family

Notre Reine, le Duc

October 14th - 1066!

It's a day which changed history.

Because it was on this day that the Norman-French army under William, the Duke of Normandy, took on an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, at the Battle of Hastings.

Actually my little bit of research tells me that the 'battle' took place about 7 miles  (11 km) northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, in East Sussex, on the south coast of England.

I've read quite a lot about this part of history - I'm a bit intrigued by the Anglo-Saxon era - but I won't go into the details here about why a Norman duke (from the present day France) thought he had a right to the English throne and ended up claiming that right, changing England and the British Isles forever.

Suffice to say it was all a bit of a fiasco for the English ...  they were fighting among themselves, got into all sorts of confusion, ended up traipsing all over the countryside and ultimately, it was a decisive Norman victory.

We don't know how many people/men were actually part of that bloody battle but we do know that the English army was composed almost entirely of infantry topped up with a few archers. The Norman army was only about half infantry, and the rest of their fighting men were cavalry (on horses) and archers.

The battle lasted from about 9 am to dusk on that day and initially the English seemed to have the upper hand. The Normans, unable to break through their opponent's battle lines, pretended to flee in terror. The English chased after them and that's when the Normans turned on them Eventually, Harold was killed -  probably near the end of the battle  - and the English retreated. Although historians can't be sure of casualty figures. some reckon that 2,000 invaders died on that day... but the number of Englishmen who perished on that day was double that. 

The Normans had won the battle but they continued to face pockets of opposition as they marched north towards London. However, eventually, the Anglo-Saxons admitted defeat and The 'Duke of Normandy' ... William ...was crowned as king - King William 1 of England - on Christmas Day 1066.

Bayeux tapestryWithin a few years of the battle, the events leading up to Hastings and culminating in the conflict on this day back in 1066 was captured in embroidery ... I've never seen the Bayeux Tapestry but I really want to.

It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans but experts now agree that it was made in England. It lives in the town of Bayeux - where else - in Normandy in northwest France.

The early part of 'William the Conqueror's' rule included the submission of the English nobles and ruling class, but despite this and social engineering to impose the Norman culture on the Anglo Saxons, resistance continued for several years. These were all dealt with by the new ruling class and monarch and so, despite the opposition, Hastings effectively marked the culmination of William's conquest of England. And the Normans - government, architecture, even spiritual life - would determine the future history of England and the British Isles.

However, here in Jersey, we already had experience of what the English would go through post 1066 because the Norman influence had been present for at least 100 years and more before the Battle of Hastings.

Jersey is just about 12 miles across the water from the French coast and Norman 'pirates' began invading from about the year 873, although they were around long before that apparently. Jersey was part of a region called 'Neustria' –  part of the Kingdom of the Franks in West-France. Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands was originally part of the Kingdom of France, and not linked to the British Crown as it is today.

The Channel Islands actually remained politically linked to Brittany until the year 933, when William LongswordDuke of Normandy seized the Cotentin - the French peninsula which on a good day is visible from Jersey's east coast - along with the islands and added them to his domain. Jersey, along with the rest of Normandy, was not part of the French Crown,  which had only limited rights in the region.  It was at that time that any form of government and way of life in Jersey which pre-dated the Normans was replaced upon the Norman invasion, a good century before the Battle of Hastings.

During Norman rule, Jersey developed, including as an agricultural economy and links with 'France' were strong. There was a large Norman migration to the island and in fact, my own family - the Le Feuvre family - probably came over to Jersey at that time. My own family tree dates back to around 1560 but like many Jersey families, our name and heritage goes back much further. Today the Norman cultural influence is still evident in the island. Norman law is still the basis of Jersey law (although it now has large influence from English common law) and our local language - Jèrriais - is a form of the Norman language - Norman French !

Oh and one final thing which you may not know... Jersey is a Crown Dependency. We are a self-governing possession of The Crown, part of the British Isles but NOT part of the United Kingdom. We have our own government, our own laws, finance and currency (the Jersey pound is not legal tender in the UK) ... we are an independent county. But our Head of State is the English monarch..

And the Queen is STILL referred to here as the 'Duke of Normandy' - the loyal toast at formal dinners is to our Monarch ... Notre reine, le Duc. ... which refers back to the period before 1204 when the island was part of the Duchy of Normandy.

With the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy William II, otherwise known as William the Conqueror -  King William I of England -  the Channel Islands remained part of the Duchy until 1204 when King John lost the majority of his French territories and the Channel Islands became possessions of the English Crown.


Great Awesomeness!

Today is a BIG day for my brother Tim.

It's his birthday!

He's a truly amazing person - fun, kind and generous,  an encourager, compassionate and loving,  a real hard worker and loyal to the core. I'm blessed to have him in my life.

When we were kids we played together ... and never actually 'fell out'. Maybe that was because I am a few years older and I was bossy so he just did as he was told. It was probably because he's laid back and non confrontational. I could say so much more about him ...  but I'll save his blushes.

We're friends apart from brother and sister and I'll always be grateful for having him in my life.

So today, I just want to say - love you Tim and wishing for you all the dreams you have for yourself on your Big and Special Day!

This is for you Super Bro!

Happy Birthday Brother


Kick Back

It's Saturday!

Yes I know some of you will be working, and others will have to spend the day or even the whole weekend running around doing family chores. All the things you maybe don't have time to do during a very busy week.

I know that some of you reading this will spend the day chasing around after the children, dropping them to parties and events now that, in some places, the COVID19 restrictions are lifting.

However, if you can ...  then it might be that you just need to stop today, to breathe and to rest. If possible, do nothing. Nothing at all!

And if it's not possible, at least to kick back a little.

I love this thought. Because life IS all about the balance.

I'm learning that sometimes I just have to walk away from my 'to do' list.

It's really tempting to keep looking at the tech devices and to even get into 'work' emails on the weekend or late at night. But what I'm trying to do is actually to make a distinction in my life between 'work' and 'not work'. Even though I'm now self employed, I'm trying to just step away from 'work' commitments at the weekend. Because I am one of those who does have family 'stuff' that I usually need to attend to and if I'm not careful my life will just get out of control.

Getting a bit of balance is the thing for me this weekend!

Hope you have a great one, whatever you're up to! 

Or even if you're up to nothing at all!

 

Balance


My Dad

Today I'm thinking about my Dad.

Why? Because today would have been his 100th birthday!

That seems incredible to me. He was born in 1921, when the 20th century was still relatively new. It feels like a universe away from 2021 ... with technology at our fingertips, the internet, air travel, modern medicine, social media. I could go on. In the past 100 years the world has 'developed' beyond imagination. 

DadWhen my Dad came into the world, The War to End all Wars had ended just a few years before ... and of course these days we know it as 'The First World War' so actually another global conflict would come within a couple of decades. And as a 19-year-old my Dad would be involved, fighting for our freedom! Dad RAFAfter a relatively privileged childhood in the lovely and quiet island of Jersey, as the beloved youngest son, that must have been such a shock to his system.

Five years and more later he was a civilian again and destined to spend his life as a farmer in his home island until God got involved and he became a Christian. He spoke so eloquently of the change that came into his life when he met Jesus and it altered his whole perspective on life and his future. With my Mum, who he would meet in those early days of his life as a Christian, he would devote himself to ministry in The Salvation Mum and DadArmy church, including working with Mum leading churches across the UK and then as missionaries in Africa. And raising four children. Often, I know, living on very little, sacrificing much for his family and just being wonderful really. Le Feuvres

Kind, a gentleman, hardworking, funny - his puns were more than 'Dad Jokes' - and loved by many, including those who came under his ministry and leadership and who he mentored and nurtured. 

But for me he was just my 'Dad' and I his little girl. 

If I take myself back in time in my head and heart I can still feel his hug, and see his smile, and hear him singing 'Here we go again, Happy as can be ... All Good Pals, and Jolly Good Company' in the car as we travelled along.  Teaching me to swim by holding my hands, gripped safely in his palms and gradually letting me go to fend for myself. I can still hear him encouraging me as he taught me to drive and being SO surprised when I passed first time, although he never let on that he wasn't sure I was ready for the test. I can still hear his laughter, his head tilted to one side as he smiled. I can still see him digging in the garden and working with the cows on that farm in Kenya, places I know he loved especially. Coming in at the end of the day, covered with African dust and dirt. Holidays on the beach in Jersey with his sand creations - tables we could sit at for lunch, like huge practical sandcastles. And on those glorious beaches in Kenya, playing table tennis with us kids. So many many memories  Dad with Honey

For years after he passed away aged just 63 I expected him to pop his head around a door with a smile saying 'Got you!' His sense of humour still lingers in my heart.

As I grow older, closing in on the age Dad was when he died ... or 'Promoted to Glory' as they say in The Salvation Army church to which he was devoted ... I think I appreciate him more and more. I have at times felt 'robbed' that we and the world didn't have him for longer, because he had so much to give in life, but I am grateful for the time we did have.

I am thankful that he was .. he is ... my father. I feel honoured to have had such Christian examples in my Dad and Mum and to have been raised with love. My brothers and I are very privileged to have love like that because I'm aware not everyone has that in their lives.


Dad and I graduationAnd although I still miss him every day, I thank God for my Dad. A man who was, in reality, from another era. In fact, his parents were Victorian so he was raised in a different world really and his life spanned some of the biggest changes of the 20th century. So apart from the war, Dad lived through challenging and tumultuous times! Heaven knows what he would have made of the internet and social media and all the stuff which surrounds us and determines our lives today. 

But I think Dad would have faced it all with strength and wisdom and humour, because he was that person throughout his life. 

SO Happy Birthday Dad!

I Love You!

 

 


Relax and Refuel

Sometimes we just rush around, don't we?

We have so many things to do, even on the weekends!

Places to be, tasks to complete, chores to get done, people to see!

I don't know about you, but sometimes I think we try to cram too much into life and we don't take time to 'refuel'. We hurry about and forget to take time to 'smell the roses' and to appreciate what we have in our lives.

Recently I've been trying to take some time out to refresh my spirit and my health, and to recharge my batteries. I can recommend it.

So today ... as it's Sunday ... maybe we can all set a few moments aside, to take a little time out to just breathe and centre ourselves, to appreciate our lives and the people we have around us, and to just feel relaxed.

Be blessed everyone!

 

263298-Sunday-Blessings


Pursuing our Dreams

Today is my brother's birthday!

So straight up I want to say 'Happy Birthday Steve!' ... the sun is out (at last) and life is good!

However, what I didn't realise was that Steve shares a birthday with someone who features in my kitchen! Or at least something he said is on a magnet which sticks to the side of my microwave!

And this is what is inscribed on that magnet...

"We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes"

I love that thought, and it inspires me every time I see it because it reminds me that although I might be scared of the future, I can still hope. You'll note this is not just about 'dreams' but hopes, which for me are a bit more 'solid' because hope is, in my opinion, a little bit more 'active' than dreaming. 

I can dream about things and that's important because it may stretch my imagination as to what MIGHT be possible. However, in reality that may be just out of reach. But when I begin to HOPE for something rather than just thinking about it, I may do something a little more proactive to make it happen rather than just dreaming.

The man who said this certainly had hopes ... for himself and his family I'm sure, but also for his nation.

Because he was John F Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America, who was born on this day in 1917.

Sadly, we know that his time in the presidency was brutally cut short when he was assassinated in November 1963. He was only 46 when he died and it's always poignant to imagine what else he might have achieved had he not been cut down in his prime. 

But still, he has gone down in history as an inspirational figure, for all sorts of reasons, although he probably never thought his thoughts would end up on a magnet on the side of a microwave in the Channel Islands!

But they did and I hope today this JFK thought inspires you too!

Jkf


A Mother's Love

Today I want to talk about my Mum.

I know most people think that their Mother is the best Mum in the world ... but mine REALLY is.

She's an amazing person. A great woman. Although she's my mother, she's also my friend - we get on so well - and she's a great role model for me, not just as a woman but also as a Christian.

My mum is a person of deep faith and has lived her life for Jesus since she was in her late teens, often sacrificially. She and my Dad spent most of their married life in Christian ministry and my dad and mum have touched many lives down the years. She's hardworking, a great cook, not someone who pushes herself forward, kind and caring. Mum is a person of grace and love and although she's now aged, she is still sharing that love with her family, albeit a little quietly now.

Mum has also made so many sacrifices down the years for us, her children and her family, and for and her example of love and care I will always be grateful. I love her more than words can say and I'm so pleased we still have her with us and that it is now our turn to care and help her through her day.

It was Mum who first introduced me to the religious and inspirational poetry of Helen Steiner Rice, another woman of faith who had the ability to touch hearts and minds.

So today, on my Mum's birthday, here's a short line by the poet that I think sums up my mother ... it's a simple poem but profound in its sentiment. It inspires me to write ... but actually today it expresses  just what I want to say.

Happy Birthday Mum! Have a Wonderful Day!

Mother's love helen steiner riceve

 


My Love is Deeper

A week ago the world said 'farewell' to a great character.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, passed away at the grand old age of 99! Had he lived another eight or so weeks he would have turned 100. What a life! What a lifetime of experiences! 

My Dad always reminded us that he was six days older than the Prince ... and he was!

My Dad, Arthur Maitland Le Feuvre, was born on June 4th 1921 and Prince Philip on June 10th. But that was all they had in common really.

My own Dad died many years ago ... on May 17th 1985 ... taken far too soon at the age of 63. But he remains alive for me, in my heart, in my memory. No matter that I haven't seen him physically for so many years, his love for me and my love for him remains the same.

Today will be a tough day - perhaps the toughest yet - for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. After more than 73 years of marriage and more than that of love, she will lay her beloved husband to rest.  Because of the coronavirus restrictions which prevent crowds from gathering, it sounds like it will be a small and family affair in St George's Chapel in the family home - Windsor Castle. And perhaps that's how it should be.

I've been to Windsor many times, as I lived nearby for more than a decade, and it is a beautiful place. And I know that the 'locals' especially will want to be there to support her today, and I'm sure some will make that journey to the Castle to do so safely.

Now, whether you're a Royalist or not, you have to feel sympathy and sadness for the Queen and for the wider family. Even though the Prince lived such a long and active life, which I'm sure is to be celebrated, the loss of him will be deeply felt.

And so I, for one, am praying today for peace to fill the Queen's heart and soul. For her deep Christian faith to sustain her at this difficult time, and for her to know that she is supported and upheld not just by her family and friends, and the people in her own town, but by many around the world. Those who know her and knew the Prince and the many millions who do not and did not.

Yes, the Duke was a Prince and his family are Royal but ultimately they are all human beings and this time of bereavement will affect them as grief affects us all. That dreadful empty feeling of loss and grief which seems to suck the life out of you at times. So today I also pray for the Duke's children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and all those knew him and loved him, not as a leader or an iconic royal figure, but as a Dad, grandad, great grandfather, friend, boss. 

'Grief' is something which affects us all differently. It can prevent us moving forward, to be always looking back.  For some, it appears to have little effect, but I would argue even those who put on a brave face will know the suffering of bereavement, even if they don't wish to show it to the world. It is the human condition.

But over the years, since I lost my own darling Dad, I've learned that even though those we love may no longer be alongside us, and once the gut-wrenching sorrow has begun to dissipate just a little, even if it never entirely leaves us, there comes a point when we can smile again at the memory of those whom we have loved. They continue to enhance our lives, continue to make us the people we are and are yet to be, and they and their memory continue to fill our hearts with love and joy.

So today I just leave you with a thought that seems to express this a bit better than I can...

Grief

 


Mothering Sunday

New Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (2)So today in the UK, the British Isles and many other English speaking nations is 'Mothering Sunday'.

Otherwise known as 'Mother's Day'.

If you go to any card shop you may be hard pushed to find a 'Mothering Sunday' card ... but sometimes they are there, if you are eagle eyed. I know because every year I rummage endlessly through the card racks to find one.

My Mum loves a Mothering Sunday card.

So given that not many people call it that, you might be wondering about the title of this blog and the picture.

Well, it's because the day was called 'Mothering Sunday' LONG before people started calling it 'Mother's Day'.

The history goes back to the Medieval times in Britain, to the Middle Ages. 

The fourth Sunday in Lent, 21 days before Easter Day, was also known as Laetare Sunday, or 'Mid-Lent Sunday' and it was a day when Christians could have a break from the fasting which was required during the Lenten season, the preparation for the holy festival of Easter. So it was a bit of a celebration day. The faithful were encouraged to make it even more special by attending services at their 'mother church', the place of worship where they were baptised. That might have involved travelling home for the day. 

In the Middle Ages, the Mass or church service on that fourth Sunday in Lent included several references to mothers, and so the day became one also to celebrate not just the 'mother church' but mothers in particular.

The tradition of coming 'home' to church on this day lasted for centuries. By the mid 17th century this annual journey had become known as 'mothering'. And traditions developed down the years. Mothering Sunday became a day when servants, especially those working in domestic service in big houses, were given this day off to go home to see their mothers and family members ... and attend church, of course.

From 1908 in the USA a 'Mother's Day' was introduced as a way of honouring motherhood, although this was being celebrated on the second Sunday in May. And in the UK, perhaps not coincidentally, something called the Mothering Sunday Movement was created in the UK in the early years of the 20th century, to try to revive the importance of the day.  

By the 1950s Mothering Sunday was being celebrated across the British Isles and the Commonwealth, still on the fourth Sunday in Lent, and that's where it remains to this day.

But increasingly, the day has lost it's spiritual context and the American influence means it's now almost exclusively called 'Mother's Day' ... hence my annual rummage in card shops.

And like in the USA, the day has become more and more commercialised. Cards, flowers, chocolates and other treats are bought in vast quantities. Lovely, but expensive.

Nowadays, including in the church, the day has also become a time not just to celebrate people who are actually  'mothers' but those who are mother figures and it's sometimes also a general celebration of women and their achievements.

While Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day is a lovely day, it can be hard for some people. Those who yearn to be a parent, to give birth to their own children but have been unable to do so can find the annual celebration of 'mummies' really difficult. For those who have lost babies, even many years ago, this can be a very sad day. It can be a very poignant and painful day for people who've lost their mothers, and those who didn't have a strong and loving mother figure in their lives.

It's a complex day and I try never to forget that.

But today, if you'll let me I will just take a moment to thank my own Mum ... the best mother in the world.

On this Mothering Sunday I thank God for her. I thank her for all her love and for the many sacrifices she made for me and my brothers, and for just being an inspiration to me.  And I just want to say ... 

I love you Mum!


Bouônjour!

Today is International Mother Language Day.

So let me tell you about a language you may never have heard of.

It's called Jèrriais and it's the mother language of the island which I call home - Jersey in the Channel Islands.

So if you don't know where that is or what it is ... Jersey is an island within the British Isles (not the United Kingdom) and it's a self governing Crown Dependency.

Most importantly from the perspective of today's thought, Jersey is closer to France than England. Actually it lies just 12miles (19km) off the Normandy coast and around 100miles (160km) from the south coast of England. Most days, but especially on a good day, you can see the coast of France clearly from Jersey's East Coast!

Jerriais 2So, with France so close, it may be no surprise to hear that Jersey's mother tongue is a version of French. Jèrriais is an ancient form of the Norman Language. It's often called "Jersey French" or "Jersey Norman French" but this gives an impression that it's a dialect of French, a 'patois' - but it's not. It's a language in its own right. As is it's closest 'sister' - the native language of nearby island Guernsey - Guernésiais - and the other Norman languages including those across the water in France. And the language of SarkSercquiais, is descended from  the Jèrriais brought by the Jersey colonists who settled Sark in the 16th century. There's a commonality between Jèrriais and those Norman languages and there's a growing relationship between the speakers of these languages, all of which are in danger of dying out, but they are all different languages.

Over the last few years working at BBC Radio Jersey, the local station for the island, I've connected with the Jèrriais-speaking community. Every week, at the moment, I work with native speakers who record a weekly 'letter' - La Lettre Jèrriaise - which is broadcast just before 7am on a Saturday morning and is also posted online on a special languages podcast called 'Voices'. You can also get it via the Learn Jèrriais website,

In 2019 I made a radio series to coincide with the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, when I worked with the Jèrriais teachers at the L'Office du Jèrriais. I learnt 20 phrases in Jersey's mother tongue.

It was a challenge, but it was fun, and more importantly it helped me to reconnect with my own family history, and my own Dad who was native Jèrriais speaker. Although he didn't teach us the language - my mum was not a Jèrriais speaker - I remember hearing him speak the language with his family - my aunts and uncles.

That was common in the mid 20th century, when the language had fallen into decline.

What I've learned is until the 19th century, Jèrriais was used as an everyday language by the majority of people living in Jersey and even up to the beginning of the Second World War more than half of the population could speak the language. In fact, it was often used during the Occupation of Jersey 1940-1945 when the German enemy occupied Jersey and the other Channel Islands - it was not understood by French or German speakers!

But Jèrriais was consistently falling out of favour, with English becoming the dominant language. It was no longer used in schools, or business. French and English was used in the law, but not Jèrriais. Eventually it's decline was such that it is now officially listed as one of the world's endangered languages!

However, in recent years Jèrriais has had a resurgence. There's been investment in education, and it's now taught in local schools, and adult classes and conversation groups are also held. The teachers and the L'Office du Jèrriais are central to that, and there's also now a Jèrriais promotion officer for Jersey Heritage.

In 2019 the States of Jersey (the Government of Jersey) voted to put Jèrriais on signs when they next need to be replaced, with English translations underneath. It's also now an official language in the States Assembly alongside English and French.

This is all really down to the persistence of native language speakers. Down the years, stalwarts of the language made great efforts to keep it alive. in 1912, thJersey Eisteddfod introduced a Jèrriais section - that still exists today. The L'Assembliée d'Jèrriais was founded in 1951 and they launched a quarterly magazine a year later. The Le Don Balleine Trust  was established in accordance with the will of Arthur E. Balleine (1864–1943), in which he left funds for the promotion of the language.

Jèrriais dictionaries go back to the 19th century but in 1966 the Dictionnaire Jersiais–Français was published to mark the 900th anniversary of the Norman Conquest of England, based on meticulous research by Frank Le Maistre, who's family are still champions of the Jèrriais speaking community. This was followed by a Jèrriais–English dictionary, Dictionnaithe Jèrriais-Angliais.

Another individual who did a huge amount to promote the language was a certain George d'la Forge. 

Jerrias book coverGeorge was born in Jersey but after the First World War moved to the USA and became a successful businessman. But he had been raised speaking Jèrriais, and never forgot it. After he took early retirement in 1946 he returned to Jersey for a holiday, and later spent months every year in the island. He was a prolific writer in the Jèrriais language, and took the pen name 'George d'la Forge' based on the home he lived in as a youngster. He wrote around 900 articles for the Jersey Evening Post and also contributed to many other native language publications.

George's surname was Le Feuvre - and he was a distant cousin of my father. As a young child, I remember visiting 'La Forge' when 'Uncle George' was spending a summer in Jersey, and living as he always did in his very basic small family cottage. Later, when we were living in Kenya in East Africa Uncle George visited us. I remember then my Dad and him chatting away in this strange language, which I sort of recognised as French, but not. Jerriais 1

Uncle George d'la Forge was a great man and in recent years, at a book sale, I managed to get hold of a bound copy of some of his articles.

One day, when I've learned a bit more of the language,  I'll read it in Jersey's language, the mother tongue of my father and my family down the centuries.

Meanwhile, I'll make do with the few phrases I know and which I learned during the 20 in 2019 challenge. If you fancy learning a bit start by going to Learn Jèrriais (learnjerriais.org.je)

The title of this piece is 'Bouônjour'  which, if you know any French at all, you'll recognise as being similar to 'bonjour'... hello!

But I'll end with this sign-off ...

À bétôt  - Goodbye

À la préchaine - Till the next time!