October 2021 News From no.fifty6.
Posted on 31st October 2021 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
Another month whizzes past here at no.fifty6. We are into Autumn now and nature's palette of colours takes on an earthy golden hue, just beautiful. The farmers are still very busy, the weather has been changeable and there has been so much to keep us inspired this month. Most of all, it has been wonderful having a steady flow of guests, old friends and new, through our door which means we are doing what we love best.
The title photo this month was taken by David, this October in Connaught Cemetery.
So, what has inspired us this month?
Thiepval ongoing Restoration
The Somme in October
The tractors have been rolling up and down Mash Valley. The sugar beet, potatoes and maize are being harvested, soil scarified and reseeded and already there is a green hue of new crop appearing in many fields. The landscape continues to inspire us. In October we love the golden morning light, the mist sometimes rolling in, to be gone by mid-morning to be replaced by October sunshine which warms the face, and by early evening wonderful sunsets. There has been rain too, a few storms, chilly morning and evening but most of all the wonderful autumn light. Guests bring us back their day’s photographs and they are just beautiful, makes us itch to explore ourselves. But it has been a month of special commemorations, receiving unexpected gifts, new responsibilities and sadly saying sad good bye to a special French friend.
We have veered from deep joy to grief this month and our emotions drew us to this Robert Graves poem. Simply called Two Fusiliers.
And have we done with War at last?
Well, we’ve been lucky devils both,
And there’s no need of pledge or oath
To bind our lovely friendship fast,
By firmer stuff
Close bound enough.
By wire and wood and stake we’re bound,
By Fricourt and by Festubert,
By whipping rain, by the sun’s glare,
By all the misery and loud sound,
By a Spring day,
By Picard clay.
Show me the two so closely bound
As we, by the wet bond of blood,
By friendship, blossoming from mud,
By Death: we faced him, and we found
Beauty in Death,
In dead men breath.
At the outbreak of War, Robert Graves enlisted almost immediately, taking a commission in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He published his first volume of poems, Over the Brazier, in 1916. He developed an early reputation as a war poet and was one of the first to write realistic poems about the experience of frontline conflict. On The Somme, he was so badly wounded by a shell-fragment through the lung that he was expected to die and was officially reported as having died of wounds. He gradually recovered and, apart from a brief spell back in France, spent the remainder of the war in England. He was a friend of Siegfried Sassoon and the men found more than poetry drew them together. Graves, like Sassoon, suffered from shell shock. Graves said;
I thought of going back to France, but realized the absurdity of the notion. Since 1916, the fear of gas obsessed me: any unusual smell, even a sudden strong scent of flowers in a garden, was enough to send me trembling. And I couldn't face the sound of heavy shelling now; the noise of a car back-firing would send me flat on my face, or running for cover.
His creativity however flowed, and he became a prolific writer, including Goodbye to All That, I Claudius and a biography of TE Lawrence. He turned down a CBE, corresponded regularly with Spike Milligan and had an active mind until he started suffering from memory loss in his later years. The legacy of War never left him. He died at the age of 95 in Majorca, where he had made his home.
Robert Graves in Uniform
Those that have visited us in October have found it much easier to deal with the travel requirements now. No one has had a problem getting here, while they were here or getting back home. Those traveling to us from the UK only now need a sworn declaration statement to enter France then to return to UK a pre-ordered Day 2 Lateral Flow Test from an approved supplier (around £20) with the order code entered in the Passenger Locator Form which has to be completed before travelling back to UK.
We hope it is not too long before we see visitors from further afield - we miss our Canadian, Australian, New Zealand visitors for example, but we know there are particular Covid challenges in so many nations. We were delighted to have 2 groups of American travelers this month, so confidence is returning. Wherever you are, please stay safe.
Current Covid case numbers are stable in France, (about 6500 per day nationally), and numbers are low in our region as we have high vaccination uptake. Though no one is complacent as winter approaches and the health pass restrictions/mask wearing are still in place. The vaccine booster rollout has also started here for those who had their 2nd jabs 6 months ago.
So, the rules to enter France - you need proof you are fully vaccinated and complete a sworn declaration that you are not suffering from Covid.
Link to the English version of the declaration here:
Our recommendation is that you carry paper copies of your Vaccination Certificate with you and ideally have the certificates uploaded to the French government Covid App which is called Tous Anti Covid.
This then becomes your health pass “Pass Sanitaire” while in France to get in restaurants, museums etc. It is law in France to show your Pass Sanitaire to get in any bar, café, restaurant, cultural place such as museum or event. No pass, no entry. It all works no problem and does not delay anything as it is a simple zap and go on entry. Masks too, are obligatory in any closed space such as a shop, museum or public transport.
To prepare the Tous Anti Covid App for your trip to France: Scan in the QR code of your NHS vaccine certificates.
The app has an English language option..
1. From within the NHS App (not the NHS Covid App) download a copy of your Pass and print it off. It will show 2 QR codes
2. Download and install the French "TousAntiCovid" App from the Google or Apple Play Store: don't worry it will open in English! (If this doesn't work download the one ending Verif)
3. Open the section under Health Pass which says Open my Wallet. Click the Certificate Button at the bottom. Using the App scan the two QR codes in the order of vaccination.
The App will accept them and confirm your vaccination status has been verified and you will be able to show that status through the App to any enquirer.
While the App is French Government, it is accepted throughout the EU.
So now you are here and enjoying your holiday. What do you need to do before travelling back to the UK?
You will need to complete the UK Government Passenger Locator Form no more than 48 hours before travelling to the UK. On this you need to show proof that you have booked a Day 2 Lateral Flow Test for when you are back in the UK.
Here is a list of the providers
Guests have found Chronomics to be cheap and efficient - we have no links to the company, just what guests have told us
So, with your passenger locator form completed with these details before you leave us, that is it. We can help with any form filling.
The other non-covid change affects anyone bringing their car from the UK. It is a small thing, but GB stickers have changed to UK stickers.
So, it really is getting simpler to travel, and we hope none of the rules impact on the joy of coming away and escaping to our corner of rural, historical France. Our diary for the rest of this year is looking buoyant and it is lovely to see so many people booking already for 2022 - we will be very happy to get any key dates you want reserved in our diary. If you have any queries about current regulations, we will be happy to help. We mean it. We are used to it, know all the regs and how to deal with them and we are with you every step of the way.
Caterpillar Valley Cemetery in October glory
Stuff Redoubt Commemoration Grandcourt 9 October
Regular guest Stephen Benson created and maintains The Cheshire Roll of Honour. Which is a marvelous website of information about the men of Cheshire in War.
For 2 years, Stephen has been determined to commemorate the men of Cheshire who fought and lost their lives in the taking of Stuff Redoubt in Grandcourt in October 1916. Covid thwarted his plans last year, but we had a wonderful commemoration on 9th October this year. Months in the planning, our mutual friend Eric Brisse, musician, helped and the Commune of Grandcourt led by the lady Maire, really got behind it. We helped with translation and organization, but it was all driven by Stephen. Stephen provided information panels including photos and information about the men who died which was placed outside Stump Road Cemetery. Stephen mapped out with flags the large area known as Stuff Redoubt in the fields of Grandcourt. A Redoubt being a strongly fortified area. The farmer had given special permission to use the land. Photos of the men were placed at strategic points along the Redoubt. On a misty morning on 9th October, we assembled in the car park at Stump Road. After introductions in English and French (Julie translating), Stephen lead an animated walk up the lane and into the fields to explain the actions of September and October 1916. The event was well attended by the villagers, local press and interested parties including Lucie from CWGC. We walked across the fields to Grandcourt Cemetery where a service of commemoration was held. David Brown, proudly bore the Royal British Legion Standard, brought from Ashton Under Lyme, and he was accompanied by several French Porte Drapeau. Eric Brisse played The Last Post on a WW1 Bugle. Heather French, a relative of one of the Cheshire men lost on 9 October, recited the Ode to Remembrance. Stephen became emotional as he recounted the story of how he first became involved in remembrance, having passed on his way to school as a child, the house of a man, Isaac Buckley, who had died in the War and whose name was on the Wincham village war memorial. This prompted his lifelong interest.
Afterwards we returned to Grandcourt village, paid homage at the French War Memorial where the French contingent made speeches of thanks, and then we joined together in the village hall over a Verre D’Amitie. New friendships were formed and the Maire would like this to be an annual event from now on. Well done Stephen!
Walking Stuff Redoubt to Grandcourt Cemetery
Homage at the French Memorial Grandcourt
We filmed the commemoration on our Facebook Live page and there is a link to the 2 parts here:
Unusual but Brilliant Gifts
Seeing our guests come back is all the gift we need but this month we received a couple of extra special gifts that are very specific to us and no.fifty6.
Jenny and Colin Caddy have been regular visitors over the years and a chance conversation on Colin’s last visit led him to getting busy in his shed during lockdown. Colin presented us this month with the wooden game Equilibrium which he has made. He was inspired to make it after playing it in a hotel in France and us saying, when he told us about it a year or so ago, that it sounded like a great game and perfect for No.fifty6.
So, lovingly made by hand in wood, Equilibrium arrived with Colin and Jenny and their friends Linda and Ken. Ken has a relative buried in Y Ravine Cemetery, within Newfoundland Park, young Able Seaman J. Arnott was part of the Howe Battalion, Royal Naval Division who died 13 Novembr 1916. Ken visited his grave for the first time.
As for Equilibrium, it has already been played after dinner several times – a game of balance and strategy. Colin has also made for us an outdoor game called Molkky – a Scandinavian throwing type game. Perfect for summer evenings and we can’t wait to play that too. Thank you, Colin, you are very clever and we love your wooden inspiration. We hope you all enjoyed your visit, as we loved having you here. Colin and Jenny have even signed up to help maintain The Lochnagar Crater next year. We love all this positive energy!
Jenny, Linda, David, Ken and Colin with Equilibrium
Sally and Chris Burge are also special friends. Covid has kept us apart, but again this amazing couple from South Wales have kept their hands busy. We took possession of a very special gift, delivery courtesy of mutual friend Sam Gascoyne on his visit last month. Sally and Chris have recreated La Boisselle Halt. A tiny station/stop that lay just off the road to Contalmaison near Gordon Dump during the War. From a few contemporary photos they recreated the scene, complete with shell holes, track, train and Tommies. The diorama terrain even includes real soil and chalk taken from the locality on a visit a couple of years ago. It blew us away, made us cry and smile at the same time. It is outstanding. Welcome to No.fifty6 La Boisselle Halt. The photo really does not do it justice. All aboard!
La Boisselle Halt
Lochnagar Ongoing Work
During the month, Richard Dunning and Iain Fry visited, their first since Covid restrictions lifted. It gave us all an opportunity to survey the work needed at Lochnagar and plan for the future. With the help of Greg, our friendly builder, urgent repairs to the pathway have been carried out, but a long-term solution to the now 10-year-old wooden support system for the path needs to be found. All options are being considered, and that is why there has been an appeal for funds to support this work. Thank you, to anyone who has donated.
After discussions with Richard, we have agreed to become Trustees of The Lochnagar Foundation, which is a registered Charity. The aim is to protect the future of Lochnagar and continue the important work of remembrance and reconciliation. We have always cared for Lochnagar and what it stands for and are happy to be involved in its leadership as we face future challenges.
There will be a service of remembrance at Lochnagar on 11th November at 11am French time, after we have paid homage at the village war memorials of Ovillers and La Boisselle. All are welcome and we will livestream the ceremony.
Lochnagar from a Drone this week.
Real has been a friend and neighbour since we moved here. He and his lovely wife Arlette live 4 doors up from us. Real worked at the Airbus factory for many years before retiring. Real’s father Georges, a farmer, sold the land that Lochnagar stands on to Richard Dunning and Real and his brother Jean-Claude have been friends and supporters of Lochnagar always. Indeed, Real laid the first wreath on 1st July this year. During lockdown we taught Real and Arlette English, as they wanted to improve their conversational English. We spent evenings together in friendship, Real was treasurer of The Glory Hole Association and Historic Airbus and he was always active. He helped care for his mother who still lives in the village.
It is with such sadness that we learned of Real’s very sudden death this month. He literally went to bed normally one evening and did not wake up. At just 70 years old, it is a tragic blow for all the family, but our thoughts turn especially to the lovely Arlette, who describes her husband’s death as brutal. Here one moment and gone the next. We attended Real’s funeral in Albert Basilica and he was interred afterwards in our village Cemetery. We are still shocked that he is not here anymore. The best words came from Richard Dunning who said of Real and quoted at his funeral:
It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you the sad and shocking news that Réal Delplanque, one of our dearest and longest-term Friends in France suddenly passed away in his sleep last night.
It is impossible to imagine the pain of his wife Arlette and of course, his brother Jean-Claude and all the Delplanque family.
It makes it even more poignant that Réal and Jean-Claude laid the first wreath on behalf of the Foundation to open the 1st July ceremony – and I am told they felt enormously honoured to do so and, since day one, we have always felt very proud of our close and deep connection with the wonderful Delplanque family.
Réal was a truly lovely man, gentle, genuine, incredibly knowledgeable and had, like his brother, a lifelong passion for Lochnagar.
It is a sad day for Lochnagar and for us all, and our thoughts and prayers are with all his family and friends.
Real at Lochnagar
Marge is fine though the shorter days mean her egg laying has stopped for the moment. We have just taken a delivery of 4 big bags of meal worms, her favourite treat, so that should keep her in treats through the winter!
She has enjoyed the company of guests throughout the month. She is a hardy old girl.
I was in Germany for Octoberfest and they asked me how many beers I wanted...
I said nine, but they didn't bring me any.
All is well at No.fifty6. Be safe. Stay well. See you soon.