From Country Holiday Lets

Saying good-bye is the hardest thing to do. Cottage / Vacation rental challenges.  And the index.

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Saying good-bye is the hardest thing to do

This is an important area that is often overlooked.  One of the key things whenever agreeing a contract is to check the exit arrangements.  Few people like doing this because it seems so negative, but this step can make things so much easier, often many years later.

A recent end of contract caused me to write about this because the owners managed the break very well.  We had worked for them well over the years and it was upsetting, to say the least, but we fully understood the reason and the way they handled the situation made things so much easier for us.

Running a vacation rental holiday cottage can be quite complicated compared to simply renting out for a set period to residents.  The administration, running maintenance, problem solving and the need to be on call can be quite surprising.  But one or two unforeseen things can cause dismay and upset.

For those using agents either part time to help find bookings or full time as sole agents are quite vulnerable to what is one of the most difficult and upsetting tasks, rarely considered in the excitement of setting up. Paradoxically, this problem can get more difficult the better you have arranged things.  So, here it is, from the other side.

As booking agents, we make great efforts to recognise that our most important customers (for invoicing purposes) are also, paradoxically, our most important suppliers.  We would be nothing without the many good quality cottages and all the time and effort owners spend to run them.  Likewise, we would be nothing without the commissions owners pay to us when we find guests to stay.  Successful businesses sometimes spend more time getting the best suppliers and looking after them than, even, seeking out customers and giving them great products or services to buy.  In our case, the two are combined into one.  Of course, we never take our eye off the ball to the need to ensure that guests get quality and value… and that they know they can get it from us.

Our relationships with owners are, therefore, quite complex because we have to treat owners as customers and suppliers.  They need to feel that they are getting value for their efforts and that they are getting value from our efforts.  This is much more involved than many normal supplier or customer relationships.  Once things have settled over several years, a relationship matures.  However, all things change and there is no such thing as a guaranteed contract.  For many reasons, a parting of the ways can be a good plan.

Reasons from the owner’s point of view for ending agency contracts are many: they are doing so well that they no longer need assistance or they seek more flexible agency terms or, simply, the agency is not ‘cutting the mustard’.  In the past, some owners have decided to try the Assured Sort Term Tenancy market, others have used their holiday lets for their sick relatives, some have sold their holiday businesses and we have gradually learnt to deal with the disappointment these natural and necessary changes bring to us.

Sometimes, owners simply send an e-mail expecting an agent to stop work on receipt, immediately. It is natural if you have made your mind up to get on with things.  Fortunately, this is not common.  The agent, then, has to dismiss any disappointment that naturally arises after years of collaboration and gently inform the owner that a more gradual parting of the ways is the best plan.  Some agents simply levy a set charge, others tend to compromise and feel their way through what can be quite a difficult situation.

No owner goes into business using a booking service with the intention to an upsetting end to what was once a useful, productive and pleasing relationship.  But it can happen and the process can be distressing for everyone involved. 

The situation is not so different as to when the very rare occasion arises of a double booking.  No one on Earth engineers a double booking on purpose but the immediate feeling is one of utter dismay.  Guests are the final source of all our income and the direct source of all income for our owners.  They must be looked after with 100% effort and care.  A double booking is a nightmare.

Handling hundreds of bookings a year we tend to get more experience, albeit of these very rare events, so we have developed a systematic and focused method to deal with them.  The concern is still there 100%, but debilitating emotion is no longer around to complicate getting the best result for everyone as quickly and efficiently as possible.  It is easy to say this, but it takes time and experience to be able to treat these events as problems that must be solved quickly, efficiently and with a positive almost cheery approach.  Guests, of course, see a focused highly concerned drive to mend and solve.  

This sort of thing is greatly valued by all, in particular by owners and is a major part of making a good supplier / customer relationship with them.  Getting this right does not make the upset of saying good-bye any easier.

From the owners point of view there are a few tips worth considering:
before putting in your notice be clear what the original contract says about this.  If you want to move fast with other plans, then a phone call to discuss things can be an idea. This depends on the agent.  Some will not negotiate, others will; it depends on the quality of their service.  It can be an idea to ring first to say that you are considering plans to move on so reducing the impact of what you may have, already, decided.  Then send formal notification with a request that you meet or discuss the nuts and bolts of parting the ways on the phone.

Try to make the notice message gentle and avoid legalistic terms.  Getting short blunt messages after long periods of working together can add heat to a situation that needs a measured winding down.  Many agents will, after the dust has settled, negotiate and make the whole thing easier and much less fraught.  Sadly the first move in this diplomacy must come from owners.  If you get that right it is vastly more likely that saying good-bye will be easier.

The paradox is that the better the relationship the harder it is to bring it to an end.  Once gentle written notice has been given, the ball is then with the agent to respond with the same care and attention that applied to the relationship that has applied over the years.

How easy it is to say all this. Agents have a duty to make things easy when contracts end because they have the experience.  Even if notice is given in a simple brusque manner we should still respond in a positive and professional manner.  If this one key message is done in a gentle way, it can make all the difference, especially when several years of service must come to an end. 

We hope these reflections on a difficult subject will be useful.

For quality and value holiday cottages
01568 612467 for more. info@countryholidaylets.co.uk.

From Country Holiday Lets

No Fire without Smoke.
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At the heart of all successful cottage management are some key factors. One of these is the ability to keep imagination at the forefront. The art mending things in unconventional ways is another great skill which is closely related to imagination. This should be distinguished, of course, from bodging which also requires imagination but fails in the quality of results.

Over the last six months, my partner has been holed up at home recovering from an illness. Some very promising progress has been made after a frightening start. As the building dates from the 16th century with Georgian ‘improvements’, it is not the most energy efficient but a wood burner has been running day and night to keep things warm.

We must have burnt 8 tonnes since last September and all went well. However, the burner gradually became less and less efficient until, despite this cunning strategy, even we began to notice how smoky the room was becoming and how difficult it was to regulate or control the burner at all. The smoke alarms going off in the hallway shook me enough to see that something obvious was going wrong was wrong right in front of our faces. Things had become so bad that it really was a case of no fire without smoke.

Keen on do-it-yourself, I rummaged in the cellar to find some long discarded drain rods. A couple of hours later I had fixed something approximating to a chimney sweep’s brush to the end. The flue access plate was removed and I stuck the rods up the foot chimney. They seemed to go on forever but there were not enough of them so I had to borrow several cane rods from a neighbour to get all the way up the 38 foot chimney.

The soot avalanche was not as bad as expected and far from the dusty mess I had feared. But it was dirty. Meanwhile, Lorna sat in the kitchen with the cooker turned on to stay warm. The job completed and all put back with the vacuum cleaner pressed in to service, to my utter shock, the burner worked as well a the day it was first installed. Shock? Yes. Whenever you try something absolutely new the risk of failure is significantly greater, especially if you have launched out without someone beside you ‘who knows a thing or two’.

Petunia near Goodrich

Sometimes, it can be a good idea to take a flyer and do something you have never done before. In this case, using drain rods with a makeshift brush did the trick but it did take a little nerve.

There’s a tendency to simply not do things from lack of confidence and also out of respect for those who have years of experience. Sometimes, this is compounded by snow blindness when working hard day in and day out. Many people suffer from a tunnel imagination which restricts things in much the same way as tunnel vision. I just did not (would not?) notice the increasingly bad behavior of the wood burner.

You can spot the better holiday lets in how they are arranged and how much they make of their furnishings, features and accessories.Many a time I have re-arranged everything from pot plants and cushions to pictures, sofas and carpets to ‘lift’ interiors. Fortunately in most cases, owners adopt some or nearly all of the alterations once they have seen the results. Perhaps, they had suffered a little from snow blindness.

A burner making things cozy in The Lookout above Hay on Wye


In rare cases, when making a first visit, the impression of no fire without smoke is so strong that it reverts to ‘no smoke without fire’. In these cases, unless some temporary reason can be found for the situation, our attempts to assist are not successful.

Unless an owner has the imagination to manage their holiday cottage well there is not much chance for good quality. Sometimes people can be knocked out of tunnel imagination, sadly on rare occasions this is beyond our ability. It is no surprise that the most loved cottages of our members span all our from three star sound and good value to five star top end good value.

Imagination and management style are key features we use to estimate our ratings for cottages and for good reason. We try to help in cases of no ‘fire without smoke’ but if it ends up as ‘no smoke without fire’ then there is a real danger that the quality will not be there. A tunnel imagination can be a real liability; it was lucky that the racket of the smoke alarm woke me up to sort out that wood burner.
01568 612467 for more. info@countryholidaylets.co.uk

From Country Holiday Lets

A bad day turned good(ish)
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I admit that I thought twice before publishing the below. It is a detailed account of a day when things did not go right. In this, there is a record of how a simple error can cause a chain of events that can only, with great kindness, be described as ‘unfortunate’. In between, I have put a few pictures from our two latest holiday lets and close-by outside shots. They are relevant, as you will see.

It’s easy to say that the real test of a business is not only when major decisions turn out to be right but, almost of equal importance, is how the business manages when the inevitable set backs and, sometimes, days you want to forget arrive with a vengeance.

Last Monday was one such. At the beginning, after two solid days work on an assignment, it being agreed by a cottage owner, and doing some quite good photos, we received what must be the perfect template ‘kiss off’ e-mail from her. She was clearly using us for information and had no intention, whatsoever, of ever using our services.

This sort of behaviour is, fortunately, very rare making it the more surprising. Yes, agents can feel let down as much as owners of holiday lets when people seem to forget commercial manners. Although it is tempting to pursue the matter, in many cases, it can be emotionally counter-productive except where a quick and highly effective campaign will get ‘a result’.

Upper Hayview (sleep 4) Hayview (sleep 2) in the heart of Hay on Wye

So, things did not start well. Events appeared to have slung us down a hole and the priority was to scramble out and mend things as best and with the most positive attitude that could be mustered. The phones were ringing wildly but they were all being answered and enquiries addressed. In the middle of the controlled mayhem, I was working on two new holiday lets, now up on the web site. Hayview and Upper Hayview are five star flats in the heart of historic Hay on Wye. Despite the ‘kiss off’, and the barrage of phone calls, things seemed to be going pretty well. That is, until I realised what I had done.

 Upper Hayview (sleep 4) Hayview Just outside

One of the ultimate crimes working with some types of web site editing software is to use the back button rather than ‘save and close’. As things were very busy, and I was still learning on the job to cover for long term sickness, I merrily hit the ‘back button’. I did this not once, but twice.

Astonishing things can happen if you do this when editing or creating web pages. In this case, it took the two published cottages I was looking at to answer enquiries, and pasted over all their contents the text, e-mails and other information from the work in progress for Upper Hayview. We not only ‘lost’ two owners’ cottages, but strange hybrid ones appeared both now called ‘Upper Hayview’.

(sleep 2) Kitchens are both similar quality

But it gets worse. These two strange hybrid creations were live, because the work in progress had taken over existing live cottages. Yes, you guessed it, about three hours later someone actually booked one of the hybrids and paid a deposit… despite the fact that the wording was incomplete, the pictures did not match the words and other telling aspects. The reason why was because the rates of much less expensive cottages were merged with the pictures of the two original published cottages that were now copied over by my mistake. In addition, the calendars showed availability for Hay week.

It appeared the bargain of a lifetime. No wonder the guest leaped at the opportunity. The going rate for a let of this quality and size in the middle of Hay on Wye during Hay week is close to £2,300 for four people. This figure was vastly more than the strange creation advertised. I would have leapt at the deal if it had come my way.

Upper Hayview (sleep 4) Hayview (sleep 2)

Unpicking this ghastly mess was not easy. However, we managed to sort everything out and, very kindly, everyone was understanding and very patient. There was absolutely no point in making excuses, the mistake was caused by us and so we had to start from that fact.

The good thing is that we came out of it in a positive manner and, if anything has been learnt, the back button is now treated with a massively increased respect and dread than before the chaos caused by simple ignorance crossed with a fair bit of stress. At one point, I even toyed with the idea of levering it off the keyboard. Our developers are now modifying the software to prevent this happening again.

A view from one of the windows of Upper Hayview (sleep 4) The best of town and country

It is informative how IT can do some very odd things and that you must be on your guard at all times. Perhaps, in a few months time, the value of how things were sorted out combined with the fact that all those affected seemed to keep a positive and kind humour throughout will be better appreciated once the emotional distance that time provides intervenes.

Upper Hayview (sleep 4) Hayview (sleep 2) Georgian style. (1730s)?

The support given to us by the owners of Upper Hayview along with the understanding of the guests who booked the strange hybrid creation of the back button helped turn a rotten day into one where, at least, good progress was made. They even went on to book and alternative cottage on our web site.

The river Wye from the main bridge into Hay on a bright Autumn day
Guests and owners expect good service. When things go wrong, the best we can do is to show how we react. We can only hope that we managed our way through sufficiently, reminiscent of Coleridge but with a happier outcome:

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man.
He rose the morrow morn.

You have to like this business to do it well. There’s never a dull moment.

01568 612467 for more. info@countryholidaylets.co.uk. Useful for new cottage owners:http://www.countryholidaylets.co.uk/about-us/landlords-homeowners-info-pack


A new feed back system: found here

 

Don’t mess with the baler. An hydraulic ram displays a brutal lethality

From Country Holiday Lets For quality and value holiday cottages

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A bit more about imagination: how vivid and how difficult it can be to make the best of it:

Years ago, my brother kindly thought I might be useful on the farm. In that hot summer of 1976, I worked his green John Deere baler on dusty fields. Before tractor cabs and rollover bars, it was a dirty, noisy and trying job, but I enjoyed the work and greatly appreciated the extra money.

Health and safety, in those days, consisted of being told a horror story of someone falling into a baler when they had been trying to mend it, without disconnecting the P.T.O.(the bit that makes it work). I arrived at the field, set up the baler, jumped onto the tractor seat and engaged the P.T.O. About ten seconds later, a gigantic clunk came from the baler, followed by an expensive sounding mechanical groan and, then, it appeared to recover.

The baler would often follow behind on of these on the same field

I disconnected the P.T.O. quickly. My mistake was to have left the spare baler twine in the auger– (the bit that sucks in the straw before it is cut and rammed into those, now, old fashioned little rectangular bales). The twine came in solid cylindrical coils measuring about 11 inches across. The hydraulic ram on the baler was so powerful that they had consumed the entire cylinder of twine and had cut it in half.

I had to run the baler 20 yards to get the wreckage out of the machine in the form of a distorted bale of straw and twine. After sheepishly cleaning out the baler and I hid evidence of my mistake in a hedge. In about a second, an entire reel, many hundreds of yards long, had been transformed into thousands of ties. Fortunately, the baler was not damaged. Only years later did I own up; it lent a stark and frightening perspective to that twenty second health and safety briefing about always disconnecting the machine before poking around its innards.

My blood ran cold for a couple of minutes. The thing is that many people would have simply chucked the bits into the hedge and forgotten about the whole thing in a couple of days. What a mistake.

A vivid impression was created in my imagination for the power and brute danger that can arise if machines are not treated with respect. Engaging the imagination was the deterrent.

The same thing seems necessary for owners; it is a mistake to turn off the imagination but bad feedback can be really upsetting. Unlike many agencies, we are very keen on getting feedback from guests and have a policy of passing everything on to them: fair, questionable or downright unjust and spiteful. Fortunately, the latter are few and far between but, as it is impossible to get things 100% right all the time, we do pass on fair criticisms, recommendations and observations from time to time. There is a large amount of good stuff which is very pleasing; one of the best aspects of the holiday cottage business is the pleasure gained meeting so many really pleasant people.

Good owners do respond to feedback and this is the key part of our system to ensure quality and value. Of course, there are times when guests appear to want 5 star quality in sound 3 star good value cottages.

A corner of acres of gardens at a really lovely holiday let in Herefordshire run by owners who care and have mastered thick skinned sensitivity

Dealing with feedback calls for imagination and, as you go along, you do need to develop a thick skin but, at all times, to retain sensitivity. The problem is that if you care, it can get personal when criticism comes your way and unjust criticism can really get under your skin.

Good management cannot tolerate indifference, equally, you need to disconnect from personal involvement as much as you can and address criticisms accordingly. Because you stand back does not mean that you ignore criticism and turn off your imagination. This is easier said than done.

About twenty years after the baler incident, my brother who told me that the gamekeeper had found the aftermath of my lesson in safety in the hedge. He had wondered how on earth anyone could have managed to do such a thing. I, too, wondered this at the time. The dread of the potentially lethal power of machinery is still vivid, even now, as I type.

Perhaps, one of the most significant factors causing failed holiday cottage operations is an inability be imaginative and benefit from experience whilst developing a thick skinned sensitivity and not turning off your imagination.

As for me, I still have some way to get there, but I’m working on it.

01568 612467 for more. info@countryholidaylets.co.uk. Useful for new cottage owners:

 

 

Experience is not always right and the cottage market is changing fast. It’s Rabbit Awareness Week

From Country Holiday Lets For quality and value holiday cottages

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It’s rabbit awareness week. www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk Before hunting, shooting and fishing folk start laughing, read on.

Things were quiet in the office for the last few weeks. Bookings kept coming in, but with an automated system, you can be very busy on the bookings front and yet strangely quiet for the rest of the activities. What was particularly disturbing was an apparent lull in the appearance of new cottage owners to join our web site.

Several visits had been made and I had done the usual estimates of how many would eventually choose to join us. One showed all the signs of being negative. After initial interest and keenness, all went quiet; calls went unanswered and so, about a week ago, I made one final call saying that we were still keen but understood that circumstances may have changed, so we would cease chasing them.

I wrote the whole thing off to experience. These things do happen and, usually, people do not respond because saying ‘no’ can be very difficult. Although we often feel it would be better to have a clean simple answer, when I do hear it there are times, despite my feelings to the contrary, that a simple failure to respond could be a little less distressing.

I thought to leave it there but things turned out very differently. A strong possibility turned out to be a ‘No’ which upset the Monday morning and, then, out of the blue, the one that we had expected to be dormant or no longer interested, sent a message that things were still on the way; far from saying ‘No’, the word was ‘Yes’.

 

Who are you looking at? Sheep with attitude on the Shropshire hills.


Experience told me something which turned out to be plain wrong. Hard won experience can put the skids on common sense and good management and can introduce an inflexible and, sometimes, an unforgiving attitude which is poor business. It does sound obvious but raw experience without perspective wrecks the chance of using imagination.

Most people do have large reserves of experience, how to make positive use of it is the trick. Judgement coupled with an ability to relax and combine a range of experiences to provide sufficient material to reach a weighted result is what is needed. Some people call this ‘perspective’. In situations where business pressures surround, this can be easier said than done.

We spent a long time with our old web site doing Search Engine Optimisation.. i.e. Trying to arrange the site so that search engines could most appreciate it and so be more likely to favour it when listing search results. Meanwhile, we were spending tens of thousands on pay per click which is by far the most important source of business.

It took quite some time for us to realise that much of the time spent on trying to please the search engines and follow unwritten and often guessed at guidelines about what makes for good SEO had a huge opportunity cost. We could have spent much of that time far more profitably keeping an eye on our Pay Per Click and keeping on top of the rest of our Internet advertising.

This lack of perspective could have been a very expensive error had we not picked up on it fairly early on. It is easy to say that you should use your imagination but much harder dredging up the necessary perspective to make this happen.

Which brings me back to the point of all these blogs… getting good cottages full of pleased guests. Rabbit Awareness Week is with us and the way the World works is not always the way some may wish it so. Where many will see rabbits as sweet cuddly things others will see them as crop destroyers and a real cost to the food production business of farming.

I stand back as one of those compromised people who cannot bring myself to treat creatures as products for our consumption when looking them in the eye, and yet I not a vegetarian. The excuse, per Alice Through the Looking Glass, could apply:

“You look a little shy: let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,” said the Red Queen. “Alice –Mutton: Mutton –Alice.” The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice, and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused.

 

“May I give you a slice?” she said…

 

“Certainly not,” the Red Queen said, very decidedly: “it isn’t etiquette to cut any one you’ve been introduced to. Remove the joint!” And the waiters carried it off, and brought a large plum-pudding in its place.

 

“I won’t be introduced to the pudding, please,” Alice said rather hastily, “or we shall get no dinner at all.”


It is weak, I know. But, at least, I used my imagination. I must use more of that in the business.

Beautiful Herefordshire

01568 612467 for more. info@countryholidaylets.co.uk. Useful for new cottage owners:

A bit of luck and how to make the best of it

From Country Holiday Lets For quality and value cottages

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Some time ago, I mentioned coming back from taking pictures of a cottage in a Black and White Village with the car having the last word on a difficult day as it unobligingly shed its exhaust pipe.

The car was sent straight to the garage for a good seeing by people who know how to sort out bits of stroppy metal. When it was up on the ramp after a new pipe had been fixed the mechanics showed their true worth. Taking the opportunity, they scanned the underside of the car looking for any signs of things needing attention.

A small hole in a belt drive cover was spotted. It turned out that the belt was on the verge of total failure because there had been a bearing failure in something they call a tensioner. Another half a mile would have seen metal and sparks flying all over the place, and one ex engine.

A working car, although rather old, with a possible four more years of life would have turned into a mound of useless metal, with the added insult of about £45 worth of diesel swilling around inside its tank. Instead, some £275 lighter, it seems the stroppy exhaust pipe had done us a major favour.

Luck is deeply unfair.. but, in this case, I have no compunction but to hail it as a very wonderful thing.

Making a success of a cottage business also needs its fair share of luck but you do need four things: a bit of luck; the ability to spot your luck when it appears; the ability to make the most of your luck and, of course, boring old business competence. There is no doubt that luck is hugely important whether it be in life in general or wrapped up with the success of a individual enterprise.

We are approaching a frightening economic period which will weed out over 50% of all cottages from the market. Demand will reduce and those still taking cottage holidays will, rightly, expect high quality and good value. The emphasis on good management and service will radically increase. Those owners who still have the ‘it’s good enough for them’ attitude will be burnt on the bonfire of their negative attitudes.

Anyway, I went out this morning to visit an old customer in Hay on Wye and decided to stop off to take pictures at a bathroom spa holiday let on the way back. Both are five star and both fit well into the high quality and well managed category. The sun was shining having lost its initial post summer deluge hesitancy and all seemed well with the world.

(I take a break here as I am about to get in the car to go to Hay on Wye and will continue on my return to see where this is going).

Several hours later:

Luck was good again today.

I arrived in Hay on Wye to visit someone who has three five star lets with us. And he is to let us assist finding lets for two spectacular apartments, right in the middle of the town.

View from the first floor over the butter market towards the cheese market

I took some pictures from the inside and a few of the building from the outside. You could not get more central and there is a good cafe to come down to have breakfast if you feel a D.I.Y. breakfast is too much after a good night out.

The apartments are just above the green parasol next to the butter market
The light was excellent but I had learnt, from grim experience, that you should always take your cameras with you. This often entails dragging around an ugly grey bag.. but it paid off in buckets on this visit.
The open window belongs to the top occupy 4 apartment

On the way back, I called into another five star holiday let with us. Cider Press Barn has a spa bathroom with a sauna, fancy bath, large tanked out room complete with marble topped table, wall shower, seating and all the bits and pieces to make for a special experience.

I took a quick photo of the outside to improve on an existing shot. Again, the weather was kind and luck held, producing a startling blue sky. Blue skies sell holiday cottages, especially in England.

The exhaust pipe luck seems to have held, so far. Is luck unfair? Of course it is.

We are getting some really superb new cottage lets joining us. Long may it last!

Regards from Herefordshire, Shropshire and around about.

Ring 01568 612467 for more information. E-mail: info@countryholidaylets.co.uk

 

Not one of my better days; but a new cottage could join soon.

From Country Holiday Lets For quality and value cottages

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I thought to take a break from doing accounts and join in a Google forum about dull things like search engine rankings. If you use these carefully and accept advice, there are some surprisingly competent people who often give sound advice. However, sometimes, if you follow the advice doggedly, the sort of things you can put on blogs is diluted and they can become dull.

We were told that the pictures on this blog were not a good idea because several also appeared on our web site. I responded, saying that people like them. Duplicating such things, apparently, waters down what they call PR.

On the way to the cottage a near Bridge Sollars. Sometimes, you look at an animal and it peers back at you with an equal intensity.

Consequently, many of the blogs that obey the rules can turn out rather dull short and pedestrian. We have, for the time being, decided not to abandon the formula. Although it may cause some damage, it appears people like things as they are. However, we were told to remove direct links to the home page at Country Holiday Lets, so this was done.

Doing the forums to find out more was, really, a diversionary activity. The end of month accounts and transfers to owners had to be done so I returned to the task. On this occasion, all went well as the back office of the new web site appears to have settled down and is largely sorted out. But this is not always the case. Sometimes, you need to know when to stop, take a deep breath, and return to the work later. Failure to do this can cause serious errors.

When I finished the accounts in double quick time and the rental balance transfers to the owners had been done, with Lorna covering the office, I took the afternoon off to do some d.i.y. at home. It was then that the wisdom of the need to take a deep breath and stop was most needed and when I singularly failed to do so.

We had restored a chandelier bought from France with those lovely rain drop shaped glass ‘drops’. It is a spectacular and very different type of thing from the usual cut glass faceted efforts you see so frequently.

Before my single minded attempt at destruction

I climbed the ladder and lowered the chandelier to about two foot off the ground on the end of a piece of twine. So far so good. However, the last 100 years had taken a toll on it and the locking pin holding the twine came away. There was a muffled and potentially appallingly expensive crash, as it fell to the floor.

Contrary to popular belief, chandeliers do not necessarily make a huge noise when falling to earth. This one fell onto a carpet. The real damage is caused as much by the chandelier falling on itself as the ground beneath. This pearl of wisdom was bought at a potentially very high price.

As luck would have it, the damage was repairable and I had the spares to hand. So I hoisted the wreckage back up with a new locking pin about two feet above the floor with some more twine. As I left the room to bring up the spares, I noticed the chandelier was turning gently but ignored it. All seemed well. Downstairs seeking the spares, a muffled thump was heard.

Twenty seconds later, after hurtling up the stairs and along the corridor through two doors; there it was, for the second time, in under thirty minutes now seriously damaged. The strength of the twin depends on the twist. It had untwisted and failed. The dangling remains of the useless support waved in the air as if to mock my utter incompetence.

I rather wished I was back in the office doing cottage accounts.

But, by sheer good luck, the spares were enough to reconstruct the chandelier and return it to decent condition. Although supremely incompetent for a few minutes, my excessive care in buying spares when they appeared over the years paid off. These things are not easy to find.

With a somewhat damaged confidence and bruised ego, after a few hours, it was returned to its slightly lower place, now about 8 feet off the ground. I can only say that it was a mercy that this astonishing example of the damage you can cause by failing to stand back and take a breath did not happen at work. To drop a chandelier once might be bad luck, to drop the same chandelier twice within thirty minutes must be telling you something.

Anyway here is a picture of the offending object.

After two crashes and quite a bit of worried work to repair the damage.

The following day I went out to see a cottage owner on the banks of the River Wye between Hay on Wye and Hereford. Luck seems to have improved and the bright sunshine which has so peevishly refused to appear in the Summer made things feel so much better.

Taken at Bridge Sollars across the Wye. To the West is Hay on Wye and Hereford to the East

The river near-by seems to be much liked by Swans and is a favourite stretch for Coarse Fishing. We hope to add this new cottage shortly, all things being well, to those already on our web site.

Perhaps I should give chandeliers a miss and stick to the Google Forums and going out to see cottage owners in future.

Ring 01568 612467 for more information. E-mail: info@countryholidaylets.co.uk