Heatwave, UK Quarantine, A Month of Extremes – August 2020 at No.fifty6
Posted on 31st August 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
Well, August has been a month of ups and downs. The month started with so much promise, a pretty full diary, interesting guests due throughout the month, things to do, lovely summer weather, then wham! We and our guests were hit with a UK quarantine, a heatwave, storms, diary emptying…but we are still here and always make the best of things, as there is always something going on.
Even our newsletter cannot escape the C word. We know it is important to keep everyone up to date with current developments in France.
On August 15th the UK introduced a 14-day quarantine for anyone travelling from France. Our guest at the time, Ross, had to hastily make arrangements to get back earlier than planned (day 1 of a 7-day holiday) and hot footed it back via a ferry before the 4am quarantine kicked in. At the moment the quarantine persists, we thought it would be until the children go back to school to get UK families back off holiday as schools seem to be the priority, but we really do not know when the quarantine will lift. We review it day by day. Guests cancelled for the rest of August and into September. It is such a shame as we were just getting going again under the “new normal”. In many ways it has hit us harder this time than lockdown realizing just how out of control this whole Covid pandemic is and other than taking personal responsibility, there is nothing we can do about it. So, anyone struggling with Covid and the havoc it has wreaked, we feel it too. But we bounce back and we know we are lucky on so many counts and we get to enjoy the Somme on our own again!
The quarantine was introduced as the number of cases have been steadily rising in France in cluster hotspots. At the moment, we are still a green zone, with a low incidence rate of the virus in The Somme Department. So many people are being tested now, with the aim a million tests per week from this week. In France, between 3000-7000 cases a day have been coming back positive.They are discovering that many younger people in the 18-44 age group have the virus, but they do not have many or any symptoms so the increase in positive cases is not translating into hospital admissions, icu and deaths, thankfully. The worry is with autumn coming if the virus is passed onto the older generation or those more vulnerable, and colder weather forces more people indoors and transmission increases. In France, it is back to school week and grandparents are being urged not to drop off and collect children from school if they can avoid it and everyone is being urged to remember social distancing, hand washing and face covering. Masks in France are mandatory in all closed public spaces, workplaces and even in the streets in many towns. Paris for example masks are mandatory everywhere other than personal homes - even riding a bike you must wear a mask in Paris. Across France they are mandatory for children 11+ and all staff in schools too. The clusters are mainly around all the holiday hotspots - the South and West Coasts of France and Paris. We do not think there will be a national lockdown anytime soon, but there may be localised lockdowns in hotspot areas.
Those who have visited us have said how calm and lovely the Somme is and how one can almost forget there is a pandemic. We feel lucky to have so many wide open green spaces around us.
This month we had an inspection visit from Somme Tourism, who checked both our quality of accommodation, environment, paperwork, licences etc. and also, we had our first Covid check – how are we set up to deal with social distancing, food preparation, hand washing, guest safety etc. We are pleased to say we passed on all counts and have the paperwork /certificate to prove it.
Summer on The Somme
We have seen record temperatures in August. The first half of the month was very hot – topping at 38 degrees by day and 27 by night which meant some sticky nights and dinner on the terrace. And the drought continued. So, the Somme turned golden. No green grass, the harvested wheat led to golden hay bales in the fields and the light even took on a golden hue. The summer landscapes have been beautiful. The cemeteries dry but always lovely. The roses just finishing. The sound of bees and the sight of butterflies the only other visitors to these hallowed places.
Then in the second half of the month we have had rain and a huge storm when rain, thunder and lightning chucked their worst at us. Guests Martin & Fiona and Colin & Jenny who were staying with us commented on a 6am clap of thunder overhead that shook the whole house. Talk about the eye of the storm. No lasting damage done though. Just plenty to talk about over breakfast. Now at month end, we have returned to warm days and some showers but not a lot of rain. Now the farmers are harvesting the early potatoes which will continue into September. The landscape changes as the farmers work.
It was on one of the sunshine and showers days last week where we went to Louverval, The Cambrai Memorial to the Missing and filmed our visit to share this remarkable place with its Jagger sculptures for those who cannot visit at the moment. Here is the link to our short film.
Last Sunday we had been looking forward to the Albert Air Show, sadly postponed to 2021 due to Covid. However, our Sunday afternoon was not without spectacle. We went along to the Bouzincourt Concours de Labour - a ploughing competition. In a harvested field in Bouzincourt it was a contest for pre-1960 farm implements – tractors, plough, and even beautiful horses. It was wonderful to see the old machinery in action and new friends were made - like Yvon the farmer who took a shine to Julie as she filmed him ploughing the straightest, deepest furrow possible. There was something gentle, soothing, satisfying about this rural event, echoes of times passed. The healing nature of the earth. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Every year on the nearest Sunday to his death on 5th August 1916 the village of Pozieres remembers George, a wonderful composer who died in the trenches of Pozieres and has no known grave. The small village of Pozieres does a wonderful job of remembering the events that happened in the fields around it. The August event is always well attended by locals and visitors and this year no different though masks and social distancing were compulsory. Julie translated as speeches were made to commemorate George. Music was played, French villagers gave a demonstration of Morris Dancing (George Butterworth loved folk dancing) and wreaths were laid at the little memorial to George at the end of Butterworth Trench. Then in true French style we joined together in a moment of friendship around wine and food in the apple orchard behind his memorial. Perfect. Then on 5th August we filmed our own little tribute to George at Thiepval, where his name is inscribed.
Song of The Somme - Artist Jacqueline Hurley
Wonderful war artist Jackie Hurley stayed with us a few years ago and she got in touch recently about a new piece of art she was making. She requested some Somme mud to include in a new painting she has called “Song of The Somme” and we were happy to oblige, providing the Somme mud. Jackie then incorporated the mud into the paint which she used. Jacqueline says she was inspired by her Great Grandfather William Onyett who joined the Army band at 14 and became a stretcher bearer on The Somme where he was gassed but survived. What he saw inspired him to become a psychiatric nurse and he helped soldiers suffering from Shell Shock. Sadly, the gas effects cut short his life. Another casualty taken too soon. The other influence for Jacqueline’s painting is First World War Nurse Mary Borden’s poem Song of the Mud.
A very evocative poem we plan to use in the future…
So, the background to the painting obviously grabbed us and we were so very thrilled and surprised when Jacqueline sent us a signed limited edition of the painting for our little piece of help. The painting captures a bleak landscape with stretcher bearers and a young girl at a grave, with the only colour coming from the vibrant poppies and cornflowers. It is wonderful .
We intend having copies of the prints for sale here but you can also find Jacqueline’s art on her website POSH Original Art.
Song of The Somme
Hertfordshire Soldiers of the Great War
Another surprise was sent to us this month. A new book, Hertfordshire Soldiers of the Great War was sent to us by guest and historian Paul Johnson who co-authored the book with military historian Dan Hill. The book includes personal stories from men of Hertfordshire who fought in the Great War in all the theatres of war, not just the Western Front. While there are over 23,000 names on Hertfordshire’s war memorials, the book can only highlight some of the stories and it is a great read and tribute to the men of the County.
The signed book is now proudly added to our library. It is published by www.frontline-books.com
Sad news this month. The chickens really struggled in the heat, despite cooling baths and shade. They all made it through the heatwave but it took it’s toll on Elsie the black and copper chicken. She slowed right down and eventually did not wake up one morning. She was David’s favourite chicken as she would help him around the garden, pulling at his shoelaces mistaking them for worms. The 4 remaining chickens miss her and egg production has all but ceased, maybe 4 a week. Michel the Chicken man says it is time for new chickens, but we will love our chickens till the end of their days. A chicken is for life, not just for eggs.
Elsie on the box near David
Shere is fine, missing our guests and wondering why there is not more activity in the car park. Gives him more time to sleep and survey his savanna. His purrfect No.fifty6 day.
All is well at No.fifty6. Be safe. Stay well. See you soon we hope.