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.
November, The Start of Winter, Remembrance and More, News from No.fifty6
November, it’s as if the clocks changing strikes a chime to wake winter up from its slumbers and start to wrap its cold arms around autumn. Gradually as the month has gone on it is getting chillier, but the first part of the month has been mild with some blue-sky days – just one frost so far and not too many grey wet days. This poem by Edward Thomas, who died in the fields of France in 1917 evokes the month so well…
Beautiful Autumn, Exploring, Lockdown Returns
As the month turns it is All Saints' Day - Toussaints here in France. Autumn is definitely here. There have been winds, rain, sunshine, mild days and the light has softened from summer’s bright halo to a golden crown which accentuates the turning leaves and patchwork fields.
Our friends and farmers Yves and Thierry have been harvesting maize, sugarbeet and potatoes, so across the fields of The Somme there has been a lot of farming activity. At month end some crops still linger in the fields like mother earth is loathed to give them up, but in most cases there is ploughing, scarifying and reseeding going on. The agricultural wheel never stops turning.
Despite having no guests again this month due to travel restrictions, there has been plenty to keep us occupied and we have enjoyed the opportunity to discover the landscape in its autumn glory and visit some new places. But now we are under a strict National Lockdown again.
It is hard, having no guests, we miss everyone, but we know as long as Covid is under control by next year, we have a 2021 diary getting fuller with those who have had to postpone their trips and will come as soon as possible. We know you all miss the Somme as much as we miss you. So what have we been up to?