Sunday 22 March – Productive Isolation

We hope you are all well.

Last week’s blog was a description of limitations implemented in France to try and limit the spread of coronavirus.  Since then these have become more stringent with anyone leaving their homes having to carry a certificate stating which of the limited justifications for travelling applies to their journey.

Almost a week into the initial 15 day lockdown and there is already talk of the measures being extended for an indeterminate period which comes as no surprise.  From the outset I thought that whatever the result of the limitations, the movement restrictions would be continued.  Had it worked in reducing infection, it would have been extended because it was working.  Had it not worked, it would have been extended until it worked!

Listening to the UK government’s briefing tonight it seems, because a significant number of people are not complying with the social distancing, that similar measures may be introduced in the UK.  Even in the normal course of life, I leave Kergudon infrequently but the last 6 days has proven to be as limiting and frustrating as I am sure it is necessary.

With the additional measures neither Lee nor Pascal has been able to work and so our deadline for Priory will be passed.  Of course the urgency has diminished somewhat as we won’t have any guests for the foreseeable future either!  Thankfully the last week has coincided with the first week of good weather we have had this year so we have chosen to split our time between continuing Priory and getting out in the garden.

Over the last 2 weeks Priory has had some progress.  When Lee was with us 2 weeks ago plumbing was the focus.  For me, the tasks which have made the most significant impact have been applying stain and sous-couche (undercoat) to our new internal walls and hanging a new chandelier above the lounge.  Remember my hint last week?!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we had moved the lantern we were using above the mezzanine level and the reason was we wanted to have something a little larger, and more dramatic, to light the lounge area.  The problem we faced was hanging something to the apex beam above the lounge – 7 metres above the ground.  It doesn’t sound much and is just about reachable using the entire height of our scaffold tower, but having used all the scaffold pieces I had none left to provide a barrier for me and, psychologically, it made the height much greater.

We didn’t take any pictures of me doing this – in case it didn’t work out well!  However, with slow and careful movements we managed to get the lamp hung on its 3 metre chain and, when it has all its parts re-attached, and we have power in the gîte, it will look amazing.

The painting / staining has made a huge difference to the mezzanine level and new panelling in the lounge.  Both are now ready for the coloured emulsion but my intention is not to do that until we have almost completely finished all the work.

We have been busy in the garden too, not least cutting the grass for the first time this year.  Every winter we say that we won’t let it get as long as we did the previous year but then do.  This winter we do have the excuse that, both, it hasn’t stopped raining since September and our lawnmower was being held by the maintenance shop which had closed down.

Despite (or perhaps because) it has been so wet, it has been a very mild winter and, as a result, the grass had never stopped growing.  Even with both of us involved, it took 4 hours to do a single cut and we had to do it twice to get it down to a height that we want to keep it at for the summer.  With the isolation rules in force the déchetterie is also closed so we can’t take the cuttings there but have found somewhere discrete to do some green fly-tipping!

We have also continued with tidying the boundary of Kergudon and thinning out the many self-set trees that have grown over the years.  Some had grown next to the Hayloft terrace and were both blocking the evening light and threatening the security of the slates on the Hayloft roof.  One was a large, double trunked, willow which grows like a weed here; another was the remaining trunk of a hawthorn tree that we hadn’t cut down before; and the last a three-trunked yew.  Having cut them all, with minimal damage to the Hayloft, the idea is we will now trim them to create a better hedge to provide privacy but maximise the evening sun to the terrace.

Two other trees we cut down were self-set oaks just next to the Granary parking space.  We cleared that area of the boundary in our first winter as it was just a mass of bramble and the dreaded Japanese knot weed.

Having cleared that area we left 2 self-set oak trees although knew we would have to take them out at some point.  As they continued to grow in the subsequent years they now were a risk to our telephone cable and blocked too much light from the plants in the bed so they had to go. It also allowed us to test, finally, a new bit of kit we bought last year when we had lots of large sycamores felled – a garden shredder.

The blog post I made when we cleared the area showed the griselinia cuttings we had planted to create a hedge as well as us cutting the turf to make 2 flower beds behind Priory.  Today’s photos show that the hedge has grown well, despite not getting a lot of direct light; and the shredded oak branches have made a great mulch on part of the well-established flower beds.

Having tested the shredder, and with the urgency of completing Priory a little diminished, assuming the weather remains dry, which it’s forecast to do, we may even make a dent in the large pile of branches left from the sycamores – and expose more of the lawn to cut …

We will likely continue to split our time between Priory and the garden next week and make progress in both as we continue to remain at home.

We hope you all remain healthy and, although we now earn our income by offering travellers and holiday-makers accommodation, we hope you stay at home and safely indoors.

À bientôt.