Jugs, Gills and Jars

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

When I was a child, yoghurt was just beginning to be sold in plastic pots, but glass jars were still common, particularly in Europe. In England, the volumetric capacity of a jar of yoghurt was a gill (pronounced jill), which contained 5 imperial fluid ounces, or one-quarter of a pint. This was the perfect size for a portion of yoghurt and was equivalent to 142 ml. When I first started making yoghurt on opening the B&B, I used the jars that came with the yoghurt incubator, which were the only option available at the time. It’s the empty jar in the middle of the picture. It takes 220 ml, and I have found that guests barely get through half a jar most of the time, leaving the rest to waste. Some guests want just a spoonful on their fruit or cereals. It meant that when making my weekly batches of yoghurt I was using a lot of milk and wasting a lot too, as there’s only a certain amount of leftovers that I or the cats can consume. If a couple of guests each want a full portion of yoghurt, then one jar could be a little skimpy to share between them (110 ml each). I needed a better solution. In just three years, the choice of glassware available online has expanded considerably, and the nearest equivalent to the old gill that I have been able to find are the two jars on the right of the photo. I bought a few of each. By a strange optical illusion, the one on the end has a smaller capacity than its neighbour, at 130 and 135 ml respectively. The glass of the 130 ml jar is a lot thicker and clearer than the 135 ml jar; the round shape is nicer too and the lid is better quality. I’d definitely get more of these, which are now my favourite jars.

I’ve also recently withdrawn the larger of the two white ceramic jugs from circulation. The two sizes of jugs were displayed in the guests’ kitchen for guests to help themselves to milk and take up to their rooms. I’d assumed that most guests would pick the small jug, but hardly anyone does. Even if it is just one person staying rather than two, everyone picks the larger jug, fills it right up to the top — it holds 200 ml, or about a third of a pint — and then leaves more than half of it in their room overnight to go sour. The unused milk must then be thrown away. The small jugs (95 ml) may look like something you’d find in a dolls’ house, but they hold more than you might imagine, and certainly enough for a couple of cuppas unless you want an American-style latte. Optical illusion at play again!

No Water

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

On Monday this week, guests had booked to stay for three nights, neatly following the previous weekend’s guests and filling in weekday gaps before my next set of guests due to arrive today. Nice to have a whole, uninterrupted week’s worth of income for a change, following the disastrous summer season of 2020. One couple at a time on most days, here for a peaceful and relaxing break and sightseeing, is the ideal scenario for me. I dislike the pressures of catering for multiple guests at the same time.

All went well until 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning, when a burst water main somewhere in the area caused the water to be shut off until late evening. There was no warning and no notice. No one from the water company brought drinking water, although they are supposed to in the event of prolonged disruptions. I had to keep phoning the water utility company to find out what was going on. The time to completion of repairs kept being put back. My guests, understandably, felt they would have to curtail their visit and cancel their second and third nights. The prospect of having to keep flushing the WCs with buckets of water did not appeal. Nor did the lack of even a cold shower, never mind a hot one.

Ironically, as soon as the guests had packed their backs and were on their way out of the front door, the water came back. Too late to change their plans. If I’d been in their place, driving all the way home late at night instead of enjoying a pleasant mini-break, I’d have been hopping mad.

Southeast Water, if you google yourselves and come across this page, please note that I am not happy. Unscheduled disruptions to our water supplies happen far, far too frequently in this area. How can I run a B&B without a reliable supply of water?

Peak Season

Sunday, June 6th, 2021

The rhododendrons are flowering later than usual this year. Their season is quite spread out, spanning a few weeks, with different varieties coming out at different times. The first ones at the end of April are white. The last are also white, late in the summer. Peak time is usually May, but this year it’s June. Some have shed all of their petals before others have yet to open their buds. This photo shows a selection from the drive up to the house, but these plants are all over the garden. From now on, it’s a pretty rapid decline — until next year. Here are a few more photos.

Queues at the Door

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

At the moment, it’s cats only at the door. But tomorrow will be a significant day. All over the country, B&Bs that have lain dormant since March 2020 will be allowed to welcome guests into their houses at last, and serve them a proper breakfast. For the next few weeks, the rule of six — or two households (one of which of course is mine) — will apply, so I shall only be accommodating one set of paying guests at a time until the end of these restrictions, currently scheduled for June 21st.

Wistful wisteria

Thursday May 13th, 2021

The wisteria is looking good this year, having had a good pruning. But the temperature for this time of year remains cold. What a contrast with the sweltering heat of five years ago on this same day, when my mother died in this house aged 92. Soon afterwards work began on the house to prepare it for use as a B&B establishment. Wisteria need warmth to bring out the delicious perfume of their blooms. Yet the weather is set to continue cold. Rhododendrons and azaleas are beginning to flower, and their Himalayan origins make them well suited to cooler climates. Still, the days are long, and the house and garden are coming to life again after their long hibernation. There is much to be done before the first guests arrive. Not least, to start a new yogurt culture. I never let my sourdough starter die. That has kept going all though the pandemic — in spite of the near impossibility of obtaining flour last spring.

Opening the Doors

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

If all goes to plan, B&Bs will be allowed to dust the cobwebs off their beams, clean their windows, sweep their front steps, shake their doormats and, at long last, open their front doors to guests (from the UK at least, if not yet from abroad) from May 17th, except for Benenden Hospital patients who can stay at any time (please contact me directly). I expect that we may still have to wear masks and take precautions. Until restrictions are lifted completely in June, I will limit the number of guests staying on any one night to avoid mingling on staircases and corridors.

If you are a regular user of online agencies, note that you will not get the best deal there. For the cheapest rates, particularly when it comes to staying multiple nights, please book directly from this website. If you book via an online agency you will be paying a higher rate to cover some of the commission that the agency charges me. And booking via phone or email enquiries may cost you more too because of the extra admin time involved at my end in gathering information and inputting data. I may be feeling generous when I do the paperwork as the result of a phone call or an email enquiry and give you a discount anyway, but on the other hand, I may simply charge you the normal, base rate because it’s easier and quicker than doing the maths! However, if you use the booking buttons or pages on this website, you will be guaranteed that discount!

Herd in Passing

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

The garden merges seamlessly into a large patch of woodland. There is no fence so, as far as animals are concerned, no boundary and they feel free to come and go and roam wherever they wish. This morning a group of stags appeared on the lawn. Family groups are quite common, but to see so many males together is unusual.

Breakfast Guest

Friday, February 12th, 2021

The snow is beginning to melt away now, and higher temperatures are forecast for next week. Meanwhile, we have two regular guests for breakfast if not bed. Here’s one of them, photographed by my fabulous gardener cum groundswoman from her cottage widow, literally just a couple of feet away.

Breakfast Room or Project Room?

Sunday, February 7th, 2021


Snow is falling after a cold night. B&B guests are now a distant memory, and the Breakfast Room has somehow turned into a Project Room.

Breakfast On a Tray

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

January is always quiet, and of course we are still in national lockdown, which means that in theory I am not allowed to have any guests. Exemptions include people who need to attend medical appointments and could not otherwise get home, so as this is the nearest B&B to Benenden Hospital, I am accommodating any patient who has self-isolated and had negative covid tests. But I am not permitted to serve meals in the dining room. I did not imagine, when I started this B&B, that I would have to go a whole year with virtually no guests, let alone serve breakfast on a tray left outside someone’s bedroom. My guest who ordered ham and cheese for his breakfast stayed here twice (the second time was for a follow-up appointment earlier this week), but on both occasions I never clapped eyes on him! He checked in remotely through an open front door and followed instructions. We texted and called out a cheery hello to each other through closed doors, but we did not even meet on the stairs. A surreal experience no doubt for him as much as for me.

The latest advice from the government suggests that restrictions for hospitality organisations may be in force until May. It is difficult to write news items about a B&B where nothing very much is happening.