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)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

What a difference a week makes!

Well there we are.

A little while ago the church could not meet, and what's more, even if it could I couldn't meet with it.
The choir could not rehearse, and even if it could, I could not rehearse with it.
We could travel up to 100km and even stay overnight, but no cafés or restaurants would be open.
Everything was somewhat difficult.

Now we can meet as churches and I am allowed to go, too!

However, we do have to wear masks for the whole duration of the service, removing them briefly for the purposes of the Lord's Supper, we have to disinfect all the surfaces, we have to ventilate the church well, we must stay always 1 meter apart,  but we can do everything else we usually do.

And I can do it too.

Now choirs can meet, observing physical distancing, and can sing, faces masked.

And I can meet with them. (I think I probably won't until September, just to be doubly certain.)

Also we can travel anywhere in France. Soon we might even be able to cross into Spain.

In Aquitaine, our region, yesterday over 2500 peolpe were tested for coronavirus, everyone was symptomatic. There were 10 positive cases identified. In Bordeaux itself 800 people were tested - all were symptomatic. None of the tests were positive. The numbers in hospital are falling. Fewer than 40 people are in intensive care for covid-19 in the whole region.

From Tuesday cafés, bars and restaurants can open, keeping physical distancing. Tables are being hastily rearranged and where possible the town hall has given extra space for outside seating. Clients can be unmasked but staff must wear masks. Spare a thought for them. Masks make you feel very hot, and kitchens are already pretty hot and humid.

Concert halls can open from Tuesday.

From 22nd June our cinemas will be open.

There is every prospect that from September life will look more like before.

Some things will probably change permanently, at least until the good weather ends. More people on bicycles. Fewer people in the public transport.

People ask whether we will forget how we used to greet each other. I doubt it.





Monday, May 25, 2020

Worse things happen in Troas

I can do tech. I can. And I can do church. But mix tech and church and I set off like Scott of the Antarctic to explore new regions of chaos where never foot trod and never finger prod.

Last night it was the mute/unmute button in zoom. Sometimes I could see it but not poke it. No cursor! I poked, slid, woggled, nothing!

Notably this was for the songs. So instead of muting myself like any normal human being would I had to pretend to be muted, miming a heart-felt rendition of ‘Before the throne’.

At the end of the service I said “Jean-Sam pray for us”, and reverently bowed my head. After a moment wherein he was obviously gathering his thoughts there came the clamour, “Alan, what’s happening now? Alan, you’re muted.”. I unmuted and said with all the aplomb i could muster, “Jean-Sam pray for us”.

Oh well, worse things happen in Troas. Our passage was Acts 20:1-12, where we meet the singularly hapless Eutychus.

We discussed the government’s somewhat reluctant permission to conduct services. Here’s the conditions, some from the government document, some from the CNEF guidelines.

All 1m apart.
All wear masks at all times.
Hand gel on entry.
Disinfect and ventilate the place between services unless there’s a 5 hour gap.
Establish a one way system so people are not squeezing past each other.
No “attroupements” (no hanging around in groups)
You can take your mask off for a moment to accomplish a rite (they’re thinking of eating a wafer)
Obviously, no coffee, no larking about, no tickling children, no hugs or high fives.

About half of us are not comfortable with travelling on public transport just now, and about half of us live too far from the church to walk or cycle. Very few of us have cars. We’re so green! About a quarter of us are in some way “vulnerable”. So we could muster perhaps half our number in the building.

We discussed live-streaming the service. There’s no internet in the building we use, so we would need a sizable data plan on a mobile phone. That’s doable, and we would live-stream to YouTube.

However none of this takes us back to where we were before confinement.
Attroupements is part of it for us. It’s what we do, it’s who we are.
And life on Zoom, for all its clumsiness and ineptitude, seems preferable to the masked distance and YouTube.

So for the moment we’re staying as we are on Sundays.



Saturday, May 23, 2020

What a palaver!

Well the Conseil d'Etat (whatever that is) told the government that their ban on religious ceremonies was too restrictive and gave them 8 days to lift the ban and issue guidelines to follow.

So yesterday the government issued a décret authorising religious ceremonies once more under the following conditions :

1) physical distancing of 1m to be respected
2) 1 person per 4m2 of space
3) surfaces, doorknobs etc. to be disinfected before the ceremony
4) a one way system and people in charge to ensure no "attroupements" (gatherings)
5) all to wear masks (masks can be briefly removed if the rite demands it)
6) hand gel at the entrance

You can see that they have the Roman Catholic mass in mind, where it's you, the priest and the bread, and you're broadly happy to come, commune and go.

In our churches "attroupement" is part of the whole deal, so we may even decide to continue as we are until September, or until conditions allow a more normal meeting style.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The cat and the pigeons

This phase of deconfinement, if all goes well, will last until the 2nd of June. On 25 May the Prime Minister should outline the details of the next phase, what further freedoms will be permitted, what risks seem reasonable, what activities can be resumed and under what conditions.

It is in this speech of 25 May that we expect cafés to be allowed to reopen, along with places of worship, under guidelines to be published to be adopted from 2nd June.

However, Pentecost falls on 31st May, and the Roman Catholic Church would dearly love to open for worship for Pentecost.

This is the background to a decision by the Conseil d'Etat published yesterday that the measures forbidding public worship are to restrictive and that guidelines should be issued so that churches can resume public worship from 25th May, a whole week earlier, which would allow mass at Pentecost.

Many catholic churches are very large and would permit people to be spread out widely. This is not always the case with the protestant churches. We await guidelines to see whether we can safely meet.

Meanwhile I had better book an appointment with my doctor before the 25 May so I can know whether I can be allowed to mix or not.




Computing

Some years ago Mrs Davey concluded that she didn't really need a laptop and that an iPad would be just as good for her. This has indeed proved to be the case.

At that time we had a family computer, a 2012 Mac mini, in our living room. When we moved to the bigger flat and I got an office we concluded that we didn't need a family computer - a large screen with a Chromecast plugged in would do just as well. So the Mac mini has become my office computer, in place of my 2015 Macbook pro. Since then I have used my Macbook pro as a portable computer to use in coffee shops and for projection in meetings etc.

We've upgraded the Mac mini over the years. It has an ssd instead of the original slow hard drive, and I boosted the memory to 16gb. Despite the fact that it is essentially an eight-year old computer it does pretty well everything I need it to and it has a nice big screen for doing analysis of Bible passages. Its biggest weakness is that it doesn't have a webcam, so for zoom I have to use my laptop.

However, I'm coming to the conclusion that for me, too, a laptop is not necessary. Now that I have the Mac mini in my office, everything I do in other rooms of the house could work perfectly well on an iPad. Not only that, but in terms of performance for cost, iPads are excellent value. They're easy to carry around. They also have very good webcams, while most laptops have dreadful ones, including my Macbook.

In the late 1990s, early 2000s the move started from desktop computers to laptops. Many of us were sceptical. The screens were too small and not as easy to use. They were heavy and awkward and you couldn't get in a good position to work.

Now most people thinking of buying a computer think of a laptop. They're convenient. You don't need a dedicated worktop for them. If you want to spread papers all over your desk you can. You can take your work wherever you want to.

Now I think we're slowly moving to tablets. They're even more convenient. Lighter. More powerful. More economical.

And the thing that I find most helpful about the iPad is this - they help you focus on one thing. Rather than having lots of windows open and flitting from program to program, they encourage you to choose what one thing you're doing and to do that.

When the time comes to change my laptop I can't see me getting another.



A brighter week in store

I'm feeling brighter this week and the reason is pretty superficial - the weather is good! But it's not just that. Also I have a less frantic week in terms of zoom meetings.

Yesterday we made a little trip to Lidl together. During confinement we never went out together at all. Now in phase 1 of deconfinement we can do that, so we summoned up all our courage and hied us away to Lidl in search of goodly fare. Generally all was well but they had no porage oats so I have to shuffle off elsewhere later, bringing a moral dilemma - do I go to our nearest supermarket or do I deliberately go to the further one just so I get to walk further. I think we all know the answer...

Here's some photos of the nature in town.








Friday, May 15, 2020

At the quincaillerie

One of the downsides of our flat is that quite a lot of the fixtures and fittings are not of the best quality. The windows are fine, thankfully, but I'll be surprised if the sink unit lasts 10 years. It's the cheapest tat you find in the least prestigious diy shops, and was installed with the corresponding level of care. So our Heath Robinson system of outpipes under the sink is leaking a little. I took off the trap and cleaned it out and put it back and screwed it as tight as possible, but the leak isn't coming from the trap. It's coming from some of the other joints.

One good way of making these joints good is to use a little PTFE tape. It actually helps you screw the fittings together, but it also fills the threads and stops leaks. It's great. But the hardware stores were closed during confinement. Then they opened the out of town ones. Ha! They're no good to townies like us! But now the ones in town are open.

I went in to one of my favourites. They made me have a little trolley so they could count the people in store, checked I had my mask on and had gelled my hands. I happily gazed at the bits and bobs, thinking of all the great things I could do if I had half an idea. I found the plumbing area and a pleasant chap came shooting up to help.

Bonjour monsieur, est-ce que je peux vous aider ?

Bonjour. Oui, je ne sais pas comment ça s'appelle en français mais en Angleterre c'est du ruban PTFE. (tapes in France are usually called rubans, so I hazarded a guess)

Voilà, chez nous ça s'appelle du teflon.




Out in the city once more






A tough week

It's been a tough week.

For one thing I've had LOTS of meetings by zoom or varying kinds. Some have been very helpful. Others have been demanding. All have been important. These have included :

1) A doctrine day on the incarnation run by the Pastors' Academy. First time for me to attend an event of this kind and it was very stimulating.

2) A conference run by a new group of presbyterians in the UK called Gospel Reformation UK. It involved three addresses, by Kevin deYoung, by Garry Williams and by Jonty Rhodes. Again, this was stimulating and helpful

3) The CNEF33 pastorale designed to share issues relating to confinement and more urgently to deconfinement. We adapted quickly and well to confinement. Preparing for deconfinement and adapting to its demands is like to be far more difficult.

The national CNEF group is proving to be very helpful, producing succinct advice for churches like, "holding house groups during this period is strongly discouraged".

Add in the prayer meetings and so on, and the weekend will be busy with lots of zoom and facebook live (my bête noire). Still. By Sunday evening the week will be over and on Monday maybe we can go exploring.

Then some individual contacts have been challenging emotionally for a variety of reasons that I won't go into.

We moved Catrin back into her own flat. We'll still see quite a bit of her, though, until she gets wifi installed because she spends a LOT of time online for teaching and for her church work.

And then I'm wrestling with my status of a "vulnerable person", which means I should avoid choral singing and church meetings until things change. Asthma means that when I get a repiratory tract infection my lungs remain irritated for weeks on end. For years I believed I was getting chest infections, but slowly the doctors convinced me that it was just me and the way my lungs work.

We've had good news, too, of my sister's health being much better, and we've been out to explore the city, together, for the first time in months.

Weeks like this come and go. Next week will be different.



Friday, May 08, 2020

French Evangelical losses to covid-19

According to surveys done by the CNEF, French evangelical churches have lost 72 people to covid-19, including 31 from the church that became the centre of a cluster in Mulhouse.


Blasted gourds!

With our new status as "vulnerable persons" come some consequences.

1) We're not likely to be allowed to go to church. (yes, you read that correctly)

2) We're not likely to be allowed to sing in choirs, especially since choral singing in lethal, according to the Gospel Coalition.

Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I frown.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Face-masks

We've received our Bordeaux Municipal face-masks, made of what seems like slightly shiny, close-woven poly-cotton. It's actually fairly tough to breathe through!

The idea is that you wear once for up to four hours, then wash it at 60°C.

You must not take a mask off and put it back on.

That means that sometimes you'll need multiple masks to get you through the day, and some way of carrying supposedly contaminated masks home to wash them.

The alternative is to wear disposable paper masks like surgeons do in hospital. The shops are selling them at about 95c each. But you can make a serviceable alternative.


 You need two sheets of kitchen paper, a paper handkerchief and a stapler. Also some rubber bands or a length of string that will go round your head one and a half times.

Put the kitchen paper on your work-surface and fold it into three lengthways.

Open up the two sheets and pop a folded paper handkerchief between them.

Take the bottom "third" and fold it back on itself. Do the same with the top.

Turn your assembly over. Fold over the ends and either 1) staple a rubber band into the fold or 2) leave a loop big enough to feed your string through.


Bread

OK, I've got my favourite recipe. It's for a no-knead "turbo" bread.

In a large bowl (in France once uses a salad bowl) put 1 1/2 cups of hand-hot water and a good spoonful of yeast. Add 3 cups of flour and mix till all the flour is incorporated.

Cover the bowl with cling-film and put in a warm place to prove for two to four hours, till it's well risen.

De-gas the dough by poking it vigorously with a spoon or spatula and turn it into a bread pan.

Cover the bread-pan with cling-film and put in a warm place to prove for up to an hour.

Once you see the dough is rising well preheat the oven to its hottest setting.

Once the dough and oven are ready, place a tin of water in the bottom of the oven and the dough on its shelf, then turn the oven down to 200°C and bake for forty minutes.

Voilà !


C'est ça

After a couple of fruitless attempts to get to talk to my doctor (10am. Ah no, she's with a patient, try at 11:45. 11:45 phone rings endlessly.) I decided to check at the pharmacy. So in I goes with my prescription. The pharmacist gets my life-giving herbs. Incidentally I'm wearing my Bordeaux-issue face-mask, nice and white but tightly woven so every breath is an effort - but it does stop you picking your nose. Thinks - what is to pick your nose in French?

"So does that stuff mean I'm a vulnerable person?"

"Oh yes."

"Because in England it's very clear - if you're called up for the 'flu vaccination you're a vulnerable person and you don't get to come out of lockdown, but here it seems more flexible."

"Well, you just need to be very careful."

"Like, no cinemas, no theatres, no restaurants."

"That's it."

Attentive readers will be aware that they're all closed just now, anyway.


Tuesday, May 05, 2020

A quick trot to Lidl

Lidl were selling their occasional bargain sewing machines yesterday, so I made a quick trot out there, arriving probably at about 9:15. Catrin is hoping to begin sewing. They open at 8:30, but by the time I got there all had been sold. I was glad to have avoided the possible scrummage and fisticuffs and used the visit instead to buy some of their coffee pods and a couple of other things we don't find in our local supermarket at the moment.

On the way I stopped to experience as much as I could the flowers and trees along the path. Below are some photographs.

Our mayor wants us to wear facemasks in public transport, in shops, in parks and even in some streets. The city is providing everyone with a washable mask, so he considers this a reasonable demand to make. So I wore one of Pat's masks all the way to Lidl and back. They sure make you hot, those things!

The latest tentative proposition from the French government is that, if all goes well and there is no new escalation of cases of COVID-19, that we can resume worship services from the first Sunday of June, from Pentecost. This would have huge symbolic significance and would be an easy concession seeing that the govenmenr was originally thinking of the following Sunday, the first in June.

However several things need to be worked out, like how we keep the required distance, how we handle entrance and exit, toilets, communion, offerings etc. One church has been working on this and their seating capacity is expected to go from 440 to 108. We have a couple fo weeks to learn what the requirements will be, and to prepare by ordering hand gel, bleach and possibly face-masks.

There is another, more personal question. In the UK I would be classed as vulnerable and asked to stay home, despite deconfinement, because I'm asthmatic and get called up for a flu-jab every year. Will France apply the same criteria? I am being brave today and trying to phone my doctor.








Friday, May 01, 2020

Well just look what I found!

Yesterday the flat became stifling so I decided to go out for my statutory hour of walking my neighbourhood. Only problem - torrential downpours. It's been raining now for what seems like months, but is actually just about two days or so. After lunch the clouds took a siesta so I ventured out. Now, if you go shopping you can go further afield and for longer, so I ticked that box and took my rucksack and an order for lemonade from someone here with cravings for it.

Off I went and ambled through the streets looking at how various buildings were progressing. I found myself by the station and thought I'd go over the west bridge and come back over the east bridge (the wibbly bridge - it zig-zags), so down I came to the station forecourt. It's weeks since I've seen the station forecourt and - hey, what's that? Just beyond the station, where the row of über-french cafés starts, I was sure I could see horse chestnut trees! And sure enough, that's what they were. I stopped, gazed and took photos while the station forecourt dawdlers boggled.

Since I was here I had just as well go to Carrefour, so I did, got my lemonade and a few other essential items like some bulbs that don't fit any of our lamps - you know the drill.

I decided to come back along the river-road but then changed my mind and turned up the street that leads to the back end of the station. Some riot police were hanging about, so I said hallo to them and tried surreptitiously to see what they were doing. I think the city is trying to clear out the squats, for health reasons.

Turn down through the nice square and arrive home just a couple minutes late for my 4pm scheduled zoom interview.

Man, that walk did me good.





Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Lots to do and sometimes a little fed up

Well confinement has been going OK.

In family life we get what we need. Flour has sometimes been an issue, but at Carrefour we sometimes hit rich seams of bread flour (T65), plain flour (T45) and I even got some organic wholemeal spelt flour (spelt f l o u r). The other day they had piles of yeast, so we're set up for a good long while, but the spelt flour will come in useful if and when we decide to make a sourdough starter.

Standard recipes now are honey and oatflake bread, slow-cooker bread and turbo no-knead. All recipes from YouTube.

For breads that go in the oven here's my top tips.

1) put water in a tin in the base of the oven. Steam helps.

2) preheat the oven to its maximum temperature using the fan if it's a fan-oven.

3) when you put the bread in turn the oven down to the temperature you need and turn the fan off.

The extra oven heat at the start really helps the bread to rise.

Why have I been a bit fed-up?

Well for one thing I miss the city I live in.

I want to get out by the riverbank, but though we can see the river from our flat there's a dirty great road that cuts it off from us.

I want to see my friends who run cafés. They're grand lads and I miss them.

I want to see the horse chesnuts flowering. Every year they take me by surprise, but not this year. I've hunted around our neighbourhood but if there's a horse chestnut within a kilometre of our flat I haven't found it.

Meanwhile we have some great blessings. We're getting on very well together. The flat is big enough for us to get away from each other. We have very good internet, so we can hold three different meetings in three parts of the flat by Skype, Zoom and Facetime and it all works great. We have access to some great films and TV series. Our health is good, except for my allergic reaction to the rats, and that doesn't really count. And we know now that soon we'll be set free.

May 11th is the end of this phase of confinement. We'll be able to roam the city once more and shops will be able to open again. The bars, cafés and restaurants will stay closed at least until the beginning of June, however, because the government wants to see how well this gradual deconfinement works before going any further.

Churches can be open but we're asked not to hold any ceremonies until the beginning of June.

We'll need to wear masks in public transport.

So Pat has been making masks using some old material from Ikea and some joyful cotton prints from Africa that I was supposed to make bags from, but the sewing machine was playing up. Somehow she got it to work long enough to make perhaps a couple of dozen masks. Some we use and some we put in the hallway of our flats for others to use as they want.

We also put up a list for people to put up phone numbers, email addresses or to communicate via a facebook page, but that got no responses at all. I wasn't all that surprised. People love their privacy and once you're in your flat you can forget that there's people living above you, below you, to the right, left and behind you...

So there we are.

Meanwhile church life continues, and I feel busier than usual, partly because of the time it takes to keep in touch with all the folk who are making sure we're OK! I think this time may turn out to have been beneficial to the church's community life.

Thinking wider, the departmental committee of the CNEF (Conseil National des Evangeliques de France) met at the end of last week, and we plan a pastors' fellowship in mid May when we'll try and share best practice on health precautions to take ready for when our churches reopen.



Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Pinks

In March, for our wedding anniversary, which fell just before confinement began, Pat called at a florist near the station. The lady asked Pat if she could give her a hand unloading her van, so Pat spent a happy twenty minutes getting bundles and boxes of flowers and foliage our of the van and into the shop.

As a thank you Pat was given three little pinks that we put into one of our troughs.

They've brightened the balcony ever since with their profuse, scented blooms.


Another video recorded and sent out

Honestly, with all the video work we're doing, before long they'll be calling us the Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Judy Dench of Bordeaux.


Friday, April 17, 2020

A trip to Carrefour

Our nearest supermarket is a small "U", and we like it very much. We like the staff, we like the quality of the products and we like its proximity. But it doesn't stock everything we like to use, so sometimes we shop elsewhere.

The big Auchan in the city centre has pretty well everything anyone could ever want, but it's a long way away. Too far to walk. But there is a moderately sized Carrefour about 15 minutes walk away, so this morning I hied me away to pillage Carrefour.

We wanted flour. And yeast. But also icing sugar. And specifically self-raising flour. Earlier this week Mrs Davey went there and came back with some T65 bread flour! What a prize! I had high hopes.

Anyway last night we had a family quiz night with our son and daughter-in-law and her parents, whome I whimsically call the Texan Outlaws, since her father is from Texas. 

I hate quizzes. For some reason they miss the fun zone by a mile and land slap bang wallop in the middle of the terminal examination zone.  Out of a possible 35, Mrs Davey and I got a paltry 19. It was pathetic. I couldn't even remember the name of the movement in art to which Gauguin, Cezanne and Seurat belonged. The shame was unbearable. Never mind the fact that nobody else got more than 14, I was plunged into misery.

So to take my mind off it we watched the next in our series of Marvel films. We've had Disney+ for ten days and I've watched 4 episodes of the Simpsons and we've seen the first four, I think, Marvel films. You can see why I maintain that we're busier in confinement than we would normally be! Last night's film was "The Avengers" and it meant we got to bed later than usual, so I was a bit later than I intended leaving the house this morning to walk to Carrefour.
It was splendid to be striding through the deserted streets. I walked down through the future park, then along the road that runs parallel to the river until I was able to turn left and enter the supermarket. I pulled my scarf over my mouth and nose - coronavirus oblige - and went a-hunting.

Initial success filled me with joy! They had loads of dried yeast and big jars of the peanut butter we like (pâte d'arachide - "spider paste") right by the entrance. Ramadan approaches so the stores are full of couscous and the less sweet North African peanut butter.

The flour aisle was empty though. There was nothing. NOTHING! Just a couple bags of instant naan bread and some boxes of waffle batter. I scoured the shelves for anythng else we needed, but what we wanted was flour.

The staff were hard at work filling the shelves. Perhaps... I went back to the flour aisle. It was still empty. But just beyond... What was that. A pallet containing - some flour!

There was T65 bread flour for our bread-making and there was T45 flour for the chocolate cake that I shall make either this evening or tomorrow. No self-raising, but I know how to add baking powder (levure chimique) to T45 to make self-raising, so we can do that.

Armed with my spoils I headed for the till. Carrefour have installed a strict queueing system, plastic barriers and you pay at one till but go through the lane for the till next door. I was scarfed and the cashier was masked. "It's hard not being able to smile." She made a kind of panting sound and agreed - perhaps she was laughing. We buy chocolates for the cashiers and she said she was touched. It's three times nothing, I said.

I walked back a different way and I think I saw the police clearing some squats. It's hard for the homeless. The city has made accommodation available for them, but some of them don't trust the authorities. I saw one coughing and spitting on the ground. It's not easy.

Later my honey and oatmeal loaf was ready for the oven. I use no-knead recipes that use small amounts of yeast and long proving times, so I'd mixed the dough yesterday morning and it got baked at lunchtime today. Here's the loaf:



Sunday, April 12, 2020

Thoughts from confinement

So far so good.

We're very blessed in having a clean, dry, modern apartment, and balconies so we can get outside, and also enough rooms to be able to escape from each other. I can get on with work in my office, Catrin works in her room. Pat in the living room or our bedroom.

I can't imagine being bored! My list of things to do grows longer every day!

I have the usual studies and messages to prepare and people to catch up with, online of course.

My reading is not progressing as I would want it to.

Meanwhile for diversion there's museum sites that I have not visited, like the Uffizi, the Atelier de Lumières in Paris, the Musée d'Orsay and the British Museum that have wonderful websites.

The Metropolitan Opera House and the Opera de Paris are broadcasting operas, and the Arte website also has some corkers. Pat and I watched Manon, by Massenet.

Then there are wonderful films available to watch, most of which we have not.

I'd like to do some music practice, but I've not been doing that either.

Modern Greek didn't last long, going the way of German ("die Frau isst eine Banane") and Italian.

However, Voces8 have been doing some really good webcasts on the history of music notation and on harmony, and I've watched a few of those. Very good stuff.

And Bordeaux' own Salvatore Caputo, the chorus master of the Opera National de Bordeaux has done some great workshops on Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, on singing Mozart, etc. I've caught a couple of those.

We're more in touch with our families than before. Pat reads with one of her sisters and we all message each other frequently. We've also had some family quiz nights, though I have never quite siezed the difference between quizzes and examinations, so I beat myself up over forgetting, for example, that Judas Iscariot's father was called Simon, or that Grozny is the capital of Chechnya.

Church life continues - Pat still gets groups together to do various things, like "knit and natter" and "ukulele group", as well as groups for Bible study and prayer. We've done song nights, with limited success because of internet lag. We are still planning our great Bordeaux Church Singleness Day which is scheduled for early May, though newspapers are now rumouring a release from confinement for mid-May.

Obviously Zoom, Facebook live etc. have all involved time watching vidoes, looking at websites and testing various options to try and make things work properly. Someone remarked this morning on how the social media are full now of churches webcasting the Easter message. "Why didn't this happen before?" he asked. I restrained myself.

Meanwhile I give a weekly morning devotion in our church in North Wales and we've made a quick update video for them, too. We plan to make an update video for wider circulation next week.

On Monday I keep out of my study. I'm allowed screens - normally I try and operate "no-screen Monday" but that's when we can get out and about and have adventures.

In other news I too have begun breadmaking. We can get flour - general purpose flour - but yeast is in short supply so if we look like running out I'll start a sourdough culture.

Today is Easter Sunday, and this song seems very apt:

PEACE, PERFECT PEACE,
in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace,
by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace,
with sorrows surging round?
In Jesus’ presence naught but calm is found.

Peace, perfect peace,
with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace,
our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.

Peace, perfect peace,
death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

It is enough;
earth’s troubles soon shall cease
and Jesus call us to heaven’s perfect peace.


Monday, April 06, 2020

France and the coronavirus

Here's the situation as I see it.

We're entering our third week in confinement. We're lucky, we have a light and airy flat with nice views and a big balcony. Others we are close to are in a variety of situations, some very good and some not so good, but everyone seems OK. The two families in the church with small children have gardens, thankfully.

Bordeaux is quiet. Very quiet. The bordelais are staying at home. From our balcony we occasionally see perhaps three or four different folk. People walk their dogs. Brothers kick a ball around. Families loiter while their toddlers totter and puddlejump. The front of our building has lots of balconies opening onto a courtyard and there a DJ runs a "balconnade" two evenings a week - a balcony party. So paradoxically isolation is bringing people together.

We can get what we need from our local supermarket. We can't always get everything we want, but one secret of contentment in life is to want what you can get, so we're OK. We've discovered the delights of long-proved bread making, so we have lots of fresh bread.

We're allowed out to exercise for an hour a day within 1km of our home. We can cycle to work or to the shops, but not for fun or exercise. Running is discouraged. People are encouraged to follow exercise routines at home.

As for France, Paris is hard hit. A February week of prayer and fasting in a mega-church in Mulhouse drew a crowd of 2500 from all over francophone Europe and proved to be a focus for infection to spread. This led to an early wave of illness in the area but this has since subsided and been taken over by the big cities like Lille, Lyon and Marseille. Our region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine is still only lightly affected, despite Bordeaux being twinned with Wuhan and many of our Chinese students being from there.

In the church several people have lost family members and nobody can travel to be with their folk to grieve. The internet is proving to be a huge boon to people, with online classes, teleworking and, of course, all the usual diversions and amusements.


Cyberpreaching

The weekend's cyberpreaching began with a train wreck when livecasting to North Wales.

I'd carefully set up my rig by balancing my phone on top of my computer screen, checking I can broadcast via Facebook live in portrait format and so on, as taught by numerous YouTube experts.

All was good. Notes were on screen. All ready.

Saturday morning comes. I switch on, find the button - and I'm sideways... So I sign off quickly and race off to get my laptop and send the video from that.

It's OK, except that the phone was at a good angle, right by my notes, and now I'm gazing down at the slightly rubbish webcam on my laptop.

Oh well...

For Sunday we use Zoom, and each week we've taken another baby step forward. This week we were planning to sing together, as well as time of prayer, readings, message. I set up a Powerpoint file and learned how to share my screen. On Saturday, in response to criticism over security, Zoom imposed passwords, so I put that on the Facebook group with the info required to connect.

The time came. All worked well! Songs were OK. The only slight hiccup was a text message from a church member asking for the password, so while I texted that back to them the words were slightly late changing for one of the songs.

Then came the message - and my channel froze.

We waited, but it wasn't going to unfreeze. My laptop was signed on with the church account - it gives us unlimited time -

So I got my iPad and quickly signed in as me through that and carried on. All was then fine.




Thursday, April 02, 2020

Amazon have delivered printer paper!

Means indefinite sorties because we can print up to 2,500 "attestation de sortie dérogatoire" !


A brief pause

There was a brief pause in the blog. There have been pauses like that before, but this was different.

One of our guys has lost his grandmother - in the USA.
Another guy has an already sick uncle ill in hospital - in the USA.
My elderly cousin died the other day in Hertfordshire.
And pastors and conference speakers I know are falling to the virus.

Somehow I hadn't realised that I would know people who succumbed, or at least I was concerned for our siblings, all of whom are older than us and some of whom enjoy robust mediocre health.

I haven't seen my cousin for at least 30 years, and it may be more like 50, but we quite regularly corresponded by email. I suspected he was poorly because I hadn't heard from him in about two weeks, so when the news came is was half-expected.

These are hard days. I have replaced early morning news with good music. I know more or less what's happening. And I'm going to make time to read good things and to watch things that will lift my spirits.

And behind it all we'll continue to do this : set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday thankfulness

Some things I'm thankful for (in no particular order):

1) childhood holidays in Wales that prepared me for confinement
2) also Saturday gilets jaunes riots that did the same
3) good internet that allows three of us to be skyping and zooming in different rooms at the same time
4) soap
5) Hilary Mantel's "The Mirror and the Light" on the BBC Radio 4 iPlayer app
6) morning songs from Olly Knight
7) morning talks from the Deeside gang
8) a family that gets on OK together
9) a pleasant and light flat
10 ) a supermarket within easy reach with good stocks
11) a president that told us to read and reconnect with the essentials of our culture
12) friends on twitter and facebook who encourage me and make me laugh
13) TV series and films to watch by internet (except I can't be bothered yet)
14) Operas, concerts and talks on music by internet (and these are great!)
15) Zoom that enables us to continue to work to establish the church here
16) snow! (it's snowing)
17) keeping in touch with the family in the UK by Facebook and email
18) that our more vulnerable folk are all OK
19) all those people gallantly and determinedly continuing to do essential work while demannding the best protection possible


Friday, March 27, 2020

Pastoring (pasting?) in confinement

Well the latest idea going around is that we will emerge from confinement at the end of April. I look each morning at the statistics for France and for Aquitaine and gaze intently, hoping to discern where exactly on the curve we are. It seems to me that we are on the steep ascent. The day that things start to level out will be a time for celebration.

This means, of course, that we will be confined for my birthday. We had booked a treat - a visit to the newly conceived Bassins de Lumière - the old Nazi submarine base has been set up as a light and sound show, like the Ateliers de Lumière in Paris, but with reflections in the water. The photographs of the trials of the setup are ravishing.

Not only that but Gwilym and Beth were to come and visit from London, their last visit before they move to Norwich. But at present our skies are free of planes, even empty ones, and they are considering shutting the airport until after confinement.

Still, there will be chocolate cake. I found a new easy recipe. Also we have discovered the joys of bread-making by the no-knead, long-proving method. Oatmeal loaves, one of the things I have missed from the UK, are now easily accessible!

Meanwhile life seems just as busy! We maintain almost all the meetings we have undertaken but by internet, using Zoom or Facebook Live. To this is added meetings with our sending church, our mission internationally and in France, and the international pastors. Some of these things clash and some of them I forget to log in for. So I need to be Much More Organised than I usually am. I can no longer rely on my memory.

Better go make a list and remember to check it twice!

My role in the CNEF33 involves me passing information around, it's not a lot of work, but it's important that churches know that they are represented and kept informed as the situation develops.

One of my concerns is not just that church folk know that we are thinking of them, praying for them and keeping in touch with them, but that they gain that sense of community that comes from keeping in touch with each other. Appointing elders and deacons can make this feel less important - it's their job to do this - but it isn't. You can't delegate community. It comes from everyone to everyone. Must pray for this.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Coping with the crisis

I feel it's a bit of a cheek to talk about "coping with the crisis". After all, we live in a nice flat in a nice city where there is food and good medical care, we can work from home and we are not ill. What is there to cope with?

On the other hand we are confined to our flat except for sorties for food and medical care, and for one hour of exercise to be taken within one kilometre of our flat. We are confined.

Add to that the fact that when we go out we must be careful not to touch our faces, to keep our distance from people and to wash our hands thoroughly on our return. Yesterday I washed my hands, my face and the door handles.

In addition we see the mounting death toll and the numbers sick both here and in the UK, and also the rising threat in other countries of the world where many of our friends and colleagues work. How do we cope?

1) We limit our exposure to the news. We catch up first thing in the morning, and that's enough. I look at the official French corona virus website - at present we have almost 20,000 confirmed cases in France and close to 900 deaths. In our region, Nouvelle Aquitaine, there have been almost 700 confirmed cases. In the evening we check on the government announcements. Apart from that we keep away from the news.

2) We're fighting the virus with baking soda. By which I mean, we're baking. I found an easy chocolate cake recipe so yesterday and today we have chocolate cake. Pat made scones and naan bread. Catrin made cookies. I'm looking forward to trying a honey and oatmeal loaf.

Incidentally there's been a lot of talk about an anti-malarial drug called chloroquine which seems effective against the corona virus. Apparently this is because one group of the molecule has basic tendenciies (it's kind of alkaline) and so it interferes with the enzyme whish replicates the viral rna. Go figure!

3) We're not watching as much TV as we anticipated. But we are reading more.

4) I started learning modern Greek. I expect I'll start other things, too.

5) We remember that our world is deserving of God's judgement. Christians always wrestle in times of plague. Why do they come, if God is good? Well one reason is because we are not very good. We live day to day in a society where children are sacrificed to expediency or to economic advantage, whether we're thinking of aborting the unborn, abusing and neglecting our own children or enslaving and exploiting the chidlren of the world to support our opulent lifestyles. And that's just the start. That's why Christians look at economic shutdown and remember that much or our economic wealth is ill-gotten filthy lucre and we deserve to take time out and to rethink - and to repent.

6) We remember that God is good. Psalm 103 reminds us that his anger can flare up but he equally quickly remembers mercy and patience, and that he cares for us as a father cares for his children. That's why as we are sad about the world system we made we are glad that the world God made is resilient and fruitful - fish are moving back into the Venice canals - and that God has planned for us a time after the corona virus. May we learn valuable lessons.

7) We mourn the dreadful numbers of dead. Fine people, the best, fall prey to the virus. A man who delivered food to supermarkets. The doctor who made the first alert cry. Countless families weep and cannot bury their dead loved ones. We weep too as we think of them.

8) We pray for our authorities and we keep the guidelines and instruuctions they issue. My confinement may save not only my life but also the life of elderly or infirm people who I don't even know.

9) We look after our physical and mental health. Pat and Catrin do weights in the morning. I do physical jerks on the balcony (running on the spot, high knees, star jumps, squats, lunges, you know the kind of thing) and I run up and down the stairs of the apartment block, carefully. We tell each other jokes and listen to music. We try to find films or series.

10) We get on with our work. Zoom, Skype and Facebook enable us to keep in touch with people and to continue with much of the work we are engaged in, though not all. I'm lucky to have an office where I can work. Pat and Catrin work in the bedrooms, partly becuse Catrin is sleeping in the room Pat uses for her office.

That's enough for now.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Carrefour

I just got back from a visit to or nearest Carrefour. It isn't our nearest supermarket but we needed rat food so that meant a bigger shop.

It took about a 20 minute walk through deserted streets. I got to the front gate of the flats, then had to turn back for my form, fill it in then leave again. I went along the bottom road where the new offices and flats are being built. Well, were being built. Not today they're not. I saw almost nobody.

Carrefour was quiet, too. I entered straight away and made my way round the aisles. They had everything we wanted, though not necessarily the brands we would normally buy.

We always buy some treat or other for the supermarket staff. They are also on the front line, though they don't get the applause - or the pay - of the medics.

The walk back was longer and slower with two heavy carrier bags and the heaviest things in my rucksack, but this time I walked past the railway station - again through deserted streets - and got home without incident.




Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday morning

It's a beautiful morning once more, with a gorgeous sunrise and a light mist on the river. Just the morning to go down on to the quays and enjoy the crisp morning air, to cross the pont de pierrre and watch the city start to awaken. But the quays and the pont de pierre are closed to pedestrians and it's another day confined to barracks.

We're so lucky to see the river, the hills and the trees beyond. We have the balcony to get out of the flat. Others are confined within their four walls. They sit by the window. For some the window opens onto a puit de jour - a narrrow courtyard that just brings light and air down but from which you can see nothing.

France is still on the upward slope of the curve, and possibly not very far up. Our region, Nouvelle Aquitaine, is so far the least affected, but the number of new infections each day is beginning to rise, along with the number of daily dead. We gaze at the Grand Est in horror - Alsace and Lorraine - where the virus hit befoore people had had time to prepare or even to really know what they were dealing with. What can anyone say about Lombardy, except to weep?

An eminent doctor in Marseille is conducting tests with an anti-malarial combined with an antibiotic which have shown to be effective in combatting the novel coronavirus infection. Viral count and recovery times are greatly reduced. However France's central pharmacy reported yesterday that somehow their entire stocks of the anti-malarial had been stolen.

Meanwhile doctors here say that every day's delay has given more time to prepare, that hundreds of ICU beds are ready. Local businesses are collaboorating. Alcohol destined for gin production will become gels and wipes. Others are 3D-printing ventilator valves from patterns shared on the internet. The streets of Bordeaux are deserted. Cycling is said to be prohibited - nobody wants brooken legs and arms to clutter up hospitals just now. People are staying home to beat the virus. Local shops are now well-provisioned, the staff wear scarves and the clients enter one after the other to limit contact.

As for us we're fine. We have bananas, oranges, loo-roll and pretty well everything we could want or need. This morning we will watch one of the online services and this evening our service will be on Facebook Live, then a virtual after-church coffee on Zoom. We keep contact with folk by zoom, by skype, by Facebook messenger, somehting beeps and you click everything in sight till you find the one that works.

Alongside that we read, we sing, we watch films, we cook, we play. Someone added me to a Facebook group called Côr-ona, it's a group for Welsh people to sing to encourage each other. I hesitated then accepted I'm psyching myself up to sing something.

And we pray, hope and wait.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Life in confinement

We're benefiting from really nic weather here in Bordeaux, and thankfully we have a nice balcony where we can get out and breathe. Pat sits out there and reads. We all do our physical jerks out there, too. We greet our nieighbours, either waving to people in other blocks or shouting down to the folk in our own. Pat did try singing "Knees up Mother Brown" but nobody joined in.

Meanwhile we still have good stoocks of bananas and clemntines. Bread's running low, so we'll need to make a quick sortie to the supermarket either today or tomorrow. Having filled in our form, of course.

As confinements go, it's not so bad. Of course, we have a spacious and light flat with a balcony. Some folk have just one room and some people don't even have a window that opens on the street, so for them it's much harder.

We're keeping in touch with people and checking up on people. Pastors have the right to visit the sick, having filled in the appropriate form, and we can also bury the dead. Bordeaux Church is youthful, so we're not necessarily expecting to have any sick as such. And we hope not to have any dead, either.

So there we are. Time to get back to work!


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Lockdown !

On Friday the government banned meetings of over 100 people. We assumed we could still meet on Sunday, but the guidelines were: no handshakes or hugs, everyone sits at least a metre apart, no communion, coffee or snacks. Also the trams would stop running at 20h30, so people would have to go straight home.

Then on Saturday evening further restrictions were put in place which meant that churches cancelled their services completely. Sylvain was due to preach so he did a live feed on Facebook. It went very well indeed, and a little technical hitch halfway through didn't put him off his stride at all.

Gethin, a colleague from Paris, was due to go to Rome for a weekend break, but when that proved impossible he came to Bordeaux by train instead. He was able to explore the city on Friday and Saturday, but then he was here for the shutdown before leaving on Monday afternoon. It was good to see him. He got home to Paris safely.

Now we're confined to our apartment. To leave we have to fill in a form stating why we're outside. Police are checking why people are on the quays or in the city centre. You're allowed out to go to work, to get your kids, to do essential shopping, to walk the dog, to see the doctor or to take a little exercise. All with your duly completed form.

This morning we were able to drive over to collect Catrin so she'll spend confinement with us rather than alone. We're glad to have her with us, the birds are singing and the weather promises to be nice later in the week. We've been to our local supermarket and we're well supplied with oranges and bananas as well as the other basics. A rumour says there may be eggs on Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile church life continues.
This evening a Christianity Explored group will continue, probably by Skype.
Catrin has a meeting by Skype.
Wednesday's Bible study and prayer may take place by Zoom.
We're considering either Facebook Live or Youtube Live for next Sunday.
Groups will meet online and our deacons have lists of people to be checking on.
In addition we might actually meet our neighbours more easily now everyone is confined to barracks.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Sunday in Phase 3

On Thursday evening President Macron made a speech at 8pm, the same time our choir rehearsal started, announcing further measures to control the spread of corona virus COVID-19. (I smile as I type that because the chap next to me said that Macron had completely discredited his announcement by referring to the virus as COVID-19, but that's the name of the disease, not the virus.) Anyway, he announced that all educational establishments would be closed from Monday morning and that meetings of more than 100 people should not take place.

The choir had concerts programmed for the 4th and 6th of April, but they have now been rescheduled for November. Meanwhile we concluded that the church could meet this Sunday, but we could not eat together or share communion. In addition people had to sit two metres apart. It was going to be different.

Events overtook us, however, as France moved to the next phase of the struggle with the virus on Saturday evening. The prime minister announced that closure of cafés, shops, cinemas, libraries, concert halls, anything non-essential. The only things left open are pharmacies, tobacconists, food shops, banks and newsagents. People were asked to keep contact with friends and family to a minimum and to stay at home. Churches were requested to postpone their meetings. We think this is because by law the government cannot ask for religious meetings to be cancelled.

So we quickly prepared for a Sunday at home. Sylvain was due to preach and we decided on Facebook live as the vehicle to do it. He did extremely well. In the morning we watched a service from Lyon, then a service from North Wales. Pat and I stayed in, well, using the balcony, but a visitor from Paris went out for a quick walk.

The weather was splendid today, a warm spring day, and the Bordelais came out for some sun and fresh air. The waterfront was crowded, a was the Jardin Public.

Meanwhile a tram driver has tested positive for coronavirus, so the public transport network was shut down while a means was sought to protect the drivers from infection. They'll be running tomorrow, but with a reduced service so people can look after their children. Intercity and TGV trains will also start to be reduced in frequency to encourage people not to travel from one area of France to another.

We plan for Bible Study and Prayer groups to run either by Skype meeting or by Zoom. We're allowed out for essential shopping - our pharmacy and a little supermarket are a short walk away - and for exercise. Otherwise we're thankful for our flat, its pleasant aspect and views and its large balcony.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Morning in the Quartier Euratlantic

It's a beautiful day in the Quartier Euratlantic.

Meanwhile the government has taken the following steps regarding the spread of the new coronavirus:

1) Schools and universities are closed from Monday.

2) Meetings of more than 100 people are banned.

3) In meetings of fewer than 100 people : rigorous handwashing, no physical contact and 1 meter distance kept at all times.

Bordeaux meanwhile has closed its central library and all its concert halls that hold more than 100 people as well as pools, sports centres etc.

Pat had a routine medical appointment yesterday and her doctor told her to stay at home and not to go to restaurants, cafés or cinemas.

(We broke that rule and popped out for lunch at the newest salad emporium that has opened up just down the road. Well, it was our 27th wedding anniversary.)

The Conseil National des Evangéliques de France has added to this the strong suggestion to avoid sharing the communion service and no meals together until restrictions are lifted.

So this Sunday Bordeaux Church will meet physically in our usual place and we'll look at the possibilities for life online, perhaps with online Bible studies, prayer groups and sermons and shared playlists for songs and so on.




Tuesday, March 10, 2020

When the washing machine yields up the spirit

The bearings have failed in our washing machine. It makes a terrible banging noise.

On the internet I looked up washing machine repair-men, then looked up the word for bearings (!), then looked up our machine whereupon I discovered that call-out charges are about 75€, our machine was bought in 2012, bearings are called roulements, but in our machine they are not replaceable - the design of the drum is such that you have to replace the whole thing, the parts costing 250€.

The machine has given us eight years of impeccable service, but we read that the average life of a washing mchine is about 10 years.

So this morning I have changed the itinerary of my planned trip. I'll be out shopping for a washing machine.

Eight years ago when the machine failed it was a disaster. This time it's an irritation.


Monday, March 09, 2020

Les Jardins de l'Ars and Coronavirus



Our neighbouring building sites are all but finished. Portakabins have been removed. Rubble has been cleared. We now seem to be in a new phase of breaking up old tarmacadamed surfaces and preparing for the earth-moving that will produce the eventual gardens. All very fascinating, of course.

Meanwhile one church in Bordeaux has been closed for two weeks after one of its attendees was infected with covid-19 on a visit to France's principal mega-church in Mulhouse. There's been a little outbreak associated with a conference held at Mulhouse and so this person became Bordeaux' second covid-19 case and their Bordeaux church held online services yesterday.

So despite the fact that Bordeaux is twinned with the city of Wuhan, and despite the large number of Chinese students from Wuhan here in Bordeaux, so far we have not had a cluster of cases and life continues as normal with only a restriction on handshakes, hugs and kisses to notice. For us handwashing has become prayerful as reciting the Lord's prayer gives the right timing for a thorough hand wash. I have enjoyed reciting in English, French and Welsh and I think I'll revise it in Spanish, too.

The French news observes with amusement the panic buying of toilet-rolls. French people panic buy pasta when the madness strikes, but so far our supermarket shelves are well stocked with penne, spaghetti, farfalle and rigatoni.


Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Water everywhere

We're getting torrential downpours, too, here in Bordeaux. No flooding, but the river is high and the puddles are many, so we charge around between spates and hope the tram will come soon.

Heavy winds have closed our parks and also made the trams very unpredictable for reasons I do not completely understand. Well the parks I do. Nobody wants trees falling on people's heads. But the trams' disruption has me baffled.

Meanwhile Patricia has a nasty head cold. It is doubtless a virus, but it is not the virus. This despite obsessive hand-washing on Sunday. I think in the pre and post service periods I must have washed my hands about 9 times.

Our pharmacy has run out of their nice aloe-vera-based hand gel - no alcohol so it doesn't dry out your skin - so they have posted a recipe for you to make your own mixing 30ml of aloe vera gel with 10 drops of essential oil of tea tree.

Keep safe, all.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Gardens of the Ars

This latest photograph shows the dismantling of the building site at the base of the Innova tower: the tower is now complete, some of the offices are in use and some of the apartments are occupied. We'd love to go up and see the views.


Coronavirus

There's been a few more cases in France, which means that we are now at stage two of the epidemic. What that means I do not know. But I do know that in Paris the priests must no longer put the host on the tongues of the communicants, and that the receptacles for holy water have been emptied.

Meanwhile the word "coronavirus" is useful for practicing French pronunciation, particularly aspects of stress.

In English we say coROnaVIrus, stressing the "ro" and the "vi".  French is an egalitarian language and in principle no syllables are stressed in this way. So to get away from our instinctive pronunciation as Brits you can practice pronouncing it COroNAviRUS. The end result sounds pretty good.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

A strange February

February is usually the longest, dreariest, greyest, most dismal month in Bordeaux. The skies stay resolutely sunless. It's rarely very cold but always chilly. It's a cheerless month.

To combat it I pay occasional trips to shops with brightly coloured clothes. My favourite was Desigual, a Catalan clothes designer whose neon creations used to fill a shop on the corner of rue Vital Carles and Rue Dijeaux. But they closed down. I wondered how I'd survive February without them and planned trips to sportwear shops or to Benetton instead.

I need not have feared. This February has been bright, sunny and warm. Sometimes over 20°C. Cloudless skies have filled our horizons. Flowers bloom. We seemed to have moved seamlessly from Autumn to spring without passing winter or needing to spend £200 on heating or warm woollens.

Seemed. This week is the winter school holidays, when people flee to the Pyrenees to go skiing. Imagine! All that warmth and beautiful snow, too. Meanwhile in Bordeaux it's cold, wet and grey. Winter's back.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Do you know the poem about

Doctor Foster?

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

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

There came a perplexed look.

"He sold his soul to the devil."

"OH! FAUST!"


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

Act 65

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

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

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

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


Thursday, February 06, 2020

The little things count

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

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

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

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

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




Disenfranchised !

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

So I can no longer vote in UK elections.

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

What could it be?

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

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




Sunday, February 02, 2020

Post Brexit fun and fear

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

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

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

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

At one point the conductor explained some future projects.

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

"Alan", came the quick reply.

"Yes, and preferably not european."

Like a shot, "Alan!"

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

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

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

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




Wednesday, January 29, 2020

My new passport is on the way

and it might even be navy blue.

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

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

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

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

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

My passport is maroon, but has no EU symbol.


A Night at the Opera

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Well she's gone

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

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


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A quick trip to Ikea

Yes, I know...

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

Was it under her bed? No.

Was it in the bed settee? No.

Was it in the bed-linen drawer?

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

Then the tram broke down.

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

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