Skirting around the Bed

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

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.

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Calendars

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

With bookings already coming in for the summer of 2019 I had to think about getting a 2019 calendar. Online and computer diaries are great, but I do like to keep a written paper version too. The trouble is, nothing really works the way I want it to. I’ve tried various formats of desk diaries and calendars, and all of them have annoying shortcomings. I’ve searched in vain in shops and online for what I want, but even so-called “hotel reservation diaries” tick none of the right boxes for my B&B. For a start, I don’t have 30 rooms, and could use all that wasted space for other things. But the main problem is that not a single diary creator has ever stopped to think about what a hotel bookings calendar needs to do — and that is, to let you book slots that span nights, not days. And the thing that most distinguishes a night from a day, apart from the lack of sunlight, is that a night occupies two numerical dates, not just one. Most bookings start late on one day and end early on another day. A hostess wants to know that on, say, Wednesday June 6th, she will be serving six breakfasts in the morning, and she will then be welcoming three couples in the late afternoon, some or all of which will occupy the same beds that different people slept in that same morning. A reservation slot needs to straddle a dateline, and it needs to be absolutely clear on any given day of the month, how many breakfasts to cater for in the morning and how many sets of bed linen to change during the day. So I ended up designing my own calendar, where I can see at a glance how my day is going to pan out. The small green corner boxes give me a head count for breakfast place-settings, and the small red boxes along the top of the next row of reservations slots give me an idea of how many beds I’ll need to change or make up during the day. Once I’ve printed out some sheets, all I have to do is to write the date numbers by hand and fill in the month (or, as here, print out sheets with the name of the month on them). The best thing is not to have to find stockists of a calendar for next year before we’re even reached the end of this year’s month of March.

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Blast from the Past

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Mid-March, and the Beast from the East has returned, whipping up a last blast from Russia. A light dusting of snow has covered the ground, but those are white flower blossoms on the wild plum tree, not snowflakes. In summer the tree produces a great number of cherry-sized fruit, the colour of glowing cheeks. We lay bed sheets on the ground, shake the tree, and stand back to watch the mini-plums rain down. Basketfuls of these are then stoned, cooked in a cauldron with sugar and lemon juice and decanted into jars. The resulting supply of coral-hued jam normally lasts for the whole year. I fear that this year’s summer crop will be small if not entirely ruined. The daffodils have bowed their heads in suffering. This has been,, and continues to be, a long, hard winter. With temperatures below freezing for the rest of the day and snow falling until tonight, it’s hard to believe that spring starts in four days’ time.

 

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Fox Proofing

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

A B&B that has to feed up to eight people with full English breakfasts is going to need a lot of eggs. One solution is to get some hens to supply at least some of them. The hens were decimated by hungry foxes during the recent very cold months. One attack after the next left us with just a cockerel, a hen and three geese. Two of the geese have been rehomed because they really weren’t very pleasant characters. We kept Jemima the snow-white Sebastopol goose because she’s lovely and gentle. The cockerel survived the clutches of the foxes, but began to feel lonely with just one hen and Jemima for company. And the poor lone hen was getting rather exhausted by all the cockerel’s devoted physical attention. So Tracey went off to restock and we have a lovely collection of multi-hued birds (bottom pic). Today, with the help of Tracey’s father, we made an enclosure that we hope will be more fox-proof.

 

 

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Icicles in March

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

An unusual sight from a north-facing window. Common in the Alps maybe, but in Kent in March? These sprouted overnight.

Although Peonie the black cat likes to go out hunting in the snow,  Georgie prefers to keep himself warm.

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More snow

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The last day of February began with an early morning temperature of -14 degrees Celsius, and winter showing no signs of giving way to spring just yet. But then the sun came out, and it was a pleasure to go for a walk and enjoy the local scenery.

The sun melted some of the snow, but the streams were still frozen.

And the quiet country lanes were totally silent.

There’s more snow forecast for Friday.

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Beast from the East

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

The house is ready (more or less) and the website googlable. The software for the bookings diary is working well, and the reservations are coming in thick and fast, like today’s snow. All I have to do now is refine my recipes, check my linen stocks and wait for the first guests to arrive. It is hard to imagine today that in a couple of months’ time the rhododendrons should start to flower, if the buds haven’t been frozen off in the meantime. The flower blooms on the daffodils were already opening two days ago, but are now covered in a thick white blanket. Temperatures this week are set to plunge several degrees below freezing, and more snow is forecast for the end of the week. Apparently the jet stream has reversed its normal direction of flow and is sending in weather from Siberia. Jemima the Sebastopol goose was feeling the cold this morning. And the pond has disappeared.

We haven’t had snow like this in these parts for several years. This was the village High Street yesterday, as captured by one of its residents.

And here are some views of the house and garden and the woodland beyond.

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