I am pleased to report that the membership of EVTA has remained above 30 during the past year.
However, I am very sad to record the passing of one of our most stalwart members, Pauline Davis, who has given a huge amount to our Twinning Association over the years. As you may know, Pauline underwent a series of operations during the past year from which she was slowly recovering, but to everyone's profound shock she passed away just a few weeks ago. Our sincere condolences go to Terry.
As Membership Secretary, she not only collected annual subs and maintained the membership list but produced our occasional newsletter Jumelage and collected bookings and payment for our various activities. These basic functions were vital to the smooth running of EVTA and on this occasion only I am grateful to Andree for agreeing to collect annual subscriptions (as cheques for £20 pp made out to EVTA).
Now on to happier matters. First, let me give all past and present members a very warm welcome. I should like to extend this welcome to Shirley Moberly, Chairman of Hythe Twinning Association, and her predecessor Kevin Howell, and Sheila Harris and colleague Alan Clark, representing Deal Twinning Association. As you will see from the agenda, following the business part of the meeting and a refreshment break for some wine and French cheese, they will be telling us about the various twinning activities they have held with Poperinge, Berck-sur-mer and St Omer over many years, inviting us to join them in some way if we so choose. To get to know us better, we are invited to join them for a lunch in Dover on or around 20th June (date TBD).
Unfortunately, we have not seen our Beaujolais twins this year, and a proposed weekend visit by us this October had to be cancelled due to a lack of support on both sides of the Channel. On our previous visit to them they had said quite openly that they felt they had "Been there, done that, and bought the proverbial T-shirt", so to speak, essentially saying that they had seen the various attractions we have to offer in this part of Kent. Of course, the converse is true in that we have seen their local vineyards and heard much about the arts of viniculture. For us too, with the fall in the pound, a weekend in Beaujolais has become an increasingly expensive proposition despite the attraction of free accommodation.
Our main events this year have all taken place in the summer months. Following a brief AGM in April we enjoyed a selection of French cheeses, washed down with bottles of Beaujolais donated by our French friends.
In May some of us had a fascinating guided tour of The Grand Hotel, Folkestone, which has several claims to fame, most notably being King Edward VII's frequent visits with his mistress to his favourite seaside hotel. The tour was rounded off with a right Royal cream tea.
Probably the most successful trip of the year was to the Baie de Somme in June, where we travelled by steam train from Le Crotoy, north of the river estuary, to St Valery sur Somme, famous for being William the Conqueror's departure point for the invasion of England in 1066. Here we were met by Jean Claude and a group from the Vallée de la Course, making up a party of 18 for a gastronomic lunch at Le Relais de Normandie, with its panoramic view of the bay. We were blessed with exceptionally warm, sunny weather which made the whole day totally delightful.
In July, a few of the Vallée de la Course folk made a return visit to see us. After lunch at The Royal Hotel, Deal, and a walk along the pier we visited Walmer Castle, originally the home of the Duke of Wellington, where the beautiful gardens were at their best. The French very much appreciated the audio guides in French which relieved us from attempting any detailed translation. The day was rounded off with a visit to the Zetland Arms, a pub atmospherically situated on the edge of the shingle beach at Kingsdown.
For our October get-together the committee proposed a "Crêpes, Cider and Quiz" evening, which regrettably had to be cancelled due to lack of interest. This was somewhat surprising since previous quiz evenings had proved extremely popular.
It has become a traditional feature of these end-of-year addresses to finish with a few hilarious jokes to keep you laughing well into the new year. However, 2017 has been a pretty miserable time, what with rising inflation, falling living standards and the whole Brexit saga, so, consistent with this gloomy picture, and by popular demand, you will be pleased to hear that on this occasion there will be no jokes at all (cheers!)
Instead, I will end by simply wishing you all Joyeux Noël and a Bonne Année, and hope that 2018 brings better tidings than did 2017. But above all, I hope that you will continue to support the Elham Valley Twinning Association and all it has to offer, and I remind you that new blood on the committee is always welcome to bring in fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm.
I give you a toast: Bonnes Fêtes et Bonne Santé!