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)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book review - Spurgeon's sorrows, by Zack Eswine

I was thinking the other day of how much we owe to fragile, damaged, broken men.

The greatest example for the British is Churchill. Opinionated and stubborn, he was hardly a role-model in terms of personal fitness or healthy living. He also suffered from what he called his "black dog", his depressive episodes. And yet he was a remarkable writer, painter and probably the greatest statesman of the twentieth century.

Christians will think of Martin Luther, of Cowper or, of course, of Spurgeon.

"Spurgeon's Sorrws", by Zach Eswine, is subtitled "Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression" and in this book Eswine has done a remarkable work of research and collation to scour Spurgeons writings and sermons to glean information but mostly helpful reflections on depression and how to deal with it.

En route he reminds us of some of the battles Spurgeon faced, both early in his ministry in the Surrey Gardens catastrophe as well as later on when he wrestled with his chronic ill-health. He shares Spurgeons reflections on his pastoral ministry to those in his congregation who struggled. He works hard to avoid trite or superficial responses and to encourage his readers to take depression seriously.

Readers will sometimes struggle with Eswine's style. He has spent a long time reading Spurgeon and sometimes he writes like a Victorian, kind of. Sometimes it's too flowery for a book from 2015. Now and again you will have to work hard to understand the structure of the writing. One paragraph had me baffled until the third time of reading. Yes, it's a fault. Writers should write clearly. It's about communication.

But this is a helpful book. Read alongside other volumes the reader will find lots of help either in facing depression or in helping others to do the same.

I received this book free in exchange for a book review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sanary sur Mer

We've been very fortunate this week, some friends live in Sanary sur Mer, just along the coast from Bandol on the Cote d'Azur, and they have an office, the office of the International Christian Communities, which can accommodate a small family for a short stay. So we hopped on the train on Monday and spent some very happy days in the sun at Sanary.










Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Le France, terre d'accueil

You may remember some happy adventures I had with asylum seekers from a middle eastern country some months ago. These friends were in a pickle because she had become a Christian and started going to a Christian house church in their home country. Her brothers heard about it and put pressure on her husband to use violence on her to stop her. His response was to pay a crook for a visa to get into Europe where they could go to visit some family in a Northern European country and ask for asylum.

The visa delivered was for France, so they came to France and then travelled to their hoped-for destination. On asking for asylum they were told that as their visa was for France they had to apply for asylum in France and they were put on a bus to Paris. After a few weeks on the streets in a country whose language they do not speak they returned to the Northern European country. This time they were put in a refugee centre while better arrangements could be made.

These better arrangements involved them being sent to Bordeaux, then the church they were in contact with up north got in touch with us to help them. Look back in the blog for further details of queues at the prefecture, queues at the CADA, queues at the OFII, queues galore, queues everywhere.

Well then they were relocated to a flat in a southern French town where another OFII, another CADA and another church has been looking after them.

And we heard recently that they have been given refugee status, the right to work and a ten-year carte de séjour. We never dreamt that the process would be so quick.

This is probably linked to France's decision to open the doors to Christian refugees from the Middle-East. Sometimes I am very proud of France.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Well that was fun!

Today we met up with James Hammond of GBM and Jim Sayers also of GBM for lunch. We ended up in the Hippopotamus Grill, where the steaks were very good, and then after a post-prandial discussion we hot-footed it, somewhat later than usual, to Dan for Bordeaux Church.

At lunch the waiter brought up some wine and poured some in my glass for me to give my approval. I saw from the label that it was a Saint Emilion.
I said, "J'en sais vraiment rien."
The waiter laughed.
"Mais je fais semblant."
He laughed again, "Comme tout le monde."
It was actually very nice. "Ah non, c'est bon!" quoth I.

The Dutchies were coming for the service - that made 9 people - as well as Harriette, Alexandra and Myriam. But we knew that some of our folk would be away, so I thought we'd be OK for chairs.

However some folk came who haven't been for a good few weeks, and in the end we were 32 people - one more than the number of chairs (Harriet sat on the steps) and another two people arrived very late, looked through the window and went away again!

After the service we had hot food - pizzas ordered from the pizza shop. A crazy, chaotic crowd!

Jim preached from Acts 2 v 1 - 11 and I interpreted for him. I had a copy of his script in front of me and, with the usual standard of competence one expects of Alan, started interpreting a point he hadn't actually made yet.

Help from Meredith Kline on the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men in Genesis 6

Who are these Sons of God?

Seth's descendants marrying Cain's unbelieving daughters?
Angels marrying girls?

Or something else? Like the first city-kings becoming polygamist tyrants.

Look here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Catrin's dossier

Have I talked about Catrin's plans for further studies?

Well the plan is to go to the University of Bordeaux Montaigne from September for a degree in Musicologie - chanson française. It's a degree course that combines musical analysis and history with composition and performance of songs, recording, production of concerts, etc. etc. It sounds like a good all-round music education, ailing mainly at songs than at anything else.

That would be followed by a masters course at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, either in Opera or in Musical Theatre, depending on what Catrin's voice turns out to be most suited for and where her interests lie most.

Well, anyway, entry to Bordeaux Montaigne is by dossier, which means you have to compile a list of documents such as :

Lettre de motivation. This, I think, roughly equates to the personal statement that people now do in the UK.

Curriculum Vitae. This speaks for itself.

Bulletins scolaires. For the years of lycée.

Diplômes de musique. In the music schools at Pessac they don't do diplomas, but we have attestations de niveau.

Supporting documents. In Catrin's case four songs, two of her own composition, recorded in glorious surround-sound stereo in her bedroom and then burned to cd in iTunes.

So the dossier is almost complete. It's quite a project in itself!

Last night,

which seems like a LONG time ago, we had a nice soirée crêpes with tabletalkbibletime about the issues raised by the film Fifty Shades of Grey.

We didn't discuss the acting, the script, the cinematography, or anything like that, but we did discuss issues of abuse, consent, love, etc., and during my preparation for animating this discussion I found a quote that I now can't refind...

But that said that the underlying theme of Fifty Shades of Grey and of Twilight, of which it is fan-lit, is the desire to be loved by someone awesome.

When you think about it this is a pretty constant theme in Disney, too.

And it is the huge central theme of the gospel.

We are just so totally loved by someone just utterly awesome!

Oodalally, golly, what a day

The day started chilly and damp, but off I set to hunt for firewood as we were down to our last bundle and the heating was non-functional.

This morning as I entered the 13.8°C living-room I reflected on how effective our heating really is and on how much you miss it when it isn't working, then set off to get a car and go to hunt for fuel. I found not logs but "densified wood briquettes", each one designed to burn for an hour and give out lots of heat. I thought I'd take a chance and bought a week's supply. Well they turned out to be rather wonderful! They light easily and last for almost exactly an hour each briquette, giving out lots of nice heat. 

I returned to await the plumber. He arrived. I put on the heating. No leak. Innit marvellous. Meanwhile we inflated the diaphragm of the expansion vase as there was some suspicion surrounding the hot water tank and the last leak we had some 18 months ago... The plumber left saying to phone him if suddenly the leak sprang. It sprang not.

Then time to sort out the service sheet for tomorrow and help prepare for the Dutch onslaught of this evening - pasta bolognaise for 7 dutch youngsters, 2 dutch men and several French attendants, plus ourselves and a few hangers-on. It made for a lively household.

Now the house is calm, quiet and warm from a nicely-alimented stove. And it's bed-time!

Friday, February 20, 2015

MB, ComExSO and catastrophe!

Wednesday I was at the Maison de la Bible all day, replacing my friend and colleague, Jean. It was quite a busy day with quite good sales. James, colleague from Bordeaux Church, came in to talk and eat lunch together, and Tim, colleague from the Cenon church came in to talk, too.

Thursday found me on the train to Montauban, TGV both ways, for the meeting of the Commission Exécutive Sud-Ouest, or ComExSO as we tend to call it. This little group meets to discuss and encourage the life of the churches of the South-West of France, and it is always a privilege to meet up with the guys. As the regions of the UNEPREF are being abolished for a lighter operation without levels of discussion, we are aware that the clock is ticking for our merry band. But this doesn't stop me resisting their suggestion that I take up the role of secretary for the group, a role vacant since an American brother returned to the States just over a year ago. I'll do mailshots, coordination of documents and people and so on, but I don't think it's a good idea for me to go writing letters to folk. Better a proper French person do that.

The meeting starts at 16h30 and was scheduled to finish at about 19h. My train arrived at 14:30 and was scheduled to leave at 20:47. And the station is a 10 minute walk from the meeting place.

So before the meeting I explored Montauban and bought a sandwich and a drink from a small supermarket. Here are some photos.

First Bordeaux station, currently undergoing maintenance.

























Now Montauban.

The town was quite a centre of Protestant witness in the 16th and 17th centuries, which led Cardinal Richelieu to march on the town in 1621 and put it to siege. The town resisted for 2 months and the army diverted its attention to Montpellier. Montauban did not fall until 1629 when a grand baroque cathedral was constructed to indicate the power of the King.




























The meeting duly closed and our treasurer said, "So where are you eating tonight, because your train doesn't leave till 20:47?" and promptly invited me to eat with his family before taking the train home. It made the evening very convivial and I was in plenty of time for my moderately late double-decker TGV back to Bordeaux.






















Eleven years ago the Davey adventure in Bordeaux began here, at the Regina, opposite the station.




















Then this morning I woke, got up, put on the heating and heard water flowing somewhere. Oh dear - a leak in the heating system somewhere above the ceiling of the empty bedroom. How good that it didn't happen in the middle of the night, or when Pat's sister was sleeping in that room!

Monday, February 16, 2015

A festive family boat trip

Pat's sister flew home this evening, so we wanted to make her last day a nice one.

We hummed and hah'd and discussed and weighed up, and finally came up with the idea of a boat trip on the BatCUB. Pauline's 7-day tram and bus pass covers the BatCUB and so we hied us away to Stalingrad to catch the boat. We have done it a few times - a nice round trip from Stalingrad to Lormont, then back to the Quays, then to Quinconces, then to Stalingrad once more.


Except the 12 o'clock boat went straight across the river to Quinconces then was going to go back.

Oh well, we decided to take a stroll along the quays and find somewhere to get some coffee.

Then we saw the other BatCUB coming along behind us from Quinconces to the Quays.

It moored. We jumped on. I asked the lady what was happening. She explained that for about 18 months now the BatCUB doesn't do the round trip any more, though the leaflets, website and even the timetable give the impression that it does. Instead one boat goes back and fore across the river between Stalingrad and Quinconces, and the other does the rest of the stops.

Feeling much relieved, we enjoyed our trip to Lormont.
We then had 5 minutes before the boat went back.
Or an hour...

At that part of Lormont there are three cafés.

One advertised the lunchtime menu at 16.50€. Um, no.

Another was a kebab joint. It looked very nice.

The third was a café, tobacconist, bar, betting shop and it advertised omelettes or plat du jour for 8.50€. That's more like it.

What's the plat du jour?

Steak and chips.

That'll do nicely. Pauline chose an omelette with ham, chorizo, potato and cheese.



When it came it was on a large square plate accompanied by a salad and a small cup of vegetable soup, a wedge of camembert and a glass of fromage blanc flavoured with orange conserve. A smallish but perfectly decent four course meal. What a bargain!

We saw a small crowd gathering for the boat, so I rushed in and paid quickly, finished up and we scuttled across and just got to the gate in time to hop on.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

This weekend in view

1) Love and Marriage with the Chinese Group this evening from 17:30

2) "All in the name of the Lord Jesus" Col. 3:17 with the International Church

More about le Père Cent

Some photos of yesterday's Père Cent to be seen here.

When I arrived in town for a lunch date with a friend Victoire looked like a giant uncooked pancake.
OK, I exaggerate a bit. There were big holes in the crêpe.

Down Sainte-Cathérine where the shopkeepers had tried to wash the flour and eggs away it had become a sticky, slippery mess.

GROOO.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cheeky monkeys!

Today is the "Père Cent" (Father Hundred) - one hundred days before the Bac exams start - and it signals high jinks outside the lycées of France as the pupils in terminale throw food at those in the years below them.

Last year Catrin arrived at school with her coat doused in ketchup only to find the gates locked and the staff refusing to let anyone in.

This year the proviseur has sternly told pupils that the Père Cent will not be tolerated. Also Catrin's school day doesn't start till 10am. Also she's in Terminale, so she should be the sniper, not the target. Also she's promised her friend, Paloma, that she'll be at school because most of her friends are just taking a day off.

But because it's not just her school that's involved in Père Cent she's decided that if she gets to the bus stop and sees a flour and ketchup fight going on she'll just stay on the bus, go round the circuit and come home.

Late News Update : Catrin got safely and cleanly to school. There were a few flour-warriors, but she walked right through them.



Fifty shades of grim

I've had to work with people who are in abusive relationships. That is why the magic word 'consensual' doesn't carry much weight with me. I still remember the day I said to one woman, "You don't have to live like this." I saw the light come on in her soul.

Anyway, amongst the ghastliness of the whole Fifty Shades of Grim phenomenon, and the bizarre sight of women flocking to see this kind of abuse glamorised - do we even have a word for this kind of pornography? - I was glad to laugh at a headline in the Telegraph this morning.

"Fire Brigade issues Fifty Shades of Grey warning about getting trapped in everyday objects."

A festive Thursday

Yesterday since Pat's sister is visiting us I replaced Pat at the Maison de la Bible. This worked out well because our manageress' son was ill, so I was happy to man the store alone. The morning was quiet, so I watched Wolf Hall on iPlayer. The afternoon perked up and came to a wonderful climax with a muslim lad who came in to buy a Bible saying he wanted to compare the Bible and the Koran. We had a four-way conversation with a catholic lady adding somewhat unhelpful remarks. I gave him my card and said if he ever wanted to discuss to contact me.

Then off to Monoprix to get my commissioned Fruit Shoot and home to find a small gang of girlies gathered for a Birthday Tea for Catrin. Her favourite meal, tune pasta bake, with some of her favourite people.  Meanwhile Pat and Pauline, her sister, had met up with Sally - who looks like she could be her sister - terrorised Pessac Alouette.




Thursday, February 12, 2015

The morning after the "confit de canard"

I feel like the revered elected leaders of our dear European Union - GREASE EVERYWHERE!

We had 10 people round for a meal last night, including dear friends from Marseille, so we did confit de canard because I saw it on offer in our local supermarket and because it is REALLY easy to do - you just have to get it good and hot.

But it comes in it's own eco-system of thick, congealed duck fat, which it shares generously with all spaces and all surfaces.

Lovely stuff!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5

I think there is a danger of making too much of this, but it is interesting how in these parallel passages Paul says slightly different things.

For example :

Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Epghesians 5:18-19 -And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

It doesn't seem to me to be enough to EQUATE being filled with the Word of Christ and being filled with the Spirit, but surely we have to conclude that they are linked in Paul's mind.

Then : (and I am thinking of my preparation for this weekend, where for the Chinese group on Saturday evening I am talking about Love and Marriage for Valentine's Day, and on Sunday about everything in the name of Christ for the International Church.)

Colossians 3:16-17 - singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Ephesians 5:19-20 - singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Paul goes on in both cases to talk about submission in the various rôles we have in life, in marriage, in the family, at work, etc.

Bordeaux, voted best European destination 2015



See here.

Obviously we're very pleased, but the problem is that when you live here anywhere else you go is quite frankly a bit of a disappointment.

That's why we try and see people we love when we go away, rather than places!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Malagar, the estate that belonged to François Mauriac

For francophone friends, this film was produced by Mollat, the big independent bookshop in Bordeaux and features Alan's grammar and literature teacher from the language school, Caroline Casseville, who's an expert on Mauriac.

Book review : Mike McKinley : The Resurrection In Your Life

This book wasn't at all what I expected, mainly because it's a long time since I read McKinley's previous book : Passion. I was expecting a closely argued, systematically structured, theological and practical discussion of the doctrine of the resurrection - perhaps beginning with a section on the evidence or the resurrection. What I got was a book based on a sermon series from the end of Luke's Gospel and the beginning of Acts.

And it's a really good book. In the course of ten chapters McKinley talks about the centrality of the doctrine of the risen Christ for the faith of His people, for the life of His Church and for the future of the His world. He deals with God's plan of salvation, God's peace for the disciple, God's pattern for the church, God's gift of the Holy Spirit, God's programme for the world.

I think pastors could give this book to almost any member of their congregation, and most would find their faith encouraged, their vision clarified and their zeal honed.

There are light touches of humour. There are study questions suitable for sparking off group discussions. It's a good book and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

I received a copy of the book free in return for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

One bone to pick with Apple

though I have become an Apple fan-boy (c'est vrai, je l'assume) that does not mean that I approve without question of all that Apple says and does.

One example of something where Apple is part of the problem, not the solution, is the pushed obsolescence of good items of technology.

The iPad came out in 2010. Not even five years ago! And the technology is pretty solid and long-lasting. If the screen hasn't cracked then there's every chance that your old iPad will still be working fine. But the newer releases of iOS are not compatible with the original iPad.

OK. If you still have an original iPad and you are still using it, bravo! It can still be useful in lots of ways, and if it works with the old version of iOS, why not.

But my problem is with the mindset that we end up struggling with, that something four years old is now worthless.

(I'm fifty-five years old, by the way.)

Monday, February 09, 2015

Hurrah for Bouyguie-Wouyguie Telecom!

We are the early adopters! We live at the cutting edge!

Our highly esteemed internet provider, Bouygues Telecom, has developed a revolutionary new internet TV box called the BBox Miami. Instead of our big old blunderbuss of a BBox Sensation, with a hard disk and various other gizmos, now you have a tiny little 6" square black box with no lights nor nothing, but it DOES have inside it a smartphone's gubbins, running Android.

This means you can download a selection of Android apps from the play store and run, for example, Chrome on your TV. etc.

How marvellous is that?

Anyway a nice young lady from Bouguie-wouguie phoned me on Saturday and said that our BBox Miami is on the way and it will cost us no more at all and she said all sorts of stuff and it will come soon!

The return of the oven - Volume Three of the Saga of Samsung

Well today has been a very carful day. It started with a trip to the airoporto to pick up Pat's sister.

Now I ought to explain to you, reader, that whatever high officials are in charge of these matters have decreed that Easyjet flights from Gatwick to Bordeaux and British Airways flights from Gatwick to Bordeaux should take off and land almost simultaneously, but the passengers thereof should be admitted to La Belle France from opposite ends of the airoporto.

Thus it was that Patricia and I were to be found staring at a stubbornly closed door at the Billi arrivals - the door all the Easyjet passengers had passed through on their way to Cheese-and-Wine-land.

Meanwhile Pat's sister was to be found sitting at the British Airways end of the airport thinking that we MUST have the day right this time because she told Pat on the phone she wasn't coming yesterday. (Oh yes, I didn't tell you about the mix-up over the days, did I)

Anyway because we had plenty of time we left the house in a hurry, Pat leaving behind her phone and me leaving behind all thought of corporal comfort.

I needed the loo.

Easyjet passengers do not warrant a loo in the arrivals area so I had to go into the main building to find succour. While I was there I thought, "what if..." and decided to wander down to the BA end of the building, whereupon I perceived a somewhat forlorn looking sister of Patricia's wondering quite what might have happened.

Brief explanations. Warm reunions. All's well, as quoth the immortal bard.

Then home for a quick repast of chicken and sundry bits and bobs before scuttling off in the bigger car (we have, of course, over 40 cars) to collect the newly repaired oven.

"It was the security catch on the door, sir. Nothing to do with the previous repair at all."

Oh well. It's still showing the time at the moment.

Just when you think that you've seen it all -

underwater rugby.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Book review : Romans 8 - 16 for you, by Tim Keller - "for reading, for feeding, for leading"

This is the second volume of a two part presentation of the letter to the Romans, aimed at everyone. This isn't a technical commentary. It's written at a popular level and should be accessible to most Christians, useful for personal study, for Bible study groups, for one-to-one studies, etc.

It's a very helpful book. Tim Keller has a simplicity and an economy to his writing that makes the book very easy to read. At the same time he discusses all the big questions that the latter half of Romans raises, quoting Lloyd Jones a lot, as well as other writers and commentators like John Stott.

The books would give a good overview of the gospel for Christians, either read individually or in a group, while more experienced Christians would also benefit from reading it or using it as a help for studying Romans.

The book isn't without its more debatable issues.

Keller advocates an ethic of gratitude, which has gone out of favour in some circles.

In his discussion of Israel's unbelief he describes Israel's ignorance as "vincible", and the word is correctly defined in the glossary, but that produced a statement that made no sense at all to me. Perhaps he really meant culpable? Or perhaps I'm just a bit dim.

A future conversion of Israel is taught, though he does mention that not all take the verses this way.

"Incarnational" evangelism is advocated, though it could be strongly questioned in what sense any ministry I undertake could be "incarnational" since I have been rather stubbornly "in the flesh" ever since my mother gave birth to me. Only Christ could really be incarnate , and the day I realised this another nail was hammered into the coffin of my messiah complex.

But these are small and nitpicking points in what is a splendid book. It struck me as I thought about this book, that just as people are adapting John Owen and Jonathan Edwards for the modern reader, so perhaps others will need to adapt Lloyd-Jones to make him accessible to a wider audience. IN a way Keller's book is a start at doing just that.

Well that was a hairy Saturday!

Later on, in a calm house, with the sun shining in through the window, breathing slowly, I hope that the risk I took works out OK...

It was a lady who bought one book and wanted to exchange another and claimed she was going to take it to the bookshop manager tomorrow and so on...

Oh well, if it was a con, it was a con...

A la Maison de la Bible

CATASTROPHE!

The computer that runs the till had had severe problems last night, which meant it crashed and we were not sure whether our somewhat byzantine system had completed all the end of day procedures.

Not only that, but our folk couldn't even look at the system remotely because the pc had crashed and refused to reboot. (I ought to explain that the system runs under Windows XP and is organised centrally from Switzerland)

So the first thing I did when I arrived at the bookshop was to get the PC to boot, then we had to run through the transactions from yesterday, paying particular attention to the credit card transactions, to ensure the system was working.

Oh, and sell a study Bible to a client and advise on the availability of red-letter Bibles. Thankfully my colleague on the end of the phone knew that the Thomson bible is red-letter.

Oh, and advise someone on the perfect book for a nominal catholic who is struggling to reconstruct their marriage after being cheated on. I advised Keller "Le Dieu Prodigue".

Now it's quiet again, the system is working, it's almost 12 o'clock and all is well!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

But how strange the change

from lumper to splitter...

I hope you'll excuse the technical terminology from taxonomy, but I think the meaning will be pretty clear as we go on.

Many moons ago, when the world was young, or at least when I was, I was Senior Pastor and Global Leader in a church in a small, post-industrial town on the very edge of civilisation in North Wales.

We belonged to a Wales-wide group of churches, the AECW, to which we were wholeheartedly committed and in which we invested seriously.

We also belonged to a UK-wide group of churches, the Grace Baptists, to which we were half-heartedly committed and to whose meetings we never went. (Well they were sometimes held in London during the week, though I frequently went to the Grace Assembly.)

We then decided to join a wider fellowship of churches, and opted for the FEBE, the Federation of Evangelical Baptists of Europe. They held conferences in exotic locations like Poland, Mallorca, etc. I never went. Predictable.

At that time I was a lumper. You join. You belong. Locally, nationally, internationally.

Here in France my lumper tendencies have greatly diminished.

This is partly because of a certain feeling of not being entirely on the same page. For example one national protestant body held its annual meetings recently, devoted to the challenge of climate change. I feel like saying, "Hey, come on guys, we're pastors." I studied biology to degree level towards the end of the last century. Our carbon footprint is really not bad now, but I wouldn't dream of thinking I can make a major contribution to the challenge of climate change.  One pastors' conference I attended was addressed by a Cambridge cosmologist. I reckon more than half the folk present didn't understand anything he said. Certainly their questions and remarks bore that out.

Then there's the proliferation of tribes with which I feel at least some measure of affinity (no pun intended). Should we join Acts29? City to City? Why would we choose Acts29 over City to City? Perhaps we should join both? But then we'd have to go to conferences in Paris and in the UK, and even possibly in New York. That would be great fun but we'd have to place ourselves in penury to do it! What if we're not quite where Acts29 are and not quite where City to City are? And what about the French movements (though they are fewer)? Maybe we should start a new movement for folk who think exactly like us? Then we could have our annual conferences in Bordeaux, and save a packet!

So in the end I've ended up in a position very similar to one of my old tutors who lamented the profusion and proliferation of conferences. You can't go to everything. So you have to choose very carefully.




"At least the food is good"

First they decided that dark chocolate is good for you. (YIPPPPEEEEE!)

Then red wine - no more than a glass a day, mind, and it should be a Bordeaux, of course. To be honest with you I can take that one or leave it, but hey...

Then pizza! Yes! Pizza! Because of the cooked tomatoes! (HURRAAAAAAAH)

Porage, of course! (YESSS!)

And now what to take for those irritating persistent coughs?

Honey and coffee. Yes! HONEY AND COFFEE! Here.

I LOVE science!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Frankly, I am rather disappointed about this

More of a misunderstanding than a mistranslation, one often-repeated phrase might have been reinforced by racial stereotypes. During Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai famously said it was ‘too early to tell’ when evaluating the effects of the French Revolution. He was praised for his sage words, seen as reflecting Chinese philosophy; yet he was actually referring to the May 1968 events in France.
http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150202-the-greatest-mistranslations-ever

The Creative Writing Group

Alan entered the flat rather hesitantly.

"We have eleven people today, so I've put the tea and coffee out here."

Alan gazed despairingly at the gorgeous coffee cups. Fine porcelain, shaped like champagne glasses, they seemed paper-thin. One day he KNEW he'd break one. Please, not today. The hot coffee encouraged him and he entered the room, took a seat and folded his arms. Oh who cares about the body language!

"Who did the assignment?" It was to write a descriptive passage of at least 350 words with no adjectives.

Timorous Alan raised a trembling hand. Four other assiduous people had done their assigned homework.

"Alan, would you like to go first?"

Yes, Alan would! It would get it over with! He gazed hopelessly at his text, a description of a character from his childhood, "Gladys". He thought of all the best Welsh voices: Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton, Andrew Davies (but not too loud or booming). "Good vowels, lad", he told himself, and off he went.

People's comments were very affirming. They always were. It was always the most positive group Alan could imagine. "All are writers." "All do well."

The others read their beautifully constructed texts. One lady kept a count of adjectives. Alan had two, both of which he had knowingly cheated with : velvet and four (twice).

Then the new folk introduced themselves.

A journalist. Alan gasped inwardly!
A novelist. Oh dear...
Another journalist. Help!
A blogger.

Then it was the turn of the... "old folk"

"And Alan?"

"Cough cough cough I'm a pastor."

"Sorry, what? Did you say a PASTOR?" On reflection perhaps he could have spoken more loudly and clearly.

"Yes, I'm not a writer, though I work with people and with words. Words and people. That's me. I do have a funny sort of eclectic blog."

Musique pour mardi

Hhmmm. The Oven saga continues.

So I booked a car to take the stupid oven all the way back to the repair place in Bègles. But before I set out to get the car I thought I'd phone the people I bought it from and also Samsung.

I phoned CDiscount. This is an internet sales firm based just outside Bordeaux so I like to do business with them. Well, I used to.

"We have the same problem again with the oven."

"You'll have to take it back to the repair place."

"Each time I do that it takes a couple of hours and we have to hire a car.
You did suggest we post it but can you imagine the cost of posting a microwave oven?"

"Well I'll give you Samsung's number, but we can only replace it if a repair is not possible.
Oh, and can you fill in the questionnaire about the service you received on this call."

"Well, the oven isn't fixed yet..."

"No, it's just about the call."

Well I filled it in. The man on the line was very nice but the oven still doesn't work, so my comments were not terribly positive.

I phoned Samsung. "Oh yes, I see it's already been repaired once."

"Yes, last week."

"Well you'll have to take it back to the repair place."

"But every time I do that it takes a couple of hours and costs about €40.
I hope this is the last time I take it there!"

I took the oven to the repair place. The guy was surprised to see me. I said I was surprised to be there.

"Exactly the same thing. Everything else in the house is working."

He said to phone them, but they'll contact me when the oven is sorted out. Or whatever...

Samsung also had an exit questionnaire. Humph.

Still, it's all grist to the linguistic mill, explaining what went wrong and how and so on!


Vous êtes Belge, non? Ou Suisse?

The elderly lady had started up a conversation on the tram after teetering to her seat.

"No", quoth I. "I'm Welsh" (she looked baffled) "from Wales".

"Ah! D'accord!"

She was a Very Nice Lady, and a true Bordelaise!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Soumission, by Michel Houellebecq

With the ongoing hoo-hah I thought I ought to have a go at reading this book which is currently France's number 1 bestseller, as notorious as it is famous. It's my first time reading Houellebecq. He's a controversial author at the best of times because he writes obscene passages. His book, the Periodic Table, les Particules Elémentaires, I'd heard, is particularly graphic.

So, forewarned, I bought a copy of the book from the Kindle store. My impressions?

It's a clever story. The idea is that France, with most of Europe, has lurched politically towards the extreme right. The centre right and left parties are reduced to virtual impotence. Meanwhile a sizeable muslim party has grown, representing the islamic folk of France who identify morally with the right wing, but who are alienated from it by their immigrant status. In the 2022 elections the socialists and the muslim party negotiate a coalition to keep the extreme right out of office and France's first Islamic President is elected. He brings in a wide list of changes:

Legalised polygamy, with a reduced legal age for marriage for women

Women no longer work, thus enabling thousands of men to reenter the workplace

Greatly reduced education of women bringing vast savings to the education budget

Saudi sponsorship of universities, such as the Islamic University of the Sorbonne

Greatly reduced social security budget achieved by encouraging alms-giving and women caring for their extended families
etc. etc.

The protagonist is a very unlikeable character who is the world's foremost expert on Huysmans. (Presumably there is in fact someone who really is the world's foremost expert on Huysmans...) Our protagonist is enjoying an affair with one of his ex-students who is of Jewish stock. Pushed by Europe's political trends she emigrates to Israel with her family. To our protagonist she had always been chiefly a source of physical delight, so he turns to prostitutes. These encounters produce two passages which are the most obscene things I have ever read. Not that I am ALL that experienced in reading obscene literature, but I can see why Houellebecq has the reputation he does.

Our protagonist is a lecturer at the Sorbonne, but flees Paris because of the upheavals that follow the elections. He returns to find a letter offering him early retirement on a full index-linked pension. He accepts, but later discovers that those lecturers who stayed in town were contacted and those who converted to Islam and stayed on to teach are rewarded with massive salaries, funded by the Saudis. Meanwhile he is asked to supervise the Pleiades edition of Huysmans works, accepts, then is recruited again to lecture at the Sorbonne and explores the possibility of converting to Islam. The book ends with him contemplating his conversion, his future marriages and his academic career.

Parts of the book are very funny. One passage had me laughing out loud on the bus. Our protagonist (you can tell I have forgotten his name) is being persuaded to convert to Islam and he hears a somewhat Francis Schaeffer style account of how Europe in losing its Christian faith lost its soul and became a zombie civilisation, doomed to collapse. This is demonstrated by appeals to the history of art, literature and music. Our protagonist feels an echo in his own heart as he thinks about an account he read of a turn of the century Paris brothel and the various services offered which nowadays have been so completely forgotten that nobody even knows what the names mean, let alone how to perform the act. Proof positive of a civilisation that has lost its soul. At more than one level.

So much for the book. Meanwhile Houellebecq has been giving interviews saying that he feels that he can no longer hold to the atheism of his former years, because of the evidence of design in creation. He has become at least agnostic. French readers can read about that here.

Well there we are. Houellebecq.

Foiled again!

Last night Miguel our Mexicano would be at church, but also Irma, a Mexicana visiting on placement from seminary. 

So on the way to church I was practicing,"?como te llamas? ?y de donde eres?" and so on.

But when Irma entered the church she immediately spotted Miguel, made a bee-line for him and off they went in Spanish.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

It's that time of the year again :

Stormtime!

Yesterday was MEGAWET and MEGAWINDY.

I eventually shut the shutters on the westward side of the house where the weather comes from, just in case.

I thought of that day in 2009 when one Saturday we sat and listened to the constant wind, hearing occasional roof-tiles move, wondering what we would find when we could emerge from the house. That year one house in our area lost ALL its roof and another had a tree crush half its roof. Our garden fences fell, giving us the rather nice "jardin public" between our houses for a couple of weeks.

This weather wasn't nearly as bad. In fact it wasn't even classed as a storm. Just gusts (rafales).

This morning all seems OK. No fences down. No trees fallen.

An anxious day ... until

The task before us this year was dawning on me yesterday as I faffed around to get the repaired oven back.

Downsizing means :

1) selling the house after April, when the tram come almost to the door.

2) redecorating in probably three rooms. Touching up in others.

3) dramatically reducing our books. Watch for treasures on Amazon!

4) and our furniture. Will this mean I have to sell my fake Brynmawr chair?

5) and the normal spring garden slash-and-dump

We need to get shot of:

sofas, bunk beds, wardrobes (unless we leave them here), tables, chairs, garden furniture, books, bikes?, LOADS of stuff!

So yesterday morning, thinking of our typical week, I wondered when we would actually accomplish these feats!

Then I wondered whether anyone would actually fancy buying our house, with all the foibles and drawbacks we have lived with over these years.

Then my crazy friend came round. My most unusual and barking mad friend, he is terminally ill with lung cancer (but has been all the years I've known him) and has taught me all the WORST words in French that I know I could never use. You can usually work out the meaning of these words, but reading Houellebecq confirmed my analysis.

Time does not allow me to list the proofs of his craziness. But yesterday he really helped me enormously. He LOVES our house. He imagines it fetching ENORMOUS prices. "Add a pool, it wouldn't cost much, perhaps 7000 euros, and you could sell this for half a million!" I'm sure he's wrong, and anyway, who has 7000 euros?, but it did make me think that perhaps the house has features and qualities that I am used to. and it made me think that perhaps we will sell it. Not for half a million, but perhaps we will sell it.

Of course, the real answer to these concerns lies in trust in the providence of God. And we know this. Before coming to France we sold a house that was impossible to sell in less than a week, to the first viewer, and for a good price.
But, unfortunately, sometimes stress and anxiety win.
Until God sends a crazy friend to visit who just takes the edge off!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Well they fixed the oven

in time for our film and pizza evening on Friday.

Remise en état alimentation. Refection connectique.

(That means they fixed the power supply.)

Hurrah!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Peter-Lukas Graf : César Franck : Sonate pour Flûte traversière et piano 4ème mouvement

It appears that the oven is fixed

I just received an email advising me of the "mise à disposition de votre appareil au comptoir".

Oh well, I know what I'm doing first thing tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Non non non non non non non non non non

Well faced with the possibility of tottering through the park with a microwave oven balanced on my noggin or booking a citiz car to take it to the repair place in Bègles I'll let you guess what I chose.

At 8 am the big car with the flat boot floor was free. I showered and came back to book it. It was taken. So I booked it from 1 till 5.

1:03 found me in the car heading off to the supermarket with Pat's list in my sweaty mitt. 2pm found me en route for Bègles with the oven/microwave combination securely in the boot, along with a bag containing the shelf, turntable, the bizarre steaming contraption, etc. etc. "You must take everything", the lady had said, "together with a written description of the problem and a copy of the receipt."

So I printed out a copy of the receipt, wrote on it in big letters "AUCUN SIGNE DE VIE" and popped it in the bag with the shelf, turntable, the bizarre steaming contraption, etc. etc.

I found the place with little difficulty and went in.

"I have a faulty oven/ microwave combination."

"Bring it in."

I staggered in with the oven, then sprinted back to get the back with the shelf, turntable, bizarre contraption for steaming, etc. etc. I plonked the bag on the table.

"C'est quoi, ça?"

"C'est toutes les accessoires. Samsung m'a dit de les apporter."

"Non non non non non non non non non non non."

"Non non non non non non non non non non non?" I replied, taken aback. The man smiled.

"On n'a pas besoin de tout ça.

He typed on a sheet N'allume pas. "Il faut compter une comblée de semaine."

Well every day you hear a new expression.

"Huit jours", he said, which was when I realised that I had been looking baffled.

"D'accord. Merci bien. Au revoir." and off I trotted to return the car and then go home on the bus 4, bag with shelf, turntable, bizarre steaming contraption, etc. etc. in hand.

The bus 4 was gravely perturbed by striking taxi-drivers, but we all made it home anyway.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pens

I don't know if I have blogged about pens in the past, but they're pretty wonderful if you find a good one. I have very bad memories of those blotchy biros we used to have at school - the ones with long ends made to look like old-fashioned ink pens. They left globs of sticky ink that would get on your hands and you couldn't get it off. Nasty.

Anyway at present I am a fan of two types of pen.

Firstly the PaperMate InkJoy Quatro four colour ballpen. I have found two different kinds of this pen, one with pretty normal colours : black, blue, green and red, and one with rather more girlie colours : violet, magenta, indigo, lime green, etc. To be honest, I am not entirely sure what these other colours are, but they are easily distinguished from the normal ones, so they work for me!

This gives me eight colours for mind-mapping and means that I can just take two pens with me and still take notes separating  the different headings with different colours. Very convenient.



Secondly, I have just discovered the Hero 616 fountain pen. Well, I say I just discovered it, but really many years ago I read about this pen in an article about Parker 51 copies from China. Then a couple of weeks ago I saw one on Amazon and ordered it. And it's quite phenomenal. Being a Chinese pen made for the Chinese market it is very, very inexpensive and it looks just like a Parker 51, but with the addition of a window to see how ink you have left. It has a fine nib and writes sensationally well.




OK, so we can either post or take the oven to Bègles to be fixed.

It would be fun to try and post it. I can just see the lady in the La Poste as I heave it onto the scales...

I think I'll reserve an Autocool car and take it myself.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Setting foot in a better world

As I type Greece is going to the polls, Japanese hostages may be dead, slaughtered by cynical people who claim to act for God, North East Nigeria lives in fear, the Middle East is in turmoil and the best opinion of scientists is that we are fast heading for the end of the world as we know it.

And we're going to church.
We're setting foot in the world to come.
So that we can act with confidence and hope in this sad and passing world.