Barfleur

Tuesday, 29th July 2014

This was to be my last day on French soil for this particular expedition, with a place on the ferry booked for the 17:00 sailing and check-in an hour earlier. Plenty of time, then, to zoom across to Barfleur. Like those other two “fleurs” I’ve already mentioned – Honfleur and Harfleur – Barfleur was an important and a famous port in its day. Perhaps the most famous person to set sail from here was one William of Normandy who, with some of his friends, had an away match in England, as told by Marriott Edgar:

I’ll tell of the Battle of Hastings,
As happened in days long gone by,
When Duke William became King of England,
And ‘Arold got shot in the eye.

It were this way – one day in October
The Duke, who were always a toff
Having no battles on at the moment,
Had given his lads a day off.

They’d all taken boats to go fishing,
When some chap in t’ Conqueror’s ear
Said ‘Let’s go and put breeze up the Saxons;’
Said Bill – ‘By gum, that’s an idea.’

Then turning around to his soldiers,
He lifted his big Norman voice,
Shouting – ‘Hands up who’s coming to England.’
That was swank ‘cos they hadn’t no choice.

They started away about tea-time –
The sea was so calm and so still,
And at quarter to ten the next morning
They arrived at a place called Bexhill.

King ‘Arold came up as they landed –
His face full of venom and ‘ate –
He said ‘lf you’ve come for t’Regatta
You’ve got here just six weeks too late.’

At this William rose, cool but ‘aughty,
And said ‘Give us none of your cheek;
You’d best have your throne re-upholstered,
I’ll be wanting to use it next week.’

When ‘Arold heard this ‘ere defiance,
With rage he turned purple and blue,
And shouted some rude words in Saxon,
To which William answered – ‘And you.’

‘Twere a beautiful day for a battle;
The Normans set off with a will,
And when both sides was duly assembled,
They tossed for the top of the hill.

King ‘Arold he won the advantage,
On the hill-top he took up his stand,
With his knaves and his cads all around him,
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.

The Normans had nowt in their favour,
Their chance of a victory seemed small,
For the slope of the field were against them,
And the wind in their faces an’ all.

The kick-off were sharp at two-thirty,
And soon as the whistle had went
Both sides started banging each other
‘Til the swineherds could hear them in Kent.

The Saxons had best line of forwards,
Well armed both with buckler and sword –
But the Normans had best combination,
And when half-time came neither had scored.

So the Duke called his cohorts together
And said – ‘Let’s pretend that we’re beat,
Once we get Saxons down on the level
We’ll cut off their means of retreat.’

So they ran – and the Saxons ran after,
Just exactly as William had planned,
Leaving ‘Arold alone on the hill-top
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.

When the Conqueror saw what had happened,
A bow and an arrow he drew;
He went right up to ‘Arold and shot him.
He were off-side, but what could they do?

The Normans turned round in a fury,
And gave back both parry and thrust,
Till the fight were all over bar shouting,
And you couldn’t see Saxons for dust.

And after the battle were over
They found ‘Arold so stately and grand,
Sitting there with an eye-full of arrow
On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and.

Nowadays, Barfleur is a working fishing port so a stroll along the quayside was in order. There was as I’ve come to expect, a small street market available:

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I came across this poster advertising the “10th summer of music in Barfleur” which listed the concerts available. You’ll be able to gather from the works listed that this was an ambitious programme for a small village, and even included a Russian Male-voice Choir:

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After an enjoyable couple of hours it was time to return to Cherbourg for some lunch. I then intended to explore a bit more of the town but became snarled up in the holiday traffic and roadworks so decided to head for the ferry instead as time was ticking by. The return trip to Blighty was courtesy of Brittany Ferries’ catamaran Normandie Express:

Arriving in Portsmouth at 19:00 it was a fairly quick passage through the port formalities then onto the motorway system for the trip up to Rugby where I was having an overnight stay at my sister’s house, though they were on holiday so I had the place to myself. Next day, Wednesday, it was the remainder of the trip home and the conclusion of another excellent expedition. So farewell to France for the time being.

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