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Christmas Lunch

Sunday 22 December 2019 -  at Hilton Garden Hotel, Marcham Road, OX14 1TZ

This year’s Christmas lunch was held at the new Hilton Garden Hotel on Sunday 22nd December. Forty-two members enjoyed the traditional meal together. It was the Society's first time in the new surroundings, but everything was fine. The food was good, as was the service, contributing to a very convivial occasion. We are grateful to Peter Dodd for making all the arrangements for us.

Weekend Trip to Sint-Niklaas

23 - 24 November 2019

At 5.30 am on a chilly, dark and grey winter’s Saturday, 42 members of ADTTS set off in a luxurious Barnes coach towards the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone, en route for a historic reception with the Mayor of Sint-Niklaas in the magnificent Town Hall of Abingdon’s Belgian twin town of Sint-Niklaas. The group also included some pupils and ex-pupils of St Nicolas School, Abingdon, together with their parents. It was the first head of Saint Nicolas School, Peter Marsh, who forged the initial links between the town of Sint-Niklaas and Abingdon over 50 years ago, when he took Year 6 pupils to Sint-Niklaas as part of their annual week-long school trip to Belgium.

Following a brief stop at the P&J chocolate factory near Ostende, the group arrived at Sint-Niklaas just after 2 pm local time and settled into their very comfortable rooms at the Hotel Serwir, in Sint-Niklaas. At 3 pm the group went down to reception, where we were met by a group of our counterparts from De Verzustering (the Sint-Niklaas town twinning society), Siegfried, Felix, Chantal and Beate, who had very kindly had offered to guide our party during our time in Sint-Niklaas. We split into two groups for our guided walk to town, those who wanted the direct route, to have more time in the town centre, and those who wanted to take the slightly longer scenic route.

The town centre was thronged with people celebrating the Saint Nicolas festive period. There was a circus tent in the town square and dozens of Black Peters (Saint Nicolas’ assistants) milling around, greeting all the visitors. Our group had a fascinating time exploring the town, before we met outside "The House of the Saint" for one of the high spots of the trip – a visit to the House of Saint Nicolas.

Each year, during the festive period, a museum in the town centre transforms itself into the "House of the Saint", a major attraction visited by tens of thousands of people (mainly children) from all over Belgium and from its neighbouring countries. Our group wound its way up narrow staircases to the top of this fascinating building, eventually coming to all the beautifully decorated rooms in the House. We saw Santa’s kitchen, the Black Peters’ bedroom and bathroom, Santa’s bedroom, toilet and bathroom, as well as his kitchen and living room, and even his model train set! At the end of the route through the House, Saint Nicolas himself was waiting to bless the visitors – this was greatly valued by the children as well as the adults in our group. There is normally a charge of €12 to visit the house, but the Town of Sint-Niklaas very kindly waived this fee and let us in as guests of the town.

Following this unique and rewarding visit, our delegation headed to the historic Town Hall of Sint-Niklaas for a reception hosted by the Mayor of Sint-Niklaas. The Mayor of Sint-Niklaas, Lieven Dehandschutter, warmly welcomed the group, and in his speech reflected on the history of Abingdon’s twinning with Sint-Niklaas and stressed the importance of town twinning for building bridges between peoples of different nations. Following Mayor Dehandschutter’s welcome, ADTTS Chair, Stella Carter, ably assisted by her grandchildren Ruben and Clemence, presented the Mayor with a letter from the Mayor of Abingdon, Charlie Birks, as well as a stunning handcrafted Christmas cake, decorated with the St Nicolas theme. There was a very touching moment when Herman Cole, a stalwart of the twinning between Sint-Niklaas and Abingdon, and author of the book De Zaak van Sinterklaas (The Santa Claus Business) spoke to the group on the origins of the twinning, and on the role played by Peter Marsh over 50 years ago, which he writes about in his book. Herman Cole then presented a copy of his book to Nick Marsh (son of Peter Marsh), and in his beautiful voice, sang a song about Saint Nicolas to the group.

After the speeches, the members of the Sint-Niklaas twinning society and the Abingdon group had the opportunity to mingle and chat with each other over refreshments, and the reception drew to a close at around 7:15 pm. After the reception, some members went to a local brasserie, to enjoy a meal with local twinners.

It had been quite an eventful day, and while some stayed in town and made their own way back to the hotel, about half the group still had enough stamina to go to the annual "Fire and Light" spectacle held on the outskirts of town. This was a stunning display of fire dancers and fire and light installations along a 2 mile walk around a lake. The local twinners kindly organised transport back to the hotel at 10:30 pm.

On Sunday morning the group enjoyed a superb buffet breakfast in our hotel – the buffet had what seemed like over a hundred different breakfast items, including, in addition to the scrambled eggs and bacon, a wide selection of other dishes, including smoked salmon, charcuterie, cheeses, pastries and several types of bread. One highlight of the breakfast buffet particularly enjoyed by the younger members was a waffle machine, where you could make your own waffles.

At 9:30 am, the group boarded the bus for the journey home. En route we spent several hours in the historic city of Bruges, enjoying the Christmas market, horse-drawn carriage tours, and boat trips on the famous Bruges canals, buying Christmas presents including the famous Bruges lace and hand-made chocolates. Some visited local museums, including the Museum of Torture, and a Salvador Dali exhibition.

The journey from Bruges to Abingdon still had one important stop to make – we revisited the P&J chocolate factory near Ostende, where a lot of chocolate was consumed (free samples were offered around), and a lot of chocolate was bought.

We arrived back in Abingdon at exactly 8:30 pm, having felt that we had been away for several days, we had seen so much.

Huge thanks are due to De Verzustering, (the Sint-Niklaas twinning society) and in particular to Siegfried, Felix, Chantal and Beate, for making us feel so welcome and for organising everything.

Nick Marsh – trip organiser

Thank you for organising our trip to Sint Niklaas. The tour of the House of the Saint was very interesting and we both really enjoyed it. We were a bit taken aback by the helpers, but the stories about St Nicolas' life (and his bathroom) were very entertaining! We also liked the friendly and funny guides.

We also really enjoyed looking round all the chocolate shops and tasting all the samples! The Christmas market at Bruges was good - especially the hot chocolate. The buildings were amazing and very different to Abingdon. We hope we can go back to visit again soon.

Thanks again.

Charlie (aged 12) and Philip (aged 10)

Wow! Being fairly new members this was our first ever trip with the ADTTS. A comfortable coach journey there and back, arriving on Saturday afternoon staying in a superb hotel some 15 minutes from the centre of Sint-Niklaas, where we saw the house of the Saint and then onto the Mayor's reception. On Sunday we visited Bruges and its Christmas markets. The time just flew by and soon we were travelling back on the Shuttle homeward bound. So well organised from beginning to end by Nick to whom we send a very big thank you. A brilliant time was had by all and we look forward to the next trip.

Chris and Malcolm Daniels

I thoroughly enjoyed the two-day trip to Belgium on the weekend of the 23rd and 24th November 2019. What made the holiday so unique were the many eye-opening cultural experiences the Twinning Society had planned, including a reception from the lovely townspeople, a visit to the house of Sint-Niklaas and a spectacular light show, as well as many chocolate-purchasing opportunities in Brugges. The city is very tranquil and picturesque, and offers an informative boat ride under the bridges. I would highly recommend this adventure as an opportunity to experience another country's traditions and culture.

Luke Ffrench

Belgium was amazing especially the chocolate shops that had free samples. The hotel was incredible and I loved the breakfast there. I'd go again anytime.

Eve Graham (11)

Evening Meeting - Russian Evening

Thursday 21 November 2019 - at Preston Road Community Centre

What do Abingdon and Russia have in common? Not a lot I would say but this did not stop forty or so 'Twin Towners' enjoying an excellent evening of lots of things Russian, including a quiz, music, food and singing, all presided over by our hosts, Richard Smart and Nicholas Marsh.

We kicked off with a picture gallery of Russian politicians and one tennis player (not many Russian politicians appear to be female), before a couple of rounds of general questions. For instance how many of you recall that the colour of the top horizontal band of the flag of the Russian Federation is white? Unfortunately our table (The Sputniks) didn’t. Nevertheless in the next round we won a prize, a bar of Russian 'fruit and nut' chocolate which we shared out in a comradely fashion. Interspersed with this activity was a string of Russian jokes and reminiscences from Richard, who had spent several periods in Russia when a university student.

By now it was time for the buffet, a really splendid splash of blinis with cream cheese and caviar, rye crisp biscuits with smoked salmon, bread with herrings in various and delicious forms, black bread and salami, a Russian potato salad and almond (marzipan) and fruit loaf. This could all be washed down with vodka if desired and was taken against a background of Russian classical music, oh, and another picture quiz. This time the subjects were more general. We did recognise Laika, the first dog in space, but failed on the gymnast Olga Korbut 30 years on, who we mistook for Mrs Gorbachev.

The quiz element finished with ‘pop’ music – we had to identify three songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elvis, rendered in Russian. The tunes gave them away especially ‘Wooden Heart’ by Elvis.

The finale was community singing led by Richard, who tried to instruct us in singing (in Russian, of course) Kalinka, Moscow Nights and the Internationale. Speaking personally I could mange the beginning of Kalinka but struggled to the point of silence on the other two.

This was a really enjoyable, relaxing evening. Organising and presenting something like this takes a lot of work behind the scenes as well as on the day and our thanks go to our joint hosts, Richard and Nicholas, Brian on the laptop/projector and to the several people (including Nikki, Jacky and Susan) who spent a great deal of time and effort on sourcing and preparing the buffet.

Neil Hancox

Remembrance Day Visitors

8 - 11 November 2019

For the 101st anniversary of the end of the First World War, this year we reverted to our normal pattern of inviting just one of our twin towns to join us in commemorating the sacrifice of so many and the restoration of peace. This year we were very happy to be joined by Christiane Klipfel and Maggy Wisselmann from Colmar. Colmar, as many of you who have been there will know, has very special reasons to remember the horrors of war. Colmar, which with the rest of Alsace, had been absorbed into Germany in 1870 and was near the front line throughout the First World War. In the Second World War it was again annexed by Germany and many from Colmar were conscripted to fight on the Eastern Front, the 'Malgré Nous'.

Christiane and Maggy joined some of us in St Helen’s Church for the commemorative service on Sunday, and with Stella Carter, they took part in the march to the War Memorial. They laid a wreath on behalf of Colmar, as Stella laid one on behalf of the Society and all our Twin Towns. They then joined the Mayor's reception in the Royse Room. Afterwards 14 members of twinning then enjoyed lunch at the Nag’s Head with Maggy and Christiane.

On the Friday, Christine and Maggy had a short tour of the Old Abbey and visited the Craft Fair in the Old Abbey Building. They were welcomed by the Mayor, Charlie Burke, in his parlour, and he then showed them round the Council Chamber. A trip to Dorchester was somewhat dampened by the weather on Friday, which got significantly worse on the Saturday, so a visit to Oxford was spent largely in the Ashmolean and the Oxford Town Hall.

We were very pleased to have helped to host Maggy and Christiane and thank them for helping us all recognise the importance of friendship and links between the nations in preserving Peace.

Ian Jardine

Evening Meeting - Fifty Years of Twinning

Thursday 17 October 2019 - at Preston Road Community Centre

On Thursday 17th October, our Vice-President, Michael Matthews, gave us a most interesting talk on the history of twinning in Abingdon. Twinning started after WWII as an effort to try to help bring all the peoples of Europe together as friends. Firstly the French tried to twin each of their towns with similar towns in other countries. They suggested the twinning of Argentan with Abingdon. This resulted in reciprocal visits by the Mayors and Councils of the two towns and some school twinning.

Michael told us in interesting detail how each of our twin towns became twinned with us and described the major characters involved from Sint-Niklaas, Schongau, Bergen (which didn’t continue), Lucca and Colmar. And he explained how Thames, New Zealand has the freedom of Abingdon in respect for their help in WWII. He also related how the friendship link with Abingdon, VA, USA developed.

In every case the twinning link seemed to start with the officials of one or other place visiting. But nowadays it seems that twinning is largely community led, giving us a network of friends across Europe. Let us hope that these links continue and grow.

Susan Read

Visit From Argentan Students

7 - 14 October 2019

John Mason School welcomed eight exchange students from Lycée Mézeray, Argentan, to Abingdon, from 7th to 14th October. It was a pleasure to see again Marie-Lise Marie and Carole Ruffier, who were the two teachers accompanying them. The teachers were hosted for the week by two of our members. On the Tuesday of the visit, Philip Addison, helped by three other Society members, conducted the French students on a brief tour of Abingdon. The party was then welcomed by the Mayor who showed everyone round the Guildhall. A return exchange to Argentan is planned for the new year.

See also the report on Cercle Jumelage Europe Argentan Facebook.

Evening Meeting and AGM

Thursday 19 September 2019 - at Preston Road Community Centre

Abingdon and District Twin Towns Society (ADTTS) held its Annual General Meeting at the Preston Road Community Centre, Abingdon on Thursday 19th September 2019. We were honoured by the presence of the Mayor of Abingdon, Charlie Birks, and his escort Mrs Brenda Birks. The Mayor took the Chair for the election of officers. After the formal agenda there was a brief review of the past year's activities. We then enjoyed sampling food, wine and beer from the five countries linked to Abingdon.

Church Twinning Trip to Argentan

19 - 23 September 2019

A party from the Church-in-Abingdon Twinning Group were invited to visit Argentan on their Heritage Weekend. (Photo from Cercle Jumelage Europe Argentan on Facebook)

Sint-Niklaas Twinning Weekend

5 - 9 September 2019

De Verzustering, the twinning committee of Sint-Niklaas, held its annual twinning weekend from Thursday the fifth of September to Monday the ninth of September. A party of four members of ADTTS joined guests invited from other twin towns for a full weekend of events. The theme this year was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Sint-Niklaas. The photos show the whole party, the visit to the Atlantic Wall, the reception at the town hall with the Alderman (actually a woman), and playing silly games in mixed teams. (Disappointingly, the balloons didn't fly because of the weather.)

In addition to the annual spectacle of hot air balloons taking off from the biggest town square in Europe, this year the September festival, Vredefeesten, commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Sint-Niklaas in 1944. Unfortunately the wet and windy weather was not kind to the balloons – only a handful managing to get up and away - and outdoor music events, but the joy of the weekend was the coming together of people, friends new and old from our twin towns.

On our first day we went to the coast near Ostend to see a section of the Atlantic Wall, a system of coastal defences constructed by the German forces to deter invasion by the Allies, preserved so well because Charles of Flanders, Prince Regent during the war years, insisted that it should be kept as a memorial.

A site nearby took us further back in history to the Middle Ages. Here we visited the remains of a deserted fishing village and a reconstruction of several buildings of the period. Characters who featured on the lively audio guide told us about the work of the fishermen, including successful trade with Scarborough, Whitby and Filey and their less friendly encounters with those 'bastard English' off the Norfolk coast!

Other highlights included a demonstration and performance of the carillon in the town hall tower; moving newsreel footage of the liberation of the town, accompanied by interviews with people who had witnessed the events; visits to the excellent Mercator and town museums, the Salon cultural centre, Heritage Weekend exhibits, and on the final afternoon, light-hearted Games Without Borders – and no, it didn’t entail crawling around in plastic tunnels but was suitably adapted to the age and mobility of the participants!

A weekend of great hospitality and good humour from hosts, organisers and old friends of Abingdon, brought to a close with a splendid dinner, where Ian Jardine expressed our thanks, with the hope that, despite the current political tensions, our towns will continue to enjoy the kind of harmony so ably demonstrated by the carillon.

Ian and Angela Waterhouse

Schongau Language Course

13 - 20 July 2019

Six hardy and enthusiastic twin-towners from Abingdon met at Heathrow on 13 July for our journey to Schongau. John and Celia Smith, Brian and Susan Read, Noreen Carvel and I had paid our money and signed up to a week’s German language course in our twin town in Bavaria. Later that day we were met at Schongau train station by our hosts; fed and watered and then taken to a welcoming reception in the town’s museum where we met the other 'students', five Belgians from Sint-Niklaas and one lady from Colmar.

When the classes began on the Monday morning we were divided into two groups. My German had been learned more than 50 years ago and, to say the least, was rather rusty. So I was nervous when the first lesson began. I needn’t have worried too much as my group’s teacher, Martin, spoke  v e r y   s l o w l y   a n d   c l e a r l y. The theme of the week was 'Art, Culture and Nature in the Foothills of the Alps'. As well as some simple grammar exercises (well, simple for some!), we learned a lot about the surrounding area, its history and its legends.

Each afternoon an excursion backed up the morning’s subject. We visited the backstage area of the theatre in Oberammergau and the town of Murnau where Kandinsky lived with Gabriele Műnter and formed an expressionist group. On the industrial side we learned about mining in the area and visited a coalmining museum. We admired the double church at the top of Hohen Peißenberg and learned about pilgrimages there. Next to the churches is the oldest meteorological station in the world! Another time we went on a raft trip on the River Lech and found out about the age-old trading pattern of transporting goods downstream from the Alps by raft, selling the goods and the wood of the raft. Then the poor men had to walk back to the beginning to start the whole process again. One afternoon my hostess took me to climb the Buchenberg. She called it a hill, I called it a mountain!

An important cultural event of the first weekend was the Trachtenfest. It seems that each town/village in the area has its own special costume and hundreds (perhaps thousands of folk) paraded through the town. There were floats, bands, children, babies in wooden wheelbarrows, men and women of all ages, all dressed in traditional folk costume. I have never seen so many men and boys in Lederhosen! It was truly spectacular. The following day there was a huge area of market stalls selling costumes and accessories. And there was plenty of beer flowing …

We were wonderfully looked after by our German friends. Our hosts were delightful and one evening we were invited for dinner to another home. Morning classes were broken up by elevenses - coffee, fruit, cakes and savouries. We were taken to a different restaurant each day for lunch. (I had to forego the beer and wine, otherwise I would have fallen asleep during the afternoon excursions.) But I did manage some bubbly at the Mayor’s reception. The final dinner was followed by some brave souls performing regional dances and lots of 'thank-yous'. And I am now the proud possessor of a certificate saying I completed a week’s German course. It is on my study wall!

Vielen Dank, Schongau.

Margaret Hancox
July 2019

Canoe Camping Twinning Weekend

27 June - 1 July 2019

View from Stella’s tent at Abingdon Lock

Linda, Gerrit and Ronald from Schongau

English contingent loading Canadian canoe

On Wednesday 26th June five canoe/campers arrived in Abingdon, three from Schongau and two from Lucca to be hosted by me, Stella Carter and Simon Kellard (not a twinner but quite nice anyway).

On Thursday we ferried eleven people with all their camping equipment and six canoes to Wolvercote and set off at about 10.30 with the boats laden with people and equipment. After paddling through Oxford we stopped for lunch at the King’s Arms at Sandford then continued to Abingdon, arriving at the Abingdon Lock campsite at about 5.30. This was a very long stretch and we were thankful for a rest. After erecting several tents, one of them an eight-man, we walked along the river to the Nag’s Head where we met Nikki, the Goodes and Howard for dinner before walking back to our new home for a well deserved rest.

On Friday, after a breakfast of hot dogs, coffee and tea we set off for the next campsite at Day’s Lock via the tunnel under Stert Street, part of the Ock, part of Swift Ditch and a picnic lunch at Clifton Hampden. After making camp and showering some of us paddled and some walked to the George in Dorchester for supper and then returned for much needed sleep. That night we had Moreno the famous Italian snorer in the 8-man tent so he was the only one to sleep well and poor old Gerrit had the leaky airbed which had to be pumped up two or three times a night.

After breakfast on Saturday we set off for the campsite by Shillingford Bridge via lunch at the Shillingford Bridge Hotel run by a modern day Basil Fawlty. That evening we walked or paddled to the Waterside Restaurant in Benson for our final dinner together

On Sunday I could not get people to eat up all the sausages and after breakfast we ferried people and equipment home where host families entertained their guests and the next day they left via Thornhill.

We were very lucky with the weather and we hope to improve on things next year.

Richard Smart

TOWN TWINNING - A wonderful experience on the Thames

This year Abingdon, in the context of the Town Twinning, has being offering its guests an unusual opportunity: the descent of a part of the Thames by canoe and kayak. A few days (June 26-31) were to be spent travelling from Wolvercote to Shillingford, and camping on the pleasant river banks.

Mrs Stella Carter, President of the Twinning Committee, Simon Kellard, co-organizer, and Richard Smart, official organiser and “cook” of a group of 11 people, had been planning the enterprise the right way and everything worked properly. The dauntless heterogeneous group included three Germans from Schongau, Gerrit, Linda and Ronald, two Italians from Lucca, me (Mario) and my brother Moreno, and three home-born people: Charlie, Darren and Dave.

Heterogeneous, undoubtedly, as to nationality and age, but immediately homogeneous as far as spirit of adventure and want to have fun were concerned.

Everyone enjoyed a really pleasant stay, favoured by nice weather and mild temperatures, notably lower than the ones registered everywhere else in Europe, which was afflicted, in the same days, by a terrible heat bubble. A further merit of the organizers? An indirect consequence of Brexit? Maybe both. The first day we travelled from Wolvercote to Abingdon, thus going through Oxford and having the opportunity to have some city views and to see the area of the river where the famous University Colleges students train for their rowing competitions.

The second day we reached Dorchester, while the following day we rowed to a campsite by Shillingford Bridge. Everything was beautiful and interesting. The river environment was so green and nice: beautiful trees and aquatic plants, beautiful houses and gardens looking out over the river (especially while approaching Shillingford Bridge), many animals, including swans, egrets, different species of ducks, birds of prey over flying us waiting for an accident, caws, sheep... The Group was always in high spirits, everybody willing to chat, even while canoeing, from one boat to the other, to change rowing partner, to try a different kind of boat and to kid each other. By mid-afternoon the activities for the following night were in full swing: pulling boats ashore, pitching tents, inflating mattresses, unrolling sleeping bags. After a shower, and a little rest the group could walk to a good restaurant, usually nicely waterfront, where everyone did his best to recover all the calories we had been consuming during the day. Good food, good beer, good company.

The funniest things to remember. Sausage-based breakfasts. Getting out of your tent, any time in the morning, the first thing you could see was Richard comfortably set on the ground, his shoulders supported by an overturned canoe, boiling water for coffee or tea and cooking sausages in a small pan. Surrounded by all the necessary breakfast stuff, he smiled and invited you to take advantage. His sausages became worryingly black (probably with a view to making them safer) but (almost) every member of the group was really happy to start the new day that way.

On the third day, after erecting our tents, we had to reach the waterside restaurant in Benson by canoe, to have our final dinner together. We pulled our boats ashore close to a small wooden pier one hundred metres far from the restaurant. When going back, a couple of hours and many beers later, we had to put our canoes back in the river. When the last three of our group had managed, not without difficulty and after a lot of seat exchanging, to take place in their canoe, with my brother forced to an uncomfortable lying position under the pier, since one part of the canoe had being slipping under it, they realized that their boat couldn't leave. As a matter of fact the bow appeared to be caught between two pillars of the pier, while the stern was blocked by some stones and roots close to the bank. After many minutes of desperate attempts to release the canoe, with the help of many willing people, both from the bank, and from the water side, pushing, pulling, shaking, rotating the canoe even with the help of ropes, the three unlucky navigators had to go back to the solid ground and repeat the manoeuvre. Meanwhile, Charlie had become prey of a convulsive and contagious attack of laughter. She went on laughing for minutes in her characteristic way, reaching incredibly high - Maria Callas like - notes. When the canoe managed to leave, a loud burst of applause could be heard from an until then unnoticed, group of people who, from the restaurant terrace, had been following the scene from the beginning. Thank you, wonderful Stella, thank you Richard, thank you Simon.

We will never forget!


Evening Drinks Party

Thursday 20 June 2019 - at Longside, Tatham Road, Abingdon, OX14 1QD

Our final meeting of the season took the form of an evening Garden Drinks Party. This was held in the charming and recently remodelled garden of our vice-president, Michael Matthews, at Longside, Tatham Road. The new pond and layout were much admired! The weather was clement and a jolly evening of Fizz and Nibbles was had by all. Huge thanks to Michael, as usual, for providing the splendid venue, and also to Nikki, Stella and Rosemary for their sterling efforts in preparing the delicious nibbles and setting up the bar!

Evening Meeting - Léger

Thursday 23 May 2019 - at Preston Road Community Centre

For our last evening meeting before the summer break, we learnt about Fernand Léger in a fascinating talk presented by enthusiast Anne Dodd.

Fernand Léger (1881 - 1955) - painter, sculptor and filmmaker - is the most famous person to have been born in Argentan, Abingdon's twin town in Normandy. He was considered the equal of Pablo Picasso by many. This July a museum in the centre of Argentan is to be opened in the house that he was born in. A recent exhibition at Tate Liverpool of 50 of his works was a must-see event in the Art World. He reflected the changing social and artistic world of his time and has become increasingly popular of late. One of his paintings was recently sold for almost £55 million.

In showing many examples, Anne covered the great variety of Léger's work as it evolved throughout his life. The talk was followed by appropriate Normandy refreshments of camembert and cider.

Twinning Weekend in Colmar

16 - 20 May 2019

We weren’t expecting to be dowsing for water and "lines of energy", or being surprised by an oompah band in a ceramic museum at night when we participated in the "Weekend de Jumelage" in Colmar, but these things did happen! We knew we would enjoy great hospitality, splendid food and wine and above all, renewing old friendships and making new friends with colleagues from our twin towns. Colmar hosted 14 of us to stay in their own homes or eat at their tables, from Sint-Niklaas, Schongau, Princeton and Abingdon.

If you are not familiar with Colmar it is a beautiful Alsatian town in a winegrowing area at the foot of the Jura mountains. We naturally toured the town and enjoyed a reception at the Marie (the town hall). We also enjoyed wine tasting, were shown around the quaint wine village of Eguisheim, visited a monastery high in the Jura founded by Saint Odile, who born blind, miraculously recovered her sight. Overlooking the attractive town of Obernai we saw a memorial to the ‘Malgré Nous’- Frenchmen from Alsace/Moselle who were compulsorily recruited into the German army during the second world war, many of whom died on the Russian front. It was quite moving to be there with real friends from France, Germany, Belgium and the US, a true reflection of the importance for peace and friendship between nations and the role twinning can play in this.

The weekend ended with a sumptuous meal at Chalet du Club Vogues, prepared by our hosts and supervised no doubt by Francis, a professional chef. You couldn’t get better than that!

Visits to twin towns are always very enjoyable but there is an added dimension if you are able to join in a visit with friends from other twin towns. We are especially grateful for the generosity and welcome given to us by our friends from Colmar.

Rosemary and Ian Jardine

Europe Day Meal

Thursday 9 May 2019 - at the Guildhall, Abbey Close

The annual evening meal together to mark Europe Day was in a new venue this year. We were one of the very first groups to dine in the recently refurbished Council Chamber in the Guildhall, Abingdon. A special menu was designed by the resident chef to reflect our links with the four countries of our Twin Towns.

Forty-eight guests met in the old Council Chamber on 9th May 2019 for our annual dinner, with dishes chosen to celebrate culinary diversity. I was somewhat surprised to find my first course was a 'hot dog' but this was the opener to a delicious dinner with good wine and good company. All the while our elders (by several hundred years) and betters (probably not!) gazed down upon us from their portraits on the surrounding walls. They probably wished that their fare had been as good as ours. The staff were particularly friendly and helpful and overcame the difficulty of having the kitchen some distance away. The round tables made cross table conversation more difficult than at a long table but I felt contributed to a greater togetherness.

It was a pleasant and enjoyable evening and showed that 'breaking bread' together helps to overcoming some of the divisions as to whether we should be 'in' or 'out'.

Neil Hancox

Evening Meeting - Recycling

Thursday 18 April 2019 - Preston Road Community Centre

Anne Smart gave a very interesting talk about the problems of pollution, including the plastics problem (e.g. single use plastic bags) about which we hear so much, and discussed ways in which the local community can do things to help alleviate the situation. Cling film being, most definitely a no-no! And the washing of fleece garments, and I am sure that virtually all of us have at least one fleece, releases tiny plastic particles into the environment and drains. Not good. And, of course, recycling was discussed. What we can or cannot recycle. Anne gave out some recycling wheels to help us decide. A VERY thought-provoking meeting.

John Smith

Abingdon Passion Play Weekend

5 - 7 April 2019

Church Twinning hosted guests from Argentan and Sint-Niklaas for the weekend. The events focussed on a new, and modern, arrangement of the Passion Play, which was performed in the Abbey Grounds on the Saturday afternoon. In the evening St Helen's church room was full for very enjoyable tastings of cheeses brought from Normandy and of unusual beers brought from Belgium. The weekend began with a popular Barn Dance in Trinity Church Hall on the Friday evening and concluded Sunday evening with a church service and supper.

Film Show - "In the Fade"

Thursday 4 April 2019 - at the Community Support Centre, Audlett Drive, Abingdon OX14 3GD

This was our annual joint meeting with ABCD, the local film society. Attended by many of our members, this was again a very enjoyable social evening, with cheese and wine to accompany a European made film. It was quite thought provoking. "IN THE FADE" (Aus dem Nichts) is the latest film to arrive in the UK from German director, Fatih Akin. The story is very contemporary - racism, neo-Nazis in Germany, courtroom drama, revenge.

A very good evening, and a very intriguing and interesting film.

Lucca Parkrun

Saturday 23 March 2019 - in Lucca

A number of Abingdon park runners visited Lucca for the weekend to run the Lucca Parkrun on March 23rd. The Parkrun is a timed 5km run around the city walls. Two of the Abingdon runners did well coming 2nd and 4th, although it isn't a race - only a race against yourself!

Report by Emma Moore:
“Fourteen of us travelled to Lucca essentially to do the Parkrun and we were warmly welcomed by not only the Parkrun team but also by Lucca's Twin Town Committee who organised a meal for the group. It was a gloriously warm weekend and we were very well looked after. Nicky Brock who was our organiser did her 100th Parkrun as did Jan McCabe who was part of the party. The 14 of us knew each other because of Abingdon AC or the Parkrun community.”

See pictures at:

Evening Meeting - French Party Evening

Thursday 21 March 2019 - at Preston Road Community Centre

“An excellent evening” “good fun” “Great fun, we really enjoyed the karaoke” “Super food!”

“The ukulele band was in fine tune!” “What an interesting quiz!” “We must do this again!”

Around 40 people attended our recent French bistro evening at Preston Road Community Centre. Spring was definitely in the air as the tables were laid out in café style, complete with a host of daffodils in vases on each table. Each table for six was laid with a selection of French cheeses including Brie, Camembert, Bleu d’Auvergne, and Goats cheese, accompanied by French bread, fruit and garlic bread, helped down with wine, beer or apple juice. This was followed by a traditional apple pie with cream. While we all feasted on this excellent spread Richard Smart conducted a French-themed quiz, testing our knowledge of all things French! The members were in fine voice as we did karaoke, featuring French classics such as the ever-popular “Je ne regrette rien” and the Françoise Hardy classic “Tous les garçons et les filles”. One of the many high spots of the evening was the appearance of a ukulele band, the Bakehouse Strummers, which led the twinners in outstanding renditions of “Alouette” and “Mademoiselle from Armentiers”. Great fun was had by one and all!

Huge thanks due to Richard Smart for creating and conducting the quiz, the Bakehouse Strummers ukulele band, Nick and Jacqui Marsh for organising the food, Brian Read at the computer and Linda Phillips for the Karaoke, and all who helped with serving the food and drink and clearing up afterwards!

Clubs and Societies Day

Saturday 16 March 2019 - at the Guildhall

ADTTS participated in the town's Clubs and Societies Day held in the Guildhall on 16th March. We shared a table with the Church Twinning Group.

A good number of people visited the stand, including many newcomers to Abingdon. Nicki Henton and Nick Marsh from ADTTS, and Ruth Sillitoe from Church Twinning greeted visitors to the stand, and answered their many questions.

Evening Meeting - Fasching/Carnival

Thursday 21 February 2019 - at Preston Road Community Centre

Fasching is the Shrovetide carnival which is celebrated in German-speaking countries. Known as Fasching in Bavaria and Austria, Fosnat in Franconia, Fasnet in Swabia, Fastnacht in Mainz and its environs, and Karneval in Cologne and the Rhineland.

It involves merrymaking, street parades and parties and dressing up. It usually reaches its high point during the three days preceding Ash Wednesday, culminating on Shrove Tuesday.

Around 50 persons attended this meeting. On arrival most of us were given masks to wear, as this is a feature of the celebration.

John Smith spoke about Fasching, saying it probably had pagan origins. The Goddess Freya was involved, and one idea is that it was a means of driving out winter, and welcoming spring. In Christian times it can last from Epiphany until Lent, when we are asked to abstain from food and drink, among other things. So it is a time of celebration and enjoying life before abstinence begins. That period of restraint lasts until Easter. The custom of Fasching dates back to the 13th century, and by the 17th had spread to the Americas, in the form of Mardi Gras.

So, it is a time of feasting, drinking, dancing, dressing up, and going in processions.

John then continued, with the help of Brian Read operating some videos and films of Schongau, which showed they certainly had plenty of fun. We too joined in a little, and then took part in a sausage, potato salad meal washed down by German wheat beer or soft drinks.

John Dixon

Evening Meeting - Twin Towns Quiz Night

Thursday 17 January 2019 - at Preston Road Community Centre

On January 17th the ADTTS held a highly entertaining Quiz Night at the Preston Road Community Centre.

This excellent quiz was organised by Brian Read and Peter Dodds, who also acted as Quizmasters.

There were several rounds, each with a specific theme. These included a Geography round to test the participants’ knowledge of flags and countries, and an Acronym round with such favourites as DVLA, HTTP, and NORWICH.

Culinary knowledge was also tested in a round where the quizzers had to guess the name of a world-renowned sauce from its list of ingredients – these well-known and delicious sauces included pesto, sweet and sour, guacamole and, of course, Britain’s own great contribution to the world of international haute cuisine, “white sauce” (butter, milk, cornflour, salt, pepper), which a surprising number of tables failed to identify correctly. Continuing with the foodie theme, another outstanding round was the Bread and Cheese round, where the participants had to taste four different breads and cheeses and identify the countries of origin.

At the end of the quiz points were counted, and a winning team was declared, but the main thing was that everyone enjoyed this excellent and entertaining quiz. Many thanks to Brian and Peter!

Nick Marsh


Go to 2018 Events.