Millport Breaks Holiday Apartments, Isle of Cumbrae
07757 216105

Disaster and trouble

Well, that wasn’t the beginning to the holiday season that any of us were expecting, was it? With growing horror, I think we all realised this was far more serious and widespread than fist thought in January, and of course we complied immediately with the lockdown.

There were several practical problems with this. I hoped initially that we would be able to visit on the basis that this is my job, and essential travel, but it very quickly became apparent that I would not be able to check the flats as my insurance company had asked me to do. Luckily, they were very helpful, and allowed me to organise the Sainted Sammy ( what would I do without him?) to do a fortnightly tour of inspection, a bit like the riding out of the landowners in olden days to inspect the borders of their land against reivers. Except Sammy does his tour on a bike, not a horse, and as far as I know there’s no fanfare, courtiers, or feasting. Sadly.

Utility companies have, in general, also been good, allowing me to reduce direct debits and payments. This has been essential to try and reduce outgoings with no income at all.

Then there was the heartbreaking task of contacting all my guests, which I’ve currently done up until the end of May. Most people were lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I ended up in tears on many occasions. People, by and large, were happy to move their holiday til later in the year, which at least meant that I didn’t have a huge run on the bank balance.

There was the odd person though that was aggressive. Maybe one or two who insisted on every penny back. Nobody had travel insurance. Who even thinks about that for a week in Millport? Even if they’d had it, it wouldn’t have covered them for this. But here’s the rub- neither did my insurance. Despite having what is commonly known as Business Interruption cover, this only comes into play for a notifiable disease basically on my property. And then only until I can get the property cleaned ready for the next guest. Government help? Well, initially we were told yes. Then no. Then maybe. Eventually after many sleepless nights, I was awarded the 10k grant. This may seem like a huge wad of money to many. Indeed, it is. But when I put it in the context of my running costs for three flats, and refunding or moving 24 bookings for late March,April and May, it began to look a bit tight.

This is my business, and many of you might assume that the deposits that I’d taken over the winter would still be sitting in my account. However the reality for myself and thousands of small seasonal businesses- holiday flats, cafes, restaurants, is that the profit that you’ve made over the summer, sees you over the long and lean winter, when bookings are scarcer than hen’s teeth. There wasn’t much sympathy for us in the press either, with most papers suggesting that the grants were being given out to any old second homeowner.

Which is why I was dismayed , and so downhearted when the government guidelines published yesterday came down ,unequivocally, on the side of the consumer. It stated, in no uncertain terms, that every holiday maker was due a full refund. In effect, the buck stops with us. There seems to be no support, or understanding that behind every company, no matter how big or small, there’s a harrassed person, desperately trying to be fair to all, and still stay in business. While I understand ,so well, the disappointment that a cancelled holiday brings ( my daughter and I had a holiday booked in New York for Easter ), there seems little support for the provider. A run of full refunds paid leaves nothing in the bank to live on, or to keep running while we are closed- and who knows when we can open? A plumber, or a hairdresser ,can pick up tools and be back working within days of the Government relaxation of lock down. A holiday is booked in advance. It needs reassurance ,that it will be OK to travel. It needs funds in the bank for the guest too, and we know many people are struggling.

On occasions this month I’ve remembered the scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, ( which we went to see at Christmas!) . All Jimmy Stewart’s bank customer’s are baying for all their money back. He tries to explain ” What, do you think the money’s back there in the safe ? I don’t have your money, it’s in Joe’s house, and Mrs Green across the way. ” . I’ve felt very much like that sometimes. ( Minus his accent and overcoat. There’s some similarity in the hair though….)

So i’m struggling on .I’m encouraged by the majority of my lovely regular guests, and their small acts of kindness in a landscape I don’t recognise. I hope that we can open soon, and I can rediscover my sense of purpose, which seems to have disappeared. I hope that I can stop eating everything in sight eventually. I hope we can all survive this, both physically and mentally.

Stay safe, friends.

I do like to be beside the seaside

We had a bit of a hiccup, just as we were about to open the latest flat in Kelburn street to rent. Our next door neighbour begged us not to call it The Bay, as she felt that the ” shop” side ( her flat ) had gained that as a commonly used name. Not wishing to confuse the postie, who probably has enough trouble with the various renumbering and renaming of buildings … we came up with the snappy name ” Beside The Bay.” ( Bay watch was rejected for obvious reasons. 🙂 )

So far it’s had a few visitors, who have all loved it. We are putting feedback forms in to help us identify if there’s anything we need to tweak .

Wonder what I should do next?…..

The Bay

It’s taken a lot longer than I thought to get the new flat ready to rent. The builder was delayed. The windows weren’t ready when we thought they would be. The kitchen fitter was taken ill. The summer holidays, when I thought we would be able to really break the back of the painting and decorating, slipped by with still no plaster applied.

However, we are finally getting somewhere now, and we confidently expect the flat to be ready, inside and out, by late December.

It will sleep a couple ,with a beautiful en suite bathroom, kitchen/ living room, and of course views out towards the hills and Kames Bay.

Everything- every wall, floor, ceiling is new, except in the hallway, where I’ve retained one slim section of old wall ,with it’s peagreen paint and 1920 scraps of wallpaper.

Once part of the original shop, Euphemia Marquis sold it in the 1950’s run it as a shop for many years. The other side of the building continued to trade as a shop, with the name ” Bay Grocers ”

So our wee flat will be called The Bay, as a nod to it’s background. We hope it will be as popular as the other two- we love it already. Photos to come once I’ve tidied up and finally finished the last of the painting!

Slow and steady wins the race

Well, I hope it does anyway. Progress on the flat in Kelburn street has been slow, I have to admit. Painstakingly, we have stripped off the old plaster, removed the laths behind, and bagged it all up. Every single thing has to leave the island in the back of the car, because there’s no tip, and no space for a skip. Week after week, covered in plaster dust, we emptied it out at the tip outside Largs. Weeks of back breaking bagging , as we revealed dodgy electrical work, plumbing leaks, and structural anomalies.

We wondered aloud at the odd mish mash of door lintels, boarded up wood work…… was this the store room for the original 1830 shop, or actually part of the shop? Why were there two fireplaces if so?

The windows took ages to arrive. Finally ,though, they’re in and look splendid.

Still no bathroom yet though. Hopefully by the end of next week, which will make staying there a possibility!

Hello 8A Kelburn st

When we sold number 44 in November, we wondered for a few weeks what best to do with the profit. Coincidentally, we passed by a rather unlovely and very tiny flat in Kelburn street, at Kames Bay, just as we were wondering………and you can guess the rest.

8A used to be the Bay Grocers shop , or at least one side of it. According to the deeds, it was all one shop up until the early 1950s. The delightfully named Eustacia Marquis owned it at that point, but the building dates back to at least 1835. Miss Marquis decided to sell part of the shop, and it was turned into a tiny flat, with a sea view over to Kames bay. The other side, continued to be Bay Grocers until some time around 2010, and then that too was sold, renovated and turned into a flat. so many of the shops in Millport have succumbed to this fate. A look at the old photos of the 1940’s and before shows a rash of awnings right along the seafront promenade. It’s sad to see the shops disappearing, but I suppose that’s the way of many High streets..

Anyway, our flat is taking a long time to sort out. It was extremely damp, and the windows had failed. Planning permission, and listed building consent has had to be sought to replace these, and tidy up the scruffy outside. Mr Millport Breaks and I have spent many weekends knocking soggy plaster off walls, and bagging it all up, to be carried off the island in rubble sacks.

I do think it will be worth it though. I must stop buying stuff for it off Ebay . I really must.

another season draws to a close..

As expected, all three flats have been busy over the summer holidays, and I seem to have spent a good deal of time washing the same duvet covers and ironing them in my very own Groundhog Day scenario…..I usually watch Netflix as I iron, – nearly burnt the covers a few weeks ago, I was  so engrossed in The OJ Simpson story!!

I’ve got some later bookings this year in Cosy Corner, possibly due to the lure of the wood burner, so we will still be ticking over next month in all flats. I’m trying not to close for too long, but we will have to take a few days to paint the bedroom ,and to put new flooring down.

The flooring was part of the ” rolling refurb ” idea that we have adopted for some years now- every winter something is replaced, or improved. This means of course that not everything can be renewed every year. However I was really hurt and dismayed to have a very poor review from a lady who complained bitterly that the carpet was not to her stringent standards. The carpet was laid in 2013, and Sammy and I wash it regularly with my carpet shampooer. I think partly I was hurt because we do our best to provide homely and clean accomodation, rather than 5* luxury. and partly I was hurt because some of the comments were incredibly personal. The review stuck out like a sore thumb among the lovely 25 or so good ones I’ve had so far for Cosy Corner.

Reviews are, surely, supposed to give future guests an idea of what they’re coming to. Useful and constructive criticism, helpful ideas to improve ..sure. Pejorative and subjective dismissal of all our efforts are not welcome or helpful. Perhaps people forget ,as they blast out a ringing attack on an owner and a property, that they are damaging a small business, sometimes irrevocably.

We always ask that if there’s a problem, people tell us. We will always do our best to put things right. So before you write that stinging review for a restaurant, or a holiday cottage, ask yourself if you’ve given the owner a chance to put it right? There’s a real person behind that business!

My old mum used to say ” If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all ” Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea.

Anyway. I’ve chalked it down to one of those things, and put it behind me!  🙂 Onwards and upwards, and we will be putting nice new hard flooring down, so I’m sure dog owners will appreciate that even more!

Cheerio.

 

A tale of two cludgies

As the season really starts to get underway, it becomes increasingly tricky to get any maintenance or improvements done to the apartments. The changeover time is taken up by.. well, changeovers! Fresh bedding, cleaning, a bit of tidying up of the garden perhaps, water all the flowers….it’s all go.

However, we have managed to do half of a much needed tidy up of the little cellar,( the outside toilet in another life ) opposite the door in Cosy Corner. This now houses the washing machine, which leaves more space in the kitchen of course, but this ” laundry” room can also take wet jackets, wellies, bucket and spades, and Nordic Walking Poles, if you’re that way inclined!!

Disappointingly, the lovely cornflower blue floor paint has stubbornly refused to stick in one corner. That’s a job for a weekend in July, when Mr Millport Breaks and myself will be in situ. The window also needs repaired, and we will be putting some shelving up. However for the moment, the washing machine is now plumbed in, which will be a big help for our visitors, I’m sure.

The instantly recognisable Suki ,our resident cludgie cleaner on the Isle, continues her blog vlog ; https://www.facebook.com/cumbraecludgiecleaner/

which is a heartwarming tale of one woman’s battle against crystalised urine on the men’s urinals  😉

but she also does a fantastic job keeping our much needed public toilets open ,clean, and welcoming. Well worth a visit, even if you don’t need a wee!!

Here comes summer

We’ve been enjoying some really fantastic weather in Millport this spring-it’s the driest April and May I can remember for ages. Plenty of opportunity to sit outside at  The Garrison and  The Dancing Midge Cafe  and enjoy some lunch or coffee in between cleaning.

We hope to get the washing machine into the outhouse At Cosy Corner very soon. The plumbing has been done, we just need to paint it and tidy it up for guests to use! You can guarantee that as soon as there’s some outside work requiring done, it will rain  that weekend.

Still, all our guests seem to have enjoyed their stays in Cosy Corner and indeed in Rose Cottage and Number 44! We have had some great reviews. Come and stay yourself!

 

Definitely finished !

Well it took a whole lot longer than expected, about a hundred all day breakfasts in the Dancing Midge cafe , a lot of losing the screwdriver that you just had in your hand two minutes ago…..some sweary words, some frosty silences, some laughing, some wondering for the umteenth time which way the Ikea drawers go, a whole lot of cardboard to get rid of…….but we are done. Crawford st is now called Cosy Corner and is the nicest place in Millport- honestly. 

Nearly finished Part 1 !

The woodburner is in situ, and Mr Millport Breaks and I are thoroughly enjoying the warmth as we continue to redecorate.

Preparation is key, Mr MB always tells me, so while I’d much rather be choosing the paint colour, or hanging the curtains, I’m busy sanding woodwork every weekend, oh frabjous joy.

He’s busy papering- first an insulating paper, then a lining paper- nearly finished this bit! We think it will make the flat cosier , and less prone to condensation in corners.

While we stripped off the old paper, we came across some lovely old 30’s frieze along the top of the wall. This room was originally the kitchen, with a bed reccess for the maid probably!

We’ve taken lots of breaks for coffee ,soup, and giant breakfasts , in the Dancing Midge cafe, and also for a bit of foraging for kindling wood along the beach.

We will be taking a short break over Xmas, but will be continuing with the refit as soon as the festivities are over, and we will soon be turning our attention to the new kitchen…