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)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Cartes de séjour : right to remain

Good news on the cartes de séjour front : some people in the Gironde have had letters giving appointments at the préfecture.

Messa per Rossini at the Cathedral

Well we did it. It was nuts. It was crazy. It was mad, but we did it, and we pulled it off!

Something like 13 or 14 hyperactive italian romantic composers recruited by Verdi to write a requiem in honour of Rossini.

Arianna, a choir of some 30 to 40 voices, augmented to 130 or more by a collection of choristers from all around.

A 50 piece orchestra including an ophicleide.

Five awesome soloists. All were great, the contralto and the bass were outstanding - and the bass used to be a maths teacher!

Two hours of music ranging from sweet unaccompanied melodies ("think gondolas", said our choirmaster) to wild frantic blasts ("look terrified", he said). Verdi did the dies irae. Enough said.

Some of the choir couldn't sing. I know, because I stood next to two of them at different times.

I watched the player tuning his ophicleide. He blew a test note, shrugged and crossed himself.

The piece was well-written. Here's an example. The first half ends with a speedy fugue on Amen, with the theme introduced by the basses. The inevitable happened. At one point there was a race between the four voices of the choir. "We won", said my friend, Guy. At another moment a group of separatist basses decided to do their own thing (Basques? Corsicans?). But every so often the whole thing stops and the basses reintroduce the theme.
We could all muster at the next bass entry.

The cathedral was absolutely full, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to hear this crazy, unique piece of music.

Monday, November 12, 2018

It's a "gros truc".

Tomorrow is the concert of the Mass for Rossini, given to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Rossini and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the choir, Arianna. There's about 130 in the choir, a 50 piece orchestra and 5 soloists. We're doing it in the cathedral and apparently it's close to being a sell-out.

Essentially on Rossini's death Verdi decided it would be a good idea to pay homage to the great composer by getting a gang of Italian romantic opera composers to collaborate on a requiem that would be a tribute from his friends and colleagues. The result is a two-hour extravaganza. We've been learning the piece and practicing for over a year. Here's a couple of remarks.

These are Italian romantic opera composers, so the piece is larger than life. It's full of loud and soft, fast and slow, soaring soloists, a very menacing bass, four trombones, an ophicleide, the kit and the caboodle.

It'll be my swan song with the choir. I've joined another. Arianna's rehearsal place is too hard to get home from late at night by public transport.

Arianna doesn't select its singers by audition. You come along, sing with the choir and if you fancy it then it's OK. Most Arianna regulars can sing pretty well, at least by memory, but for this piece the choir is augmented by many others, and I have found some who really can't sing at all.

At the penultimate rehearsal on Saturday, before we got into position, the conductor Fred said, "Before we start there's one thing... Can Alan please sit in the front row." I did this but all the way through was a bit baffled as to why. Had he spotted me on my mobile phone when the soloists were blasting through their parts? Was it a rerun of when I got thrown out of the school choir for laughing? Afterwards one of the Arianna folk explained that he wanted to get those who have some idea of what they are doing spread out among those who .. well, who don't. I am to serve as a guide for the front row.

The penultimate rehearsal went better than I expected, until the last movement - a Dies Irae composed by Verdi - you get the picture - where there were moments of horse race between the different axes of the choir.  I have to review two movements before the performance tomorrow evening - one where the men sing a capella and the Dies Irae, just so I can sing with minimal dependence on the score and keep my eyes fixed on the conductor.

A meeting with an asylum seeker and a refugee

A young guy appeared at church last summer from a country where changing your religion is forbidden by law. He told us his story, of coming from a mixed background family, belonging officially to one religion but always being more attracted by another. Eventually he decided to become a Christian and started attending a house church. The church was raided, some six people were arrested and the others scattered. He hid in a village for a while, then found a "guide" to help him get out of the country.

People like this often want to come to the UK because they speak a little English, but you can't get entry visas or get smuggled in so the "guides" instead persuade you to go to France or Belgium. Thus he ended up in France.

He subsequently heard that the leader of the house group had been found dead, ostensibly he had committed suicide on his release from detention.

So far our friend has been given a place to live - a shared room in an apartment near the centre of town - and he has started French lessons. In 10 days he goes to Paris for an interview which will be conducted in his native language to ascertain his right to asylum.

France has made various decisions :

1) to allow asylum seekers to enter the country

2) to then consider in France their right to asylum, followed by permanent residency or repatriation.

France has expressed its will to receive especially Christians fleeing persecution or civil war in the Middle East.

We talked about how in just 10 days time he would in all probability have the permanent right to remain in France.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

We don't entirely understand what these earthworks are about

unless they have started to landscape the future Jardins de l'Ars.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

A visit to Paris

We caught the 6:30 train from Bordeaux to Paris to go to the South African Embassy on the Quai d'Orsay. That train is amazing - we hurtled through the French countryside at 300 km per hour (180 mph) and arrived in Paris shortly before we left Bordeaux - or at least it felt that way.

Paris was grey and cold, but we negotiated the metro and got to the embassy. We needed to pick up some papers, and we got that done in about 5 minutes. Then we had some other important business to do before our return train at 3:15.

First the Marks and Spencer Food Shop. There are several of these in Paris, so we chose the nearest and easiest to get to and scuttled off to find happiness in the form of:

A Christmas Pudding
Mince pies
Lemon curd (for Catrin - a recent passion)

It doesn't seem a lot but it weighed my rucksack down and also squashed my banana to pulp.

Then off to a traditional Paris café - Starbucks - before zooming off to the Atelier des Lumières for a son et lumière show based on the work of Gustav Klimt.

The Atelier des Lumières is an old forge in central Paris which, unsurprisingly, closed down and left this large, empty, unattractive space. Perfect for housing immersive art projections. You enter this huge dark hall and when the show starts you are surrounded on all sides by moving, melting, morphing images - even on the floor - and by music. For Klimt they used Wagner, Philip Glass, Beethoven, etc.

The instructions were less than clear regarding photography. One sign said no filming. The dominant sign said No Flash, so we took it that still photos were allowed as long as you didn't disturb the darkness of the room.

We caught our return train in good time and arrived back in Bordeaux tired but happy.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Plantes pour tous

Houseplants are not easy to find in the heart of a French city. Lidl will sometimes sell something - they had some chilli pepper plants a while ago. Auchan will do a small range occasionally. Ikea sells a range of moderately priced plants. Otherwise there are the florists, but their houseplants are very expensive indeed.

Enter Plantes pour tous, a group of nurseries and growers who group together, take an empty commercial unit or a municipal room and put on a two day sale of plants priced at 2, 5 or 10 euros.

They've visited Bordeaux twice over the past few months, the first time at the Halle des Chartrons where Pat and I went and queued  to enter. We came out with a Scindapsus (a variegated vine with heart-shaped green and gold leaves) two different Sansevierias, a variegated Ficus Benjamin, a lovely spider plant and a miniature orange tree. Ikea provided a tall Dracaena and two small Aloe veras.

Plantes pour tous returned to Bordeaux yesterday and I went along hoping to find one plant in particular... and they had some! a Cyperus alternifolia (papyrus plant). I also came home with a contrasting Scindapsus and a Zamioculcas zamifolia. This latter was an impulse buy because I don't know the plant at all, it's frankly a funny looking thing, but it has the great virtue of being indestructible. Apparently to kill these plants you have to really want to.

Our apartment is now much greener and filled with life.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

The adventurous Daveys ride again

We left the flat at about 2, laden with cabin bags, sleeping bags and a bag of snacks. The following eight days would be filled with travel and adventure, but we began by lugging our bags down the stairs. The lift was out of order.

Tram C took us to Quinconces. Tram B took us to Doyen Brus where we met the other intrepid members of our party and clambered into Uncle Eli's elderly but valiant Renault Espace. Bags, suits, a guitar and a barrel of beer filled the boot. We filled the seats. We ventured off onto the motorway system to do the six hour or so journey to the Cévennes.

We were to stay overnight in some holiday flats in a little village not far outside Alès. The funny thing with the Cévennes is that whatever the distance you have to travel, it takes at least 30 minutes. And that's without diversions, alarmingly narrow village streets and doing the same circuit twice. Diversions, alarmingly narrow village streets and doing the same circuit twice became the leitmotif of our weekend as we hunted for our flats, for the mairie where our friends would marry, for the function rooms where the service and reception would be held, and then for our flats again. It is the first time I have arrived late for a wedding that I was conducting. But then, as I remarked at the third time round the same roundabout, it's always good to have scouts doing the navigating.

The wedding went off well. The maire of Saint-Christol-les-Alès was charming. The service was lively and prayerful. The reception was immensely long, full of delicious food and many, many speeches. I ate snails for the first time. It was hidden in the middle of a savoury cookie. I only ate the one. Somewhere in the middle of one speech a weary Pat laid her head on the table. I wanted to do so, too. Then I imagined a room full of people all with their heads on the table while the speaker continued with his fourth point for a happy marriage. I started laughing uncontrollably. Pat started laughing and left the room. Someone saw her tears and came to give her a hug. The next course came round. "Please don't make me eat any more", she pleaded.

The next day we had a delicious brunch of left-overs, then went off to Nîmes to await our buses and trains on the following day. We had found a glorious AirBnB right in the middle of town. It's only flaw was that it had no lift, so we hauled our bags resignedly up the flights of stairs.

Monday saw our friend Sally taking the train to Northampton all the way from Nîmes, changing at Paris and London. We had a morning to kill before our coach to Nice, so we spent it at the excellent Musée de la Romanité.

Then off through the pouring rain to Nice where we were joining the folk of the International Churches for a week of retreat. It takes five hours to go by bus from Nîmes to Nice, because France is big and Nice is almost in Italy.

The retreat was held in a holiday village where once more we were regaled with vast quantities of delicious food and hauled our bags up and down stairs a lot. It didn't rain the whole time, and although the schedule each day was gruelling, starting at 8:30 straight after breakfast and continuing till 22:30  - I have suggested that the organiser switch to decaffeinated coffee - we had a wonderful time with our mainly American colleagues from France, Italy, Russia, Hungary, Germany, Turkey, etc...

We flew home yesterday - it only took just over an hour to fly from Nice to Bordeaux, and we were glad to unpack our bags and stow them in the cupboard. Pat is nursing a sore back and I'm medicating my poor aching knee and I think we'll put our bags in the hold next time we fly.

Here's some photos:

Monday, October 22, 2018

A concert of Fauré in Arcachon

Saturday began with the excitement of a visit from two of our old neighbours in Pessac, Monique and Yvette. We ate on the terrace until it was time for me to scuttle off and meet some fellow choristers to zoom down to Arcachon where our choir, Arpège, was giving a concert of Fauré in the basilica.

The weather is currently beautiful and warm and we made good time, found the church easily and parked without problems. Rehearsal went OK, the light-setter-uppers did their work and we were dismissed for picnic time. I went and ate my sandwich on the jetty watching the sun set.

Came the hour to change into our song rags - black suit (in my case chinos and jacket) with white shirt and red tie. We had one changing room. Ladies used the small toilet.

The high voices began with the Messe basse, sang with our charming soprano soloist, followed by a couple of motets for sopranos and altos.

Then we other men entered and we sang the Cantique de Jean Racine.  Fauré set this for a competition when he was 19, based on a fine Jansenist text. The church was full, perhaps 200 - 300 in the audience and their applause was enthusiastic and very long. I realised that we were singing very well indeed.

A piece followed for tenors and basses. Again it went well. Some more motets finishing with the nicely rowdy "Tu es Petrus", and then the brief interval.

The second half was the Fauré Requiem. I have mixed feelings about this piece. It has all the beauty, lightness and charm of Fauré : lovely melodies, beautiful vocalises, complex and sometimes adventurous harmony, it's a glorious piece of music, but rather than expressing faith it seems to aim at calm, at resignation and a vague optimism. We sang wonderfully. There's a kind of homogeneity of sound that this choir achieves, along with really strong and sensitive dynamics. At the end for In Paradisum I thought of soaring eagles and we did get that kind of dandelion seed in the wind feeling. I was ... blown away.

I'm still coming down from it all. What an exciting group to sing with!

Saturday, October 20, 2018


Yesterday we gathered at the amphitheatre of the Musée d'Aquitaine for a Brexit Reachout Meeting organised by and in the presence of the UK Ambassador to France, Lord Ed Llewellyn. He outlined the current state of Brexit negotiations, observing and reiterating that at this time last year everyone predicted that we could never agree the amount of the divorce settlement, and then we did. He wanted to reassure everyone that a deal is possible.

He repeated the current advice of the British Embassy to apply for a Carte de Séjour. When told that the Prefecture of the Gironde was reluctant to issue them to European citizens, and that in some other centres the situation is even worse, he promised to address this with the Prefet that very afternoon.

We also heard that the Prefecture of the Gironde has been instructed to issue Cartes de Séjour to qualifying people who ask for them.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit there is, of course, no deal. The French Government is preparing legislation to handle this. nous devons faire en sorte qu’en cas d’absence d’accord au 30 mars 2019 les Britanniques résidant en France ne se retrouvent pas brutalement en situation irrégulière (We should arrange things so that in the case of no deal on 30 March 2019 the British living in France do not find themselves suddenly in an illegal situation.)

There was a long question time where people's fears and uncertainties were expressed.

As for us, we have sent off our requests for cartes de séjour, and we await the response of the prefecture.

Friday, October 19, 2018

On the beauties of the French language


She only does that = That's all she does. (Elle ne fait que ça)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

I know I should be better-armed than this but

every now and again something happens that just shakes you.

The allegation that a squad of 15 hitmen led by a doctor with a bone-saw should dismember while living a political dissident is just so horrific.

I mean, 15 people? Why 15 people?

And a doctor with a bone-saw dismembering a living man while playing music through headphones and advising his team to do the same?

Surely, I thought, no doctor would? No doctor could?

But doctors are no better and no worse than any of us, and have no better record.

I so hope that this story is not true, but sadly it could be.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bordeaux in the autumn

is very capricious.
Friday we had temperatures of 29°C.
Saturday we had brisk easterly winds.
Sunday started fine and pleasant.

Then in the afternoon, just as we left the house to go to church, the heavens opened. We were swiftly drenched. Utterly drenched. Catrin's umbrella was no use whatsoever as we had that horizontal rain again.

So much rain fell that the drainage on the roads couldn't disperse it all, so when we left church later we were repeatedly soaked by passing traffic launching sheets of muddy water at us.

As soon as we got in we peeled off our wet layers and were thankful for a nice, dry, warm flat.

Numbers were down morning and evening. Some are away, some ill, one poor chap couldn't find anywhere to park his car!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Inauguration of La Tram Douce

A couple of weeks ago I was cycling back from near the Marché des Capucins. It's not very far, but the direct route takes you down Cours de la Marne, the main road to the central railway station. It's a narrow road with lots of bus routes and desperately needs resurfacing. Not ideal cycling territory. So I decided to take parallel roads.

Oh the fun I had!

In the course of about 1/2 mile I got lost at least four times, occasionally having no clue whatsoever where I was. The problem is that Bordeaux is not built on anything resembling a grid. Not at all! If anything it is like a spider's web built by a deranged and intoxicated beast. Odd angles. Weird curves. Tangents and forks. We have it all...

Anyway, the Marie has come to my rescue! On Saturday we participated in the inauguration of La Tram Douce ("the soft weft"?) The idea is to provide a clearly marked route down the higgledy-piggledy side roads along a 2km route from la Place Sainte-Eulalie to the Place Sainte-Croix, or basically beyond where I wanted to go at both ends.

It was a wonderfully odd affair. First the speeches from the various mayors. Then we got an explanation of what would happen. Then we had to perform certain physical jerks before starting our route.

The route was punctuated by stops where we had to do actions based on various animals, such as walking sideways (pas chassées) like crabs, or standing on one leg with our arms held our, like flamingoes. Other stops had small concerts by two drummers, a trumpeter and a vocalist. The grand finale was a dance duo. We were given orange juice and cold chai to keep us going until the cake and orange juice that awaited us at the end of the route. In all it took us about two hours in the beautiful autumn sunshine. Then Pat and I followed the red line back home, and it took about 15 minutes.

Well it has been a very busy week here in Bordeaux

In terms of weather, we have avoided all extremes, though we have had our usual localised thounderstorms with heavy downpours. There's standing water in the building sites around the flat, but nothing unusual.

In the work there's been various extra things going on, including a meeting of the CNEF33, the new reborn, reformed grouping of evangelical churches in the Gironde. It's great to get folk together and to try and coordinate initiatives and to respect each others situations. It's not without challenge, but we have some good folk involved. We also had a couple of meetings of our steering group and started working on our transition to a different structure.

Adding temporarily to the load is this transition period where I am singing in two choirs. The first is Arianna, which is now entering the final throes of rehearsals for the BIG PROJECT, the Mass for Rossini, composed by a committee of Italian Romantic Composers. It's pretty much as you'd expect and seldom performed because it's a bit of a marathon and needs a beefy orchestra, solid soloists and a big choir. However, it's also good fun to sing because it's totally over the top. The concert is on 13 November and that's the night I regretfully leave the choir. I'll miss the folk and the choir director who's a splendid chap, but I won't miss reserving a car to get me out to the rehearsal rooms.

The other choir is called Arpège (I don't know why choirs can't have easier names) and our project at the moment is an evening of Fauré that we'll give in Arcachon on 20th October. Some of the pieces are just for the ladies and some are pretty straightforward to learn, like some short motets. One I know fairly well, the Cantique de Jean Racine, but I've never sing the Fauré Requiem. I said to the conductor, "So basically I have three weeks to learn this." "That's about it", quoth he. Then he switched me from bass 1 (high bass) to bass 2 (low bass) because of balance and stuff. Sometimes I wander a little, so I think of myself as having to try and avoid being bass 1.5...Still, it's very pretty. I was fretting about one movement in particular, the Offertoire, which isn't an easy read, but we only have two phrases to sing. So I'm fairly confident.

Arpège has breaks, which is wonderful. We get to eat bad things, like Haribo and chocolate bears, and to drink herbal tea. Our musical director is another splendid fellow and he trains us very intently.

In other musical news Pat and I are having a Purcell moment, singing "Sound the Trumpet" together from "Come ye sons of art".

Meanwhile we are very glad that the pavements linking our flats to the tram stop have now been surfected with tarmacadam. I was fed up of putting on clean dark trousers only to get dust all over them as soon as I left the house.

In short it's been a crazy week! No wonder I've been tired all the time!

Next week will be calmer.

Friday, October 05, 2018

The joys and the irritations

They've tarmacadamed the pavement opposite our flats, and we are filled with joy. Up till now the pavement was composed of nasty black stones of varying sizes that were frequently flattened but continuously stirred up so they attacked the sole of your foot through your shoes, or even from inside your shoes. But now we have smooth, black, shiny tarmac. What joy!

It may go a little way to solving one of our other little annoyances. Some women decided to work the street our flat is on. Let the reader understand. They are on the day shift, so they stand or sit in the blazing sun waiting for a car to stop.

A while ago one lady took to yelling at passing men. "Ça va?" If they responded in any way she'd yell, "On y va?" One day she came up as I was waiting for the no. 11 bus.

"Ça va?"
"Bonjour. Ça va très bien, merci"
"On y va?"
"Où? On y va où?"
"Ah non, et merci de ne plus crier dans la rue comme ça!"

She didn't understand me the first time. From her look I'd guess she is late 50s, perhaps portuguese, someone's mother and grandmother.

I guess that soon they'll move away onto the boulevard. In a square between us and the station the day time sees groups of children in a playground and men playing boules on the boulodrome. The daytime is quite different as the square becomes the haunt of black prostitutes. Apparently in Paris these women are trafficked from Nigeria. I don't know about here. Prostitution is not illegal in France, but being a client of prostitution is illegal.

Another minor hassle we have is that since the town hall renamed the street only abotu half the things we order from Amazon get delivered. The post office is fine unless it's a big parcel in which case they can't be bothered to call you down to collect it. But other carriers can't find the street name in google maps and so they give up. In the best case they ask you what to do, when you can ask them to leave the parcel in a local wine shop. In the worst case they send it back to Amazon.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Couple updates

I'm really getting the hang of this transatlantic idiom now.

We've had a visit from Matt and Suzy from Deeside, so I've been less present on the inter web lately. But meanwhile a few things have happened:

1) we've sent off our requests for an interview for a 10-year carte de séjour (right to remain).

I hope I've done it correctly. I gave someone the wrong email address for something important yesterday because of rushing and not focusing on what I was doing...

2) It's become suddenly autumnal. Chilly in the mornings and not always that warm in the afternoons, either.

3) Catrin has her ticket now for South Africa? She's flying Iberian with a change of plane in Madrid, leaving mid January and returning mid May.

4) Catrin has been charged with finding an electric piano for the French project - something easy to carry either in a car or on the tram. There's a very basic 5-octave Yamaha that may do the trick.

5) We've greened up our flat with a variety of plants - some aloes, some sansevierias, a chlorophytum, a dracaena, a ficus, the usual suspects.

Here's Saturday's panorama. The tower is advancing swiftly!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Carte de séjour

Since the referendum we have been concerned to ensure our ability to stay in France, at least until our retirement date in 2026. We at first intended to take French nationality. However we quickly found out that this involves official, expensive translations of sundry documents, including six to eight birth certificates and three marriage certificates. It all adds up to several hundred euros. So we have dragged our feet on it.

However the British Embassy in France is currently advising people to apply for a permanent carte de séjour. These things are less onerous in terms of administration and so less costly. A permanent carte de séjour currently lasts 10 years, which takes us beyond our retirement date. Once we retire we will need to consider whether to stay in France or to return to the UK.

So I've had a happy morning photocopying our passports (every page) and finding proof of address for the past five years. It's quite easily done, in fact, with our council tax bills and the receipts for our rent.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Home from the Beth and Gwilym wedding

We just got home, thankful in lots of ways. I was thankful to hear the words, "Perfect, sir" when I handed the hire car back. We were thankful to be comfortably in timer our flight despite little delays at Stansted airport (wait for the shuttle bus from the Car Hire Village, an x-ray machine on the blink, Catrin's suspicious key-rings, etc...) We were thankful for uneventful car journeys in and around Norwich. We were thankful for the warm welcome from Gwilym's new outlaws. And we were thankful for a happy and beautiful wedding.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Wedding garments

So for Gwilym's wedding Pat has a lovely pink dress with a kind of gauzy overdress with pink flowers. We modified it by removing a ribbon-belt which only served to slice her in half and it's now classy and just her colour.

Catrin is a bridesmaid so she'll be in a silver-grey skirt with a lacy bordeaux top. It all looks very nice.

For me it's modified american academic dress. I have a swanky grey blazer I got cheap from H&M teamed with blue trousers for the Thursday registry office wedding - I'll wear my wild jungle pattern Desigual shirt and a plain tie. Then for the Friday when I have to preach, mid-grey trousers, a white shirt and a floral tie.

Catrin says we'll all look very fancy!

Glad that's over!

Well the last audition was last night. The choir rehearses not far from Château Haut-Brion in Pessac and I was pleased to find that the number 11 bus gets me within about 1/2 mile. There were four of us being auditioned. A young soprano sang beautifully but was not very hopeful because they need guys, not gals. She got in anyway. I thought she would. Then me. Then two proper basses. After we'd all voiced our vocalises and pounded out our pieces we trooped downstairs to where the choir was amassing for the rehearsal. They start at 8:30, in the same way that church with us starts at 4:30... agreed and institutionalised tardiness.

After the rehearsal - sacred music by Fauré, most of which I'd never heard before, the choir director came up and said "pour moi c'est bon" then awaited my reponse. It was positive. I like the choir, I like his style, I like the discipline, I like the sound they make and I like the fact that they take a break for a sneaky drink and biscuit.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The search for a choir

On Tuesday I had my first audition, for Polifonia / Ensemble Vocal d'Aquitaine. I went out to Ambares for a sectonal rehearsal of basses and altos and we sang through pieces by Lili Boulanger and by Saint Saens. The couple who run the choir were very likeable and the rehearsal seemed to go well. The choir rehearses in the conservatoire, which is very near here, and it sometimes works with the chorus-master of the Opéra de Bordeaux, but I did look alarmingly young among my fellow-basses.

Next audition this evening, with a different group.

Brief intermission

We've had someone staying with us for a couple of nights. We can do this now that we have a (rather nasty) sofa bed in my study. I say the sofa bed is rather nasty because the design of it makes it astonishingly uncomfortable to sit on unless you curl your legs up onto the seat. Essentially the seat is too deep. Nobody has legs that long. We'll solve the problem by getting good firm pillows and good strong pillowcases and using them as cushions to reduce the depth.

When unfolded it makes a reasonably comfortable bed. We explain that our goal is to have something that is comfortable for short stays!

Of course, the drawback of this is that when folk are staying I end up just like in the bad old days before the move, wandering from table to table, looking for somewhere to park my laptop and work.

But it's still good to have visitors.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Friday, September 07, 2018


At the moment we get about three or four requests for help with accommodation each week, usually from students from the UK, the USA or France who have not managed to find a student room or flat and who hope that we can find a family they can stay with.

We can't, but we do give what advice or help we can.

Yesterday's call was special. The caller was a French woman.

"I have a family here from Albania, they have no shelter and since you are a pastor I thought you'd have some help to propose or some ideas..."

I suggested the emergency number 115 and the woman said she'd phone back.

When she phoned back we talked a little, 115 had been unable to help, and so I talked about the Diaconat de Bordeaux, the protestant support services in the centre of the city. It turned out that the woman was from another association next door to the diaconat, la Cimade, which works to support immigrants legally.

I thought, "they are phoning me for help 'since I am a pastor'!"

"But why have they come from Albania to France?" I asked. "Albania isn't at war, it isn't communist any longer, it's a candidate for the EU, what's their problem?"

"I don't know, they must have big problems to have come to seek asylum in France."

Yellow alert for storms

One of the nice things about being on the fourth floor is that we get a lot of sky, and so far this year that has meant a lot of blue skies. The sunrise is pale blue shot through with gold silk. The evening is indigo. But yesterday was grey all day.

I had a few errands to run. First a visit to the quackeroo who declared herself content. Then to the post office and to the bank. Google maps said the nearest branch of our bank was at Terre Neuves at Bègles, so I hopped on the tram, found the post office easily, but of the bank found I never a trace. Quick moment of cogitation. I knew the bus 11 would take me to Victoire and I knew there was a branch there, and bus 11 was due in two minutes. The decision was an easy one to take.

As bus 11 neared the railway station the heavens opened and the fountains of the firmament were poured on surprised scene. The rain cascaded from the sky quicker than it could drain away and within seconds the passing cars were leaving sizeable wakes. Nobody had a coat or an umbrella.

The bus braved the waves up Cours de la Marne as the massive raindrops lashed the windows. I was apprehensive about getting off, frankly, but at Victoire, just 500 meters further, the pavements were dry. I deposited my cheque, not without some fuss because every branch has a different procedure, no pens in the booths and insufficient machines, then took the same bus 11 home.

The monsoon hit us again at the station, but I could see our buildings beyond and all was dry. Go figure.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Finding a choir

We both sang with Arianna, a Pessac-based choir that meets in the music school at Alouette. There's a BIG PROJECT on at the moment, a performance for the Requiem for Rossini, a massive romantic piece for huge choir, enormous baritone and colossal orchestra, composed by a gargantuan committee of romantic italian composers, with predictably melodramatic results. The performace is in October, I think, so I'll stay for that.

However the regular rehearsals are 20:30 to 22:40 on Wednesday evenings, and even when we lived in Pessac that was just a little late.

So I'm hunting for something in town, aided and advised by the conductor of Arianna. He actually proposed that I might consider joining his chamber choir that specialises in newly composed music. I was very flattered! They say that the choir is open to "musicians". However although I'd love to do that it would never work, their rehearsals are on Sunday evenings at 19:30 at Blanquefort, way out of Bordeaux. "There's a tram", he said helpfully...

So we'll see. I have an audition for one choir in mid September, and I'm awaiting replies from two others.

Pat, meanwhile, is not looking just now. Pity.


On Sunday night we were woken by a rather strange engine noise from outside. It didn't subside, so eventually we got up to see three cars doing fast circiles and handbrake turns in the lovely dust of the building site below our balcony.

Up and down the building people were looking out and children were being pacified.

After a couple of minutes of such high jinks, our aspiring rally drivers drove off at suitable high speed.

We were concerned that this might become a regular event, but last night was calm!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Silent noon, from the House of Life, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Ian Bostridge, Julius Drake and a woodland somewhere

On a different and possibly discordant note there's a Peruvian pan-pipe group that plays in the city centre and I'm sure that yesterday I heard them playing Jerusalem.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


the attentive reader - is there another kind? - will notice that I make very little comment on our glorious nation's political "life"

Stürm und Drang

there was no damage but we all gathered on our balconies to watch things blow by.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

It's 9pm and the storm has hit

we have brought in the balcony furniture and closed the shutters, there's lots of dirt and general stuff flying round.

Orange storm alert

We're on orange alert for a storm today that will end the 36°C temperatures and plunge us to an autumnal 26°. They forecast high winds and hail for 3pm, so the parks in Bordeaux were closed, as well as one of the libraries. Since then the storm has been delayed progressively. Now it's scheduled for 9pm, but I'm starting to think it's one of these damp squibs we sometimes get that don't go off at all.

Meantime we turned the balcony table upside down and stacked the chairs on the lee of the windward wall where they're least likely to be plucked up by the wind and dashed to the ground so far below.

While we were away there has been little addition to the height of the tower

but it's good to be back and to see our big skies again!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We have just returned from holidays

We started in Bath, including a visit to Wells, then spent a little time in Cardiff, with a day at the Eisteddfod, then on to our Mission's conference near Leicester, then a weekend in Edinburgh.

Travel all worked out fine, by aeroplane, by train, by coach and by car, we saw some family and some friends, and also got to explore two cities for the first time: Wells and Edinburgh.

Here come some photographs, all via Instagram: