PAST EVENTS 2021
Some images can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Sunday 19 December 2021 - at Hilton Garden Inn, Marcham Road, OX14 1TZ
Pictures (from Nick Marsh) always speak more eloquently and louder than words, don’t they? Despite the odd Covid-induced cancellation, there was a good attendance for the popular annual Christmas lunch. It was a most enjoyable social occasion. Thanks are due to Peter Dodd for all his work in arranging it.
The ADTTS Christmas Lunch was held at The Hilton Garden Inn in Abingdon. Travelling along the A34 from Oxford, I ground to a halt as I came down the slip road, only to find Abingdon traffic snarled towards the centre of town, on account of so many people following the recent advice to get a booster jab! Excellent news, but the hard-working Abingdon doctors vaccinating people were located right next to our hospital and shopping precinct, so everyone was out with a purpose today…
We were served with welcome drinks on arrival and ushered into a spacious room with round tables set up in a festive manner so guests could sit in small groups. Sporting our Christmas jumpers, hats or bands, jewellery, anything sparkly, velvet or red, we pulled our crackers and shared terrible jokes, daring to put on paper hats. There was a good turn-out of members, considering that some were still having to shield from Omicron. It was so good to be together again.
Evening Meeting - Women of Oxford
Thursday 18 November 2021 - at Preston Road Community Centre
Our November meeting was another little taste of normality after a long time of restrictions. Twenty six people arrived to hear from Jane Dickinson a lecture entitled "Women of Oxford". Our speaker gave us an interesting and informative talk about the contribution to society made by some notable women from Oxford.
Jane gave us a whistle stop tour of well known names, some of who came from privileged backgrounds and a few who didn’t. She began with our two female prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher who studied chemistry at Somerville and Teresa May who studied geography at St. Hugh’s followed by Yvette Cooper and Shirley Williams both studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Jane was really well informed about the subject and made us think about looking for the Blue Plaques around Oxford buildings that identify both the person and their contribution to society.
The list of women covered were too numerous to mention but three of my favourites from the talk were, Olive Gibbs, Lord Mayor of Oxford, Ethel Florey who was involved in the discovery of penicillin and Jane Burden the pre-Raphaelite muse of William Morris.
It was a really excellent evening, followed by Oxford Landing Wine and lovely Oxford cheeses bought from the covered market. Our thanks to the food and drink committee members for organising suitable refreshments.
Sunday 14 November 2021 - at The Square
The Twinning movement in Europe was established in the aftermath of the Second World War to promote peace through encouraging friendship and cooperation. Remembrance Sunday has therefore been an important event in ADTTS’s year.
Before the pandemic, each Remembrance Sunday in Abingdon saw a major commemoration of those who lost their lives in war. Following a packed service in St Helen’s Church, a sizeable detachment from Dalton Barracks led by a military band would march to the War Memorial. They would be followed by uniformed voluntary groups, the Town Band, the Mayor, Freemen, councillors and the wreaths layers. They would be met around the War Memorial by crowds of townsfolk for the two minute’s silence, the sounding of the last post and a short service. The parade would then march to Town Hall for a civic salute. The Twinning Society would participate by inviting one of the Twin Towns, in turn, to send two representatives to participate in the parade and lay a wreath on behalf of the all the twin towns and the Chairman of ADTTS would lay a wreath on behalf of the Society.
Last year, because of the pandemic, the commemorations were limited to individual wreath laying by local organisations and people. This year there were still restrictions. There was no civic church service and the uniformed voluntary groups marched to the War Memorial after gathering in the Market Place. The Town Band were seated by the War Memorial where they played for the Service. Flags were lowered before the two minute’s silence remembering those who fell in the wars, followed by a short Act of Remembrance led by The Reverend Canon Charles Masheder.
We were unable to invite two representatives from Lucca, the twin town whose turn it was to lay a wreath on behalf of all our twin towns so this had to be done on their behalf.
This service was followed by the laying of poppy wreaths. Stella Carter laid one from the Society and Ian Jardine laid the wreath on behalf of all our twin towns, with a message from Lucca written in Italian, with an English translation.
So, this year, saw a partial return to normal. Let’s hope that next year we will be able to resume the traditional commemorations.
Evening Meeting - National Anthems
Thursday 21 October 2021 - at Preston Road Community Centre
For our second meeting together again this autumn, we were able to hold the postponed national anthems evening. Hosted by Richard Smart, twenty or so members enjoyed learning about various national anthems before attempting to sing them karaoke style. This met with varying degrees of success as we struggled with one or two unfamiliar languages, but enthusiasm conquered them!
The French, German, Scottish, Italian, American and European Union national anthems were fairly straightforward. The Belgian one was sung in three languages, while the Māori from New Zealand was quite challenging. We sang a (deservedly) little-known verse of the British anthem and Richard offered a friendlier alternative version of the French one. To round off the evening before socialising over refreshments, all linked arms to sing the French version of Auld Lang Syne.
Evening Meeting and AGM
Thursday 16 September 2021 - at Preston Road Community Centre
It was strangely normal. We had last met together in the hall in February 2020. That was a year and a half ago. But now with everyone vaccinated and the gradual revival of social life, we decided to try holding an evening meeting at Preston Road. With a second year of no twinning visits to or from our twin towns, would interest in the Society have waned? In the event, it seems that ADTTS is still healthy. Even with some Covid restrictions at the venue, twenty members turned up for the Annual General Meeting, with a dozen sending their apologies.
The meeting itself was almost routine. We welcomed the Mayor, Councillor Cheryl Briggs, who presided over the elections. These were reassuring, in that all officers and committee members were re-elected. Thus, Stella Carter stays Chairman, Brian Read as Vice Chairman, while Ian and Rosemary Jardine continue to act jointly in the Treasurer and Membership Secretary rôles. However, we are still without a Secretary. Those duties have been very effectively devolved to the other officers and committee members, but we could really do with a Secretary in post to act as a coordinator.
The meeting was reminded of who is the principal contact for each of our twin towns and friendship links:
The other members of the committee are Michael Matthews (Vice President), David Pope, Linda Phillips, Lorraine Oates, Nikki Henton, Peter Dodd and Philip Addison.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Eileen Bontempelli was invited to report on the activities of Abingdon Church Twinning. The next exchange planned is a visit by mini-bus on 7-11 April 2022 to Sint-Niklaas for their Passion Play. The famous Oberammergau Passion Play, originally scheduled for 2020, had to be postponed due to the Coronavirus. Members will now be going 7-11 July 2022, staying with twinning hosts in Schongau. An invitation to the twin towns to participate in an Eco Church Weekend is being planned, probably for next October. Christmas cards would be sold again, this year using two photographs offered by Alastair Fear.
The formal proceedings of the meeting were followed by the opportunity to chat over a glass of wine and enjoy canapés prepared by Susan Read.
Evening Meeting - Drinks Party
Monday 19 July 2021 – at Longside, Thatham Road, Abingdon OX14 1QD
Well, at last we could all meet together for our summer drinks party, our first proper social occasion for over a year. We met in Michael Matthews‘ garden on July 19th, the most beautiful evening in what later became a heat wave (welcomed until it became too hot). It was so nice to see a group of committee members and twin town members and to share happy memories of our twin towns. We did maintain our social distance of course but it was very nice to be spread out within hearing distance in such a lovely setting.
A lot of work had gone into preparing for the evening as usual. Michael organised the drinks, ably assisted by Howard. The food maintained the usual high standard, prepared and transported by Nikki, Stella and Rosemary. Jo very kindly made some dim sum, which we all tasted and thought was delicious. The plates of food were tasty: small anchovies, vol-au-vents, etc. It was quite reminiscent of old times.
A lovely occasion and one that we all enjoyed, our first social evening since lockdown.
Very many thanks to all who made this such a special occasion. Let us hope for more successful evenings.
Evening Meeting - Sint-Niklaas
Thursday 20 May 2021 – Online by Zoom
We organised a Zoom with Sint-Niklaas on the evening of 20th May. Despite the fact that this was only 11 days after our Europe Day Zoom with all our twin towns, with S-N well represented, still we had an impressive and heartening number of S-N people Zooming in again for an evening shared specifically with them. We were all delighted that Wolfgang Markus had taken the time to join in this Zoom, extending its scope to SCHONGAU. About 21 screens were open, many of them with two people participating.
Siegfried started the evening in light-hearted mood by apologising that Mina could not be seen on the Zoom, as “the screen is not big enough for both of us”. Chair of ADTTS Stella followed up by remarking that a particular appendage to Oxford's classical-style Sheldonian Theatre (1669), modelled on a theatre in Ancient Rome, always made her think of a particular stalwart of the Sint-Niklaas Town Twinning team. Mr A. Prigg, of Abingdon, intervened to explain that the 13 heads Stella was referring to are known as “The Emperors' Heads” and so little is known about their builder and exact purpose that thanks to the elaborate sculpting of beards and long hairstyles on the heads, each head sporting a slightly different style, they are commonly thought of as either a gallery of Roman emperors' beard styles or their hairstyles.
It is clear from the classical style that the heads were built about the same time as the Sheldonian Theatre, and are intended as a surrounding to the area of the theatre, but in terms of actual proof of the builder or architect, NO-ONE KNOWS. The theatre itself was one of the very first works of Sir Christopher Wren, later the architect of St Paul's Cathedral in London, and it is often supposed that he is responsible also for the Emperors Heads, which bear no signature, but one of the heads has (sculpted in stone) the small bird, a wren (winterkoninkje), nesting in the long wavy hair.
Stella's (as you can see) diverting intervention neatly filled the gap as we had a technical delay in starting to play the much-heralded Sint-Niklaas (council) promotional film. Felix said the intended message is that Sint-Niklaas has a fast-growing population (from 65000 to 72000 in recent years) and is a happy, welcoming, attractive and thriving town for young people to come to live and work. Felix introduced the film by saying that it had no commentary so as to use no specific language as the town council wanted its message to be inclusive and accessible to all. The film itself was felt to be extremely well-produced, with huge visual appeal, and offered an extraordinary insight into the modern Sint-Niklaas town.
Following the film, we heard just a little about Herman's book "De Zaak von Sinterklaas”, but he, without mention of any Hermits, thanked Nick for the plug for his book, but said he would limit himself in time talking about the book tonight as no Englishman would ever read it, AS IT IS IN FLEMISH.
Nick then presented a very well put-together programme of still photos from our 2019 pre-Christmas visit to Sint-Niklaas, featuring the House of the Saint. Nick gave a highly diverting commentary to entertainingly link the various photos and to ultimately make a very sincere thank you to the Sint-Niklaas people for their excellent hospitality, friendship, and organisation of this visit.
Following the photos, it was fascinating to follow a very interesting conversation with Herman about the beginnings of the twinning relationship between our twin towns, and it was such a joy that Michael Matthews' outgoing sound on his computer had been fixed by Howard just in time, as Michael was charmingly increasingly drawn into this conversation, where he expressed that we in Abingdon had really learnt at the beginning of the Sint-Niklaas twinning what twinning was all about, and they had generously given us the benefit of the opportunity of quickly extending our friendship to Colmar, Lucca and Schongau.
This developed into an even more revealing three-way reminiscence between Herman and Michael about Nick's father, whose visits (with Nick and sister) to Belgium in the roots of the inter-primary school relationship gave rise to Abingdon town's association with Sint-Niklaas.
A really worthwhile, thoroughly enjoyable meeting, which enhanced appreciation of the Town Twinning relationship. Thank you, Sint-Niklaas town-twinners for your participation and lively contributions.
Sunday 9 May 2021 – Online by Zoom
Last year, unable to hold our customary dinner, we initiated a meeting on Zoom instead. One advantage we found was that we were able to be joined by friends from several of our twin towns. Given its success, and with members still unable to meet together, we decided to do it again this year and hoped for even more guest appearances from across the channel.
On this particular Sunday evening, with our glasses charged ready with a favourite tipple, we sat down to celebrate Europe Day 2021 with an International Videoconference Meeting using Zoom software. This was an opportunity to invite our friends and colleagues in all our twin towns, all ADTTS Members and all recipients of the Newsletter to join us in a toast to Europe and demonstrate our continued solidarity to a shared European Heritage. Who would have believed that plans for a meal would be thwarted yet again by a further Covid Lockdown and we would be using Zoom for a second time! Usually, members of ADTTS enjoy a meal together with a Euro-themed menu and festively decorated tables in a local venue.
Stella welcomed 40 members and friends on screen and the twin towns present were represented as follows:
The representative from each twin town was asked to update us on their present situation regarding Covid and whether any activities had been planned for the foreseeable future. In most cases, tentative plans were being put together for 2022 - a special celebratory year for some twin towns - when travelling abroad will hopefully be more realistic. Richard Smart updated us on potential Sports Activities to take place this year in England and hopefully to be available to our neighbours In Europe next year. Phil Addison and Nick Marsh had been working hard on a "History of May 9th" and Phil delivered a detailed report of this, which you can read separately in the Newsletter. He then finished by proposing a toast and we raised our glasses to celebrate this special occasion!
Before Stella drew the evening to a close, I was determined on behalf of ADTTS members to sincerely thank all of our guest editors and contributors to the Newsletter who have worked tirelessly, collating all the material involved for the past fourteen months. What has been amazing to witness, is the way in which the Newsletter has grown in strength and diversity of content. During our global adversity, the members have been able to support each other, not only in friendship but in written exchanges, which has been like a comforting blanket during our insular existence within our homes - knowing there were members beyond our shores who wanted to share this experience with us! May the Newsletter continue to gather momentum and draw in even more contributors who can offer us that “good feeling” about a Society that draws us all closer together!
Evening Meeting - Quiz
Thursday 15 April 2021 – Online by Zoom
‘Ave you ’ad you’re second jab, or the ADTTS quiz, 15 April 2021
‘I’ve just done five rounds with (name your boxer, Sugar Ray or a Rocky up to Anthony J.).’ Fortunately, this contest did not result in physically scrambled brains, merely mentally scrambled ones, and I think those have now subsided into their customary stupor.
Of course, the Zoom meeting began with that ‘age old’ question, ‘have you had your second jab yet? Once this topic had been aired and debated, I was proposed by Brian and seconded by Peter to write up an account of the quiz. Very wisely the other 20 or so entrants abstained from voting!
Brian Read was our quiz master with the power to screen share and mute, ably assisted by Peter Dodd, who supplied alternate rounds of questions.
When we were all sitting comfortably Brian opened the batting with 10 questions, provided by his son, on Oxford and all its many aspects. I was annoyed at getting Prokofiev and Stravinsky mixed up but Margaret managed to identify the buildings highlighted on the city skyline. The winners were requested to put their hands up. We were on a roll
Anne and Peter teased us with a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate before Peter took pity on us and tasting and Plasticine, usual subjects for ADTTS quizzes, were off and our knowledge of Abingdon, ancient and modern, on. You learn, forget and relearn – ock is old English for salmon. Now will I remember this? Doubtful. Nevertheless, we were still on a roll. What could stop us?
The third round, courtesy Brian, did the trick. Fifteen pictures of twin towns plus a feature from each. As far as we were concerned there were a lot of shots of the walls of Lucca and the ‘caves’ therein. Alas Schongau also has walls and when we were shown another picture from Lucca, we could not recall the name of the very characteristic tower illustrated.
Peter provided round four, lots of stuff about foods, etc. For instance, no tomatoes, or love apples, in Worcestershire sauce. An average performance. We were slipping down the field. Brian finished us off with a right hook, metaphorically speaking, to wit our memories of 2020. I over-ruled Margaret on the richest man (it was Bezos not Musk), moral - never over-rule your wife and we sank gracefully out of sight but with our colours flying.
Yes, it was an excellent quiz night and our thanks are to Stella for chairing and Brian and Peter for putting it all together and hosting. We will revise for the next occasion.
Neil Hancox, with Margaret supplying the answers. 16 April 2021
Evening Meeting - Abingdon Liveable Streets
Thursday 18 March 2021 – Online by Zoom
Organised by Anne Smart, our monthly meeting on 18th March was about Abingdon Liveable Streets and we welcomed Robin Tucker from Abingdon Carbon Cutters. He gave a talk entitled, "A future cycling and walking network for Abingdon – where and why?".
Robin is Chair of the Oxfordshire Cycling Network and a founder member of Abingdon Liveable Streets, the group that developed the plan for Abingdon. He is also a member of Abibike, Abingdon Freewheeling, Abingdon Carbon Cutters, Cycling UK and The Ramblers, so was happy to give local and national views on cycling and walking, and the benefits they can bring to individuals and to society.
The meeting on Zoom was attended by about 35 people, including friends from Sint-Niklaas, Argentan and Abingdon Virginia.
Robin's theme was to encourage “active travel” which means walking or cycling more, which is both healthy and enjoyable.
He had set up a group of enthusiastic volunteers and with encouragement from the local councils had organised teams to map Abingdon for cyclists and walkers. They found that some routes were really good for cyclists and walkers but others needed a lot of attention such as clearing vegetation from the paths, etc. The main routes radiated out of Abingdon towards the schools and supermarkets and included excellent cinder tracks as well as what Robin called the ring roads. A lot of attention was made to the town centre near the market place and useful suggestions for improvements were made.
The maps produced by the different teams came in at different times so were followed up by quality control to ensure that they all met the same standards. The final map will be made available to the people of Abingdon and a copy will go to the people working on the neighbourhood plan for Abingdon. The volunteer surveyors pointed out many hazards such as dangerous junctions, metal grids, etc., which can be brought to the attention of those who deal with them.
We realise that we will probably never get active travel routes like in Germany or the Netherlands but it is all going in the right direction.
Evening Meeting - Colmar
Thursday 18 February 2021 – Online by Zoom
On Thursday 18th February there was a joint Zoom between Colmar and Abingdon twinning groups. The main emphasis of the evening was to wish Ian and Angela Waterhouse good luck in their relocation to the north of England to be nearer their son and family, and to share reminiscences of our various visits to Colmar.
Stella welcomed the group and Howard valiantly managed our mute/unmute occasions; this was no mean task as there turned out to be forty eight of us.
David Mallen and Marc Lischer did a great job in circulating their members and we were greeted by Madame Michèle Sengelen-Chiodetti, the Deputy Mayor of Colmar in charge of international affairs. It was lovely also to hear of Marie-Louise Vlegels from Sint-Niklaas who was in hospital with a broken shoulder and we send our best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Stella read a greeting to the Waterhouses from Pierre and Ionie Silliere from Argentan.
Ian and Angela recounted their reminiscences from their times in Colmar, followed by Anne Dodd on the language school that she attended, Margaret Hancox’s and the walking group, and I briefly recounted my wonderful week walking with Colmar walkers led by Robert Manion.
A familiar theme was the wonderful coffee and cakes that appear everywhere you go in Colmar, a universal theme.
The evening concluded with David and Stella thanking us all for attending and wishing Ian and Angela well with the hope that we might all meet again in person sooner rather than later.
Evening Meeting - A Zoom in on Argentan
Thursday 21 January 2021 – Online by Zoom
On the evening of Thursday 21st January we held the first of our regular monthly ADTTS meetings on Zoom.
We invited all our members and friends from Argentan to come together to compare notes on our lockdown situations and to exchange stories of past twinning meetings between Abingdon & Argentan.
We had about 30 screens which probably represented over 40 people. There were roughly even numbers from Abingdon and Argentan and we also very pleased to see Gwen Baillet and Antoine Chuquet, two young people from Argentan who currently live in England and who have spoken to us at an ADTTS meeting some time ago. Gwen lives in Bristol and Antoine in Central London.
Antoine was particularly pleased to see some of his old teachers on the Zoom - an unexpected bonus.
Both our towns are in lockdown because of the Covid pandemic and we heard from people from both towns who had actually caught Covid but happily have recovered. Although there are some cases in Argentan we heard that the local hot spot seems to be the town of Alençon.
Jean Paul told us that Argentan will celebrate a special custom on March 25th when people hang out their laundry and suggested that we might like to do the same in unity with Argentan. Perhaps we will wait for more information about that one. Richard recalled some of his various escapades by bicycle to Argentan - he always likes to be there on the 14th of July and returns with panniers full of pommeau and merguez sausages! Angela and Ian have enjoyed many visits to Argentan and told us about some research they had done on a British airman whose grave is near Argentan. Anne told us about one of their first trips to Argentan when Pere Gerrard took the family up on to the roof of St Germain's Church - probably impossible these days with health and safety regulations.
Stella rounded up the evening by thanking everyone who had come along and expressed the thoughts of us all that we cannot wait to resume normal exchanges and return with loaded suitcases of livarot and calvados.
Go to 2020 Events.