INCHTURE AREA TWINNING NEWS
As you’ve probably heard by now from your friends and neighbours, 45 people from the Inchture Area went to SW France in July to celebrate 15 years of Twinning with Fléac. Over the years, we have grown accustomed to the formal and informal rituals that mark our visits to Fléac. So it was that our arrival was accompanied by the familiar sound of Sandy’s piping as the Scots emerged from the coach - to be met with warm handshakes and hugs and kisses from old friends. It was going to be a memorable weekend.
During a welcome drink outside in the warm evening sunshine newcomers were introduced to their host families, while experienced “twinners” shared their recollections of previous meetings. We were all given a linen bag, proudly carrying the Fléac twinning logo and containing the programme of events, useful information about attractions in the local area and a commemorative mug inscribed “Fléac-Inchture Area 1993 – 2008”.
One “ritual” of these events is a theme for the weekend. Our hosts had decided to show us the rural traditions of their area. Their Twinning Committee had planned a fascinating programme for all ages - from young children to over 60’s! On our first hot sunny morning, we visited a superb new Museum dedicated to ‘The Art of Cognac’. We were given a Hi-Tec audio guide (with a commentary in English) which when we walked past an exhibit of an agricultural tool, machine, or process in the making of Cognac, activated the audio guide and explained its use. It was brilliant. Even the children enjoyed it - though they got round quicker than some of us. I was interested in their bottle collection and the subtle changes in the evolution and design for marketing Cognac. Everything was there -from the original bottle-shaped brandy bottles to chunky, macho glass containers like giant aftershave bottles, and curvaceous, sexy containers, like gorgeous perfume bottles- as the companies found new markets.
Afterwards, the bus took us to a huge park nearby, where the children played and ran about in the sunshine. Our host families had made picnics for us and we picnicked in the shade. Well-fed and tired out we nearly all snoozed on the bus to our next venue, a 200-year old water-powered Paper Mill at the bottom of a deep valley. Here the children actually made sheets of paper, while the adults listened to the master papermaker talking about the process of traditional papermaking. His handmade paper is used to repair books and manuscripts in The Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and The Bodleian Library in Oxford.
That evening we gathered outside the town hall of Fléac for the official ceremony to mark 15 years of twinning between our two communities, with speeches from representatives from Inchture, Fléac and from Marktbreit, Fléac’s twin town in Germany, and an exchange of gifts – we presented a kilt and Highland Dress outfit
and a shield which had been designed by children from Inchture and Abernyte for the children at the primary school in Fléac. A very sociable event, not too heavy, but nevertheless there was a touch of formality in the speeches, drawing attention to the real bonds of friendship which had been forged between our two communities during the past 15 years.
Saturday was devoted to ‘The Harvest in the Olden Days’ and we even had to dress up! We’d had to add ‘Olde Worlde’ costumes to our mean No-Frills Airline baggage allowance! The car boot- sales and charity shops of Perthshire did a roaring trade before our visit. Imagine the cast of Les Miserables reaping and toiling beside the River Charente in a field of barley which had been sown specially for our visit .We made a pretty rural scene all togged out in our fake peasant gear, as we helped to harvest it, with scythes, sickles and flails. Best of all Banned from Abernyte came with us to play music as we reaped and tied up the sheaves for the ancient threshing machine.’ Banned’ delighted everyone at the Harvest Feast that night with lively Scottish dance music.
Other highlight visits were to see how sea-salt is made on the salt mashes on the île d’Oléron on the Atlantic coast, and the ancient cultivation of oysters. We were treated to a lunch of locally-raised oysters from the famous oyster beds, and amazing barbecued mussels, followed by a short extremely bracing swim in the Atlantic surf, warmer than the North Sea, but very rough!
Tuesday arrived all too soon, and it was time to bid “ au revoir” to our hosts. A memorable visit indeed.