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?


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.


Special Measures

Saturday March 14th, 2020

The Corona virus is expected to start spreading quite rapidly in the UK during the coming days and weeks. Among the special measures that I am adopting at Bressenden are (1) less frequent trips to the supermarket and (2) a lower occupancy rate. The virus has already taken care of the second measure, sadly, and my bookings are much lower than they should be at this time of year. But until the viral epidemic has died down, I shall not accommodate more than two sets of guests at any time to reduce the risk of transmission to other guests and to me. Mostly, there will be just one set of guests.

The first measure is designed to limit my contact with potential carriers of the virus and/or contaminated surfaces. Normally, I go out to buy fresh fruit and mushrooms almost every day when I have guests, but from now on I shall only venture to the shops once a week. Meat products are not a problem because they freeze. I make my own yoghurt once a week and bread flour keeps for several weeks. Milk, eggs and tomatoes do not freeze, but they all keep for a week or so. Soft fruit and mushrooms cannot be frozen or kept for more than two or three days. So it will be pot luck whether or not I have these available on any particular day. I hope guests will not be too upset if mushrooms do not feature on the menu, or if the choice of fruit on offer is limited.

Testing Times

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

Anyone who may have contemplated a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend here but then chose another venue certainly did the right thing. Not only has Storm Dennis arrived, wetter than, and almost as windy as, last weekend’s Storm Ciara, but we’ve had two burst water mains up the road in the last two days and have been without water since the early hours of this morning. No baths or showers then. And my guests are having to fill buckets with hot water from the storage tank to flush the loos. There was also a brief power cut this morning, fortunately just after I finished cooking breakfast, and for some weeks now, this country has been on alert for the Corona virus. Let us hope we get back to normal soon.

Advent Sunday

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

The Christmas tree came down from the attic today. This year, Advent Sunday (the first day of Advent) coincides with the first day of December, which is truly a winter month, unlike November which still passes for autumn. The days now are short and dark, and the red and gold tree decorations bring extra light and warmth to a house that needs all the help it can get in its isolated rural location during the cold and bleak midwinter months. If you are looking for somewhere to stay over the Christmas period, there are still a few slots available, though not on Christmas Day itself, which is now booked up, and not on New Year’s Eve, which is reserved for family and for ringing the church bells at midnight. By the way, if you are a bellringer, you will be especially welcome at my B&B at any time of year and you may well be dragged along to a local practice!