Montesson 2016

Weekend of celebrations for ‘Twinning’ anniversary

DESPITE Brexit, Thame’s relationship with its twin town in France grows stronger, and this year’s anniversary walking challenge went a long way to buttress that bond – 60 kilometers in fact!

Linda Emery and Cynthia Jackson enjoy a glass of cider during the picnic break on the last day of their 3 day walkLinda Emery and Cynthia Jackson enjoy a glass of cider

Four people from Thame, including the current Mayor, Linda Emery, walked for three days along the banks of the rivers Oise and Seine, from Méry-sur-Oise, through Auvers-au-Oise where Vangogh worked and eventually died, through Pontoise and finally on to Thame’s twin town of Montesson.

'Team GB' L-R Linda Emery, Cythia Jackson, Sonja Francis and John Francis

‘Team GB’ L-R Linda Emery, Cythia Jackson, Sonja Francis and John Francis

The gauntlet had been thrown down by a party of six Montessonaise who walked from just outside London to Thame over four days, along the the South Bucks Way back in May this year, to celebrate 15 years of ‘jumelage’. In both cases, the last day’s walking was shared by other members of the two towns’ twinning associations.

 The Thame walkers, Linda Emery, Cynthia Jackson, Sonja Francis and John Francis, were met on the last day in the Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye at mid-day, by a party from Montesson with a splendid picnic of cold meats, cheeses, bread, fruit and cider, before completing the walk to Montesson itself together.

Nichola Dixon, Deputy Mayor of Thame, with her partner Micheal Bailey at the Communal dinner in Montesson

Nichola Dixon, Deputy Mayor of Thame, with her partner Micheal Bailey at the Communal dinner in Montesson

Meanwhile, a coach load of Thame residents left Thame very early on the Friday morning, September 16 (the last day of the walk) to arrive simultaneously at Montesson itself to a Welcome reception, before dispersing with host families for the evening. The celebrations continued all weekend with fire works and a communal dinner, which included visitors from Montesson’s German twin town of Baesweiler, on the Saturday night.

Linda Emery was represented by the Deputy Mayor of Thame, Nichola Dixon, because Linda had needed to take a plane to Liverpool early Saturday morning, for a pre-planned family celebration. A local choir sang all three national anthems joyously as well as the EU anthem.

All the Thame Mayors present from the previous 15 years, David Laver, Jeannette Matelot Green and Don Butler, were called up to the stage and applauded for their contributions to twinning (Nigel Champken Woods was unable to be present but was mentioned).

The Mayor of Montesson, Jean-Francois Bel, proudly wears his 'I love Thame' T shirtThe Mayor of Montesson, Jean-Francois Bel, proudly wears his ‘I love Thame’ T shirt

The relaxed and amicable relationship that has built over the years between the two towns, and particularly that between the Mayor of Montesson and the man who was Mayor of Thame at the beginning of twinning, Don Butler, shone through as Nichola Dixon presented Jean-François Bel with an ‘I love Thame’ T-shirt. And, in appreciation of the efforts of the walkers, both the ‘Team GB’ English walkers and the ‘Walking Frogs’ as the Montesson team dubbed themselves (Bernard and Miriam Chevalier, Jacques and Huguette Fouché, and Christian and Catherine Beauvy), were presented with Olympic style medals.  Medals were also presented to the group of French cyclists who cycled all the way from Montesson to Thame in the same week as the ‘Walking Frogs’ treked to Thame in May. They were Elisabeth Charriere, Michael Gitlin, Jean-Pierre Piofret, Bernard Daudergnies, plus Jean-François Piofret and Michel Coffinieres. The Montesson-Thame Athletic Club are already thinking about what their next challenge could be, but have ruled out – for now – cycling to Thame’s namesake village in Nepal!

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Two members of the Thame and District Twinning Association, John and Sonja Francis who stayed on in Montesson for two extra days, were proud to be invited to walk in solidarity with the Montesson Twinning Committee in the town’s carnival on the Sunday, waving the three flags of Montesson’s twinned town’s countries, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Ex Mayor of Thame Don Butler (left) celebrates with Jean francois Bel, the Mayor of Montesson

Ex Mayor of Thame Don Butler (left) celebrates with Jean Francois Bel, the Mayor of Montesson

After a very busy weekend which included a guided tour of the Château de Saint-Germain – the home of many French monarchs, exploring Montmartre, a Salvadore Dali exhibition or, in the Deputy Mayor’s case, a visit to the horse racing at Longchamp, the coach left for home on Sunday evening. Those new to twinning had made new friends while the regular members were leaving with more shared memories that will no doubt carry forward a lasting bond – whatever happens to European co-operation in the wider UK in the future.

Thank you to Sonja Francis of Thamenews.net for this article and photographs