August 9th: top class music after lunch

By arrangement with member Piers Killeen and the Albion Quartet, members have been invited to enjoy a rehearsal by this top class quartet at Piers’ chateau at Sainte-Mère (32) on Thursday 9th August.

We plan to lunch in advance of this at the Auberge des Bouviers in Lectoure.  ‘Bouviers’ are cowboys according to the proprietor but this is certainly not a comment on the food!

Piers writes:

“I am afraid I cannot be sure what they will be rehearsing, but clearly it will be pieces from the subsequent concert programmes. The rehearsals are likely to include sections from the Beethoven and Schubert quartets featuring in the programme.  They are all lovely people and I’m sure they will also say a word or two to your group about their work.  They have fabulous instruments anyway – Stradivarius, Guarnerius and a Grancino.”

Albion b:w photo small

Details have been sent to members by email: please contact for further details.



Nigel Griffin writes: A small group of Members was warmly welcomed by Geoff and Penny Douglas to a picnic lunch in early June on the terrace of their home near Rieux-Volvestre (Haute-Garonne), the Ville-cité where in 1982 Le retour de Martin Guerre was filmed. They kindly arranged a late morning visit to a local atelier with stunning views of the Pyrenees, where the potter Sylvian Meschia spoke of recent installation work featuring his ceramics. After lunch, we were taken by a neighbour, Jean-Pierre Soulat, on an enjoyable and informative tour of the village he knows so intimately.


photo: Roger Tarn

Bordeaux: Wine and Submarines

19 June 2018

This visit to the Cité du Vin and the former German submarine base was somewhat undersubscribed (Royal Wedding, Whitsuntide?), but this of us who were able to come had a splendidly sunny day in Bordeaux to enjoy both attractions.

‘Attraction’ might be a misnomer for the massive concrete wartime submarine pens constructed with forced labour organised by the Organisation Todt. Our passionate guides told how the massive pens (12 metres deep) were constructed and how they were defended from American aerial bombardment. Whilst the surrounding Bacalan area had been destroyed by misguided bombs and the retreating Germans had destroyed as much as they could, Bordeaux was ultimately helped in its restoration by a courageous German francophile who prevented the detonation of the last bridge across the Gironde.

Sadly, we have to report that impending commercial exploitation may rub out some of the history as the pens are converted into more modern attractions, but for those interested in quite recent history the visit is inexpensive and is currently supplemented by a digital art exhibition in the cavernous underground of what had been the tower block next to the pens.

Prior to this visit we spent the morning in the Cité du Vin with lunch in the Brasserie. Your correspondent enjoyed the Bacchanalian art and music exhibition, the view from the Belvedere and the array of wines from just about every wine producing country. Lunch in the Brasserie was memorable mainly for good company.

Our thanks as ever to Marion for organising this most enjoyable day out.

Cité du Vin
One of the submarine pens
Pen visitors
View from the Cite du Vin Belvedere


June 9th Garden Party

Marion has sent details of this garden party to members, who are invited to reply before June 2nd:

“You may well wish to sport a boater or a panama hat for an elegant « déjeuner sur l’herbe », kindly hosted by OUS member Geoff Douglas and his wife Penny in the garden of their house at Saint Laurent ( 31310 Rieux-Volvestre. (But they also have a large indoor space available in the event of rain).

Geoff and Penny propose coffee at 10h30, followed by a short walk (25 minutes, or 5 minutes by car) to the medieval village of Rieux-Volvestre, where there is much to be admired (

The walk will give us a good appetite for sharing our picnics (from our own hampers).

After lunch, Geoff has arranged a short talk by a good friend and retired professor of English at Toulouse University, on Clément Ader, known as “the father of aviation”, who was in competition with the Wright brothers for the first hop above the ground (we are, after all, not far from Toulouse and the Airbus …)

If you come from afar, Geoff and Penny have accommodation for 5 couples and two singles in 3 apartments.”

Greg Hawes: OUBC Lunch, 2018

Lunch with OUBC/OUWBC, La Commanderie, Temple-sur-Lot, 3rd January 2017

A brief personal account by Greg Hawes (Captain, CCC BC 1975)

We are fortunate that the OUBC come for their winter training session to the Lot valley and doubly fortunate that they meet with us.  Trebly so this year, as the men’s crews were joined by the OUWBC.

I met several members of the crews before lunch.  All I spoke with agreed that the facilities for training at Temple are very good.  This year the men’s crews include more undergraduates than in recent years, including several freshers.  The Women’s President, Katherine Erickson was a champion equestrian before turning to rowing “as a part of the whole Oxford experience”.  She told me the women are tall and wiry, rather than beefy like the men.  I suggested that, in rowing, technique and leverage are just as important as raw power and Katherine graciously assented.

At lunch I plonked myself down between two members of the OUBC staff and found I had luckily chosen a seat with Head Coach Sean Bowden on my right and Boatman Austen Dorey on my left.  Both were extremely informative.

With the Lot in early flood, conditions here are far from ideal for training this season.  I suggested the rough, fast-flowing river might be handy preparation for the rigours of the Thames Tideway and was gently told that at this stage of training better conditions are needed.  Avoiding debris has been a special challenge this year and repairs to blades, rudders and so on have kept Austen busy.

I asked about the impact of technology on modern boats (not having sat in an Eight since Oxford).  Having started by saying that apart from materials, things had not changed much in recent years, Austen told me that sensors in the gates can now provide real time feedback to a rower in training including his or her power of stroke, angle at the catch and recovery, as well as timing information.  As a former Stroke with a chronic tendency to overreach at the catch, I was enraptured.

The coxes were being taken aside after lunch for a video training session.  I knew of the importance of the role of the cox, especially in the Boat Race, where the line taken is so vital and the rivalry with the Cambridge boat is so intense.  Sean enlightened me further, explaining that one small mistake by the cox can cost the crew minutes of hard rowing beyond the “lactate threshold” to make up the lost distance.  Anyone who has rowed in competition knows what that feels like.

Time passed all too quickly.  The crews returned to their training and the staff to their duties.  I certainly hope the Oxford crews will keep returning to the Lot each winter.  Everyone was charming.  Their welcome to us is thanks to Jeremy James.  May he rest in peace.