Friday, May 11th, 2018
This is the best time of year for this garden. It’s a short. intense season. This weekend’s guests are lucky.
One of the most time-consuming chores when running a B&B is dealing with the laundry. I knew there would be a lot of it, but I didn’t imagine the volume of stuff to wash and iron would be quite so huge. Here’s last weekend’s assortment of sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases, cloths and napkins, washed and folded and waiting to be pressed. It doesn’t include the towels, face cloths, bath mats and bath robes that also had to be washed. To iron that pile will keep me busy me for most of tomorrow. I am now thinking in terms of converting a redundant bathroom into a laundry room, and installing a couple of large washing machines and dryers. Otherwise, my domestic-sized washing machine will simply crack up under the strain.
Bressenden opened its doors yesterday. An abominably wet and windy day ended with a few rays of evening sun just as the first two guests arrived from the Netherlands. Georgie, the ginger cat, seemed excited by the arrival of the guests and gave one of them a big hug!
The house was still full of workmen on the previous day, and I was busy painting the ceiling of the guests’ kitchen. Now everything is in place and this venture feels real for the first time after two years of house refurbishment and preparation.
B&B hosting will seem easy in comparison with what has led up to it. However, I could not function without the marvellous Ikiru checklist app. Things to do the day before guests arrive, things to do on the day, lists of stock and supplies, shopping lists for everyday items, inventories, breakfast checklists, and everything else besides. My card reader with its associated iPad app also processed its first transaction. This convenient facility worked without any trouble. The payment goes straight to my account and a receipt goes through to the guest’s email or phone. I suspect that most guests will choose cashless methods of payment.
Now to prepare for the busy bank holiday weekend coming up!
The wounded slow worm has recovered well and will be released today, along with another that was rescued before it had a chance to fall victim to cats’ teeth and claws, but which has lost the tip of its tail — a frequent occurrence with these creatures. Here they are, happy in each other’s company.
We were surprised to find very healthy signs of life in the pond too. We thought all the fish had either been frozen to death when the pond was a block of ice for ten days this past winter or been taken by herons that regularly come down to feed. They are very clever at hiding in the murky depths. There’s a good population of newts too.
The east wall of the house has had a badly needed makeover. A previous decorator, for reasons known only to himself, had painted the decorative brickwork. I suspect it started off as mistake on one window and he then had to paint all the others to match. Thank goodness he didn’t do that to the front façade. I have long since wanted to restore that brickwork, but knew it would be a tough job. I had a go at the downstairs windows, but after treatment with several pots of paint stripper I’d only managed to peel off a few layers. It was a messy job, and I decided to leave it to the professionals. Here are the before and after images.
Three mandarin ducks have adopted what was once an owl’s nesting box. They have been here for a few days. The photo is blurred because it is on full zoom from a hand-held phone. I shall report back if chicks emerge!
Peonie (the black cat) has discovered a nest or colony of slow worms at the foot of the south-facing front wall of the house. She is pulling them out one by one. We are rescuing them if we can, but one that she brought indoors was rather badly wounded. We hope it will recover and survive. Another has already been relocated to the woods, out of harm’s (or Peonie’s) way.
This time last year, some of the azaleas shrubs were in full bloom, dotting vivid splashes of colour around the garden. This year, they and others of the rhododendron family are very reluctant to open their flower buds, and the trees slow to leaf. It is cold outside. The camelia doesn’t seem to mind the cold, however.
The rhododendron season peaks at the end of May and beginning of June, with blooms of every hue of pink, red and purple, plus a few yellow ones. Topping and tailing the season, appearing many months apart from each other, are two white varieties at opposite corners of the garden. They were probably planted at the same time as all the other rhododendrons in 1930 or thereabouts. Many have now reached the ends of their lives and will need to be replaced very soon. As I looked out of the window this morning, I noticed the early one in bloom, in its usual place. The photo is a bit blurred because it was on full zoom from my bedroom window.
Later in the day I went to inspect the blooms. Because they are so high up, the only way I could see them properly was by getting the camera lens to zoom in on them.
Divan beds are good for B&Bs because they are flexible. The lack of a footboard means tall men won’t stub their toes. The “zip and link” models (which are in two of my rooms) allow you to switch from a superkingsize bed to twin singles in a jiffy. Or so I thought until I had to tackle the problem of dressing the base of the beds. Unless you spend several thousand pounds, your divan beds will come with a functional but not very attractive base. It will need some form of camouflage, not only to make it look pretty but also to guard against stains and scuffs from feet and luggage, as the base usually extends almost to ground level. Bed skirts are known in this country as valances. They come in various forms, all of which, just like curtains, are a nightmare to iron. The least fussy ones have box pleats at the corners and middles. I discarded the so-called “easy-fit” variety, which come as one long strip of fabric that you pin onto the mattress all around the bed. I’d tried this type before, and found that it was fiddly to fit, did not look neat and tidy and took just as long to fix and adjust as a conventional platform type of valance. Shuffling around on the floor to stick 60 odd pins in the mattress, and fishing them out again for laundering, was not an appealing prospect. So I settled on conventional valances.
Then came the question of size. Clearly, I’d need one superkingsize valance and two single-bed versions for when the bed needed to be split up. It wasn’t possible to use the bed’s link mechanism if the single valances were left in place, because the sides and corners of the valance would get in the way of the mechanism and not hang properly in what would now be the middle section of the bed.
What I failed to take into account was the fact that every time I wanted to switch from big bed to twin beds, I’d have to remove the mattresses just to change the valance. Another problem was that the superkingsize valance was simply enormous, and a real challenge to iron. I could easily spend an hour or more engaged solely on the task of making the base of my bed look aesthetically pleasing. That time was better spent on more important matters.
I spent hours online searching for a valence suitable for zip-and-link beds, but couldn’t find anything, so I resorted to cutting all the way through the corner sections of the fabric on my single-size valances and making new hems on the raw edges. That worked, so I searched again online to see if anyone else had come up with this solution. This time I altered my search term to “split-corner valance” and found a couple of suppliers. This is a white one, which I’ve just put on the bed. It’s two single valances, and the link mechanism is concealed behind the fabric in the middle of the picture.
These bought valances are not quite as good as my own doctored versions because their corners are plain hems, whereas my corners preserve half of the original box pleat elements, so there is more depth to the fabric. Nevertheless, I am relieved that I shall be spared the burden of having to heave mattresses across the room every time I want to change the bed configuration.
The most important thing, however, is to invest in a good linen press. This is essential for the quick pressing of superkingsize sheets and duvet covers, not just valances. In this country, the cost of contracting out your laundry and ironing to outside agencies would take up half your profits.