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PREVIOUS ACTIVITIES and EVENTS

SEPTEMBER 2021 – TREASURE HUNT

The annual car rally took place Saturday 11th September. The object of the treasure hunt is for participants to exercise their skills in identifying objects of curiosity and historical facts and to have fun in doing so. This year proved no exception. The circuit incorporated the communes originally named Avrillé, Cantenay-Epinard, Montreuil-Juigné, and Le Plessis-Macé, in areas north of Angers. As usual, the event caused a lot of arguing both between team members over the complex cryptic clues prepared by member Terence O’Hara, and with the organiser, Dorothy Morison, who delivered the answers. In all, a great deal of fun was had by all participants and an excellent meal was enjoyed in the friendly atmosphere of ‘Le Paddock’ in Cantenay-Epinard.

An Autumn Walk has become an established and well supported event on the ESU LV annual calendar. Tony Oakley kindly organised a walk on Saturday 25th September in and around Blaison-Gohier. The walk took us through vineyards and woodland and gave an opportunity for all to appreciate the lovely autumn colours in the countryside whilst chatting and sauntering along the way before settling down to enjoy a picnic lunch together. Following her day out, member Annie Guellaff wrote:

On our way, a few surprises:

First, a nest, not in a tree, its usual shelter but in the hands of a hiker

Unfortunately, Terence, our expert was not on the ground ….

Fortunately, Victor, an excellent birdwatcher, was not far and,

at first sight and with no hesitation, could tell us what kind of bird this nest and this empty eggshell belonged to ….

Then, a few metres further, we had the pleasant surprise to see,

under the canopy, in the greenery and among flowers ….

coloured garden gnomes of all sizes…waiting for Snow White probably ….

We passed a few houses “de caractère” with barns, stone stairs, a well and oven ….

We had at last our well-deserved “apéro” and picnic on real tables and real benches.

Café and “pousse-café” were cancelled because of rain!

OCTOBER 2021 – KNOW YOUR MUSHROOMS

28 members and friends enjoyed a mushroom themed lunch 9th October, at the Moulin des Saveurs, Distré, following which Dr. Laurence Laboutière gave a most interesting, illustrated talk about fungi. Dr. Laboutière has been passionate about mushrooms since childhood. She researched fungi at l’Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, a scientific and technical research centre run jointly by the Ministries of Research and Agriculture. She now has her own company, SAR Compost’elle, and produces ten different varieties of mushrooms which she sells in the markets of Saumur and Montsoreau on Saturdays and Sundays.

OCTOBER 2021 – MUSHROOM HUNT

The next step on our journey of discovery was a practical session to help us distinguish edible from non-edible mushrooms provided by Malinda Crispin. 22nd October, Malinda kindly led members on a morning’s mushroom hunt in the woods near Breil-sur-Allonnes.

Malinda started the morning by talking about fungi in general and reinforcing several points that had been made by Dr. Laboutiere, before, armed with knives and baskets, we all set off along a footpath through the forest, often foraging into the undergrowth in search of various forms of fungi.

Everything we found went into our baskets. Some unfortunately had to be thrown away, some were kept as exhibition pieces, but a lot were returned to our baskets to add interest to our diet over the following days. Malinda offered suggestions for suitable menus. We learned that some fungi are rather spongy on the palate and that these are better when put into soup, often with crème fraiche added; others are better tossed in butter; others are excellent when mixed with vegetables or meat.

Before returning home to prepare the morning’s harvest for supper, several stayed to sit in the sunshine and enjoy a relaxing picnic lunch together.

NOVEMBER 2021 - AGM

Following the disappointment last year when the live Annual General Meeting had to be replaced with an email version, it was good news that the AGM 2021 could go ahead as planned 6th November at the Hôtel du Parc, Saumur. 29 members attended and 29 apologies and 13 proxy votes were received in advance of the meeting.

It was a particularly animated meeting with questions from the floor and plenty of opportunity for discussion which highlighted the fact that the association is truly back in business after the uncertainty of the past two years.

DECEMBER 2021 – CHRISTMAS MEAL

The traditional ESU English Christmas celebration took place at the Hotel Mercure Angers Lac du Maine Saturday 4th December. For many it marked the start of the festive season ahead. Committee members had arrived in time to ensure that the tables were festively decorated, and that raffle prizes were labelled before the 45 attendees arrived to enjoy an aperitif, pull the crackers, and don their paper crowns.

Michael Small was master of ceremonies with entertainment provided by Tony Oakley, John Barritt and Roy Powell. Several members assisted with the very successful raffle which raised 275€. In all, a very fitting, enjoyable end to the association’s activities in 2021.

February 2022 - CHinese New Year

Saturday 19th February, 31 members and friends gathered at the restaurant “Le Siècle d’Or” in Saumur, for a meal.  It was a celebration, not only to greet the Chinese Year of the Tiger, but also of our first meeting together in 2022.  We were welcomed at the door and shown to an area of the restaurant which had been set aside for us. 

The food on offer at the buffet was of excellent quality and we were certainly spoiled for choice.  It was a very enjoyable occasion that offered plenty of opportunities for people to interact and catch up after the sporadic meetings of the past two years.

On leaving the restaurant, 13 of us made the short journey to the Grand Palace Cinema to see the mystery thriller “Death on the Nile” which was directed by, and starred Michael Branagh. The scenery was stunning and caused many to comment that our next meeting should be on a cruise ship on the Nile (without the excitement, of course!).

March 2022

19th March

During the morning of Saturday 19th March, 17 members visited the Cligman Exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne in the splendid setting of Fontevraud Abbey.  This exhibition was officially opened 19th September 2021 by the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, and the Minister for Culture, Roselyne Bachelot.

On display are 20th century paintings, sculptures, glassware, and drawings from Europe and around the world.  Whilst it was generally agreed that not all the 900 pieces on show would be welcome in our own homes, the collection is a superb representation of artwork and warrants being featured high on the list of places to visit in our region.

Following the visit to the art exhibition, the group was joined by ten more members and friends for an excellent lunch in Parnay at “La Gabelle”.  People were unanimous in saying that the restaurant deserves another visit, and it will most definitely be featured in our programme of events at a future date.

National Public Speaking Competition

The ESU public speaking competition in English took place in the grand setting of the Salons de la Présidence at the Préfecture, Place Michel Debré, Angers, during the afternoon of 26th March 2022.

12 candidates presented their speeches on the theme “We expect too much from our heroes”.  They represented 7 lycées:

  • the Joachim du Bellay
  • the Sacré-Coeur la Salle in Angers
  • the St. Benoît site Université in Angers
  • the St. Louis in Saumur
  • the Jacques Prévert in Taverny in the Val d’Oise
  • the Dom Sortais in Beaupréau-en-Mauges
  • the Jules Guesde in Montpellier

 

Yann Semler-Collery, Président of la Commission Culture du Département de Maine-et-Loire opened the proceedings and welcomed the audience made up of parents, teachers, and colleagues of the contestants. 

The jury comprised three judges: Veronica Dubois and Frédéric Chotard, both inspectors of English teaching at the Académie de Nantes, and Lucia Dumont-Renard, an ESU member with many years’ experience judging ESU competitions in France and abroad.

The winner was Constance Madrid-Caillaud, shown in the centre of the photo below, representing the Lycée Dom Sortais, who delivered a speech entitled “Not Spiderman or Hulk, but our Parents”.  Constance received a voucher for 50€ and will now represent France at the ESU International Public Speaking Competition 9th – 13th May. 

In second position was Suzanne Gentils, a student at the St. Benoît site Université, whose speech entitled “The Beaver”, won her a voucher worth 30€.

In third place was Edwige Dupré, from the Sacré-Coeur la Salle, who received a voucher for 20€ for her speech entitled: “Words, the Key to Life!”.

Our congratulations to Constance and also to her teacher, Charlotte Julliot.

It must be emphasised that all the candidates are winners.  Not only did they represent their schools in a public competition. they had worked hard to prepare their thoughts and arguments and they overcame nerves to address an unknown audience.  We hope that the skills and confidence they have gained will be of benefit to them all in their future lives.

All ESU Loire Valley members join in wishing Constance ‘good luck’ with her preparations for, and her performance in, the competition in May.

April 2022 - AGM

The Annual General Meeting took place Saturday 9th April at the Brit Hotel Angers Parc Expo.  31 members were present, and 14 apologies received. 

Reports included membership numbers, the association’s finances 2021, the auditor’s report, highlights of our meetings 2021 and an update on international, national, and public speaking news.  Expressions of thanks were made to all who have contributed in any way to the continuing success of the branch.

The meeting was followed by a meal in the hotel restaurant, the Acropole, at the end of which a surprise birthday cake was given to member John Barritt, who celebrated his 92nd birthday the following day 10th April.

May 2022

May Day walk

Sunday 1st May, 18 members, family, and friends, assembled at the meeting point in Saint-Melaine-sur-Aubance, a small village situated between Brissac and Murs Erigné, before setting off for this traditional annual walk together.

The weather was perfect for a springtime walk: warm and sunny. The views were stunning.  We walked, or rather, strolled, through an area hitherto unknown to most of us, through the countryside, along wooded paths and into the vines, admiring the many spring flowers along the way.

One of the joys of walking together is the opportunity to circulate, to chat and get to know one another better. Inevitably this creates stragglers, and the walk took somewhat longer than the 2 hours anticipated by Tony.

Rather later than planned, back at the meeting point, Tony welcomed everyone with a glass of bubbles before the hungry group settled down to a long, lazy, picnic lunch together. Our thanks to Anthony for sharing his now famous home-made sausages. Special thanks to Tony for the aperitif, and particularly for organising this lovely walk – let’s hope there will be many more to come.

Obituary

Philippe Peress, one of the founder members of the ESU branch here in Anjou, has sadly passed away at the age of 80, following a long battle with illness. Baptised Charles Philippe Peress, he used to say that he didn’t want to be confused with Prince Charles, whom he boasted he had taught to remove a champagne cork with his sword. Whilst he spoke English like a lord, Philippe’s language matched his personality and was as colourful as his clothing.    

A General in the French army, Philippe’s career took him to the East of France, to Germany, to the USA and to the United Kingdom, where he served as Military Attaché at the French Embassy in London. Passionate about horses, he was once stopped for speeding in Hyde Park – on a horse. On his retirement Philippe dedicated himself to establishing the Cavalry Museum in the Place du Chardonnet, Saumur. For years he rode his horse around the town but in recent years he was better known for riding a bike at high speed, scattering people in all directions whilst waving gaily at everyone. The world has lost one of its great eccentrics.

Obituary

We are sad to learn that John-Kevin Eastell, known to us all as Father Kevin, passed away on Monday 30th May in Saumur Hospital.

Regular church attenders among us knew Father Kevin well and many others have been present at services conducted by him.  Some will have attended meals he organised with speakers invited from the British Embassy to explain the negotiations and prepare us for Brexit.  He will be sadly missed by the British community in Anjou.  We offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife Ann.

The funeral will take place Tuesday, 14th June at 10.30am at the Eglise de La Chapelle, 49700, Douè-la-Fontaine, Doué-en-Anjou.

Treasure hunt

In a break with a tradition established some years ago, the Treasure Hunt took place 28th May 2022 instead of during September. A total of 17 competitors met at the car park opposite the Mairie in Chênehutte on the banks of the river Loire between Saumur and Gennes.

Split into 4 teams, the first task was to untangle the anagrams of names of villages to be visited so as to establish the shortest route to the finishing point in Vivy. The clues written by Dorothy and Colin led the teams around the picturesque countryside to hitherto unknown sites where we uncovered historical, geographical, and administrative facts about the Anjou region in which we live.

A most rewarding, enjoyable, and at times competitive, afternoon in the sunshine was followed by an excellent meal at the Hôtellerie St. Paul in Vivy where the treasure hunters were joined by the organisers, Colin and Dorothy, plus several members and friends. After the inevitable haggling over answers to the clues, and with only 3 points separating the teams, Terry’s team, which included Colin, Julie and Patricia, was declared the winner.

A HUGE thank you to Dorothy and Colin for their work preparing and organising the Treasure Hunt. For them it was a first – and we all hope it won’t be the last! 

INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC SPEAKING COMPETITION

The IPSC 2022 heats took place on Wednesday 11th May via Zoom. The 33 competitors had been divided into two groups according to the time zones they were speaking from. 

Six young people representing Canada, Romania, the Netherlands, the People’s Republic of China, Brazil and Hong Kong, were selected to progress to the grand finals Friday 13th May. They were:

Kelly

Zeng

Canada

Words of Wisdom

Elena-Alexandra

Rad

Romania

What makes a hero

Quinten

Jakobs

The Netherlands

Who are the real heroes?

Kangqi

Yang

People’s Republic of China

A superhero movie that needs to end

Leon

Jankov

Brazil

No more heroes any more

Ching Ho

Lau

Hong Kong

“The Weight of A Cape”

The jury for the finals comprised

  • The Right Honourable Robert Buckland MP
  • Simon Bucknell, international speaker and coach
  • Pavit Coran, IPSC champion 2021 from Malaysia
  • Nadiya Ivanenko, associate professor of Comparative Linguistics and Deputy Dean in the Department of Foreign Languages at Kirovograd State Pedagogical University, Ukraine
  • Cristina Jeppesen, public speaking coach and teacher from Chile

 

The five judges had the difficult task of selecting an overall winner, but eventually Kangqi Yang, an undergraduate student from Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University was announced to be this year’s champion for her excellent speech about the myth of the idyllic state of motherhood entitled “A Superhero Movie that needs to End”. 

Congratulations from us all to Kangqi for her brilliant achievement.  Let us all hope that one day we shall be able to hear her speak live – maybe at the IPSC 2023?

The finals were recorded and the winning speech is available on YouTube here.

There is a also very informative YouTube video that is accessible here.

June 2022

During the afternoon of 26th June, around 100 people gathered in the grounds of Anne Latrille’s family home in Les Ulmes to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of our patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This large number was made up of members, friends, teachers, and members of Loire Valley voices, a multi-cultural, bi-lingual choir based in Fontevraud who entertained us with a repertoire that had many feet tapping around the lovely, shaded gardens.

The afternoon featured a competition for decorated hats, a Jubilee quiz on aspects of the British Royal Family and a performance by our very own jester, Peter Clarke. Contributions to the buffet lunch were provided by all attendees and the resulting spread offered amazing choices to suit all tastes.

Particular thanks must go to all committee members who worked hard to ensure an enjoyable afternoon for all – the planning, preparations and hard work paid off and at the end of the day, all those present went home with happy memories of an afternoon full of fun and laughter in a perfect setting

July 2022

During the afternoon of Sunday 24th July, 12 members met near the tower atop the hill at Candes-Saint-Martin for a picnic. Fortunately there were plenty of trees to provide some shade.

The weather was extremely warm and sunny, and it was a very pleasant and relaxing way to spend the afternoon, with good food and good company. The views from here across the Loire are spectacular.

Laure Chabenat

Laure is currently studying in Canterbury as part of a Masters’ Degree in Political Sciences organised in conjunction with Lille University. When a student at the Lycée St. Louis in Saumur, Laure won the National Public Speaking Competition 2018 and represented France in the International Competition in London the same year.

Laure has kept in touch with the Loire Valley branch and following an email she sent, the contents of which are featured on our Public Speaking page, she was interviewed by staff at Dartmouth House and has recently been featured on their website. To read more about Laure, follow the link Laure Chabenat

Debate academy

For the first time, the ESU Loire Valley branch sponsored a student this year to attend the Debate Academy 2022, which took place between 1st and 6th August in Stamford School, Lincolnshire, England. Nila, a student at the Lycée St. Benoît site Université in Angers, had a wonderful experience during her stay. She says:

I have just got back home from Debate Academy and I wanted to thank you and the ESU Loire Valley for having supported me in this journey.

“I had such a great time in Stamford. I really enjoyed learning how to argue, justify, organise, prioritise and debate obviously.  Thanks to the Debate Academy I have acquired skills in public speaking and argumentation that I will surely use in the future. It was such a great experience to get to debate and meet new people.

I have encountered people from multiple horizons who I would have never met if it was not for Debate Academy. I now have friends from the UK 8   

I had a wonderful time at Debate Academy ! “