There was no way I was going to miss the Dordogne branch of the Franco British Chamber of Commerce Christmas Event on 14th December 2017. Wine tasting and nibbles with a live band thrown in. The event was held at College-Lycee Le Cluzeau, Sigoules-and, appropriately in view of the location focused on youth opportunity with significant contributions from many of the bilingual pupils of the establishment.
As one might expect from the chamber, the food and wine were both delicious and plentiful. As if to establish Dordogne as the French capital of food. The event also provided members with an opportunity to display their food and wine and offer samples to guests.
Founded in 1873, the Franco-British Chamber takes pride in its long and distinguished history. It is both the oldest British Chamber of Commerce in Europe and the oldest ‘foreign’ Chamber of Commerce in France. Despite two World Wars, the Great Depression and the recent Global Economic crises, the Chamber has proven a remarkably dynamic and adaptable organisation, uniting and assisting the Franco-British business community for 140 years.
The objectives of the Chamber are to
Promote business trade between the UK and France
Drive and promote the Franco-British business community
Assist members promote and develop their business activity in France and the UK
Provide members with information and expertise via its network of specialists.
All credit to the Dordogne branch who have not only managed to negotiate lower membership rates for rural Dordogne, but are also the only branch to provide some of the mandatory chamber of commerce courses in English.
The Dordogne branch hold regular networking events in Dordogne and usually have experts available to provide advice to attendees. The website http://www.francobritishchamber.com/ has full details and the Dordogne Regional Delegate is Roger Haigh Email email@example.com
It wasn’t all free wine and chocolate however. Immediately prior to the Christmas event there was a Question Time session with Matthew Lodge, the Plenipatentiary minister to the British Embassy in Paris. The subject matter for questions was Franco-British relations in the Current Political Climate. If the raised voices and anxious faces which were very much in evidence when I arrived were anything to go by the minister had found the focus of questions centered around worries about the effects of Brexit. I was very sorry to miss most of this session as a result of work commitments. It seemed to me that the minister had been sent to the provinces from Paris to reassure worried ex-pats regarding the uncertainty that is Brexit. Whilst he was able to assure those present that the Embassy and her servants were available to assist so far as they were able every individual case, he was unable to more much in the way of information. Another visit was promised as soon more concrete information becomes available. For those at the meeting who had very valid concerns about the uncertainties Brexit has brought to their lives, he could do little more than confirm that it was inevitable that there would be casualties.
BLOODY SCOTLAND Crime writing festival.
BLOODY SCOTLAND, Bloody Hell, Bloody Marvellous. –what a festival! What can I say? I’ll be back.
Having being unable to attend Bloody Scotland 2016, I was determined to make the most of Bloody Scotland 2017. This meant I attended every event I could –My Bloody Scotland got off to a good start with an excellent writing workshop led by writer Doug Johnstone. The official start of Bloody Scotland took place with a reception at Stirling Castle, an inspired choice of venue. Guests walked up the cobbled street to the castle, which enjoys panoramic views over the surrounding countryside, and were then were piped through the courtyard and into the Great Hall. Here we were treated to glasses of fizz, a selection of excellent nibbles including haggis in breadcrumbs with a spicy sauce- not a variant I had tried before but it tasted delicious. The writers participating in the festival were piped into the hall, to much applause, followed by speeches and more applause. As a finale, Denise Mina was announced as the winner of the McIlvanney prize for her novel “The Long Drop.”
The piper returned to lead Denise Mina, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin and the other writers from the Great Hall out onto the ramparts of the castle. Those who wished to carry a torch in the torch procession from the castle to the Albert Halls waited as night fell and the torches were distributed and lit.
I, off course, had enrolled for the torchlight parade at the first opportunity, and, by chance I had been at the back of the Great Hall when the reception came to a close. I fell into place behind the writers as they were piped from the hall. Again, by chance, I found myself just behind Denise Mina, Ian Rankin and Val McDermid as the procession began to form and I tucked myself in behind them as the procession began to wind its way down the castle wynd and along the Spittal to the Albert Halls, which is how I managed to appear in the background in a number of photos of the procession.
Stirling old town is medieval, and very atmospheric. Walking along the cobbled streets, holding a lit torch it was easy to imagine another place and time.
After the procession Ian Rankin gave an entertaining talk on Thirty Years of Rebus. I attended further events on Saturday and Sunday. The events, for the most part involved several writers talking about their projects and inspirations with a period at the end of each session for questions from the audience.
I enjoyed all the events I attended. Highlights, what can I say? There were many. I was thrilled to hear Dame Sue Black, forensic anthropologist, anatomist and Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at the University of Dundee, a native of Inverness, who has long been a hero of mine. She was in the course of her talk at great pains to thank Bloody Scotland and the Scottish Crime Writers for their assistance in raising funding for the recent morgue in Dundee. It was great to hear John Simenon talking about his father Georges and forthcoming Maigret projects, Graeme Macrae Burnet chatting about France and his writing-for me His Bloody Project is an extra-ordinary book. Chris Brookmyre –one of my favourite writers, as entertaining in person as in his books. Can You Handle the Truth was a must for me-three talented lawyers by day, three talented crime writers by night. G.J.Moffat, Steve Cavanagh and Imran Mahmood each read a section from their book. All were completely different but equally compelling. Another must for me was From Cops to Robbers- three former police officers turned crime writers. This was the most author exposed event I have ever attended. All three speakers had differing perspectives of law enforcement and its operation yet all three were passionate, some to the point of tears about their work as police officers. For me, an added bonus to meet R.J. Mitchell, not often I run into someone who worked in Blackhill, Glasgow at the same time I did. Another unexpected bonus was hearing The Fun Loving Criminals in action. A band formed from the ranks of the writers proving just how talented these people are. Val McDermid has an amazing voice, Doug Johnstone- fantastic drummer, Chris Brookmyre-shaky egg-a league of his own. Lynda LaPlante wound up the Crime writing festival that is Bloody Scotland. All I can say is –if you ever get an opportunity to listen to this lady –grab it.
Best of all I left with some great new friends-thank you Vicki Clifford, Wendy H. Jones and Robin Morton.
I was thrilled to be invited to the British Ambassador’s residence in Paris as part of the launch of Les Fete des Voisins particularly as it was a short piece of writing which led to my invitation.
“I think one of my fondest memories of France is of tearing around L’etoile in Paris with a group of French people, of a similar age to me, who for some reason adopted me when I moved to Paris for an extended holiday about thirty years ago. There were at least five of us jammed into Christophe's 2CV which was post box red and customised with long black eyelashes. It was rush hour and the traffic was crazy, but somehow Christophe managed to safely co-ordinate the round-about. The moment has stayed fresh in my memory after all these years, somehow summarising the wildness, unpredictability and care freeness of youth, with a quintessentially French twist.
Je pense que l’un de mes meilleurs souvenirs, c’est la descente les Champs Elysées à toute vitesse avec un groupe de jeunes de mon âge qui, pour une raison que j’ignore, m’ont adoptée à mon arrivée en France (au début pour des vacances, qui se sont un peu prolongées) il y a 30 ans. On était au moins cinq entassés comme des sardines dans la 2CV de Christophe, une voiture rouge pétante qu’il avait personnalisée avec de longs cils noirs. C’était l’heure de pointe, il y avait des voitures partout, mais Christophe a réussi à naviguer à travers le rond point sans problème, je ne sais toujours pas comment il a fait. Ce moment est resté gravé dans ma mémoire à jamais, symbolisant l’abandon, l’imprévisible, l’insouciance de la jeunesse, avec une nuance typiquement française.”
The campaign was launched on the 17th March 2017 by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and was seen by many as an opportunity to show that Britain, notwithstanding the ongoing Brexit process, was very much open for business and keen to maintain close links with European neighbours.
14 million Brits visit France each year. 18 000 French students study in the UK. 60 000 passengers use the Channel Tunnel every day. 400 000 British and French people have chosen to live on the other side of the Channel. With stats like these it is easy to see the importance of staying on friendly terms.
The British Ambassador’s residence was sumptuous as one might expect. Entry required production of ID, a bag search and production of a valid invitation. Once through the wrought iron entrance gates, one found the courtyard filled with an impressive display of the Best of British cars. Thereafter sweeping steps gave entry to the residence itself. I was one of the earlier arrivals and had an opportunity to wander through the impressive reception rooms and beautiful gardens of the property before the majority of other guests arrived. The guests comprised other voisins like myself who had submitted stories to the competition run by the British Embassy in Paris and neighbours to the Ambassador’s residence.
The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo made a welcome speech as did the British Ambassador,Edward Llewellyn,OBE.
There was a delicious and impressive buffet including some particularly British specialities, accompanied by a selection of wines, and beers.
The evening passed too quickly and all too soon it was time to leave clasping my goody bag containing my very own kit to have my very own Fete des Voisins chez moi- a banner, stickers, invitations, postcards, pens, the recipe for the trifle which had been served, and a T-shirt.
This was a celebration about individuals, the people who had moved countries and made a new life in their new country. A celebration of friendship. My visit to the embassy was on the 17th May 2017. The recently elected President Macron visited the Ambassador’s residence only weeks after my visit to sign the book of condolences following a terror attack in London. A poignant reminder that neighbours are there for celebrations certainly but the sad times too.