Becoming full-time B&B owners was never a shared intention. In 2009 Charlotte came up with the thin end of the wedge, announcing that our oft empty guest suite on the ground floor of our farmhouse, normally reserved for the older generation, was going to be used henceforth as her B&B room. "Over my dead body" was my immediate retort, and tried to scotch the idea there and then. But once Charlotte has decided to do something, it takes alot to stop her, so I knew that I'd have to come up with something better than a mere objection. I bided my time ...and the answer to that riddle must wait for another time because that isn't the topic this time, this is:
But what had we been doing before the B&B came along?
Cordon Bleu Kiwi-style Charlotte has long been a cordon bleu trained cook, getting her qualifications in New Zealand at 23, and then honing her skills in London and up here in the Midlands.
Her original vocation was in equitation with her deep love of horses taking her to France and then qualifying as a Riding Instructor, an exacting and difficult course.
But fate took it course and she found herself in New Zealand, and the rest, as they say, is history. Her business over the years has encapsulated just about everything a cook can do: private lunch & dinner parties, company director lunches (she was the head chef at PWC Coopers Lybrand, Birmingham for 10 years, and for many years as a regular cook at The Bank of England offices in Nottingham), shoot lunches and dinners, corporate events, weddings and parties in general, and now here at Breedon Hall. Her reputation is based on a style that is simple and unfussy - yet always delicious - has meant she has never had to advertise, which is testament enough to her flair for the art of cooking.
Charlotte in full flow during one of her demonstrations.
Gangnam style Charles, on the other hand, has led a more varied life. Straight after school, his first job was in the packing department of Gucci in Old Bond St, wrapping presents for the wealthy over Christmas. Such was the fun to be had, he was persuaded to linger by promotion into the hallowed Shoe Dept where he far overstayed his welcome and had to be shoe-horned out (no pun intended) to ... South Africa as a management trainee for Tarmac, based severally in Jo'burg, Durban and Cape Town. There, shod in his immaculate Gucci loafers (obviously), he attempted to get to grips with Quantity Surveying and tender bids involving Africaans-only speaking locals who were definitely not impressed by this young Rooi-nekker, with the poofter shoes. On returning to London, after his erstwhile 'gap year', Charles set his sights on a military career, except that he was distracted by a girl ... who said, go and make some money in The City! So, that's what he did, becoming a commodity broker and 'Yuppie' at the same time. Big Bang happened, and as the Square Mile went turbo-charged, so did the lifestyle. Burning the candle at both ends, and frequently in the middle, he eventually came to his senses and went off to The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst to become an officer. Eight years later, after serving in the Household Cavalry, the 'Options for Change' Strategic Defence Review saw drastic cuts to military personnel, particularly officers, and taking the hint, Charles left to go into property development, an abiding interest.
Five years at Countryside Properties (then a plc) based in Essex, then another five running his own modular building contracting firm back up here in Leicestershire, the combined experience was no match for the credit crunch in 2008, and it all evaporated as banks did their notorious table-cloth puuling stunt. Charles took cover in the public sector, working as a business advisor to the construction industry for the next five years upto 2013. By that time he had been made redundant from the Govt. sponsored Regional Development Agency but was busy renovating Breedon as all around him contractors went bust!
The rest, as they say, is history. We renovated the hall and (so far) the disused stable block turning it into the B&B cum events venue you see today, and the stable block into the Mews holidays cottages, known now as Meynell Mews. It is still a work in progress, we have other projects still to complete, and of course we have a 'Forth Bridge' syndrome to contend with just in case we felt we could relax!