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 Cookham Twinning 2008

Friday 31st October 2008

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2008, it was the turn of Cookham's French twin to visit Cookham. A group of around twenty people travelled from St Benoit in France by both plane to Stansted and by Eurostar to St Pancras.         


Arrival at Maidenhead Station

The French visitors were picked up from Maidenhead station and taken to the Old Swan Uppers, who had their launch weekend with their new landlord. The French loved it with the live music, English beer and also small tasters of such things as sausage, mini hamburgers and cheese soufflés. 


In the Old Swan Uppers

Sunday morning with the hour change several visitors went to St Elisabeth's Catholic church in Lower Road, where a special welcome had been arranged for them. Lunch was at Little India by Cookham Station. The French tend not to have Indian restaurants so they were a bit tentative about the spicy food, but soon got used to it and managed to empty several of the buffet dishes.



Lunch at Little India

After a three course lunch and coffee there was then a Treasure Hunt around Cookham. This included collecting various items including a pair of stockings or tights, although the visitors were not exactly sure about the translation into French. The clues were handed out in the restaurant and everyone made up teams of from two to five people, there had to be at least one French person and one Cookham person in the team. The Treasure Hunt, organised by Peter Bysshe, finished with a cream tea in his home in High Road.


Getting Ready for the Treasure Hunt

In the evening an International Evening had been organised at the Pinder Hall.  There was an Italian three course meal along with entertainment followed by dancing. The hall was decorated with French flags and Union Jacks with lots of red white and blue balloons, so looked very bright and festive.


Setting up for the International Evening

There was a well stocked bar and the meal was supplied by the Italian shop Palmieri's in Furze Platt and everyone agreed it was absolutely fantastic. The tables looked lovely with blue and red tablecloths and white serviettes. A programme had been beautifully designed by artist Gail Dorrington and had been written in French and English organised by Penny Bysshe. 

The Well Stocked Bar and Stage Manager Colin Jackson tries the pasta

After the anti pasto there was an interval for Genevieve Usher to sing a medley of songs in English. French and Italian accompanied by Graham Barker on the keyboard. Genevieve has a beautiful voice and gave a real professionalism to the entertainment.


Graham Barker and Genevieve Usher

There had been one glitch in that John Hedger, who had agreed to be the MC, had been called a few hours before to be told that a new grandchild had arrived four weeks early and was in intensive care in St Thomas Hospital so he had to rush up to London. However Timmy Mallett stepped into the breach and became MC for the evening. Before the entertainment the results of the Treasure Hunt had to be announced, however as there had been a tie for first place there was a knock out competition to find the winners. This consisted of a complex game including clothes pegs and blindfolds. There was a comment that any video of it would be banned from U-Tube.


MC Timmy Mallett and a mad knock out game

The meal finished and the rest of the entertainment started. Firstly there was the Happy Tappers from the Amethyst School of Dance. They did two appearances and brightened up the stage with their wide smiles. The Happy Tappers were followed by the Take 4 Singers, a Barber Shop Quartet who are members of the Thames Valley Chorus who also did two appearances.


The Happy Tappers and the Barbers' Shop Quartet

After the Barbers Shop Quartet there was a magician, Alan Gapes from Cookham Dean. Alan made balls appear and disappear with several falling over the floor, along with floating silver ball, cut ropes that mended themselves and rings that somehow linked together with help from members of the audience.


Magician Alan Gapes

The next item was singing by the French visitors, however there was a surprise entertainer in the shape of Rolf Harris introduced by Timmy Mallett. Rolf was en plein forme and sang in French and got everyone to join in, told jokes in Franglais and even got Billy Mallett with a didgeridoo on stage. 

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Surprise Entertainment from Rolf Harris

Rolf had come in just before the final entertainer which was Valerie Coupeau from France, so she had a difficult act to follow. Valerie sang a French song followed by Titanic, a very amusing part of which was Timmy Mallett doing breast stroke across the back of the stage. Valerie had a lovely singing voice and would have done well in the X Factor. She brought the house down when she finished.  It was then time to push the tables back and clear the room for the dancing. 


Valerie Coupeau Sings and then Everyone Prepares for the Dancing

Monday there was a trip to Oxford where there was an official guide to show everyone around the city. The guide, Chris Lloyd, also happened to be a walking friend of Michael Cameron-Wood who happened to be one of hosts. It was a lovely day and the only complaint was that everyone had to come home before seeing more. The day was organised by Keith and Sue le Page both of whom had been to university in Oxford. The group were shown round Keith's old college Exeter and Keith said although he had been there for three years he found out things about the college that he did not know. Chris Lloyd also gave the impression that Oxford would not have existed if it had not been for the French which pleased the visitors. 

Oxford Centre of Learning - With thanks to Joel Blaud for the photo

Monday evening was dinner with the hosts and several got together for the last evening. Tuesday morning it was time to leave on the 9.23am train to Paddington after what seemed a very short time, although an awful lot had been packed into the time the French were in Cookham.


Au revoir et à bientôt

Everyone left happy some having made new friends and others met up again with old ones.


Cookham Twinning has French classes you may like to join. Also there will be a visit to France next year, so if you want more information about Twinning call 01628 525130 or email

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