Sunday 20 March – Interesting Times

It has been exactly a month since I last wrote a blog – sorry!  Of course, this means that the Granary renovations are now all complete and the gîte is looking fantastic again.  Er, not quite!

As previously when I haven’t blogged, we have been away on a little break.  This time, as previous years (at least pre-COVID), we have had a little spring break in the UK Lake District.  David’s Dad has been going to the Lakes for years with a group of his friends, generally twice a year.  We joined them in 2011 shortly after we got together and have always enjoyed our time there with that group of people.

The Lake District gang

The last time we were there was 2019 when David’s Mum hired a cottage for his family to spend time together.  We hadn’t actually planned to travel in 2020 as Priory was in the process of being renovated (it was a bigger renovation than Granary is having), and, while we may have been able to travel we would most likely have been locked down in Cumbria!

As the first spring since David’s Mum passed away, we wanted to spend time with David’s Dad and we returned to Coniston for a week.  We were extremely fortunate with the weather and managed to walk every day despite the forecast early in the week suggesting a very wet end of the week.

Having been to Coniston frequently we had walked most of the Southern fells before, but we went back up Coniston Old Man, Dow Crag and the fells around there as they could all be walked from the pub we were staying in.  The dogs enjoyed it too!

The Lakes are always fun and stunningly beautiful.  This time however, there was lots of evidence of the damage caused by the many storms earlier in the year.  Dudley seemed to do most of the damage in the area and there were lots of old, large, trees fallen.

Storm Dudley damage in the Lake District

We sailed into Portsmouth and, before travelling north, took the opportunity to visit another good friend.  In a life before Kergudon, I was a Royal Naval officer and still have some great friends serving.  My peers are now all getting to senior ranks and have had, and still have, some interesting jobs.

One good friend used to be the Commanding Officer of the new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, but we never had the chance to see them onboard.  Another is the current Commanding Officer of Queen Elizabeth but, while the ship is alongside, they were not about; thankfully, another great friend is still in command of the second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, who was also in Portsmouth and they kindly invited us onboard and showed us around.

HMS Queen Elizabeth berthed ahead of HMS Prince of Wales in HM Naval Base, Portsmouth.
Panorama from the ramp of Prince of Wales

The ship is currently the NATO flagship and, as we were onboard, they were embarking a NATO staff as they were due to sail for exercises a couple of days later. With the invasion of Ukraine having happened only a few days before, everyone was watching the news with great interest.

Prince of Wales is an impressive bit of kit, and we were honoured, and very thankful, to be able to have a look.  We were especially grateful as Prince of Wales sailed soon after we visited.  It is certainly our last chance to see our friend in Command as he will leave the ship later in the year having been promoted to Rear Admiral (skipping the normal route of Captain to Commodore!) for his next appointment.  Thank you and congratulations, Steve.

We have continued to watch the events in Ukraine with sadness.  While there isn’t anything amusing about the situation, I didn’t realise until this year that the French refer to Putin as ‘Vladimir Poutine’. This is because otherwise, his surname would be pronounced almost exactly like, well, have a read of this article which will explain.  Perhaps it is apt!

We had a great time back in the UK and thank you to everyone who kindly hosted us. We are only sorry we cannot catch up with everyone we would have liked to especially as we haven’t been back to the UK for a long time.

Some progress was made in Granary before we departed for our break.  We had the chimney lined properly as, despite being told by the previous owners it had a proper flue, it hadn’t.  Last spring a pair of crows chose to nest in the chimney so we wanted to prevent that from happening again.

Our electrician has finished ‘phase 1’ and the plumber was able to start his work. Our carpenter also came back to resole the joist problem we had discovered.  The ceiling beams on the first floor originally extended into the walls almost to the outside.  At the front of the building all of them had evidently got wet at some point, and stayed wet, so that they had all rotted away to dust leaving a large hole where the joist should have been.

Evidently this had been discovered many years before as all the joist have had supporting metal brackets inserted but there was literally nothing in the wall where the end of the joist should have been.

These have now been filled and cemented in to make a more solid base, and prevent any risk of the metal brackets pivoting which, thankfully, they had not done.

Before we left, while the plumber and carpenter were working in Granary, I continued to clear behind the old veg patch and made it all the way to the end.  Having got back after 2 weeks, it was evident just how much knot weed there is, as it had all started to re-grow.  Until I am able to dig the talus properly and grade it, I will have to pick all the new growth out manually, where it can’t be mown, but at least it will start to defeat this persistent beast.

Rear talus finally cleared

Having got back it was straight into Granary … Er, not quite!

We had guests stay with us this weekend so straight into gîte preparation and, evidently, the weather has been good too here while we were away and it isn’t just the knotweed which has grown.  I hadn’t had the chance to trim the many hydrangeas we have in the orchard and we are keen they don’t get back to the state they were when we arrived initially.  The last couple of days have therefore been tackling this bed and getting that tamed for the year.

The weather seems to have set fair for the coming week so I have no excuse for not making lots of progress inside and out. I will be back in Granary to move that forward too – after all, that is the priority!