President's Letter, December 2016

The Cambridge Society of Paris intends to be a focal point for all Cambridge Alumni in and around Paris to remain in touch with other Alumni. We plan our activities to be enjoyable, topical, cultural and fun as well as providing networking opportunities. Our membership is represented by a wide range of ages, nationalities, professions and subjects studied – the common point of all is to use the talents they honed during their time at Cambridge to progress but also to help others on their way. In short, fun, companionship and community spirit.

2016 was overall a great year for the Society. Our two highlight events, the Annual Dinner and the Garden Party, were by all accounts tremendous successes. Dr Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene and of course a former Archbishop of Canterbury, was our Guest Speaker at the Annual Dinner, and 80 members and guests enjoyed his company at the Maison du Polytechnique. It was Cambridge’s turn to organise the Garden Party and the initial disappointment of not being able to use the Embassy was dissipated when we secured the Ecole Militaire. In addition to our friends from Oxford, we also welcomed the Alumni of the Ecole Polytechnique and for the first year the numbers of participants from the French School exceeded those of either Oxford or Cambridge. We even had to contact the Ecole Militaire to increase the numbers from those initially booked as total attendance was 180, another record. In the year of the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death naturally our main talk was on a Shakespearean theme, albeit with a twist as Dr Nicolas Bell, the Librarian of Trinity’s Wren Library, told us about an episode early in the 18th Century when new Shakespeare manuscripts were discovered – and subsequently found to be fakes. The evening was rounded off by the personal views of President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the Speaker from our guest French School, on the likely outcome of the Brexit vote which was to take place two days after the Garden Party. He predicted a 50/50 vote and asserted that the actual outcome would not necessarily change much as it would either be Great Britain half way in the EU as it currently is or half way out after negotiations to retain a certain level of access to the European Market. Of course, none of us know yet what will really happen although most of us British citizens living in France were desperately disappointed with the Leave result.

The Society was also active with many other events and activities : the Monthly drinks of course but also debates, two tours of Mundolingua, a visit round the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, a walk led by George Young along the Bièvres river within Paris intramuros, Shakespeare in the Bois de Boulogne, a Welcome Wine Tasting for new students matriculating in 2016, Carols at the Travellers, a captivating presentation by Prof Jean Khalfa on French artists books in the 20th Century and watching the Boat Race and the Varsity Rugby together. Add to this the events, mostly musical, organised by members of the Society and invitations from Oxford and other Alumni Groups, I hope you will agree we have provided opportunities for all tastes again this year, enough to tempt you all into renewing for 2017.

The standard membership rate is unchanged at €40 for the year, with a reduced rate of €20 to all members under 30 and of course there is still no charge for those members who are still studying at the University. We also continue our support to current students through the Trevor Brown Bursary. This is separately funded, so I do call on those of you who would like to support this initiative to add a little extra to your membership fee.

Our membership was 122 at the end of 2016, stable compared to the 121 members at the end of last year. As many are part of a mobile international community, changes in the membership are to be expected and 35 members did not renew while we have welcomed 36 new members. On a sad note, two members died in 2016: Charles Spencer-Bernard in February and James Wood in April. Both were active members of the Society and James had been on the committee for the last year, heavily involved in the organisation of our Social events. We miss both of them.

We have welcome three new Committee members, Duncan Low as our Treasurer, Natasha McNamara in charge of Social events and in particular the Monthly Drinks and Moez Draief who has taken on the organisation of debates and is the contact with the other UK University Alumni associations in Paris. Panos Barkas had to resign his Treasurer role early in the year as his job took him to Greece and Rosarita Cuccoli has recently moved away from Paris.

My three year term as President is coming to an end and, after the AGM to be held on 17 May, the Committee will choose a new President. There will also be other committee places available, given Panos and Rosarita’s departure from Paris and the possibility that two other committee members who now no longer live in the Paris area may also not stand for re-election. So I end my letter with a call to any of you who would like to play a part in the future of your Society. Those of you who would like to take a place on the Committee are invited to contact me so we can discuss together the role you could play.

I wish you and all those you care about a very Happy Christmas and every success in the New Year. I do hope that you will continue to support us in 2017 and that you be able to attend many of our events.

Tony Banton
Trinity 1975

2017 Trevor Brown Bursary

Applications may now be submitted for the Trevor Brown Bursary, available to current students of Cambridge University carrying out a project related to France or French society. The Bursary provides a modest contribution towards project costs and will be awarded based on assessment of applications by the TBB sub committee.

Full details, including how to apply, can be found on the Bursary page of this website.

James Wood, RIP

I have sad news to share as James Wood, member of our Committee and above all friend, died suddenly last week of a brain aneurysm in his flat in Juvisy. A family funeral was held early in May and a celebration to his life in June in London.

The Society will be dedicating one of our events to James "à la rentrée" and details will be sent out as soon as they are confirmed.

Tony Banton

Charles Spencer Bernard

Charles Spencer Bernard died on Tuesday 2 February in hospital. He had been going downhill steadily since je celebrated his birthday with his family at home a week earlier. He has been in great pain so, hard though it is to say, his death is a relief for him, for Lindy, Sarah and Elizabeth. They had seen him in the afternoon and had the impression that he had just waited to see them a last time..

Charles was a long standing members of the Society and many of us will remember him with tenderness. I consider I am fortunate to have been able to spend time with him at various CamSoc events over the years.

The funeral was held in Broc in the Maine-et-Loire at 10am on Monday 8 February. A memorial service was held in Paris in March.

Michael Webster

It is with great sadness that we inform you that Michael Webster passed away last night. Michael has been an active member of the Society, and hosted Committee meetings at his flat for the last few years. He was particularly involved in organising visits, such as those to the Louvre in 2013 and 2014 and more recently was behind the debating evenings of the association.
He will be sorely missed.

A memorial service will take place at the The American Cathedral in Paris on Saturday 7 th October at 16.00.

UK Winter Fuel Payment and other benefits

For those concerned please see below information provided by the BCC on the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee Benefit delivery inquiry:
"The Work and Pensions Committee (Chair, Frank Field MP) is holding an inquiry into the timeliness and accuracy of benefit delivery by the DWP. The official website for the inquiry points out that potential problems that can arise when benefits are delayed or underpaid, including people having to resort to food banks for emergency food rations.

The Committee invites written submissions on:

• The extent to which the DWP delivers benefit and Universal Credit payments correctly and promptly
• The impact of errors and delays and how such effects are mitigated
• How the Department’s performance in this area might be monitored and improved.

Select Committee Member Mhairi Black MP says on the website: "Vulnerable people are often left in a position where they have no money to heat their homes or feed themselves for several days or weeks. [...] I welcome the opportunity to explore these and many other issues that have been raised with me through the inquiry."

In France, the scope of this inquiry includes the concerns that British citizens may have about the planned withdrawal from September 2015 of the Winter Fuel Payment (WFP) from residents in seven countries of the EU (France, Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Malta and the British dependency of Gibraltar) based on a contrivance of so-called temperature checks, in contravention of the EU principle of equal treatment in cross-border social security matters. Cases of hardship may arise as a result.

Should you or any of your members know of any financial difficulties which will be caused to them, or to an acquaintance by the withdrawal of WFP, or who have experienced other state benefit difficulties, we suggest that you or they bring such cases to the attention of the Select Committee.

Submissions, preferable based on personal experience, should be made through the inquiry page of the website indicated above. They should be submitted as a document (.doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt, .ooxml or .odt) less than 25MB in size.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 4 September 2015.

Brian Cave ( writes: Many pensioners do not have experience of the Internet, and are relatively isolated. They may find it difficult to respond to this call for submissions. You might therefore consider making a submission on their behalf. Please act not just for yourselves (the WFP may not matter for you) but in solidarity with those citizens in less fortunate circumstances."