Nature, Lockdown Easements, Staying Safe, Ongoing Remembrance - May at No.fifty
Posted on 31st May 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
After 60+ days of full, strict lockdown, there was a slight easing of lockdown here from 11th May. Since then we have been able to go out within a 100km radius of our home, while maintaining social distancing. So this has meant we have been able to do what we love to do – going out and exploring the wonderful Somme, visiting cemeteries and memorials, being mesmerized by nature and paying respects to the fallen. That first day we took a simple picnic and went to a favourite spot of ours, up on the bank behind the red dragon at Mametz. Just us, nature and the boys who remain there. It was chilly with a bracing wind, but there was something life affirming about it. We walked across the valley to the outskirts of the wood and watched the wind create rhythmic waves in the barley growing in Death Valley. That was the start of several journeys out for us. Not a problem social distancing, just us and those who lie in these green fields of France.
We have also been able to get our hair cut, so we no longer look like Conan the Barbarian and Raquel Welch in 1million years BC (we wish).
Of course we have been closed. Those booked for June have trickled through their cancellations. Some for even later in the year, it is a rolling programme. But we know you will be back when it is safe and permitted to travel. Health is the most important thing and it is good that things are improving..
The weather has been amazing. Our local paper reports it is the driest, warmest Spring on record. Certainly, we have had many fine, blue sky days and little rain. It is as if nature is fighting back showing who is boss. The landscape never looking more beautiful. On our walks, we see hares running, one even popping up in front of us in Gordon Dump Cemetery, not sure who was more startled. Birds of Prey on the wing and on silent pickets. Hedgehogs, bees, garden birds, butterflies. Poppies, daisies and cornflowers everywhere. The crops in the field advanced – lots of potatoes, barley, maize and wheat replacing the drying Rape/Colza flower heads harvested for oil. The farmers know it is dry – irrigation has already begun. And it is only May. The farmers themselves are tanned - their tractors and the birdsong the only sounds when we are out exploring. It is lush, majestic, ever changing and we know we are lucky to be able to see it like this. As if the world has paused.
On 28 May Edouard Philippe, Prime Minister, outlined the plans for stage 2 deconfinement and things are really improving.
The key points are:
- Infection levels are improving but there is a need for continued caution and vigilance.
- Based on measures, no.of cases, testing, transmission rate, hospital ICU capacity all of France apart from Paris (orange) is green.
- Green means virus is still there but manageable and need for vigilance continues.
- The R (transmission) Rate average across France is currently .77 but lower on The Somme.
- Groups of people must remain below 10.
- Cafes, bars and restaurants can reopen from 2 June (22 June Paris)
- 1m between each table
- Masks obligatory for staff (in kitchens too) and customers (when they are not at table)
- No standing in bars, table service only
- Schools reopening but with 50% pupils for each half a week.
- Museum and monuments, beaches, parks and lakes reopening.
- Tourist Accommodation can reopen from 2 June (22 June Paris).
- STOP COVID Tracing App from 2 June.
- Borders remain shut until 15 June then EU will decide collectively about reopening.
- France favourable to reopening but if a country imposes a 14 day quarantine France is likely to reciprocate.
- 100km maximum travel lifted from 2 June.
- Cinemas and theatres from 22 June with social distancing and masks obligatory.
- No big gatherings of people ( 1 July Somme ceremonies have been cancelled for example).
- No contact sports.
- Shield the vulnerable.
So, from our point of view, we will be taking it cautiously but we have more freedoms.
We envisage a time from mid-June when we will be able to take guests but travelling from outside of France will depend on the situation regarding quarantine requirements. And once you are here there are plenty of open spaces to avoid people!
Certainly, we will have hygiene measures and social distancing in place here at No.fifty6. Our dining area is large enough to allow this. David has some jaunty masks to wear. Jokes aside, we take our own health and that of our guests as the Number 1 priority. No ifs or buts. We will be following as a minimum French Government Guidelines. Baby steps at the moment…
While we have been out and about we have recorded some virtual walk throughs of Cemeteries and some stories of the men who lie therein and posting these via Facebook Live. Among those visited are Louvencourt, Norfolk, Sucrerie, Bagneux and next week we will be visiting Adanac Cemetery. A sample of the videos are shown below.
We enjoy doing them and it is a way for you to share special moments on The Somme from a distance. We have had some great feedback on the videos which humbles us. If there is a particular cemetery or memorial on The Somme you would like us to visit, let us know.
We were saddened to hear of the death this month of one of our regular guests Ray Doe. Ray would travel from Devon each year with his friends John, Howard and Bob and when Bob became unable to travel, Ray’s son Jem made up the foursome.
Ray always had a twinkle in his eye and a story to tell. He loved travel, photography, history, his garden, good food and he had a lust for life. We would sit with him over a glass of something and he would reminisce about his travels with his dear wife Peggy who sadly died a few years ago. He will be buried with her in North Torrington.
His friends Howard and John paid this tribute: “He was a life long Reading supporter a WW1 enthusiast a very funny and gentle man to be with. He will be greatly missed by us all." John has planted a rose called Remember Me to honour his friend.
We will miss your visits Ray, Rest in Peace lovely man. The photo shows cheeky Ray at Yorkshire Trench.
Ovillers La Boisselle Council
Municipal elections were held throughout France in early March, just before lockdown. Last weekend our newly elected local council met for the first time to appoint the managing team (social distancing meeting of course). We are pleased to report that Christian Bernard has been re-elected as our Mayor with Thierry Le Grand as 1st adjoint and Eric Sztubel 2nd Adjoint and newly appointed Patricia Demoulin as 3rd Adjoint. We wish them and the rest of the elected council much success as they manage our commune. Certainly, the Council’s role during lockdown has been wonderful, supporting the elderly and vulnerable and distributing masks for everyone. Vive La France!
Our garden birds – so many breeds – are eating us out of house and home with seed feeders filled daily. Sparrows, tits and collared doves nest here.
The chickens are wonderful. They enjoy our company but miss our guests - no special treats such as grapes appearing from thoughtful guests, they make do with our veggie scraps alongside their chicken feed.
Shere the cat is making the most of the good weather. He spends all his time outdoors, finding different sun spots, and only ventures back for food.
One of our chickens walked into a store and said, “got any grapes?” The storekeeper said, “no, we don’t.” The next day, the chicken went into the same store and asked the same thing and got the same anwer. The chicken kept going back every day for a week and asked the same thing and kept getting the same answer until the store keeper got so angry he said, “if you come in here and ask that again, I will hit you on the head with a hammer!” The next day, the chicken walks into the store and asks, “got a hammer?” The store keeper says, “no.” So the chicken says, “got any grapes?”
All is well at No.fifty6. Be safe. Stay well.