Sunday, 13 June 2021

Henley-Falaise Twinning Association

ABOUT 30 members attended the annual meeting at Henley Golf Club, which was followed by an excellent meal prepared by the club’s team.

The chairman gave a summary of the past year’s news and activities as follows:

We note with sadness the deaths in the past year of Roger Young, Collette Richards and Doreen Cave as well as one of the driving sources of the association’s foundation, Francis Sheppard, who died in January.

In Falaise they appreciate Francis’s contribution even today as was reflected in a message from Serge Loock, their president, saying he was a “great character” with “incredible knowledge and always cheerful... what an example for us all”.

The association has been refreshed by new members Sally Batty, Rose Mary Barron, Michele Hurlot, Norman Pope and Cleone Augur.

Our actual membership stands at nearly 60 and, as always, we encourage further additions.

It need hardly be said that the scarcity of young families among us does not bode well for the future of the association.

But all is not gloom! The revived programme of French conversation evenings is thriving.

Following an idea by Sally Anne Lenton (to borrow the Desert Island Discs formula), sessions are offered twice a month, elegantly orchestrated by Sue Lines.

Sue has built up a circulation list of some 18 and up to eight of these generally gather in Café Rouge to chat — with widely ranging degrees of competence and mutual tolerance — for an hour or so over a glass or two of wine or cup of coffee.

One established activity, petanque, encountered an obstacle this year in the form of the usual venue being redeveloped but was saved by finding that the boules club of Wallingford was happy to host us on their superior piste.

Their knowledge of the rules and conventions put ours to shame!

A goodly company picnicked and played, the weather was benevolent and the Peter Lowery Memorial Shield was won by Roy and Marion Mawdesley — congratulations to them both.

The main event of the past year was the exchange visit, this year being our turn to play host.

In late May a party of 27, including a child who interacted delightfully with our Mayor’s young daughter, arrived one evening and were met by their hosts. Thanks to Carol Wild for handling what I imagine can be tricky.

Though some of our visiting friends had intended to take themselves off to London on the Saturday, a terrorist incident the week before resulted in a change of heart and a visit to Oxford instead along with some of their hosts.

Our programme for them included a morning reception at King’s Arms Barn on the Saturday followed by a visit to Stonor Park and a ploughman’s lunch in the estate’s café.

That evening we all had dinner at Shiplake Memorial Hall followed by the music of Sam Brown’s Ukelele Group which our friends gave every sign of enjoying.

Their coach departed for Portsmouth early next morning.

Co-operation with the Leichlingen Twinning Association continues to flourish and includes an ongoing programme of (subtitled) French and German film evenings at King’s Arms Barn, thanks to the work of Philip Bennett and Patrick Fleming.

We had a joint autumn party in the Christ Church Centre in November and in the summer we had a party in the delightful garden of Kevin and Sue Fitzsimons.

For this year’s visit to Falaise we have 29 members booked (the equivalent figures in 2016 was 26).

On the same weekend the Henley Choral Society, a much more numerous group, will also be travelling. They will be giving a concert together with a French choir, Interlude.

From past experience, we can anticipate time with our hosts and their friends, a pleasant reception in the Mairie and a dejeuner on a very grand scale in the Forum, the town’s impressive community space, for twinners, choristers and all the hosts alike.

Our friends have arranged a visit in our coach to Bagnoles de l’Orne, which is a pretty spa town some 45km from Falaise.

Thank you to the members for their continuing support and most particularly thanks to committee for their unstinting involvement and hard work helping keep the association in such good heart.

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