Weather Changes, Autumn comes Knocking, No Guests but Always something Going On

Posted on 30th September 2020 by Julie and David Thomson in General News.

Weather Changes, Autumn comes Knocking, No Guests but Always something Going On

Last week we were walking on the beach at the Somme coast in 27 degrees then 2 days later the thermometer plunged to 11 degrees and wet and windy weather. At month end it has settled to a drizzly but mild , certainly autumnal weather front. So, the landscape is changing, softening. Leaves changing colour. Fields once plump with crop have given up their treasure to feed a nation, but never empty as ploughing and reseeding continue the cycle of agriculture. The light is more golden, there have been some dramatic skies and sunsets. Autumn has its own soft beauty. And we love it.

It brings to mind this poem by Ernest Rhys written in 1918 – The Leaf Burners, which ends:

Much I thought then 

      of men that went forth, 

Or dropt like the leaves, 

      to die and to live; 

While the leaf burners 

      with their long brooms 

Drew them together 

      on the day of their death. 

I wondered at that, 

      walking the fell — 

Feeling the wind 

      that wafted the leaves 

And set their souls 

      free of the smoke, 

Free of the dead, 

      speeding the flame 

To spire on the air — 

      a spark that should spring 

In me, man of men; 

      last of the leaves.

With quarantine in place for UK visitors returning home from France, borders closed in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, we have had no guests this month. It is hard, we miss everyone, but nevertheless we keep busy and there has been plenty to keep us occupied this September.

Covid 19 Update

Things change so quickly with Covid but we hope it is useful for us to update on the current situation in France. France remains on the UK’s travel ban, with a need to quarantine on return to UK if you visit France. There is currently no reciprocal quarantine in France.

The number of cases in France continued to rise during September with several cluster hotspots. Thankfully the development  into hospital admissions, ICU and deaths has not reached anywhere near the levels in the spring and the health system is managing very well. So, the virus is circulating and there is a continued need for vigilance. There is no national lockdown, no bubbles, but local prefets have the power to instigate local measures where necessary. The worst clusters are in Paris and Marseille and more closer to home, the area around Lille and the Belgian border. The Somme Department is not currently under any special measures, no curfews,  so life for us continues as “normal”, but of course social distancing, masks in all enclosed and public areas and frequent handwashing. We are very careful but as we go out on our walks you can forget the virus is wreaking such havoc everywhere. The Somme is peaceful.

So with no guests, what do we do?  Well, we are never short of things to do. From walking in the beautiful landscape, paying respects to those who lie here, meetings, events, cooking and friendship, there is always something to keep us busy.

Remembering the Tank Men

On 15th September we commemorated the 104th anniversary of when tanks first went into battle. We joined Poppy Mercier at the tank memorial in Pozieres for a short commemoration, during which Poppy read a poem written by AA Milne (he of Winnie The Pooh fame) which ends:

So remember, whenever you talk of the Tanks,
The newest invention, the wonderful Tanks –
The older invention – the men in the ranks;
The wonderful men of all ranks.
For they’re just the same men, only more so, in Tanks.
You’ll remember them?

The original of the poem was found in The Tank Museum’s archives.

Those first tank men were real trail-blazers. Formed out of the Heavy Section, Machine Gun Corps they did not know what would happen on that first day they went into battle. We took the opportunity this month to visit the grave of Lieutenant George Macpherson, tank commander who died of wounds sustained in the first tank battle on 15 September. Aged just 20 he was a Winchester College boy, keen on soccer and full of life. He is buried at Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte,  where a Casualty Clearing Station had been set up to deal with the wounded from the Battle of Flers Courcelette in September 1916.  Rest in Peace young George.

Grove Town Cemetery

George Macpherson is not the only grave we visit when we go to Grove Town Cemetery. It is a favourite Cemetery of ours as it is a little off the beaten track, though only a 10 minute drive from us,  and on leaving the Cemetery we go for long walks on the tracks which criss-cross the open landscape which surrounds it. It is the place to see hares, birds of prey, pheasants and even deer.

We filmed our visit last week as part of our Facebook Live events in which we like to bring the battlefields to you as you cannot visit us at the moment. It was a chilly, windy day so we had some technical problems with the camera cutting out near the end, but we managed to finish, and that is why the video is in 2 parts. Every man has a story, we wish we knew them all, but at least we can share some of them.


Aircraft Symposium

 On 18th September we attended a special event at the Industrilab in Meaulte which is the R&D arm of the Aerospace industry here in Albert/Meaulte.

With a limited audience and Covid compliant, we attended lectures and workshops about the historic aviation past of Albert and developments for the future. The morning centred around Henry Potez who is the father of aviation from Albert, and his legacy. From humble beginnings he designed aircraft and founded what was to become the world’s largest aviation factory. Between 1930-1935 the Potez factory produced 1500 aircraft per month. During the Second World War he was removed from his own factory and it was used by the Germans to repair their aircraft. So since Potez’s day there has always been an aviation factory here. From a turfed runway for those early pilots, there is now an international grade runway and it is why Albert has its own international airport.  Now on site,  Stelia make the nose cones/cockpits for Airbus. In the afternoon we had a chance to look at some of the aviation industry innovations which will lead to greener flying in future years. Bigger brains then ours are working on some exciting innovation and prototypes. It was a fascinating day, and in normal times we would be energized by such a day, and we were, but this was tempered with a fear for the workers at the current factory and its sub contractors as nobody is buying planes at the moment. The aviation industry has been really important to the economic heart of this area for the last 100 years, and while we hope that continues, we really worry about the security of jobs in the current climate.

 Potez Grave in Albert

Stephane Demilly

 One of the speakers at the Symposium was Stephane Demilly, our local MP (called a Depute here in France) who has been Mayor of Albert as well as a Depute and has written a book on the life of Henry Potez, he too is passionate about aviation in the area. He is visible and approachable and we have met him on many occasions and he knows our business. We were therefore delighted to learn this weekend that he has been elected to France’s Senate, as Senator for The Somme, The Senate being  the 2nd tier of Government which sits at the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris. We hope he will continue to do good work for our region.

 French Life

We have had more time to catch up with friends this month, so it has been lovely having early evening aperitifs (aperos) on the terrace in the good September weather with our friends and neighbours. Always Covid careful, our terrace is the perfect place to sit and catch up. We will miss it when the weather is not so good. Catching up with our French friends always gives us a new perspective, a chance to exchange news and ideas and so many of our friends are knowledgeable about the history of our wonderful area. David took our friends Ludo and Chantal on a battlefield tour, completing it in French!

As we said at the start, life is never dull and we have a rich variety of interests and projects to keep us entertained. We made some spiced plum chutney using plums and apples from our garden, the chutney now maturing in the larder. It is a good opportunity to catch up on preserving and baking for when guests do start coming around our table again. Autumn is a rich produce time! The freezer filling for future goodies to be shared.

 We are also helping the daughter of a friend with her English. Once a week we meet with Cheyenne (14) for an English lesson to supplement what she learns at school. Julie plays the firm but friendly school mistress, and, well, you can imagine David’s role…while Julie talks about rules and conditional tenses, and pronunciation tips,  David talks about Spongebob Squarepants living under the sea. Last week we were  looking at sentences which contain “I have to and I like to….”  Next thing David is playing “I like to… move it move it,”  from the film Madagascar.

Please come back guests, I don’t think we can take anymore.

For those who need a little cheering up, here is the song:

Animal Postscript

More sad news this month. In the space of a few days 2 more of our old girls died. Two of our red hens, Edie and Harriet flew over the rainbow bridge to join their dear departed friends. No trauma, just old age catching up and peaceful ends to their feathered lives. It leaves us with black hen Marge (in charge) and red Florence. Thy were a bit confused for a few nights with just 2 of them, but they have settled into their new routine as room mates. It is sad seeing just 2 of them now, but we have decided to wait until they are gone before getting any more chickens. We know our chickens have the best possible chicken life. Fly free dear girls Edie and Harriet.

 In happier times , the hens love to sunbathe! 

On Tuesday we had a visit from a goose, she was a little confused, we found her in our garden and she stayed for several hours. After a good rest and a drink of water she took off again. We think she was on the migration path and had got tired and dehydrated. We hope she makes it to warmer climes where her friends await. As we (and Forrest Gump) say  - life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. 

All is well at No.fifty6. Be safe. Stay well.  Stay cheerful. See you soon we hope.



Comments (25)

geoff Nougher says:

Good to see and hear the elements near your home at the cemetery as well as the commentary. The only other life besides David and yourself seemed to be the lone cyclist riding in the background. All the best as you approach Winter with the Covid crisis.

Pauline and Bob Symmons says:

Another lovely newsletter and like so many of your guests, can't wait to come and visit again! Sorry to hear about the chickens. Made Bob and I laugh when we read about David playing 'I like to move it, move it' but we weren't a bit surprised! :) Keep safe xxx

Wendy Dutton says:

Hi Julie and David, we really missed not being able to stay with you in September. Hopefully, we will be able to visit next year. Always enjoy the monthly updates. Stay safe xx

John Mepham says:

Love hearing your updates on an area that has become so special to our family.
Sad to hear about your Hens but they certainly could not have lived in a better place. The circle of life goes on doesn't it.
The poem by Rhys echoed in my mind throughout the day, I wasn't familiar with it.
It is almost 104 years, October 8th 1916, since our Grandfather Robert was lost at Regina Trench. Should you find yourselves near Pys or Adanac on that date please take a moment to remember him, who still lies in the fields nearby.
Looking forward to seeing you when able and some normalcy returns to the world.
Until then stay safe !

martin howard says:

Thank you for the updates.
Have definitely missed our trips over to not only stay with you both but also pay our respects .
Looks like it will be the first time since 2013 that i will have not paid a visit to the area.
sorry to hear about the chickens - sad fact of keeping poultry and livestock as i know too well
Stay safe and look forward to some good cheer in 2021 when we can all return

Gary James says:

Interesting to read about Grove Town. There must be so many places like that where visitors are few. I was disappointed that the video was from the actual film of Madagascar. I thought it may have been David. That would be worth seeing...........or maybe not. Sorry to hear about the chickens. Keep safe.

Margaret Squires says:

I can't help feeling a leap of excitement when I get your monthly newsletter. It takes me back to the wonderful 4 night break I had with you and hope to repeat in the future. The walks I did were some of the most poignant yet inspiring I have ever done.' To everything there is a season' sometimes helps me through and seems appropriate somehow. It seems to be the season of staying in one place and taking stock but all things eventually change. Stay safe, David and Julie. Best wishes, Margaret Squires.

Jon Hill says:

Your newsletter is a welcome break in these worrying times. You continue to enlighten with information about the events of over a hundred years ago and the comings and goings in more current news are so interesting to hear about.
Best wishes to you both. Jon

Chris Prince says:

Hi Julie and David, lovely to hear you are keeping busy, and your chutney some great. Can imagine your Quests when they return with sample some of that wonderful cooking you are doing. Sorry to hear about Edie and Harriet, like you said they have joined their friends. And as always loved watching and reading your Facebook posts. Glad you are both well and staying safe, but still enjoying life with friends around you. Our world has changed a lot this year. I just wonder what is still to come, and with 2021 is fast approaching, hopefully we will see a different start to it. Take care and look forward to next month newsletter to read what October is like for you both. Kind Regards Chris & Bill xxx

Roger Staker says:

Thank you, Julie and David, for your wonderful tour of Grove Town and especially for featuring John Richard Jones. He was actually 32 when he died, so relatively old by comparison with the others. We will send it on to Alan and Margaret. They will be thrilled. Stay safe. Can't wait to come back..

Tim Pritchard-Barrett says:

You are remarkably quick off the mark each month to produce the much anticipated and enjoyed newsletter. Whilst I have not been in your area (or anywhere else for that matter) for a while I hope to sample the new 'wing' next year albeit one needs to drum up some new clients to bring with me. My main concern is that having hidden away since March and really no end in sight, your newsletters now seem to mentally appear every week!
To add more to my heavily overstrung bow, however, I am now using the time to really absorb Wellington's Iberian campaigns and the slow advance of US 5th and UK 8th Armies in Italy. At least there is pplleennttyy of time to research, read, notate and prepare for the future.
I watched the garden pond (12m x 10m) almost dry this year and was frantically trying to defeat the heron which managed to consume some 120 fish over a fortnight when it was only 15cm deep in the centre. No amount of tactically placed stakes and fishing line seemed to deter the rotter. in the last week it has filled by about 40cms with a deluge forecast for the next two days. I have diverted almost all the roof runoff into the pond which has been a really fun boyhood exercise for one about to hit 65. C'est la Vie!
Stay well and A Bientot, Tim.

Gary McKay says:

Hi David & Julie....Happy to hear you are getting through this event as well as can be expected. This Covid has wiped out all my tours this year, but we're getting by. Always enjoy reading your newsletter. Cheers!

Sandy Biback says:

Thanks again for a great look at your part of the world. Remember fondly our trip. In times of COVID I find myself reminiscing about many trips, including ours that brought us to your B&B with Peter Jones. Stay safe

Ferris Hatheson says:

It’s so good to read a newsletter that takes us back to better times - our visit in October last year, thoughts of future travels, and reminds us that there will be a time when we can all live normal lives again. Thank you both.

Marika Perkins says:

I love reading your newsletter as it makes me feel a little closer to dad who lives In Amiens, he is 87 and we have not seen him for over a year x we are still going to try and be with you weekend of the 23 and 24 October if that is Ok ? As long as we don’t need to quarantine in France, we will drive over for the weekend and come back hone to England to Quarantine x marika and Philip x

glyn john says:

thank you for your updates.

Rob Kirk says:

A poignant newsletter this time. Thinking of you. These things will pass. x

Gordon Haymes says:

Thinking of you both, hugs to all. Will be there when this shadow has lifted for sure. Xx

Jennifer Iles says:

Spelling update to my previous comment: should have been 'fount of information'. My apologies! I'm sitting at the back of the class.

Jennifer Iles says:

What a beautiful poem by Ernest Rhys. One to cut and paste! Wish I had come across this when I was writing about the Western Front. Your newsletters are always such a font of information. Hopefully life will get back to normal soon and the guests will return. We miss the battlefields.

Heather and Malcolm says:

Another great newsletter, Julie and David. We have been worrying that you are both lonely :-( Our booking in Nov still stands but you need more than us to keep you company, we know! We are participating in UK's Office of National Statistics covid-19 testing programme so it is re-assuring to know that our results prove our personal precautions are working. Stay safe you two.

Jane says:

How sad about your hens ! We have two called Thelma and Louise so feel for you.

Love reading your newsletter stay safe

Gordon & Joana (and Mary) says:

Sooper newsletter - pleased to see you’re not idling your time away. Got any tips for eating our wedding anniversary meal (today) whilst wearing masks ..? Miss you guys and can’t wait to be able to return ... XX

David Ellis says:

Hi Julie and David. Yet another lovely newsletter and this one reminding me of the lovely few days I was going to have a few weeks back in Ovillers! So desperate to get back to the Somme - I will be in touch as soon as there is a hint of light at the end of the Covid tunnel. Two lovely videos which I really enjoying viewing. I visited Grove Town cemetery a few years ago to visit Leslie Coulson. Rather a drizzly/windy day so he’s on my to do list for a sunny day! Stay safe both of you. Until I get back to the Somme- best regards to you both!

Gary J Jones says:

Hi Julie/David,
Another wonderful news letter that i always look forward to reading. Good to hear you are both safe and well but sad at the lack of visitors due to this pandemic. I cant wait to be booking a room and get back over there. Should have happened this year but we know trhe reasons why. Look after each other and stay safe. Regards from myself and the DLOY lads xxx

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