Our first twinning experience was in 1972, when my late husband started an exchange between Ashford and Bad Münstereifel beekeepers, which is still going strong today. It was Ashford’s turn to visit the Eifel in 2019, but the return visit scheduled for 2021 is postponed until 2022 due to the dreaded Virus. However, that will be just right to celebrate the half-century.

We were accompanied by our two children on these visits, when they were still quite young, and once we had joined the Ashford Twinning Association, they came on those visits, too. Back home, they got used to having strangers in the house, who usually spoilt them with soft toys and other presents.

In addition to beekeepers and twinners, we also accommodated small groups of adult language students from the Eifel and Brittany, and on one memorable occasion, half-a-folk group of musicians and dancers from Fougères, the other half staying with our friends in Ruckinge. The group performed in the Lower High Street in Ashford during a Civic Exchange.

My daughter Bettina was only twelve, when she took part in her first Youth exchange, which was organized by Ferdi Lethert, MBE, from Bad Münstereifel and Mrs Hall & Mrs Lavender from Ashford. As we were living on a farm, Ferdi Lethert arranged for an exchange with a girl from a dairy farm in Eicherscheid. A close friendship developed between the girls and all the family, which has lasted over 35 years and encompasses four generations. In that time, we have shared all major family occasions, weddings and funerals included.

My son, Bernard, joined the Youth exchange soon after and made his own friends. This led to a full house every summer as one of our twinning friends from Fougères brought his son Olivier up to Boulogne, where I collected him by SeaCat, so that he could join the two girls and two boys already in residence at Chez Nous and practise his English.

We have not been on a twinning visit to Fougères in recent years, though we hope to make up for lost time once this can be done safely, but we normally visit Bad Münstereifel two or three times a year. My husband, Chris, has come to love the Eifel as much as we do and is looking forward to staying there again and meeting up with all our friends.

Written by Monika Mann

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