How to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our twinning with the town of Pertuis, Provence, way down there in the glorious south of France? And return the compliment of their having named a major roundabout
(circle in American, Rond-Point in French) after us, showing the genuine warmth of their appreciation of the link with Alton.
Well, by a sheer stroke of serendipity, there was a second bird, as one might say, just waiting to be killed with this stone. Because, by a curious historical anomaly, Alton has for some years rejoiced in the possession of two parallel roads both called Whitedown Lane. That’s more Whitedown Lanes, you must agree, than any town strictly needs.
And, by a further happy chance, one of these two Whitedown Lanes was completely devoid of houses, so that nobody would have to change their postal address were it to be renamed – obviously a no no if it had been otherwise.
So, the responsible authorities swiftly agreed the proposal, new road signs were ordered and erected, Google (if not as yet the OS) updated their map,
and the unveiling of the new road sign was arranged for the Saturday morning of the Anniversary visit by two dozen of our friends from Provence – the 22nd October. Just over a week ago.
First thing that morning I loaded the car with potted greenery and set off to join Don in decorating the sign, leaving Lesley to finish breakfast with our two French house guests
and then take them to the Mayor’s reception in the Town Hall.
It is an amusing thought that Altonians will have as much difficulty pronouncing Pertuis Avenue as Pertuisians presumably have with Rond-Point d’Alton.
But less amusingly, while I was bending to plant the flags you see on the left of this picture, a bag of rubbish thrown from a passing car bounced off my shoulder. Which interested me, because the marksman either showed astonishingly quick reactions coming round the corner, or, much more probably, took the trouble to get his driver to turn round and come past again for the sole purpose of expressing his (I assume his) xenophobic venom. Which suggests a level of calculated malice sufficient to raise an appreciative editorial eyebrow at the Dailies Mail or Express. Indeed, should either of these publications wish to award a prize, the till receipt from the Petersfield MacDonalds which the lobber thoughtfully enclosed in his grubby bundle might help them in tracking him down. (Funny that – Petersfield says more ‘Telegraph’ to me, but ‘Daily’, just the same.)
I had these thoughts during the hour I spent guarding (yes, in these Brexit times it did seem to be necessary) the site,
while Don, in his capacity as Twinning Association Chairman, joined the meeting in the Town Hall.
Passers-by, hearing why I was grumpy, fell over themselves to cheer me up – “Here – let me take the rubbish so that you can forget about it” “That sounds wonderful, I was just setting off for Dartmoor but I love France and I’ll stay for the ceremony” (She did, plus her dog) “Can I get you a cup of tea?” To which – “How very kind of you, but there isn’t a loo…”
The happy Ceremony
That afternoon, in the town, was endlessly heart-warming. Everyone seemed to know about the Anniversary visit. Walking with our guests around King’s Pond, we introduced them at random to a lady with two children feeding the ducks near us and found that she was an enthusiast for twinning, and that her son was corresponding, through school, with a contact in Pertuis. And the little son who was with her, probably no more than five, had learned a few words of French and exchanged them, in an utterly charming scene, with our visitors.
Happy faces at the dinner at the end of the weekend
On the way back from leaving Simon and Raymond at their coach on Monday morning, I stopped to photograph the three flags flying on the Alton War Memorial flag poles, a symbol of our better selves, and of hope for the future.