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 29, 2016

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

well, perhaps not quite...

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

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

This could get quite interesting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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

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

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


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It was not a macabre murder

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

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

The surviving motorcyclist is in police custody.

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

A morning run interrupted

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

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

Mystery solved.

Car hire

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

A macabre discovery and an unpleasant journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

A foodie day

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

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

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

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

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

Getting two of the lads to preach

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

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

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunny Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Honestly, it's the finest moment of the day

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

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

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

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

Oh. The porage is ready.

Friday, May 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ash's "seven keys" are:

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, May 19, 2016


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

Bordeaux Church introduction video, Adobe Spark


Book review - Why bother with Church? - Sam Allberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Don Carson : Subtle Ways to Abandon the Authority of Scripture

I'm ashamed to admit it

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Furchte dich nicht, BWV 228

This is lovely.
A motet on Isaiah 41:10 and 43:1, set for double choir.

Do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Double choir means you divide your choir in two halves so as to make the music even more complicated (as if Bach's music wasn't already complicated enough!)
Here they have one voice per part. It gives wonderful clarity, but you can lose attack and ... guts...
I'm pretty sure the band just doubles the voice parts. Bach didn't write band parts.


What a pair of gadabouts! This morning found us at the CGR Cinéma Français near Place Gambetta to see "Risen", or as we saw it, "La Resurrection du Christ".

What are my thoughts?

Well it's pretty well done. Joseph Alberic Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes carries the main role well and makes Clavius the tribune seem quite credible as a character. The Christ figure is very cuddly, people want to crowd around him and hug him. There's an awful lot of hugging in the film, but hey.

There is a little of the old opposition of head and heart thing.
"You gotta feel it in yer heart", says the Magdalene.

I'd feel OK taking certain folk to see it. Others, no. It would depend.

I suppose the thing that struck me most is no angels. I am not sure that western people are very comfortable with the unseen world at the moment, so angels didn't figure.

The other thing that struck me was the ascension. No cloud. Instead we had a nuclear explosion.

That's us, I guess.

Monday, May 09, 2016

"Ten French words you'll never pronounce right"

or that's what this article says.

Here's the ten words they say are very difficult:

1) Mille-feuille
It's a pastry like a custard slice gone very, very right. I don't think this word is all that hard, as long as you can do the sound in feuille, and as long as you can decide whether to pronounce the "ll"s in mille.

2) Brouilly
It's a type of wine. I've never heard of it.

3) Rouen
Place names are awkward because they don't always follow the rules. When I had preached perhaps 40 times in Blaye (which is pronounced locally to rhyme with "aye"or Dai) someone visited us and wanted to ask about Blaye, and every time I said the place name they "corrected" me to Ble (rhymes with "meh"). Every time. It took a supreme effort of will not to say, "Look, who goes there every other week, me or you, sunbeam?"... Other anarchic place names include Agen and the department, le Gers.

4) Bouilloire
Actually, the whole verb "to boil", bouillir, is such a nightmare that often recipes avoid saying "boil the water", substituting "bring to the boil" - porter à ébullition. However, I don't find bouilloire all that challenging.

5) Pneu
Honestly, this is no problem at all. Is it?

6) Heureuse
Not a problem.

7) Froid
I think 6 and 7 are issues if you can't do a French "r".

8) Grenouille
I always get this wrong, because I can never remember whether it's grunwee or grunooy

9) L'eau
Honestly, the person who thinks this is hard to pronounce should move to Italy or Spain.

10) Serrurerie
This is a festival of "r" with a jolly "u" in the middle. Don't be fazed. Take your time. And watch this video if you like:

Saturday, May 07, 2016

First "barbecue" of the year

You see, we thought some of the students were leaving this coming week. Indeed, some were, but then they changed their plans, but not before we'd invited folk for a lunchtime "barbecue" at our place.

The inverted commas signal the fact that we don't have a barbecue any more. We used to have a heavy table-top electric grill and also we inherited a massive charcoal barbecue of the type often used to feed small armies, but we deemed both difficult to store in the flat, so one we sold and the other we dumped.

But we do have a small camping stove and lots of gas, so we set that up with my old cast-iron frying pan which I have had for over thirty years, and we churned out burgers, sausages and courgettes in that.

There followed a lazy afternoon followed by the film "Amazing Grace", and home made pizzas for tea. Patricia has worked tirelessly today.

It's quiet in the house now and the wind is getting up ready for the thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow.

Itinerary for church visits in June

Here's the plan:

5th am Blackburn
7th Fflint
8th Borras, Wrecsam
12th Widcombe
13th Watford
14th Swindon
15th PenyBryn, gêr Caerffili
16th Darlington
19th Clydach am, Cardiff pm

Book review - Counseling one another - A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship - Paul Tautges - Shepherd's Press

Boy am I late with this review! When that happens sometimes it means that I've been ill, or extra-busy, or traveling. Sometimes it means I didn't like the book and I don't want to say so. But sometimes it means I really liked the book. And this is one of those times.

Have you ever wondered what Paul would make of our understanding of some of the things he wrote? For me the classic one is "speaking the truth in love". I think if Paul could see what we often make of that verse he would be appalled. Instead of a community united in love to share the truth of Jesus we turn it into a reason to divide the community by telling each other what we think of them, convinced that our opinion is just the truth, in love of course...

Another is the little phrase in Romans 15 where Paul expresses his confidence that the Roman Christians are competent to counsel one another. This turned into a polemic against dependence on psychology and psychiatry and a motor for pastors to train in the skills necessary for nouthetic - confrontational counselling. Is that what Paul had in mind when he wrote?

Enter Paul Tautges, convinced that the church can be and should be and must be a community of believers in relationship to the Lord and to one another and encouraging one another to love and to holiness, correcting one another, comforting one another, everyone engaged together on the goal of arriving at holiness and likeness to Jesus.

It's a great vision, and it makes for a great book.

It does have weaknesses. Here are three.

The first chapter maps out the reason for the book in the decline of Fuller Seminary's attachment to inerrancy, and therefore the entry of secular psychological dependence into the church. This chapter should be an appendix. Get straight to the meat and taters and put this into an appendix.

Then the book is still involved in the polemic between secular counseling and the life of God in the church. I think that's a pity. The author is not against medical intervention where necessary, but this concern with dependence on analysts, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists is a bigger problem in some countries and cultures than in others.

Then the author is very forthright in his confrontation of cohabiting unmarried couples etc. He calls a spade a spade. However in many places now the problem of sexual chastity and faithfulness has gone far beyond that. In many cities casual sex for recreation has become the norm in Christian young people.

I suppose what I am saying is that when we write really helpful books it is a good idea to make them applicable as widely as possible, and not to focus too much on the culture we live in and grapple with. Even in writing that sentence I can see how hard that must be to achieve. Don't ask for much, do I?

Friday, May 06, 2016

These videos are sumptuous.

Bach at his funkiest. It's what the internet is for.

Well I had hoped it wouldn't come to this

but we bought a mower.

Oh, it's such a funky little thing! You'd love it!

It's made by Black and Decker, and I found it on Amazon. It's a strimmer that clips into a sort of go-kart affair which enables you to strim the lawn at a constant height thanks to the wheels of said go-kart. You can also unclip it to strim, or to edge - the head turns through 180° for that - and then to store it on the funky plastic shelves on the funky balcony.

It's so light and easy to use - it's just like hoovering, and it's just right so far for our little patch of grass.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Eating my words

Dishwashing machines?


Invasion of the bloodsuckers

What we feared.

The general swampiness of the gardens round the block of flats has provided an ideal nursery for mosquitos, it would seem, judging by the number of big beefy examples we were squashing last night. So our flat is now pervaded with insecticide.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Catrin's concert

As part of their end of year assessments the students on Catrin's Musicologie et Chanson Française, Jazz et Musique Actuelle course have to give a recital. Catrin's was last night, along with her comrades Bérénice and Chloé.

The professor has a kind of arrangement with various bars and little venues in Bordeaux and so we found ourselves in a private club. I know it sounds dodgy, but it wasn't really, it was very tame, and it is apparently one of the well-known small-scale music venues in Bordeaux.

We planned our route with Moovit, which told us to take the 24 bus at 19:25 which would get us to the bar at 20:20. The concert was due to start at 20:30. Catrin, meanwhile, having gone to the beach with some of the students from church, had arranged to meet them at the tram stop at 8:15, so she went on tram B.

Our bus got us to the bar by about 7:45. I don't know how. Maybe we walk much quicker than Moovit allows for. Maybe it was the absence of traffic. Maybe I just read the stupid thing wrong, but anyway we were there. We so chatted with Bérénice's mother and so on.

Eventually everyone was there, the sound check was done and the concert unfolded. Catrin played piano for Bérénice. Catrin and Chloé played the cups for Bérénice. Chloé played guitar for Catrin. All seemed to go off very well.

Afterwards Catrin was ravenously hungry so we tried to go to the fish and chips place, but it was just closing. Not far away was a Thaï place I have heard good things about, and so it was that late in the evening I ate a massive Randeng while Catrin tucked into a Beef Thaï Salad. Others had curries of various hues. Pat, showing immense common sense, just had a dessert. The food was very good, and copious too, but after catching the last tram home I then woke in the wee hours with indigestion.

Serves me right. Party animal.

Mrs Davey, the osteopath and running

Well Pat's back is much better and she resumed hr service at the Maison de la Bible. She did have an appointment booked with an osteopath on Monday, who told her not to run.
"Walk fast for an hour, instead", she said.
So there we have it.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Oh well, it was bound to happen some time

Yes. I fell.

I tripped over a very small water tap cover just alongside the vineyards of Château Pape Clément.

Thankfully not many folk were around, and on our white dust pavements you land quite softly, really. Not like on tarmac (ouch) or gravel (yuk).

I have a small graze on the heel of my hand, and sore spots on my elbow and knee, but apart from that more fear than harm (plus de peur que de mal), and to be honest, not much fear either.

I landed with a soft sound, quickly realised that I had done no serious damage, considered how much further I had to go and carried on without difficulty.

I'd love to know how things were at the airport yesterday

Yesterday was the 1st May, the Fête du Travail, the only day in the year when there are no buses or trams at all.

It fell on the first Sunday of the month, which is Bordeaux 'No Car Day" when cars are banned from the city centre.

So we reluctantly cancelled our service.Almost all our folk come by mass transit, and if we had reserved a Citiz car then we would not have been allowed into the city centre anyway and we'd have had trouble parking.

So some folk came to our place and we spent an agreeable day together.

As the day unfolded we saw lots of aeroplanes taking off and landing from Mérignac airport.
I wondered whether some of the people arriving would end up stuck or would have to pay a fortune for taxis into the city. A good day to be an Uber driver!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

I don't know how we are all going to get through the month of May

Usually May is punctuated by public holidays and long weekends. The ponts de mai.

This year, however, there's a disaster.

The 1st May and the 8th May are both on Sundays. That means two public holidays lost and no opportunity for a long weekend.

The only saving grace is Whitsun Monday and Ascension Thursday, which are both public holidays.

But even so May will be tough for us all in France this year.

Wow! I can't believe that that worked!

Yesterday was one of those megadays.

I'm sure we all have them.

A day when one engagement followed another, sometimes so closely that I really couldn't see how I could avoid being very late indeed.

Add in the fact that one involved travelling by car in the WORST rush hour (a misnomer if ever there was) around the WORST blockages of the ring road, then followed closely by a meeting in the middle of town where, frankly, parking a car is a huge liability...

Anyway, long story short, as our transatlantic brothers so charmingly say, some creative route-finding, allowing an hour to travel 12 km/7 miles, and being able to park in the car park of a block of flats in the middle of town, and it all came together, guided by an unseen hand.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Well that was disconcerting

I burst out of the flat at 6:50 this morning like a ball from a cannon only to discover that it was light outside. Perfectly light.

I was profoundly unnerved. This meant that anyone would be able to see me lumbering my way past the vines. Not only that, but my orange stay-safe fleece had turned from super-fluorescent to superfluous in one foul sweep.

Oh well, I ran on. There was nobody about anyway and my run went well, thankfully. And the chilly start to the day made my fleece a welcome warming covering rather than a dayglo liability.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Honestly, it was perverse

I listened over some days recently to a recording of the Messiah, on Spotify, conducted by one of the new wave of baroque conductors.

You know the type. They conduct with eccentric, dance-like contortions.

If you had the sound off you'd swear they were conducting Schoenberg.

Guess that piece! 
Pierrot Lunaire?
No, it's Bach Cantata no 4, "Christ lag in Todesbanden".

Their singers are just the same.
They perch on stools waving their arms around while they sing baroque arias.

If Purcell were alive today he'd turn in his grave.
If Quixote rode into town he'd take them for windmills and tilt at them for tuppence.

The whole thing has become very kinetic, very mobile.
Watching a video is extremely distracting.
I thought Spotify might be OK.

Well it wasn't.

I mean, I know the conductor in question is not British or even anglophone by birth, but why would you direct your chorus to sing "Hallelujah" as quietly as possible?
Why the need to think through the most usual and natural dynamics and then reverse them?
Quiet, reflective passages belted out.
Cries of delight and praise whispered sotto voce.
Why? Why, unless out of sheer perversity?
A fresh approach is not a bad idea, but in this case the whole effect was perturbing in the extreme.

Never again!

(Rant over)

A delegation!

This morning we had the immense privilege of receiving several members of the Overseas Missions Board of an evangelical denomination in Hong Kong. They came to talk about the work amongst Chinese people in Bordeaux, and more specifically about the prospect of perhaps sending a worker or workers to help the Chinese Christians here.

What lovely folk! We had a very happy time exchanging about the work here and in Toulouse and about the possibilities and their hopes for the future. We parted reluctantly and we missed them immediately.

Morning trots

I have not spoken of my morning running sessions for a while.

Oh dear. EVERY TIME I go away for a few days I have to battle to get my running back on track again. It's a nightmare! Five days in Scotland severely disrupted my routine such that when I got back out on the road I struggled gravely to get going again.

Add in my weekend tummy bug and frankly... well, it was not until this morning that I began to feel that perhaps I would get back on track soon.

Still. Even when it is a struggle, it is a manful struggle, and worthwhile!

And these mornings are beautiful. The vines are sprouting. The vineyard is changing out of its winter charcoal corduroy into a lush green velvet. The irises have blossomed briefly. The various wildflowers are flourishing. The trees are blooming. And a wisteria hangs over a wall to greet me as I rumble viscously past.

Tummy bugs, back problems and unforeseen consequences

James Hammond's birthday was the day before mine.

Now I live in Bordeaux in palatial (if pokey) luxury, in the bosom of my family, with dining table, patio and every comfort known to man. Well, every comfort I could reasonably hope for, shall we say. James lives far from his family in monastic isolation in his upstairs flat in the quarter judaïque.

So I arranged a surprise birthday party for him, using a surreptitious Facebook group I proposed that we do something festive on our patio involving sausages and cake. Picture my surprise when I was ejected from the group and the discussion continued. It did not need the deductive powers of Inspector Barnaby to realise that the birthday party was to have a double focus - for James and for myself.

Until the tummy bug struck. And the bad back flared up.

Our feeble physical form forbade us to attend.


Oh well. There's always another year.
Well, not always, but there's reasonable hope of another year this time, at least!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book review - Brian W Thomas - Wittenberg vs. Geneva (A Biblical Bout in Seven Rounds on the Doctrines that Divide) - New Reformation Publications

Am I stupid or what? I just don't know what anyone could do to help me. No, seriously, I really don't.

You see, I saw "Wittenberg vs. Geneva" and I thought it would be really cool to read some historical theology on Luther and Calvin and the areas of agreement and dispute between the great streams of the reformation, the Lutherans and the Reformed.

Then I saw that it wasn't that, but I thought that still it would be cool to read a book from someone who had belonged to today's Reformed stream and had by conviction switched to Lutheran convictions and so would be able to explain his path.

How come I didn't spot the rather giveaway title 'Bout in Seven Rounds'.

This isn't an irenical testimony or an exercise in tracing historical discussion. This book is modelled on a boxing match. Well, OK, there's historical precedent for robust speech in theological discussion -  Calvin didn't always pull his punches though I think Luther could show him a thing or two when it came to "plain speech".

However when I read the book I did feel a certain discomfort. I didn't always recognise myself in the reformed views presented and I didn't always feel that the boxing match was being conducted in a fair way. So here's my reflections on how to conduct a fair fight:

1) Define your terms. Reading brother Thomas' book made me realise that when we speak of "grace" we are not always speaking of the same thing. If you use the same word to mean different things than it will not be easy to reach agreement!

2) Define your opponent's position in a way that he will recognise and approve. No "straw men", no reduction ad absurdam, no weak arguments. Build your opponent's case so strongly it seems unassailable. Then how great will be the crash when you knock it down! Not only that, but surely this is the way of brotherly love.

3) Avoid vague terms. For example, at times brother Thomas writes of things that are taught "in the reformed churches". Well, frankly, depending on how you define "the reformed churches" you'll find anything and everything taught in them today, from atheism to pantheism. I imagine the same thing is true in "the Lutheran churches".

4) Discuss confessional statements rather than preaching. Preaching is ephemeral stuff and from time to time preachers say things that would not be their last word on the subject. Not only that, but not everyone would accept Pastor Siril as the best and finest spokesman for the reformed folk. Confessional statements, like declarations of faith, are worked over together by a team of people, reflected upon and presented as a position on with people stand, so it's best to discuss and debate these documents.

So there we are. If you are looking for a rollocking good rout of the reformed folk by a Lutheran heavyweight who doesn't pull his punches, this may be the book for you. If not, perhaps pass on.

We are sick, I tell you, sick!

Mrs Davey has another flare-up of her back problem.
I have a slight digestive upset.

Oh well. These things won't last.
And at least Catrin is in good shape.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Victoria Wood

Sad to see the end of this talented lady's presence with us.

This song isn't very kosher, but for me it's very memorable and sums up what I appreciated about her. She seemed to like and to love people, even though she saw their funny side. You felt she counted herself among the eccentric herd she laughed and sang about.

The Queen's birthday

Some friends express their republican convictions on Facebook.

I'm glad they are able to freely.

Perhaps the irony is not lost that Britain has had that kind of freedom longer than perhaps any country in the world. Certainly French dissidents fled to England in the past. That freedom was assured by our tradition of a monarchy that was not absolute, a king who was not above the law and who was answerable to his parliament.

One reason I'm thankful for the Queen is that for me she expresses something that is at the heart of the essence of what it means to be a Christian. She was born into a role, destined for a life-long responsibility that she never chose, and she has embraced that role, shouldered that responsibility with diligence and perseverance. She has not always got everything right, but she has got that one most important thing right, to bow to God's providence, to accept his plan and purpose, to accept who you are, and to run with perseverance the race marked out for you.

Bravo! How many countries are there where people can be freely thankful for a leader who has been in office for over 60 years?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

UFM Scottish Conference

On Thursday at 7pm I left the house taking everything I needed except the adapters for my computer and boarded the number 42 bus to connect with the no 1 for the airport. I was off to Edinburgh! I soon remembered that I had forgotten the adapters and was able to email a colleague from Swindon to bring his. The plane was on time and I was met at Edinburgh by the excellent Iain Cameron, our rep for the North of Great Britain (everything north of Watford but not including Ireland) and taken to his home near Glasgow where I was very comfortably installed.

On Friday morning I was able to meet a dear friend who got their doctorate in Bordeaux and now works in Glasgow. Although my friend is Chinese, they were able to translate for the person in the coffee shop who said to me, twice, GRRRGGRRRRCCCHHHHHRRRHHHHHCCGGGRRRR. I understood nothing. Nothing.

Anyway, then off to Pitlochry for the UFM Scottish Conference. I had the graveyard session, Saturday afternoon after lunch, so I considered waking people up with a few choice jokes, like
"What is the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney?"
"Bing sings and Walt disnae"
but something stopped me. Anyway, it seemed to go OK.

William Brown was the main speaker and expounded passages from the life of Elijah (no, not that one) and Peter, helpfully, carefully, gently and pastorally.

I was accompanied by the amazing David Barnes of Peru - you can have no idea of how many HUNDREDS of pastors he is training for ministry there - and the wonderful Susanna Clark. Susanna is considering where her ministry among African children should take her next.

Flights meant that after the conference I had a free day to explore Glasgow. It happened to be my birthday so I made merry with Waitrose sandwiches (surprised to find a Waitrose in the middle of Glasgow) and a Starbucks filter coffee for which I think I was undercharged, but I knew that if I tried to speak to them about it we would not understand each other so I was stuck. I also bought some Ambrosia apples in Waitrose, and they were very nice indeed. I could also browse a Waterstones. And it didn't rain!

My flight home landed a little ahead of time so I was able to hop on the no 1 and the no 4 to be restored to the bosom of my family. We'll have a birthday tea sometime when we don't have a million and one things to do. Perhaps Friday evening?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Birthday thanks!

Thanks, everyone, for your kind birthday greetings. 
I'm blown away to be blessed from all over the world.
My birthday was just as happy as a birthday far from home can be, including: 
browsing in a bookshop, 
coffee in Starbucks, 
guzzling Chocolate Cake and 
gazing awestruck at the amazing unidentifiable products on offer in Waitrose.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A troublesome dream

So all night, off and on, I dreamt that somehow - or possibly not - I had been in the drab and dingy apartment of some language teacher and - for reasons I coud not remember - I had despatched the person by means of the forceful application of a flat-iron to the side of the head.

The!s person, now defunct, I had concealed in the boot of my car to await some ingenious means of disposal.

Except that even in my dream I remembered that we do not have a car.

But what eluded me was whether I had actually murdered this person and concealed them in someone else's car.


Even on awaking I wondered if I had actually murdered someone at some time...

Then I remembered reading a news article about the macabre discovery of a woman's body in the back of a van in central Bordeaux.

Phew! It wasn't me!