Avril Williams Guest House
Auchonvillers, The Somme
September, 2007, Update
Here we are in deepest September, and it’s time for another edition of Avril’s newsletter. Now, this is not meant to rub it in if you visited Avril during what was meant to be the Summer and you got rather badly rained on, but I have to report that the weather has been very good this last week. One day of rain, one day with a very chilly wind; that’s all the minuses wrapped up. The rest of the time, it’s been glorious sunny days, making this part of the world, and its surroundings, a very pleasant place to be. Whilst occasional rumours of good weather ahead, from sources such as the television have kept the outlook buoyant, the really pertinent conclusion was all about potatoes. On one of several Bonnie-walking expeditions that I have been part of this week, Avril announced that the weather would be good, because the farmers were in no hurry to harvest their potato crop. Had there been promise of heavy rain, then they’d have been harvesting non-stop. Avril was bang on the nail – the weather has remained as good as could be wished for.
There has been a good mix of guests this week. A group of gents whose last-evening conversation was punctuated by two important questions. With regard to their bill the following morning, did anyone know how many ‘pints’ they’d had? (To which the answer was ‘no’). The follow-up was whether anyone knew how much 300 gallons of Leffe cost.
Tony, visiting for the first time, stopped in on the way up through France before returning to the UK. He was able to show us what we all agreed was a most moving French memorial to the Great War dead. Instead of the usual poilu, this had an aging woman sitting, grieving, over a corpse at the base of the list of names on the memorial. It really was something that took the breath away. If I recall correctly, it was at a place called Domme in the Dordogne region.
Later on in the afternoon he and I had one of those good, involved chats in the lounge about the Great War, that are so easily entered into in these surroundings. I, like everyone else, have my own opinions about this and that concerning the GW, and so by the time we’d finished, he had certainly begun to see certain things from a different angle! He may well choose to disregard everything I said. Well, that doesn’t matter, at least he’ll be aware of a different viewpoint.
Digressing slightly, this reminds me of one of the best Saturday nights I’ve ever spent, from around four years ago. While sitting in the lounge after one of Avril’s dinners, one member of the group stood up and spoke on the premise of 1st July 1916 being a success, and the other four or five of us spent the time asking him the most awkward questions for him to try and answer positively.
Back to this week, and the undoubted winner of the ‘Staging a dramatic entrance’ award goes without question to Rose, a lady that works in Auckland Museum. Spending a few days in the area, seeing what local museums had to offer, and paying respects to various NZ servicemen, Rose turned up one night at 11.30pm escorted by no less than three gendarmes! The poor lady, who is in the middle of one of those DIY tours, fixing transport and lodgings as she goes along, had got completely lost in Albert. As we learnt soon after, she’d actually got lost before that, else she’d not have been in Albert in the first place. Now, I can sympathise with anyone getting lost in Albert; although it’s not the biggest town by a long chalk, it does seem very confusing at times. Like Arras, it’s a case of driving in more or less a consistent direction until you come across something you recognise. Admittedly, where I am concerned, in Arras it’s a case of continuing driving until I end up in the Railway Station car park, which is usually where I arrive in due course.
Rose I am sure, enjoyed the days spent hereabouts, and she saw virtually all she wanted. I think there was just one grave she missed, so I said I’d get that one for her and send it on the internet. That is one of the joys of the internet – being able to send photos so easily, and what might have been a regret is now ironed out without a problem.
One night, we were joined by a young couple from Newfoundland, who had apparently stayed for just one night, seven years ago. When asked how long they were staying this time, they smiled sheepishly and said ‘One night!’ They remarked how they were looking forward to a possible two-night stay in 2014! It’s strange how things work – we already had Rose staying with us, who worked in some capacity at a big museum, and here, Kate, the wife of the Newfoundland couple also turned out to have a job concerned with the presentation in museums and visitor centres! All quite topical as you will see…
For the last couple of nights, we have had the company of a group on a Toc H tour.
They were, for lack of a better word, in the majority, aged. But what a feisty lot! For a start, Avril was able to delegate the dog-walking to someone else (phew!). And when the invite was made to go to the lounge to watch the rugby, they packed the isles. I really felt sorry for the Welsh team. There they were beating the Japanese team by fifty points, while Joe (oldest member of the group at 89 years old, and a rugby fanatic) didn’t stop criticizing them for a moment! Most remarks included ‘they make too many mistakes’ ‘Barry John’ and ‘Gareth Edwards’. Ouch! It’s never easy being compared to deities.
Bonnie, as you have probably gathered, is going from strength to strength. Taking her for a walk is a case of hanging on for dear life until you get to the Old Beaumont Road, and then releasing ‘The Black Rocket’. Off she blasts, down the lane, across the fields, belting along in a straight gallop, or twisting and turning, leaping up and down – a joy to behold. And, even Avril admits, the more she runs, the less she should pull when it’s time to put the lead on again. All one can say, is that no one can ever imagine that she’d had a broken leg, and that there is a metal plate in said leg. She is a picture of health, giving Avril some concern this week, until Avril realised that Bonnie was coming into season.
A couple of the sheep have also been giving Avril some concern, mainly Libby. Libby is Avril’s original sheep, and is nine years old. Libby became very weak and listless, and went off her food, and the outlook was bleak. But it turns out, she has had a cold, for which one can do nothing but see if she gets over it. Thankfully she has, and as Avril was told, ‘is she dead? No? Well, she’s all right then!’
Larry is in just unbelievable condition. You really have to look closely to see which of the sheep has a slightly unorthodox front right leg. Otherwise it would be very difficult to pick him out, health-wise, from any of the others. He uses his bad leg just as he ought to, even leaping about on it; though I have to take Avril’s word for that, as when I went to take a photo of him, he had his face down, eating grass like there was no tomorrow. Both he and Bonnie are testament to what Avril’s TLC can do.
The incubator chicks are doing well. As far as I know, at least three pictured in the last newsletter are still progressing, if not all of them. They have been joined by a fifth chick. Apparently there were six at one time, but one was lost. Here, after much patience, is a photo of them with the mother hen.
The cat population has grown by one. We still have ‘Jasper’, ‘Kitty’, ‘Titch’, ‘Midge’, ‘Stitch’ and ‘Crappit’. Now they have been joined, for just over a week by a young male, who has made quite an impact with visitors, due to him being so darned cute, with his very faded, even sandy, marmalade stripes. In fairness, for a newcomer he seems fairly well accepted by the resident inmates. Anyhow, he must be given a name, and this worries me. Apart from Jasper and Midge, the cats seem to get names that range from the blindingly obvious (Kitty) to the distinctly unsympathetic (Crappit). Anyhow, I have worried unnecessarily, as Avril has decided upon ‘Frankie’, and that seems quite satisfactory.
The really big news of the week concerns the Wall of Remembrance. You may recall that news of this appeared alongside the newsletter some months back. In the meantime, Avril has had a very busy, yet rewarding Summer; all too often, this has meant that she has had to use her time in the day-to-day running of her business, rather than being able to devote herself to her ongoing projects. However, over the last few weeks, certain things have been clarified, and the prospects at the moment are more promising than they have been.
A lot of work will now be put in, organising the many different departments of the project. When Avril is happy that things are in place, a new dedicated website will appear on the internet, entitled ‘Ocean Villas Wall of Remembrance’. All being well, if you ‘google’ those words when the website is up and running, you will be taken straight there. Naturally, there should also be a link from Avril’s usual websites.
As for the plaques themselves, Avril has fixed the price at £50 each. She is awaiting the prototype back from the mason, and on satisfaction, a photo will be taken and put on the website so everyone will be able to see exactly what the plaques will look like.
I previously mentioned that it was coincidental that we had the company of two ladies that work in museums this week. This is because during the last week or so, Avril has been able to get the initial finances sorted to enable her to buy Andre Coilliot’s collection. This now means that the Wall will have time to establish itself before taking over the financial strain of taking care of the running costs for itself, the collection, and the museum. Naturally, two ladies already involved in museums are useful contacts, when you are looking to present a collection to the public