March News from No.fifty6. Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Measures
Posted on 31st March 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
Well who would have thought that in the space of a month since we wrote the last newsletter, we find ourselves in the middle of unprecedented times for our generation with the pandemic of Covid 19. So, like over half the world's population, we are in lockdown and this is not the newsletter content we thought we would be writing this month. We are fit and well and following government advice and hope, wherever you are, you are too.
In early March we had 2 guests, Paul and Jane from Rutland and just as they left, Europe started to shut down and we have had no guests since. Those booked for March, April and May have trickled through their cancellations. Some for even later in the year, it is a rolling programme. There is nothing to be done, and we know our loyal guests and friends will be back to The Somme and No.fifty6 just as soon as circumstances and procedures and lifted restrictions make it safe to do so. We will weather the storm as we all have to.
Here in France we entered a partial lockdown in early March and then since 17th March, we have been in total lockdown which has been extended to at least 15th April. We are not allowed to go out, save a few exceptions, we cannot meet anyone or invite anyone to our home. Only essential services are open. If we have to go out – for medical supplies, essential foods, we have to fill in and sign a Government form, an attestation, and sign, date and time stamp it. A form for each person and each reason you are going out. It is policed. We have only been out once, for essential fresh food and we were stopped by the gendarmes. A cheery control, all paperwork with ID in order, and a cheery wave on with a call to stay safe and minimize outings. The supermarket had everything we needed, there is no sense of panic here, quiet respectfulness of social distancing and a feeling of solidarity. Our mayor, Christian has been excellent with communication. Volunteers are keeping an eye on the vulnerable in the village with calls, offers of shopping, etc. We phone our elderly neighbours daily and check if they need anything.
Exercise outside is on your own, for a maximum of 1 hour per day, once a day, no more than 1 km from your home. What we miss most is walking off to far flung corners of The Somme to say hello to the lads who rest in the cemeteries and ground of The Somme. The dead, and the solitude we find there pose no threat.
The road outside is quiet. You can hear the birds singing, see them visiting their nests for spring, the forsythia in the back garden dances on the breeze and the sky most days has been a clear blue. Just the wind making it still winter chilly, but the sunlight presaging Spring to come.
Quiet, peace, the sounds of nature. It is as if we have The Somme to ourselves. But of course, the lads that lie here still make good company.
The other thing we miss is you and your stories around our table. Working in the kitchen Julie expects to hear David tell bad jokes and the ripple of laughter and chatter waft through to the kitchen. To discuss whether man has landed on the moon or if Haig was a good military leader. We miss you. We miss bears coming to visit us and leaving funny faces on cushions. But we make quite good quarantine buddies, keeping each-others spirits up and keeping busy. There is always loads to do around the house and garden, and now we have the time to do it. And to read of course…you know we are not short of books. And bake. Baking is good for the soul.
We try to not watch too much news and endless comment or opinion on what is happening or why countries are not prepared or slow to act. We just have to do our bit, as individuals to help. It struck us the other day that we have become almost blasé to the numbers. So many dead, so many infected, upward trends, flattened curves. But it is not the numbers that are important. It is people. People are important. A man in Italy was interviewed on the French news. He had just lost his uncle. He was out volunteering to deliver medicines. He said he had to do something to help as his uncle would have wanted him to and if he could help avoid one other person losing someone they cared about, it would make him feel better. It was as if this one single, distraught Italian wanted to heal the world.
Each death is someone’s loved one. Not a number on a screen. Not a trend. Not an algorithm. A loved one. A human spirit. Is that what it was like during and after the First World War? People getting blasé about the number of casualties, 1 million on The Somme, 6 million from War, 50 million from Spanish flu? Behind each number a widow or mother or husband or lover getting a telegram or bad news.
That is why remembrance is so important. Our human link to past events. A human echo to suffering. The human spirit overcoming adversity and personal suffering.
So while quarantine is hard, there are positives. The gift of time, so often in short supply. The gift of family and friendship. We have been touched by so many people checking in to see if we are OK. Family video chats have kept us entertained and connected. We have time to watch the chickens peck at our feet and Shere the cat stretch like a tiger in the sun surveying his savanna. Time to watch Thierry Le Grand (Terry the Big as we call him) the farmer plough Mash Valley, the importance of farming to feed a nation has never felt stronger. Time to look at a bee on a plant, his buzz audible as the world has stopped. Time to see each day the regrowth of poppy leaves slowly unfurl, promising a scarlet carpet in the months to come. Time to love those we cherish, time to impart wisdom and perspective to those who wish to listen and to learn in return. Time to reflect on what makes us human, what is important and what we value. We hope out of the hardships, fear for our health, financial worries, the list of negatives go on, Covid 19 leaves a positive legacy. The gift of time and the positivty of the human spirit and the loving, kind connections we make.
We have no shortage of eggs here. Our 5 chickens lay beautiful eggs and for once they are not gracing the no.fifty6 breakfast plates (the eggs not the hens) and we and our neighbours get to eat fresh golden eggs.
At the beginning of March, Shere the cat was in the wars. He injured his leg somehow, caught on something or in a fight (he came off worse) and an abscess developed on his rear leg. Luckily this was pre-lockdown so a trip to the vet ensued with 3 attempts to get him in the cat basket as he was not having any of it. The lady vet had to sedate him with a gas mask and then shave his leg and rump and cleaned and repaired the area. After antibiotic and anti-inflammatory jabs he was allowed home feeling very sorry for himself with a 7 day supply of medication. Thank you to guest Jane (a vet’s daughter) for giving instruction on how to get tablets down a cat without fuss. Shere is now back to his old self, but with one shaved leg and rump and a slight limp. But that will get better.
Which reminds us…What’s the difference between Shere and a comma?
Shere has claws at the end of his paws, while the other is a pause at the end of a clause!
All is well at No.fifty6. Stay at home. Be safe. Stay well.