Visit to Voiron November 2016 – Jenny Hazlewood
St Martin’s Fair is held every year on the 10 and 11 November. It is enormous, taking up the whole of two main streets (with a large funfair at the end), and some of the side streets as well. It is the place to go if you want to top up on clothing, especially Christmas things for the children, as well as locally produced food such as cheeses and saucisson AND, very importantly, to meet friends.
The Twinning stands are becoming famous! Situated in front of the Eglise St Bruno, the German stand sells fabulous (and enormous) barbecued sausages and the most delicious beer straight from the barrel, all brought down from Herford; the Italians sell wines, aperitifs, sausage and wonderful bread from Bassano del Grappa; the English/French stall, organised by the English Club of Voiron, sells a variety of delicious home-made cakes. Thus the average punter can start off having breakfast or lunch with the Germans, move on to the Italians for supper, and end up with the English for cakes to take home.
Les and I went to Voiron this year as guests of the Jumelage. We took home-made crab-apple jelly, marmalade, and mint jelly, as well as a Christmas cake which we served the Yorkshire way, without icing and accompanied by a slice of Wensleydale cheese. We were pleased to see that everything sold very well. There is always demand for lemon curd and Branston Pickle which are not normally found in France, and are very expensive.
The weather was unexpected, after being used to their hot summer weather, we were surprised to arrive just after a snowstorm which quickly turned to rain, and which went on and on and on! But this did not deter anyone, raincoats and umbrellas came out and life carried on as normal!
On the 11th November, we were honoured to attend the annual international Armistice Ceremony with a presentation of wreaths from local military organisations, as well as the
French, German, Italian, and English twin towns. This year it was also attended by soldiers, old and young, as well as a troop from the Alpine Corps, young firefighters and school-children who sang with the Conservatoire orchestra. Half-way through the wreath-laying ceremony, the heavens opened, and we were asked to lay the wreaths en masse before we got soaked, and to allow us all to run the short journey to the Town Hall and finish the service indoors.
This year there was a grand soirée to celebrate 50 years of Twinning between Voiron and Herford, with excellent music and food, and which went on into the late hours.
It was lovely to see our French friends and enjoy their way of life for a short time, and try to allay their concerns, and assure them that ‘we’ the British do not want to lose our friendship through the uncertainties of ‘Brexit’.
Article images by Jenny Hazlewood.
You can also see & hear a bit of the atmosphere of the fair on this video from Voiron.
A Message from the Chairman
2016 is drawing to a close and I know some of you are saying, just like me, “Where did it go?”. Soon we shall be preparing for the visit of our French friends and, indeed, the arrangements for the Twinning Weekend 2017 are well advanced and promise to be as much fun as ever. Carol has outlined a brief programme of events and we shall be updating you with more detail closer to the event.
An invitation was received from Voiron in November to attend their St Martin’s Fair and the Armistice Day remembrance ceremony. This was combined with a meeting and workshop involving all of Voiron’s twin towns. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, nor could a representative from Droitwich Town Hall, so Jenny and Les kindly represented Droitwich at the various events. Many thanks to them for flying the Droitwich flag.
I was delighted by the turnout for our AGM last month. It says a lot for the enthusiasm of our members. It was a particular pleasure to welcome our President and Mayor, Councillor Roy Murphy who continues to offer his support for our activities.
As you are no doubt aware, I am remaining as Chairman for another year in the absence of a volunteer to take on the role. However, I need to stand down in November 2017 and I will therefore be putting on pressure to find a vice-chair over the next few weeks to replace me in a year’s time.
I am sure you will join me in offering our grateful thanks to our committee for their untiring support and commitment to twinning. The good things we enjoy don’t just happen but involve a lot of work to ensure success, so please continue to support the team wherever you can.
Finally, Carol and I wish you a Happy and Peaceful Christmas and a great New Year.
2016 Social Events Review
2016 was another busy and eventful year starting in January with Jenny & Les’s legendary curry night when 32 members and friends enjoyed the excellent food and brain-stretching quizzes.
At the end of February, 24 members enjoyed the popular French comedy Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis and refreshments, hosted by Mike and Carol Nott.
We hosted the Inter-Town Twinning Quiz on 15th April; 84 guests took part including teams from Solihull, Tenbury Wells, Bromsgrove, Malvern and, of course, Droitwich Spa German and French Twinning Groups. The team from Tenbury Wells won not only the “magnificent” trophy but also the prizes for the overall top scoring team and they are now expected to host the event in 2017. Everyone was treated to a ploughman’s supper followed by hot apple tart.
Of course, the major event of the year was our visit at the end of April to Voiron, reported in more detail in the last newsletter. As usual, the hospitality offered to the 21 of us who travelled was excellent. A tour of the city of Lyon was a highlight and there was plenty of free time to be spent with our host families.
On Friday 17th June, the French farmers made a return visit to the Droitwich Spa Food and Drink Festival and the following night they were invited to our skittles night at Pinvin, which we had planned to coincide with their visit. In all, 37 of us enjoyed a good night out and the French were delighted to carry away a couple of the prizes, although one of them was heard to say that their winnings came nowhere near the cost of the beer they had consumed!
Shortly after the farmers’ visit the referendum was held. The result caused some reaction from our French friends some of whom felt rejected and we have since been at great pains to reinforce our commitment to twinning and to our friendship.
In August, we held our annual Summer Lunch at Rotary House when 31 members and friends enjoyed a buffet of summer delights.
In October Droitwich Spa French and German Twinning Groups worked together and organized a hot supper for 50 members at the Sacred Heart Hall. Entertainment was provided by members of both Groups and finished with a chaotic but hilarious rendering of ‘Old Macdonald’s Farm’.
Very many thanks are due to our members for attending these events and for the invaluable support given to your committee in doing so. The aim is to put on activities which will interest and provide enjoyable social events. Any new volunteers who are prepared to offer fresh ideas and help with organising social events would be made very welcome.
The 2017 social events programme is in outline form on the website; do keep an eye out for updates.
And Finally – A French Christmas Meal
Traditionally, French families go to midnight mass and then come home for Christmas Eve dinner, le réveillon (de Noël). It is still the main event of Christmas, rather than Christmas Day itself. (Caution though – New Year’s Eve dinner is also called le réveillon!)
For a taste of luxury, champagne apéros set things off with appetizers (canapés or amuse-bouches) such as caviar blinis, foie gras, oysters (des huîtres) and maybe starters such as scallops (noix de Saint Jacques) or smoked salmon (du saumon fumé).
As here, the main course nowadays is often turkey (la dinde de Noël) with chestnut stuffing. One thing you might not anticipate on your plate as a Christmas speciality is white pudding (boudin blanc), now more usually served as a trimming than a main. (There is even a boudin event this year at Charavines near Voiron…) Goose, (l’oie) venison (le chevreuil) or lobster (le homard) are also popular.
The favourite dessert is probably the chocolate, coffee or chestnut Yule log, la bûche de Noël.