Deconfinement, Ongoing Remembrance, Heatwaves and Big Skies - June at No.fifty6
Posted on 30th June 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
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.
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.
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!!!
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.