Sunday 9 January – Twenty Twenty Won

Normally, I would use either the first or last blog of the year to round up what we had achieved in the preceding 12 months – as much to remind David and I what we have done as anything else.  As I haven’t done that yet, I hope you don’t mind if I do so this week.

As 2020, last year was heavily impacted by the continued pandemic and periods of confinement and lock down.  At the start of the year we were a little nervous at just how many guests we would have come and stay with us and whether travel restrictions would be eased between the UK and continental Europe.

As things turned out despite, or perhaps because of, the impact COVID has caused, 2021 turned out to be the year we welcomed more guests and had the gîtes fuller than ever.  Certainly we attracted more guests out of the normal high season and, in the spring, we know a couple of families stayed with us who would normally ski.  However, owing to the ski resorts being closed, they had made the decision to explore other regions of France.

We weren’t able to welcome as many British travellers, the first family who joined us having travelled from the UK didn’t arrive until late August and there remained a question mark over their ability to come until quite late.

Possibly because we have been that much busier, this year seems to have flown past much faster than any previous one.  I also got the feeling, having got to the end of the year, that we hadn’t completed as many ‘major’ projects as previous years and, despite having started a number of things, not so many reached conclusion!

I remind myself what we have done by reading through my previous blogs and there hadn’t been as many of those last year either.  In fact, on 2 occasions there was a 4-week gap between blogs.  Reading the blogs also highlighted when things actually happened and not when I thought they’d happened.  Some things I thought had occurred only a few weeks ago actually happened 5 or 6 months previously!

All of that said, we have made lots of progress in a number of areas.

The year started out with the ambition of, finally, clearing the garage so it can be used as a garage and so I could clear the rear drive to allow easier parking.  At the start of the year, all the garage bays were rammed full of unassorted things and LOTS of wood that we had generated from the refurbishment of Priory in 2020 that needed chopping into kindling.

Because of the volume, just clearing this splitting it took a number of weeks but kept me occupied under cover in the colder winter months. But I created enough kindling to keep us supplied for a few winters!

Lots of kindling – 2 weeks of effort!

We did get to a point when all the bays were sufficiently clear that I could stain the interior wood and paint the render which made them look great.  We even completely emptied one bay and took the opportunity of concreting the base, something that initially I hadn’t intended to do, and installing lots of kitchen cupboards that we had removed from the gîtes in our first refurbishments.

Of course, as soon as you have an empty, large useable space … You know where this is going!  It get’s used.  As such we never quite completed that project and it rolls onto 2022 – my challenge will be not filling it up with the first 2022 project that we have begun!

The biggest change to the garage was the doors I finally managed to construct – and I am very happy with them.  Now at least they can still be full of stuff but nobody can see!  The final clear out WILL happen this year and Grange will become a multi-use space or ‘Party Barn’ as Dave says so we can BBQ even on those rare occasions it rains in Brittany!

A major spring project was rebuilding part of the talus in front of Stable that borders Hent Gorreker.  The entrance to Stable was always a little tight, so much so that over the winter it had been clipped and partially collapsed so moving the widening project further up the priority list.  On the talus were also 2 very inappropriate trees – an old Christmas tree that was growing rapidly, and a very oddly shaped, multi-trunked willow.  Both were directly under a power line and would cause problems in years to come.

The rebuilt wall should remain stable for a few years and we have planted a number of lonicera plants to create an attractive hedge at the front of the garden.

We have spent lots of time in the garden during the year and planted a number of new trees and shrubs including the ‘Blyckert’ magnolia.  We still have lots of plans for the garden that we hope to progress this year and, as the many plants we have added grow and mature, we hope it will become a tranquil and beautiful place.

A sort of ‘garden’ project was replacing the old, rotten, fencing between the front of Priory and Granary with a new dwarf wall and fence to match what we had done at the rear, and included a gate to make it so much more practical to access the gîte in the winter.

While the weather was good in the spring, I also completed a job that we had wanted to do for a number of years – repainting the wood of Hayloft’s doors and windows.  They look so much better for it.

In the summer, with lots of guests, we try and keep the noise and work to a minimum, but I was able to get into Dave’s gym and give that the major refurbishment Dave had wanted for a couple of years.  The new colour scheme and rubber flooring makes it a much more attractive and calming space for the pilates and yoga that Dave is doing more of.

When installing Dave’s new gym floor we were assisted by 2 friends, Pierre-Jean and Cyril which reminds us that late 2021 was a very sad period as we lost both Pierre-Jean at the young age of 61, and, even more suddenly and unexpectedly, David’s Mum.

Returning to the UK for David’s Mum’s funeral was one of the 2 times we spent away from Kergudon in 2021 the second being a 2-week break we took in Lanzarote.  This was the first ‘proper’ holiday we had enjoyed since 2015 and we were really in need of the time lazing in the sun.

While on holiday I was able to do something that I had hoped we would be able to do a lot more of with our new lives in France – read.  Indeed, in 2021 we were both able to do a lot more reading than we ever had as we got into good routines that allowed us time to do so.

While 2021 may not have been the most productive in terms of completing our major projects, we have again hosted some interesting and friendly guests, continued to explore this beautiful part of the world and generally enjoyed the experience of living in France.

We have big plans for things to do this year – which should include completing the garage and rear drive(!) but also a significant refurbishment of Granary and, finally, clearing the old vegetable patch on the rear lawn. Perhaps the lesson of 2021 we need to carry into this year, is not to start a new project until the previous one if completely finished!

We hope that global events return to something a little more ‘normal’ so that people are more easily able to travel as we would love to welcome you here.

I will continue to update on the progress we make in my blogs which, I hope, I will be better at writing each week but I have made that resolution before …

À beintôt.