Happy New Year from No.fifty6, Here’s to 2024
Posted on 31st December 2023 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
1st January, the dawn of a New Year which we hope will be filled with good times for all, and above all health and happiness. Thank you to everyone who sent us cards and festive messages and we wish everyone a Happy New Year. We may not be able to single handedly eradicate war, suffering, grief, cost of living pressures, worries and loss, but if each of us does what we can to make this a better world, then that is worth a New Year wish. And of course we will be here to do what we love best, to see guests and friends throughout 2024 - there is nothing we love more than sharing The Somme with you.
We took time out in December as it has been such a busy 2023 so we had a little break away to recharge our batteries and also spent Christmas with family. As much as we love what we do, we needed time for reflection and “us time” before we gear up for what looks to be a busy 2024.
So, with thoughts of Christmas we re-read this poem, On Earth - Peace.
On December 23rd, 1914, Punch published a Christmas poem for a nation at war. The anonymous poet dreamed of a return to happier times:
On Earth -- Peace
Judge of the passionate hearts of men,
God of the wintry wind and snow,
Take back the blood-stained year again,
Give us the Christmas that we know!
No stir of wings sweeps softly by;
No angel comes with blinding light;
Beneath the wild and wintry sky
No shepherds watch their flocks tonight.
In the dull thunder of the wind
We hear the cruel guns afar,
But in the glowering heavens we find
No guiding, solitary star.
But lo! on this our Lord's birthday,
Lit by the glory whence she came,
Peace, like a warrior, stands at bay,
A swift, defiant, living flame!
Full-armed she stands in shining mail,
Erect, serene, unfaltering still,
Shod with a strength that cannot fail,
Strong with a fierce o'ermastering will.
Where shattered homes and ruins be
She fights through dark and desperate days;
Beside the watchers on the sea
She guards the Channel's narrow ways.
Through iron hail and shattering shell,
Where the dull earth is stained with red,
Fearless she fronts the gates of Hell
And shields the unforgotten dead.
So stands she, with her all at stake,
And battles for her own dear life,
That by one victory she may make
For evermore an end of strife.
A wistful longing for happier Christmases of the past concludes with a dream of the most extravagant of gifts: world peace forever. It is a dream that we still have today – with the world still torn, stained with red. Peace is something we all continue to pray for and it seems as far off as it ever has been.
The Somme in December
December has been mild, wet and windy. There have been many grey sky days. The tracks and fields are muddy from much rain.
Tractors continue to dot the landscape. Hares and pheasants tear hither and thither. The fields are either seeded with new growth appearing, or deeply ploughed. Ordnance, vestiges of the War, litter the edges of fields on our walks.
The Somme is peaceful, ready for Spring’s new growth.
The tracks of Contalmaison, iron harvest.
We ended the year with a walk to Caterpillar Valley Cemetery as the sun went down. It was incredibly windy, but the light, as always there, was exquisite. We reflected as we looked at the names of the New Zealand "Missing" on the panels, that it was already New Year in their native land.
New Year's Eve, Caterpillar Valley.
Frank Sumsion - A Life Well Lived
Sad news reached us via Frank's son Mike, who was with us in the summer with his nephew Sam, that Frank Sumsion passed away after a short illness. Frank was in his 98th year. Frank loved coming to the Somme and was a great cheerleader for us. He and David would talk about Concorde and Frank would regale of his flights on that iconic plane and even sent us some of his Concorde memorabilia. He loved sharing - stories, a glass of red wine, photos, a ready smile. When Frank could no longer travel Mike would Facetime his Dad during his visits here so we could have a chat. We take comfort that Frank is now at rest, and had a long life, well lived.
Frank at No.fifty6. At home in Lincoln. Thanks to Mike Sumsion for letting us use the photos.
Work on The Somme
While the Somme is quiet there are several pieces of work going on in the area.
At Newfoundland Park there is refurbishment of the Visitor Centre including a new air conditioning system.
Warlencourt British Cemetery is having extensive refurbishment work to the entrance area, currently covered in scaffolding. The Cemetery is still accessible, with work due to finish in March.
Warlencourt British Cemetery
During December some of the diseased trees in Fricourt German Cemetery and also at Grove Town Cemetery have been professionally felled. Sadly, Ash dieback is a problem in the area and more trees are likely to be taken down next year.
Fricourt German Cemetery. Grove Town Cemetery.
Reservations and Tariffs for 2024
Our 2024 diary is already filling up with our lovely guests who want to visit on specific dates and know it is always a good idea to get requests in early to secure preferred dates. If you do want to visit during 2024, please do think about letting us have your dates as soon as possible as we hate disappointing anyone! Our Availability Calendar always has the up to date position but do get in touch with us to check. We are always as flexible as we can be.
As thoughts turn to 2024 we have reviewed our tariffs. Not immune to the continual rise in the cost of living we have to make a small addition to cover increased costs.
Room rates including breakfast are €110 per night for 2 sharing and €80 per night single occupancy.
Our dinner rate for our not to be missed home cooked meals around the No.fifty6 table, including drinks is €38 per person, for 4 courses.
David’s New Year Cracker:
As it’s New Year I was going to have Bucks Fizz for breakfast but I’m having trouble making my mind up…
Happy New Year
As we toast absent friends, all that is left is for us to wish all our wonderful friends and guests past and future a happy, healthy, peaceful New Year. We look forward to reconnecting with old friends and new in 2024. Please stay safe. Stay healthy. Here’s to the future. Bon Annee.
Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.