Twinning visit to Chassieu - 2011
    Report by Brian Nicholson

On Wednesday 25th May thirty-two members of the Coleshill Twinning Society made the traditional biennial visit to Chassieu, our twin town in the Rhône-Alpes region of France. As the plane banked down over the sun-bleached patchwork of fields that surrounds Chassieu, we felt we could be sure of warmer weather than that we had left behind in England.  Friends greet us at the airport and transport us and our luggage to their homes, where we are settled in and then issued with a smart brochure detailing the events planned for our stay, the first of which is the official welcome this evening at the local Boulodrôme. 
Here some 80 of us gather in a large utility buildingdedicated to the game ofboules à la lyonnaise or Lyon-style bowls. On arrival we are offered delicious nibbles andaperitifs, courtesy of Airports de Lyon. Aline Duret, president of the Dialogues Chassieu-Coleshill, makes a welcoming speech and explains that Lyon-style bowls should not be confused with the more common game of pétanque that one sees played on any old car park, lawn or beach, elsewhere in France. Lyon-style bowls, she says, is played on a specially prepared surface and is a game that calls for strength combined with great skill, courage and intelligence. In fact, she says, with a twinkle in her eye, it would not be surprising if, after we've tried it, we prefer it to cricket! When we do take a turn at throwing the heavy steel bowls across the red crushed-shale towards the jack, some of us do quite well, especially the ladies, although, it is always a Frenchman who hurls the final cannon ball and scatters his opponents' in all directions. After this fun and effort, we tuck into a generous buffet, prepared by members of the Dialogues. 
The following morning we go by coach to the glassworks at St.Just-St.Rambert, 80km to the west, beyond St. Etienne. It is one of threeremaining manufacturers of decorative glass in Europe and much of its output goes to the restoring of ancient monuments. We all don protective clothing - what a sight we look in out hairnets, safety caps, high-visibility waistcoats and toe-protectors! - and we follow the guide into the factory. In the furnace the glass has been brought to a molten state overnight and the men we now watch are blowing it into huge fragile test-tube shapes: an extremely delicate operation. We watch, fascinated, as these tubes first have their domed ends cracked-off and are then scored down one side, given a delicate tap with a hammer, and put back into the heat to be opened-out to form flat panes. Beyond the furnace, we proceed to the glass store where the panes - cooled, trimmed,labelled, andof every imaginable colour and surface texture-are kept in racks. 

After lunch at Le Befranc Restaurant, at St. Bonnet-le-Château,a village on the Loire, we visit the Obut Boules Museum nearby. Here, we discover that boules are not solid but hollow, that they come in different sizes - to suit the hand of the player - and come in varying degrees of hardness, some more bouncy than others. Of course the biggest and most impressive examples are those used for the Lyon game.

Friday morning finds us heading north to the trade guild museum at Romanèche-Thorins, a small village in the lovely Beaujolais country, an hour's journey away. We alight from the coach and pause outside the museum to admire the surrounding vineyards with their vines curving in graceful perspective up the slopes. The grapes are, as yet, small but we are told that the hot dry weather should bring a good vintage. However, the lack of rain this spring is a cause of great concernto farmers here andfrom the coach we often see the powerful water jets of irrigation units spraying the thirsty crops.  

The trade guild museum houses a fine collection of items associated with le compagnonnage - the guilds of men who practiced carpentry, masonry, stained glass and other building crafts that developed in the Middle Ages. In a second room we see howthose early techniques have now been augmented with steelwork and reinforced concrete.
Reinforced concrete is a theme that we revisit in the afternoon, after a leisurelylunch at the stylish Château des Loges, at Le Perréon, for concrete is powerfully represented in the Dominican Priory of Sainte Marie de la Tourette which stands on a hillside overlooking Eveux-sur-Abresle. The building is the design of the celebrated architect Le Corbusier and is an important work in the late modernist style. At first sight one could be forgiven for feeling that this immense blockhouse would have been more at home in the 1950s Bull Ring than in this pastoral setting. Our guide asks us what we think of it and although no one wishes to give offence, reluctantly,the word 'ugly' is uttered.-'Don't worry, says the guide, that's what a lot of people say'. Further explanation of Le Corbusier's ideas of space, mathematical proportion, light, rough and smooth surfaces, economy, simplicity, followed by the opportunity to explore inside the priory, doessomewhat soften opinions. However, thecavernous unadorned space of the church with its 7-second echo must surely be a challenge for any choir or preacher! Like it or not, La Tourette proves to be the most talked-about visit of our stay. 


At the Farewell Party on Saturday, in the Salle des Fêtes,the mayor of Chassieu, Alain Darlay, says how happy he is to witness the joy that these exchanges bring, enabling us to renew friendships, to learn more about our respective cultures and to strengthen the spirit of European co-operation.

He is looking forward to visiting Coleshill for the first time next year and celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Twinning. Chairman Malcolm Butler thanks the Chasseulands for their wonderful hospitality saying how well he knows the difficulties involved in putting together an itinerary. He himself had been apprehensive about the glassworks: the last time he went to one he broke a valuable vase. This time he kept his hands in his pockets! In conclusion he presents to Chassieu a decorated plate commemorating ourrecent royal wedding. 

On behalf of the Dialogues,President Aline Duret, thanks Malcolm for the gift and asked him to pass on the Chasseuland's best wishes to the royal couple next time he sees them. After more light-hearted remarks about our skill, or lack of it, at boules, Aline thanks Monsieur Darlay, the Chassieu Town Council and Airports de Lyon for their support. She especially thanks all those of the Dialogueswho have been sprucing-up their guest rooms and planning recipes for the past fortnight in anticipation of our arrival. Before the end of the evening she presents Malcolm with a trophy cup in memory of our night at the Boulodrôme.




The speeches are now over and dinner is served. During the meal we are entertained by Yves du Rêve, a lively character dressed as Charlie Chaplin, who has brought along his barrel organ and an assortment of other amusing props. His repertoire ranges from Edith Piaf to The Beatles, from rap to poetry, and he soon has the room singing. Can this be how karaoke started? 

Before we begin our journey home the following day, some of us attend a bi-lingual committee meeting on the terrace behind Aline's house. Both Chassieu and Coleshill are keen to recruit new members, be they individuals, couples or associations.

In the past our local school, football, rugby, tennis, music and drama groups have all exchanged with their opposite number in Chassieu. The Twinning would like to help foster more such links in the future.


For information contact Anita (01675 470 443) or send us an e-mail by clicking here 

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