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, July 02, 2016

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.

It's a miracle!

I'm interested in the football!

Well, let's not get carried away. I still don't care much about football and I'm not sure I could cope with the stress of actually watching a whole match.

But I do care a lot about this team. I think they show us so much!

1) A slogan that's not just a slogan.

Together. Stronger. Gorau chwarae cyd chwarae. Ensemble. Plus fort.

They show us that the team slogan is not just empty words. They actually mean it, and try to live it, and enjoy it, and have found it to be true, and in a funny way they have made the whole of Wales part of their team.

And there's something so attractive about that. Belgian fans last night applauded Welsh supporters!

2) There's no "I" in team.

That's what they say. Except there is in Welsh. Team is spelt tîm. "I" right at the heart of team..

I think the idea that there is no I in team is destructive. I'll tell you why.

At the beginning of the tournament people mocked the Welsh team by saying that it was a team of one player, Gareth Bale. Now it is true that Gareth Bale is at the heart of the team, and he gives 100% of himself. But so is and so do Aaron Ramsey, Joe Ledley, Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and all the rest.

A team only works if I am in it, and if I give 100%.
And when all the team is in it 100% then you have something special.

There is I in team, and there is U. (Yes, I know that is terribly cheesy.)

3) They enjoy being a team.

Articles have shared something of their life outside training and matches. They play quizzes. They go on outings. They kick balls around with people on the beach, They visit the war grave of Hedd Wyn. They sing. They dance. They genuinely have fun together. They will remember this tournament all their lives not just for the games they won  and lost but for the genuine friendship.

4) They accept each other.

They aren't clones. They're all different. But they belong together and together they are stronger.

5) They dare to fail.

"Don't be afraid to dream. Don"t be afraid to fail." said their manager, Chris Coleman. It's genius! When you know it's OK to fail then you try harder, and try harder things!

6) No prima donna

I mean, Chris Coleman! What a manager. He is in it 100%, but you get the sense that he is just another player in the team. And they all seem genuinely delighted with each other and with what they have achieved.

Now then. The semi-finals. Who would have dared to dream that?

Friday, July 01, 2016

Et tu Daily Mail

I never fancied the idea of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, especially with Donald Trump as US Presidential candidate. I said, "The clowns are taking over the circus."

However, I wouldn't have wished the past couple of days on the poor old fellow. First his colleague, Michael Gove, puts the knife in.
Now they're all at it. "If this charlatan had become Prime Minister I'd have emigrated", says Max Hastings in the Daily Mail.

"Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" comes to mind. How quickly it all changes! In a wink some emails are leaked, a course is taken, and a genial but brilliant clown becomes a charlatan, subjected to the most severe public rebuke by Michael Heseltine.

It explains a lot. When we left the UK in 2005 Gordon Brown was a good fellow whose watchword was prudence and who would safely guide the country. When we returned on holiday in 2006 he was now publicly reviled as some kind of monster. I didn't understand. Well, I mean I did, but not like I understand now after the Boris affair. The wind changes and down you go.

Watch out everyone. The mob is fickle.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Disposing of the old sofa

Our old big sofa was given to us in 1994, shortly after we moved into The Meadows, Shotton Lane. It's a big American three-seater sofa and came with its sister, a two-seater. Together they dominated our living room along with a swivelling, rocking armchair, which in the end went to live in my study and now is back in the living room.

Anyway, now we have bought our first new sofa! It unfolds to make a really big bed. And the old sofa has gone to live temporarily on the patio.

The smaller sister found a home about six months ago in a student flat, but although we advertised the bigger one nobody showed any interest. It's big, you see. Very big. And seriously worn. It needs re-covering, really.

Anyway yesterday evening we were reminded of a student recycling project that takes old stuff, repairs it and finds it a good home. I contacted them via their Facebook page and they're coming to get the old sofa on Monday.

Jolly good!

Wednesday was a little more calm!

Morning in the bookshop, followed by shopping at Auchan on the way home. Then catching up on emails, cutting Gwilym's hair and preparation for the Maison de la Bible AGM in the evening.

The AGM was a very happy affair and was followed by a super meal together. Pat and I declared a truce on our detox for one evening.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Followed by big Tuesday

The agenda included:

1) going with Gwilym to Ikea, buying a sofa bed, hiring a van and getting the thing back to the flat.

Mission accomplished. The VW transporter van, though fairly enthusiastically dented on all sides, ran well and we got the sofa home in its boxes. IT WAS VERY HEAVY INDEED.

2) returning the van within the time limit of the rental, which I did comfortably.

3) Meeting up with some folks who work with students and who hope to bring a team to Bordeaux. We looked at the city and discussed the various things that are going on.

4) Awaiting Pat's return from Geneva in the evening.

We slept comfortably on our new sofa bed!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Big day off today

1) Day two of back to running - except I slept late. Very late. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

2) Detox day. Detox means no caffeine, no chocolate, no fruit, no carbohydrates except porage first thing, no dairy. I have to do this for 5 days.

3) Gwilym comes home this evening! So I have to get ready by:

4) Washing bedding

5) Getting shopping (carbs, caffeine, fruit, chocolate, dairy, all for the others!)

6) Meanwhile Mrs Davey is in Geneva and returns tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

When everything is equally important

One of the rich and interesting challenges of Christian service is that Christians are people of conviction. Missionaries perhaps even more so. A certain determination and firm-mindedness is necessary to face up to the obstacles involved in cross-cultural ministry. This can, of course, lead to tension, because not every conviction is shared by all.

What sometimes helps us is to see that not all convictions are equally important, and not all positions can be held or argued in the same way.

For example, we make a serious mistake if we give musical style in worship the same importance that we give to the nature of God or the person of Christ. Neither Luther nor Calvin sang Isaac Watts. Augustine would not have recognised a Geneva jig. (Try singing a traditional French psalm one day and you'll find out why they had that nickname!) But all shared the same convictions about the trinity and about the hypostatic union. Some things change. Others stay the same.

I want to venture, humbly and gently, to suggest that the way we argue for things could and ought to reflect their importance in our convictions.

For example, maybe people are right to ride into battle about the question of subordination being an inherent feature of the nature of the trinity, though it is always good to moderate our language. Speak forcefully with gentle words. Try to avoid calling brothers heretics if we can!

But when we ride into battle for a biblical view of nations and try to equate the United Kingdom with some concept held in biblical times I think we're on MUCH more shaky ground. Which biblical times? Abraham's? Moses'? Isaiah's? Luke's? A democratic, constitutional monarchy, composed of four nations, with several languages and a very mixed genetic make-up, reflecting millennia of immigration? Whatever would Solomon make of that? Were the Celts the first people to arrive in these islands? We don't even know! So let's tread carefully, eh? We are guests in these islands. The earth belongs to God, not to us.

Otherwise what will we do when the United Kingdom is Untied and becomes the Kingdom of England, with an independent European Scotland and a semi-united Ireland? Perhaps in the end the reestablishment of the kingdom of Wessex should be our goal? Or a new Boudicca reining perhaps from a renewed Colchester?

Likewise the EU. Whether we voted for or against Brexit, none of us knows what the future holds, short-term or long-term. We may rejoice with those wonderful, extravagant Independence Day parties or we may mourn and explore our Scottish or Irish ancestry for possible passport options, but in the end Christians know that God is working out his plan to save his people from every nation, tongue and tribe, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ.

And in that we are all agreed.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

OK. Here's a plan

I thought, "Carte de Séjour". They can grant you a ten-year Carte de Séjour which will give the possibility of staying until retirement in the UK.

So I started to research online. Where I found lots of helpful government websites...

It transpires that after living five years in France you can apply for French nationality.
This contrasts interestingly with the UK where, for non-europeans, after five years if you aren't earning over £30,000 a year, home you go. Well-loved teacher? Tough!

Anyway, people applying for French nationality can retain other nationalities.

So, since we have lived in France for 11 years, we can in theory become French, hence European for the remainder of the twilight of the European experiment, and still stay subjects of Her Britannic Majesty and watch her United Kingdom untied.

This sounds like a plan.

OK - I've started looking into getting a Carte de Séjour - a residency permit

and in principle if you have been resident in France for five years, working, paying your bills, etc, then you can obtain a permanent residency permit, permanent being ten years renewable.

I'll need to amass quite a bit of documentation to prove five-years' residency, but it shouldn't be beyond the wit of man.

C25K - back on track

Got my shoes on.
Got out there.
Just 3km for now, and I'll build back up.
It felt good (though hard!) to be moving again.
And glorious to see the vines at sunrise.

Brexit: the personal consequences

As yet unknown.

But we're likely:

1) to have some difficult moments regarding our support. Financial support is given in pounds sterling and we are paid in euros. If the pound flourishes as predicted then things will be great. If the pound languishes as predicted, then things will be very tough.

2) to lose the right to drive - at present we don't have to exchange our UK licence for a French one, and I am reluctant to do that for the sake of ten years' service. If we get back to the old situation where you have to exchange your licence, then I'd rather just lose the right to drive here.

3) to need a carte de séjour. A residence permit. I am tempted to apply for one now. They last ten years, so if we apply for one now it could take us up to retirement.

4) to rethink retirement - at present we are heading back to the UK in ten years' time. However the UK may change a lot over the next few years. What will the NHS be like with all the new funding injected into it? How will Wales fare? What will happen to house prices? How will Brexit affect our UK state pensions? My UK pension plans? Our French pension?

Whatever happens, God is sovereign and I'm sure we'll be OK.
But obviously we'll have to take decisions based on how the situation unfolds.

Brexit: Look behind

What concerns me most about Brexit is not the immediate consequences of
the loss of European funding for some of the poorest areas of Britain,
or the instability of the markets,
the end of the Erasmus programme,
the UK being left without any aircraft carrier (we share one with the French),

What concerns me most is not so much what we have done, but what lies behind it. And I am concerned that in the generation that did not live through the horrors of the World War Two and the struggle against the extreme right, that we are drifting slowly further to the right.

Oh well. It will be interesting.

Brexit : Look beyond!

Great providence of heaven–
What wonders shine
In its profound display
Of God’s design:
It guards the dust of earth,
Commands the hosts above,
Fulfils the mighty plan
Of his great love
The kingdoms of this world
Lie in its hand;
See how they rise or fall
At its command
Through sorrow and distress,
Tempestuous storms that rage,
God’s kingdom yet endures
From age to age
Its darkness dense is but
A radiant light;
Its oft-perplexing ways
Are ordered right.
Soon all its winding paths
Will end, and then the tale
Of wonder shall be told
Beyond the veil.
(Hymn by David Charles, 1762-1834;
Translated from Welsh by Edmund Tudor Owen)

Friday, June 24, 2016


What I feared.
Oh well, in a context of increasing division, the work of an International Church is even more important.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why I am not voting in the referendum tomorrow.

Already voted!

There's no place like home.

Waze, the satnav app, guided me safely to the hire car depot where I returned the Flying Pistachio and waited with bated breath while the man checked it over. I hadn't consciously hit anything or been hit by anything, but you never really know. "It's fine", he said, and I danced and sang.

The Flying Pistachio was a Fiat 500 in very pale green. It was actually quite practical for one person, and would have done for two. Four would have been too cosy by far. It's worst fault was the sheer number of Fiat 500s on British roads now. I had one nasty experience in a BIG car park where I just couldn't pick it out from all the myriad other Fiat 500s. My dodgy colour vision didn't help. I had to carefully retrace my route into the car park in my mind to be able to find the car.

I had an agreeable flight, aided by my long-legs seat, extra bag allowance and speedyherding. Bags stowed, I caught up on some sleep. Too many late nights.

At the airport one of the Bordeaux public transport apps suggested I take the usual buses. "But they're on strike!" The other suggested I phone for an Uber car or walk. So I did the default long route. Bus 1 into town, bus 4 out.

I was sat next to two large bearded fellows wearing the green. After a short period of self-doubt where I wondered if we'd understand anything each other said, I asked the nearest one if they were through yet. His accent wasn't too strong. We chatted about Bordeaux (they love it), the Irish fans (just one big party) and the French police (very helpful, they're great). You know, I could get into football. Especially if I didn't have to watch the matches. This tournament has really brought something special to Bordeaux, I think.

"We've had a good time."
"I know. I've seen the videos. (he laughed) Were you under the bridge?"
"No!", he said, laughing more.

When I got home Catrin was out with mates, Pat was swinging in the hammock on the patio, the sun was shining and the world looked happy and cheerful. And it was Fête de la Musique.

After low-carb dinner I changed into my new African shirt (thanks Gwilym) and we wandered into Pessac Centre for a couple of hours.

We heard:

some rappers
a fife band
a music school orchestra
a local choir singing songs from all over the world
a recorder ensemble ( they were very good)
a gospel choir singing the Hallelujah chorus (we left on the first "for the Lord God omnipotent)
a choir singing settings of Shakespeare, including one by "the English composer", William Mathias (gasp)
and the stars of the evening, Madison Street Family, a funk band not unlike Maceo Parker, featuring Elodie, the vocalist and my friend Cyril on trumpet.

After a couple of numbers by Madison we wended our weary way homeward, thankful and tired.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Church visits drawing peacefully to a close

Well there we are!

Church visits for 2016 are almost over. Tomorrow I fly home from Bristol to Bordeaux.

I will say goodbye to my hire car, a pastel green Fiat 500 which I nicknamed The Flying Pistachio. I will also say goodbye to horribly congested motorways and to driving through torrential downpours. These farewells will fill me with joy.

I have absented myself from Facebook until after the EU referendum, mainly because the whole of my Facebook feed turned into what I can only describe as a bad issue fo the Daily Mail. We had scaremongering, of course, and the most immoderate language. "Don't trust a single word coming out of France or Germany about the referendum" was the last straw for me. I have already voted. You will see me on Facebook again once the vote is over and the shouting is over.

It is always humbling to visit our supporting churches. I am convinced that all the good things that have happened in Bordeaux have been direct answers to the prayers of many many people. You can see that very clearly in the way this year has unfolded.

Some of the churches I visited are burgeoning. Others less so. All are facing great challenges.

One big regret is that I haven't spent time visiting friends who support us personally, rather then through their churches. I wonder whether we can do something about that. Patricia and I must get our thinking caps on and see what we can come up with.

I have missed home life as usual. I miss my nice strong coffee. I miss my morning running. I miss Bordeaux. And, of course, above all I miss Catrin and Patricia.

Teg edrych tuag adref. It feels good to look homeward.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Vous venez encore pour chanter?

Those were the words I was greeted with by the representative of the town hall who had come to give a speech at the start of the performance of "A Threepenny Opera" given by Catrin and her comrades. I just laughed!

They had already presented the opera some months ago in a bar in the centre of Bordeaux, and it had been great then, but now they had a proper theatre with a reasonably sized stage, a good piano that was in tune and no cables lying everywhere.

And it was really very good indeed.  Here's a video of Catrin's song as naive Polly Peachum, tricked into "marrying" Macheath, arch-villain and subject of the song Mack the Knife.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Cheeky monkeys

I did wonder what would happen.

You see, François Hollande, President of the French Republic, was inaugurating the Cité du Vin yesterday at Bordeaux.

And his government is locked in conflict with the French unions over a proposal to  liberalise employment law, permitting a longer working day and less overtime payment - work more to earn less, one might say (travailler plus pour gagner moins).

So they cut the power to the part of the city where the new wine museum has been built.

Haha! Cheeky monkeys!

But the museum is equipped with generators; They kicked in, and nobody noticed anything.

Oh well...

Catrin's examination

The examination hall was in the basement of Pessac library, known as the Médiathèque Jacques Ellul, named after the lawyer, philosopher and reformed theologian who lived in Pessac and taught at the university. The auditorium is a decent little theatre and as we arrived crowds of children, their parents and various other people were climbing the stairs to get out. It took us a good five minutes to get into our seats.

Catrin's class looked very numerous as they crowded into the first two rows. We were with the folk scattered across the rest of the seats.

A representative from the town hall, who I knew vaguely from my days on the Music school committee, stood up to explain the evening and how it fitted into the festival "En Bonne Voix", Pessac's song festival. Then the evening was kicked off.

On the stage stood a piano, two guitars, an amplifier, and a couple of radio microphones. On the back wall of the stage a list of songs was projected. A volunteer chose a song. The appropriate student went to his instrument, the lyrics appeared on the wall of the stage and the volunteer proceeded to sing, accompanied by the student.

It was a karaoke evening.

I've never been to a karaoke evening before, and I was a little apprehensive. Catrin had texted me earlier in the evening giving me her permission, nay, her encouragement to sing. But I wasn't sure I could pull it off.

Anyway as one person then another chose songs and sang we were having a ball! Everyone was encouraged to join in the chorus. Some people obviously didn't know the song as well as they thought they did, so the students sang along to help them out. Some songs are very hard.

Catrin's course leader explained that there were perhaps four or five songs that needed to be sung so students could be evaluated. One was "Et si tu existais pas". A lively gentlemen in spectacles was one game old duffer and the star of the show, working his way through three different ballads. He accepted to sing "Et si tu n'existais pas", but he called on a little team to help him. Pat volunteered. Catrin accompanied calmly.

Other songs followed. Then Pat cried out "Allez! La mer!" and I found myself on stage with Pat at my side, Catrin at the piano, belting out "La mer" as best I could. It's a very low song, you know.

There or four more songs brought us to 10:30, the end of the show, another little speech from someone at the mairie, then a nice walk home along the vineyards, down into the basement of the flats and home.

Best exam I've ever seen!

Monday, May 30, 2016

I HAVE to tell you about two things that are brilliant

The first is our strimmer / lawn mower. It's a really nicely designed Black and Decker strimmer which comes with a little cart, a four-wheeled contraption into which you clip the strimmer, which thus transforms into a lawn mower.

I was a little doubtful when I first saw it. It just seemed like one of those ideas that are too good to work. There had to be a catch. But the reviews on Amazon were glowing.

Now for doing a golf course it would be a disaster, but for being stored on a shelf on the patio and mowing the lawn of a ground-floor bijou apartmentette it is JUST AMAZING. This morning I whizzed round the lawn before the rain started, including strimming against the patio and the walls and between the hedge shrubs in about 15 minutes flat, without rushing.

The next thing that is just amazing is our running shoes. See, when we decided to do this couch to 5K thing it was obvious that we would need running shoes. What was NOT so obvious was whether we would keep going on the programme and whether we would keep running after completing it. And have you seen the price of running shoes?

No, I hadn't either, so I popped into the little branch of Decathlon in the middle of town to see what they had. And the prices started at just short of 13€.

13€ is under £10.

I thought that they must have been made in sweatshops by young people who were sending all their money home to the village, and that's probably true. I also thought that they may last the time of the C25K programme but then they'd fall apart. That has proved to be untrue. Instead they're just very good indeed!

They're light and supportive, well-cushioned and they stay reasonably clean. I've run in them since January and they show every sign of lasting for at least a year, and that's not bad given the heffalump that goes storming round the lanes in them, and above all, given the price.

Let's hope all is OK for Thursday!

I fly to the UK on Thursday. Here's my itinerary:

Thursday 2nd June fly to Bristol, England 
Sunday 5th am Blackburn (two churches services in the morning)
Tuesday 7th Fflint Evangelical Church
Wednesday 8th Borras Park Evangelical Church, Wrexham
(from Monday 6th to Wednesday 8th I'll attend the Bala Ministers' Conference)
Sunday 12th Bath (a service in the evening)
Monday 13th Watford
Tuesday 14th Swindon
Wednesday 15th PenyBryn
Thursday 16th Darlington
Sunday 19th Clydach am, Emmanuel Cardiff pm
I fly home on Tuesday 21st June.

How here's the thing. A strike affecting airports is planned for Friday, the day after I fly.

Hang on! What's this?

From yesterday evening's reading:

9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken:“Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one."

As we read John 18:1-12 from the service sheets I started to smell a rat. Some of the sentences were... well they were undeniably English, but not as she is spoke, not as we know her...

When we got to verse 9 whoever was reading stumbled.

"Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one."

I thought, OK, so how many have you lost not? One. And how many have you lost? All except one.

Or could it mean "I have lost not one" but several..?

The formulation was unclear and not at all like spoken contemporary English.

I apologised, "I'm sorry but I have an awful feeling that I did not copy this passage from the NIV."

I was right. Oops!

We saw some segways swarming in the centre of Bordeaux

Last Friday's run, and this morning's

Last Friday I had a most splendid time. The sunrise was wonderful and I met a little labrador puppy who was taking his owner for a walk. I first saw them attempting to cross an empty road as I ran down it. The dog was keen to follow me but he couldn't get his owner to cooperate. A nice little training challenge.

As I came up alongside the vines I met them again, as I thought I would. "Alors, qui promène qui?" I asked the guy. "Bonne question." he said. His dog was just adorable. Again he fancied running on with me, but his owner had other Ideas, so I left them having a nice tug of war as I continued on.

The morning continued with breakfast on the terrace. Porage al fresco.

This morning I saw them again and met them more or less in the same place.

"Ah, j'espérais te voir!" I said to the dog.

"On vous attendait."

"Alors, est-ce qu'il est un peu plus sage? Il commence a comprendre qu'il faut te suivre?"

"Oh, ça va venir."

"Non, je parlais pas à vous, je parlais au chien..."

"Ah oui..."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Help! Help! We are being held prisoner against our will!

well, perhaps not quite...

It appears that some kind of loose screw is stopping the front door of the block of flats from opening.

It's just as well that there is a secondary door in the basement as well as the vehicular access.

Late update:
Mrs Davey found a trail of blood leading from the car parking area into the lift.
She followed the trail as far as she could but she didn't find any body.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

This could get quite interesting

The Football tournament kicks off next week, amidst political turmoil in France because of widespread rejection of the loi du travail, proposed by the government and opposed by pretty much all the unions.

The proposed law aims to relax some of the strict controls on, for example, the length of the working day, as well as changing the rules on overtime pay, and how to lay people off if a company is not making sufficient profit.

So far we've had train strikes, but now many of the oil refineries are on strike which means that quite a lot of France has no petrol or diesel.

There is the threat of shutting down the power-stations, which would mean inevitable power-cuts, of course, as well as the failure of a large amount of public transport, the trains and trams being electrified.

Next Friday there is a three-day air-traffic controllers strike planned.

And all this just as the holiday season begins and just as the football tournament starts.

M. Holland must feel under considerable pressure, but although his is a socialist government so far they are bullish. "The CGT union does not make the laws in this country!"

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oh how I love the feeling you get when you have completed your income tax declaration

The feeling of achievement, of a deadline met, of having steered your way through the red tape is wonderful. The threatened cloud has passed. The sky is blue.

It is rendered all the more euphoric when the calculator at the end tots up the tax you owe to be zero.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It was not a macabre murder

It seems that the headless corpse found at Saige would not have been the victim of a brutal and violent murder.

Instead it transpires that the history would be of two motorcyclists who had a well-watered evening at the Foire de Bordeaux before heading home. On the way one motorcyclist would have fallen off the back of the bike and would have been dragged along the road, killing him and removing one arm and half his head (grim, eh?) When the surviving motorcyclist would have realised what happened he would have called the police.

The surviving motorcyclist is in police custody.

(Newspapers in France write of alleged events in the conditional mood.)

A morning run interrupted

I was a little earlier out of the house this morning, so I was rewarded with an even more beautiful sunrise. It meant that my "run" was punctuated by photo sessions. All "instagrammed", I'm afraid.

Oh yes. And I  worked out why I count my steps in fives!
It's my asthma. Breathing in is easy, breathing out is harder, so I tend to breathe in in two beats and breathe out in three.

Mystery solved.

Car hire

Wow! This thing where you print out all the details of your driving licence is great!

A macabre discovery and an unpleasant journey

The news broke yesterday that a headless corpse had been discovered on Sunday night in a car park at the Saige housing estate in Pessac. Understandably people are keen to solve this mystery.

Last night Catrin went to the GBU meeting which takes place in the grounds of the Bagatelle hospital on the borders of Talence and Begles. It's an awkward place to get to, involving bus, tram and lots of walking.

Last night tram B was not running - engineering works - so a bus service was laid on. Catrin was being happily whisked past the Saige housing estate in Pessac (see above) towards Pessac Centre when the driver said, "Sorry, I'm lost. I'm going to have to return to the centre of Bordeaux." and proceeded to go right round a roundabout and head back.

The passengers' responses were not enthusiastic.
"Phone for directions!"
"Use your GPS, that's what it's for."
"No, I can't do that."
"We can guide you to Pessac Centre."
"No, I'm going back to the centre of Bordeaux. You'll all have to get off."

He dropped them at 22:45 just by the Saige housing estate in Pessac (see above).

Catrin was unnerved.
But then another shuttle bus came by, heading for Pessac Centre, so they ran across the road, arms waving, and thankfully the bus driver took them on.

A foodie day

Well yesterday was our day off, but only sort of because it started with a team morning at Maison de la Bible, involving a brief encouragement from the Bible, followed by a time of prayer, some practical points to note about procedures. Apparently there's one particular manipulation you can do in the computer system that freezes it for all the bookshops throughout France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy! When I worked in computing this would be seen as a major bug and it would be top priority to fix the system so nobody could do that again, but it is now over 25 years since I worked in computing and nowadays you just tell people not to do it. I have to admit to being tempted...

From the Maison de la Bible we moseyed over to the Allées de Tourney to see the Epicuriales once more. There's a kind of Bordeaux bucket list of things you really ought to do, like climb the Tour Pey Berland, walk across the Pont de Pierre, ride on the BatCUB boats, etc. It includes eating at L'Entrecote. We were invited there by a friend. It also includes eating at the Epicuriales, so we thought we'd get it over with.

We were a little early so we looked at the reception stand and discovered that they do a kind of cooking workshop for 2€ where you prepare some small snack, guided by one of the chefs. We signed up and prepared spectacular samosas of duck, lemongrass and ginger accompanied by a basil salsa.

The Epicuriales is a kind of restaurant/café Festival of Booths, when they come and camp out in the middle of town. They then offer a lunch menu at 15€ as well as their à la carte menu at, of course, much more. So we ate chicken and noodles etc, and it was all mighty fine. There. Done that.

In the afternoon we had arranged to meet at English Country Kitchen to size it up. They have approached us about running an English Language activity there on Monday afternoon or perhaps Tuesday early evening. The folks generally approved, but suggested strongly that we ADD these activities to our current Tea and Chat at Dan. OK. Maybe. We're not currently looking for extra jobs to do, but we need to thin it through.

Getting two of the lads to preach

Two of our lads seemed good candidates to ask to preach for us. Mitchell is from the USA, a student in medicine who has already done an internship in a church. During his internship he was supposed to preach, but because of dates it never happened. Lloyd is from the UK and has experience of growing up in an international church in Italy.

We take preaching very seriously and so do Mitch and Lloyd. So we decided to work through some material from David Jackman and from Tim Keller and also to work through their passages with them somewhat. Mitchell got John 15 and Lloyd got John 17.

That have both preached now, both were great, and both were very different in their approach and manner. In the future for both of them as they become useful in whatever churches they settle in they'll know that they have preached in a church setting in the past and they'll remember working through the preparation.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunny Saturday

Yesterday was a beautiful day, wonderfully sunny, it hit about 30°C. So after an early lunch Pat and I went into town.

Catrin had already left to join some friends for the March for Jesus. I'm still not quite sure that marching for Jesus is quite where I'm at, or that marching for Jesus under a blazing sun at 30°C was a very good idea for either of us, so we headed for the Jardin Publique to stroll in the shade of the trees and see what we could see.

Afterwards we went back into town, through the tents and booths of the Epicuriales, the annual restaurant festival, when the cafes come to the Allées de Tourney and all kinds of great lunches are offered at 15€ a head.

As we got to the Grand Théâtre there were all sorts of commotions going on. We wondered if it was the March for Jesus about to hit that part of town, but all we saw was a convoy of wedding cars with people hanging out of the windows with selfie sticks as they honked their way through the crowded streets.

At a stall some folks were giving out red roses for Mother's Day. They were a group of Muslims, trying to show a smiley face in what must be a difficult context. I chatted with one imam while Pat accepted a rose from someone else. I was less enthusiastic about the other chap who had his video camera up my nose, but hey.

Then to Macdonalds for a quick ice-cream before heading off home. As we got to the number 4 bus stop what should we see but ... March for Jesus, just hitting Gambetta. There were about two to three hundred people, I think, a thousand according to the organisers, 75 according to the police, with two lorries, one with a singing group in full flow. I can't remember what the purpose of the second lorry was.

That evening there was a massive storm. The thunder and lightning were very impressive. I watched planes landing through it all and wondered what it was like being a passenger just then. Catrin, meanwhile, was picnicking on the quays when the storm hit, with accompanying mini-tornadoes, sudden torrential rain, strong gusts of wind, and thunder and lightning. She got home severely wet, had a shower and took to her bed.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Honestly, it's the finest moment of the day

I was up in time, and 6:45 saw me lumbering out of the door of the apartment block (shall I opt for condo in future?) as the rising sun beamed down at me, evidently pleased with the effort I was making. I've got a bit of hay fever, which provokes asthma, and I woke up rattling, but a lot of that is solved simply by getting upright.

I walk to the corner of the vineyard, and that gives me a chance to observe what new plants are sprouting from the line of the fence. (We have lots of poppies in our garden, by the way) Then this morning as I turned the corner I saw the sunlight on the vines. Man, it's beautiful! And off I charge, like a rhino at the sound of the starter's gun.

For some reason I'm counting my steps again, but only to establish a rhythm, and I count in fives. It might be some subliminal music exercise I am doing with myself. I don't know. Incidentally I'm singing at the moment a piece where the piano is in 12/8 and I'm not. I have groups of two, three, four, six, whatever... Except 5. Never 5. The strange thing is that it's turn of the century comic-opera kind of stuff, think "Hiawatha's lumbago" and you won't go far wrong. Anyway it's not too difficult. You just ignore the piano, try and fit the words in somehow while appearing relaxed about it all and Voilà! Parfait, ne change rien!

So today I varied my route in a fit of daring bravery. Instead of going down the hypotenuse of the triangle formed by the vines, the main road and the side road, I took the short side first and did it clockwise. I can't think why I never did it that way before. It meant on the return leg I was running into the rising sun, most glorious, and gazing on the leaves, glittering and glistening as they fluttered in the breeze.

Oh. The porage is ready.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Book review : Zeal without Burnout, by Christopher Ash, published by The Good Book Company

Subtitled, "Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice".

I can hear my pastor's voice as he said it to me. "You'll take nine months off. Six is too little. A year is too long." It didn't even occur to me to question it. I knew things couldn't carry on as they had been, and so I complied. "If you come back to this church you will come back with a clearly defined list of responsibilities." was the remark from another Christian leader.

It had happened. Shallow and easy-going, level-headed, not given to displays of emotion, all of a sudden I was burnt-out and depressed. I'd shouted at the church council and had started having panic attacks, among other symptoms too painful to mention. It was time to stop and recover.

In "Zeal without Burnout", Christopher Ash has given us a wonderful book. It is timely, sane, wise, sensible, gentle, clear, straightforward, caring and gracious. If I could give it six stars I would. It really is that good.

He gives us seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice. "It is better to burn up than to rust up", goes the old saying. Maybe, but what if there is a way of doing neither, but rather of burning calmly, brightly and continuously without being used up prematurely? How to achieve a life of sustainable sacrifice?

Ash's "seven keys" are:

1. Sleep, 2. Sabbath rests, 3. Friends, 4. Inward renewal, 5. A warning, 6. An encouragement, 7. A delight.

The book is punctuated by testimonies of people who have experienced burnout. I appreciated these but I didn't need them. I could supply plenty of those from my friends and colleagues. And my own. But they helped to illustrate the sneaky way that burnout and depression have of catching the most unlikely victim unawares.

Would a timely reading of this book have prevented my own burnout? Honestly I don't think so. I think the path of service I was on would have led inexorably to some kind of crisis, one way or another, and maybe my own crisis was the best thing to happen in those circumstances.

But I think that this book would be an excellent gift for those starting out in ministry, especially if some caring friend took the trouble to read through it with them, taking time to discuss ways to establish good patterns of service early on. Much good could come from that, and much heartache could be avoided.

An excellent book. I've read a few on burnout over the past couple of years... And honestly, I think this is the best.


Didn't run today.
Slept late.
Oh well.
I'll run tomorrow instead.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


I've been quiet about running lately, but after I fell a couple weeks back it took a long time for the bruises to come out - about a week - and I was still stiff and aching for some days more, but I got back out and I'm enjoying my early morning runs. Here's some photos I took yesterday.

Bordeaux Church introduction video, Adobe Spark


Book review - Why bother with Church? - Sam Allberry

subtitled: "And other questions about why you need it and it needs you"

I remember when it was hard to find an introductory book about the church to give to new Christians or to people who were perhaps a little jaded or ... shall we say undisciplined. Then Peter Jeffrey's little book "How to behave in church" came out. I loved that book! There is also "Life in the Father's House" by Wayne Mack, and also "What is a reformed church?" by Malcolm Watts, or by Stephen Smallman., as well as "Welcome to a Reformed Church" by Daniel Hyde.

In short, the gap has been plugged. There's books for presbyterians and for reformed baptists. That's without thinking of Nine Marks and the excellent fullness of their thoughtful provision.

So why bother with "Why bother with the Church?" and will anyone bother with it?

Well I think they will, and I'll tell you why. This book has the strength of being exactly what you'd expect from Sam Allberry, who is a thoughtful, gospel-focused, clearly-communicating evangelical Anglican clergyman. It doesn't force you to take positions that you don't want to take. It doesn't assume a stand on church government or on baptism. It doesn't plump for highly organised or for simple liturgy. It does the basics, and it does them well.

So it will be useful for student groups and for every other situation where you don't want to assume or force a position. Or where a way of looking at things is so well established that you want the essentials addressed clearly.

It's a good and useful book. Buy it for new christians especially.
But most of all, take them to church, invite them to the prayer meeting. Teach them to love Jesus' bride.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Don Carson : Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture

I'm ashamed to admit it

but this morning I put on my running socks, tee-shirt, sweatshirt and shoes, and left the flat to go for my run.

I got to the front door, took one look at the rain and turned round again.

Well the thing is, since I fell I'm a bit more conscious of safety and of slippery surfaces...

OK. I admit it. I am a fair-weather runner.