Happy New Year into 2022 from No.fifty6

Posted on 31st December 2021 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Happy New Year into 2022 from No.fifty6

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. We would like to thank everyone who sent us cards and festive messages and we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s hope the world helps heal us all in return for looking after the planet,  that Omicron is the beginning of the end of the pandemic and we can all get on with our lives  and plan with some certainty. We know we have missed human togetherness, we had episodes of it through the autumn which was a breath of fresh air with guests around our table, and we can’t wait to see you all again.

We hope those who have already booked with us for 2022 are able to see their travel plans take place.

We will be here and ready, fresh faced in this New Year,  to see guests and friends when travel is again possible – you know there is nothing we love more than sharing The Somme with you. 

Christmas we spent here just the 2 of us, for the 2nd year running. It is hard to be apart from family and friends when Christmas is all about the inner child in all of us. But staying put was the right thing to do and there is also something rather lovely about the 2 of us having time on our own. A time to reflect and recharge.

Reflecting it seems,  is what Geoffrey Wall did on writing this poem called New Year’s Eve 1915.

And so the year is dying in the night.
Another moment with its hopes and fears,
Another instant with its smiles and tears
Is passing to its fellows as I write.
Perchance, amidst the musical moonlight,
Across the valley of forgotten years,
Another stood: and watched the rolling spheres
That cleft the purple heavens in their flight;
And pondered on the meaning of it all:
But here the moonlit hours flow softly on,
Unheeding that o’er half the World a pall
Of unthought sorrow lies; and peace is gone
From many homes; and many men must fall
Before the dawning New Year dies anon.

Geoffrey Wall was born in Liscard on the Wirral 3rd March 1897. His family emigrated to Australia when he was ten years old and he attended Wesley College Preparatory School in Melbourne.

Geoffrey Wall 

Geoffrey began writing poetry at Wesley College and his work was published in the school magazine. He enrolled at Queen’s College, at Melbourne University to study the Arts in September 1915. At the end of his first year at university, Geoffrey returned to Britain and joined the Royal Flying Corps. After training in Oxford and Denham, he was sent to Netheravon Aerodrome in Wiltshire. Geoffrey was killed in a flying accident in England on 6th August 1917 aged 20. He is commemorated in the Raikes Lane Cemetery, Frankby, Wirral.


December has had cold spells, fog, but it ends milder and wetter, very soggy underfoot and mud on all the tracks.  It hasn’t stopped us walking and exploring. The fields are either seeded with new growth appearing, or deeply ploughed. The farmers have toiled through December.

 Winter light toiling in Sausage Valley.

Covid Update

Omicron is creating havoc across the world it seems. France has closed its border to the UK for anything other than essential travel. We hope that is reviewed soon. We will of course keep you updated with any Covid travel requirements as the borders reopen, but at the moment, even if you could travel, a negative test not more than 24 hours old, is required to enter France, and a test before your return to the UK and Day 2 PCR test is required by the UK.  

We have restrictions here, but nothing that impacts on us day to day. Mask wearing continues to be obligatory in enclosed spaces (and some town centres) so that is second nature to us.

We received our booster jabs in December. Thank you, scientists and health care workers!

One thing to note, France is strengthening its Pass Sanitaire. From 15 January 2022 those who have been double vaccinated for more than 7 months will need to demonstrate they have received an approved Covid booster in order to keep their Pass valid. The Pass is required to travel on public transport, for bars, cafes, restaurants, museums, cinemas, sports events etc and applies to tourists as well as residents.   So, when you do travel, please make sure your vaccine certification includes your booster shot.

We are always happy to help if you need any help or advice about what is required.

A Christmas Walk to Ovillers

On  Christmas Day we walked to Ovillers Military Cemetery where we said hello to 2 soldiers in particular. Different backgrounds, different battles, but they now lie together in peace.

Christmas Jacob Rees, born on Christmas Day 1899, enlisted with the Denbigh Hussars Yeomanry and served with the 16th Royal Welch Fusiliers. He died on 26 August 1918 aged only 18 and is commemorated on the War Memorial in Pentyrch near Cardiff, where his family lived.

Christmas had joined up before, but being under-age was sent back home. However, he enlisted again once he was 18, obviously determined to “do his bit” and follow his older brother Edgar, who had seen active service in France as a gunner with the Royal Artillery. Early on the morning of 26 August 1918 the Royal Welch Fusiliers started their attack at Mametz Wood, the scene of so much Welsh bloodshed two years earlier. From Mametz they fought on through Bazentin to try and clear the Germans from Longueval. It was in this attack that Christmas was killed. He was taken to the Red Dragon Cemetery, the burial ground for The Royal Welsh which was situated in Mash Valley between Ovillers and La Boisselle. After the Armistice, Red Dragon was concentrated into Ovillers Military Cemetery where Christmas now lies buried.

As a postscipt to Christmas Jacob Rees a friend in Cardiff, Gwyneth Jones, walked to Pentyrch Memorial and took these photos for us on New Year's Eve. Wonderful. From The Somme back to Pentrych.

 Gwyneth's photos of Pentrych Village Memorial 

Baptiste Marie Joseph Herbreteau was born in August 1892 in Chauche in the Vendée. He was a young farmer before joining up to fight for France. In the fierce fighting over Christmas 1914 at the bottom of our village of La Boisselle, Baptiste was killed on Christmas Day and was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was 22.

We will remember them.

Nous nous souviendrons d'eux.

Christmas Trees in the Streets of La Boisselle.

Again, this year, Christian Bernard, our Mayor, offered everyone in the village a real Christmas tree, as long as it was on the roadside and was decorated so that the village was illuminated for Christmas. Many families took part – including us-and they did look pretty.

Thiepval Renovation

Despite the cold and wet weather, work has continued at Thiepval. We have had a team of 4 stonemasons from Belgium staying with us until the Christmas break. Their work is to be applauded. After finishing for the day, they dine here then go straight to bed, exhausted from the work and the weather.  It has been too cold for the special glue they use to set, so they have been making many stone pieces from as small as a penny through to large shapes ready to be fixed in position when the weather is warmer and dry enough for the glue to set. We have learned so much about their painstaking work. The scaffolding has been removed from the top third of Thiepval as the work there is finished, but there is still a lot to do on the main pillars. Work resumes next week after the Festive closure.

 Thanks to the stonemasons for sharing their work.


Animal Postscript

Marge is doing fine. She is our one French hen and takes herself off to bed every evening as soon as day turns to dusk. She is a hardy old girl who loves chatting to the horses in the back field or to David when he daily fills up the wild bird feeders! Hares and pheasants are ever present on our walks.  Nature is marvelous.

 Lucky to capture this hare.

David’s New Year Cracker:

I just spoke with Bill Withers.

I told him Ain’t No Sunshine is poor grammar.


He said “ I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know”

All is well at no.fifty6.

Happy New Year

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 2022. Please stay safe. Stay healthy. Here’s to the future. Bon annee.

  Devonshire Cemetery


Comments (25)

Ian Smallwood says:

Hi and a Happy, Health and Prosperous New Year to you !
Well, here we are again, back to square one as they say with this latest pandemic, both of which Jackie and I have tested positive for the first time and trying to be so careful with masks and the likes, after jabs one, two and the booster !
Thank you again, for your newsletter, which we both look forward to immensely. Take care both and fingers crossed we will be back to some kind of normality very soon.

Terry Uttley. says:

Happy new year to you both. Many thanks for all your newsletters I look forward to them. Even though we haven't met I feel I know you both. My ambition now is to visit num 56. All the very best to you both. Terry.

David Harvey says:

Have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2022. It was miraculous that we pulled off the mass Guild event just a few weeks ago….

Edward says:

Hi David and Julie,
Looking forward to seeing you in 2022. I am hopeful things will have improved by then Travel wise.
Happy New Year

Rob says:

´As you travel through life
Remember your goal…
Keep your eye on the doughnut
And not on the hole’.

Crédit: Lily Savage (I think)

Happy New Year!

Julie Cauvin says:

Happy new year and thank you for the update.

Janet and Peter Hetherington says:

Happy New Year to you both. Hoping to visit again when Thiepval is completed as we have found another Great Uncle Isaac Thompson, whose name is remembered there, We followed in my Grandad Jack’s footsteps, Isaacs older brother, with David

Paul Livings says:

I always look forward to staying at Number 56 with Julie and David.. I/my friends love it.

There is one common denominator. You arrive as a guest and leave as a friend.

Bev Craig says:

The poem from Geoffrey Wall made me sad.
As a young boy he came to Melbourne where I live and then left to fight in France and died when he was so young, like so many did. Such brave young men.

Les Mepham says:

My one wish for 2022 is to enjoy a meal at No. Fifty6. Wishing you both well.

Malcolm and Heather J. says:

Another covid year over and your newsletter brightens up the start of another month, another year! Stay safe the pair of you, as we are trying to do. Happy New Year Julie & David

Jennifer Iles says:

A very happy New Year to you both.

Sandy Biback says:

I so look forward to your updates-brings me back to the wonderful time we spent there, what seems like ions ago. Take care

Glenn Kerr says:

Dear Julie and David: It is always such a pleasure to receive your notes. There are always gems of history that you give the light of day. Wishing you all the best for the coming year. Glenn Kerr - WFA Canada.

Gary James says:

Happy New Year Julie and David. Thanks for the latest news and the poignant walk on Xmas Day. Duty done. Gone but not forgotten. I am still hopeful of being with you in February. Great to see the work that the stone masons are putting in. Keep safe and healthy.

John Cannon says:

Warm wishes from Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Ian Lauder says:

Happy New Year to you both and I'm keeping fingers crossed for the summer! - Recently met up with a mutual friend Sue Robinson who doesnt live too far away from me
Best wishes
Ian Lauder

Jim Blenkhorn says:

Happy New Year both of you. We are so very sorry that we will not be with you in February.

David Ellis says:

Thank you for another update from the Somme. Always welcome reading! Happy new year to you both as well. Hope beyond hope to see you both in June!

Alan Hancock says:

Happy New Year

Paul and Sharon Smith says:

Happy New year
Thanks so much for the updates
Looking forward to our visit to yourselves in June
Stay safe folks

Frank Sumsion says:

Happy New Year to you both, thanks for the latest news from 56 it has brought back memories of times spent on the Somme with you, and a good start for me in 2022, stay safe and well.

Gordon & Joana (and Mary) says:

Yup, welcome to 2022 - now, if we can just… Thanks for the update and the tragic tales of the two lads. Love to you both. XX

Michael Knight says:

Bonne Annee David and Julie
Lucky stonemasons being able to stay with you, I look forward to seeing their exceptional work, hopefully in May if not before
Stay safe

Ashley Atkinson says:

Much obliged for update
Best wishes for 2022

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