A Six Club Reunion
Double Triangular Reunion of British, French, Italian and Swedish Rotary clubsthumbnail view
The Rotary Club of Billericay, though small in numbers, prides itself on what it does to support the local community and the money it raises for local and international charities. Not the least of which is the distribution of over £30,000 to charities supported by its 2017 Soapbox Derby.
But it doesn't end there, one of the principal aims of Rotary is international understanding, and in this endeavour the Rotary Club of Billericay is linked with the Rotary Club of Basildon with four Rotary Clubs in Europe - Beausoleil (France), Alba (Italy), Ovada (Italy), and Karlshamn (Sweden). Each year one of the clubs hosts the other clubs for a weekend of friendship, international co-operation and joint endeavour. This year forty-one members of the four clubs from France, Italy and Sweden came to Essex between September 14 to 17, 2017 to join the two english clubs in our "Double Triangular" reunion. Our overseas colleagues were based at the County Hotel and Atlantic Hotel in Chelmsford.
Rotary International Friendship
A welcoming Barbeque was held for all the visitors on the evening of Thursday 12th September at the home of one of our club members in Stock, and despite one early burst of rain, over sixty rotarians and their partners thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Delicious food prepared on-site by Abigail's Delicatessen (Ingatestone), and drinks from Cellars (Billericay), kept hunger and thirst at bay, and entertainment was provided by croquet on the lawn, football, and with the highspot being performances by the Mayflower Morris Men. Our international guests relishing the opportunity to experience this english traditional dance - as they said - "the highspot of the evening."
At the end of the evening minibuses took our guests back to their hotels ready for their trip to Cambridge on the following day.
The full day trip started at 10.00 with a private huge double-decker coach from the hotel to Cambridge - aim - to show off one of the principal seats of English education. With Professional Tour Guide Jim McSharry in the lead, the group wanderred through the town, crossing over the River Cam and watching the attempts of tourists to punt on the river. Interesting anecdotes and historical points were provided by our guide as we passed by Queens College, Kings College, Trinity College and the site of the Cavendish laboratories, and wandered down the lanes between the colleges. The "grasshopper" clock was a particular point of interest for all.
Lunch was taken at the famous Eagle Pub where 2nd World war pilots had written their names, plane's names or squadron titles in the ceiling with cigarette lighters, candles or lipstick (?!).
A short-staffed Pub tested everybody's patience and service was exceedingly slow. However, the food was very good, and we all left very fulfilled. Some of the party went on to go punting (under umbrellas!) despite the rain, while others went shopping or explored the town further.
Rotary International Friendship
Meeting at 16.30 for a return by coach to Chelmsford completed a full sightseeing day, as we all arrived back in Chelmsford (just) in time for the "Home Hosting". The two hosting clubs - Billericay and Basildon - took our guests to the "Hoop" in Stock (Billericay Club) and, fittingly with regard to our late return, Basildon took their guests to "Back in Time". Everybody enjoyed a full meal, great conversation and a fitting end to a great day.
Despite news of the yesterday’s terrorist attack at Parson’s Green, nobody wanted to change our plans for our trip to London. An early start and a fast ride into the centre of London. Parked on the embankment at Westminster Bridge, it was a short brisk walk round to parliament square and the entrance to the Houses of Parliament, where an audio tour had been booked for us all. A great choice as our guests were able to enjoy the visit with a commentary in their own language.
Rotary International Friendship
“Be back in one hour” said Mike Barrett, “we need to leave at 12.15 pm”. Easier said than done – the commentary worked at its own pace and the main commentary, even without listening to any “subsidiary” talks, took nearly an hour. The route was comprehensive - Westminster Hall, St. Stephen’s Hall, the two chambers of the Commons and Lords with their ancillary rooms, the central Lobby etc. etc. a complete and interesting tour as we saw the “cramped” chamber of the House of Commons where those familiar “debates” between government and opposition took place, saw the gold leaf and sumptuous decorations of the Lords, the impressive statues and ceiling of St Stephen’s Hall and of the Central Lobby.
Were we all back at the due time? What do you think?
A twenty-minute brisk walk to the Embankment Pier, and we had all made it, just in time for our boat, the Symphony, to set off up the river past the Houses of Parliament with us in our own private room at the stern of the boat. And what a boat – comfortable chairs, table with linen clothes, smart waiters and waitresses, floor to ceiling windows with nothing to obstruct the view except, you guessed it, as soon as we were on board for our lunch, down came the rain.
The boat went upstream to just past Lambeth Palace, then, as the rain stopped, downstream almost as far as the Rotherhithe tunnel before returning to Embankment Pier. We all enjoyed an exceedingly good three-course meal while thoroughly enjoying the views from inside our private room and outside on the deck.
Then disembarkation, back to the coach and a short drive across the river to Southwark to see the Globe Theatre and walk down to see the replica of the Golden Hind near Southwark Cathedral.
Finally, on the coach back to Chelmsford and this time, in plenty of time to get ready for the Gala Dinner.
We all gathered in the Crystal Ballroom on the County Hotel at 7.15 pm for pre-dinner drinks before sitting down for the meal (chicken again). After an introduction of all present, in a departure from the planned agenda for the evening, the visiting presidents took the opportunity to say “a few words” and to present other clubs with gifts, Rotary pennants and souvenirs of the visit.Grace was said by Carol Barrett, and we all partook of the Celebration meal. after the meal, the Loyal Toast was proposed by Kevin Howard, President of Basildon Rotary Club, and the Toast to the guests proposed by Peter Greene, President of Billericay Rotary Club, who even managed to say a sentence in each of French, Italian, and Swedish – which hopefully they all understood? This brought an end to a great evening, and the end of the organised events for our visitors.
Sunday - Down to Business
Most of the visitors had the morning free to just rest, or to wander the town and enjoy the shops, a last moment to get that final souvenir!
Meanwhile the officers of the six clubs met to discuss opportunities for further co-operation, and joint international projects. Basildon proposed a project for solar power generation in Ghana in co-operation with Accra Rotary Club, which should be eligible for a global Grant. Further work was needed but the project was well received. Billericay distributed copies of its Souvenir Soapbox Derby Newsletter and invited all the clubs to enter a Soapbox in next May’s (7th) Soapbox Derby. Beausoleil described a Rotaract “Duck” race which they supported, and which was held every year as a good fundraiser, and also, a joint project with Walt Disney to screen a premier to selected audience in aid of charity. The film screening was international in scope covering not only the whole of France but also Belgium and other nearby countries. A potential fundraiser for the UK too?
This was the final meeting of the visit, and after fond farewells to friends new and old, our guests departed for the airports with everyone looking forward to next year’s visit to Ovada in Italy.