3. Jun, 2022

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FRIDAY 3-06-22

I didn't sleep very well last night. At about 01:30 for about an hour there was quite a lot of noise out in the town somewhere. It sounded like drums banging in a procession and some noisy Yoof following on. Why the hell anybody in their right minds would want to be out and about at that time of day is beyond me.

We awoke to a grey day with little to look forward to as thunderstorms were forecast today from times varying from about 11:00 to 13:00.

We made the effort to get out at a reasonable time for a look round before it rained. Things seemed familiar, too familiar. In the end The Chef announced that we had been here before. After much brain storming we concluded that we had visited here on our way back from the Loire Valley back in September 2014, just after I retired. That was rather annoying because we had a choice of two places to visit coming this way, Dinan, or here at Fougeres and it looks like we chose the wrong one, made worse by the fact that the last time we we were here the sun was shining. It doesn't appear on the blog because I didn't decide to create it until we returned from Istanbul in 2015.

So a bit about Fougeres:

The creation of Fougères dates back to the Middle Ages. The Château de Fougères was first mentioned around the end of the 10th century. At the time, it was a simple wooden fortification located on a rocky ridge, whose position favourably dominated the Nancon Valley and the surrounding marshes. Fougères was at the crossing of two Roman roads, one from Chartres to Carhaix and the other from Avranches to Nantes. From the 12th century, the population moved away from the shore of the Nançon and the city grew in size, divided into two parishes: Saint-Sulpice for the lower town and Saint-Léonard for the upper town. Since the Middle Ages, crafts developed around tannery, weavers and drapers in the lower town.

Built in the 11th century by the lords of Fougères, the first fortification, defended by Raoul II (1130–1194), was taken by Henrry II of England in 1166 and destroyed. Raoul II stubbornly rebuilt a more imposing structure and it became a stronghold defending the borders of Brittany from Mont Saint-Michel to Nantes. However, the geographical position and the interests of the lords of Fougères often tipped in favour of the Kingdom of France. When Raoul III offered its possession to Louis IX of France, the Breton prince Pierre Mauclerc captured the city in 1231, which was re-captured by the king. The daughter of Raoul III, Jeanne de Fougères, who married Hugh XII of Lusignan, undertook new fortification work and beautified the city. The end of the 13th century was a period of peace and prosperity for Fougères.

In 1307, Philip Iv of France bought the domain but the Kingdom of France was not interested and did not maintain it. After various fights and reversals of alliances, Bertrand du Guesclin entered in 1373, but the situation did not improve. Abandoned and ravaged by pillaging, the population of Fougères requested assistance from the Duchy of Brittany and the town joined the duchy in 1428, sold by John II of Alencon. However, in 1449, a man named Francois de Surienne an Aragonese mercenary at the service of the English, captured and sacked the town in an attempt to force Brittany to ally with England. There were many massacres, which caused a reaction from Francis I, Duke of Brittany, determined to get rid of the English. The Duke of Brittany allied with Charles VII of France and attacked the south of Normany laying siege to Fougères. Surienne and his men were, however, able to resist and surrendered on the condition of being able to walk free. This episode announced the Battle of Formigny. Finally, the French general La Trémoille seized Fougères in 1488, during the Mad War.

Little by little, industry replaced crafts and Fougères saw the establishment of shoe manufacturers. In the winter of 1906–07, workers went on strike in the shoe factories and in response, managers organised a lockout. Solidarity was very strong in the city ("Communist" soups to feed the strikers without family income) but also beyond: Children were welcomed by Rennes and Parisian families during conflicts. Jean Jaurès came to Fougères to support the movement.

Glassware production had also existed in the Fougères area since the arrival of Italian glass masters in the 16th and 17th centuries. The installation of this industry is explained by the presence of a sandy soil (since sand is the main component of glass), a forest (since sand needs to be melted) and ferns (soda-rich plants). A glass factory existed on the outskirts of the town (Laignelet), which flourished in the 19th century. However, following social demands in 1921, religious unionism was mobilised and a new Fougères glass factory: La Cristallerie Fougeraise, was founded by Abbot Bridel, as well as a working town later in 1922, designed by the architect Hyacinthe Perrin, to accommodate staff.

The 20th century was marked by the terrible British and American bombing on 8 June 1944, during ‘Operation Overlord’, which killed 300 people, injured twice as many, and destroyed most of the public and industrial facilities. Since then, the town has largely been open to tourism, thanks to its medieval castle and its historic districts. From the 1970s, industry has been diverse: food processing, furniture, mechanical, glass, electronics, computing, and robotics.

So we wandered around, and around, with me taking rather grey pictures, and The Chef buying a very nice baguette from the small Carrefour shop in town. Fortunately I'd taken my backpack with the waterproofs and folding umbrellas in because it began raining quite heavily about halfway round our little saunter. Luckily there was a large bandstand we could take shelter under.

Once home we enjoyed our lunch, and then were pretty much forced to spend much of the afternoon reading and listening to music fed from the MP3 player (the same one we took to America in 2008 with very few additional albums added (good music never dies)) through the sound bar under the TV which is hardly ever used.

There was a break in the weather a bit later on, but by the time we'd got our mac on and I'd been to the loo, it had started to rain again, so off with the macs and we settled for a coffee instead.

We did eventually get out in what was a nice sunny spell for another wander to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.

This evening so far has been spent doing crossword puzzles and enjoying The Chef's fine dining experience, all whilst enjoying more great music.

So it's our wonderful Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee celebrations this extra-long weekend. I'm rather pleased we're not back home to get caught up in it all, but I felt that now might be an appropriate time to share three 'Royal' experiences I had during my long and happy career in the NHS Emergency Ambulance Service, plus an additional family connection

My first experience, which should really be plural, because Prince Philip in his role as Chancellor of Cambridge University would very often fly himself in to 'The Backs' of the colleges, and other sites across the city, on a Queen's Flight Wessex helicopter. This was in the 1980's. I've no idea how much these jaunts cost the taxpayer, but the RAF would have to have a six-wheeled Range Rover fire tender in attendance at both take off and landing points, which means two vehicles. The problem was that Prince Philip didn't like seeing the ambulance and fire tender in attendance as he came in to land, I suppose it spooked him, and so we had to hide under trees or behind buildings as best we could.

My second experience was having the honour of being nominated by my boss, the Cambridgeshire Chief Ambulance Officer, Tim Rawlinson, a great boss who respected his staff and in return was respected by them, to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

I can't remember which year it was, I think it was about 1992, but my daughters mother 'J' and I had a wonderful day attending the garden party. Something we peasants rarely have the privilege to experience.

Tonight, with this being the Queen's Jubilee Special Edition, I shall share for the first time a picture of myself together with 'J', shared with her permission. My final experience goes back to the days when Prince Edward was a student at Jesus College in Cambridge.

My colleague and I, who I believe was my regular crewmate at the time, Pete C, were called to attend the college because somebody had fallen out of a window.

Sure enough there on the ground was a drunk student lying on the ground. I don't recall that he had fallen very far. Anyhow, things got a bit interesting because in attendance was Prince Edward and his personal protection officer who was rendering assistance. The student wasn't badly hurt (it is a sad fact that drunken drivers etc survive an accident better than those they have maimed because they are more relaxed at the moment of impact), but was being a nuisence so due to the delicate situation we decided to take him to hospital just to get him out of the way as much as anything else.

My colleague Pete stayed with the patient whilst Prince Edward, on his own, came with me to assist with the unloading of the stretcher. There was just the two of us. There was nobody else about, and I was SOoooo tempted to say to him "I know your mum don't I?" Just to see how it went down. I thought I'll never get another chance to say it in my whole life. It was right on the tip of my tongue, but I chickened out. I had a family at home and a mortgage to pay and couldn't afford to have it all gone wrong on me and find myself without a job.

So there you go. The sum total of my 'Royal connections'.

The additional family connection to the Royal Family, and better still, to her majesty herself was through my youngest daughter Nicola, who in 1992 became the Royal Navy's first, and only 'Female Button Boy'. In 1993, the story goes, her majesty had heard there was a girl who could now climb the mast and she would like to see her perform at that year's Royal Tournament in London.

Because of that Nicola was 'asked' to leave her training course down in Cornwall and join the 1993 Mast Manning Team. She was to have climbed for all the Royal visitors including prince Charles and Princess Diana. However, she sustained an arm injury and was prevented from climbing - except for just one performance, the one for Her Majesty. Even though she was still signed off sick her team agreed to let her climb without the knowledge of the RAF doctor who had signed her off. That was a very scary performance for her mother and I as we had seen how the mast shook badly during a photo-call for the press in the afternoon before the performance, that, coupled with her arm injury had us sitting on our seats.

To this day she is the only female to have accomplished the role, and is likely to remain the only Female Button Boy, because in about 1996 whilst decending the rope from the button at the Royal Suffolk Show, the Button Boy froze part way down before eventually falling to the ground, sustaining life-changing injuries. The team was disbanded and the mast stored away. I doubt there will ever be any more Mast Manning display's due to the danger involved.

We now have the thunderstorms as promised. Tomorrow we move on. I estimate we'll be home some time next weekend, but who knows?