les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Monday, February 10, 2020

Do you know the poem about

Doctor Foster?

I thought we'd end up talking about English place names, like Bicester, Gloucester, Cirencester, Leicester, Alcester, Worcester, Towcester and Rocester *, so I said "Yes :

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain..." and so on.

There came a perplexed look.

"He sold his soul to the devil."

"OH! FAUST!"


* pronounced, of course: Bister, Gloster, Sister, Lester, Aster, Wooster, Toaster and Roaster.

Act 65

of the gilets jaunes took place on Saturday. Our first indication of possible unrest was when we tried to leave between 4pm and 5pm to go to Catrin's housewarming party at her flat. A helicopter was hovering over the railway station and we were passed by about four police motorcycles, ten unmarked police cars and maybe 15 police vans.

Surrounded on all sides, we waited for the number 11 bus, but it wasn't obvious how a bus would get through. Eventually we walked to the station and as we neared the forecourt we saw a bus 1, several bus 10 and a bus 11. We hopped on.

Victoire was very busy with market stalls for the grande braderie, the end of the sales when remaindered stocks get sold on tables in the street. We got to Catrin's slightly late, me clutching my parsnip cake that had taken some effort to make. You do NOT want to grate a pound of parsnips. But the cake was good.

I later learnt that there had been violent confrontations between the police and certain gilets jaunes just our side of the railway station. There was also lots of damage to tram stops in the Saint Michel and Tauzia areas of the city.


Thursday, February 06, 2020

The little things count

One drawback of renting is that generally all fixtures and fittings are pretty cheap. The sink is made of thin steel, so every time you turn on the tap the whole thing wobbles, and the cabinet below it is pretty shoddy. One day we'll have to sort it out, but for the moment it's OK.

One thing that has annoyed us considerably more is the quality of the toilet seats. The seat itself is OK, but the hinges are flimsy and almost impossible to adjust. Believe me, I tried. The effect is to suddenly lurch sideways perturbing the person enthroned. Annoying.

So we ordered a new seat. I was very particular about the hinge mechanism. I won't go into particulars but we'd examined many seats in the shops, supermarkets and hardware stores and I rejected them all. Finally I found what I was looking for on Amazon and it came last week.

It's wonderful. You cannot imagine the difference it makes not to lurch sideways in mid-session. Or maybe you can.

Anyway, I thought we'd give it a week then order a second, so we did, and it came today.




Disenfranchised !

"Since you left the United Kingdom fifteen years ago", began the email I received a few days ago.
"If the law changes, then of course"

So I can no longer vote in UK elections.

Then today came a letter from the Town Hall, marked Urgent!

What could it be?

"Since you are no longer European you can no longer vote in the local elections".

So henceforth it is officially NOT MY FAULT. I am disenfranchised. A serf. It's official.




Sunday, February 02, 2020

Post Brexit fun and fear

So there was choir yesterday. We're learning, very meticulously, some South-American Baroque music that has a delightful mix of Southern European baroque polyphony with Latin American rhythm. Double choir, very jaunty, missing barlines, sudden 6:4 in the middle of 4:4. It's non-trivial.

At one point I thought, "Why do I do this?"

I think it's an attempt to stave off dementia.

Anyway, I possibly brought it on myself because I was wearing my bright green hoodie with "CYMRU" printed on the front in ddraig goch to support the lads thrashing Italy while we sang a perky "crucifixus est"...

At one point the conductor explained some future projects.

"It would be good to have some cradle songs from folk that are not French."

"Alan", came the quick reply.

"Yes, and preferably not european."

Like a shot, "Alan!"

I put up my hood and went to my happy place.

Later we chatted about the closing of Jersy and Guernsey waters to French fishermen.

"Remember the cod wars?" I said, or rather I would have said if I could have remembered what a cod is (it's cabillaud).

Anyway, nobody did. "Sardine wars?" one friend suggested.




Wednesday, January 29, 2020

My new passport is on the way

and it might even be navy blue.

The problem is that often delivery firms refuse to deliver to people who live in apartment blocks in France.

Well they don't refuse to deliver, but instead they take your delivery to a Post-Office or other delivery point and claim you were out when they called.

You were not out. They did not call. But still you can do nothing. You want your delivery. You go and get it.

That's one... hang on, my mobile's ringing...

Would you believe it, it's the man from DHL saying he'll be here "een feefteen meeneets" !

My passport is maroon, but has no EU symbol.


A Night at the Opera

When we came back from London on 1 January we met on bus 1a young American asking for directions to the Grand Theatre.  We told him how to get there, but then he added that really he needed to find Rue Cancera.

That's where our church used to meet, so we know it well, but to give directions to it is not easy. In addition visitors to Bordeaux from non-EU countries often find that Google Maps won't work because they don't have automatic international data roaming included in their standard monthly payment - let the reader understand.

So Pat and I looked at each other and said, "We'll take you there".

It was a foggy evening as we wound our way through the narrow streets of the Saint Pierre area. Our new friend explained that he is an opera singer come to sing at the Grand Theatre in a production of the Demon, by Artur Rubinstein. "What voice?" "Soprano." He's a high counter-tenor.

We delivered him to Rue Cancera where we saw in the distance a woman stood under a streetlight. Very cloak and dagger. But not before exchanging contact details and offering to meet for coffee or show him reasonably priced but good places to eat.

We've met up a couple of times for coffee, then on Monday evening we went to see him sing in the dress rehearsal of the opera. It was very beautifully staged and considering it's a romantic Russian opera, sung in Russian, the music was very accessible and the subtitles in French helped a lot, too.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Well she's gone

Accompanied by a gang of five friends, one friend driving her father's large car, Catrin has moved out of our flat and into her own.

Soon the work of moving my study up to her old room will begin.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A quick trip to Ikea

Yes, I know...

Today our daughter moves out. She's rented an apartment on the west side of the city centre (we're on the south side) just about 4km away. It's furnished so we thought it would be a great idea to dig out our spare mattress cover for her.

Was it under her bed? No.

Was it in the bed settee? No.

Was it in the bed-linen drawer?

So off I went to Ikea to get a new replacement mattress cover for the one we have lost. To keep it quick I went in through the exit (you're allowed) and swam against the tide till I got to the bedding. They didn't have the one I wanted in the size I wanted, but I found another that would do and hot-footed it home.

Then the tram broke down.

Ikea is at the other end of line C, so we can take just one tram and travel quite quickly, but when the tram broke down we were in Grand Parc. I knew of various ways of getting home, all far slower than the tram. The phone apps were not helpful. They all said, "Why not take the tram, dummy!"

So we all started walking to the next big intersection. Then as I reached the next tram stop I heard that welcome "Din din". Another tram had come to save us.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

France is awesome

I've requested an appointment for my colonoscopy online!



Friday, January 17, 2020

Simple joys

Hearing the "din din" of the tram as it starts running again after a demonstration.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Simple joys

Like finding a way out of the railway station when the nice policemen told you all the doors were locked because of the demonstration outside.

(I sneaked through the underground carpark and went out of the in ramp...)


The optician phones

"So you going to come back and order those glasses, then?"

Once I realised who was calling I confessed, "We went elsewhere..."

"You got a better price elsewhere?"

"I got cheaper frames. Not a designer brand."

"We have cheaper frames."

"Do you? So why did you only show me Armani, Ray Ban and Timberland? I never wear brands like that."

"Why didn't you say it was too expensive?"

"Um, I did, I bought elsewhere."

"OK, well we'll know next time."




Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Catrin's flat hunt

has finally succeeded. She has a little place on the west side of the city centre, pretty well where she wanted to be. The area where she is is a short walk from the BIG city centre supermarket and near where her closest friends live. I think she'll be able to move in from next Tuesday.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Admin, admin and more admin

My passport expires in February. I thought I had better order a new one on the very simple passport ordering website.

You can take your own photo now, with your phone or a camera. We did that. It rejected several because "we can't distinguish you from the white wall behind you". One was allowed. Very good.

Was your old passport lost? I said, "No." which means I had to send it back to them. "Think about sending it recorded delivery", they said.

So 9 euros and a trip to the crowded Post Office later my passport is on the way home to Durham.

It did cross my mind that to judiciously lose your passport just before it expires would save time and money.



Admin and more admin

So the eye-test lady said "time to change your glasses" and gave me a prescription for a new set of lenses. Now glasses for vision are partly reimbursed by your basic health organism (ours is the Cavimac, the one for monks, nuns, priests and all who work in religion) and partly reimbursed by your personal health insurance. The health insurers make deals with opticians to cap prices and get and give discounts, so you have to :

1) look to see what opticians are in your health insurer's network

2) look to see if any of them are highly rated on Google maps

Go there.

Well the guy was charming, straightened my wonky glasses and helped us to pick a frame. He showed ma RayBan frames, Giorgio Armani frames, Timberland frames. "I don't care about the brand of frame", I told him. The procedure is then complicated by the various options for the lenses. Do you want standard hardening, extra layers of hardening, anti reflection coating, anti blue light coating to protect your eyes from screens?

Also this year the government has passed a law that says that everyone should be able to get a pair of glasses completely reimbursed by their health insurance, so he told me that was available.

The upshot? The specs would cost 700 euros, 350 of which would be paid by insurance and 350 by me. If I had less layers of hardening we could get it down to 600 euros, 350 for the insurance and 250 for me.

Or I could have a free pair, paid entirely by the insurance.

He was a very nice guy, but I buy my trousers and jeans at Carrefour, I've never knowing worn anything produced by RayBan or Armani.

So we went to Specs for All, a new outfit on the Rue Saint Catherine. The girl explained their system.

The frames are all the same price, bought from China. The basic lenses are bought in bulk from China, but varifocal lenses are made in France. The prices are such that all their glasses are completely reimbursed by the insurance. The frames were OK. Noticeably less solid, but OK. The quotation came to 210 euros for lenses with antireflection hardening layers and photochromic. (You could have anti-blue light or photochromic.)

I said, "We'll need to go and get a cup of coffee and worry about it first." but we only got as far as the door before I turned back and ordered them.


Thursday, January 09, 2020

Râler

Strikes

Continuing. It is our way of negotiating, our way of showing we care about this.


Retirement

Well you have to plan ahead.

So Pat and I both have some years missing from our NI Pension contributions, but plans are afoot to make up the shortfall. I also will have a small French pension, Pat will have her nursing pension, I'll have my computing pension and we will both have a small pension from contributions UFM makes on our behalf. Putting those things together should give us enough to live on.

But where?

My sisters live in South Wales.

Pat's siblings live in Watford, Slough, Cleobury Mortimer and Burgess Hill.

Our son may be living in Norwich.

Our daughter intends to stay here in France.

Our church before we came is in North Wales, which has many virtues, including affordable housing and being equally inaccessible to all people cited above.

Or we could stay here in Bordeaux.

Much depends on our rights post-Brexit, of course, and where exactly on the scale "zombie apocalypse" to "new golden age" post-Brexit Britain falls.

Thankfully we don't have to decide yet.



Life post Brexit

For so many things we have to wait and see. I had believed that once we lost our status as EU citizens we would be forced to exchange our driving licences in order to continue driving in France. It now transpires that the French government has decreed that since the driving licence service is already saturated, and since a sudden influx of UK driving licence exchanges is the last thing anyone needs, UK driving licences can not be exchanged and must not be exchanged until they expire, or the photocard expires, or you commit an offence which incurs a penalty on your licence.

Which means that post-Brexit I'll still be able to drive!

The school is open

On Monday Pat and I decided to go for a little adventure. She rejected my plan of cycling round the quays and the two bridges. (Too cold)

Instead we set out for a rather natty park we saw from the tram one day, but only made it as far as the front gate. (Too cold even for that)

So we explored the improvements made to the embryonic gardens and walked round the school. It is open! They have one class of nursery there. When I say one class, we've seen about four or five children going in. And when I say four or five, I mean four.


Saturday, January 04, 2020

New Year in London

Our son, Gwilym, lives in Northwood in the London suburbs. On Boxing Day he and his wife decamped to see the outlaws in Norwich, so the following day we took the faithful Easyjet to Luton to stay at their place until New Year's Day.

Man, Bordeaux airport was SO BUSY! We were confronted with a huge queue out of the building and way down the path, so we were glad that we had a little time before our flight. Otherwise all was calm etc. Greenline bus from Luton to Finchley Road, then Metropelican line to Northwood.

We enjoyed afternoon tea in a London hotel, shopping in Waitrose (fancy but expensive), a walking tour of parts of theatre land and soho and binge-watching detective series on the iplayer. We also got to see some of the Watford branch of Pat's family and her Burnham sister came over for New Year.

New Year's Eve was spent quietly with an injudicious mix of Chinese, Indian and North African food and some champagne that we forgot to open and drink. Gwilym, Beth and outlaws came for breakfast on New Year's Day and then we retraced our steps home.

Meanwhile in the Jardins de l'Ars there is much excitement. The school opens on Monday, at least the nursery section, so there's lots of activity cleaning and tidying ready for the tinies to arrive.


Monday, December 23, 2019

Fabien, before and after

Saturday evening's storm was named Fabien. Here's the view from our balcony before and after. Not much destruction. Other places got much worse - a village in the Pyrenees was devastated by a local tornado, and Bordeaux's town Christmas tree outside the cathedral was blown over.



Saturday, December 21, 2019

Bordeaux = Bay of Biscay = Storms

In 1999 there was a big storm that devastated the South-West of France. We, of course, were safely nested in the North-East of Wales.

In 2009 there was another big storm that confined us to barracks until it all calmed down, that removed a good portion of the tiles from our roof and others in Pessac, caused some deaths and felled many trees.

We regularly get big storms, but now and again we get a really big one. Our building is very exposed, it gives it its charm, but it also means that we'll have to be very careful with what we put on the balcony and when the next BIG STORM comes we'll need to prepare very well.

This one isn't the biggie :


Friday, December 20, 2019

Retirement

Big question. Do we return to the UK or stay in France?

We have about 5 years maximum to decide.


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Temporary trees at the Jardins de l'Ars ?

It seems that the trees will stay for the moment in their canvas sacks.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Photos at Le Bouscat

 This is the tram I just missed getting onto

Les Jardins de l'Ars

Great excitement!

The abandoned car was towed away today.

Not only that but about twenty trees have been delivered into the area between our flats and the little school.


A magnificent adventure

On Saturday tram D was inaugurated by our old mayor, Alain Juppé, and his replacement, Nicolas Florian. We rode it home in the afternoon and confirmed that it is indeed named tram D for Davey - it takes us directly from our house to where the church meets.

It does go a little further, though, so today we decided to make an expedition, to have an adventure, and to ride the tram D (D for Davey) right to its end at Le Bouscat.

We have never explored Le Bouscat before, but we found a humble, unassuming little town with a couple of pizza joints, a brasserie, some estate agents and banks and a small supermarket. It also had a nice little town hall and an ENORMOUS library.

After exploring a little we bought some sandwiches in the small supermarket and ate them while finding our way back to the tram. I paused to take a photograph while Pat got on the tram. The doors closed behind her and when I pressed the button to open them again the tram started moving. We waved goodbye.

We were soon reunited at the next stop, however, enticingly named "Calypso". We imagined beach huts, margaritas and limbo but instead there was a clinic.


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Election day

Get out and vote, everyone! I know it's a challenge and I feel and share your pain and perplexity, but at least we have a vote, so let's use it!

However, my postal vote didn't come, so whatever happens it wasn't my fault.

And what's more, this will probably be the last UK election in which I'm allowed to vote. Once you've been living outside Britain for 15 years you lose your vote.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The strike

There's a national strike today to protest at pensions reform. The pensions situation in France is quite complicated. Essentially you can currently retire at any age after 62, but certain jobs have special arrangements. For example, because railway workers have a really hard and nasty job they can retire earlier.

Not only that, but the retirement and health system is divided into organisations a bit like unions, so that you pay into the "regime" for your profession. That means that our regime, the one for priests, monks and nuns, gives us quite a good deal for health cover but doesn't provide much of a pension since it is tailored for folk who don't have families, and who end their lives in religious retirement homes.

Over the years these systems become more and more complicated, with loads of special cases, so the government wants to simplify the system. This may mean that some people lose some of their special conditions for retirement. It also almost certainly means that people will end up retiring later.

In the UK the government raised retirement ages and I don't remember much fuss about it. Probably people wrote to their MPs. Anyway for Pat and I to get our state pensions we will need to work until November 2025, when we'll both be 66. This would be a difficult time to return to the UK and we could never afford this flat on our various pensions, so, all being well, we hope to retire from the mission in the Spring of 2026 and return to the UK. We have not yet talked about this with UFM, though we've started talking it through with the church here.

In France people do make a fuss. It's the normal democratic process here. The government proposes some legislation that will change people's lives and people march through the streets to encourage them not to go too far and not to remove their privileges.


Exciting times at the Jardins de l'Ars

The school opposite is scheduled to open in January, if our understanding is correct, and this has led to a spurt of landscaping between us and the school. Fences have been erected with huge gates to allow lorries to pass. A kind of road has been established between our flats and the school, though I can't imagine why, unless they anticipate the kids going from our flats to the school each day. But most surprisingly of all, the abandoned Ford Focus has been moved. Not removed. Merely moved. But surely removing it is the next step.












Saturday, November 30, 2019

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Bari

One evening some weeks ago we met some Italians on the number 1 bus. They were examining a map of Bordeaux and the route displayed on the wall of the bus and discussing options. They seemed to be heading in completely the wrong direction. They spoke no French. We speak no Italian. We asked where they were heading and gave them a much shorter route. We asked where they were from. "Bari", they said.

I looked up Bari. Pat had a decimal birthday approaching. I had a weekend off. Ryanair flies at convenient times and their lowest prices. Reasonably-priced accommodation was available. When someone told us Bari had nothing to commend it we were convinced.

Ryanair. Well we'd bought cheap tickets but when it came to add any kind of bag whatsoever we could either choose to pay individually for each bag we took or to add priority boarding with two bags each included. It doubled the price of our tickets but was still next to nothing.

Then came time to check-in. You could pay to choose your seat or be assigned seats at random free of charge. Humph. I was assigned a seat near the front of the plane and Pat was placed by the emergency exit over the wings. To choose either seat cost more than the flight. So we flew like that. Others did, too.

We flew in on Friday evening and caught the train to the centre of the town. Bari has an old town set on a promontory with a warren of alleys, a castle, myriad churches and lots of little shrines on the walls. To reach it you had to cross the grid system of the new town with its chain-stores galore.

We found our accommodation. The owners were delightful. We went to explore and forgot to take our cash. On the walls of Bari we found a bar that accepted cards and planned our weekend. Saturday would be bright and sunny. We'd do the seafront. Sunday would be wet and blustery. We'd do churches and maybe museums. (We'd looked fruitlessly for a church to attend.) Monday we'd do whatever we wanted before flying home.

Nobody spoke French. Everyone spoke a little English. By the time we left people had taught us some Italian, as well as the basics of Italian etiquette. They'd also plied us with all sorts of food and drink "To try, to try!" In a cafe the waiter brought us some little panzerotti "for you, from us".  "It's local?" "No, it's cheese and tomato". At a restaurant two little glasses of limoncello. In a bar, a little disappointed that we were drinking a light fruity wine called Anarkos, "to try, some primitivo". We felt so welcome we actually tried to go back and say goodbye before we left, but places close on Monday. 

Bari cooking is probably best described as hearty. We ate some of the local specialities. The lady in the tourist office said, "don't eat lasagne or spaghettis here. It's not good. Don't use that bakery, it's too greasy, go to the other one. Here are the dishes to try".

So I had orechiette con cime di rapa, which is local pasta with turnip greens. Elderly ladies sit around their tables making the orechiette while listening to music on their TVs. We know, we saw them. Pat had patate, riso e cozze - potatoes, rice and mussels - served in a casserole. I felt too sorry for the octopuses to try the sandwiches, but we had three different kinds of panzerotti, which is a local variant of a calzone, sometimes baked, sometimes friend, sometimes enormous, sometimes bite-sized, but always a gorgeous cheese-bomb waiting to dump gloopy goo on the unwary.

Two cappucinos and four small biscuits cost under 5 euros. One gut-busting meal for the two of us cost 9€. By Monday we could eat no more, but we had one last thing to try, a focaccia di Bari. It's a round bread covered with tomatoes, olives and herbs. 2,40€ and it fed us both for lunch.

We visited the best-rated coffee shop. It was a traditional Italian one. You stand in designated areas along the counter. The waiters scuttle back and forth taking orders. Under the counter are pastries, cakes and biscuits. While waiting for your coffee you drink your free still or fizzy water. When your coffee comes you down it quick. You leave and pay by the door. Due cappucini. Tre euro. One café on the walls charged 1,50€ for a panzerotto. They were about the size of a cornish pasty. We had one each and wondered if we'd ever move again. Someone had complained that the panzerotti were too filling - they'd wanted to try them all.

On Saturday we walked miles along the beautiful seafront, constructed in the 1930s, watching the sailors, the wind-surfers, the snorkelers and the octopus-whackers. (You have to wallop them on the rocks to tenderise them.) In the evening we wandered out to the main shopping street and found it crowded with all ages yelling happily at each other. French football supporters make less noise.

Sunday found us visiting churches, including the church where Saint Nicolas' relics are housed. Some Bari fishermen went and got them in 1087 and he became the patron saint. We enjoyed getting hopelessly lost in the old town.

We didn't do the museums. Maybe next time.

Monday we mopped up what we felt we hadn't seen before flying home in a plane filled with Italian families. Boy, are they going to have a shock the first time they try to buy a meal in Bordeaux! Still, they didn't pay much for their flights.



Thursday, November 21, 2019

We've had some visitors these past few days

but it did mean we went wandering round the city a little.

When I can work out how to add some photos I will.



Wednesday, November 13, 2019

More than a ton

of cocaine in separate packets has washed up on the shores of Aquitaine around Arcachon. The beaches have been closed. One likely lad was arrested having gathered five packets while beachcombing.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Most of my childhood world is found on this satellite photograph

Of course, it's all changed dramatically. The entire road system has been reworked with the loss of Porth Square and the monument (the public toilets in the centre of the square) and the building of the splendid Golden Gate Bridge of Porth. Morrisons has replaced the old Cymmer Colliery, already out of action when I was a child, and my old school has been repurposed several times. But the essential shape of things is still there.

My paternal grandparents lived in a small house built up on the hillside on the left of the photo. If you follow the line that leads left from Morrisons, then at the end of it stood an engine house with a steam engine that pulled trucks of waste rock up the hillside. A little below this engine house stood my grandparents' home. My grandfather's job was to attend to this steam engine.

I don't remember the house at all, it was bulldozed when I was very small, but my cousin has written about it and described the dampness of the downstairs room, the two bedrooms upstairs where seven people slept, the springwater and the plentiful supply of coal, the garden with its vegetables, flowers, rabbits and chickens. There was no electricity or gas. No flush toilets or plumbing. Lighting was by oil lamp. The house was known as Tip Cottage? We were the Daveys, Tip Cottage. Not that there were any other Daveys in the valley.

You couldn't drive up to Tip Cottage. There was a track, but that's all. I suppose you could get a cart up there but otherwise you walked up and down.

Though by my childhood the house had been bulldozed I knew the hillside very well. That line where the rails had been was called the incline. We pronounced it "ink line" and it took me a very long time indeed to connect this sound with a slope. There were streams where we'd hunt for newts, and woods where we'd root around, and heaps of clinker where we'd burrow caves, and cliffs where we'd find caves the rain had burrowed for us, and bracken where we'd play British and Germans and shoot each other and die theatrically. We'd gather whinberries and blackberries and the occasional deadly nightshade and fly kites and run with the dog and run amok. In later years I'd sit on the hillside and watch the world scuttle about below.

My father was living there when he was called up to fight in World War Two in his early twenties. He never talked to me about his wartime experiences. Never. But the photos he took speak of his travels to Egypt and to Palestine. It would be years before he returned to the valley. He came back an experienced driver of heavy vehicles and became a bus driver.

I grew up in one of the first streets as you came down the hill. We moved there when I was about four and I seem to recall going to the house pulling a big old toy circus lorry behind me. When we moved in you had to go into the yard to get to the toilet. One of dad's first projects was to knock together several storerooms to make an indoor toilet and bathroom. The water was heated by the kitchen fireplace and you could really get it hot. We'd feel the tank to see whether there was a good bathful or not.

Later on two reception rooms were knocked into one. The stone-flagged kitchen floor was replaced with concrete, then the wooden living room floor got the same treatment. Central heating replaced the coal fires with first a Parkray coal burner, then a gas fire and backboiler. We had radiators in the kitchen and hallway! By then the kitchen cooking range and belfast sink had given way to fitted kitchen units.

The house had four bedrooms. There was never any heating upstairs, except that one bedroom which had the airing cupboard in it. That room was always too warm.

That's the house where I roasted conkers to make them harder, where my dog slept under the kitchen table, where we'd boil sheep's innards to make her food - the smell was dreadful, where I'd practice the tenor horn in the bathroom to avoid disturbing the neighbours, where my dad grew his chrysanthemums, dahlias, fuchsias and runner beans, where we got ready for my sisters' weddings, my graduation and my parents' funerals. That's the house where my parents lived and died. It's not been bulldozed but I doubt if anyone ever looks at it and remembers that the Daveys used to live there.

I live in a fourth floor apartment near the centre of Bordeaux. It's heated by hot water that comes in dirty great pipes from the recycling plant at Bègles. Not that I've ever noticed the radiators warming up. There's a heat exchanger, too, that gives us instant hot water. We have nuclear energy from the reactor in Blaye and fibre optic internet. We travel everywhere by electric tram or by bus, or we can walk and cycle in the city. We carry our food home from the shops and supermarkets, but otherwise it's hard to imagine how our lives could be more different from those previous generations. And, of course, over 70 years of peace between the nations of Western Europe.




Thursday, November 07, 2019

I try to keep off politics for various reasons

not least is the danger of ranting. But one day into the election campaign I am already fed up of it.


RAIN!

We returned to rain. Torrential rain.

We exchanged the gentle static drizzle of Cardiff for the fierce downpours of Bordeaux.

In Cardiff you looked out of the window and were not sure whether it was raining or not. Everything was wet but nothing was falling. Instead everything seemed enveloped in cloud.

Bordeaux gets hosed down vigorously.

Apparently we've had a month's rain in three days.

Oh, and I have a sore throat...

Sunday, November 03, 2019

A quick trip to Cardiff

We took a quick and unplanned trip to Cardiff to see my sisters, flying out on Monday to Gatwick to take the train via Reading to Cardiff, then returning on Friday afternoon to Bordeaux.

The plane left early so we packed our bags and stayed overnight in a hotel near the airport so we could get to the airport on time. The flight was calm and we dozed. At Gatwick we needed to listen carefully to the announcements because points failures near Redhill had caused widespread disruption. So instead of our Reading train we were sent to Victoria, then by tube to Paddington to take the train to Cardiff. Friendly staff helped and we eventually arrived just 30 minutes later than planned.

We'd arranged to stay with friends in the area where Alan used to live and they kindly picked us up from the station, then fed us before sending us off to Kath's house, a ten minute walk away.

We were thankful to spend a good quantity of quality time with the two sisters before returning, this time via National Express from Cardiff to Bristol Airport, then another calm plane to Bordeaux.

The weather was foul, but we spent a morning mooching round the Cardiff arcades and the old library building with its amazing tiled corridor.











Saturday, October 26, 2019

Migration

Hundreds of cranes flew over the flats earlier in their enormous V formations while a cat hunted in the weeds below us and a languid bird of prey circled above.

We may be in the city centre, but nature is all around.


Why don't you write us no more?

This last week we have been away from home in a little Bavarian village called Teisendorf for a conference of pastors in international churches. 

We mused with some other British people there. When British people run conferences you sleep in bunk beds, you eat beans on toast and it's cheap. When Americans run conferences you eat good food, you sleep in hotel rooms, you have unlimited snacks and lots of coffee, but you do pay perhaps a little more.

We had an afternoon off where we visited Salzburg. We wandered round the little shops before hitting the Mozartplatz and the more tourist-focused parts of the city. Two years ago we visited the castle on the hill and took the funicular railway so this year we gave that a miss and enjoyed some peace and calm instead.

I made an attempt at learning some German using Duolingo. 

Big mistake. I didn't learn anything of use whatsoever. 

If we go to Germany again I'll find a phrasebook or something.




Saturday, October 19, 2019

I'm very excited about the match tomorrow

Why?

Because my team will win!

Wales-France in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October in Bordeaux

means beautiful sunrises and savage storms!


Saturday, October 12, 2019

A concert

For one of our singing escapades we were accompanied by a percussionist who's also a serviceable pianist, and we all got on very well. She plays with the Bordeaux Wind Band who have a really good reputation. Most French towns of any size will have a wind band, a military band, called une harmonie, and the band will play at commemoration services etc.

Anyway the Bordeaux Wind Band give free concerts and when there's one coming up she sends us a little email to let us know. They play in a theatre in the middle of town, always at 5:15, and either on Saturday or Sunday.  In the past we hoped to go but were prevented by the rampaging gilets jaunes, but now that they no longer run amok in the town centre I was able to.

The band must have been about 60 strong, augmented by two harps and 5 or 6 double basses. The programme comprised arrangements of orchestral works, firstly Berlioz' overture "Le Carnaval Romain". This is a crazy frantic romp. I used to play it with the brass band as a nipper and I've always loved it. It has solos, notably for cor anglais.

Then came most of Mussorgsky's Picture at an Exhibition, originally for piano, arranged for orchestra by Ravel, then for wind band by person or persons unknown. It's a massive, monumental work. I was impressed by the ensemble playing and the precision of the complicated rhythms. The soloists struggled a bit. The ending is so huge, an ocean of sound.

The concert ended with the Light Cavalry overture by Suppé. This is a bit of a laugh, really, and the horns played along by swaying side to side while some of the percussionists rode imaginary horses.

In all about an hour of music. Cracking! On the tram on the way back there was a lad in white shirt with a black jacket over his shoulder and a gig bag by his feet.

"A trumpet?"

"No, a bassooon"

"You just played?

"Yes"

"I just listened."

We chatted about the concert, the bassoon and stuff, then I thanked him and got off at my stop.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Preparing for retirement

We can't stay doing this job forever. Our use by date is 2025, so we're trying to think ahead.

1) We do not quite have all the years of NI contributions necessary for a full pension. We both lack about four or five years. So we plan to purchase as many of these years as we can before 2025. Each year costs £750 and gives you back about £5 per week in state pension. This means that if you survive three years into retirement you've recouped your investment.

2) I need to talk to the Halifax about my personal pension. It's currently set up to pay a monthly pension, but I could opt to take it some other way. I can take 25% out tax free.

3) The proceeds from the sale of our house are in dodgy French government savings schemes. We plan to use that money to buy somewhere to live, probably in North Wales where we used to live before. Housing there is affordable and we'll be able to manage well without a car.

4) There is a remote possibility that we may try to stay in France after retirement.

Another issue is that of replacing us in the work we do here. That's outside the scope of this blog.

More admin

The impending zombie apocalypse hard Brexit means that our current residency permits will need to be replaced as we will no longer be European citizens.

European citizens don't need permits, but they can get one free if they want.

Non-European citizens need permits and they cost 119 Euros.

The French government has helpfully set up a website in French and in English where we can apply online for the new style cards. People who don't currently have permits can also use the site.

So there we are. It's all done. We'll be told when we have to pay our money and go to collect our cards.