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We are a group who seek to promote international friendship and understanding.

We meet together regularly for social events and fundraising and take part in exchange visits with similar groups from our twin cities and partner towns abroad.

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News

At this year's AGM , which took place on May 21 2015, we were privileged to hear a talk on the rôle of British Nurses in WW1 across Europe, particularly Serbia. Our speaker, Zvezdana Popovic has researched extensively on the topic after finding that little has been published about these unsung heroines. A senior librarian at Kensington and Chelsea Library and a History teacher by profession, she had her interest piqued as a child when she saw the names of British Nurses in a Museum in Serbia. This was a fascinating insight into the lives of thousands of women volunteers on the frontline. More can be learnt at this website.

www.scottishwomenshospitals.co.uk

 Zvezdana has spoken in schools, libraries and churches in London. See  photographs of an exhibition she held in St Sava's, the Serbian Orthodox Church, London in our Gallery.

 

Once again we are sad to report the death of another of our members, Joyce Jackson. She,with her late husband Ernie, was a stalwart member of Caif, visiting our partner cities and hosting our visitors many time over the years. She will be missed greatly.

The first three days of the visit were spent in London, the group arriving at St Pancras International station on the Eurostar train at 12.30 on Tuesday.  We went straight across London by tube train (metro to you) to Lambeth North station and then had a short walk to our accommodation at International House, a student residence of Westminster University. Our decision to base ourselves there was a good one as it was conveniently situated to access the main tourist sites and it was also quite cheap, by London standards of accommodation.  After we had settled in, at 14.30, we set off on foot on the first excursion, up past the London Eye (The Big Wheel) to the Southbank complex of arts buildings and then across Waterloo Bridge to Somerset House. Although there were three free exhibitions on display there, the group did not enter these galleries, preferring to move on to Covent Garden where they spent some time looking at the various fashion and craft stalls. This is a major tourist attraction and there were a lot of people there.  Following this we walked up into the area known as Bloomsbury, to a pub called "The Perseverance" where, at about 19.15, we had our evening meal. The pub is run by Monique, the daughter of Mary Goodwin (who, speaks excellent French and acts as our interpreter).  We finished there at about 21.00 and then walked to the tube station at Russell Square to get the underground train back to Lambeth North and on to International House for the night’s sleep.

On Wednesday (hopefully newly refreshed after a reasonably good night’s sleep) everyone had had their breakfast in time for us to leave International House by 09.00 and we went to the river (Thames) again and walked the river walk, opposite the Houses of Parliament, to Westminster Bridge, which we crossed, in order to see the Parliament Buildings, Parliament Square (in which there are statues of famous statesmen from British History) and Westminster Abbey. We didn’t go into any of these buildings but we did go into the Supreme Court, which I had never been into before and which I think the group found interesting.

After this we walked towards Buckingham Palace (one of the Queen’s four residencies in the UK) and, on the way, had the good fortune to see a troop of horse guards riding past, in their shiny armour and fine uniforms. We spent a little bit of time at the Palace gates then walked back down The Mall to Horse Guard’s Parade and through to Whitehall to see Downing Street (the home of the British Prime Minister). At the top (north end) of Whitehall is Trafalgar Square, with it’s statue of Lord Horatio Nelson on his column and we had lunch in the crypt of St Martin’s in the Fields church which is located on the eastern side of the square.

After lunch there was a period of free time when some of the group visited the National Gallery (of Art) while others walked up to see Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Soho or Chinatown. Re-assembled, we walked to the British Museum, with the main intention of seeing the Rosetta Stone (which you may know was deciphered by a frenchman, Champollion). The Museum is not too far away from the pub, “The Perseverance”, and we again ate our evening meal there, a very tasty, lamb casserole followed by a chocolate mousse made by a specialist chocolatier!

A large number of the group wanted to walk back from Bloomsbury to the residence in Lambeth but Simone returned on the tube with Mary as it would have been too much for her, I think.  The rest of us walked back (about one hour) which gave the group the opportunity to see London and the river bank by night which was quite a sight.

The final day in London began with us needing to take our luggage to be stored for the day in the Left Luggage department at Waterloo Station and, after we had done this, we went by tube train to London Bridge Station where we visited Borough Market, a very good market selling a variety of foods. From there we walked past The Shard, the newest and tallest building in London, and on to Tower Bridge where you have a very good view of the bridge and across to the City of London, the financial district with its aggregation of high-rise commercial buildings. Across the bridge we saw the new installation of fields of ceramic poppy flowers which are being installed at the foot of the Tower’s walls to commemorate World War One.  This is attracting some very big crowds and is an impressive sight.

We had our lunch in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral and, although we didn’t go into the Cathedral (for lack of time but also on account of the fact that it is quite expensive to enter), the group had a view of the building from the outside. From there we walked back across the River Thames via the Millenium Bridge, a pedestrian bridge, to Tate Modern, the gallery of modern art which is located in a converted former electric power station. We only had time to just see inside the Turbine hall, the site of many ambitious art installations during the past fifteen years or so and then we walked to Southwark tube station to get back to Waterloo Station to retrieve the baggage.

We had to make a change of tube trains on the way to Victoria Station and had a 10-minute walk, pulling the luggage behind us, to reach Victoria Coach Station to take the Megabus to Coventry. The departure of the bus was delayed by 20 minutes but we finally reached Coventry just before 20.00 to be met by the hosts.

The first day in Coventry (Friday) started at 10.00 with a visit to see the remains of the very oldest cathedral building in Coventry followed by a visit to the Town Hall for a meeting with the city’s mayor, this year a woman.  After speeches from all sides and a small buffet, we moved off to a local country park for a pique-nique. We were lucky to have finished eating before it started to rain but it wasn’t too much and a number of the group chose to take a walk through the wooded paths of the park and visited a bird-watching hide, rather like the ones that we had visited at Séné during our visit to Vannes in July. Friday evening was spent at a church hall in Coventry where we enjoyed a meal together and we did some singing.

Saturday was the first excursion by coach and we went about 100 kilometres (perhaps more) north to the area of Derbyshire known as the Peak District, where, firstly, we visited the village of Eyam (which is known for its history during the middle ages as a Plague - La Peste - village). We went into a museum there but it was full of information, probably too much to absorb, even for an English person and there were no printed guides or information available in French). After sometime in the village looking at the old houses and the church, we moved on to the village of Castleton where we had our "pique-nique" lunch then we visited a cavern, descending some way beneath the surface, after watching a demonstration of rope-making, a typical, old craft activity of the area.  We arrived back in Coventry at 18.30 and everyone was pleased to get back home !

Sunday was free day with hosts and in the evening, we assembled together again at the house of Pat Trickett for drinks, a small buffet and more singing. As I have learnt to play on my guitar the Breton song “La Blanche Hermine” and the Renaud song “La Ballade Nord-Irlandaise”, I enjoyed myself joining in with Jean-François !

Monday was the second excursion, this time about 80 kilometres to see the old, Gothic cathedral in the town of Worcester.  This is a fine example of the English Perpendicular style and we had a very good guide in the person of Alan Betteridge. Unfortunately, the day outside was spoilt by persistent rain and the walk that we had planned in the nearby Malvern Hills had to be abandoned while the "pique-nique" took place underneath some cover in a local park. We decided to spend more time than had been planned in a town named Pershore where they were holding a Plum Festival and, although it was still raining a little, I think everyone enjoyed being able to see the English at play, on a national holiday day.

On Tuesday morning we met at 09.30 for the departure back to London. The Megabus was delayed by 30 minutes but, when it finally arrived, farewells were quickly said and we were off back to Victoria Coach Station, Mary Goodwin and myself accompanying the group back to the St Pancras Eurostar terminal. On account of the bus delay we didn’t reach London until 13.00 and, as a result of queueing at the tube station, we only reached St Pancras at 14.00 which meant that the group had to go immediately through the ticket barrier.

And so our visit was complete !  I must say that it was a great pleasure to spend our time in the company of the Breton group who conducted themselves at all times in a disciplined and reliable way. I’m sure that we have confirmed our friendships even more deeply than before as a result of spending this time together and we look forward to meeing again.

See photos in the Gallery.

CAIF members attended an inspirational talk by Phil Baylis, at the Central Library, on Friday 27 June. Phil and his son, also Phil, went on a fundraising trip to 16 of Coventry's twin cities in Europe. They went by motorbike and were accompanied by a support team in a van. Everywhere they went they were greeted (as we are) with friendliness and warm hospitality. They were raising funds for Myton Hospice. To date they have raised £26.000

In 2015 Phil will undertake another challenge to raise money for Zoe's Place.

We wish him and his team well.

VISITS

CAIF members and a group from Vannes were hosted in Meschede, Germany. Our German hosts were, as always, generous and caring, particularly with those of us who are not so mobile. Our trips out were interesting and varied and our newer members enjoyed their first experience of being with CAIF. Thanks go to our French friends for letting us accompany them on their coach on the excursions out. The final barbecue saw 100 people sharing three languages and music in a convivial atmosphere.

Pat Trickett, at the request of the Historical Society of Rhode Island, and arranged by some of our old acquantainces from the Link, run by Norma Smith, visited Rhode Island USA. She stayed with John and Judy Loven. Following on from a visit to us last year, our hospitality was returned in abundance. Currently, the Link in R.I. is unsupported by the Council because of financial constraints. However, a letter from the Lord Mayor of Coventry UK (Cllr Gary Crookes) was given to the Head of the Council, Coventry R.I. An acknowledgement and a gift was sent to our Lord Mayor. Thus, the link between the two Coventrys remains.

PEACE MONTH

Held in November in St Mary's Guildhall, it featured our two choirs, a folk singer, an African drummer , a jazz group and Stage school singing and dancing. It was a success and thanks go to Pru Poretta for acting as compere, in her role as Lady Godiva. Also to Pat Trickett both for the organisation and for the choir's excellent performance.

Mary Goodwin, taking the late Hazel Lynn's place  as the CAIF representative on the Mayor's Peace Committee attended the Annual Peace Lecture.

VISITORS

The anicipated visit of the Youth Orchestra from our twin city of Volgograd took place in May. This had been co-ordinated by Carol Brown and was supported by Caif with a donation.. They were hosted by the CBSO Birmingham. Concerts in Coventry Cathedral and the CBSO Concert Hall in Birmingham were excellent. They were also given a civic reception. Later, in this year's Peace Month, there will be an exhibition in the Herbert Art Gallery, in recognition of our 40 year old link with Volgograd. We hope to invite some representatives from Volgograd.

Following on from a New Year concert at the Polish Church with their choir and ours,  the  link with the Polish Choir 'Sensa Nome', was further strengthened when their director, Joanna Kunda, a CAIF member, asked for support from CAIF when they were hosting a choir from Poland, 'Concerto Glacensis'.  Donations and support for the joint concert with the 'Nightingales' and another choir, was forthcoming. Three young men from the choir were hosted by Pat and Allan Trickett.

APPEALS

In June, CAIF members were asked by Pru Poretta to support to support our twin city of Belgrade after the devastating floods , which have left thousands homeless. Music, storytelling and fundraising took place in the Belgrade Theatre over three lunchtimes. Donations of essential items were collected and taken to the Serbian Embassy in London by Pru Poretta and her husband. 

FUTURE CHALLENGES

Increasing our membership, particularly with younger people.

Pursuing a possible link with Warsaw.