Well, it’s been a year since the world turned on it’s head and life as we knew it was changed forever. This time last year we had just finished redecorating the Cat Hotel and were ready for another busy year with a really full diary. The bookings started to cancel slowly at first, then a crescendo until the diary was empty. I’ve never felt so desperate, it wasn’t just the lack of income that was so needed just to keep all our animals fed, but the way that it all happened so quickly – it was scarey and surreal.
Then the sun came out, blisteringly hot for so early in the year and the roads were so quiet as were the skies. We were able to do jobs around the farm that have needed doing for years but we never had time to do them. We spent hours clearing brambles and old barbed wire from the hedgerows and enjoyed the slower pace of life. I left the house early every Saturday morning to go shopping then the car went back behind the gates until the following week. We spent real quality time together as a family and realized that this was something that money could not buy.
We launched a crowdfunding pay it forward scheme so that people could save money by buying vouchers for their cats next holiday at a reduced rate. Whatever we raised was matched by Solent LEP and this kept us going for a while. We did have a handful of bookings over the summer but were down by 70% on the year. We also had some simply amazing customers who sent donations or who refused to not pay for their cats stay even though they had to cancel, I cannot begin to tell you how much this meant to us and their kindness and generosity will never be forgotten.
I think this last year has been a steep learning curve for us all. I think most people have wobbled more than once, I know I have, but I do feel truly blessed to live in such a beautiful place and to have my family at home. The animals have been wonderful therapy and just being able to go and spend time with the donkeys has helped keep me sane on days that seem so tough. I will never forget talking to one of my customers, who works in a hospital in Hackney ,who told me that their biggest concern was the amount of patients struggling with their mental health over the lockdown period. I suppose I never thought about the large families who share small flats in the cities, no balconies and mattresses on the floor, it was very humbling and such a reality check.
Everyone has had a different journey with both ups and downs and one day, hopefully in the not too distant future, we will be able to get together and laugh again. I think that’s one of the things I’m really missing, laughter in a group of friends, but I know it will be back.
This coming year won’t be easy as business is still slow to recover but from August onwards we are getting quite a few bookings and some dates in September are already full. We are also getting a huge amount of bookings for 2022 so there is real positivity for next year.
Thank you all for sticking with us and for keeping in touch. We really miss seeing you all and having guests to cuddle!
Keep healthy & happy,