Staying Safe and Well in Extraordinary Times - April at No.fifty6
Posted on 30th April 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
As we write this it is Day 44 of total lockdown here in France. Again, it is not the newsletter content we thought we would be writing this month, but we are aware that in many ways we are living history at the moment. These unprecedented times will be looked back on, evaluated, studied, commented on, argued over, for many years to come. We are fit and well and following government advice and hope, wherever you are, you are too.
Of course we have been closed. Those booked for 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. Health is the most important thing.
On 28 April, Edouard Philippe, Prime Minister, outlined to the French Government the plans for deconfinement and received parliamentary approval. The key points of a Protect, Test, Isolate strategy are:
• Lockdown will be partially lifted on 11 May dependent on the number of Covid cases staying below 3000 per day
• Shops can reopen but not large shopping malls
• Bars, cafes, restaurants, large museums, cinemas, theatres will remain shut to be reviewed at a future date
• Gatherings of more than 10 people indoors or outdoors are banned
• Schools can begin to reopen for younger children but at local discretion
• No journeys of more than 100 kms unless essential, and paperwork required for those
• Wear masks in public
• Maintain social distancing and hygiene precautions
• 700,000 tests per week and if positive 14 days isolation
• Both rugby and football seasons have been abandoned with no further matches
• No religious services until 2 June
We do not know yet when the borders will be reopened. It is important to be extremely careful to avoid a second wave and we will have to learn to live in a new normal. The lockdown in our area is well observed and we are sure the new normal will be well observed too. Our community keeps an eye on each other. The only thing in short supply at the supermarket is flour and yeast as everyone must have heeded our advice last month and realised baking is good for the soul! Even so we can still get flour, just not the usual full range.
The weather has been kind so the garden has benefited from the time we have. It is so easy to get lost in pottering. No major projects, just tidying, mowing, sowing a few veggie seeds, regrassing areas, always with the hens at our feet. The apple tree currently has the best show of blossom we have seen in our time here. Bees buzz about the clover and blossom, their sound so audible over the quietness all around. Last week while putting the chickens to bed at dusk a barn owl flew right over my head and headed off on its nighttime sortie. It is like nature has reclaimed the world we had taken for granted. Just as nature took back the Somme battlefields after all the carnage, death and destruction here. Now the rolling fields are full of natural life, we are just usually too busy to see it. This time has reminded us that it is a beautiful natural world and we are servants not masters of it.
We make good quarantine buddies. Planning our days with the jobs to be done, lifting spirits when the other is down. But we are not perfect - just real - and we have got on each other’s nerves too and row and bang pots and snap until we laugh at our own stupidity. That’s normal, right?
We are thankful for the good things. Family and friendship. People checking in to see if we are OK. Video chats have kept us entertained and connected; David even wore a pink wig on one. He loves an occasion to dress up. Webinars attended to discover and learn. Books read. New recipes created. Cupboards cleaned. We are always tasked to do something on our family video chats, be it a quiz or a project. Last week we were given a family member at random and for the next call, had to produce a portrait. Here is what nieces Rachel and Marie made of the 2 of us. Pretty good we think. Particularly spot on for David.
But it is not just about being busy. Taking the time to stop and absorb the moment. It is OK to be still. To reflect. We are taking this time as a special time, yes of course against an horrendous backdrop of suffering, worry, self-sacrifice, isolation, but a special time to reconnect with the most important gifts of all.
The week around 25 April normally has the sound of our friends from Australia and New Zealand filling No.fifty6, with services at Caterpillar Valley and the NZ Memorial and the night of 24th into 25th April filled with preparations for getting to the dawn service at Villers Bretonneux usually with calls from Julie to wrap up warm as dawn at VB is a chilly place.
This year though of course was different, but the way Anzac Day was marked here was humbling. We put the Australian flag out on our front hedge and it was met by a toot from the lorry drivers who passed. All around the Somme families decorated their windows in a mark of respect. Friend Eric Brisse who leads the Amiens Brass Band and is usually involved in the dawn service streamed individual members of the band playing the Last Post. Friend Xavier Graux who lives in Le Hamel, walked up to the memorial to conduct his own individual service of remembrance – his house being within the kilometer maximum lockdown allows you to be away from your house. Friend Yves Potard whose house overlooks the 1st Division Memorial at Pozieres did the same. Laying green and gold flowers there.
You see remembrance doesn’t stop. Our ability to reflect on past events is one of the gifts that enable us to search for a better future. Lest we forget.
We were saddened to hear of the death this month of one of our regular guests John Robinson. John has been coming to the Somme with his friends Terry and Graham every year and has stayed with us since we opened our doors. The trio came every Easter from the UK. Time for the 3 pals to have a boys weekend on The Somme. We remember John as a true gentleman. Always well turned out he would arrive in his flying jacket, his whistle in his pocket which he liked to blow at odd occasions! John worked as a window cleaner in the City of London. He would tell us stories of how his clients loved him and we are sure they did. He kept his ladders at Leadenhall Market - no new-fangled gadgets, the man, his ladders and chamois, though in later years he has been retired. A widow, John was the first to admit he missed his wife terribly and it was his son Andrew and his friendship with Terry and Graham that kept him going. He loved to dance and he went dancing in his dapper suit, until his cancer made that too difficult. John, wherever you are now we know you will be missed by Terry and Graham and of course your son Andrew. We will miss your cheeky grin and forever will remember you around our table a red wine in hand and a tale to tell. Rest in peace lovely man.
Ever tried to lay grass seed with chickens pecking at your feet and then watch them as they peck and scratch at what you have just done? Little helpers. All watched by Shere the cat lounging in a sunny spot.
As we have no guests at the moment, David just said “I’ve started a dating site for chickens. It’s not my full-time job, I’m just doing it to make hens meet.”
All is well at No.fifty6. Be safe. Stay well.