Archive Article: 1997/07/18

18 July 1997

WHAT a busy little month its been, in spite of the weather. This cold, dreary and very soggy climate hasnt put a stop to events at all.

The group of 16 American women from Wisconsin made the best of their three-day-visit to Vimoutiers where they all should have been received into local families, but in fact the organiser this end had trouble finding enough people to take them.

Not, I think through disinterest or reluctance, more due to the fact that there is a very strong twinning contingent already with Sontra in Germany and Fordingbridge and, as in most places, it always seems to fall to the same people to help out each time.

So, half the group went into homes and half stayed at a local hotel whose only saving grace is that its very central. Luxurious? No. Friendly people? I dont know how they keep going. A lot of French hotels often have a certain charm outside, with simple though outdated rooms, but then the good food and friendly ambience more than make up for it – in all honesty this wasnt the case here.

Tim went with them on the first day as tour guide around the Normandy beaches and to the museum. One lady discovered that a member of her family over in the war was buried in Belgium, which added a poignant touch to the trip.

Tim really took a shine to the group and the next day we had the hotel half home for lunch where he gave them a taste of the Normandy good life – cider, calvados, black pudding, Livarot and Camembert cheese, and french tarts, which set them up before their next visit, and Paris.

That same evening was the Fête de la musique – a national event in France which, appallingly, Tim and I have never joined in with before. Last year as Cherry was in Caen she came home with stories of how good it was and what a brilliant atmosphere abounded so, after collecting Beth from a friends house where she had been child minding at a wedding party, we set off for Caen.

Walking first around the Chateau we saw a violinist, a sixties style group of four, a school choir, and a slightly bizarre group of chanters dancing. All through the town there was music of different sorts – with a lot of heavy metal – playing in the street, outside bars and cafes and masses of people wandering round from one to the other.

Different towns organise different events. Lisieux was planning a karaoke night. Another year they had an orchestral event at a nearby chateau. It was great.

A menacing black cloud loomed over at about 11pm and we fell into The English Shop and had a cup of tea among very familiar paraphernalia (baked beans, HP sauce, Shredded Wheat and marmalade); a little haven for Brits abroad, and, in particular, the British students at the university.

Even though the town was packed we still managed to bump into Abi and her theatre troupe watching some bongo players, and we found ourselves standing behind Cherry and a friend watching the same singer which, considering the size of Caen and the number of people there, was quite amazing.

Chrissie Green: The national music celebration was full of surprises.

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