This week’s blog will be fairly short as it has been focussed entirely on one task, building the wall on the east side of the north gate. The photos will look more impressive if compared to last week’s images.
It has proven to be a slow task for a number of reasons but, other than a day off for poor weather and another changing gîtes around, I have managed to make a little progress every day. Our neighbour was kind enough to allow is to collect a trailer-load of soil on Monday which allowed me to start. I had hoped that a single trailer of soil would be sufficient but evidently wildly underestimated the volume needed because, this morning I finished a second trailer full and we still need a little more to finish the job.
Another reason that it is taking a little longer is that, amazingly, it is getting harder to find the right pieces of slate needed to build a strong and stable wall. Up to now, I have principally been using pieces which were previously an ‘L’ shaped dry wall built to form a wood shed that I demolished to build Grange. We understand that before these stones were used to build a wood store they were part of an old stable which was behind Granary. The advantage of these is that had been cut to provide at least 1 smooth face and were generally a fairly regular shape so stacked easily.
Unfortunately, with all the walls that I have been building, I have now nearly exhausted my supply of these convenient shapes. As a result I am having to use more irregular shapes and need to be more imaginative in how to stack them.
However, while it is being quite slow we are very pleased with how it is turning out and should, hopefully, only need another day’s effort to complete.
We are delighted that again, all of our gîtes are occupied. This weekend we have been hosting a group of guests, including the bride and groom, of a large wedding that took place in the village yesterday. Will make for a busy day tomorrow when they depart and we welcome new guests in 2 of our gîtes but as we are enjoying some lovely late summer sun, hopefully our new guests will also have a great time.
Next week for me is finishing the wall, finally, and hopefully cutting some wood and starting to clear the large piles we have been accumulating in time for when the cold comes!
Looking back at last week, it has been one when we have been occupied with the routine matters of maintenance and running the business. I can’t recall a time, other than perhaps today, when we haven’t been doing something, but there are no major projects completed.
Coming to the end of the summer season, with children already back at school, we are delighted that we continue to be busy and have welcomed a number of couples to Kergudon with all bar one of our gîtes occupied this week.
David’s cooking has remained exceptionally popular all summer and again last week with 2 suppers prepared in the week and another tonight – he will be applying for his Michelin star soon!
Of the 3 tasks I listed in last week’s blog for this week, I spent more time on the weeding and gardening than any other. This included continuing to cut hedges. I know, I said last week that I had completed this biannual task, but perhaps I should have put the caveat that I meant all of the visible hedges.
Before people question what an invisible hedge is, I meant those that are more hidden away. Those behind Grange are a challenge to cut due to accessibility and thorns, both of the holly and hawthorn hedge but also the brambles from next door! The first I will try and improve when I knock down the old man-shed, the latter I will need to access our neighbour’s field to hack away at the very overgrown weeds.
Sadly, those brambles didn’t have any blackberries on but we took the dogs for a walk today to harvest some. Sadly, in our usual spot the brambles had suffered hugely from the drought and the fruit was dry and shrivelled. However, when we walked home, we found the plumpest and ripest fruit on brambles behind Stable.
In our first year a similar thing happened when we found the best blackberries on the brambles behind Granary. Unfortunately those brambles that were in an unkempt part of the garden which are no longer there as we removed them as we try to improve the grounds. While the brambles behind Stable also have great fruit – they are also brambles which will eventually be removed as we improve that corner of Kergudon.
I didn’t make as much progress on the gate wall that I’d like. It took the best part of 2 days to create enough space before I started to build the wall. This involved removing a very old and very rotten tree stump on the lane side. This came out of the old talus very easily but has left a very large gap. This will help my finish the new wall attractively but will mean we need a lot of soil as well. Our neighbour has kindly offered to give us another trailer-load of top soil as she did when we created the jungle bed.
The other major task was to cut down the sycamore which was growing out of the top of the talus. Sycamores grow like weeds and, as most, this wasn’t a ‘planned’ tree but a self-set which had grown multiple trunks which you will see in last week’s, and previous, photos – and sadly will continue to shoot forever! Harder to tackle was the huge root ball which had grown around the slate and rock and would not have given me enough space for the new wall to be built.
Having cleared the space there was a little delay in starting to lay the rock. I had identified 2 huge quartz blocks to be the bottom corners of the wall but I couldn’t move them on my own. With Dave’s back on the mend, but not quite at full strength I didn’t want to risk a delay to recovery so waited until his training partner came yesterday afternoon to assist us move them. Now in place they will provide a firm base for the remainder of the wall that I will, definitely, begin next week when we have collected the soil.
Firstly, apologies for not posting a blog last night. We have been hosting Dave’s parents for the last week and took the opportunity to visit our favourite market at Daoulas in the morning followed by a couple of pre-lunch beers at Au Lac overlooking the fabulous Lac du Drennec to take maximum advantage of a fabulously sunny day. It seems that a couple of strong beers in the sun, coupled with the end of an exhausting summer season, meant that I had to have a little siesta in the afternoon! I must be getting old.
We then went to one of our favourite restaurants in the evening in the neighbouring village of Saint Rivoal, the Auberge du Menez. We continue to be impressed by the Auberge and its owner / chef, Yann. He is really making it a huge success with adventurous food (3 of us had the scallop tartare as seen on his Facebook page) and an accompanying music programme. Having this and Au Lac both within 5 kms of us is a real bonus.
To the work … Last week’s blog said that I would definitely do a couple of things and possibly one other. I actually have managed to complete or start both of the things which I said I would, but no progress on the log cutting.
We are really pleased with how our hedges are now starting to take proper shape and, as I mentioned a few weeks back, we have taken the chance to be a bit more brutal in cutting them. The job expanded a little as I chose to clear an area of the hedge on the main lawn to expose the yew plants we have added over the last 3 years.
While I’m afraid that these pictures aren’t great we are delighted that many of them are growing strongly and will, eventually, make for a more secure and attractive boundary than we have ever had. The same applies to the privet in Granary garden where I have repositioned some older plants and added lots of cuttings at the base to thicken out and extend the hedge.
The other thing that will make our garden much more secure is the new gate that we have added at the north entrance leading onto Stréat al Louarn which I didn’t show pictures of last week. Here are a couple.
We think it has cleaned up pretty well having been stood against the Dairy wall for a couple of years and definitely makes a difference to the access. We have hung 2 gates, a wider vehicle gate and a narrow pedestrian access, both hinged on the inside so we can open them 180 degrees and not block the lane. It did mean that there was a fairly wide gap beneath both which wasn’t ideal as one principal reason we wanted them was to prevent our neighbour’s dog coming into the garden. However, in order to allow it to swing through 180 degrees I need to scrape a lot of gravel and stone from inside which I am using to level the ground.
While I haven’t yet placed any stone for the new wall. I have started the work. I have buried the additional cable we positioned for a light on the east side of the gate, which will match that opposite. I have also used a large piece of slate which was lying just outside the drive to create a step under the pedestrian access. When it is all finished there should be a gentle gradient down to the lane and you won’t need a 4×4 to drive in and out!
No progress on the wood cutting and splitting but I may try and do some of that this week as, while we are enjoying June-like weather again currently, Saturday was the start of meteorological autumn and the nights will start to get a little chilly. We will need to think about protecting some of our more delicate plants in the jungle bed especially our lovely banana that we planted which seems to have thrived since being liberated from its pot.
Thank you to those who provided their views in response to our request for changeover day selection. No definitive answer made as yet but all views are appreciated.
This week, more progress on the gate wall; potentially some log cutting and probably some more weeding which is always required!
This week’s blog won’t have much detail and won’t include any pictures of the work we have done, as there hasn’t been too much!
I will show some images, courtesy of Eurosport, of the Tour de France passing through our local town of Sizun, and there are many more of the 3 days in Brittany at this link. It really does show that Brittany is a very varied and beautiful place to come and visit.
The reason we haven’t achieved so much is partly down to a very mixed week weather-wise with lots of dreich days preventing much happening outside where my focus needs to be. As I look out of the window now there is a very heavy drizzle so, on the upside, our garden should, finally, be benefiting!
The other reason is that one of us, David, has been out of action with a particularly painful week of, what he thinks was, sciatica so he has been lain up and I have been nursing (a bit!) It would be bad enough any week, but especially so last week which was David’s birthday week – and another reason for a couple of quiet days, one celebrating his birthday as best we could and the other feeling a bit delicate after a lovely birthday meal and late night at Au Lac. All entirely self-inflicted.
As such, despite a bit of lawn mowing and gîte cleaning and maintenance, I haven’t done a huge amount to progress our projects. I have however, now hung the gates that we were preparing for last week, although I won’t share pictures now but will do so next week; and I have managed to progress, although not finish, the hedge cutting. The French have a saying about doing things little bits at a time …
David and I have been starting to discuss 2019 already – and we are delighted to have taken our first booking for June next year – and thought that we would ask for people’s view on one aspect.
During our high season (July and August) we, in common with most gîte businesses, ask for a minimum booking of 7 days. Our weekly periods, again mirroring the vast majority of gîtes, run from Saturday to Saturday. The idea behind this is to minimise the risk of unoccupied days in the gîtes and so one set of guests arrive as others leave. The reason Saturday was chosen by us is that everyone else uses it and that is the model used at Kergudon by our predecessors.
The consequence of course is that Saturdays have the chance of being really busy in comparison to other days; that the ferry company is wise to this and hikes their prices for crossings on Friday and Saturday; the traffic levels, while nowhere near M25 levels, are obviously busier on Saturdays; and we, and our guests, don’t have the opportunity to visit the festivals and activities which are generally held at the weekends, or perhaps benefit from the food markets which tend to be held later in the week, so missing out on aspects of Breton life.
Because of the reasons outlined above, we were wondering if it would be better to move our changeover day to another day in the week, although which, we are not sure.
The advantages of this would be that people probably wouldn’t pay as much for their ferry crossings and they could then attend any activities in the region that were taking place during the weekends and find and use the food markets more effectively.
The one disadvantage we could think of is that if guests are having a week with us and then another week elsewhere, it would lead to a mismatch in dates if the other location runs the traditional Saturday to Saturday (though why they would want to move elsewhere is a mystery!)
So we thought we’d seek advice and ask you as followers and, hopefully, past and/or previous guests of Kergudon.
Do you think having a different changeover day would work? When I worked in a ‘normal’ job, I tried not to take leave Monday to Friday preferring to leave and return to the office midweek, but I don’t know if others can do that.
If we move changeover days, what do you think would be best? Something early in the week such as Monday, or later such as Friday? There is no reason all the gîtes have to have the same changeover day, in many ways it would make things easier for us if they differed.
We’d be very keen to hear your views.
Next week definitely finishing the hedge and definitely starting wall to the east side of the back entrance and possibly starting to cut and split some wood to put in our new wood store in preparation for the winter. Everything depends on the weather which I half want to stop raining and half don’t, at least not for a few days until the plants get a good soaking!
Sadly for last week’s guests, based on the weather we ‘enjoyed’ you could conclude that summer had ended. In reality, while it was far from the searing heatwave we had before, it was also not wet enough to make much difference to the drought-affected garden. It did however prevent me cutting any more of the hedges but it has nonetheless been a productive week.
Some of the tasks we have managed to complete are having the double advantage of finishing something that we wanted while also using materials that are taking up precious space inside and out.
One such task was installing blinds to the roof windows in Grange. As you may know, half the top floor is our storeroom where we stock all of our spare ‘things’. Having seen the damage that the sun’s UV is capable of causing to things which aren’t moved for a while, we wanted to find a way to protect our bits not stored in a cupboard. Blinds seemed the sensible option so we bought some a couple of months ago which had remained in their boxes on the storeroom floor!
A morning’s work and we now have 3 blinds to filter UV in the storeroom and 3, very effective, blackout blinds in the games room. While the projector we have can be used in daylight, cinemas should be dark and these do the trick.
My major task was improving the back entrance, onto Stréat al Louarn. Since we have moved here we have wanted to make the back more secure and we bought a five-bar gate at least 2 years ago, which proved a little premature as it has leant against the front wall of Dairy ever since.
In those 2 years we have rebuilt a stone wall on the west side and cleared the debris. We have started to do the same on the east side and will eventually mirror the opposite wall. As part of the garage build we buried a cable so that we can have lights at the entrance and have now reached the point that we could install the gates.
On the advice of our neighbours, who had installed a similar gate a couple of years ago as well, the hole required to bury the post should only be slightly larger than the post to be erected. This meant two holes 80 centimetres deep but only 20 centimetres wide. This proved no problem on the west side where, having dug through the stony top layer, the rest was just compacted clay which proved easy to remove.
However, on the east side, in the exact position where I needed to install the opposite post, there was a large quartz rock. With no ability to reposition the posts, and not wanting a huge gap between the gates when they are eventually hung, meant that I just had to keep digging and remove it. It did eventually come free but left a much larger hole than I wanted and needed much more concrete to keep the post in position.
What became evident was how much the ground falls away from west to east which, if left, would leave a large gap beneath the gate. However, we plan to hang the gates in such a way as to allow us to open them through 180 degrees which is likely to mean that we have to scrape a lot of gravel away from one area that we can use to build up the low side.
We hope to have the gates hung next week so you will see the finished article. For now, with the gates having lain unused for a couple of years they had become a little green in places and need some TLC. Yesterday I sanded them down and gave them bleach wash. This morning, I gave them a first coat of stain using the same stain we had bought to do the exterior of Grange. This was partly to make the gates the same colour as the Grange (when that is eventually stained) and, partly, to remind ourselves exactly what the colour is as the stickers have been eaten off by the slugs!
We have wired in our new light on the west side, which we will mirror on the east, and we love it, although are less keen on the bulb we have used – a new one is on order.
We are starting to make the back look a lot smarter than it used to, and it will continue to improve when we re-gravel and clear the drive by the pétanque pitch.
My final significant task was to re-tame, and re-train, the wisteria we have planted on the front wall of Priory. Up until this point I hadn’t been sure about how to look after and prune the wisteria properly so it had never flowered well, although has only been in the ground for a couple of years, and all I had been doing was to tie in the wispy growth.
Under the guidance of our keen-gardener neighbour, I pulled the plant away from the wall and was shown which bits to cut and which to train to form the framework. While it has meant a thinner plant for the rest of this year it should mean a better plant in the future and more flowers.
Today has again been fairly light duties after our last Super Saturday of the season yesterday when all of our large gites changeover – everyone deserves a wekend. A busy day’s work cleaning and preparing, made so much easier by considerate guests who vacate sharply – one family were even out before daybreak to catch a ferry in Cherbourg.
Next week, finishing a number of things outstanding including the gates and hedges, and potentially starting the new wall next to the new gate post.
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!)