Saturday, May 16, 2009

Officers' Billet

Interior decoration
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
An integral part of our visit to the Somme was our billet. Yes, that's what we called it. Don't snigger. Look at the picture. The whole place was redolent of the Great War, from the rifle, complete with fixed bayonet, hanging ready from a beam to the recruiting posters on the bedroom walls (I dropped off to sleep under "Women of Britain say go!") It did occur to me that if any of my companions were to have a bad dream after all our battlefield visits it might make for an interesting scenario. Sleepwalker with bayonet wipes out party of pensioners - that sort of thing.

The rooms were basic, with just about enough room to swing a very short-tailed cat. Ours didn't have any en-suite frills, but we had the advantage of being next door to the shower-room/WC. Another room had en-suite facilities, while yet another - under the roof - had a basin and WC but no shower. Downstairs, at the back of the kitchen (very French) there was a loo and shower - and a wonderfully hot towel rail. It also had a mouse. We sang as we entered, to give it time to vamoose.

Our bedroom door had warped, so that closing it required either great effort or a loud slam. After winning a prize for the loudest door-slam-in-the-middle-of-the-night I made Mr B get up and shut the door quietly after a 2am expedition. He wasn't very pleased. But we had to shut the door because of the strange smell which emanated from the cellar and seemed to be related to the central heating.

And then there were the cockerels. One night, having eaten too much cheese (and croissant, and butter, to say nothing of the smoked eel and the rabbit with prunes and a goat's cheese salad at lunchtime) I was awake at 2am. And that is when the most thuggish cockerel decided to start. His raucous crowing went on till 7am, and I heard every last tonsil-tearing moment (do cockerels have tonsils?) Several inebriated plans were hatched to do away with these birds, but they live still, as does their less noisy but still irritating friend along the road.

Seriously, though, Snowden House in Longueval was great. The atmosphere was terrific and we loved it - especially the night we lit the log fire and the candles and sat talking for hours. The wisteria at the back door was in full bloom, and in the garden to the front there was an extraordinary pile of shell cases and lead shot, just sitting there. We were ten minutes' walk from Delville Wood, and at the crossroads there was a new Pipers' Memorial - stark reminders of the hellish battle that was fought just up the road. Somehow this mix of the lovely and the awful seemed just right for the trip we were part of.

On another note: I did in fact write a poem when we were there, but it's not going to appear for a bit. I'll flag it up when I'm ready.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm...skewered pensioners...swinging cats...warped doors slamming in the night...and crowing cockerels. Sounds delightful.
    Note to self: I have met someone whose delightful imagination rivals my own!!!!!!

    Chris, in looking at the info at the link given, Snowden House looks like a very nice place to stay!

    Your musings reminded me so much of a tale my aunt spun about a bed and breakfast she and my uncle visited..however, their end result was an overflowing toilet that left water EVERYWHERE and to even say the phrase "bed and breakfast" in their presence might warrant a death threat!!!!

    Oh hey, I forgot...that food fest you had in one day sounds like it is enough to throw me WAY over the edge!!!!!!!!! Eels??? Ewwwww!!!!(I'll take the cockerel's TONSILS!....or, JUST the cheese)