The Dawn of a New Decade at no.fifty6 - January 2020 News
Posted on 31st January 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.
No sooner were we celebrating New Year than January is over. There is something lovely about January here – yes, it is cold but the landscape is stripped back, you can see for miles and there is a winter beauty. The weather has been chilly, damp and grey – no snow unlike last January and hardly any frosts. It brings to mind Ivor Gurney’s Poem “On Somme”:
Suddenly into the still air burst thudding
And thudding, and cold fear possessed me all,
On the gray slopes there, where Winter in sullen brooding
Hung between height and depth of the ugly fall
Of Heaven to earth; and the thudding was illness’ own.
But still a hope I kept that were we there going over,
I, in the line, I should not fail, but take recover
From others’ courage, and not as coward be known.
No flame we saw, the noise and the dread alone
Was battle to us; men were enduring there such
And such things, in wire tangled, to shatters blown.
Courage kept, but ready to vanish at first touch.
Fear, but just held. Poets were luckier once
In the hot fray swallowed and some magnificence.
Gurney was a poet, an accomplished musician and a composer. He wrote hundreds of poems and more than 300 songs. He was injured and gassed but survived the war, serving with the Gloucester Regiment, his beloved county regiment. He suffered with mental illness from his teens and was sectioned in a mental hospital in 1922. He died of tuberculosis at the City of London Mental Hospital in 1937. There is a memorial stained-glass window to him in St Mary de Lode Church, Gloucester. He wrote his poems as a man of the ranks, not an officer, he saw good things in what was around him, despite the horror of what he endured.
Julie has now completed her 4 weeks at Corbie cardio readaptation and is fit and raring to go. Never has she undergone such an intense period of physical exercise, all monitored of course. Her cardio output went up by 33% over the 4 weeks and she will miss the place and the people who helped her along the way. She became known as La Dame Anglaise - in gym sessions teaching English to the group. Julie’s gym French is now excellent – knowing all muscle groups and posture phrases in French. She will be starting exercise classes next at No.fifty6 with David threatening to wear a green leotard like The Green Goddess - for those who remember...So with recovery behind her it is a good time to say how wonderful her care has been - by the professionals and by friends and of course David, who has been her rock through it all. Onwards and upwards.
First Guest of 2020
Alan Laishley is a regular visitor to No.fifty6 and we have written before about his work in identifying the men of Pompey (Portsmouth) who fought in the War. He was our first guest of the year in January. Braving the cold he visited the fallen of Pompey in far flung cemeteries across the Somme. Alan believes that this year he will have visited every Pompey man’s grave on The Somme. No mean feat and we will of course be following his progress on his future visits. Alan takes excellent photos while he is out here. You do Pompey proud dear Alan.
Last weekend we saw the film 1917 in Amiens. We went without too much expectation. Here is our review, but we promise no plot spoilers.. The premise is simple, 2 young soldiers chosen to deliver an urgent message across enemy territory - a message which will save countless lives. The story is their journey. Sam Mendes has achieved something quite special with this film. You could write a thesis about the cinematography, filmed as if in one take that places you right in with the action to hear every breath the young soldiers take, see what they see as they see it. You can’t help but be caught up. You almost feel what they feel. At times, the dialogue jars, and you don’t need the big name stars who have cameos, but that is nit picky. For us, what the film does do, is bring to life all the things we talk about. From mud and dust, to trench warfare and the landscape. A depiction of comradeship and above all ordinary lads doing extraordinary things. Every day we talk about the young men who fought here. Families come to see where and how their ancestors fought. This film brings them to life. Go see it.
Wishes of the Mayor – Voeux De Maire
There is a tradition in France that every Commune gets together in January, when the Mayor presents his or her New Year wishes, “La Cérémonie des Vœux”. We attended our Voeux de Maire in the village hall on 24thJanuary. Christian, our Mayor could not say too much as local elections will be held in March and there are criteria as to what he can and cannot say in an election year – he is not even allowed to confirm if he will stand as mayor again – but reading between the lines he will be. He thanked the local counselors and Richard Dunning (who attended) for his work at Lochnagar Crater. Most of all it is a chance to catch up with the villagers, wish each other a Happy New Year, etc. Then we share in a glass of fizz and Epiphany Cake – Gallette de Roi. It is a wonderful, community orientated way to start the year.
Keep on Running Rachel
Our lovely niece Rachel will be running in this April’s London Marathon. It is her first time and she has been taking training seriously, pounding the streets after work and at weekends. She is a busy young woman, and at Christmas found out that she has passed all her accountancy exams which she has studied so hard for while working full time in London. This committed young lady, pictured here at No.fifty6 hugging dear old Joan the chicken, is running the marathon to raise money for The Stroke Association, a cause close to her and her boyfriend's heart after his mum suffered a life changing stoke at the age of 34. Rachel’s story can be found in this link to her Just Giving page. Raising funds is always hard as there are so many worthwhile causes but we are happy to support Rachel on this personal mission of hers as she has given up so much of her free time to fundraise and train. If you feel able to make a donation, no matter how small as every pound helps, Rachel would be extremely grateful. Thank you.
Brexit part 1 happened yesterday and we have done what we can to protect ourselves as now non-EU citizens living in France. It continues to be business as usual for us. We will keep you posted to any developments to changes to travel requirements but our understanding is that during the transition period until 1 January 2021 normal procedures will apply for traveling to France. The following link contains official government advice:
5 chickens and Shere the cat are all fine. Freshly laid eggs are still arriving at the breakfast table. We have discovered Shere the cat doesn’t like peas. Any peas in his cat food he picks out. Funny little thing. David on the other hand does like peas. He says to Shere, there is too much conflict in his world, give peas a chance.
All is well at No.fifty6.