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What seems like a lifetime ago in 1979, when I was still serving in the Suffolk Fire Service, my wife and I were the guests of the the Briand family when we attended the original twinning ceremony between our two towns in France. Lieutenant Briand was in command of the Sapeurs-pompiers at Plaisir and I was a full-time operational Sub Officer at Normanshurst in Lowestoft.
|The formal ceremony 1|
|(Click on any image for a larger version)|
|The formal ceremony 2|
|The formal ceremony 3|
|After the formal ceremony. Lieutenant Briand (fore-ground, in uniform) with his wife and mine, Ann|
I believe the visit was for three days, a most hectic period of almost non-stop activity covering the twinning ceremony itself, the 'cross' (a cross country run, viewing not taking part), a social event in a community centre, a jazz gig in a park, a visit to the the Caserne (Fire Station)...
|A visit to the Caserne....|
|....where I am even allowed to play with some of the equipment.|
|...and another to the Palace of Versailles...|
The Briands had no English and we had only very rusty 'O' level French, but with the help of a French/English dictionary we managed to communicate. In fact we found that it was by far the quickest way to learn French, to be plunged into a totally French speaking environment!
Sadly, shortly after our visit I started to develop health problems and after one more promotion and a couple of years taken for the diagnosis to be completed I had to retire from the Fire Service on grounds of ill health. I have lost touch with the Briands so if anyone knows of their whereabouts I would be pleased to hear.
A little while later we were able to return a small portion of the hospitality that we had received. The Briands were unable to visit but another family (sadly their name has been forgotten) who had connections with SNCF stayed with us.
At the time we were running a guest house but they stayed as our guests and, in the hope that the Transport Museum at Carlton Colville might be of interest, took them there. They appeared to enjoy it but after their high-tech French railways it must have seemed rather quaint.
With other commitments in our lives we lost touch with those involved with the twinning. The level of commitments in other directions is still high but it is great to have the opportunity to try to establish them again.