I must be honest I'm quite looking forward to the Autumn now. The new school year has begun and I can get back into a routine. The school run certainly gets me going in the morning and it's good to plan my week ahead. John is now semi retired - working three days a week so our time is shared between things that need doing against things we want to do and therefore plans are afoot to make for a smooth transition.
In a recent post I touched upon my French connection and as several people wanted to know more I thought I'd fill you in with a bit of my family history.
My grandmother Alice Aurelie Victorine Mercier
was born and brought up in Valenciennes in 1899. Quite a small town compared to today's sprawling city in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
My grandfather, William Wells was in the Motor Cycle Corps of the Royal Engineers during the first World War. In actual fact he had an avid interest in motor bikes prior to signing up and the 1911 census tells us that at 17 years old he was a Motor Cycle Improver. Anyway he signed up in 1914 and because of his interest he was able to take his own motor cycle with him to become one of the first motor cycle dispatch riders with the Royal Engineers prior to which this duty was carried out on horseback. Based in Mons, Belgium his job was to take messages and documents to and from the front line. It was on one of these journeys that he must have passed through Valenciennes on his way back to Mons - about 20 miles away.
Now - my grandmother Alice's parents owned a Boulangerie Patisserie shop in the Rue de Quesnoy in Valenciennes and it can only be surmised that William met Alice when he walked into the shop to purchase some freshly baked bread perhaps.
Alice's father, Alphonse Romaine MERCIER was born in the area around 1865
and he met and married Victorine Elizabeth Marie CARON born 1865
(standing here in the cobbled courtyard behind their shop)
Not a lot is known about my great grandparents. To try and trace family in France is no mean feat, especially if you cannot speak the language! No not a word!!!
Many years ago my late mum gave me an old box with some very dirty silver spoons, which she told me came from her mother Alice. As per usual this got stashed away in my loft and moved from house to house over the last forty years. However, in one of my "lets sort the loft out" days, it got brought back down again. I attempted to clean the silver and at least four of them were engraved with some initials. Didn't think much about it until I started writing this post! I don't know if you can see clearly but the initials are a very ornate M and C - the surnames of my French great grandparents Romaine MERCIER and Victorine CARON.
Again, I hadn't really taken much notice of the box but when I took the spoons out I noticed a piece of dried heather and a dried rosebud. My guess is that this was a wedding present for Alphonse and Victorine when they married around the mid 1890s. A gift possibly from one of their parents - who alas I know nothing about.
Anyway back to Alice and William.
It is unknown whether William returned to England with his regiment or stayed behind but they courted for a few years before marrying in 1922 - firstly in the Hotel de Ville - the local town hall and then they went to their local Church the Notre-Dame-du-Saint-Cordon which looked quite a grand affair.
William took Alice back home to England where they settled in Middlesex. Mum was born in 1925 and shortly after, my Uncle Jack - the rest is history - for another day perhaps.
I hope you enjoyed this little story of my French roots.
See you soon x