave we have been enjoying, was ended with a downpour last night and most of today. While the weather has been blustery, we didn’t think that it has been so blustery as to have caused any damage. However, we have lost a hanging basket from the front of Priory; the top of our remaining apple tree was broken off and, exactly a year after the electricity company reattached the cable to Granary, it has pulled out of the wall again.
This time it has pulled out in a more comprehensive way and is dangling a few feet off the ground. Thankfully it hasn’t, yet, cut the supply to Granary and, as we have guests staying there, we really hope it doesn’t. Having called the electricity supplier at 15.15 we are told they should be here today – we will see, it took 7 weeks last time!
Encouragingly, this week we have accepted our first booking for summer 2019 and continue to get lots of enquiries for this summer which we would love to accept but are full. One family called today for accommodation from tonight! We know that there are so many reasons why this region is so popular as a holiday destination but this week it was publicised that the sea is 3.5 degrees warmer than last year and is hotter than Malaga!
I’m not going to make any predictions about how busy I’m going to be next week – I don’t want to set myself up for another fall!!
Last week’s blog said that with far fewer distractions I would be able to make great progress on our outstanding projects. That was half true! I have at least managed to complete the 2 tasks that I started about 3 weeks ago which has meant that we have been able to make a start on a couple of other things and we have added more to our ‘To Do’ list!
One of the tasks completed was recommissioning the boot room. While we were building the garage I allowed my existing man-shed / workshop to become a rather disorganised mess so did some building projects in the boot room instead. Having cleaned it out thoroughly I was able to do a couple of tasks that were outstanding from the original conversion and rectify a couple of snags we’d discovered.
With more storage and work space available in the garage, and with a plan to demolish and rebuild the man-shed in the next 6 months, we hope that the boot room will remain just that from now on!
The other, larger, project was to complete the bin and recycling area on the north end of Grange. Having cleared the space of stone and weed, I was able to build a more organised area to keep the bins and one of the three 800 litre water butts that we bought last year. Perhaps in the future I will make some gates for each section but that can wait, for now we are very happy with the change from a couple of weeks ago.
Having been so dry over the last few weeks we have made use of the village lavoir to refill our existing butts while the 3 larger ones had been stored next to the man-shed. We have now positioned them all where they will live permanently and benefit from the run off from the large garage roof. We still need to plumb them in and had we managed to do so before yesterday we would already have a few hundred additional litres of water from a much needed downpour yesterday afternoon.
As in the UK, the weather has been incredible for the last 5 or 6 weeks and, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this has meant, where we have been able to water the garden and hanging baskets are looking great as too the terrace in front of Hayloft.
The heat, humidity and rain (when we have had them) have meant the jungle bed that we re-built and planted in the spring is starting to look great. We love the vibrancy of the hot pokers and canna lilies but evidently the slugs particularly enjoy the purple banana!
This week we have 2 families staying in our large gîtes as the first with children of an age when the games room will be used since its completion. It is a bit of an experiment for us too! Having been our ‘baby’ for so long we are very protective of it and, a bit, nervous for the things in it. We don’t want to impose ‘rules’ for those using the room and hope that children, or more probably their parents, respect it, but the first breakage within 24 hours of arrival doesn’t bode well!!
I should probably also explain the choice of title for this week’s blog. It stems from an ongoing discussion we are having with GoogleMyBusiness over a review we have received. We are well aware that most of the world lives life online (although another blessing of being in rural France is that they don’t!) and certainly use the web to find holiday accommodation. As such, David has spent a lot of time and effort understanding how to get Kergudon ranked as high as we can on Google pages – a process called SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
One of the, many and ever changing, things that the Googlebots take into consideration when ranking you, is the ratings and reviews you receive on a number of platforms, not least their own.
We have been very fortunate that we have received some really lovely comments from our guests and some very positive feedback across lots of platforms, with the exception of one. A few months ago we received a 1-star Google review with absolutely no textual comments. None of our guests had raised any complaints with us so David responded to the reviewer, who had posted under a name that we did not recognise and did not resemble any guest that we had stay, to understand what the issue was but received no response.
We completely understand that we cannot be perfect but, as we didn’t receive any response from the review (whose name had subsequently changed online), we believe this was a malicious review from someone who has never stayed with us. As such we spoke with GoogleMyBusiness to ask for the review to be removed.
GoogleMyBusiness have been responsive but have maintained the line that they cannot remove the review as, because it has no textual comments, it doesn’t break any of their ‘policies’. However, being a 1-star review it has an adverse impact on our rating average. We have continued to outline our case to GoogleMyBusiness but without success.
As, perversely, I can’t review GoogleMyBusiness anywhere, and I am slightly nervous that the GoogleBots will use the content of this blog to punish us(!) perhaps I may ask for your assistance.
If you have stayed with us at Kergudon, and enjoyed your stay, please can you help redress our rating average by leaving us a Google review? And, while I find it strange, as evidently you don’t need to have stayed with us at all to review us, if you haven’t stayed but want to say nice things about us, that would be nice too – if a little unethical!
After yesterday’s downpour the weather look set fair for the next 10 days, and a little cooler, so definitely no excuse not to make good progress!
Sadly, as last week, I haven’t achieved a huge amount on any of our ongoing projects in the last 7 days. Again, this was mostly due to external distractions but also because the weather has remained so hot working outside is difficult. Almost one entire day was spent watering the yews we planted earlier in the year to save as many as we can.
That said, I have completed the clearance of the north end of the Grange which I started last week. Thankfully, being the north side, it was in shade for the majority of the day although even the air temperature got so warm it wasn’t always comfortable. One of the harder parts of the task was to dig a trench between the garage and the wall I built at the end of 2016 to bury the cable we had pre-positioned for lights that will eventually go on the back gate.
We have been told that, many years ago, there used to be a building in almost exactly the same position as we have built the garage. This was evident as the ground around it had evidently had stones laid and compacted to make a hard standing. Ideal as a base, less so to dig through. Thankfully the area is now cleared (at least until the weeds start to grow again) so next week I will be able to build the bin store area and move the bins from under the games room steps.
I have made some progress towards completing the recommissioning of the boot room. I haven’t quite finished but have managed to complete a couple of tasks that were outstanding from its original conversion. However, to demonstrate how work often leads to more work, as I think I am cleaning the floor maybe better than when we converted the room, it is evident all that is between the cobbles is dirt. Therefore I think I will point between the blocks with a better mortar mix to make a better job of things. I will share pictures next week.
I also mentioned in last week’s blog that there was a once in a generation chance to see the Tour de France pass through our own commune of Sizun. As such, we chose to go and watch in the neighbouring commune of Commana! I confess now that I am not a major follower of cycling and, even when we were living in London and the tour passed through in 2014, we didn’t make an effort to go and watch.
However, this year, as it was so convenient we joined our neighbours, one of whom is a very keen cyclist, to watch the carnival pass through. We knew at the start that it would be a long day’s wait for a few minutes of bike activity but we took a picnic and enjoyed spending the time with our neighbours. We found a good spot on the main road on the outskirts of Commana, not the spot our cycling friend initially wanted but, owing to the ‘efficiency’ of the farmers closing the roads with their tractors earlier than advertised, but one that gave us a good view down a long stretch of road where we could see the pack arrive.
For a cycling event, which I assume is in part designed to promote the ‘green’ sport of cycling, there were way more cars, vans and motor vehicles travelling with the tour than bikes and the fumes they would have pumped out would rather have negated any benefit of cycling.
The large number of Gendarmes accompanying the Tour are apparently seconded from the Paris based Presidential Guard. They were certainly smart looking and may well explain why the B-team were left in Paris for Fête Nationale parade! Interestingly, the official car marque of the tour was not a proud French brand but a German owned Czech brand.
One of the things that I did know about the Tour, was that it is preceded by an enormous caravan of marketing vehicles distributing freebies to the crowds, and this certainly took longer to pass than the bikes themselves! Never have I seen so many bizarre vehicles designed to represent the companies flogging their wears and there was a real mixed bag! From the official water of the tour, through gambling companies, convenience foods, high sugar sweets and retirement village companies all very weird!
Some of these companies had some amazing vehicles including motorized oranges, chip pans and massive chickens, and they all had tat to throw at the crowds making for the biggest exercise of state-authorised littering in the world.
These gifts were thrown from the vehicles by a team of marketers, half of which looked so bored and depressed that this was only stage 7 of 21 and there were days of this ahead of them, and half who looked so happy there were probably on something illicit slipped to them by the cyclists. With the exception of a few edibles, most of the plastic, plastic-wrapped, freebies probably went from marketing vehicle to bin faster than the winner completed the stage further increasing the environmental credentials of the event.
A great day out and I look forward to the Tour coming back to Sizun!!
This week was also France’s Fête Nationale, which we know as Bastille Day, when there are celebrations and fireworks throughout France. This year it fell conveniently on a Saturday and there was a 50 / 50 split between towns having their events on the Friday or Saturday.
We chose to go to our own commune of Sizun on Friday and to Morlaix on Saturday. Sizun was excellent. For a small town they had a really great event. The market square was closed off for music and dancing, initially Breton before the fantastic, music accompanied, 20 minute firework display from the church courtyard. The fireworks were set off from within Sizun’s enclos and the top of the church spire silhouetting the triumphal arch for the crowd in the square. Some of the land-launched fireworks hit the side of the steeple, probably not seen as much flak for 75 years! Sadly the pictures don’t do it justice.
We then though that we would go to Morlaix on Saturday because, as a larger town with an iconic viaduct, we thought it was bound to be another good show. Sizun had set the bar high and, while Morlaix was OK, it was definitely not as good. We had some guests visit the display in Huelgoat on Saturday which we think was probably the better choice that night.
Commana hold their Fête Nationale fireworks on the lake in a couple of weeks on the Lac du Drennec which we are looking forward to.
Next week there is no Wiggo*, no Wimbledon, no World cup, few weather worries (although there is some desperately needed rain forecast for tomorrow night) and so no way I can achieve as little as I have in the last couple of weeks – and I have a lot to catch up on! I’ll let you know.
(* I know Bradley Wiggins wasn’t involved in this year’s Tour de France but I couldn’t think of another ‘W’ to describe the Tour and maintain the alliteration!)
Last week’s blog picked up on my comment of the previous week, that we need to take more time off and enjoy the experience of being in France, and the weather when that allows. While we didn’t do that last week, looking back, I am afraid that I can probably say that I have achieved less last week than any other since we have lived here!
This was partly because we were hosting my Dad and his wife, and partly because there has been a lot of good sport worth watching!
Workwise, I started to recommission (aka clear and clean) the boot room. As, over the construction of the garage, my man-shed has become a dumping ground and so completely unusable as a workshop, the boot room took its place. The consequence of this was that the boot room became more and more of a dumping ground itself, including where we stored the old water heater that we removed from Granary in November 2016.
I haven’t taken any pictures of the room before the clear up but, having built the new Granary fences in it there was lots of sawdust on the floor, not to mention lots of cobwebs everywhere! Having been a quiet week, the clear up isn’t actually yet finished but I will show some pics next week.
The only other work task begun was to clear the north end of Grange. Again, this area has not been a focus up to now and was where I had piled (more) of the slate that I had dug up when I rebuilt the back wall. It had slowly become overgrown with bramble and a sycamore tree had taken root. As we have now decided to put the bins on that end of the garage, and we want to gravel that area, it needed to be cleared.
David did his yoga on the shores of the Lac du Drennec on a beautiful morning and then, as there were some very large pieces of stone, a friend of his joined us to start the clearance. Again this isn’t yet complete!
As I mentioned, we were hosting my Dad and his wife for the week and, while they were with us, we took the opportunity to visit this summer’s exhibition in the Leclerc Cultural Foundation in Landerneau which is on Henry Moore.
As most, I knew of the sculpture work of Henry Moore but this exhibition was an excellent collection of his drawings, sketches, models and architectural work as well as sculpture. It is another excellent exhibition and, being open to 4th November, is well worth a visit.
As I haven’t achieved too much last week, next week will be busier but, of course, there is another must-see event as the Tour de France passes through Sizun. The stage we are closest to sees the tour cycle from Brest to Mûr-de-Bretagne passing through the centre of our closest market town, Sizun, and through to Commana, Huelgoat and beyond.
All the villages along the route are starting to make their preparations for the eyes of the world to be on them, albeit briefly. This generally involves tying colourful bicycles to lampposts and roadsigns. I suspect Sizun will do more in the coming few days …
Last week’s blog ended with a statement that we generally needed to take more time to relax. It also started saying how amazing the weather had been – and looked like it would continue to be. Thankfully, at least for the start of the week, the forecast was correct and the incredibly hot weather continued. In fact, it was so hot that I couldn’t work outside for a couple of afternoons during the week due to the excessive heat.
I only say that the forecast was accurate at the start of the week as, having got so hot, we were desperately in need of some rain which was initially forecast for yesterday but didn’t arrive.
I did manage to make some progress on the garage bay that I had levelled the previous week. As this is one of the bays that we intend to have garage doors fitted to, we want to keep it as dry as possible. To help, having levelled the floor I have laid a plastic sheet to minimise the amount of moisture rising from the ground and have used the final tonne of sand or so, which wasn’t needed on the pétanque pitch, to create a protective layer before we add gravel at some point.
I have also completed the final internal cladding in the last remaining garage bay, the one furthest from Hayloft. I had only managed a few planks of this before because it remained the most crowded bay of them all with minimal access to complete the cladding. Having taken a lot of rubbish to the tip in the last couple of week and shuffled some of the remaining items about, I could finish the cladding and use the planks which were taking up space on the driveway – or most of them at least.
This means that, with the small exception of the garage doors, all of the woodworking aspects of Grange is complete – a major achievement. It is only clearing the bays and laying gravel remaining. Soon!!
This was my only major achievement of the week with the rest being routine things like grass cutting and fun. With the very dry weather the grass has (almost) stopped growing but, with the forecast for rain I thought it sensible to cut although it is looking as parched as it ever has in our short time here.
Having said that we need to take more time to relax, with the weather staying unbearably hot, we took a day off and went to the beach. What we could (should?) have done was explore and find a beach we have never used before so we can recommend it to guests. What we actually did do was head back to the amazing white sand beach of Dossen on the north coast as we knew it is dog-friendly and, when the tide is out, has vast expanses of fantastic golden sand. This is used by large numbers of land yachties while the sheltered and calm waters are great for wind and kite surfing.
David packed an excellent picnic and we took our new beach shelter with us to provide the dogs with some shelter from the sun – although they didn’t seem to like it very much and didn’t venture in preferring to cool off in the sea.
Dossen is connected to the Ile de Siec which can be walked to at low tide and provides an interesting place to explore. There are 2 occupied cottages on the island which would be fantastic to live in – if not very practical – but I would love to know the history of the island as it was evidently a thriving little port at one point with the remains of a once impressive slipway and the and the ruins of a number of other buildings and dwellings.
A great day at the beach was followed by a fantastic BBQ at home with some excellent Breton seafood and movie night in the cinema.
Today has also been a day off and, with the promised rain and thunderstorms not materialising, a great day to go and watch the annual TriBreizh triathlon
which takes place in and around the Lac Du Drennec. As it turned out the weather was probably a little too hot for the athletes but the 290 participants seemed to appreciate the 23 degree water of the lake for the 2½ kilometre swim – as too did the dogs (again) who rarely pass by the opportunity for a dip to cool off.
We had a guest stay with us who was competing in the race as training for an IronMan later in the year, and, while spectating, David saw a couple of his gym members who compete with Morlaix Triathlon team.
The great weather we have been enjoying has meant that, while parts of the garden are looking particularly frazzled – sadly including a few of the new yews we have planted (why are the brambles, knot weed and other mauvais herbes not knocked back by the lack of water?!) the hanging baskets that David has been watering frequently are looking better than they ever have. I have managed to erect some additional wires for our wisteria and a lovely jasmine that we were kindly gifted so the front of the buildings are starting to look great.
For those of you who follow our Facebook page, you will have seen we had a lovely article written about us on a French magazine website so hopefully will all be good publicity for Kergudon.
As I write this blog however, the promised thunderstorm has arrived and we are finally getting the much needed downpour promised. This is at least as heavy as that which we drove through a couple of weeks ago in Morlaix but, thankfully, we are not at the bottom of a valley. The forecast, if to be believed, is for lots of rain in the next couple of days (must be Wimbledon next week) which will be a great relief to our plants and will allow me to continue rolling the pétanque pitch – will be tournament ready for the summer!
Next week’s project are a little open at the minute – and will depend a lot on weather, but there are always many things to do on the list ….
I finished last week’s blog hoping that this week would be more productive than the preceding couple. Thankfully it was. The first thing to say is that the weather has been amazing – and looks as though it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Summer has arrived!
I also said that, if I did nothing else, I would have a pétanque pitch to show you. Thankfully I have. That took up most of the first half of the week continuing to clear the pitch of gravel and slate and laying the membrane down to prevent the sand from going down and the weeds from coming up.
The sand was delivered on Tuesday morning which gave us a good idea of how large a lorry we can request when we are able to order the gravel. We ordered 5 tonnes of sand which was delivered in their 13 tonne lorry which, just, got down Stréat al Louarn and into our back gate – although I am glad that I haven’t yet put up our actual gate yet!
The sand we have ordered, as recommended by the quarry, is called 0/10. Before, I assumed sand was sand and its all the same. But no. This, like the gravel, is graded so it has grains supposedly between 0 and 10 millimetres and apparently, when compacted, makes for a better pétanque pitch.
Having ordered 5 tonnes of sand we have only needed to use about 4 so I have a tonne lying in the drive and, once again, preventing us from driving all the way round. So my focus for the second half of the week was clearing out a garage bay where I can use the surplus. During the build the bays, like the space which is now pétanque, became a storage area (aka dumping ground) so the floor was not level and had stones, slate and other bits in the way. They were also not always level with the entrance sill which would have been a problem driving in and out.
This photo doesn’t show the different levels well as it was so sunny outside but you can see some of the larger pieces of slate.
We have started with the bay nearest Hayloft and completely cleared and levelled it. Again this was job which took longer than I’d anticipated as much of the ground was so compacted but it has made a huge difference.
Today we have been kindly loaned a garden roller to flatten the interior and compact the pétanque pitch – a process which apparently takes a lot of rolling when the sand is wet but will definitely be worthwhile.
During the week we have visited an open day for a wholesale nursery the other side of Carhaix, one recommended by our gardening neighbours.
You will recall that I complained about the amount of weeding we now need to do – which David has been doing again this week like a man possessed to the point that he has broken the hand fork! We visited the nursery in the hope of getting some good ground cover plants – which we have. We bought some vinca, delosperma and pachysandra (like I know what I’m talking about!) as well as some new red hot pokers for the tropical bed and succulents for a sink we want to plant up.
The nursery also has an amazing variety of hostas, which we love, but sadly so too do the slugs which we seem to have a large number of. We didn’t get any this year but, as the open day is annual, when we get around to extending the tropical bed and building the pond we will definitely get a large variety (in the hope that the pond attracts sufficient toads and frogs to eat the slugs!)
Village life continues to be fun with this weekend being the French Fête de la Musique, a nationwide event when most communes and villages hold concerts and musical activities. Yesterday was also Saint Cadou’s Tantad (bonfire) for the Fête de Saint Jean which was great fun. Next week is the annual Tribrezh triathlon on the lake too and on 12th July Le Tour passes through Sizun – more of that next week.
With so much on we need to take more time to relax although David has started a Sunday morning yoga group on the Stamadec beach of Lac du Drennec, a beautiful spot on a clear Sunday morning.
Next week more progress on the garage bays of Grange – and lots of rollering!
Firstly, my apologies for not posting a blog last week. Secondly, additional apologies as this blog is likely to be pretty short as well!
The reason for both is that the last 2 weeks have not seen as much progress as previous weeks, and not on things that make for good photos, and last Sunday night we had the first of our ‘Games Room Warming’ parties.
My last blog, on 3rd June, said that we had been into Morlaix to a fete and passed through a heavy downpour on our way home. Later than afternoon it became obvious that the deluge had some damaging effect in Morlaix as a month’s worth of run fell in 30 minutes. If you’re not familiar with the topography of Morlaix, it sits in the base of a valley where a river joins an estuary into the channel. Through the centre of town the river has been channelled underground and this evidently proved unable to contain all of the rain which fell so it naturally coursed through the centre of town flooding the shops and businesses in its way.
My blog also said that our neighbours were holding a garden open day that afternoon and, to show just how local these storms were, they didn’t experience any rain until a small shower in the last hour.
The weather for the last 2 weeks has been very variable but, thankfully for our guests, it has never been as bad as the forecasts seemed to predict. It meant that the day we spent in Brest was not one wasted from the garden. Inevitably we visited the Swedish furniture store to get a few more items for the games room so that we could set up the ‘library’ and we need to return to collect some blinds we have ordered for the cinema!
With the weather I have done a mix of indoor and outdoor tasks including spending some more time on the sewing machine to create dust covers for the pool and babyfoot tables as well as the inevitable lawn mowing and strimming as things continue to grow apace.
The one major task I have completed is preparing our petanque pitch to receive the sand which has been ordered for delivery on Tuesday by which time I hope to have removed the remainder of the gravel, and large pieces of slate, from the top. Plan is to be able to play our first game of petanque before this time next week.
We didn’t have a traditional topping out ceremony when we completed the roof of Grange so, to make amends, we had a Games Room Warming party last Sunday. Actually, because there were so many people who helped us while we were building Grange who we wanted to thank, we are having a second party tonight.
Last week, as we had David’s aunt and uncle, Chris and Clint, staying with us, we hosted mainly English speaking guests while tonight will be the French gang. Having Chris and Clint also gave us the opportunity to visit some of our favourite local eateries and introduce them to another we discovered in Morlaix last year, Le Bains Douches. Le Bains Douches is located in Morlaix’s old bath house and they have retained many of the interesting features. It is also immediately adjacent to the channelled river which flooded 2 weeks ago and, sadly, their basement was completely submerged and destroyed. They have evidently worked hard to get the first floor restaurant open again but they tell us all their stock in the cellar was lost.
This coming week will hopefully be a little more productive and I will have more to show in next week’s blog – there will at least be a new petanque pitch to show!
The title of this week’s blog was chosen for a number of reasons. One is that, as I mentioned at the end of the last blog, the weather has now broken from the fantastic period of sunshine and blue skies that we had been enjoying. In fact, the forecast has been very variable all week and while we had a couple of wet days, the predicted deluge and thunderstorms were delayed and delayed – until today!
As I write this, it is like winter with the sky covered in very threatening black clouds and I can hear the distant rumble of thunder. We have not yet had the downpour (although we drove through one earlier today coming back from Morlaix) but it is definitely coming which is very sad for our neighbours open garden day today.
Having had a wetter week that normal we haven’t made such great progress outside as we would have liked but I have at least started to clear the old parking space and create our petanque pitch.
Even on the wet days we haven’t been idle. I have managed to tick off a job that we have wanted to do for a while – sand down and re-stain the wooden stair treads in Priory which has made a big difference.
David has started to clear out some of the boxes that we have been storing above his gym and transferring them into the new storeroom. We have rediscovered a number of books and novels that will eventually form the Kergudon library in the games room when we buy a little more furniture.
The main reason however for the title is we spent a couple of hours clearing out some of the accumulated rubbish which had been gathering in the garage in an effort to progress clearing the bays. It seemed that everything we bought during the build, floorboards, plastic and wooden lambris (T&G), laminate flooring, all came wrapped in some form of plastic and we hadn’t thrown any of it away. Our plastic footprint this year has been huge and, with all the focus on the amount of the stuff that ends up in the oceans, we hope taking it to déchetterie means that it will be disposed of in a responsible manner.
We quickly and easily managed to fill the trailer completely as well as the boot of the car and yet it didn’t seem to make the huge difference to clearing the garage bays as we’d hoped! Even a second load of hardcore and rubble has barely dented the surface. It did highlight that, as we use the dog food sacks as rubbish bags, just how much we feed Garratt and Brandon. As there were so many bags, I’m amazed they’re not enormous!
I have however started to clear the petanque pitch. We have now decided to make the pitch slightly larger than we originally intended so, having carefully chosen the spot to temporarily leave the huge amounts of slate we dig up in the garden, I had to move it – a bit. The pile, Kergudon Cairn as it has been named, needed to shift about a metre and a half west which took best part of a day to achieve.
Initially I wanted to save all of this slate for a project that I had in mind in the orchard – creating an artificial stream. But, as that is going to be a number of years away, we have had to come up with an alternative use for it. The plan now is to use it to make some mini-gabions that we will use to provide a barrier between the dive and the lawn. As we haven’t yet bought the cages required I couldn’t do the sensible thing and move the stones into place I just had to throw them from one side of the cairn to the other!
That done, I was able to start clearing the weeds and rubbish from the area. I started on what I hoped will be the harder end to clear as it was where we had the concrete mixer sited for the Grange build and so had a large area where sand, cement and ballast that had not made it into the mixer had set solid. It also had the ‘cage’ I made out of the old trampoline base when we first had Garratt and Mouse. It wasn’t used very much as Garratt hated being in it and Mouse very quickly discovered she was a cat and could climb out! I also had to remove a cherry tree that we had got at the annual kermesse (fête) at the Down Syndrome school in Morlaix.
Those who have been reading the blog for a while may recall that the kermesse has a plant lottery where your ticket can win you anything from a petunia to a large tree. A couple of years ago we came home with this prunus but didn’t know where to plant it so it had sat on our drive and had firmly taken root. Sadly we still couldn’t decide where it should go so now it has gone – to the tip. Coincidentally today was kermesse day so we have a few more plants – and a better idea of where they are going!
Slow progress therefore on the petanque pitch but some progress and hopefully, weather dependent, I will be able to continue (and finish?) this week.
Yesterday too was also a plant related day (sort of) as we visited our near neighbours, Bryan and Jackie, who are very keen gardeners and open their garden a couple of times a year in aid of charity. They have been living in their house a couple of years longer than we have been here but, in that time, they have turned what was effectively a cow field into a fabulous garden. We are very jealous every time we visit and see it mature and grow. One day perhaps Kergudon will be close … They were very pleased with their turn out yesterday but we hope that the forecast hasn’t made today too quiet.
Last night we popped back to our local restaurant in St. Rivoal. Not to eat this time but because the new owner, Yann, has started to host concerts in the barn behind the restaurant. It was a fun night and hopefully he will do it again sometime soon.
Since starting to write the rain has also started to pour down – all good for our new plants!