27th - 31st May 2022:
Visit to Oignies - It's Great to be Back!
The annual Twinning Visit (Hosted alternately by Buxton and Oignies) is the principal event in our calendar. Having been unable to meet up as usual with our Amis les Oigninois for the past couple of years, due to the Covid situation, we had all been keeping our fingers crossed that the planned visit to France would be able to go finally ahead this year; so there were feelings of both joy and relief when we all actually arrived in Oignies.
Friday 27th May Departure Vers la France...
In the Middle of the Night
We arrived in Dover in good time (in theory...) for our midday departure, and met up with longstanding Twinning Association member Ted Fell at the entrance to the port; Ted having arrived by train from London, where he now lives as a Chelsea Pensioner. Unfortunately, as well as our visit to Oignies, this also turned out to be weekend of the Champion's League Final in Paris, and we found ourselves stuck in a queue of coaches full of Liverpool fans waiting at Passport Control, so the midday ferry set sail without us. Consequently, it was shortly after 2pm that we finally set sail for Calais and the road to Oignies. After a three year wait, no one was too worried about another couple of hours...
4:15am is a time which does not normally feature in my typical day, but with all sorts of uncertainty surrounding our transit through the Port of Dover, an (extremely) early departure was considered prudent. So, with a coach full of some quite bleary eyed Friends of Oignies, at a quarter past some ungodly hour, we left Buxton heading for Dover and the ferry to la Belle France.
Bienvenue sur Oignies
It was 6pm when the our coach pulled into la Place de la Quatrième République, coming to a halt in front of la Mairie de Oignies. The Friends of Oignies had arrived!
We were given a very warm welcome by les Amis de Buxton. It was fantastic to see our old friends again after the extended gap.
There were hugs and kisses all round, and after luggage had been transferred into car boots, we all went inside la Mairie for the reception, which was accompanied by a delicious buffet. A not insignificant quantity of beer and wine was also consumed by Friends and Amis, all very happy to be together once more.
Welcome once more to Oignies - Given by President of Les Amis de Buxton, Richard Hector alongside Mme le Maire, Fabienne Dupuis and Véronique Bernard.
Le Samedi Matin :
A Parade Through the Town of Oignies
Marching through the streets of Oignies, in celebration of the Twinning and the historical events which brought about its foundation. It seemed that most of the town had come out to join us!
Ted Fell, longstanding member of the Friends of Oignies and our very own Chelsea Pensioner, joined the parade looking resplendent in his scarlet dress uniform.
Remembrance and Commemoration
The Mausolée which commemorates eighty of the town's inhabitants shot by the German Army
Gareth and Kim Flanagan playing alongside the town's local musicians
A wreath is laid at the Mausolée. Derek and Richard look on
Ted Fell standing alongside the British graves
After passing through the town, the parade entered the Cemetery, where wreaths were laid in remembrance of the eighty civilians from Oignies who were murdered by the German Army in 1940 in revenge for their resistance, and at the graves of the eighteen British soldiers, including the six from Buxton, who fought to defend the Allied retreat through the region, during the Dunkirk Evacuation.
You can read more about the wartime links between our towns here.
Wreath laying at l'Arbre de l'Amitié (Tree of Friendship), by Mme le Maire, with Graham Oakly Deputy Mayor of High Peak.
The Plaque beneath the Arbre de l'Amitié
Le Rond-Point de Buxton
Yes, there is indeed a 'Buxton Roundabout' in Oignies! A town landmark which is named in honour of the Twinning of the two towns.
Further wreaths were laid in honour of our historical links at this, the penultimate halt of our parade, before moving on to the end of the march at l'École André Patigny*, and a civic reception in the main hall of the school - along with drinks and nibbles bien sûr !
*This primary school is named in honour of André Patigny, a former resident and Hero of France. There is a brief account of his amazing life story here.
Le Samedi Soir :
Dinner Dance at Oignies Town Hall
Pin-Up Dresses, Flat Caps and Braces
Dancing the night away to the music of les Zazous
The theme for this year's repas dansant was pin-up dresses, flat caps and braces - I'm not sure of the cultural reference here, but the evening was great fun as always.
There was live music from local band les Zazous, lots of dancing and an excellent four course evening meal.
Vive le Jumelage !
Allez les Filles ! The girls from Oignies show us how it's done.
Jim has an encounter with 'Yvette'.
La Coupe Albert Boitrel
For those of us old enough to remember, the annual contest for the Albert Boitrel Cup is somewhat reminiscent of Les Jeux Sans Frontières, AKA the international version of BBC's 'It's a Knockout' contest. During each visit les Oigninois take on the Buxtonians in a random selection of (often rather curious) games; points are awarded and the winning team gets to keep the cup during the following year.
This year's contest was held during the dinner dance. Oignies have triumphed for the last two visits, and sadly Buxton lost again by 17 points to 6. Richard duly raised the trophy on behalf of les Amis de Buxton. Maybe next year?
Sébastian is up against Howard the coach driver in the nut manipulation event.
Actually, not a fight breaking out - but another one of this years games.
Monsieur le President lifts the Trophy; victory to Oignies.
A gift from Derbyshire - A table lamp featuring the newly renovated Buxton Crescent, with a base of local limestone.
Le Lundi : Train à Vapour à St Valery sur Somme
Suite à la journée libre le dimanche, passée avec nos familles individuelles ou en de groupes plus grands, le lundi on est parti au bord de la mer. Les Amis de Buxton nous ont offert une excursion magnifique y compris un voyage à bord du train à vapeur le long de la Baie pittoresque de la Somme.
Après d’être descendu du train à St. Valery sur Somme, nous nous sommes dirigés vers le restaurant Cap Hornu, qui se trouvait dans un vieux manoir charmant proche de la ville, où on a profité encore de la haute cuisine et les vins fins.
C’est du boulot dur, mais nous nous sommes bien à la hauteur d’un tel défi !
En route coach stop for le petit déjeuner. The croissants appear, carried by Sabine, and then rapidly disappear.
Following another sumptuous meal, we had a couple of hours to walk off our dinner with a stroll round the pretty little seaside town of St. Valery.
Then it was back onto the coach for the return to Oignies, and an en route apéro - Oignies style - with sparkling wine, and a selection of other drinks and nibbles. There was also some singing involved, which may have been in French - if I remember correctly?!
Restaurant le Cap Hornu
St. Valery sur Somme
Le Bar Sulky
Le Mardi : Le Départ vers l'Angleterre
And suddenly it was all over. Another visit had flown by in a flurry of fun and friendship, and lots of eating and drinking. Tuesday morning at the Match Supermarket car park ready for a 9am departure for l'Angleterre. There were sad goodbyes, and more than a few tears as we all said au revoir for 2022.
Many thanks to the Amis de Buxton for another fantastic weekend in Oignies, it really was great to be back, hopefully it won't be three more years before we can all get back together.
...and thank you very much Nicolas Thevenette for giving each family from Buxton the lovely gift of a selection artisan beers from his own micro brewery la Brasserie Alceste. (Of which more details here)
Merci mille fois et à 2023 alors !
Local artisan beer from
la Brasserie Alceste