March News from No.fifty6. Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Measures

Posted on 31st March 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

March News from No.fifty6. Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Measures

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.

 Animal Postscript
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. 

Comments (48)

Lynn and Vin says:

Hi both as always good to read your newsletter and to hear you are both well.
Strange times especially knowing we won’t be over this year
Continue to take care both of you and stay safe

Margaret Squires says:

This time last year, I was staying with you and David took me out to find Frank, my great uncle. What a day and what priviledge I felt to walk where so much courage and sacrifice took place. A salute to the health workers of all nations, who show so much care and concern for all under such difficult conditions in the war we fight now. Stay safe David and Julie.I hope to walk your beautiful countryside and eat your wonderful food again!

Sam Gascoyne says:

Thank you for your Newsletter. I found the words tremendously uplifting. These dystopian times remind us, perhaps more than any other, just how precious life is and what is really important.

As you clearly articulate: "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." Hear hear!

I look to seeing you both at the first opportunity.

Much Love,

Sam X

Andy bond says:

Hi Julie David your monthly letter was so nice it’s hard to put into words what is going on at the moment all I can say is just stay safe keep well and look after one another so many people have lost love ones all the best to you both Andy

Tim Pritchard-Barrett says:

I look forward to my next visit whenever this will be and glad to hear you are all well.
I was in the process of moving home from N Yorkshire to Suffolk, when self isolation became 'de-riguor', leaving a sizable part of my library in my old office. Deep Frustration!
Time, however, to read the rest. Adieu, Tim.
NB note change of email address.

Jim Harker says:

So nice to hear from you both and as always such lovely letter from 56. So miss you two and also the boys in the ground, they always give me such a feeling as i stroll across the somme. Lockdown has given me a chance to do an in depth research of the essex boys on the somme.Take care you two and will see you asap.lots of love jim

Tony Clatworthy says:

Hi you two - Glad to hear you are safe and well. Our little old world is changing, I just wonder what we will all be doing this time next year. Good news is .... Every time I have visited Delville Wood I always pick up a few acorns to take home and try and grow an oak tree. Well at last success. I have three little beauties and I'm looking forward to planting then here in the UK on a one of our classic country house estate, with my Grandaughter.

To my friends in Germany and Austria, during this pandemic. Hoping you've stocked up on sausages and cheese. Make sure you're covered for the Würst Käse scenario.

Stay Safe and hope to see you soon.
(Had trouble with the little sum !)

Ian Mason says:

Both keep safe and hopefully I along with others will be back to suffer David's jokes later on in the year. For me being a battlefield guide its painful. For you 2 must be even worst living in the heart of the Somme. Miss u both really

Geoffrey Nougher says:

Excellent newsletter! Very positive and pertinent for the times. Keep up the good work and best wishes to you both.

Sarah says:

It was such a pleasure to read your words of hope and wisdom today. We feel a very long way away but also very blessed to have had our time with you and the Somme in 2017. Stay well. Arohanui from us all, from the uttermost ends!

Chris Prince says:

Hi Julie and David, glad to hear all is well in your part of the world. Your newsletter is full of wisdom and hope for a brighter future. Glad all the animals are well. Take care stay safe and we will all get to live another day. Lots of Love Chris & Bill xx

Chris W says:

Take care chaps!

Gary James says:

Thanks for the latest heart warming newsletter. I feel lucky that we were able to visit you in February before all of the lockdowns. Keep well and safe.

steve seddon says:

stay safe julie and david

Billy mccann says:

So glad your both keeping well thoughts and prayers with you both and hope to see you soon your news letter is excellent

Jenny D says:

Meilleurs voeux! I have to admit I'm quite enjoying the solitude, but I don't know whether I'll feel the same in x months' time. or if I'd like it more if it'd been my own idea! Many thanks for yur continued kindeness towards us.

Tim Brown says:

Lovely to read the newsletter, how we missed not coming across as planned. You can be sure we will be over like a shot when all this is over.
Take care
Tim and Deb

Sally and Chris says:

What a wonderful news letter and photos.
Can't say how much we miss the Somme and you two. Must be something wrong with the iPad the words became very blurry. Stay safe and well so we can come and see you as soon as this is all over. Xx

Heather and Malcolm Johnson says:

Nice to hear that you are surviving, over there! We are behaving here. I am sure the lads, who sleep under the Somme crosses (row on row), will forgive your absence! Rest assured, that we will be back to see you eventually. Stay safe both of you.


Hello Julie and Dave ,glad to hear you are both are safe and well , amid the global chaos. At least we have sunshine to get out in the garden .Stay safe ,from Helen and George

Kay Ferguson says:

Dear Julie and David
Well done on such a lovely newsletter despite having so few visitors, and for keeping spirits up! We do hope and pray that this will be a short period of isolation for everyone, and that we will be visiting number 56 again soon! Keep well. Love Kay and Donald

Roger and Elaine says:

A lovely newsletter, as always, and a tonic in these difficult times. We really feel for businesses such as yours that have suddenly lost vitally important bookings and income. We do hope that our late June/early July booking will materialise, bit if not we are sure we will be back asap. In the meantime take care of each other, as we are doing.

Neil Mackenzie says:

Lovely to hear from you. Hope everyone stays healthy and we look forward to the day when we can return to No 56 once more.

frank Sunsion says:

Mike and Kath have said it all for me, I am still hoping to be with them when they come to see you later in the year. Your letter makes excellent reading, its always a pleasure to receive it and hear your news. You two take good care and stay safe. no.fifty6 will always have lovely memories for me. We will be back.

Les Mepham says:

Glad to hear both are doing well. Looking forward to a return someday soon. Love from

Jon Hill says:

I have just copied parts of your lovely positivism in these worrying times. Being afflicted by Victor Meldrew cynicism of the highest order, it was just what I needed to put things in perspective.

John Mepham says:

Glad to hear your keeping well !
I still remember those morning eggs!
Delicious! Enjoying the facebook posts David has been adding !
Hopefully you'll get to visit the lads soon but I'm sure thier Spirits are with you while you wait.
Like the song says, " We'll meet again"

Judy and Rodney Holmes says:

Sincerity and common sense are two of the most difficult sentiment to express through the written word, but you have cracked it !
Stay safe and hopefully we will all be able to meet again.

Roger and Sandra Wood says:

Nice to hear your news, be careful remember your dicky ticker. We look foreword to seeing you hopefully in October .The Notts and Derbys send their regards. They will see you may 2021.

send there regards.

Rosemary Watson says:

Hello Julie and David, I stayed with you 6 years ago and have love your monthly news. This latest from Number 56 is no exception... heartfelt sentiments, beautifully expressed. I work in cancer care in Melbourne and see the impact on healthcare and patients’. anxiety of COVID-19. Take care and stay safe in your little haven.

Trevor Bench says:

Julie, David thank you for your beautifully written newsletter. We are all in this together and I'm sure we will come through it, given time, but sadly it will not be without costs to further human lives. On a personal note, I've not been able to see Sandra for two weeks as the care home is on lockdown. I'm finding this hard to deal with, but hopefully she will still know me once I'm allowed to see her again. We do miss our loved ones.

Stuart Baxter says:

Wonderful news letter in scary times, thank you as always and stay safe you two.

Gary J Jones says:

What a lovely newsletter that graced my PC this morning. Really glad to hear that you are both keeping well and maintaining that stiff upper lip. Pretty much sums up how it is here in the UK. Starting to get over tired now as I am classed as a key worker so its all hands to the pumps. So much uncertainty and again so much positivity if we all do as we are asked to do. Much to look forward to especially one of your full English breakfasts when the DLOY gang make another trip to see you both. Take care and Stay safe. Gary

Mike and Kath, Bath says:

Hello you two, another beautifully written monthly update . . . in trying times. Good to hear that you are both keeping your spirits up and apologies this end for postponing our June visit, it was not taken lightly. We, as everyone else who has replied to you, are hoping that the day is not too far away when we can exit the D929 onto your driveway. Expect us towards the end of the year or when it is safe to do so. 'We'll Meet Again' springs to mind. Stay safe. M&K.

Graham Taylor says:

Another interesting newsletter from 56 and beautifully written. Take care and stay safe.

Gordon & Joana says:

Had a bit of a ‘lie in’ ... Otherwise, the circumstances you describe, reflect our own: it’s like when we moved out to this sleepy little village on the edge of the Cotswolds 35 years ago and before the road became a ‘rat run’ into Oxford. The remainder of the sentiment and reflection is beautifully written and we can’t wait to get back to you. All our love G&J XC

David, Jude & Ben says:

A real tonic to hear your news in these extraordinary times & that you are both coping well.
So many ripples to this virus for us personally. Janine's chemotherapy has been cancelled as the risk of a hospital admission exceeds the risk of no treatment...worrying times. It also means as a family we are separated from each other when it has been our togetherness that has kept us going.
Odd as it sounds I am grateful my Mum passed away at the end of last year; the thought of her being in the residential home without my daily visits & at the end of her life would have been too much to bear & that makes me think a lot of those dying from this virus alone without loved ones to hold their hand & in turn I think of Thomas losing his life in the field hospital all those years ago, without his wife or Mother to comfort him or ever having seen his twin boys.
I guess there's a lot of time for reflection

Sandra Gibson says:

What a lovely newsletter. A joy to read in these worrying times. So pleased you are both well, please stay that way! Sorry to hear about Shere and do hope he is soon fully recovered. You may remember we had taken on a stray when we last visited you in 2018 and we had called her Molly. Very sadly she too is at present in the wars having been savaged by a fox. The wonderful vet has managed to save her leg but she has had two major operations, a smaller one, plus a skin graft. She is still in hospital but not out of the woods yet. It is going to be a long haul but please God she gets there. Once again, please stay safe both of you!

Laurie Peacock says:

Dear Julie & David, thank you as always for your lovely newsletter, how things change in such a short space of time. All i would like to say is stay safe and look after yourselves.

David and Linda brazendale says:

Fabulous uplifting newsletter much enjoyed.
We have 2 trips planned, family in August, Judy and Rodney (! Recovering) next year.. There will be amazing 'it's over' parties all round the world and we look forward to sharing time with you. So happy memories

Derek Bond says:

Good morning Julie & David.
I enjoyed your news letter very much. I can't wait till this is over, to rebook. I liked your, did a man walk on the moon ?. Is Shere named after Shere Khan?. Stay safe and well. Best wishes Derek

Rob says:

Beautiful thoughts, beautifully expressed by beautiful people. A bientot - j’espere! X

Colin says:

Morning!! Glad to hear you are both well, desperately sad that the HRCA cannot visit at the moment, but we will be back and in force! After all, we need to look after the best crater

Jim Blenkhorn says:

Thanks for this. I feel very sorry for you in particular. You rely on visitors to keep the business afloat and at the moment there are none anywhere. Stay safe and look after yourselves.

Dudley Giles says:

What a wonderful reflective and, yes, upbeat, post. I couldn't visit last Spring (broken shoulder) and my plans for this Spring have now been scuppered but hopefully I will see you at the end of the year when the GBG guides come out on a recce. Stay safe

Alan Hancock says:

If Covid-19 has any upside, it is the opportunity for us all to assert our humanity and to find ways to live life more simply. Together, we will fight for a better tomorrow and together we will emerge stronger than ever. Stay safe. Alan

andy lines says:

What a lovelt newsletter - and beautifully written. Keep safe and hope to see you both later in the year. Lots of love. Andy & Lois

Jane says:

Lovely to have your news stay strong everybody stay safe ; from us in Antibes

Leave a comment