PAST EVENTS 2017
Many images can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Sunday 17 December 2017 - at The Cosener's House, Abbey Close
The annual Christmas lunch at The Cosener's House on Sunday December 17th was again a great success. There were four tables each with the name of one of our twin towns. The food was excellent, and people amused themselves with the traditional British Christmas activities such as opening Christmas crackers, laughing at the corny jokes, and wearing silly paper hats. Coffee and minced pies were, this year, served in the bar, which gave everyone the chance to mingle and socialise after as well as before the meal.
Evening Meeting - Christmas in our Twin Towns
Wednesday 15 November 2017 - at Preston Road Community Centre
We wondered how people in our twin towns celebrate Christmas? Many of us know that not all of them celebrate as we do in the UK on Christmas Day and, indeed, some focus their celebrations on other days.
So five of our members, joined by Gwen, originally from Argentan but now working in Bristol, explained what happens during the Christmas period in each of our twin towns. The talks were interesting and enlightening and, of course, supported by appropriate food and refreshments, including Susan’s homemade Stollen recipe.
A very enjoyable evening.
Sunday 12 November 2017 - 11am at The Square
This year we invited Siegfried Watershoot and his wife Marina, representatives from our twin town of Sint-Niklaas, to join ADTTS in laying wreaths at the War Memorial.
Evening Meeting - 800 Years of Sint-Niklaas
Wednesday 18 October 2017 - at Preston Road Community Centre
At our October meeting we were delighted to welcome as our guests, Lieven Dehandschutter, the Mayor of Sint-Niklaas, and his wife Erika. The Mayor had kindly offered to talk at our meeting about 800 years of history of Sint-Niklaas, which is currently being celebrated. As well as some familiar features of our twin town such as the annual balloon festival, the splendid town hall and the art deco quarter, the presentation covered modern developments of the large market place, main shopping street and railway station. Many photographs from past times illustrated some of the local history. Lieven also included pictures he had taken from a balloon flight over the town. Much interest was shown in his description of the annual celebration on the eve of the feast of Saint Nicholas (6th December) of the arrival of Sinterklaas and his rascally accomplice Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), who bring presents to children. The evening concluded with characteristic Belgian fare: waffles, frites with mayonnaise and Belgian beer.
That morning, Lieven had spoken to about 300 children at St Nicolas School, answering their many questions. It was the then headmaster of St Nicolas school who fifty years ago initiated the twinning between Abingdon and Sint-Niklaas. Lieven then toured Abingdon with our Mayor, Jan Morter, and met some members of ADTTS for lunch at the Nag's Head. Earlier in the evening our guest had the opportunity to address the Abingdon Town Council on the subject of twinning.
Gourmet Week in Argentan
9 - 12 October 2017
In the end, only four of us went to Argentan to celebrate the week. Having discussed various means of getting there, our travel agent settled on an overnight sailing from Portsmouth, so John booked the ferries, and I sorted out the taxis.
We had a very good journey, and after a good but rather short night’s sleep we arrived safely at Ouistreham, where we were greeted by Pierre and Ionie Sillière and Father Leger, who drove us through the dawn and fog to the Sillières’ home in Argentan.
There, we ate a huge breakfast of croissants, fruit pastries and coffee provided very generously by the Cercle Jumelage. More and more people arrived to view the foreigners and discuss Brexit with us, then Susan and Brian Read and John Smith went to their host families’ homes, while I stayed put.
We all met after lunch for an extended tour of St Germaine’s Church, where we were very disappointed to learn that the wooden carving we had given the church had been damaged. Fortunately it is now being repaired. Apparently there have been several break ins recently.
The next day, Tuesday, was Market Day, so we were given an exhaustive tour of all the stalls, with quite a lot of samplings of the local produce. It was lovely to bump into people who had hosted us on previous visits. We then bought sausage galettes and took them to eat in a bar, where guess what was discussed!
In the afternoon we were taken to a Logis just outside the town for a cookery demonstration funded by the Cercle. It was in Le Faisan Doré, which is reputably one of the best restaurants in Orne County. Certainly, the Chef, Catherine Coiffard, who runs the establishment with her husband, provided us with a wonderful meal.
We began by helping to cut vegetables into matchsticks, she just stood and watched! Those vegetables were incorporated into the filling for samosas, which we then attempted to construct from strips of Brick (a bit like Filo pastry) with some difficulty and great hilarity. She then cooked chicken in heavily reduced cream, with parsnips and swede, and apple tarts. There was a lot of flambéing in Calvados involved!
We then ate the beautifully presented meal, washed down with Normandy cider.
Wednesday morning was free (i.e. shopping) then in the afternoon we visited a multi-media Centre, the Médiathèque, of which the town is justly proud. I suppose the nearest thing we have to it is a library, but it contained much more than mere books.
We left Argentan on Thursday morning, and were entertained, once again through the generosity of the twinning organisation, to a very good lunch in Ouistreham before being driven to the nearby port, where we said our farewells to our hosts, thanking them for their generous hospitality, and hoping to return soon.
Visit to Le Faisan Doré Restaurant, October 2017
On Tuesday 10th October, the highlight of our Gourmet Week in Argentan was a workshop and tasting of a typical Norman menu.
I had expected to be present at a cookery demonstration together with hundreds of others, with the cooking taking place on a distant stage and tiny samples of the food produced being handed out. But instead I found that this was a far more intimate affair in the restaurant kitchen with just the head chef, Catherine, her apprentice chef, the four of us from Abingdon (John, Brian, Sue and me), Josiane Douet (taking Maggie’s place since she was sadly unable to come with us to France) and Ionie Sillière.
We were glad to be encouraged to assist Catherine with the preparation of the food. So after a quick demonstration, we were all happily preparing a variety of vegetables in various carefully crafted shapes.
The first course was samosas filled with wild mushrooms. Catherine created a lovely filling for the samosas out of mushrooms and vegetables. Then she demonstrated how to use thin leaves of brick (like thin pancakes) to enfold small amounts of the filling. We all had a go at making the samosas with greater and lesser success. Just before we ate, Catherine fried them gently in butter to complete their cooking.
The main course consisted of chicken breast pieces in a lovely creamy sauce together with parsnip and swedes. There was generous use of Calvados and spectacular flambés to ensure the delicious flavour of the food.
The Apple pastries for dessert were based on squares of puff pastry (made by the apprentice the day before). They were topped by a small amount of apple puree and big piece of cooking apple rolled in brown sugar. The corners of the squares were folded in and brushed with apricot jam before baking.
The best part of the meal was the eating. We were given generous portions of the wonderful full three course meal, washed down with local cider. We ate with great enjoyment, as we stood in the kitchen.
Many thanks to Ionie and Pierre Sillière, who had arranged this splendid afternoon and feast. Thanks are also due to the owner and head chef of Le Faisan Doré, one of the top restaurants in Normandy, Catherine and Philippe Coiffard, who hosted our party. It was the experience of a lifetime!
Evening Meeting and AGM
Wednesday 20 September 2017 - at Preston Road Community Centre
Our first Wednesday meeting of the new season was on 20th September when we held our AGM. The meeting followed the customary procedure with Officers’ reports on another very busy year from the Chairman, Stella Carter, and the Secretary, John Smith. Responsible for the annual accounts were our joint Treasurers, Ian and Rosemary Jardine. These showed an encouraging trend of reducing costs in recent years, though hosting visits from our twin towns still does eat into the reserves.
In the elections, the Officers retained their posts. Stepping down from the Committee were Gloria Tolputt and Michaele Philbin. Janet Howe and Norma Queralt were elected in their place. The other members of the Committee were re-elected: Philip Addison, Peter Dodd, Nikki Henton, Michael Matthews (Vice President), Linda Phillips, Brian Read (Vice Chairman) and Richard Smart. One or two other members who are interested in the work of the Committee will be invited to attend taster meetings.
In other business, we had a report on the Church in Abingdon twinning activities, including their June visit to Sint-Niklaas. Richard Smart gave notice of three events next year: the cyclists’ return visit to Argentan in May, an ADTTS trip to Argentan for the Bastille Day weekend, and a canoe camping jaunt on the Thames for guests from the twin towns.
After a brief review of the year as recorded on the website, the meeting concluded very sociably with cheese and wine served by the loyal catering team.
Walking Weekend in Colmar
6 - 10 September 2017
LES AMIS DU JUMELAGE DE COLMAR organised a 3-day walk in the Vosges for September 2017, to which people from their twin towns were invited. We had two participants from Abingdon. There were three full days of hill walking, staying overnight in mountain huts. Details of the programme may be found in the May Newsletter.
On September 5th Dawn Torgesen and myself set off from Luton airport to Basel armed with our rucksacks and wearing our walking boots (hand luggage only). We had a very easy flight and transferred for a ten minute bus ride to St. Louis station for the 40 minute train ride through Mulhouse to Colmar. David Mallen and his wife Marie-Hélène met us at the station and took us to the hotel that we had booked as we didn't want to inconvenience anyone by our early arrival.
The following day after seeing the sights we were greeted by a reception at the town hall and met the French walkers, our leader Robert and two friends from Schongau. We were invited to dinner at David's where we met Bernadette, our future very hospitable host, and Christiane and Gerard, two of our travelling companions.
The next day David again picked us up and we met the group behind the station for the bus to Kaysersberg, a beautiful town to start our walk. The walking was in beautiful countryside. At every coffee stop someone would turn up with coffee and home made cakes. We stayed in a variety of lodgings, an auberge and a monastery. The food was wonderful. At each stop we tasted the local pudding and of course on the last night we had a lovely dinner hosted by the group where we enjoyed tarte flambée in a lovely restaurant.
Our bags were transported for us which wasn't what we were expecting but much better. The highlight for me was walking the Maginot Line and having the significance of the cemeteries and signs explained to us, a very moving sight.
All in all it was a wonderful experience and we look forward to meeting some of the group and our Schongau friends again in future visits. Our friends from Colmar and Schongàu wish to be remembered to you all.
Sint-Niklaas Twinning Weekend
4 - 7 August 2017 - Sint-Niklaas
Sint-Niklaas have recently announced the formation of their new twinning society “De Verzustering” (facebook). The aim is to encourage and to strengthen the ties between the twin towns, and they want to be the "go-between" for all possible twinning projects between the twin towns. The official/civic component of twinning will stay within the administration of the town.
Their first project was a mini adult twinning weekend celebrating the 800 years of Sint-Niklaas and the European Market. From Friday the 4th of August until Monday the 7th of August, they invited participants from each twin town to go to Sint-Niklaas for a twinning weekend, staying with host families. See the report below:
Twinning Visit to Sint-Niklaas, 4th-7th August 2017
Four ADTTS members went on a short twinning visit: Steve Quinton and Mags Ward, Nick Marsh, and Ian Jardine. We all stayed with host families.
Friday 4th We travelled to Sint-Niklaas, Steve, Mags and Ian by Eurostar. We were met by one of our hosts, Siegfried Waterschoot, at Brussels and he guided us to Sint-Niklaas by train. Nick flew in from a business meeting in Finland. Friday dinner was with the host families followed by a get together at the 'pub', music café Thalasa. The first of many Belgian beers! This gave us the opportunity to meet members of the newly formed Sint-Niklaas Twinning Association as well as friends from Colmar.
Saturday 5th Breakfast was with the host families followed by a guided tour of the Town Hall including the 'wedding' hall, the council chamber, and the bell tower with its mechanisms for the carillons. In the afternoon we visited the European Market - 150 stalls in the largest market square in Belgium. We bought Polish beer, German sausages and Croatian wine, and sampled many other delicacies including a lot of cheese, chocolate and British fudge. Ian also came across Anne & Helmut Vollman from Schongau who were manning a stall in the market promoting the attractions of their town. The evening meal was with the host families and then we met up again at the Cafe Conga - a pop up 'beach cafe' in the grounds of a school. Plenty of beer and wine was consumed and a discussion arose about which schools in Abingdon we should approach with the idea!
Sunday 6th The highlight of the morning was the inauguration of the new Twinning and Welcome sign in front of the station. Mayors from the twin towns attended including Jan Morter from Abingdon. The successful unveiling was followed by bubbly and crisps on the station forecourt. Lunch was at a local cafe and in the afternoon we had a very informative guided tour of the town with the emphasis on the cathedral and the local architecture. Drinks at the Concert Hall bar preceded our farewell evening meal with the hosts and mayors. The traditional 5-course Sunday dinner, funded by the local council, was excellent: smoked salmon, asparagus soup, roast beef, ice cream and coffee.
Monday 7th A final breakfast with our hosts and then the journey home - 8 hours door to door for those of us on Eurostar.
We all agreed that it was a great experience. We were brilliantly looked after and fed by our hosts, and we learnt a great deal about Sint-Niklaas and Belgian culture. What twinning is all about!
Steve Quinton and Mags Ward
Afternoon Tea - Abbey Buildings
Sunday 30 July 2017 - Abbey Buildings, Checker Walk
The scene was set- an Afternoon Tea set in the wonderful grounds of the Abbey Buildings. Equipped with a glass of pink bubbly, the guests were invited "to take a turn round the gardens" first before they were seated inside. Stella had indeed done us proud - the delicious delicate sandwiches, scones and very attractive small cakes so beautifully decorated were on a par with The Ritz and it was difficult to choose the next mouthful! All this washed down with a good English cup of tea or equivalent! As the tea progressed, the sound of the chattering voices lifted - chairs were turned round in order to talk to other neighbours close-by! Thanks to all members who helped to make the afternoon such a success and particularly to Stella for all her culinary skills and effort to make the afternoon possible.
Hopefully a new calendar arrangement for the future!
School Visit to Argentan
13 - 16 July 2017
Richard Smart organised a group of 42 students from John Mason school to visit Argentan for the Bastille Day celebrations.
Posted 20th July 2017 on the Facebook page of Cercle Jumelage Europe Argentan:
Pour la 2ème année de jeunes anglais d'Abingdon ont participé à une initiation à la pétanque au plan d'eau à l'occasion de la fête des pâtures. Encadré par des enseignants des différentes écoles, les jeunes britanniques ont découvert la région pendant trois jours et accompagné le défilé du 14 Juillet. Pour l'anecdote victoire de Louis Bound et son binôme Lionel Messi.
Abingdon "Language" Week
1 - 8 July 2017
But we still had nine people come to Abingdon for the week, five from Schongau and four from Sint-Niklaas. Each visitor stayed with a host family and there were opportunities for ADTTS members to meet up with our guests, and to host them for a meal.
The week went very well with excellent weather and with trips and activities all within the general role of twinning which is to meet with people from other countries and to learn from them and to understand each other. But probably the best way to describe the week is in the reports that we have received from some of our visitors. We can learn much from what they say.
From Marie-Louise Vlegels, Sint-Niklaas, België:
Saturday July 1st
Sunday July 2nd
Monday July 3rd
Tuesday July 4th
Wednesday July 5th
Thursday July 6th
Friday July 7th
Saturday July 8th
From Emil Russ, Schongau, Bavaria:
Waiting for our plane on the way back we talked about the week and we all had the same opinion: it was a brilliant week.
What we especially liked:
Emil and the girls of Schongau
From Vera Lukas, Schongau, Bavaria:
Additional to Emil’s Report I would like to say, that we also found, that we were not sad about the cancellation of the language course.
But it would be a welcome offer to give us the one or another hour with some English grammar lessons. Everybody of your group could give the instructions to us. There is no need of professional language teachers. And it is not necessary to have English lessons every day for 3 or 4 hours. We could for example read a short story together and afterwards talk about it
Evening Meeting - Summer Drinks Party
Wednesday 21 June 2017 - Longside, Thatham Road, Abingdon OX14 1QD
The summer solstice, 21st June, proved to be the ideal evening for the drinks party held at Michael Matthew’s house. Temperatures had soared during the day, so it was a welcome relief to sit in the shade of the tall trees in Michael’s lovely garden. Around 39 people came along and enjoyed a refreshing drink, some very tasty and unusual canapés and friendly conversation.
It was a lovely evening, and many thanks are due to Michael for letting us borrow his beautiful garden.
Youth Footballers Visit Argentan
9 - 12 June 2017
A youth team from Abingdon went to the traditional international football tournament organised by Argentan FC.
Posted 11th June 2017 on the Facebook page of Cercle Jumelage Europe Argentan:
You never walk alone! Ce week-end une équipe du Youth Abingdon Football Club complétée par des jouers de l'école John Mason était présente au tournoi organisé par le FC Argentan. Les jeunes footballeurs anglais de notre ville jumelée montent sur le podium en terminant 3ème sur 18 dans le tournoi U 15 remporté par la Maladrerie de Caen Merci aux dirigeants et bénévoles du club argentanais qui ont rendu cette journée possible. Les 12 jeunes joueurs anglais et les 5 accompagnateurs ont été ravis de l'accueil et agréablement surpris par la qualité des pelouses du stade Gérard Saint. A renouveler!
Argentan Cyclists Exchange Visit to Abingdon
2 - 5 June 2017
Photos of Sandford Lock, departure at Abingdon market place and one other place which I do not recognise.
SATURDAY 3RD JUNE Eight of the ten cyclists from Argentan arrived at my house at 9.30 am with their council provided minibus and trailer and sat around drinking coffee catching up on news while waiting for their host families to come and pick them up. They had come on the night ferry from Ouistreham and had not slept very well so were quite tired. Two more arrived later in the morning having come by train, they all went off for lunch with their host families and we met up at 2.00pm at the market square for a mellow 32 mile ride through beautiful Oxfordshire countryside culminating in coffee and cake at Aston Pottery.
We were late back which meant we started ten pin bowling a bit late and had to curtail it in order to really gorge ourselves at the OXY restaurant and then get back to Abingdon in time for the 'fun in the park' fireworks.
SUNDAY 4TH JUNE 9.00 departure from the market square for a 45 mile ride through some beautiful countryside culminating in coffee and cake at Waterperry. We got back to Abingdon with time for a brief rest before going to the Ratnages for a barbecue.
MONDAY 5TH JUNE 8.30 onwards cyclists gathered at my house and sorted out the trailer for a 10.30 departure.
A huge thank you to everyone who made this such a successful and enjoyable few days, in particular the Ratnages for their barbecue and hosting, all the host families, Dave Busby for organising the rides with the support of Abingdon Freewheelers and of course, the French for coming over.
They invite us to visit them next year, dates to be decided.
Church Twinning Visit to Sint-Niklaas
1 - 5 June 2017
A group of eleven representatives of 7 of the 13 churches in the Church in Abingdon went on a return visit to Sint-Niklaas at the beginning of June, along with a smaller number of our French, German and Italian twins, to join the celebrations of Sint-Niklaas’ 800 years of being a parish. As the theme of the weekend was ‘Solidarity in Times of Crisis’ the programme included visits to asylum and refugee centres and food banks, as well as the European Parliament, where we donned headphones in one of the small debating chambers to listen to a debate on the place of religion in the future of Europe, arranged specially for us.
I don’t think I was the only one to feel some trepidation on this my first visit to our twin towns since the referendum to leave the European Union, and we were certainly in for some, fortunately good-natured, teasing about our government’s stance, but we felt it was particularly important to show continued friendship at a personal and community level, and our choice of gift – a rose called Forever Friends – made the point for us.
We were certainly impressed by the energy and ideas of our very welcoming hosts, and the dedication of those people we met who are responding to the needs of refugees arriving in Sint-Niklaas, and of people struggling with poverty in the town. We heard at first hand the stories of two asylum seekers, a Syrian speaking in French and an Afghan speaking in English at the VLOS centre; at the Red Cross refuge we saw how a team of 20 workers plus seven volunteers help house 215 refugees in an old school, and heard a talk about numbers and trends in refugee welcome in Europe. We marvelled at the size of the foodbank called The Springboard, housed in a redundant church, and visited the community space where volunteers try to help clients make the leap out of poverty.
We also visited churches – Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches in Brussels as well as the Catholic and Protestant churches in Sint-Niklaas – and it was gratifying that our presence was the catalyst for bringing together people of different Christian traditions. Add to all this a fair amount of beer and chocolate consumption, Mercator of course, music and good company. (Hermann Cole led us all in ‘We’ll meet again’ at the last night social.) We even had time on the way home for a few reflective stops at WW1 sites: at Tyne Cot cemetery for troops who died at Paschendaele, at the ‘Yorkshire Trench’ surreally preserved in the middle of an industrial estate, and at Ypres itself.
A huge thank you to all our hosts, and the organising team in Sint-Niklaas! And to Astrid for driving, interpreting, and providing such enthusiastic leadership.
Wednesday 17 May 2017 - at Preston Road Community Centre
When we show visitors from our twin towns one of the oldest and most interesting buildings in Abingdon, we shall now be much better informed about St Ethelwold's House, thanks to an excellent talk given by Richard Clarke.
Richard showed us how the house grew from a modest 13th century dwelling into the fascinating present day mixture of medieval and Georgian building that we have today. I suspect many passers-by do not realise that behind the splendid classical mansion on East St Helen Street lies the fascinating older buildings which, when the best rooms were used by the family, housed the servants and domestic offices. Nor would many realise what a delightful garden there is, now open to the public at any time.
Richard also took us through the many uses the buildings had had over the centuries. You wouldn’t think sitting in the garden that it was once a brewery and later a coal yard. In the last century, it was rescued from a dilapidated state by the extraordinary Dorothea Pickering. For many years she ran a nursery school there and then had ambition for it to become the base for a monastic community. This is where St Ethelwold came in. He was a protégé of St Dunstan and then as Abbot charged with rebuilding St. Mary’s Abbey in Abingdon in the 10th century. Dorothea was a great admirer of the saint and although she didn’t manage to establish a religious community she ensured that the building was used, after her death, as a centre for meditation. It is now run by a trust, who as well as pursuing these aims, also make the building available for hire for meetings and events and also as a bed and breakfast resource.
Richard’s excellent presentation was followed by truly English refreshments - bread, cheese, pork pies, beer and Appletiser. A great evening. Thank you Richard.
Colmar Twinning Weekend
11 - 15 May 2017
Twinning weekends are always a great opportunity to stay with a host family and to meet not only the people from the host twin town but also to meet people from our other twin towns who are there. This weekend was no exception. There were visitors from Lucca, from Schongau and from Abingdon. Some people who we have met previously and some who we were meeting for the first time.
The theme for the weekend was “Ecology and Heritage” so the visits were based on that theme. We started with a tour of old Colmar with a guide, then had a civic reception, which was an opportunity to talk to people and, from our Abingdon point of view, talk about and discuss with them the various issues that they see from the viewpoint of Colmar looking into Abingdon and the UK. This happened a number of times over the weekend when we were asked about various issues such as the language course/Brexit/civic relationships and tried to explain what is happening, and why. Or tried to explain to the best of our understanding. We live in interesting and changing times!.
After an excellent lunch, it was off to a “site de tri des bouchons” (a recycling centre run by volunteers with income going to a children’s cancer hospital) followed by a tour of the old village of Turckheim. Of special mention over the next two days was an excellent picnic and walk in the nature reserve at the Alsatian Camargue, and a visit to Haut Koenigsbourg. An interesting weekend programme.
On a personal note, our flight to Basel/Basle from Gatwick, by EasyJet did not go to plan. We went via Paris. Someone on our plane had a stroke so we emergency landed at Paris (CdG) followed down the runway by fire engine, ambulance etc. and then spent 1.5 hours on the ground, in the plane, while things were sorted. Interesting to see that two armed policemen came outside the plane while we were there. Eventually we got to Basle/Basel to find that our very kind hosts had come to meet us. Thank you. It was most appreciated.
So, an excellent weekend, excellent hosts (thank you to our host, Georges, whose cooking was excellent) and good company. And thank you to all who were involved with this weekend.
Europe Day Meal
Tuesday 9 May 2017 - at The Kings Head & Bell, 10 East St Helen's Street
Europe day is celebrated all over Europe on May 9th – in some countries it is called Schumann Day. We always celebrate it with a dinner in Abingdon on a European theme and toast our friends in our twin towns.
This year was very special and we returned to the wonderful historic King Charles Room at the Kings Head & Bell pub where Gloria had done a lot of work with manageress Noreen to plan a meal which included European delights such as French boudin noir, Bavarian sausage, apple strudel and pain perdu (so we could practise our French).
Gloria had prepared the tables with European flags and while we were eating Brian had arranged a video presentation of scenes from previous visits to and from the twin towns. The food was delicious – thanks to chef Catherine, and it was a very enjoyable evening.
Thanks to all the staff at the Kings Head & Bell and especially to Gloria whose organisation and enthusiasm helped to make it an evening to remember.
See you all on Europe Day 2018, May 9th!
Argentan Visit to Abingdon and Wantage Tennis Clubs
28 April - 1 May 2017
Saturday 29th April I was having a leisurely breakfast, not expecting our eight French tennis playing guests to arrive until 9.30 am, when at 8.30 the doorbell rang and there they were. We drank lots of coffee and waited around for the English hosts to come and pick up their guests. We all then went to Wantage tennis club for some social tennis followed by lunch with host families. After lunch we had free time for our guests to settle in and relax or have a nap as they had had a very uncomfortable night on the Caen/Portsmouth ferry. Most people explored their area; my group went by bike on a tour of the most interesting bits of Abingdon.
At 5.45 we gathered at the Kassam for two games of bowling and a few beers. While my guest, Sebastien, was buying me a drink it gave me great pleasure to take his go for him and send both balls down the gutter, scuppering his chances of winning.
At 8.30 we enjoyed the buffet dinner at the OXY and by 11.00 everyone was ready for bed.
Sunday 30th April At 10.00 we gathered at Wantage where Chris Gray and Anne Jones had organised an 'American tournament', I do not recall who won but the French had brought three very strong players including Lucas, Normandy's number one. Our Jason Oliver, who is no slouch, said later that he felt pretty 'mediocre'. Wantage had laid on a sumptuous lunch, much appreciated by all.
After lunch we met at my house for a bike ride from Abingdon to Sandford for a drink at the King's Arms. On the way we saw a 'Real Tennis' match at Radley College and Radley Lake. A boatload of raucous football supporters provided the entertainment at the King's Arms and we got home in time to freshen up a bit before the first barbecue of the season at Abingdon tennis club, expertly provided by Bev Woodcock. In between eating and drinking people could play tennis, boules and pallets while listening to my tasteful choice of French music.
Monday 1st May We gathered at my house, drank coffee and played garden games until 11.00 when it was time for the French to depart for their ferry.
Many thanks to everyone involved, in particular Peter Bencok, Lucy, Steve Thompson, Anne Jones, Carolyn Blackmore, the Woodcocks and my neighbours who lent us bikes.
We thoroughly enjoyed their stay and look forward to seeing them next year when we go to Argentan.
Evening Meeting - Twin Towns Tipples
Wednesday 19 April 2017 - at Preston Road Community Centre
When we visit our twin towns, we inevitably get to enjoy the local food and drink. The intention of this evening's meeting was serve to refresh our memories, or, alternatively, whet our appetites for future visits. Ben from our local Majestic Wine Warehouse came and conducted a tasting of their relevant stock. We challenged them to offer us an example or two of drinks characteristic of each of our five twin towns and indeed it turned out to be an interesting and enjoyable evening!
We started the tasting by comparing two rather different lager beers: Vedett Blond and Paulaner Original (Münchner Hell). The Belgian Vedett beer is from the Duvel Moortgat brewery, twenty kilometres southeast of Sint-Niklaas. For Schongau in Bavaria, we had Paulaner, one of the "big six" breweries in Munich that supply the Oktoberfest.
Moving on to wines, perhaps the highlight of the evening came from Alsace. The featured Clos St-Jacques 10.5 hectare vineyard is actually within the town boundary of Colmar. We sampled Clos Saint-Jacques Riesling 2015 and Clos Saint-Jacques Gewürztraminer 2014, finding them interestingly different in taste, the latter quite rich.
Lucca was represented by two wines: Majestic's exclusive Definition Chianti Classico 2013 and by a "Baby Tuscan" Dogajolo Carpineto 2015. Though both wines were from from Tuscany, they exhibited very different styles.
Normandy is famous for its orchards and cider. So to round off the presentation, Argentan, our twin town, prompted the selection of a local spirit: the award-winning Calvados Pays d'Auge (Roger Groult Réserve 3-Year-Old).
The evening concluded with Susan serving stilton and ham tartlets and other canapés.
Film Show - "Gemma Bovary"
Thursday 30 March 2017 - at the Health and Wellbeing Centre, Audlett Drive, Abingdon OX14 3GD
This was the annual joint meeting with ABCD, the local film society. This year we suggested showing the 2014 film "Gemma Bovery", a French-British comedy-drama. It is a light-hearted retelling of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary by graphic artist Posy Simmonds. In it, Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and her husband relocate from England to rural Normandy. Gemma at first embraces all things French, but ultimately finds her new lifestyle dull. A neighbour becomes fascinated by her and the close similarity of her name to the famous tragic heroine, and seeks to warn her of her destiny.
A dozen or so ADTTS members joined ABCD regulars for an entertaining and quite amusing film. It was preceded by a splendid cheese board and breads provided by the film society, thus making, together with wine brought along, for a convivial and enjoyable evening.
Evening Meeting - "A Foot in Both Camps"
Wednesday 15 March 2017 - at Preston Road Community Centre
We were delighted to have been able to get to kindly come and talk to us the Anglo-German former foreign correspondent Marcus Ferrar. He is the author of the 2012 non-fiction book “A Foot in Both Camps: A German Past for Better and for Worse”.
We were gratified that our announcements of the subject of our March meeting brought an unprecedented response in number of people attending. Our room was full to bursting.
Marcus is Vice-Chairman of The Dresden Trust, an organisation dedicated “to healing the wounds of war and furthering harmonious relations between the people of Britain and Dresden/Saxony.” Among other initiatives the Trust offers subsidised places at English private schools for applicants from Saxony. More than 300 children have benefitted from the Scheme since it began in 2001, and the English schools report great benefits to their students from the presence in their midst of the German scholars.
Marcus is an award-winning author and correspondent. During the Cold War he was the only Western foreign correspondent in East Berlin. Since retiring, he has written three very well-received books, “The Budapest House: a Life Rediscovered” and “Slovenia 1945”, as well as his book “A Foot in Both Camps” that he came to talk to us about.
He was born in England during WW2 to an English father and German mother. So he grew up knowing that as well as his English family, he also had a German family, a family who he came to meet, love and share boyhood experiences with immediately after the war. He compared at first hand, as he puts it: “my own country's economic disintegration and waning prestige with the vigour of a defeated nation starting out again from zero”.
Marcus' talk follows the lines of his book in contemplating and working out his personal identity, role and responsibility together with that of the two nations' actions during, and after the war, and especially with reference to the Dresden firebombing raids, culminating in a “crisis” point working out, as an Englishman, what to write in the Book of Condolence on his visit soon after its re-opening to the rebuilt Frauenkirche in Dresden.
Many of our audience were I think hearing about the English firebombing of Dresden for the first time in any detail, and Marcus' talk and conclusions drew an extended and emotional response from many contributors in the “Questions to the Speaker” session, including from one member whose late husband had taken part in the raid.
Marcus was known to us to have special connections with North Germany, and Susan (who lived in Hamburg for some years) did us proud with rollmops (herring) and Deutscher Käse on dark bread, and of course great German beer.
It was great to see so many members enthused enough to buy signed copies of Marcus' book, so much so that he had to delve into his bag for more copies than he had laid out to sell, and I know for sure that he sold even the very LAST copy he had in his bag.
Our grateful thanks go out to him for coming to talk to us, and making it a most enjoyable and thoughtful evening.
Opera Visit: La Bohème
Thursday 16 February 2017 - at the New Theatre, Oxford
Whenever an opera by Lucca's most famous son, (well most famous in England anyway), comes to or near town we like to organise a Society night out to sample his delights. Sometimes it's the Welsh National Opera, and sometimes, as this time, the perhaps more spectacular scenery of the travelling Ellen Kent Opera with a production of La Bohème. "La Bohème is one of the most romantic operas ever written. It tells the tragic tale of the doomed, consumptive Mimi and her love for a penniless writer."
Promoted in the Newsletter and at our Christmas Dinner, we achieved a group of 17 people in all, sufficient to obtain a seamless block of seats in the ground floor stalls (no stairs!) at a reasonable discount price.
As in previous years we offered a pre-theatre meal together at a restaurant (very) close to the Oxford theatre entrance, and again were able to secure a communal table on the ground floor for the 11 people who wanted to partake. We made for a convivial group and, of course Italian wine helped the conversations along. With more than one Italian restaurant to choose from within a few yards of the theatre we went for Ask Italian rather than Bella Italia, and found the staff there cheery, welcoming and interested to know what town twinning is all about. Everyone was able to pre-select the dish they wanted and enjoyable Italian-style dishes were delivered with perfect timing to slip across the road in time for the show.
The performance was of a good professional standard with a large orchestra which soon warmed to their mission. Ellen Kent have been in business for very many years and have in the past discovered and launched careers for a good number of opera stars. This year too they have included a number of mainly Eastern European, promising performers, a top-notch Russian-style bass, and, appropriately enough as the action takes place in Paris, a stylish French soprano Musetta. The opera was sung in Puccini's original Italian, but there were English surtitles above the stage to keep us in touch with the storyline.
On the short bus ride from Oxford back to Abingdon the bus was buzzing with people's impressions.
Evening Meeting - Representing the Queen in Abingdon
Wednesday 15 February 2017 - at Preston Road Community Centre
She began by providing some historical background to the post of Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, one of the oldest non-political, unpaid positions in England, dating back to Tudor times. In those days involving the militia, the Lord Lieutenant would stand in for the King and appoint magistrates as well as give support and add value to communities - the Duke of Marlborough is a good example. It is not a well known rôle but vital in terms of royal visits - when the Princess Royal visits Dalton Barracks!
Community wise, Felicity is involved with the Queen's Award for Enterprise and helps with Honours and Awards by supporting recommendations and issuing Citizenship Certificates. There can be up to forty-two Deputy Lieutenants acting as "eyes and ears" for the Lieutenant and with so many invitations and requests bestowed on him, the Deputies help to recognise and reward worthy candidates for particular awards. She also has links with charities and societies including Archway, OXPAT, Earth Trust and the Civil Society as well as Mayors of various councils.
She later created a platform for a two-way discussion by asking the members about the purpose of their ADTTS membership and what they gained from their experiences both abroad and when we receive visitors from the Twin Towns. This worked very well and gave her an insight from lots of members into how Abingdon Twinning works and the vital links it provides for our members. We later continued our discussions enjoying some locally sourced refreshments.
Thanks to Felicity, the evening provided a very useful two-way tool in terms of members learning about her rôle as Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, and for her, the rôle that ADTTS plays in the life of Abingdon- a learning curve for both!
Evening Meeting - Songs from the Twin Towns
Wednesday 18 January 2017 - at Preston Road Community Centre
Our first Wednesday meeting of the year was on January 18th and we were delighted to welcome a new member, Andrea. In fact we had several visitors; Sarah, Peter and Daniella. The poor lady at Waitrose who innocently served Nikki and Nicola the cheese for the refreshments for the evening got hijacked and came along too. Goodness knows what they were all expecting, but almost certainly not the hilarious karaoke evening that ensued.
Led by Michaele, Richard and Phil, with Linda very sensibly taking charge of the technical side, we were led through a programme of songs in all the languages of our twin towns. We raised the roof with O Sole Mio (we would have drowned out Pavarotti), but struggled with Marieke by Jacques Brel, which seems to be in both French and Flemish. In fact we didn't cope at all well with any of the Flemish. There were several secret Piafs in the room, but even more Maoris. Pokarekare Ana, the unofficial anthem of New Zealand, learned by the Maori soldiers before they embarked to fight in Europe in WWI, paid homage to our connections with Thames, New Zealand, and was sung with gusto by at least six members who know it well.
Thank you to everyone made it such a fun evening.
Go to 2016 Events.