Letter from Ligueil – the 2018 Comice

News from Hungerford’s twin town of Ligueil by Vera Taylor, who has lived in Ligueil for 28 years.

Ligueil, a town in the Loire Valley, which has been twinned with Hungerford since 1980, held its comice, or country fair, a few days ago – three days of intense activity from 31 August to 2 September. This agricultural event rotates each year round nearby towns and re-unites and attracts local personalities and activities. For Ligueil it comes round every six years, so efforts have to be made: and, as usual, they were. This year the theme was “the environment.”

Ligueil has two other twins as well as Hungerford: Nentershausen in Germany and Cantalejo in Spain, both of which sent large delegations. As Hungerford had hosted its friends from Ligueil a mere month ago (from 2 to 6 August) – click here for details – the British contingent sent to France was a private one consisting of four couples. It was not an official visit from our English twins but their presence was very positively felt and indeed was honoured by a presentation to Penny Brookman (President of the twinning Committee of Ligueil/Hungerford) of  the Noble Order of Vintners. These things are taken very seriously over here in rural France and such awards are not given to all and sundry.

Le Comice in Ligueil started on Friday 31 August, on the outskirts of Ligueil with a ploughing match, in which a mixture of ancient tractors and ox-drawn ploughs competed. In the adjoining fields there were demonstrations of model airplanes and an agricultural drone. The drone was able to photograph as well as sensing the water level on the terrain. In the evening the Ligueil Twinning Committee  organized a diner and dance for all the three towns twinned with Ligueil so the German, Spanish and English members and their French hosts were united in revelry until midnight.

On the second day the small band of Brits had a stand with material displaying joys of Hungerford and leaflets advertising the new Great West Way, which runs from Bristol to London –  via Hungerford of course! Many French visitors to the stand recounted their stays in language schools and their memories of visits to the UK, many as part of the twinning association. Pimms – that most quintessentially English and also deceptive of drinks – was available. The French and Spanish stands provided their own offerings, cheese, ham and beer amongst them. A good deal of exquisite local produce was also available.

In the afternoon there was a conference on the subject of the environment given by local philosopher and activist Axel Khan. The first part dealt with some of the historical aspects of agriculture with particular reference to the works of Jeremy Bentham and Hans Jonas, both of whom were in their different ways interested in maximising the benefits of agriculture and minimising the damage it cause. The second part looked at some present-day challenges, in particular those posed by glysophate weed killers which many claim have been employed far too intenseively, have various negative side-effects and which are set to be banned in Europe.

The third and final day started with an organized walk for the more hardy of us. At 11am there was an open-air mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Tours and enlivened by the inclusion of the hunting horns of the local hunt. A club of motorcyclists drove slowly past the archbishop towards the end of the ceremony and received his blessing on themselves and their bikes. Together we prayed for safety on the roads.

In the afternoon, carnival floats circulated in procession round the whole town. The French display included the spectacular traditional costumes of their local guilds, the Spanish contingent had a troupe of colourful dancers, the Germans had their brass band and the Brits (who, remember, were here unofficially)  presented a good showing as masked members of the Royal Family with banners of Hungerford.

This final day of celebrations ended at nightfall with a superb firework display organized by the Maire of Ligueil, Michel Guigneaudeau. Our thanks go tohim and indeed all those in Ligueil who made this such a special occasion.

So to bed at midnight – encore!

For more information on the Hungerford Twinning Association, please click here.

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