I and my wife had been members of the local Twinning Club for many years, I had run the local wine merchants and it always made good business sense, the club often had events that required my products. However, the idea of actually taking part in ‘twinning’ was of no interest to me, well, who would want to go to a foreign town and stay in the home of someone you had little in common with? Most of the trips in this time to Civray were in August when I was busy in the shop and when weekend trips occurred they always seemed to be when I was stocktaking, no problem there then! However when my shop was closed in August 1999 I was made redundant and there was a weekend ‘voyage of discovery’ happening in October. My wife took the decision that we were going on this trip, and I didn’t have an excuse! We duly filled in our forms, do you speak French, No, do you have any food problems, yes, cheese and other various points. It was no secret in the twinning club, my unwillingness to participate in the trips and when we stepped aboard the coach in Downham Market there was a big cheer, we were last to arrive and I don’t think other members expected to see me.
We arrived in Civray to a reception at the Town Hall and members were paired off with their host families, our hosts had obviously filled in their forms as well but a big problem became apparent, they didn’t speak English, and I mean none at all, talk about blind panic, I was intent on finding a way to travel home, but there is no longer a station in Civray, I was stuck. Their daughter had been to England and it was said she spoke a little English, but it was only a few words. Our Hosts were in panic as well. Their neighbours had a son, Eric who did actually do good English and he came to dinner that night and helped, but it was still difficult. An English/French dictionary helped a little and over the weekend a little of our ‘school’ French returned, also a glass or two of wine helped out our situation. By the time of the formal dinner on Monday evening I got the Chairman of our club, John Sadler to explain to our hosts that we had actually enjoyed our visit, come Tuesday we were on our way home.From that point we have been committed ‘Twinners’, returning to Civray or hosting ‘our’ family nearly every year, we even hosted a different couple one year! We have been to two weddings in France and a christening; I know we are an accepted part of our French family and they of ours. We could not give up the club now, indeed we wish we had started earlier.My point here is that there is nothing to be frightened of, going to France and staying in the home of a perfect stranger, I would recommend the experience to anyone, if I can handle it, anyone can. Please do give it a try, you may well surprise yourselves.