A couple of years ago we were contacted to see if we’d be interested in taking part in the twinning association and hosting a French family during their visit to East Hoathly. We attended some fundraising events and met a number of people involved in the twinning but, sadly, for a variety of reasons, we were unable to participate in the 2015 festivities.
In 2016 the dates didn’t work for us to go to France however, earlier this year, everything seemed to fall into place. A family was found and the ball started rolling for their visit. We exchanged emails to learn a little more about each other and began planning what we might do once our guests were with us. Everything was set and it was with a certain amount of trepidation and nerves that we arrived en famille at the village hall on Saturday 29th April, ready to meet our famille française.
A cheer went up as the coach pulled in and our visitors disembarked. We were introduced to Magali, Bertrand, Quentin, Evann and Jade and were then invited into the hall for canapés and champagne. We spoke in a mixture of English, French, gestures and hand signals whilst enjoying the hospitality laid on by the twinning association. Almost immediately the children began to play together and managed extremely well, despite each not speaking much of the others language.
After a short speech to welcome the French families to the village and introductions around, we took our family home to get them settled before returning to East Hoathly for the traditional Juziers v East Hoathly & Halland tennis match. Stuart and I are not tennis players but Magali and Bertrand were playing in the match and Evann and Emilia joined in with the children’s tennis games run by Greg, the EH tennis coach.
Whilst the matches continued, Jessica and Jade played at the park expertly supervised and entertained by a number of the Juziers teenagers. Stuart and I got to know some of the other twinners and watched some exciting tennis which was eventually won by the team from Juziers. The evening was ours to do with as we wished and we could have entertained our guests at home but, not having done this before, we weren’t quite sure what to cook so, instead, took the easy option of dinner at the Kings Head.
Most of our party enjoyed a delicious fish and chip supper whilst the two non-fish eaters ordered a burger (fantastic by all accounts) and steak and kidney pie (also gaining rave reviews!) Due to our new friends early start and long coach journey, we did not stay too late at the pub and retired home for everyone to get some well earned rest.
After a very relaxed Sunday morning, of course including a traditional full English breakfast and a lot of friendly conversation, and having found out that our visitors liked history and monuments, we headed off to Battle Abbey. Once again the children got on famously, climbing the towers, racing around the battle field and finding the arrows in the trees with great glee. The adults took a more sedate route, chatting amiably (and gesturing!) all the while. After a few hours of exploring, we rewarded ourselves with afternoon tea in the café and then returned home for a rest before the gala dinner which was to take place in the village hall.
And what an evening it was! Seated with our family, exchanging stories (as always in English, French and gestures!) we enjoyed a lovely buffet meal with wine and beer and then were entertained, first by a variety of songs and dances from Juziers, then with a wonderful arrangement of James Bond tunes by Michelle Titherley, followed by singing and a sketch from the EH&H twinners. At the end of the evening, the Juziers teenagers led everyone in a dance as the start of the disco.
Monday came around all too soon and we knew that the fun was about to have to come to an end. As the grown ups packed and prepared picnics for the journey back to Juziers, the children zoomed around the house (it rained!) on a broomstick playing Harry Potter games. Screams of laughter I am sure could be heard all the way to East Hoathly!
As we waved goodbye outside the Pavilion and the rain continued to fall, the girls shed tears and tried to stow away on the coach to avoid having to say goodbye. They have already started to make plans for our return trip next year…Emilia is determined to improve her French so she can understand more when we are in France and Jessica has found some bilingual French/English books in the library that she is trying to read.
Before the weekend began, we really did not know what to expect but we can honestly say that it was a fantastic and fun experience and goes to prove that language need not be a barrier to friendship. We are really looking forward to going to Juziers next year and would highly recommend getting involved in the twinning to anyone who might be considering it.
Katharine & Stuart Ruff – Halland – May 2017