Introducing Mr Bones - Of Jones-the-Bones, Mrs Bones and the Welsh-speaking tribes of Brittany - CycleBlaze

Introducing Mr Bones

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Graham SmithLéo I have fond memories of cycle touring in Brittany in 1989 with my wife. It was our final stretch of Europe on our ride from Istanbul.

I had no idea of its history so thanks for that summary. It did look and feel very different to other French regions. And the crépes were worth the 6 month ride from Turkey.
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7 months ago

I HAVE a friend called Jones-the-Bones. That's not what his mother called him, of course, though she may have guessed at something of the sort. So many people in Wales are called Jones, you see, that that's how they pick them out: Jones-the-bread, Jones-the-post and, if you're a surgeon, Jones-the-bones.

The point of this is that Bones and Mrs Bones - for both of whom their first language is Welsh - came to Brittany and understood everyone. Not when they spoke French but when they spoke Breton, the old language that lives on especially with cider mugs to hand.

And that's because Breton and Welsh are the same language. And because Brittany is called Brittany.

Years back, you see, a particularly unpleasant group of Scandinavians pitched up in what is now England and, like Britons ever since, regarded the inhabitants and not themselves as foreigners. They were called the Angles and such was their conceit that they named their new country Angle-land, or England.

"Welsh" was their word for a foreigner, not a nationality. And the "welsh" fled westward until the Angles couldn't be bothered to chase further and some took to their boats and sailed south until they arrived in what is now France. This new, little Britain became Bretagne and the big place they'd left, Grande Bretagne. In modern times, that became known as Great Britain ("great" as in large and not the more modern Americanism).

To get to the point, Welsh-speakers understand Breton-speakers if they keep their wits about them because they share a language even if the words and grammar have changed with time.

You still see that language here on the north coast. We are in Morlaix after four trains and a night in a hotel at Bordeaux. The road signs are in French and Breton and the villages all around have consonants and even apostrophes unknown elsewhere.

And why are we here? Because we've never been. To the southern Brittany coast, yes, and there the hills still roll but the soil is sandier and the gradients hard but rounded. The land flows to the sea rather than tumble to it vertically.

The north coast is no distance at all, unless you ride it, of course, but there's little similarity.

A Eurovélo route runs the way we want to go, probably as far as St-Brieuc and, we hope, on silent lanes and unsurfaced paths.

Beaj vat, as they say in Breton and perhaps the sheepier districts of Wales. Or bon voyage as we say everywhere else.

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Keith AdamsWoo hoo! Off we go for another of Leo's grand narratives.

I have my popcorn and lap blanket at the ready, and am settled comfortably in my favorite chair awaiting further instalments.
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1 year ago
Gregory GarceauIf I learn nothing else from your journal (which I'm sure I will) I now know why Star Trek's Dr. McCoy was called "Bones."
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1 year ago