Saturday, March 13, 2021

From the President

 Chers Amis

Each week at the end of her weekly French language conversation groups Sylvie Dubrulle proposes a topic for the following week’s meeting. I’ve never been sure whether this is done in an effort to achieve some coherence in our babblings and to keep us all on topic, or whether she is just giving us time to marshall our thoughts in advance so that any conversation at all becomes possible. Last week the topic she proposed was fairly open but required us to reflect on what the Alliance Française has done for us and what we want from it. It was a brilliant idea which made all of us think hard about the fact that we have a fairly small group which is amenable to change if indeed change is required.

My own contact with the Alliance Française began when I was in junior high school and has been re-established on a number of occasions both in Australia and overseas. Over the years, I have looked to the Alliance for French language training and to share my interest in things French with fellow Francophiles. Through my contact with the Alliance I have improved my knowledge of the French language, become interested in French cooking, played petanque, played rugby with a French rugby team and even obtained a French pilot licence. All of this has given me access to a non anglo-saxon world to which I would otherwise have remained oblivious and, needless to say, I feel that my life has been enriched by it.

Since joining our own little Alliance some ten years ago I have enjoyed the friendship of Australians who share my interest in things French, I have attended the French film nights, borrowed books and movies from our French language library and received any amount of advice on how and where to travel in France. I have played petanque, savoured French meals, enjoyed French wines, relaxed in the company of French people living in our area and been grateful for their patience with my attempts at conversation.

Without our Alliance I might have had none of this, so it has become an important part of my life. The charter of the Alliance Française is to promote the learning of French language and an awareness of French culture. Over the past 32 years our Alliance has worked hard to do these things through a variety of innovative and imaginative activities and I am confident that it will continue to do so. If there is something that you would like us to do to achieve the aims of the Alliance which is not on our current program, please contact me or any of our committee members.

Meilleurs voeux,

Robert McCombie

Monday, February 22, 2021

From the President

Chers Amis,

These days we are all getting used to becoming nimble and flexible in our forward planning and so it was with the first Alliance Française event for 2021. On Sunday, 7 February, we held a multi-purpose event which stood in for the (somewhat belated) 2020 Coupe d’Antibes pétanque extravaganza which had been cancelled due to weather, and the 2021 Alliance Française Welcome Party, an indoor event which had been cancelled due to concerns over the new strains of Coronavirus arriving in Australia. It was pleasing to see a total of 34 of our members bring their morning tea, lunch and liquid refreshments to participate in the play-off of the South Coast’s most prestigious pétanque event. There were many contestants so the time available to have a serious play-off was short.

After a brief welcome and an obligatory glass of bubbly we all headed for the pistes. There were many nail-biting moments as, one by one, teams were eliminated and, finally, Les Trois Amis (Bill Schwensen, Mike Coghlan and Nikki Jane) forged their way to the top with runners-up Les Napoléons (Barry Hewes, Greg Dive and Phil Woof) coming a close second. It was a particularly good result as members, Nikky Jane and Phil Woof are not only new to pétanque, they are also the newest members of our Alliance. A big congratulations to Nikki, Phil and their teams.

Anybody who is familiar with French rugby will understand the French obsession with style and panache. Of course, this obsession applies to all French sports, pétanque being no exception. So it was fitting that the most important award of the day was made to Julie Welsh, the person most distinguished for the grace and poise of her playing style. Congratulations Julie! We are currently in the planning stages of two upcoming events: a picnic lunch at Tathra on Friday, 12 March and a French Film night on Thursday, 22 April. Please note these days in your diary and look out for announcements providing further details in the coming weeks.

Meilleurs voeux,

Robert McCombie 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

From the President

 Chers Amis,

Down here in the Bega Valley it almost feels like we are living in a post-Covid world. On 17 November we saw our first French film of the year. The film ‘Haute Cuisine’ was all about the appointment of a renowned chef from the Périgord to the position of personal cook to the President of the Republic, her commitment to preparing authentic traditional French cooking and her experiences with the petty politics of the Elysée Palace. There was a good attendance at the screening and most of us met for dinner beforehand in the Club restaurant.

The big event of the month though was our visit to John and Sally-Ann Cottle’s garden at ‘Shirley’ for a game of boules followed by a picnic lunch and tour of the gardens. A full report on the day written by Anh-Thu Stuart with some candid photos follows later in this edition. I would like to thank John and Sally-Ann for welcoming our members into their grounds and providing this wonderful venue for our day of picnic and pétanque. 

While on the matter of pétanque, could I ask that you mark the date of 13 December which will be the day of our annual Coupe d’Antibes at Mandeni. Proceedings will begin at 10.00am so bring along some morning tea and a picnic lunch and help us bid farewell (or good riddance) to what has been an extraordinary year. Full details of the arrangements for the day will be e-mailed to you by Mike Warren.

This month La Mouette has a new item for all of our film buffs. Our Club Librarian, Anh-Thu, has kindly written a review of the film ‘Radioactive’ which tells the story of the life and work of the French/Polish scientist, Marie Curie, who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity and won a number of international awards for her work including Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry. 

Finally, I would like to mention that, consistent with our objective of promoting the study of French language and culture, we have donated two French language books as prizes for outstanding students at the South Coast Anglican College. I would like to congratulate the recipients and wish them well in their future studies in French. We also donated a book for French students at the Mumbulla School for Rudolf Steiner Education.   

Meilleurs voeux, Rob McCombie

Friday, November 6, 2020

From the President

Chers Amis

We were all sad to have had our visit to the gardens at Shirley postponed until 27 November but the threat of heavy rain, soggy grounds and cold temperatures in late October were enough for the Committee to make a good and timely decision. The event is now fully subscribed and there is even a waiting list in case of cancellations, so we would like to send a special thanks to our hosts Sally-Anne and John for offering this rare opportunity for our members to enjoy a day of picnic and pétanque in one of the most outstanding gardens of this region.

Before I leave the topic of upcoming events I should remind you that we are having our first post-Covid (?) French Film Night at Club Sapphire on Tuesday, 17 November. Details and a short synopsis of the film appear later in this edition.

Also in this edition is the first of a series of Camino articles written by Wal and Sylvie about their own experiences of the trail. These should whet the appetite of those of us rugged enough to manage weeks (or even months) of trudging through bucolic European landscapes searching for enlightenment, or just enjoying a good walk. I look forward to sharing their reminiscences.

Finally, I would like to send a big thanks to Sylvie for her French conversation group. We are now in a regular rhythm of attending Wednesday meetings at her home and enjoying a late morning coffee and cakes. Somehow or other Sylvie invariably selects topics which provoke lively discussion and stretch our knowledge of French vocab, grammar and syntax. Every now and then we lapse into a type of franglais to get us through the hard bits (or until Sylvie comes to the rescue) but it’s always entertaining and a valuable learning process for us all.

Meilleurs voeux,

Rob McCombie 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

From the President

 Chers Amis,

I would like to send a big thank you to all of those who attended our Annual General Meeting at Club Sapphire on 28 September. For just a moment before the meeting was to be opened we were afraid that we might not have a quorum but 13 of our members were seated and socially distanced by the time the meeting was scheduled to begin. As promised, it was a fairly brief affair with none of the committee positions being contested and most of last year’s members being re-elected. Only Liz James who retired from the committee in mid-July to focus on her business will not be with us in the coming year. We were sorry to learn about Liz’s decision at the time as she was always an active and valuable participant in the committee’s discussions and was quick to volunteer to take on any task that needed doing. I would like to thank Liz for her commitment and her hard work towards making our Alliance a success over the last couple of years. The AGM was followed by an even briefer general meeting (as required by our Constitution) at which the Committee’s decision to declare a subscription holiday next year for existing members was endorsed by those present.

I would also like to send my thanks to John and Helen Verhelst for their efforts over the past seven months in entertaining us with regular contributions to La Mouette about their experiences as temporary residents of France. Many of us would gladly spend two years in France but for a variety of reasons are, or have been, unable to actually do it. However, by reading ‘Helen and John’s French Adventures’ we have been able to live their stay in France as if we had been there ourselves and we thank them for the vicarious experience.

Finally, I would also like to recognise the generous offer by Sally-Anne and John Cottle to host our members to a visit to their property ‘Shirley’ at Holt’s Flat (directions on how to get there are in Mike Warren’s e-mail of 6 October). Forty of us will be playing Pétanque and enjoying a BYO picnic lunch in their beautiful gardens on Friday, 30 October. Keep your fingers crossed for fine weather for the day and brush up on your best boule throwing technique.

Meilleurs voeux, Rob McCombie

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

From the President

Chers Amis,

If you close your eyes and don’t see the face masks people are wearing, you could almost believe that life is returning to normal. The days are getting warmer and the world’s biggest annual sporting event, the Tour de France, is well under way and keeping us up late at night watching the world’s greatest athletes. Even our own little Alliance is starting to emerge from a Covid-induced torpor.

In truth, thanks to a few hardy souls who play pétanque, we never really did shut down completely as they continued playing their weekly games at Mandeni (please contact Mike Warren to register if you would like to join them).  Also, thanks to Sylvie Dubrulle, we have already had two meetings of our new conversation group which is helping us recover some of our very rusty French language skills and learning lots of new vocab and colloquial expressions. In addition, Anh-Thu Stuart is heading up a French film discussion group, so give her a call if you would like to see some great movies and discuss them with friends.

But our most important coming event is our AGM which will be held at Club Sapphire at 6pm on Monday, 28 September. Make a note in your diaries and come along for what will be a fairly short meeting. Many of us will be staying on after the meeting to enjoy dinner and a chat. Keep your distance, keep safe and we’ll see you at the AGM.

Amitiés, Rob McCombie 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

From the President

 Chers Amis

Thanks to a favourable alignment of celestial bodies (or whatever it is that’s running the world these days) 42 of our members enjoyed the hospitality of Wheeler’s Restaurant and had lunch to celebrate Bastille Day on Tuesday, 14 July. Compared with our Bastille Day celebrations of the past it was a short and simple affair but restaurant manageress, Jacqui, ensured that there was a wonderful French-inspired menu for us to choose from, and put on her best French beret to make us all feel welcome. It was fitting that formalities on the day were kept to a minimum, however, we still had the opportunity to offer a warm welcome to Sally-Anne and John Cottle as new members of our Alliance. I look forward to seeing them at coming events and thank them for their generous offer to host an Alliance event (picnic and Petanque??) in their garden whenever our lives start to get back to normal.

As foreshadowed in my item in last month’s La Mouette, the Committee met on 21 July, our first meeting since March. Discussions centered mainly on what events would be possible over the next few months and, among other activities, we hope that we may soon be offering a zoom-based conversation group hosted by our own native French speaker, Sylvie Dubrulle. I would like to offer a big thanks to Sylvie for taking on this task and look forward to getting a conversation group up and running again. Many thanks also to Anh-Thu Stuart for proposing a French film discussion group. It would be wonderful to see our members participate in these activities.

The other big decision taken by the Committee was to offer all current members a subscription holiday for next year in recognition of the fact that most of this year has been lost in lockdown. The proposer of this motion was none other than Madame la Trésorière herself so the motion was passed unanimously, and no existing Alliance member will have to pay subs next year - assuming a quorum of members votes in agreement at the AGM. Finally, the Committee fixed a time and date for our next AGM which will be held at Club Sapphire at 6pm on Monday, 28 September. We have normally held the AGM on a French Film Night but we are unable to show films for the moment and are hoping that those attending the meeting will be able to adjourn to the Club restaurant for dinner afterwards.

Meilleurs voeux,

Rob McCombie