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)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Oh, we do have our little excitements, you know

So I got our property-owners' tax bill through today.

1608€, please, by mid October for the property which we no longer own.

I wondered whether I perhaps still owed for last year, but no, it clearly said it was for this year.

I wondered if there was some kind of mistake in my mind, but no, the notaire had clearly said that we would no longer have to pay after December 2015.

I wondered if perhaps I had not notified them, but I have. I wrote the day we sold the house, enclosing the notaires' attestation of sale. AND they contacted me in August asking if we still owned the house, and I replied, enclosing my letter of 22 December and the notaires' attestation of sale, again.

I phoned them up. After some minutes on hold I got through to a helpful lady who made encouragingly shocked noises to her colleague.

"Oh la la. Mais quoi? Et aloes... Zut!" and other words I shall not repeat.

"Allô? Monsieur? Yes, because the change of ownership was only noted in the system at the beginning of August the bill was still sent out. You should receive, at best at the end of next week, a letter explaining that you don't need to pay your bill."

"OK. Thanks."


I'm off to Paris in October to a training day on association law run by the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France. It'll mean an overnight stay but I've found somewhere reasonable, a reasonably priced rail ticket and it's all feasible.

New coffee shops and a new Ice-Cream place

Today Mrs Davey and I took advantage of the relative calm to go and explore an exhibition of street art that has been set up in the old premises of the Virgin Megastore, and that is open from Wednesday to Sunday each week.

OK. So, having a little time on our hands, we decided to check out some new coffee chops.

First we poked our noses into Starbucks because a friend has just started working there.
He wasn't there. We retreated swiftly.

Then we visited the BIG post office looking for pre-stamped envelopes for sending letters overseas, for example to England. They didn't have any.

Then we decided to check out a new coffee shop that comes with strong recommendations, and that will prepare your coffee by chemex, aeropress, or sundry other methods. It looked great, but Mrs Davey was not convinced.

So we went to the Jean Moulin French Resistance Museum where there is an exhibition of propaganda from WWII. It was chilling, especially a film about the liberation of the death camps.

Then another post office. No envelopes.

Then another. "We don't do them any more."
"Oh no!, and they have closed the post office in the centre of Pessac!"

Then another post office to buy the equivalent stamps.
(Why we didn't think of this sooner, I don't know)

Then to the new English bookshop and coffee shop where we met an ex-pat friend who is kind of Polish Australian. We happily chewed the cud for a while, before setting off home.

Oh yes, the ice-cream...

Well there's a new Ice-Cream place on a street that we hardly ever take, that sells traditional provençal flavours.

I had Rosemary, Olive Oil and Pine Nuts. Excellent!
Pat had Fennel. (I also sampled the fennel and it was very good indeed.
Catrin had a carrot sorbet. She was less convinced.

They had lots more wonderful flavours, including Lavender, and Pastis.

Monday, August 29, 2016


So today has been interesting.

Catrin left at 9:00 to go to the airport with some friends on a trip to Barcelona.

We, meanwhile, were off to Clinique Tivoli for an appointment with the anaesthetists who will numb Patricia's eye with drops ready for the surgeon to do her cataracts.

At about 10 the phone rang. "Dad, one of the girls has a problem with her card, but there's a couple who had the same problem, so we're going with them by car to Barcelona."

The "problem with the card" was a French identity card that was out of date by a month.
The girl in question will come back by coach, where they don't worry so much about valid identity.
So off they set for Barcelona.
Catrin promised to text us from time to time.

Meanwhile we set off for the clinic. Patricia needed a BIG THICK dossier of papers, including a complete print of the contract of our health insurance and loads of other stuff, together with her passport. We walked through the streets of Pessac to the station and took the Citiz car to drive to Tivoli.

Traffic was heavy and roadworks were frequent. At the clinic Pat got out and scuttled off to the clinic while I parked the car. I found her in the waiting room, rifling through her papers.

"Is my passport in the car?"

"I'll go and look."

It was nowhere. Not in the car, not on the floor of the car park, not nowhere.

When I got back to the waiting room she'd gone in to see the doctor.
He didn't need her passport.
Or the contract for our health insurance.

When we got back to Pessac we looked in the street, in the flat, everywhere. It was nowhere.

At about 4 the phone rang. "Madame Davey? It's the police. We have your passport."

Then we heard that Catrin had arrived safely in Barcelona and was reunited with the gang of girls.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

UPS - ha!

We have had two different deliveries this week from UPS.
One came on Wednesday and one on Thursday.
At least in theory.

I had been tracking the deliveries and I knew that Wednesday's parcel was scheduled to arrive, so we made sure someone was always in to watch for it. I was not encouraged, therefore, to receive a message saying that the package could not be delivered because we were "indisponible" - unavailable.

How much more available can you be than watching the gate of the front yard of the flats?
We knew no UPS van had come. Anyway our flat has a bell, a loud bell, a loud bell which had been silent all day.

Subsequent messages said that the package had been delivered to a relay point about 5 minutes walk away, then that the relay point was closed so "a new attempt to deliver the package would be made on Thursday".

The problem - apart from complete fabrication such as "unavailable" - is that because the flats are less than a year old they do not appear on GPS systems. If you put in 1 Avenue Paul Montagne the systems often say the address does not exist. Drivers get discouraged by this and give up. However, anyone driving up Avenue Paul Montagne might quickly realise that there is a new block of flats at the start of the road and it would not take the deductive powers of Maigret to surmise that this might be no.1. Not only that but they have our phone number on the package, so they could ring. But they usually don't.

So I quickly went into the UPS website and advised them that our flat was situated on the corner of Paul Montagne and Larouillat, and that we were watching for the driver.

The next day I saw a UPS van arrive at the traffic lights, thankfully red. I shot out and hailed the driver, who pulled in.

He handed over a package. One small package.

"There's another, a bigger one, from yesterday."

"Yes, it's at the relay point."

"But I had a message telling me that it wasn't."

"Oh yes it is, I left it there myself."

Thanks a bunch, I thought, then decided to phone the relay point as by now it was hot. Very hot.

"Hallo, you have a parcel for me, quite a big one, for Davey."

"No, no, there's nothing here for Davey."

I spelled the name.

"No, no."

"Then I have a big, fat problem because the UPS driver said he left it at your shop."

"No... oh, hang on, yes, there it is."


Today is the hottest day, apparently

We needed some provisions, so Patricia and I ventured out quite early on the 42 bus towards Mérignac. I knew one stop to get off to go to the huge Carrefour at Mérignac Soleil, but I saw, too, that you could alight at the stop before and take a shorter route, so we tried it.

A little gated road with a footpath and cycle path led past a staff carpark for Carrefour - promising - and past a yard full of Carrefour rental vehicles. To the right was the after-sales service area. A gentleman with a small girl was walking in front of us. I noticed that his legs were strangely shaped - a cyclist, I think. We followed him. He entered through a doorway.

When we approached the doorway we saw that it said "Private, No entry, Security". A lady stood just to one side, smoking.

"Hallo," I said, "how does one access the shopping centre?"

"Through there", she said, "then across and through a door on the left".

Thus encouraged we entered the private, no entry, security door and followed the chap once more through the indicated door (marked "Staff only, strictly no admittance") and found ourselves right outside the entrance to Carrefour.

We found the supplies we needed - lentils, brown rice, sesame oil, live yogurt and other delicious goodies - then lingered as long as we dared by the chillers before taking the short walk and bus journey home.

The rest of the day was spent behind the radiation shields (shutters) preparing for tomorrow and in cool musical pursuits.

The weathermen say that it will be cooler from tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Today Catrin signed up for the second year of her course

The inscription process is really well organised.

You start at the bottom of the reception building with someone who checks that you have all the documents you need.

Catrin had not received her official list of marks for her course last year, so she'd downloaded them from the course website. Also we were unsure whether the little grant she received makes her a boursière or not, so we'd said she wasn't.

The woman who checked Catrin's dossier went off to check and came back with her official report from last year AND the news that she is indeed a boursière, and therefore we didn't have to pay any fees for her course. Last year we had about 200€ to pay.

Then you go to part 2, which is the actual inscription desk. Here all your information is loaded into the computer and you get back various certificates to say that you're a student, as well as your wifi password, etc.

After that it's part 3, which is where you get your student card and you walk away fully enrolled.

Catrin's appointment was for 10:15, we arrived a little early and actually left at 10:10, it was all so efficient. Bravo Bordeaux-Montaigne.

At 19:56 we raised the heat-shields. So far so good.

We have heat-shields on our windows. Roll-down shutters.

As this part of France is officially in a heatwave (Canicule - defined in the Gironde as temperatures above 35 in the daytime and not falling below 21 at night) the government has issued the following instructions:

1) Spend at least 3 hours a day in a cool place. (for us this would mean hanging about in Carrefour or in the local library)

2) Refresh yourself, moisten your body several times a day.

3) Drink frequently and copiously, even when you are not thirsty.

4) Don't go out at the hottest times.

The hottest times are from about 2 in the afternoon till about 6 pm. The morning is OK, and in Pessac  we also get nice breezes. But after lunch you can't stay out on the terrace, you have to get back in the house behind the shutters. And even then it's so hot you are aware that you're thinking sluggishly.

So in the afternoon we live like troglodytes in the gloom hidden behind our heat-shields. 
We can venture out in the early morning, but by lunchtime you fry out there. 
The postman spontaneously combusted, but the mailbox is metal so the letters were OK.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Wow. Just wow!

There was a guy there filming for TV7. He asked if he could interview me, but his questions were a bit un-thought-out and I was somewhat awestruck by the plant so I was replying in whispers!

I'm so excited! I have an EPIC day-off ahead of me, before resuming work and ministry tomorrow

This morning - a visit to the Greenhouses of the Botanical Gardens (already some of my favourite words in that sentence) to see the flowering Amorphophallus titanum.

This afternoon - trombone brother Bruce (who is actually American) is coming round for coffee.

This evening - Patricia and Catrin come home and I get to collect them from the airport in Carys the Yaris!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The world is smaller than we think

Again this morning I noticed that people I know from separate worlds - France, Wales, UK, Mission, etc - discover each other or know each other, without me introducing them or knowing they knew each other. It's a bit alarming sometimes. Everyone I know also knows each other. I dare not sniff, I am surrounded!

It's not that surprising, really, though, is it. Birds of a feather and all that. Six degrees of separation.

I thought about this the other day. Someone described a church I know and love as "just scraping in as conservative evangelical". I was surprised. The church in question is eminently conservative evangelical and more or less in the centre of the spectrum of evangelical churches in its city. Of course, we could do with defining our terms - what is a conservative evangelical anyway? Not only that, but you ask the more "right-wing" of our brothers and they'd agree that the church barely cuts muster, but ask folk on the left-wing and my friendly church would be seen as deeply conservative or even hide-bound.

We think at Bordeaux Church that we're pretty radical. After all, we hold our services café-style, seated round tables. At the same time our worship is deeply conservative. All the things we do are what people like us have always done. No dance, no symbolic actions, no ecstatic utterances.

I think the points I'm making are:

1) It's almost impossible to know how others would describe us on the conservative - modern spectrum, and it doesn't matter a bit anyway. On the great and last day faithfulness will be of the essence, but faithfulness to the faith once delivered to the saints, not to any tradition of conservative or radical or modern or whatever.

2) We shouldn't worry about whether we are too conservative, sufficiently conservative, too radical, radical enough or whatever. Who cares? Anyway all these standards are shifting shadows. Who wants to try and keep march in step with a shadow as it fades? What matters is communicating biblical truth in a biblically faithful and intelligible way so that people can become disciples of the Master.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A surprisingly frustrating journey!

Mrs Davey has taken flight to England, to Burgess Hill, to the celebration of our brother-il-law's 70th birthday. Yes. 70th. Oh la la.

So 15h found us scuttling through Pessac to get Carys the Yaris to drive off to the airport.

When we arrived I cast a glance round Carys and found - a long scrape down her side. Yikes!

This means phoning the Car Pool Club.

I had to do this once before - I found someone had clouted her bumper - and it's always frustrating. For a start you get put through to an operator in a call centre somewhere and they can never find the parking place in their system.

"La Gare de Pessac? Non, je ne le trouve pas..."

"Ben, de toute façon il n'y a qu'un seul stationnement à Pessac, alors si vous trouvez Pessac vous avez trouvé l'endroit."

I tried not to sound exasperated. The thing was, Mrs Davey had a plane to catch.

"La longueur? Je dirais 50 cm." I think it was longer, in fact. Anyway, as long as they know.

Eventually all necessary info was given and we got underway. I'd allowed 30 minutes to get to the airport and we'd used 16 of them already. Oh dear.

How's the ring road? Clogged. OK, we'll go by the back roads.

We got to the airport at about 15:45.

Two minutes after Pat got through security they announced the departure gate and she got happily onto the plane.

Boy, it's quiet in this house!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Chez le médecin

I phoned on Tuesday for an appointment.

"Tomorrow at 9:15?", said the doctor, who handles her own diary.

I quickly reserved the Yaris hybrid and all was set for the off.

The Yaris started great - once I remembered that you have to stick your foot on the brake - and off we went together, me and Carys the Yaris. I really love that car! It's smooth, quiet and has good aircon. And the roads in August are pretty clear. It was a pleasure to drive again!

9:15 means you won't go in very late. My doctor books appointments every 15 minutes, but I reckon she takes about 20 minutes with each person, so it's good to go early in the day if you can. I bet she never eats lunch. Still, lunch is for wimps.

We did the general MOT / contrôle technique.

"You're still running?"

"Yes." I didn't feel the need to explain that while in the UK running through unknown streets prowled by unknown monsters had put me off.

She looked at my carbuncle.

"I've seen a lot worse."

"It was a lot worse", describing the vast quantities of cheese that it had produced. "Sorry about the details."

"It's my job."

I resisted the urge to tell her it had been almost the size of the Sainsbury Extension to the National Gallery. Nobody gets that joke, anyway. Prince Charles might, I suppose.

"After all those antibiotics we'll leave it alone for now. Just use an antiseptic spray, one that crosses the skin."

I told her about how the use of Augmentin is strongly discouraged in the UK.

"They're right! They're always ahead of us. General practitioners shouldn't be allowed to prescribe Augmentin. People hand it out to please their patients and we are creating big problems."

"I've had a problem with this arm, but I think it's because of bad posture irritating the nerve."

She nodded and wrote out a prescription for ten sessions of neck massage with a physiotherapist.

"Choose any convenient physio." she said.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jonathan Thomas : "Today I am going to tweet a dozen random reflections on 12 years in ministry."

1. It really is all of grace.
Any church growth or health is down to the goodness of God.

2. Those you help the most, hurt the most.
Sometimes the people you invest in the most just walk away...sometimes in anger.

3. Beware of strangers bearing gifts.
Too many times I have trusted new people too soon and been burnt. Beware motives.

4. Home is where the heart is: Protect it!
My primary calling is as a husband & father, but it is always tempting to neglect.

5. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Pastoral care and preaching are inseparable.

6. Grace is always enough, even in the face of death.
God always brings His people through, even when their faith seems weak

7. Remember the 7th day of creation.
Sleep, sabbaths and sabbaticals keep us humble and healthy.

8. Fight to have fresh milk every day.
I need the grace of time with God every day. Without it I get arrogant or despondent.

9. Don't believe the hype.
Fads, fashions and famous Christians/churches come and go.
Ignore it all.

10. Jesus really is ALWAYS the answer.
But He wants to be applied intricately and intimately to each individual soul.

11. It's never the people you expect.
God works wonders in the most unexpected people. The Spirit blows where he determines.

12. It really is all of grace.
T'was grace that brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home.

Some of these I agree with more than others, and some I might express differently, but all merit consideration.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bank Holiday Monday

We returned on Saturday from a very restful three weeks in the UK.

The first week we were spoilt rotten in Clydach by old friends who opened their comfortable home to us, cooked wonderful meals and sent us off exploring in their car. The weather was a bit lousy, but it's always wet in the Dan-yr-Ogof caves and we followed up our visit with Gwilym's dream "pub lunch".

Next came the UFM Family Conference which was a good time. Gwilym was in charge of the older Youth Stream, aided and abetted by Catrin. The conference was held in a de Vere conference centre which was in beautiful grounds in a lovely Surrey village, but the rooms were in dire need of redecorating. However the food was good and the conference encouraging.

We always come away feeling very daunted by what some of our colleagues have to deal with - we really do have a cushy number here in comparison - and I STILL got burnout!

Meanwhile my summer carbuncle - well, while at UFM I finished my eight day course of augmentin, to no great discernible effect, so on the Wednesday I traipsed through the village to the surgery and was seen by a very good doctor who prescribed a ten day course of flucloxacillin. I finished this on Saturday and as I write there has been a great improvement, but I still would like to see my doctor this week and get her opinion on it.

I may need to take up arms against the staph aureus that could be lurking in the more tropical parts of my body in order to avoid getting another of these things in the future. This would mean washing routinely with medicated soap. Anyway, we'll see.

After saying goodbye to Gwilym, who left to spend four weeks in musical mission in Belgium and Holland, the third week was spent in Cardiff in the gorgeous home of some old friends. We managed to see the ugly sisters and some nephews and had a quick trip to Cardiff Bay in glorious sunshine. Then Catrin went down with a sore throat and this curtailed our excursions, enforcing restful musical, literary and televisual pursuits. Catrin then went off to run amok with some friends in Hastings while we spent our last day in Cardiff catching up on the things we had not been able to do in the week. We had coffee in the renowned cafe of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, we explored the civic centre, we visited the Impressionists in the National Museum, as well as the excellent Quentin Blake exhibition, we had lunch in the old library, we explored the market and the arcades, we bumped into neighbours from Pessac and freaked everyone out by doing the bise by the fish stall, we had coffee in one fo the trendy new coffee bars and then returned to the house to clean and pack.

Saturday was a big day. For some reason that seemed sensible at the time I had booked a flight home from Liverpool, so we caught the 8am bus through persistent drizzle to the railway station, then had a lovely journey up through the borderlands to Chester, then to Liverpool. Lunch at Nando's was pretty exotic for us, then a quick wander through the centre of Liverpool before getting the bus to the airport. Our plane was delayed by heavy summer air traffic, so we arrived in Bordeaux at about 10:30 and by the time we'd travelled home on bus and tram we got in after midnight.

We were only away for two Sundays, the first was spent in Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Swansea, with the redoutable Steve Levy and then in Bethel Clydach where the world famous Mark Barnes was preaching. Then in Cardiff it's difficult. Which old friends do you aim to see? In the end it was Highfields and a friend in his early twenties sat by me during the service, then I could catch up with another friend in her late eighties after the service.

We're always amazed by the low price of food in the UK, and every time we visit now I'm weighing up the possibilities for retirement. We enjoy Cardiff very much, but I am not convinced by the prospect of retiring there. At least, not without a car.

Now we are not back in harness for a week or so, so yesterday before the service we again went out for lunch, this time street food - burritos - before taking a little trip on the BatCub, the Bordeaux water-bus, out to the Cité du Vin for a cup of tea. The service went well, James seems to have been a pair of safe hands this summer and it was good to see folk again, though lots are on holiday.

Monday, August 08, 2016


The 15 days were up last Thursday, and today is the deadline for enrolling for the next TCF-ANF exam in October, so I emailed my old phonetics teacher and asked if I had passed.

The answer came back straight away. Because the exam took place on the last day of term, the deliberations will not take place until September.

Oh well. I reckon I will have passed. Even with the cow in the apartment, they'd have to give me 20% for my effort, surely. And the other testes were OK.

At the doctor's, again.

Well the augmentin did not succeed in killing off the bugs which had colonised my neck.

By the way, would you like to see some photos that Pat took of the carbuncle?
She took them so I could see its progress as the antibiotics did their work.

Also I have succeeded in finding out why I couldn't find a word for carbuncle in French. There is a word. It is l'anthrax. Yes. Irritating, isn't it. Just as using l'angine for a sore throat is irritating.

So once the course of augmentin was finished, and the carbuncle still infected, I decided to go and see a doctor again. We were in the leafy village of East Horsley, near Leatherhead in Surrey, so I dodged the Mercedes, BMWs and Jaguars to stroll through the village to the surgery. The doctor was very nice, very efficient and very straight.

"I'd say there's a 30% chance you'll need to have that lanced," quoth she.

"Lanced is such a ... violent word." I replied.

"Well, we'll give this floculixiloxiloxicilillin a try. It has a 70% chance of clearing it up. A ten day course. Finish the course."

She also said that augmentin is very rarely prescribed now because the amoxicillin component is implicated in the spread of clostridium difficile.

Anyway, now, five days into my ten day course, my anthrax is greatly improved and I hope to avoid ending up with another hump on my neck, too.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sometimes it's hard to know what to say

To murder an elderly priest in a church building during a service in the presence of harmless folk like nuns is such a dastardly and evil act that we surely must call it what it is: cowardly, criminal violence.  Surely it is wrong to dignify this kind of brutal thuggery with words like war. This is just indefensible.

At the same time angry reactions will achieve nothing good.  These aggressors need to know that there is real hope, real forgiveness and a real future with the God of Love, and that they can turn to him for him to change their lives, their hearts, their future, their destiny.

The only real hope is in the reconciliation that the gospel brings.

In the meantime we pray for, are thankful for and appreciate more and more our security forces and the politicians who must act with greater than human wisdom and restraint.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Chez le médecin

Well I have antibiotics and instructions to stop wearing shirts with collars and to wear tee-shirts, at least when it is hot. My collars rub the back of my neck and causes these problems.

The long-feared day has come

One of the problems confronting every Brit who settles in France is to accurately and reliably produce the sounds which enrich the French language but which do not exist in English. Most notorious are the nasal vowels, of course, but alongside them must be ranked in terms of awkwardness the sound "u".

Often we go through an unfortunate period where we manage to produce a pretty good and solid "u", but through feebleness of brain, it insinuates itself into places where the sound "ou" should be heard. Thus it is that you often hear people talk about "us" while actually saying the word for "naked" - nu sommes, for example. Thankfully one of these words, nous, is a personal pronoun, while the other, nu, is an adjective, so the simple grammatical structure of the sentences in which they occur will make it difficult to misconstrue the sense intended, whatever the sound produced.

Not so with the word for the neck, cou. The neck is a part of the body, and sadly for us francophone Brits, so is the word produced if the sound "u" is substituted for the sound "ou", albeit in quite a different area of the body, and, to complicate matters, the word becomes impolite.

So I am glad that it is not until now, when I trust myself pretty well to say the word properly, that I have to try to see a doctor today with a rather nasty boil on my neck.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Oh no! Did I do THAT badly?

Funny dream time.

We were living in the MOST ENORMOUS HOUSE, which was ours, we owned it and it had a huge kitchen with a massive bay window in which could be seen an old-fashioned butler's sink, and we were in the garden which consisted of rolling lawns ending in a haha which led to the cornfields beyond. I had no idea where it was but it looked to me like Oxfordshire.

Into this impressive idyll interjected the terrible news that I had failed my French exam - miserably. I was understandably perturbed because academic success and godliness are almost synonymous, of course. 

I tried to understand what had gone wrong, but instead woke up into the much happier real world where we live in a modest rented flat and where the results of my exam will not be published for two weeks.

Alors, tu cours à jeune?

"Are you still running?" asked my elderly doctor friend.

"Yes, about half an hour two or three times a week."

"So how far does that make?"

"Oh look, I don't run fast, and the goal isn't distance, it's time."

"So when do you go?"

"First thing in the morning, before breakfast."

"Ah, so you run on an empty stomach. Maybe if you ate something before you go you'd find you run faster."

So this morning found me rummaging in the freezer in the dark looking for the loaf of bread so I could defrost a slice, spread it with some kind of goo and then get off running.

I'll find out later if it made me run faster, though the new version of Map my Run tells me that my top speed is about 12km/hour - that's not allowing for stopping to take photos of the sunrise or to allow the bus company to get all their buses in a row

(I am often passed by buses bearing the legend "MISE EN LIGNE" which being interpreted means "getting in a row".)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I now realise that I have no idea whatsoever what is going on in the world

One of the awakenings of these past few months has been to see a little more clearly the nature of the press. I don't see UK newspapers regularly, but I do get to read them online. The Guardian allows free access. Through Flipboard I can also read certain articles from the Telegraph and from the Independent. I can also read articles from the Spectator. A heady mix, don't you think?

These four tell completely contradictory points of view. They report the same facts, superficially, but the headline and the interpretation of the facts are diametrically opposed.

Now, OK, one might say it was ever thus, and perhaps it was.

But my problem with it is that all this dogmatism stifles discussion and debate. You can never discuss anything because dogma is not open to discussion, and facts must be interpreted - and maybe even selected - to fit the dogma.

I think the end result of this is that democracy is effectively stifled - the people can't have or even hear a discussion on which to base their view and their vote - and we end up with a mediocracy - a war for dominance between the different stances the press decide to take. Different stances which, presumable, reflect the political stances of the owners of the newspapers.

It's very sad, and probably reflects one of the ways in which people are right when they complain that we are richer in information but poorer in understanding, richer in knowledge, but poorer in wisdom.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Well I got the tram to the DEFLE and arrived on the dot of 8:30, just in time to hear my name called. I was first in for the oral examination. Good!

So into a little room. Check convocation and passport. Choose two from these piles of paper. Look at them. Now choose one of them.

I had a choice between an article about how hard it is to get your kids to eat 5 fruit and veg a day, and an article about the image of women in the media. I chose the latter.

You have 30 minutes to prepare. Then you must come in, summarise the article and give your point of view. Then I'll ask you a few questions.

That all went OK, and the lady afterwards said, "Well that went OK. Why do you need the exam? If your written French is OK I don't think you'll have a big problem."

So then home to await the afternoon tests.

1:15 found me sat in a big circle of stress with lots of youngsters who were hoping to get into university to study in Bordeaux. At 1:30 we were called down to check our id, check our convocations and give us a numbered seat to sit in in the DEFLE amphitheatre. Vivid memories of Mme. Choussat's Civilisation Sessions and Mme. Casseville's Grammar Workouts came flooding back.

First test - aural comprehension. Two reports from the radio were played. The first was played twice and you had 11 questions to answer. The second was played once, and there were 10 questions to answer. Some of these were a little tough.

Then written comprehension. Two texts, one about the popularity of do-it-yourself, gardening and handicrafts, and the second was about the increased attendance at cinemas in France and the rôle of school cinema trips in that. That was all OK.

Then the writing test. You had to write a letter to the person who managed your accommodation complaining about a neighbour, their noise, smells, etc. So I complained to the managers of a tower block of flats about the neighbour above us who was keeping a cow in his flat, and passing it off as a large dog.

There we are. The die is cast. Results in 15 days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

So, how to prove residency in France for five years?

I have five years' worth of taxe foncière and taxe d'habitation I can show, that's for sure. But you have to pay those even if you are not really living in a property and they want you to show continual residency in France with no break longer then, I think, 6 months.

What they really want is five years' worth of justficatifs de domicile - utility bills. Gas bills. Electricity bills. They're the best. And thankfully it is now supremely easy to get at five years' worth of electricity bills. Just log on to your personal space on the EDF website and, hey presto!


There's only one bill showing! But I've been paying for eleven years, and always with the same customer number and everything!

I went to the electricity office in Pessac. I had been there to arrange the house move and they were very glad to see me and very helpful.

"Oh yes. I don't know why they aren't showing. The best thing to do is write a letter and ask for your bills - make sure you specify "free of charge" or they'll charge you lots of money."

I thought that before I wrote a letter I might try the website query system. You can ask questions, like "Where are all my bills?" and then say if the automated response resolved your problem or not. If not then they'll put you through to a real live person somewhere in France!

The lady was very nice. "Oh, but you moved house! If you move house then you have a new contract and that means you lose access to your old bills. You have just two months in which to access them."

"What? But why did nobody explain that to me?"

"Well you should always archive your bills on your own computer anyway."

"Well I can tell you, I will from now on!"

"What do you need them for?"

"For the préfecture. I'm applying for French nationality and I have to show five years' residency."

"Listen, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll print out your bills and post them to you."

"Thank you, that's enormously kind."

"No, it's normal."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

36°C in the shade. 42°C on the sunny side of the street.


In June while I was in the UK Patricia went to the opticians. She had her glasses changed in January, but her vision wasn't very good and she was concerned. They said she had cataracts in both eyes - quite an opaque one in the right eye and less severe in the left. "You need to get them sorted", they said.

So they arranged an appointment with an eye-surgeon at the Clinique Tivoli for the beginning and middle of September - one eye one week, the other the next - and today we went for the pre-operation appointment with the surgeon.

She has also just made an appointment with the anaesthetist (though the anaesthetic is just in the form of drops) and she'll have to make two appointments for post-op checkups with her normal ophthalmologist.

The operation should be amazing. They'll put drops in her eyes to numb the eye, then make a 2mm incision and pulverise the opaque lens by ultra-sound, then remove it through the tiny slit. Then a replacement lens in acrylique is popped in through the slit and once in situ it flips out to form the new lens, carefully measured and made to measure to correct her vision. she should no longer need glasses for distance vision, or, if she does, she'll need just a slight correction. She may need reading glasses. And ordinary sunglasses, of course.

While the operation is going on what the surgeon sees through his operating microscope is relayed to a TV screen in an adjacent room where I can watch the proceedings. When we leave the clinique they'll give us a DVD with a recording of the operation.

The cost per eye is about 450 euros, but 2/3 is covered by the health service and the rest should be covered by our supplementary health insurance. But even if it was not, it would be worth it for the savings in spectacles each year.

Monday, July 18, 2016

I must be doing something right...

or perhaps very wrong indeed...

Someone asked me the other day if we had a cleaning lady.

I paused, then said that no, we didn't.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Plan Dentry *

Speaking with our neighbour, Monique, yesterday evening - she came round to bring us some of her mother's famous bottled mushrooms - we got onto this dreaded French exam. I explained that I am rusty with writing and as we chatted about it I realised that one of my danger areas is conjugation.

Frankly, for the subjunctive, which is useful in the construction "I'll have to ..." sometimes I hear what I say and I realise that I'm just making it up.

"Well I do the same", she said.

It's probably true. Some of the more dodgy conjugations, like saying, "I have to receive them by Thursday", for example, well you just take a stab... il faut que je les reçoive? reçoite? reçoise? and rely on people's aural editor to change it into the appropriate form somewhere between the lug and the noggin. Or you avoid the problem by using a different construction, like je dois les recevoir...

Anyway, all this to say that I found a splendid couple of conjugation apps, so I can at least revise the wretched things.

* Dentry is the plan for the Daveys to acquire French nationality.

Friday, July 15, 2016

French exam ... that helped a lot

travelling in to Bordeaux on the tram with one of our chaps last night, he said, "so the exam you're doing is the DELF B2, right?"

"Yes. And frankly I'm getting in a bit of a funk about it."

"Oh, it's OK. I did it."


"Yes, I got 56."

You need 50 to pass, and I'm pretty sure my French is better than my friend's.

"Yes. Later I had to take C1"

"Did you really?"

"Yes, my school made me take it."

I didn't ask him how he did.

Fireworks and trucks

After our Bible Study and pizzas we travelled into Bordeaux on the tram for the 14 July fireworks. I had hoped to cross the river and see the fireworks from the other side, but we got our timing hopelessly wrong and instead watched from near Quinconces. There must have been thousands of people on the river banks, all going oooh and aaah. The police were very present and everything was just splendid.

On the way home I thought of the excellent summer we have had in Bordeaux. The way the city enjoyed the football tournament. The good humour of the police. The good-natured Irish fans winning a place in everyone's heart. The fan zone that saw some immense crowds simply enjoying the matches. The happy and peaceful atmosphere before and after the matches. The quiet satisfaction even when your team lost in the semi-final or the final. I thought of writing a letter to M. Juppe, simply thanking him for what he represents and for what he has achieved in the city.

Getting home from the fireworks was not easy. We walked several tram stops, tried to take the bus, went back to the trams and ended up getting home about 2 hours after the end of the fireworks display. On the packed tram one chap decided to remove his jacket. As he squirmed I thought how easy it would be for someone to get on the tram wearing a suicide vest.But our tram was full of good-humoured people. One lady tried to get on with her dog, but there was no room. "It's a dog! we'll take the dog! We love chihuahuas!", said some girls.

When there was a bit more room I opened my phone and saw a friend who lives and works in Nice report that he was safe. It is even simpler than I thought. You don't need a suicide vest. You just need a big lorry. At Bordeaux we were all over the quays. They were closed to traffic. But afterwards cars, cycles, buses, trams and people wandered everywhere in happy, patient cohabitation. It would be so easy to mow a crowd down.

So M Hollande will prolong the state of emergency another three months. Pray for Nice. Pray for our police. Pray for our civil authorities. And pray for the gospel to take root deeply.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The 14 July at Pessac

Pessac celebrated the 14th July with the help of a MASSIVE wind band from the small town of Manuel in Valencia province in Spain. The group has come in three coaches to spend the weekend at Pessac, playing for the parade and ceremony this morning, for the dance in the park this afternoon and evening and then at a concert in the church on Saturday evening.

I'll pop on some videos of the parade when I can.

After the ceremony, which involved a short speech, a Remembrance Day-style commemoration with flags, fanfare "aux morts", silence, wreaths and Marseillaise (played rather slowly three times by the Spanish band - normally it is played once, briskly), there followed an apéritif on the top floor of the cinema, and very pleasant it was too.

We got talking to a lady with a Shitzu, discovered she is a retired English teacher from the University and got invited to her house some time.

14th July

Well it's the National Day today, and it's Thursday, which coincides with our Bible Study.

On 14th July there's various things going on. There's usually a parade in most towns. In Bordeaux this will be a small military parade with firefighters, police and soldiers, a military band and various funky official vehicles. In Pessac I think everyone is invited to parade. The Mairie has said to come dressed in blue, red or white, or to get a tee-shirt from the town hall. We'll probably sneak in and observe from the sidelines somewhere...

Then this afternoon at the park at the end of the road where we used to live there's an vintage farm display.

Then this evening in Bordeaux and in Pessac there will be fireworks.

So what's the plan?

Pizza at 6pm and Bible Study on Ruth 3, then into Bordeaux for the fireworks.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The first impact of Brexit, perhaps?

Poor Gwilym got some bad news last night. The mission trip that he is going on to Belgium and Holland, organised by LST, is going to cost £100 more than initially planned, apparently "because of inflation". As far as I know, inflation is low in all the countries concerned, and the trip has only been planned in the last couple of months, so I can only surmise that this is because of exchange rate fluctuations.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Day off

We're all pretty tired - late nights, hot weather, a combination of factors, so this morning it was pretty hard for everyone to get going. But going we got, nevertheless, and the morning began with Patricia's ukulele practice, accompanied by Gwilym on another ukulele. Be glad you don't live next door to us!

Actually I did ask our next-door neighbour the other day if she ever heard us singing, and she swore that she never does. We could perhaps ask the folk who live upstairs, but so far so reassuring.

Anyway we then made a quick trip to Ikea where we dined sumptuously on vast quantities of salad, and we then purchased some cheerful cushions to perk up our gray sofa in our grey room.

Then home again.

We went to Ikea in a Citiz car, a splendid Yaris Hybrid. When I picked up the car I first looked around it, as you are meant to do, and I noticed that someone must have shunted it while it was parked - the front bumper was displaced. I phoned the Citiz helpline to report it, taking a photo to send to them before popping the bumper back in place. Then off I went.

The Yaris hybrid is great fun to drive. Usually it runs silently in town from its electric motor, but then scuttling along very acceptably on the motorway to Ikea. It also has a splendid reversing camera that really helps you place it in a space very precisely.

Then home and more music, before hearing of Andrea Leadsom's withdrawal from the Tory leadership contest. Did she actually say what we heard her say on the recording, or did she not in fact say it as she later claimed? When she apologised to Theresa May, was it for what she had said or for what she had denied saying and therefore obviously not said, even though we seemed to hear her say it on the recording? And when she withdrew from the contest, what were her reasons? Those she said, or others that she did not say?

Anyway, she's gone, Theresa May is soon to be Prime Minister, and we must crack on with our application to become French citizens as soon as we can.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

And we've found a French test for Pat, too

TCF ANF is specifically designed to meet the requirements of the French government for naturalisation and gives marks at various levels from beginner right through to completely bilingual. If you get a certain score you get a certificate bearing the magic words "B1", which is all you need.

The test has mandatory sections - comprehension questions and an interview, as well as optional sections - writing. The optional sections are not required for level B1.

Various centres offer this in Bordeaux, including the Alliance Française in the middle of town, and Pat could conceivably take the test in September or October.

Friday, July 08, 2016

So the exam will be on 21st July

Eight candidates (I have their email addresses!)
Orals from 8:30.
Written exam from 13:15.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Three years with my Macbook Air

I've had this little computer for over three years no, and it still starts up and runs just as fast as the day I bought it. I have no regrets whatsoever, even though the murky depths of Windows have become ever more inscrutable and impenetrable for me. I would not willingly or easily go back.

I do wish I had got a larger hard disk. When I bought the computer I didn't realise that I would also be loading some fairly heavyweight Bible software on it, or that it would effectively become my study. It copes fine, but a larger disk would give more breathing-room.

But that's all. To anyone contemplating a move to Mac I would wholeheartedly encourage you to do so.
Take the plunge.
Come on in.
The water's lovely.

The road to Frenchness

What do I need to do to apply for French nationality?

1) Demonstrate that I have lived in France for eleven years.

Five years continuous residency in France is the minimum for me to request naturalisation. If I demonstrate 10 years residency then I should get a reply within a year. Continuous residency is defined as no break longer than six months, I think.
I am not sure what evidence is acceptable. I have my bills for council tax for all those years, so I could submit those. I could print off electricity bills for at least five years, maybe ten.

2) Show that I have no criminal record.
You can apply for this online.

3) Demonstrate that I have learnt French.
The exams next week and the week after are to this end.

4) Certificates translated by an official translator:
Birth and marriage certificates for all the family.

5) Work situation.
In come tax returns for the last three years as well as pay slips for November and December for the last three years.
A statement of your financial situation (bordereau de situation fiscale) with regard to public finances for the last three years.

6) I think that's all. All the documents that have a date have to be dated within 3 months of the submission of the application. That means that the last thing to do is to get certificates translated, and the casier judiciaire and financial statement applied for.

Hi Alan! It's Ron and Caroline! You remember our email exchange!

Um... Er... Um... to be honest, no, I have no recollection whatsoever.

Our new friends had come a long way to visit France, and we had a great conversation about gospel work in Bordeaux and in France.

Later I looked for the email exchange.
Found it.
It happened just as I was travelling to the UK.
Oh well.
At least it explains why I forgot, even though it doesn't excuse it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Well, for better or for worse, I've signed up for the exam...

I emailed my old phonetics teacher to tell her I'd decided to sit the exam. She replied with an email authorising me to enter for it even though I missed the entry date (last Friday). I got a bit unnerved by this and filled in the form, wrote the cheque and photocopied my passport in double quick time so I could take it to the office at the DEFLE, our old language school.

A good stare at the website, a few unanswered phone calls and I concluded that the office was open only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

Panic over. All I had to do was go there first thing this morning. So I did, arriving at 8:50am, 10 minutes before opening time and about 25 minutes before the office opened. I showed my email, the secretary checked everything and said that I'll get my convocation by the end of the week, the orals start on the 15th and the written exams around the 21st, I think.

Another fine mess I've gotten myself into! 

Still, at the end of all this maybe I will be 100% Welsh, and British and French!

Now then, for a Frenchie surname, what should I ask for... 

Or perhaps D'Avé?

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Back to it

After another late night I told myself it didn't matter if I went for a run this morning or not.

Then I woke at 6.

By 6:30 I was sick of lying there, so I decided to be up and at it. I felt good, so I decided to add a 1km loop, and off we went. A quick incursion into Gwilym territory to find a tee-shirt, then off with me.

And the cool morning air was a tonic, and the sunrise was beautiful, and the streets were calm, and the vines were lovely, and a worker was strimming all dressed in his orange protective samurai armour. "Bonjour", I said. "Bonjour", he replied, with a distinctly Chinese accent.

Music in my head: Air de Saltarello, from La Mascot by Edmond Audran, followed by Brubeck's Take Five and Sing of the Lord's Goodness from Psalm Praise. I must find some other songs in 5/4...

Good. Back on track.

Independence Day

"Well if June 23rd is going to be Independence Day for England, then we'll have to learn how to celebrate it." That was my reaction when I was told that there was to be an Independence Day celebration at our house on 4th July. To be honest I had thought of suggesting it, but hey! It's better if other people take the initiative.

So 6:30 found me with our gas stove on the patio cooking burgers and sausages along with Mitch who had his all-american backpacking stove.

A merry gang gathered, though we missed the folks who have already left us, of course, and the salads flowed profusely.

When they got playing Uno Extreme I retreated to the sitting room and some peace and quiet from the American music that was playing.

Funny what American music means to different people. Still, I heard some Springsteen for the first time.

And the last.

Monday, July 04, 2016

OK. I have till Wednesday to decide what to do.

I have this idea of applying for French nationality to protect the possibility of staying for ten more years to work at planting this church in Bordeaux.
We can apply for French nationality without relinquishing our British citizenship.

To apply you have to get your birth and marriage certificates translated by an official translater, you have to demonstrate that you have lived in France for five years by your electricity bills and tax statements, and you have to demonstrate a certain level of competence in French.

Two options exist for showing your competence in French. Either you have an interview at the préfecture (and you have to have an interview anyway) or you present a certificate called DELF level B1. 

I was delighted to learn that the DELF exams are administrated by our favourite phonetics teacher at the DEFLE, so I emailed her this morning. The next sessions of DELF B1 are next year, but the higher level B2 takes place the third week of July and I have till Wednesday to sign up for it. 

It costs 130€.
The sample papers on the internet are tough, but not impossible.
I think I'd pass.

Do I go for it?

Et pour celles et ceux qui arrivent à lire en français

Bordeaux' experience of the Euro2016 football tournament. Read about it here.

Whenever people leave other people come and take their place!

So the students are disappearing one after the other. Our service was going to be much quieter. Then four French folk came in, two spoke English pretty well, two not much really. So I preached bilingually, see-sawing back and fore from English to French and back. It was hard work last night!

The four come from a good church. It's no problem if they come to visit from time to time but if they show signs of starting to settle then I'll have to phone their pastor and we'll need to talk about it.

Michaël, one of our founder members, said, "It's amazing. Whenever people leave others come and take their place. Do you remember years ago there were times when nobody came to the English Service!"

Yes. It's true.

Afterwards the young things went off to the fan zone to watch France trounce Iceland, while we crawled off home to bed, to sleep, perchance etc...

I woke at 8:41 suddenly, thinking "Oh no! It's a running morning! What's the time?" Too late..

At 10:30 a splendid chap came from Etu'Récup, an association based on the university campus that takes old stuff, repairs it and finds a new home for it. The idea started from seeing piles of serviceable items stacked on the pavement outside student flats and halls of residence after students had vacated their rooms at the end of the year. Why not collect these things, repair where needed and pass them on cheaply to the students who follow? So it started, and now they also have workshops where they'll teach you to repair your bike, your clothes or your small electrical stuff. It was good to pass on our old sofa to them. It'll find a good home somewhere.

The lady on the bus

sat opposite me. My shopping bags were everywhere. I apologised and she said it didn't bother her at all. We got talking about politeness and stuff, and she talked about how she had enjoyed the presence of the Irish fans.

"And the Welsh?"
"I wasn't in town when they were there. You have a little accent. You're American?"
"No, I'm Welsh. I've never been so proud to be Welsh and I've never been so disappointed."
"Well, the performance of our team, the behaviour of our fans, and that stupid vote to leave the European Union."
"Ah yes. The European Union has been a great force for peace, but our real hope is elsewhere."
"Oh yes. One day all these nations will count for nothing."
"Yes, it's true." She got out her tablet and opened a Bible programme. "Look."
She showed me one verse from Psalm 46 : He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. It was displayed in French, in Arabic and in the English New Word Translation.
"Yes. Psalm 46. God is our refuge and our strength. Ah, you're a Jehovah's Witness. There are things we share but also things that divide us, but still it's a great pleasure to meet a French woman who discusses the Bible on a bus."
"Oh, this is my stop. Goodbye"

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Pat's phone has come home

Poor Pat.

She inherited Gwilym's old iPhone 5 at Christmastime and as she was getting used to it it leapt from the back pocket of her jeans into the toilet bowl. After drying it out thoroughly it was clear that there was enough damage to make the phone unusable.

So we bought a refurbished iPhone 5 from a French company that refurbishes mobile phones. And as she was getting used to iCloud for photos it wiggled its way out of the basket of her BordoBike somewhere between Pessac Centre and Bordeaux Centre. 10 km of road, cycle-path etc... We activated "Lost mode", looked at "Find my iPhone" and so on, but after a week she reverted to an old Android phone which we knew still worked, we had loaned it to a student, and we moved on and got closure, as they say. "Let's not buy another expensive phone", she said.

Then she got a call from the municipal police at Pessac. Someone has handed in her phone!
And it's back. With no more scratches than it had before.

"Let's sell it", she said.

"Let's hang on to it for a while. We may need it soon."

The Welsh fans

Yesterday Pat went along to her crafts group at the wool shop. where the manager kept talking about all the fun she had had with the Irish and Welsh fans.
I found it hard to imagine that fans went into her (expensive) wool shop.
She must have come out to join in the fun in the street.
Bordeaux fell in love with the crazy Celts.
And Paris gave the Irish fans a medal!

Man alive, it's been hard!

to get back running.
The problem is that it is impossible for me to get an early night, so I wake up late, so I get up late and I miss my running slot of 6:30 to 7:15.
Still, I've run twice this week. Once on Wednesday and once on Saturday (today).
I'll get back up to "speed". It will come. But it may take longer than I thought.