March 2021 - Spring Has Come to The Somme.
Posted on 31st March 2021 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
March, a contrary month – not winter but not always spring either, however it is usually a favourite month of ours as it promises so much of the year to come…this March however continues to be difficult due to Covid, though we hope things will get better quickly, just as the sun lengthens the days.
Weather-wise it has been a mixed bag, sometimes cold, windy, wet, misty, other times blue sky and mild. The month has ended on a high with blue skies and very warm temperatures. So, no surprise the fields and gardens around us are springing into life, new crops growing, buds and blossom, birds nesting and chirping. The sun warming our faces on our walks reminds us life is good.
It brings to mind this poem by Sara Teasdale. As new life bursts through it contrasts so much with the death and destruction of war…”Spring in Wartime.”
I feel the spring far off, far off,
The faint, far scent of bud and leaf—
Oh, how can spring take heart to come
To a world in grief,
The sun turns north, the days grow long,
Later the evening star grows bright—
How can the daylight linger on
For men to fight,
The grass is waking in the ground,
Soon it will rise and blow in waves—
How can it have the heart to sway
Over the graves,
Under the boughs where lovers walked
The apple-blooms will shed their breath—
But what of all the lovers now
Parted by Death,
Sara Teasdale was an American poet, born in Missouri in 1884, she wrote seven books of poetry in her lifetime. She received public admiration and major prizes for her well-crafted lyrical poetry which centered on a woman’s changing perspectives on beauty, love, and death. She had strong feelings about The War, which is reflected in her poetry. She had a difficult life health-wise and committed suicide in 1933. She is buried in St. Louis. Her poems, her legacy, live on.
We have walked a lot this month. You do not have to go far to lose yourself in The Somme and the secrets it still keeps. We had a wonderful circular walk from Pozieres through to Contalmaison along Dead Man’s Road. We didn’t see a living soul. We came across some hives of bees a farmer is keeping, thankfully the bees all asleep as we passed by. We passed blossom, new buds in the hedgerows, hares cavorting in the fields (well it is Spring), startled pheasants and always the skylarks singing overhead.
We have been to many places to take photos of headstones or memorials for those who have requested, or for our own research. It is something we are happy to do, so if you do want any photographs taken do let us know. It is always good to say hello to the boys, it is just something we do.
Pozieres Cemetery & Memorial from Dead Man's Road
The numbers of Covid cases have risen dramatically in Northern France in recent weeks. The “Variant Anglais” which is more transmissible has got a hold and is not diminishing. As a result, the hospitals are becoming overwhelmed and patients are being transferred to other regions as ICUs run out of beds. The area mostly affected is the corridor from Calais/Dunkerque in the north through to Paris and its suburbs, and we are slap in the middle of that corridor. Case figures in The Somme Department are higher now than in the first or second wave. As a result, 19 Departments (the Somme being one) have been in lockdown. There is a curfew between 7pm and 6am with a stay-at-home order (unless out for essential reasons with paperwork). Bars, restaurants and cafes remain closed and shops other than essential ones are also closed. Schools have until now, remained open. President Macron addressed the nation 31st March. It is now a National lockdown, with the measures in place in our Region now the same throughout France. Schools are closing for 3 weeks, though in effect this has just brought forward the Spring holidays so pupils will only lose one week of in-school lessons.
We can go no further than 10kms from home for exercise. The good thing is that does give us some scope for our walks and photography.
The vaccination programme is progressing but is slow due to supply issues though it is ramping up as supplies improve. We are both on waiting lists.
We are fine and keep ourselves busy, positive and do what we can to look after our health.
Until the figures improve, it is very hard to say when travel to and from France will be allowed again, it is such a changing picture. Macron did not give any certainty but hopes measures may be relaxed by mid May.
Some of our guests have already moved dates to later in the year. If you would like to do that then do please get in touch. You know that all our reservations are flexible and condition free. We would rather you get some dates in our diary than be disappointed later in the year.
We hope wherever you are you are looking after yourselves physically and mentally in these very difficult times. It is tough, but we know we are lucky in so many ways, compared to what some have gone through.
As we have mentioned before, Thiepval closed to the public at the end of February for renovation and we will be documenting progress as the months pass. Work started in early March, a temporary works’ access road has been installed from the north side. The memorial is fenced off, though there is access to the Cemetery from the south side. Now the scaffolding is going up, no mean feat for the biggest War Memorial in the world towering over the landscape. We will keep you posted.
The link above is a Facebook Live we did from Thiepval.
Butterworth Farm, Pozieres
Regular visitors to The Somme will know of Butterworth Farm which is a gite/bed and breakfast in Pozieres – indeed some of you may have stayed there! It is a place we have been happy to recommend if we are full. Formerly run by our friends Marie and Bernard Delattre who still live in Pozieres, it was taken over by the lovely Chantal and John McColl 3 years ago, who moved to France from Australia (they are French). They told us last year that they were planning to sell Butterworth and we learned directly from them this month, that the property has indeed now been sold. It will no longer be tourist accommodation, it is being sold as a private residence with the sale due to be finalized this June. John and Chantal will be moving back to Australia to be closer to their family. We wish them well and will miss them.
Many of you know we have a Bluebird inspired guest room which reflects our interest in Donald and Malcolm Campbell and the Bluebird land and water speed records. Thanks to guest Davina Gossage who stayed with us 2 years ago, we were invited to a Zoom Commemoration to mark Donald Campbell’s 100th Birthday on 23rd March. Davina lives in Western Australia and is heavily involved with the Dumbleyung Community Resource Centre, which has a Bluebird Interpretive Centre - a tribute to the late Donald Campbell and his 1964 World Water Speed Record on Lake Dumbleyung. The excellent conference included input not only from Dumbleyung, but from the Ruskin Museum in Coniston in the Lake District, and Gina Campbell, Donald’s only daughter. Gina really is the guardian of her father’s legacy and has close links with both Dumbleyung and Coniston. Coniston Water is where Donald was killed attempting to break the water speed record again in his Bluebird K7 hydroplane on 4 January 1967. We are sure he would be pleased to know his legacy lives on and there is still a lot of interest in “Bluebird” from the UK to Australia and all places in between.
Gina Campbell & Mr.Whoppit.
Donald Campbell & Bluebird on Lake Dumbleyung
Though not teachers, David and I have been in demand to help French friends with their English. 14-year-old Cheyenne lives in Albert and our Zoom sessions are a joy and make us think too - mainly how difficult the English language is. We were pleased as punch when Cheyenne received her school report showing her English has much improved. We now have other adult students from among our friends. Julie is the strict one, insisting on proper pronunciation and verb conjugation and David, well he is the one they all love as he makes everyone laugh. So as you can tell, life is never dull and there is always something to do!
The hens are fine, we enjoy the fresh eggs we get. When we know visitors will be coming again, we do intend to add some new chickens to our 2 old girls. However, sad news this month – Shere the cat has disappeared. While he has been known to wander off for a few days (he is an outdoor cat we adopted, not a house cat) this time he has been gone for a month so we think something must have happened to him. There is no trace of him anywhere despite our best efforts to find him. Perhaps he was fed up with not having guest cars to sit under? He has missed you all. We are happy knowing he enjoyed his life and times here with David as his personal waiter. That chapter sadly closes. Wherever you are Shere, we loved having you around the courtyard and hope you are at peace.
On a Brighter Note - David’s March Joke:
As the tree said; “What a re-leaf to see Spring!”
As you all groan, all is well at no.fifty6.