2016/17 was a successful and busy year for the Alliance Francaise de la Cote de Saphir.
First and last on the Alliance Francaise calendar each year is the activity patronised most regularly by members and guests and which allows members to share each others’ company and stories about recent overseas visits. I speak, of course, of the bi-monthly Petanque games at Mandeni Park ably organised by Clive Roberts. We owe a debt of gratitude to Clive for his tireless work in organising this important activity.
Each year ends with Petanque Grand Final, a battle better known to us all as the annual Coupe d’Antibes. It takes place in late November and provides us with the opportunity to hold our annual Christmas Party and BBQ. It’s always amazing how the combination of a few glasses of French bubbly, the hot Australian sun, the shimmering sandy piste and a set of heavy steel balls brings out the competitive spirit in even the mildest souls.
Our other social activities in 2016 began as always with food. On 23 October we had our first dinner celebrating French food and the food of former French colonies with a Cajun Lunch at the Wharf Restaurant. This function was well attended and Secretary Mike Warren prepared a Cajun trivia quiz to entertain us whenever we were not actually eating.
In late February Mike and Lilias Warren generously hosted the 2017 Alliance Francaise Welcome Party at their home at Tura Beach. Weather forecasts for the evening were all doom and gloom and we were prepared for the worst. However, the evening of Saturday, 18 February, provided us with wonderful weather to enjoy the huge feast made possible by all of those who brought an amazing array of entrees, mains and desserts.
We had our first film night for the year in March and viewed ‘La Famille Belier’, a touching story about a young girl growing up in a family in which both parents had a hearing disability. Over 30 people attended and enjoyed the film immensely. 26 of those attending went on to the Top Pub for dinner afterwards. A second French film. ‘Rosalie Blum’ was offered in August and was enjoyed by an even greater number of our members. Our French film nights have become a significant event in our annual calendar of events.
Thursday, 22 June, saw members of the Alliance trooping yet again into the Warrens’ residence; this time to take part in the tasting of 6 French wines presented by Brent Mackay of Amazing Grapes. The event was well patronised by 18 members and 10 non-members who showed their appreciation by making a good number of orders for the wines offered.
The annual Bastille Day dinner which is our flagship event for the year was held at the Tura Golf Club on Saturday, 15 July. This event was a resounding success with over 90 members and guests attending. A trivia quiz was presented by Greg Hunting who awarded bottles of French wine to the winners, and Mareta Collins led us all in a hearty rendition of La Marseillaise. The evening finished with a good number of our group getting up and dancing to a selection of French music provided by Hilaire Alba.
But our Alliance is not only about eating good food and tasting good wines; we are also serious about learning and maintaining our French language. A French conversation group is in its infancy and meets every Friday morning at 11.00am at the Tura Marang Library. The purpose of the group is to provide an opportunity for fluent speakers to catch up and to keep those rusty wheels turning. The group is open to all who are able to participate in fluent French conversation. For those who are not fluent but wish to improve their French, or begin to learn, we provide resources through our collection at the Tura Marang Library. Former committee person, Julie Welsh, organised the removal of our library from the Pambula Pool premises to the newly established Tura Marang. This not only saved our collection of books, CDs and magasines from a mouldy lingering death on the pool premises but made them much more accessible to members, especially those living in the Merimbula/Tura area. I would like to recognise Julie’s considerable efforts in dealing with Bega Shire staff and bringing this move to a successful completion.
We also seek to stimulate interest in learning French by awarding prizes to students in French at the South Coast Anglican College.
May I conclude by noting that membership of our Alliance is on the increase and that attendance by both members and non-members at our events is growing. I believe that we are in this rather happy position because we are keen to learn what the members want and find the best way to provide that to them. More importantly however, is that we have a committee of skilled and active people who do what they do well and freely. May I take this opportunity to thank Secretary, Michael Warren, Treasurer, Kerry Hunting, Editor-in-Chief of La Mouette and maestro of Petanque, Clive Roberts, and committee members Mike Quinlan and Hilaire Alba for all of their work over the last 12 months.