April 2021 - Chill Winds, Spring Arrives, Anzacs and Roadmap Announcements.
Posted on 30th April 2021
by Julie and David Thomson
in General News.
If March was contrary, weather wise, April has continued the theme, the first half of the month very cold with hard frosts which have caused problems for vineyards and fruit growers throughout France. The sun has been there by day to fool you into thinking it is warmer than it is, but too cold to work in the garden and a need to wrap up warm for walks. The last week however has seen the wind change direction, the sun seems to shine brighter and the Spring warmth has returned. So now is the time to get rid of winter from the garden and of course explore the landscape here as we love to do.
The farmers are busy, tractors rolling up and down the large fields, potatoes going in, distinguishable by their neatly peaked ridge rows, wheat growing, colza/rape/canola now tinging some fields with a brilliant yellow. Blossom everywhere on trees and the birds nesting in our eaves as they usually do.
Great blue skies for photography so David has been in his element, capturing moments and images which catch his eye, as we walk this hallowed landscape.
A place we go to frequently on our walks is Caterpillar Valley Cemetery. It is a beautiful place, surrounded by fields and with stunning views. Buried within its walls is Captain Hugh Stewart Smith, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. An only son, he was killed near High Wood in August 1916. He is not a well-known poet, but among his possessions, in his diary was found this poem. He captures among the death surrounding him, the ordinariness he longed for:
On the Plains of Picardy
Lay a soldier, dying
Gallantly, with soul still free
Spite the rough worlds' trying.
Came the Angel who keeps guard
When the fight has drifted,
"What would you for your reward
When the clouds have lifted?"
Then the soldier through the mist
Heard the voice and rested
As a man who sees his home
When the hill is breasted –
This his answer and I vow
Nothing could be fitter –
Give me peace, a dog, a friend
And a glass of bitter!
March 2021 - Spring Has Come to The Somme.
Posted on 31st March 2021
by Julie and David Thomson
in General News.
March, a contrary month – not winter but not always spring either, however it is usually a favourite month of ours as it promises so much of the year to come…this March however continues to be difficult due to Covid, though we hope things will get better quickly, just as the sun lengthens the days.
Weather-wise it has been a mixed bag, sometimes cold, windy, wet, misty, other times blue sky and mild. The month has ended on a high with blue skies and very warm temperatures. So, no surprise the fields and gardens around us are springing into life, new crops growing, buds and blossom, birds nesting and chirping. The sun warming our faces on our walks reminds us life is good.
It brings to mind this poem by Sara Teasdale. As new life bursts through it contrasts so much with the death and destruction of war…”Spring in Wartime.”
February 2021 - Shivers, Sun and Springtime? News from No.fifty6
February often blows in as a ”soft” month, not quite winter, not quite spring. This February we have had both – wild winds, rain, freezing temperatures (-8 by day) and the second half of the month, calm, sunshine, blue skies and unseasonably mild, like Spring is in reach.
The fields were very soggy, then rock hard with frost, now crispy from the sun with softness underneath. New growth is here, even the trees are budding and the blackbirds are courting and nesting. Is it a faux spring before we plunge back into winter, time will tell?
As we walk the tracks and paths of The Somme, this is the time we think of War Poetry. The ability to write with such expression as the conditions around you were so dire always amazes us. The poets left a lasting legacy, which for us is as much a part of that link back, as the cemeteries and memorials which dot the landscape.
January 2021 News From no.fifty6 - Snow and Stories
In normal years January is a month we like – the promise of new beginnings, a stark beauty to the landscape here. It is laid bare and invites you in to explore even on the coldest day. You can come back to No.fifty6 for a warming cuppa, shrug off the boots and relax. This year of course is different to normal, but so much stays the same and that gladdens us. The juxtaposition of enduring cycles of nature, permanently changing but oddly and ressuringly the same, have a therapeutic effect on us. We still look forward to seeing you all again, whenever that will be, but for now we explore and the landscape is of course beautiful.
January is always our coldest month and we have had 2 episodes of snow which have blanketed The Somme in a white winter coat. At month end all the snow has gone and it is chilly and damp.
The fields are either seeded with new growth appearing, or deeply ploughed. In the cemeteries we have noticed the first shoots of spring flowers breaking ground and the days are drawing out, it is now gone 5.30pm before the chickens go to bed
Snow on the ground always brings to mind Wilfred Owen’s poem "Futility":
Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved,—still warm,—too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?
New Year Dawning - Here's to 2021 from no.fifty6
As the dawn of a New Year breaks ,we would like to thank everyone who sent us cards and festive messages and we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s hope the world turns a corner (difficult for a globe) and vaccines enable us all to plan with some certainty and begin face to face human contact again. Boy, we know we have missed human togetherness!
We will be here and ready to see guests and friends when travel is again possible – you know there is nothing we love more than sharing The Somme with you.
Christmas we spent here just the 2 of us, we think it was the first time the two of us have been on our own at Christmas so we made the best of it - we even had turkey and trimmings and pulled crackers. David needs new jokes.