Sunday, June 08, 2014

Admirable by association...

Today I went to the AGM of an association I've belonged to for many years. Au fil du Queffleuth et de la Penzé may not be the catchiest of titles for an organization, but the two names of rivers reflect the geographical and environmental parameters of a dynamique group which has laboured long and hard to preserve and present important local heritage. A recent exhibition concentrated on the manufacture of paper in the Queffleuth valley, an industry with connections to the linen trade with England and the pilhouarien (rag-and-bone men) of the Monts d'Arrée, the latter a subject I've studied a lot recently. As well as historical research, field work and nature study, AFQP has many educational projects, develops local themed walking circuits and offers guided visits for tourists and locals.
Associations are the prime example of that social inclusivity and cohesion that has traditionally given such strength to French society, and there are more in Brittany than anywhere else. Collective values and aims are supported here by many thousands of volunteers who give their time, expertise and experience to honour their local communities in all the many aspects of history, culture, sport and recreational activities. Much of any village social life is bound up with the activities and celebrations of such groups. I belong to a few, but AFQP with its good-humoured sense of solidarity and initiative is exceptional.
Today following the AGM in the village hall of Cloitre St-Thegonnec (whose annual book fair I faithfully attend) and discussion of various changes to the statues of the association, we processed around the streets for the inauguration of a new circuit highlighting the importance and uses of water in local history and legend. Individuals led songs as we walked, the well-known refrains eagerly rendered by about half the group, and a story was told at the last stop before adjourning to the village hall for drinks and food.
And here's the catch, the only possible thing to hold against associations - before anyone is allowed so much as a drop of liquid or a single crisp, there will invariably be at least five speeches.....

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