Deconfinement, Ongoing Remembrance, Heatwaves and Big Skies - June at No.fifty6

Posted on 30th June 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Deconfinement, Ongoing Remembrance, Heatwaves and Big Skies - June at No.fifty6

As we write this, 1st July is upon us, a date synonymous with The Somme, the date on which the 1916 battle commenced. For us it is a day for reflection and for looking forward, a date bound up with so many reasons why we now call The Somme our home. 
This year of course, Somme commemorations are different due to Covid. There are no big organised ceremonies but the essence of The Somme is not to be found in any ceremony. It is to be found looking over the now beautiful fields, the skyline, the dips and curves which caress The Somme. Come here and you truly connect with the land and its history. There is no place in the world like it. Come and remember, come and reflect. Come on a personal journey, as we did many years ago, a journey for us which continues still. The boys who were here, those who still lie, those who went home who have now all passed, they maybe would like pomp and ceremony with the great and the good at Thiepval, but we also believe they would have appreciated being remembered in quiet, personal ways, more than 100 years later. 
So while we would have been happy to stand in a favourite spot this morning, we are inextricably bound and connected to The Lochnagar Crater. For the first time in 45 years, Richard Dunning, owner of Lochnagar Crater, has not been here for a 1 July. So we were more than happy to lead, on his behalf, an intimate, short, symbolic service at Lochnagar in the rain this morning at 07.28hrs, the time the Battle commenced. Julie led the proceedings with words read from Richard, one wreath and one French gerbe were laid by Mayor Christian Bernard,  and our friend Cyrille Delplanque played the bagpipes to start and finish, and we blew our whistles just as the men did to encourage their comrades over the top. We stood in silence to honour them. 
We can never say thank you in person to the men who walked this hallowed ground 104 years ago today, but we can remember, we can reflect and we can pledge to be good people, live good lives, and embrace our fragile, hard won freedoms to do good. Thank you to that gallant generation who gave so much. We will remember them.

The deconfinement in France continued in June. From 2nd June we have had more freedoms, as we are now a green zone with low rates of infection and good hospital icu capacity.  But of course, the virus is still out there. We have adapted to a new normal. Cafes, bars and restaurants have opened, all schools are back to learning before the summer break, cinemas have opened this week, some museums, all with social distancing and hygiene measures in place. We too can legally be open.
It is compulsory to wear a mask on public transport.  The same in a café, bar  or restaurant, only removing your mask when you are sat at a table and staff wear masks. It is table service only, and with the best risk assessed configuration of tables and chairs at least 1 metre apart.
In museums, visitor centres and shops masks should be worn.  Hair and beauty salons are open. All with hygiene protocols.

No more than 10 people may gather in any public space at present – one reason why July 1st commemorations have been cancelled.

There is a StopCovid App (we have) which helps tracing and then there is a testing and isolation regime.
Our mayor, Christian Bernard, is proud of the fact we have had no cases in Ovillers La Boisselle and we will all do our part to try and keep it that way.

Closed since early March, we are now open. We welcomed our first post lockdown guest, Marcel from Holland this week,  who is a regular visitor.

The borders within Europe are open and there has been no quarantine requirement between France and Holland.

Borders outside of Europe are still shut so it will be a while before Australian, New Zealand and Canadian guests return.

As we write this, though not confirmed, the UK Government are due to introduce air bridges for travel to Europe. We understand that from 6th July travel from the UK to France will be permitted without the need to quarantine either side of The Channel. Of course, it is best to check current advice before making any travel plans as things can change quickly. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have about current regulations.

So, we are happy to take bookings, and indeed we have guests booked in the diary from now on.

We always take health seriously, both our guests and our own so we have our own protocols in place in line with French government legislation and guidance.

• If you are unwell please do not travel
• If you have any symptoms please do not travel
• Please observe social distancing in our common areas  - no hugs, no physical contact  :(
• Tables for breakfast and dinner will be configured to reflect social distancing requirements
• Rooms and common areas sanitised daily
• Hand sanitiser, always available, to be used on entrance at front door and into dining area

Our aim as always, is to give you a safe, comfortable haven when you are visiting the Somme.

Flaming June

The weather has been amazing. It has continued to be dry and hot with a heatwave last week. Certainly, we have had many fine, blue sky days and little rain. The farmers shake their head over “la secheresse” -  the dryness  - and irrigation systems loop over the fields which get plumper with their crops. 
Nature is fighting back showing who is boss. The landscape never looking more beautiful, the sky never more blue. Butterflies and bees are abundant, hares run, and as we write this on our terrace, there is a cacophony of bird song. The nesting sparrows and collared doves have had their young and the cheep cheep of hungry mouths can be heard and the first faltering flying lessons have kept us amused. One rather tired chick sparrow was waiting for us at the front door yesterday, too tired to get back to his nest. We left him alone and a few minutes later, mum came to sort him out. Good parenting.

The cemeteries, memorials and pathways of the Somme have been our haven during the month. We have walked, made visits, reflected and just admired their beauty. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have continued to do a fantastic job of looking after Cemeteries and Memorials. Now the spring flowers have passed it is time for the magnificent roses, lavenders and poppies. Just beautiful.
While we have been out and about we have filmed some virtual walk throughs of Cemeteries and some stories of the men who lie therein and posting these via Facebook Live.  Among those visited are Adanac, Thiepval, and Lochnagar Crater. A sample of the videos are shown below.
Our way of bringing The Somme to you.

Hand Sanitiser

In a great initiative the town of Albert commissioned stands for hand sanitisers for all Albert businesses. We asked the project’s creator, Romain Dennis, if we could have one, even though we are outside of municipal Albert and he readily agreed. He came along and installed our own liveried stand which now sports our hand sanitiser dispenser. What a great idea! He and David are now best mates over a mutual love of Concorde!! It is now worth sanitising your hands regularly just to see our stand!!!

Animal Postscript

We have some new friends in the back field.

Chicken Man delivered more food for the chickens last week. So they are sorted. Throughout lockdown he has shouted  “Les Britanniques arrivent?” socially distant of course. The British are coming? When we say not yet – he shakes his head and says it is so hard for everyone. So this slightly mad, charming, Julie would say attractive, chicken farmer will be glad to see you all back here, as will we. We have learned that the locals are quietly proud that their homeland is at the heart of Commonwealth remembrance and is visited by respectful  souls from distant shores. Our 5 French hens  and Shere the outdoor cat think so too. 

This month’s chicken joke courtesy of David. 

All is well at No.fifty6. Be safe. Stay well.  See you soon.


Comments (26)

Gary James says:

Thanks for another great newsletter with reflections of 1st July. Strange times. Hopefully back to normal (whatever that is) soon. Keep safe.

Pauline Symmons says:

Lovely newsletter and great to see Marcel whom we have met in the past. Looking forward to seeing you in September x

Andy bond says:

Hi Julie David fingers crossed hoping to get out there later in the year spoke to Neil last night and with a little luck Gary Allison myself mark and Neil will be out take care all the best to you both Andy ps as usual great blog

Chris Prince says:

Another great newsletter, in strange times, but pleased to hear things are getting much better for you both and that guest have starting coming back to No 56's door. With more story for you to re tell us all. Have very much enjoyed your trips to the cemetery to visit the fallen and tell us about them that on have had on Facebook. And at The Lochnagar Crater, it was very moving. Take care until next month. Chris & Bill xx

Jon Hill says:

A beautifully written piece, which captures the essence of the area and its historical importance. Despite these strange times for us all, hope for the future shines through.

Tim Brown says:

High quality newsletter, low quality joke!!
Thank you for all the updates and videos. The Somme is indeed a special place and your love and enthusiasm adds to the whole Somme experience. Can't wait to see you both x

Paul Fransham says:

Beautifully written article on Lochnagar - thank you. We look back on our time with you 3 years ago with such gratitude - and would love to make it back from NZ sometime soon!

Richard says:

So glad you are both keeping well. I can’t wait for this shielding to end so we can visit again. You are right, there is no other place like it.
Keep safe!

Jim Blenkhorn says:

Thanks for the update. The ceremony at the Lochnagar Crater was very moving thank you for posting. A Great Uncle was killed not far from you between Poziers and Courcelette on 15th September. His body was never found.

David Ellis says:

Another great newsletter. I saw your video of the Lochnagar service - very moving. Would dearly love to attend one in the future! Nice to see Julie and David leading the proceedings. Beautifully done. Great news that you’re now open again. Hope to see you soon. Still keeping tabs on travel stuff from the UK. Stay safe. David

Neil Mackenzie says:

Julie. Not surprised you blamed the 'chick Ken'joke on David! Glad to hear you are both well and that France is getting back to normal. I am hoping to arrange a visit before the end of the year so will be in touch. Take care

John Mepham says:

Wonderful update as always ! Thank you both for the live visits, they give us, who are so far away, a special connection until we visit again. Early stages of planning but perhaps next summer if all goes well!
Until then, stay safe and well !

Tim Pritchard-Barrett says:

I am not sure which one of you writes the monthly blog or whether it is a joint effort. The effect on me is always a positive sense after reading and I challenge you to start the required novel of 'The Somme' of today and a century ago. I feel confident a cracking story will emerge. Publish it here initially?
Please stay well, (as I have, by being completely isolated for 4 months and reading/studying/noting my library) I look forward to returning when possible!!

Michael Knight says:

As always a great article. I’ve Also enjoyed the videos you have been posting on Facebook, especially today’s. Thank you, stay safe and look forward to visiting you in the future

Rick Smith says:

So glad you all well and thanks for the update.
I do wish I was there but it just wasn't to be this time, hopefully August ! Keep well and safe and make sure those two reprobate behave !
Rick x

Ashley Atkinson says:

Thank you
Good to stay in touch
Keep safe
Best wishes

Tom Grieves says:

Thank you very much for the 2020 Lochnagar Ceremony. I am not a Facebook user, but somehow I got to view it.

My Dad L/Cpl Chris Grieves 24/1509 Ist. Tyneside Irish was wounded at Lochnagar 01 Jul 1916.

Lest we Forget.

Laurie Peacock says:

A lovely update and read, hope you both are well and look forward to a visit very much. Thoughts today 01/07 and remembrance.

Colin Winn says:

Fabulous to be here with Terry Berry on July 1st. And the added pleasure of staying at Number 56 for a few days, makes the overnight drive to get here for 7.20am, the time of the first action of the battle at Hawthorn, worthwhile.

Audrey says:

It is strange times and I pray that recovery continues. I hope "Our boys " will always be remembered.
Love to you both. Regards to Marcel.

William & Elizabeth Stretton says:

It was a privilege to join you all at the Crater this morning.So simple ....yet so inspiring sincere & moving.Even the skylarks...Our sincere thanks to all. The lads well remembered. W&E

Heather and Malcolm says:

Another month gone, another great blog. Thank you.Have often thought of you both. Of course, your raison d'etre is to share The Somme and, of late, it will have been hard for you not to (in more ways than 1) and hopefully, you will never have such a time again BUT it must have been such a peaceful and reflective time there, with hardly anyone else about ... and you will always remember it for that experience!

Jeanette Stafford says:

As ever a lovely article x

Gordon & Joana (and Mary) says:

1st July 1916 - ‘Lest We Forget‘.

Rob says:

Fantastic work today- and so pleased to see Marcel is your first post Covid guest. Please say ‘hi’ from us. A few words about today - much like you’ve published here - would be appreciated, as discussed. Xxx

John Taylor says:

Lovely article - thanks. And great to see Marcel has gone over the top to join you!

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