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March News from No.fifty6. Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Measures
Posted on 31st March 2020
by Julie and David Thomson
in General News.
Well who would have thought that in the space of a month since we wrote the last newsletter, we find ourselves in the middle of unprecedented times for our generation with the pandemic of Covid 19. So, like over half the world's population, we are in lockdown and this is not the newsletter content we thought we would be writing this month. We are fit and well and following government advice and hope, wherever you are, you are too.
In early March we had 2 guests, Paul and Jane from Rutland and just as they left, Europe started to shut down and we have had no guests since. Those booked for March, April and May have trickled through their cancellations. Some for even later in the year, it is a rolling programme. There is nothing to be done, and we know our loyal guests and friends will be back to The Somme and No.fifty6 just as soon as circumstances and procedures and lifted restrictions make it safe to do so. We will weather the storm.
February 2020 – Extreme Weather and Stories to Tell at no.fifty6
February often blows in as a ”soft” month, not quite winter, not quite spring. This February has not been soft – wild winds, rain, rain, rain, some sunshine and even finishing the month on some snow. But, always the wind.
Storm Ciara blew across Mash Valley and dislodged 3 of our roof tiles, soon fixed and no other damage. Most of the rain has come at night so it hasn’t deterred our hardy visitors from their explorations. The fields are very soggy but new growth is here, even the trees are budding as the temperatures despite the wild elements, are mild. Apart from the last 2 days, which have been icy cold with a fall of snow, now cleared by the rain.
And as always at No.fifty6, there are stories to tell, as we remember 2 particular soldiers this month in the company of their ancestors..
November News from us and the goings on at No.fifty6.
Perhaps by Vera Brittain
Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,
And I shall see that still the skies are blue,
And feel once more I do not live in vain,
Although I feel bereft of You.
Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet
Will make the sunny hours of Spring seem gay
And I shall find the white May blossoms sweet,
Though You have passed away.
Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
And crimson roses once again be fair,
And autumn harvest fields a rich delight,
Although You are not there.
Perhaps some day I shall not shrink in pain
To see the passing of the dying year,
And listen to the Christmas songs again
Although You cannot hear.
But, though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.
Vera is probably best remembered as the author of Testament of Youth, recounting her experiences during the War in which she lost her fiancé, brother and two close male friends. It is a favourite book of ours.
Vera left her studies at Somerville College, Oxford to become a VAD nurse in June 1915 and became engaged to Roland Leighton in August 1915 whilst he was on leave from the Western Front. Roland was killed by a German sniper in December 1915 near Hebuterne. Vera and Roland were due to be married during his Christmas leave; her close friend Geoffrey Thurlow was killed in 1916; Victor Richardson, another close friend, died in 1917; her brother, Edward, was killed on the Austro-Italian Front in June 1918.
She writes : “I ended the First World War with my deepest emotions paralysed if not dead,” This would not have happened if I had had one person left… I could have married Victor in memory of Roland, and Geoffrey in memory of Edward, but the war took even the second best. It left nothing. Only ambition held me to life.” Vera’s ambition was that her writing should tell the story of Women, often overlooked at that time.
Roland Leighton is buried in Louvencourt, a 20-minute drive from us and a beautiful CWGC Cemetery. Vera visited the Cemetery herself in 1921 and 1933. As we stand on the steps, we take in the view that she describes so well in Testament of Youth, the fields unchanged over the decades.
Thank you, Vera, for realizing your ambition, through personal loss, and telling the story.
This November there has been peace, the farmers have been busy harvesting late crops, ploughing and reseeding, the continual cycle of life and agriculture in these fields which have witnessed so much. The weather has been mild, wet and windy, but now the frosts have begun, winter is on its way.