In Pursuit of the Normans

October half term saw us back in France for family duties so I was delighted to combine it with a bit of history and homeschool!  Unfortunately, during the trip both my camera and Bertie’s mobile decided not to work at the same time and my phone with its pictures was stolen a few days later, sigh.  Still, as someone remarked, it is a good reason to go back!  In the meantime, I have included a few photos from other sources whose web pages are very interesting to visit.

Our route took us via Normandy from where dates the start of Bertie and my belle histoire d’amour all those many years ago!  After catching up with old friends in Caen and Falaise, we made our way to Paris via Rouen.  I remember passing through very briefly in the rain on a school trip, but it was a much more enjoyable visit this time.  We walked for a while around the town before finally finding Rouen Cathedral whose first point of interest for us was being the place where our Little Duke was consecrated, although it would have been an earlier building on the site of the present  one.

We were also looking for the tomb of William Longsword, the father of our Little Duke (otherwise known as Richard the Fearless) as well as William’s father Rollo, who sailed from Norway down the river Seine to invade Paris and was given the section of land known as Normandy (named after these Viking “Northmen”) to get him out of the French king’s way.  Despite my year studying in Normandy, I had never realised before how separate the Normans were from the French, with very different roots and a distinct identity, and it has been fascinating tracing their origins. – you can find Rollo and Richard Lionheart there too

We saw plenty of other interesting tombs in the cathedral, including one of our own kings, Richard the Lionheart, whose story we are reading just now.  It was a real test of my Latin to work out what each tomb said, but Richard handily had his feet resting on a lion!  One photo I am sorry not to have was of rows of various statues, many of them well-known figures such as the apostles and the prophets, but also some rather scary looking ones who looked just like The Silence from Dr Who!  No idea what that was all about…!

Chronologically earlier in our trip but historically later was our visit to the home town of the more well-known descendant of Rollo, William and Richard: William the Conqueror.  Chateau Guillaume-le-Conquerant Falaise was a great place to visit, with a lot of the castle intact and an interesting theme of chess running through it (for LissaLou), a display of types of weapons (for JoJo) and of course the sight of medieval toilets to bring many chuckles!  There is a bit of a biais towards William and against poor Harold that we staunch English folk did not appreciate (!) but I guess allowances must be made…

In the town there is also a statue of William on his horse flanked by the six Dukes of Normandy who preceded him: Rollo, William Longsword, Richard the Fearless, Richard the Good, Richard the Third (didn’t last long enough to get himself a fine name!)and Robert the Magnificent.  Little surprise that such a terrifying looking man caused such havoc and distress for my unfortunate countrymen all those years ago.


Here, There and Back Again

Just when I get back into blogging again, wham bam someone steals my laptop in France! The laptop gets replaced and wham bam the internet turns awkward! It gets fixed and then in sneaks Christmas and New Year to occupy my attention. So here I am back again after all that, hoping for a smoother ride for a few months!  There may be some catch up from the last few months – this is as much as anything a record of family life for us.  Is the effort of blogging worthwhile? Well, Bertie and I still look back and smile at the Going Gwada blog and recall moments that would have been lost without it so I guess the answer is yes!  And if it provides interest or amusement for you dear long suffering readers in the meantime, hurray!

And Finally – Books We Are All Enjoying

Nothing beats sitting down together on the sofa and reading a book that grips or enchants each of us, on different levels.  We have tried to bring more French into our days and these two fairy tale collections were much appreciated.  The Book of Heroes has some marvellous stories in it, especially one at the end with two brothers who…, you will need to read it yourself!  But I think the all time favourite is possibly Little Pilgrim’s Progress.   This is a particularly special book as it just comes out on Sunday evenings when we usually read one (or possibly two if they are very lucky!) of the short chapters.  The children just love this time and are always clamouring for more, and it has led to so many deep and fascinating discussions on life, faith, the universe…. Highly recommended!

This Term’s Reading For …CassCass

Again, a bit of French reading, a few books that I read and she narrates, and then Six by Seuss which she is enjoying reading to me (JoJo loves sneaking next to us to listen!).  Can I just say how much we love the Fables (and the illustrations in this book add to our pleasure)?  All three look at them over and over again, even JoJo narrates them as they are so simple, and so often does someone comment that a particular situation is “just like that fable”.  Go ahead and savour them!


This Term’s Reading…For LissaLou

Here are the main books that LissaLou has been listening to and narrating, except for Babar which she reads (not easy, as it is all written in the French swirly whirly cursive writing that we are trying to learn!) and translates.  We have both enjoyed them all, but LissaLou’s favourite was undoubtedly Understood Betsy, a great tale about a young girl who leaves a life of being fussed over in town for a very different one of responsibility and challenges in a small farming village.

There has definitely been a Viking theme going on, with the Vikings covered in Discovery of New Worlds, then their arrival in Britain in Our Island Story, and finally the story of the third generation Viking Richard the Fearless and his early life in Normandy in Little Duke.  Now our conversations are full of mead and Valhalla!


It has been a busy few months! A month in Guadeloupe, enjoying catching up with the in-laws and gloating over Team GB’s marvellous performance in the Olympics, then straight back into London life and our most structured homeschool year yet – after 12 weeks of following (and keeping up with!) my finely crafted schedule, not to mention a week in France in the middle, I am looking forward to a quieter December full of Christmas fun.  Perhaps I will even find time to post some photos from all the above events?

So why the celebrating?  Well, our week in France ended rather sourly, when someone smashed our car window and stole the laptop we had loaned to us from our church, just weeks after my own one gave up the ghost (and most astonishingly, hoards of creatures crept out of it when my techie brother opened it up to investigate! Ugh!).  So having been computerless for quite a while, I decided it was time to choose another one.  I never realised what an overwhelming choice there was out there, but thanks again to Big Brother Ali whose incisive comments (“go for the  smallest numbers…”) proved so helpful.

And so today, a day early, we returned home in the dark to find….our brand new Dell Inspiron laptop sitting on our front door step in full view! Dear me!  After recovering from the sheer miracle of it being safely there, I have spent the evening trying to understand Windows 8 and all the weird and wonderful things they have done with it – why can’t it just be like before?? I was heard to cry on numerous occasions.   But I think I have finally got the hang of it and found everything that matters whilst disposing of everything else.  Now I am just waiting to visit that marvellous brother of mine to get him to install all the documents from my three non-functional laptops  (yes, we work them hard in this house!).  And after all that plugging, if anyone would like their own visit from my highly talented brother, I will be delighted to point you in the right direction, commission-free of course!