Twinning visit from Chassieu - 2014

    Report by Brian Nicholson
 
Twenty-four Chasselands arrived in Coleshill on Wednesday 25th May to spend four days here enjoying English life as guests of members of the Twinning Association.

 After being greeted at the airport and taken home by their hosts, all made their way to the Town Hall for a welcoming ceremony which was enlivened by the presence of the Ansty Morris Dancers. 

Our new mayor, Councillor Harry Taylor, donning the mayoral chain for his first public ceremony, congratulated us for maintaining our friendly links with Chassieu for over 30 years, in a European Union that is not famed for harmonious relations.

Chairman, Malcolm Butler added his welcome and said he hoped that the outings we had planned for this visit would prove interesting. Finding suitable restaurants for lunch had been – he added with a smile – a hard task for those of the committee who had made excursions to sample the fare but they had all faced the task with courage and self-sacrifice.

Aline Duret, présidente of Dialogue Chassieu-Coleshill, said how pleased she was to have brought 24 Frenchies with her, one of whom, Councillor and deputy mayor of Chassieu, Marie-Claude Clouzeau, said that the mayor of Chassieu, Councillor Jean-Jacques Cellès, wished our movement well and looked forward to meeting us.

Now comes more Morris dancing with members of the audience joining in a lively stick dance to the music of accordions and guitar. The welcome ceremony concludes with a buffet prepared by members of the Twinning.

 

 
On Thursday we visit historic Worcester, stepping down from our bus by the statue of Sir Edward Elgar and making our way into the Cathedral where we are fortunate to have both French and English-speaking guides. We learn that the 10th century priory that stood on the site had an important connection with Fleury Abbey in France from where Bishop Oswald introduced the monastic rule. Later came King John whose empire included a large part of France; Henry VIII who made a lot of religious changes; Cromwell, who did a lot of damage to the statues and finally Sir Gilbert Scott and his colleague W. A. Perkins who restored the cathedral to its present state.

It is a short walk to lunch at Spires - the restaurant operated by catering students at Worcester College of Technology – after which our coach takes us, singing as we go, to the Morgan Motor Company at Malvern. Here, after a video presentation outlining the history of the 100-year-old car plant, we make a comprehensive tour of the workshops, seeing for ourselves the materials and the craftsmanship that go to make these hand-built vehicles. The racy 3-wheelers, in gleaming colours, with their chrome-plated engines, are still the top-sellers.

 

 

Our Friday outing is but a short coach journey to the centre of Birmingham. The new library in Centenary Square and the redevelopment of the city at Millennium Point are what we want to show to the Chasselands. Lunch is at the Rep at midday. Due to space restriction at the library we divide into two groups.

The first makes the tour of the library where our guide explains the more modern approach which the new building has allowed. No more are reference and lending sections housed separately and no longer is complete silence insisted upon. Technology has been applied to the borrowing and returning of books. An extensive children’s library is included as is a huge music library, complete with piano and rehearsal rooms and, by the way, it is the biggest library in Europe.

Meanwhile, the second group is transported across the city to the Think Tank to see some of the wonderful inventions that originated here in the Midlands - James Watt’s gigantic steam-powered pump that fed the canal at Smethwick for over a century, the Railton car that held the land-speed record, the old tram, the magnificent City of Birmingham locomotive, the Supermarine Spitfire… and much more. The only regret is that our time is limited.

 

 

No daytime activities have been planned for the Saturday of the visit. Today individual hosts will find something for their guests to do, maybe stay home, maybe an outing, nothing too taxing. The weather is anything but summery, so picnics are out of the question.

The evening brings the Farewell Party at Maxstoke Golf Club. After an aperitif over which we relate our day’s activities, we take our seats in the restaurant. As is our tradition, the speeches come first, leaving the way clear for dining and dancing afterwards. Chairman Malcolm Butler says how this happy time together has passed en un clin d’oeil – the twinkling of and eye… and thank goodness, no one was injured in the Morris dancing.

For the Chasselands, Aline Duret notes that the weather last year in Chassieu and this year in Coleshill - cold and wet - was very similar; perhaps it’s a new European standard!

But, above all, she thanks us for the warm welcome given by the hosting families and for superb itinerary of discovery provided by Coleshill Twinning. In conclusion she invites us to Chassieu in 2015.

 

 

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