Press coverage from the commemorations in France has not failed to remind us what a controversial figure Napoleon remains even there. It seems that for every fact about Napoleon there is a myth. Tim Robins was merciless with his topical quiz at the recent conversation club marking the 200 years since Napoleon's death on 5 May 1821. Not only did we have to separate fact from fiction we had to do a dictation as well! With points deducted for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes your web editor did quite well on the language but failed hopelessly at guessing the answers. The top scorer turned out to be a history buff who had just read a book on the subject. Your web editor came in joint last with 2 points!
Whatever your opinion of the man we can be sure that he was frustrated with the last years of his life in exile. His mood appears to be reflected on the face of the two sculptures I stumbled across at the reclaim yard only a few days short of the anniversary.
BBC Radio 3 marked the bicentenary with its excellent Sunday evening 'Words and Music' programme which you can still hear on BBC Sounds by following this link:
'From Beethoven to Anthony Burgess - writers, poets and composers have reflected on the tumultuous times of Napoleon Bonaparte and whether he stands as a heroic figure or a despot.'
Mike Read, well known member of the Natural History Society at Greyfriars and a Ringwood resident for over 50 years, has recently been offering Zoom slideshows. So far he has shared his wonderful images of his local Parish and the working New Forest. This week he branches out to bring us a selection of views from Northern and Southern France. Contact Greyfriars office to request the Zoom link (email@example.com) or see the latest e newsletter. Mike's talk takes place on Friday 19 March 2021 and will begin at 3pm but do log in early to test your audio etc. The talk is free with an optional donation to Greyfriars if wished.
Are you, like me, missing the lovely illustrated talks we used to enjoy together? Some of us are already members of the Ringwood Anglo-Italian Society which used to meet monthly on Mondays at Greyfriars. Their super programme of talks (in English) for 2021 is available online. The Zoom meetings are free to join from the comfort of your own sofa and full details are available on their website. The guest speaker on 1 March will be Annalisa Pesce with a slideshow entitled 'Between the mountains and the sea: Journey across the Ligurian Riviera - La Spezia to Ventimiglia'. Sounds wonderful...arrivederci!
Fans of Radio 4's Desert Island Discs will have heard former football manager Arsene Wenger on 27 November as he selected his favourite music. Listen again online using BBC sounds
Musician and model Carla Bruni talked about her new album and sang live on Radio 3's Music Planet on 24 October.
Roderick Williams presented a three part series for Radio 3 called Britain in Ten Operas and described what our opera story tells us about British identity. The episode entitled Courtesans and Captains related the reception given to Bizet's Carmen and how a production toured the provinces, taking opera out of London and bringing it to the people.
Do let us know if you see or hear something interesting we can share.
Our secretary encourages you to visit one of her favourite websites. 'This is a great site which is in bite-sized pieces' says Penny. In fact there is a website which you can join to enjoy film reviews and more plus a free bilingual blog https://saliannefrenchfocus.wordpress.com/. Teacher and translator Salianne writes 'in September 2012 I started to write an educational blog which aims to help people keep up-to-date with what’s in the news in France, whilst gaining insights into French language and culture.'
We would love your feedback on our new website. You are most welcome to make suggestions for content and to submit articles for the news page via the secretary. We would like to thank photographer Muriel Sammartano for kindly giving us permission to use her images on the site.
Henry IV considered the Charente to be the most beautiful river in his Kingdom and Brian Freeland's stunning photography helped us to imagine ourselves on its leafy banks during our first evening together of the year. Brian is a well-travelled theatre director, playwright and an accomplished public speaker who has lived in France. His intimate knowledge of the twists and turns of this magnificent 'fleuve' generated a fascinating evening. As we travelled the 371 kilometres from the source of the river at Cheronnac to its final destination at Rochefort we learned about the history of the towns and villages along the way. The strategic importance of the bridge crossings has left many fortifications, some in ruins and some now incorporated into other buildings. Industrial development has seen former mills transformed into hotels, restaurants or private residences all enjoying charming views. The touristic ambitions of inland municipalities has seen the creation of lakes dedicated to watersports and leisure.
Brian's talk encompassed not only history from Roman times and links with Britain but also the lives of the powerful and the poor, art and architecture, environmental issues and the traces left by conflict. Many of us were pleased to revisit places we knew. Comic strip fans noted the Festival de la bande dessinee at Angouleme every spring. We inhaled wistfully when Brian described 'The Angels' Share' which refers to the percentage of cognac which evaporates from the barrels in the cellars where it ages. The Roman city of Saintes is twinned with Salisbury and boasts the Arch of Germanicus from 7A.D. and the largest amphitheatre in Europe outside Italy. Brian's photograph put us into the sandals of a gladiator or slave emerging through the amphitheatre's tunnel into the ring.
Anecdotes of daily life and stories of Brian's many friends brought us back down to earth which was a good thing as at one point we saw a photograph of Rochefort from space! Nor did life below the surface of the river go unmentioned as it seems the river is in good health and certain stretches are very popular with Natterjack Toads. We thank Brian for a very entertaining evening which left us with a thirst to explore France for ourselves. Brian kindly offered the group a signed copy of his book Meanderings: A River and a Life which was won in the raffle by Pauline.