Sunday 30 December – Bonne Année

Before I start please be aware that WordPress has updated itself so how I post the blog has changed and it may not look like it usually does! I will see if I can master it but I suspect (hope) it / I will improve in coming weeks!

We hope that everyone has had a wonderful week and enjoyed their Christmas festivities.  We have had a great Christmas, were very spoiled both with lovely gifts but also fabulous weather allowing us to enjoy a few days of doing no work but eating, relaxing and taking the dogs out for long walks in the forest.

David prepared a number of magnificent meals.  On Christmas Eve he made Pheasant Balmoral, an adaption of Chicken Balmoral a guest explained to us which is chicken stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon.  We often have some haggis in the freezer and we have recently bought pheasant and, as it sounded so good, David gave it a go.  Delicious and definitely recommended.

Christmas dinner was delicious too.  Turkey this year rather than our normal goose.  We started at 5 and went on for a number of hours.  At the end of it we didn’t have space for either Christmas pud or cake and we still didn’t need a big meal the following day despite having had another long walk.

We knew that the French generally make a bigger deal of Christmas Eve than Christmas Day itself, and that Boxing Day isn’t a public holiday here (they have plenty of others!)  However, we weren’t expecting to receive a phone call from a farmer at 9 am who wanted to deliver some firewood at 9.30!  Ideally, I would have had more of a leisurely start on 26th but I had already got up to put the bins out for the dustmen who came at 9.10 – very festive!

This time last year my blog summarised a number of the projects we had completed in and around Kergudon in 2017.  We are generally very guilty of focussing more on the work which is left to do rather than look back at the things we have achieved, so I thought I would do another summary of 2018 work completed.

Having re-read the blogs I wrote throughout the year I was amazed (alarmed) at how many began by saying something similar to ‘not much progress made this week’, or ‘it’s been a quiet week’ and then justifying why we hadn’t done much in the preceding 7 days!

That said we did manage to achieve quite a lot in 2018 and have made significant changes to Kergudon and the activities available for our guests.  I have again attached some pictures to show the then and now (hopefully, it is evident which is which.)

My summary of 2017 said that, unsurprisingly, Grange had been the major focus of the year (a ‘time thief’), and in December was still some way off completion.  As such, our focus at the start of this year was to make a final push to complete the interior spaces and clad the inside of the garage bays.

We are delighted with how it turned out and the games room has been a huge success with our guests.  The cinema has also got a lot of use by David and I, although sadly not as much by our guests as yet – perhaps because the summer weather was so fantastic everyone wanted to be outside all the time.

It may be a little exaggerated to say the completing the storage room has been life changing, but it has certainly made a big difference.  We have finally been able store ‘stuff’ in a much more accessible way, so we have a better idea of what ‘stuff’ we actually have, and we have made a start at clearing everything out from our own home.  Most importantly, on changeover days, we can get everything we need to change the gîtes from one place.

We did manage to clad inside all the garage bays and, by adding a concrete gully and 3 waterbutts, the interior of the garage almost completely dried out over the summer even if it still can’t currently be used until the man shed is complete.

Having completed the inside of Grange, we finished all of the additional things on the outside.  I have built a great woodstore and given it waterproof covers.  It too has made it so much easier to manage things in the gîtes during the colder months even if I am currently paranoid about putting old wood in there – there is a plan to deal with that!

Equally, the bin and recycling store has tidied up both ends of Grange and made separating the recycling easier for us.

Most importantly, using all the materials in front of Grange has allowed us to build our ‘boulodome’.  We are delighted that this has been used often by our guests and we will certainly make use of it on barmy summers’ evenings.

The rear access to Kergudon is now almost smarter than the front.  With Grange complete, we have been able to install our gate and rebuild the wall on the east side so it mirrors the west.  When our lonicera cuttings grow next year it will really look great, especially if they grow as quickly as they have on the opposite side.

We have also continued to develop and improve the gardens with lots of new planting.  The most immediately impactful was demolishing the old flower bed in front of Kergudon and Priory and rebuilding it as a slightly larger space and planting our tropical plants.  In 2019 we hope to extend this new bed further up towards Dairy where we have cleared a tatty coppice of trees in preparation for digging our first pond.

In the (very) long term we will benefit from having planted 100 new yews around the perimeter of the back lawn as we try and establish a decent boundary hedge.  Sadly yew, and the hollies that we had put in before, are relatively slow growing at least until they get their roots well established in the first few years, but they will make a fabulous evergreen perimeter.  Most encouragingly, despite the exceptionally dry summer we had we have only lost a small number.

Yew Hedging to be planted
100 yews ready for planting

The final project of 2018 was to demolish the old, rotten, man shed and start to build its replacement.  I have even made more progress in the last 3 days but will share those photos next week when I hope the roof will be on.

When this is complete we can empty the garage bays and finish those and, I hope, it will make the same sort of difference to our DIY tasks as the storeroom has done to everything else.  Again, it will certainly assist making the drive and general appearance of that part of Kergudon so much better.

Dave’s cooking has been especially popular this year with guests and had received a lot of excellent comments.  He continues to be busy at New York Gym, and enjoys the classes and training that he gives, and has acquired a number of personal training clients in Morlaix and on Skype.

Those are all of our larger projects but, of course, we have done any number of smaller, less impactful things.  The general maintenance, cleaning, preparing gîtes etc. takes up a lot of time too.  Amazingly, perhaps frustratingly, despite having progressed as we have our ‘To Do’ list doesn’t seem to be any shorter at the end of the year as it was at the start.  As soon as we have completed a task and ticked it off we find another to add to it and there are still a number that I would consider to be substantial amounts of work but that will make a huge difference.

Having said how many of my blogs began with ‘not much progress made this week’, who knows what else we would have achieved had we been more productive!

Most importantly, we have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many guests again this year both new and returning.  We hope that they have all enjoyed staying with us here at Kergudon and those who came back have seen our changes.

Here’s looking forward to 2019 and whatever that may bring – especially with the changes that may, or probably won’t, be caused as a result of the UK leaving the EU.  Regardless, we believe that France, and especially this part of it, is a fabulous place to come and visit year-round to relax and unwind.  We are easily accessible, without fear of disruption from phantom drones, for a week, long weekend or a couple of nights escape to the country.  We would love to welcome here.

Finally, to all of our friends, family and guests, we hope you have enjoyed following our progress in 2018 and reading my blogs (typos and all!) More importantly we hope you have a very Happy New Year and wish you all the best for 2019.

Bonne année.