Breakfast and Bed

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

This week I had an unusual request, which made me rethink the nature of B&B. Instead of Bed and Breakfast, my potential guest wanted Breakfast and Bed. It had never occurred to me to offer such an upside-down facility, but the more I considered it, the more I thought what a good idea this might be in certain circumstances. The guest’s partner was to have surgery at the nearby hospital. They intended to leave home at 4 o’clock in the morning, but the hospital was limiting access to non-patients during lockdown. Partners were presumably expected to wait in their cars. Or at best in a depressing waiting room. Far better for my guest to spend a grey day in a warm bed after a good breakfast in pleasant surroundings until it was time to go home, hopefully after a successful surgical outcome. The booking agencies are not geared up for this kind of flexibility. To book a day room with access at 8 a.m. you’d have to book the two nights on either side, which would work out very expensive. But one-off, bespoke direct bookings like this would work equally well for health care workers or other night-duty staff who have come off an exhausting night shift and don’t fancy the drive home straight away.

Second Lockdown

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

In three days’ time we will go back into lockdown for at least one month. This means that the few bookings I had for November have been cancelled. After tonight’s guest leaves in the morning the B&B will shut its doors for a while to all except Benenden Hospital patients who have tested negative and/or self-isolated for the required period (if the Hospital even remains open to such patients).

It was already becoming difficult to manage my bookings as I was not keen on accepting guests from tiers higher than our local tier. Guests have to eat out, and the local publicans and restaurateurs would not have thanked me if a guest had brought the virus into this area, which until now has had few cases. The lockdown regulations, although not good for business, do at least enable me to avoid paying commission to agencies on non-existent income. I would not be so heartless as to charge guests cancellation fees on bookings that I or they have had to cancel at short notice, but I fully appreciate that agencies like Booking.com, which after all have brought me most of guests these past three years, must survive. They have provided a fantastic service. I could not do what I do without them.

Tiered Hosting

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

With more than one thousand Covid-19 patients per day being admitted to hospital within the UK, and no sign of those rates falling just yet, I must now take extra precautions when it comes to accepting guests. If you are a patient at Benenden Hospital, or resident in a Tier 1 (medium risk) area, or have had recent negative tests or been self-isolating, then that is an acceptable risk as far as I am concerned. But if you live in a Tier 2 or Tier 3 area, then I regret that you probably will not be able to come and stay here — especially if your purpose is to get away from a highly infected area! Proper hotels have young staff to go around disinfecting everything all day. But Bressenden is a private house and also my home. Do I want to operate as a B&B under present circumstances? The answer is yes, but only in a very limited way. If I and my entourage were not in one of the more vulnerable age groups, I might be more willing to take the risk of accepting more bookings. But the health and wellbeing of Bressenden’s residents must be the first priority. Depending on how the situation develops in the next few days, I may disable bookings from Booking.com. You should still be able to book via this website or by phone, but you will need to be prepared to answer some questions about where you’ve been and the purpose of your stay!

Gold Tops

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

High season is coming to an end as winter approaches. The number of guests this summer was three couples and one single person. Contrast this with last summer when I had guests to stay every weekend and most weekdays, and I had to close off the B&B for a while every ten days or so just to give myself a rest! It’s not so bad if guests want late breakfasts, but if they are early risers it becomes tough. I could never be a dairy farmer, up at crack at dawn to milk the cows. But thank goodness for those who do this work. To have a constant supply of fresh milk (now that I do not set foot inside shops and stores any more than necessary), I get it delivered from a farm in the next village. Their beautiful brown Guernseys produce milk that is quite different from average supermarket milk. When did you last see a bottle with a thick wodge of cream on the top like this one?

Masquerading

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Hosting guests at present is a strange affair. I do not dictate how my guests should behave, but I greet them with a mask on my face, which takes some of them by surprise, as though the “normal” environment of a private house somehow should exempt them from having to do social distancing. Yet I do not know where my guests have been before they arrived, or whom they have been in contact with on their way here. A B&B is no different from a shop or a petrol station when it comes to rules about wearing masks. I therefore hope that my mask-wearing will serve as a gentle reminder for my guests to take adequate precautions, especially if they are here for away-breaks. They go to pubs and restaurants for their evening meals. I do not socialise or even go to the shops, relying instead on deliveries, and I keep human contacts to the bare minimum. I have just organised a twice-weekly delivery of milk, in proper glass bottles, from Hinxden Dairy, a local farm with its own herds of Friesian and Guernsey cows. How wonderful to have gold-topped milk once again, something I have not seen or tasted since childhood. This will be perfect for making the yoghurt.

Record-breaking Summer

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

Summer, which began in April, continues unabated into the second half of September, as evidenced by this morning’s blue skies and open bedroom windows. Six months of summer in England, even here in the sunny southeast, is unprecedented in my lifetime. What should have been a glorious season of guests from all over the world has, because of the coronavirus pandemic, been obliterated. Instead of echoing to happy chatter in many languages, the house has been completely silent, save for a few friends when restrictions permit and the occasional tradesman coming in to do repairs or maintenance. My first guests since March arrived last weekend, and I have guests again this weekend, both sets from England. But this may be a very short-lived revival of B&B activities, since our authorities tell us we are on the verge of a second wave in this never-ending pandemic.

Broadband upgrade

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

During lockdown, teams of British Telecom workers have been busy installing new poles and masts and laying full fibre optic cable along our local lanes and roads. In some areas the cable goes underground, but in this area it is strung between the new poles, running through the trees. We are lucky enough to have a mast in the garden, which connects us to the electricity and telecoms supplies. It was therefore relatively easy to extend the new cable right into the house. No more copper wires anywhere! Leonard, the cheerful engineer appointed to the task, spent the best part of a day on the job, a lot of time being taken up with trying to chuck the cable over a very tall bay tree in the pouring rain. Fortunately, Leonard loves his work, and by late afternoon the speeds of my broadband had increased from the usual 3 or 4 Mbps at best to well over 100 Mbps. Unlimited access is available to all guests throughout the house at no extra charge.

August reopening

Unless the Covid-19 virus resurges, I plan to reopen Bressenden to guests on August 1st, if governmental restrictions and regulations permit. However, there will be only one set of paying guests in the house at any one time, with two guest-free days in between hostings for sanitising and cleaning. This situation will continue until it is safe to accommodate two or more groups of guests at more closely spaced intervals.

Closing the Door

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

 

My guest is having breakfast before heading back home to the Midlands. In the four days that she has been here the world, or our perception of it from these islands, has totally changed. When she arrived on Thursday pubs, restaurants and cafés were still open, if sparsely attended. By last night it was takeaway services only; no lingering or chatting, and a strict rule about maintaining a six-foot gap between you and the next person. Today, gorgeous spring sunshine after our long wet winter threatens to bring packed crowds of bored people out into public spaces for a second day running, and home confinement threatens as the inevitable outcome. My cleaners told me yesterday that they could no longer continue. I have no option but to close my doors. The beautiful rhododendron season will pass by unappreciated, though I may post some photos on our Facebook page. My next post here should, in theory, be to announce the date of Bressenden’s re-opening — if I survive. It’s anybody’s guess when that date might be, but I hope it will be safe to start up again in August.

Temporary Closure

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

The 2020 season hasn’t even got under way yet, and already it is clear that I shall be forced to close. For how long, I don’t know. My last guest leaves on Monday and there will be no more guests until the country returns to normal. It looks as though my third season will be totally wiped out. Last night the British Government announced the closure of all restaurants, pubs and bars as from today, in addition to the existing requirement for social distancing and cessation of all non-essential travel. I cannot easily distance myself from my guests when I am opening the front door to let them in, showing them their room and facilities and serving them breakfast — at least, not without a lot of hassle and constant donning and doffing of at best rudimentary protective gear, which is hardly the most welcoming of gestures. And then when these potentially asymptomatic virus-carriers have gone, I would have to go around disinfecting every hard surface they might have touched — room keys and door handles, taps and light switches, jam-pot lids and butter dishes. Amongst others. This means that I reluctantly have to cease B&B activities until further notice.