This renaissance part-song is about a stag hunt. It is often performed unaccompanied.
Saturday, January 23, 2021
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Folks are concerned that we get vaccinated. One colleague suggested that we go and ask the doctor to get us done as soon as possible. Other folks tell us to just go and get it done. Asthma, you see.
Here's how it's working in France. From yesterday everyone over 75 is eligible to be vaccinated, as well as at-risk people in certain categories, like transplant patients or cancer patients with compromised immune systems, people with two or more organ failures, people suffering from a list of rare diseases. In short, not us. I suspect that we will be in the next tranche, perhaps in early February.
You can go to the vaccination centre and blag your way in - we have heard of one person who did that. Otherwise you need a prescription, so if we nagged the doctor they may well comply.
But to be honest, I don't think we're at high risk of catching the thing. (Famous last words, perhaps?)
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
UFM are hosting a webinar for church leaders on the above subject.
Find out about it here : https://www.ufm.org.uk/about/events/church-leaders-webinar/
A friend in the UK made a substantial gift to the mission to enable our UK state pension contributions to be completed. I had 31 years of contributions and Pat has 30, and we had anticipated saving up over the next few years buying additional years of contributions as we could. Now we wouldn't need to.
I signed a form allowing the mission to negotiate on my behalf, then the mission enquired how much it would cost to add my four missing years. The answer they got was far less than I had calculated so they sent off the cheque. I allowed a couple of weeks, then started watching my pension forecast.
I allowed a month, then six weeks.
Still nothing changed.
The folks at the mission contacted the pensions centre.
I phoned the helpline. "I'll send an urgent memo. It'll take a couple of weeks."
I phoned again, this time being sure to get the name of the person I spoke to. I quoted the dates of the letter and phone calls. "I'll send an urgent memo. It'll take a couple of weeks."
OK, but what should I do next, because the last time someone did this nothing changed. "Well it takes a couple of weeks."
We started this in June and it is now November.
"Then write a letter".
Thus it was that in December I sent a fairly thick envelops with copies of all correspondence between the mission and myself, with dates and records of phone calls and asked what could be done to rectify the situation.
After Christmas, with bated breath, I dared to look at my pension forecast page.
I now have 35 years of contributions ! After April we should see what effect that has on my pension forecast.
Man that was hard work, but worth it in the end.
Now to do the same for Patricia.
With the onset of Brexit we applied for our ten-year carte de séjour and were given our provisional ones some time ago. They were provisional because the UK was still in the EU, we had not even entered the transition period. So we had EU member state cartes de séjour and knew that once Brexit was complete we would need to replace them.
The government set up a website to apply fro the new cards and this went online in October 2019. I applied for Pat's card and for mine. Then the site was taken off-line again, but not before we had received our emails confirming our request for the new "third-country" cards.
Then yesterday we received emails from the prefecture summoning us for a meeting on 20 January to take our fingerprints once more in order to produce our final permanent cartes de séjour.
It will be good to get this finalised.
The weekend was a good example of the possibilities that coronavirus has alerted us to. We could have done this anyway, but we didn't, and now we do.
So Saturday began with a 8:45 15minute talk from Romans 3 for our church in North Wales. This happens on Facebook live and I found that Google Chrome works for that on my laptop. I can also prop it up on my nice new adjustable stand which I bought to replace the bent coat-hanger I had been using since March 2020!
Sunday morning I was in one of our supporting churches in Bath, giving a brief update, doing the Bible reading and leading in prayer. The church posts its services on Youtube, so I needed to video myself doing the three things in advance, standing and filmed basically waist-up. So I stood Catrin's old tripod on our bed and stood in front of the wardrobes. This gave the right distance, good lighting and a neutral background.
Sunday evening was Bordeaux Church's meeting where our video projector refused to connect to anything we plugged in, so quick-thinking Sylvain exported the projection file as a pdf and we posted it to the Bordeaux Church Facebook group. People sang from their smartphones.
We'd been thinking for a while whether we need to find a better way of streaming the services. At present we use Facebook live from my smartphone via 4G. There's no wifi at the church building. A techie-task-force will take this in hand.
We hustled off home and arrived in good time for the curfew to fall and to make a quick cup of tea before connecting to one of our supporting churches in Cardiff for a short Bible message, a quick update, questions and answers and a time of prayer.
It will be interesting to see how coronavirus changes our approach to communication with churches in the future. Will we continue to do three-week whistle-stop tours of the UK once we can?
Sunday, January 03, 2021
Anyway, off I trotted into the city pausing briefly to take another angle on the opera house. On my way home I had intended walking but it was so cold so I took the tram again and chose the quickest back street to the stop. That's how I found it.
I scuttled through and made a note to come back in more clement times.
Friday, January 01, 2021
There's a curfew at the moment which means that everyone must be indoors by 8pm. Covid regulations also restrict the number of folk you can have in your home to 6 (not counting children). So New Year's Eve found us on our own this year. It meant we could do things simply.
We were on duty in the Christian bookshop from 2 till 4, so we had a big lunch of cauliflower cheese before heading off into the city. We wanted to call by Bradley's bookshop, the English language bookshop, on the way, and we spent a happy moment chatting with the guy who should really have been stocking the shelves, but hey. Then off to the bookshop through the pouring rain, dodging the many cyclists and the few cars.
Because we'd be along we decided we could skip eating an evening meal and instead go for snacks finger food, so I whipped up some hummus, Pat chopped carrots, peppers and cucumbers and we cracked open a bag of those vegetable crisps, too. We don't get TV but we do have a Netflix subscription, so we decided to watch again The Bodyguard, the TV cop and political intrigue drama from some decades ago while munching our peppers and scraping our hummus (with smoked paprika).
Midnight found us on the balcony watching the fireworks in the various suburbs around us, Floirac, Bouliac, Bègles, Villenave. People seemed particularly happy to see the end of 2020, with loud cheers for 15 to 20 minutes and some wag somewhere playing bugle calls into the night.
2020! What a year! We know that God's goal for us in this world is to make us less like the hell-bound mindless rebels we are by nature and more like the Lord Jesus Christ. To achieve this he uses every circumstance of our lives, working everything together for our good and his glory.
That's why I wonder whether despite the frustrations and challenges that 2020 has thrown up, and the very real fear, pain and grief we have known, whether in the end 2020 will prove to have been one of the nest years we have ever known. It has brought us - dragged us kicking and screaming - back to the essentials. Stripped us of our frills and shown what we are underneath.
On another note I write to you from inside the European Union, aware that many of you have now left definitively. I was surprised when the Christmas Eve Deal popped out of the hat. I thought there would be no deal. I suspected that this was the desired outcome - certainly it was for some. Now to make a success of it, as a former Prime Minister promised, but was unable to deliver.
For our part we have our 10-year residence cards. Yesterday a man urged us to apply for French nationality, and we may do that one day. What's stopping us is the expense of getting lots of documents translated and the awareness that whatever we do we can never be French. Let me explain.
I joined various groups on the internet which are designed to share information for those applying for residence or for nationality. The process is long. It takes a minimum of two years. People who are granted their prized French passport sometimes encourage everyone by saying "I'm French". French people are quick to reply that they are not French, they just have French nationality, and that is not the same thing.
We love France and we love living here. We think the French way of running the country is eminently sensible and has reaped tangible benefits. We see the French state as benign and benevolent and we are happy to pay our taxes - mainly VAT - and support the country as much as we can. We love the city of Bordeaux and we are very happy to live and work here and do all we can to contribute to its well-being.
But we don't think or work like French people and I don't think we ever could. We were not made in France and we are ill-equipped to cope here. So we'll shelve any decisions about nationality until we know where we should settle once we retire from the work we're engaged in here. That's planned for 2025. Goodness, just four years!
All things work together for good, according to his purpose, to be conformed to the image of his Son.
The path through the desert they trace;
And every affliction they suffered
Redounds to the glory of grace;
Their look they cast back on the tempests,
On fears, on grim death and the grave,
Rejoicing that now they're in safety,
Through Him that is mighty to save.
Shall flee to the land of the blest;
Life's tears shall be changed to rejoicing,
Its labours and toils into rest.
There we shall find refuge eternal,
From sin, from affliction, from pain,
And in the sweet love of the Saviour,
A joy without end shall attain.'
tr. by Lewis Edwards, 1809-87
Friday, December 25, 2020
It's not that early - 7:45 here in Bordeaux - but I'm still the only one up so far. This year there's been more talk of Plygain that usual.
Plygain is the old Welsh tradition of carol services. They'd take place in the early morning, usually in a country church or chapel, and people would turn out in droves - just as popular as Carol Services today or more so. The local clergy person would open proceedings then invite people up to sing, and unrehearsed groups, in the old days generally of men, would come to the front and sing the old traditional carols by heart.
The old Welsh traditional carols were full of biblical references identifying the infant Jesus as the one who came from Bozrah, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, the promise given to Adam, the lawgiver on Sinai, and so on.
I think the fear is that the tradition is now dying out and all memory of it, too. One church in Montgomeryshire where the plygain had its roots has just closed. Children who grew up with plygain are now in their 80s or 90s.
Times do change. Maybe plygain is dying out, but this year there's been a flurry of recordings and reminiscences. A couple of internet searches will find you lots of information, from people translating some of the best-known songs - "Ar gyfer heddiw'r bore" (my favourite) and "Wele cawsom y Meseia" , for example - along with versions sung by opera stars and shepherds - and even a "plygain rhithiol" - a virtual plygain. That's one way to learn the Welsh word for virtual...
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Monday, December 21, 2020
Well today was to have been the day that we flew to Gatwick, then took the train to Norwich to spend Christmas with Gwilym and Beth in Norwich. We were due to stay exactly one week. A couple of weeks ago, concerned about the instability of the situation in both France and the UK, we decided to cancel our flights and commit to staying here.
As things stand today we're glad we did. Norwich is not in a particularly high tier in the UK, but travel from the UK to France is currently impossible. Rumours suggest that France will be reconfined early in January. If this happens we'll be back online for our meetings. So for the moment we're better off staying at home.
As it is we have a few friends coming for Christmas - we're allowed up to six people. There's still some work that I need to get done and I have some videos to film. Other than that I'm staying away from Zoom and video calls as much as I can! It will be good to have a little peace and quiet to rest and recover ready for January.
As I type the European regulator has approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in the EU and the French government is intending to begin its campaign of vaccination from next weekend. They'll begin with residents and staff in retirement homes, then progress to front-line health care workers. Pat and I can reasonably expect to be vaccinated from about March to June, I think.
A covid Christmas. It's not the Christmas you dreamt of, but the gospels tell us that the Son of God didn't come into a world where all is calm and all is bright, but into a world of crazy bureaucracy, forced travel, violence and refugees fleeing for their lives.
It's to people like us, caught up in events beyond our control, that God sends his Son to be Emmanuel, God with us.
Sunday, December 20, 2020
Saturday, December 19, 2020
Friday, December 18, 2020
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Monday, December 14, 2020
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Saturday, December 12, 2020
Friday, December 11, 2020
The rules change next Tuesday. From then we will no longer be confined, as such, and there will be no time limit on leaving home and no restrictions on how far we can travel within France.
However, there will be a curfew. Each evening everyone must be home by 8pm, unless they are engaged in essential work.
The rules for church gatherings are unchanged.
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Wednesday, December 09, 2020
had to go to the pharmacy the other day and got served by the big boss - I say the big boss, he's quite tall. Anyway I asked how everyone is - fine, he said, but doing lots of covid tests.
The antigenic ones?
Yes - but with not many positive tests.
That's good. Salivary?
No, in the nose, just like the other test.
Tuesday, December 08, 2020
Monday, December 07, 2020
Sunday, December 06, 2020
PG Tips teabags have vanished from the supermarket shelves in our area.
Who knows! Anyway we found some Typhoo or Tetley or something, then in utter desperation I decided to order from Amazon. Four boxes of 240 bags. That might get us through to Christmas.
They came, we opened them with great joy. The first cup fo tea was good. The next brew was dreadful. Weak and insipid.
Closer inspection of the tea bags reveals that some are filled normally, but other have only a tiny amount of tea in them.
I've contacted Unilever to ask for an explanation.
Saturday, December 05, 2020
Friday, December 04, 2020
Thursday, December 03, 2020
Bit of a wobbly day yesterday.
For one thing we were all waiting for the government to decide on the rules for social distancing for places of worship. They had set a limit of 30 people. This had caused great consternation all around. Imagine the great cathedral with 30 people!
Then we were still wondering whether we'd be able to go to the UK for Christmas. We had tickets - on the fourth flight we tried. The first booking with Ryanair was changed to a different airport. Then it was cancelled. So we booked with Easyjet. Then that was changed to a difefrent airport and we were given the choice of cancelling. We really wanted to go, but what about testing, quarantine in the UK and in France, and would our flights be cancelled last minute.
In the end we decided that we would accept that Christmas in the UK this year was not going to happen. I cancelled our flights and took a voucher so that we can go over as soon in the New Year as we can.
That just left the government. They had talked about requiring 6m2 per person. Previously it had been set at 4m2 per person which gives around 30 people in our room. 6m2 would allow fewer than 20. It would mean going back online.
Eventually the message was passed around - two empty seats between each person or family group, and leave alterante rows of seats empty. We can live with that!
The day ended with me feeling much less wobbly - still sad at not speding Christmas all together, but at least we can see a way forward.
Every day an Advent or Christmas song. I had to search to find one that didn't use Hydrofoil as a tune. I wanted this one, written by Stainer, I think. Sorry about the red-robed choir - and the intrusive 'r's. But we do get Wesley's words. Somehow I don't think Wesley thought of this as a seasonal hymn.
Wednesday, December 02, 2020
Every day of Advent a Christmas or Advent song.
Today from the 4th century Spanish Aurelius Prudentius Clemens :
Tuesday, December 01, 2020
Anti-covid regulations change and we have to change our plans with them. So we are in a phased deconfinement at present. This means that shops are open again, with longer opening hours permitted, up till 9pm. Also Sunday trading is permitted. This doesn't affect us in Bordeaux much because Bordeaux is a tourist city, so Sunday trading is allowed anyway between certain hours.
Cafés and restaurants are not allowed to open, but they can do takeaways and delivery. People are showing huge ingenuity in finding ways to encourage people to buy takeaways. One of our favourite places was doing picnic baskets to take to the nearby park. Others are selling takeaway drinks in a huge variety of containers.
Churches have stayed open for private prayer, but now services can be held with a maximum of 30 people, not including those officiating. Since we have a disproportionate number of people on duty, doing video-projection, accompaniment, stewarding, etc, this means we can meet with no difficulty. The cathedral, however, is severely limited : putting 30 people in that massive edifice is like serving one green pea in a soup tureen. Meanwhile the catholics of the Pius X group (LeFevre's tridentine traditionalists) held an open-air mass in the Jardin Public attended by 300 people, and are facing legal pursuits in consequence. The parish of Cauderan held ten masses in different chapels and churches, presided over by different priests in order to get the folk through.
The Conseil d'Etat has given the government three days to change this limit of 30 people into something a little more sensible, given that places of worship vary so much in size. So tomorrow at the latest we'll see what will change. I hope there will not be a massive requirement for space per person - at 4m2 per person we can function. Increase this to 6 and it's in doubt. Make it 8 and all doubt is removed, we're online once more.
Meanwhile being back at the church building has positives and negatives. It is good to leave the flat, even though once gets very used to staying indoors in warmth and safety. It is good to see each other, to great each other from afar, to share our news and admire our haircuts. Preaching through a mask is tiring and I never realised before how much facial expressions contribute to it all.
As for Christmas, well who knows what will happen. We are due for a further jettisonning of restraint on 15 December, and just a week later we're supposed to fly to England to spend Christmas with Gwilym and Beth in Norwich. However will the flights be maintained? Will we have to quarantine on arrival or on our return? For us we can live what that, but Catrin can't really quarantine because she's a teacher, so a need to quarantine means she can't go.
One of the rich aspects of being an international church is that many Christmas songs have different versions in the UK, in France and in the USA. I expect Canada adds its own fruit to the pudding, but of that I know nothing. It means planning a carol service can be a puzzle. So in a fit of positivity I decided to make a list of all the Christmas carols I know and to indicate whether the UK, FR and USA versions differ.
( I left out things like the Cherry Tree Carol, all the ones about Apple Trees and 20th Century mediaevalism, like Sir Christemas, Wolkym Yeule and all the rest...)
Then I thought, why not share a Christmas Song every day till Christmas. Originally I thought maybe the Daveys could sing them, but covid. Then I thought it might be a good opprtunity to use the Acapella app on the smartphone.
So here's the Kings Singers. https://youtu.be/5ZPlhAVsmPQ
Thursday, November 26, 2020
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
So from Saturday 28 November :
Shops can open.
Churches can meet, but only up to 30 people. (The cathedrals are not impressed)
We can exercise up to 20 km from our homes for up to three hours a day.
But we're still confined and we still need to justify being outside the home by carrying a form. Also no restaurants, cafés or bars.
I'm more excited than I should be about the 20km thing - probably because it means we can go to any of the Bordeaux parks by public transport and walk or run there.
As for meeting together, it means we can meet and do our thing, and possibly live-cast a Carol Service. It does rather depend on the hygiene requirements that the government will require. We'll find these out today, I expect.
Not going so well. The problem is that I'm wheezy, so I have to stop and use my inhaler mid-run.
Yes, I do use it before I set out. On the stairwell on the way down from the flat.
There are a couple of triggers - firstly it's suddenly got quite cold, and the cold air can irritate the lungs. Then we are also being warned of a peak of particulate pollution in the area just now, because of the bright, fine weather we've been having. "Asthmatics are invited to stay indoors."
I avoid the early morning cold by running mid-afternoon, but I guess the particulates are probably higher then.
Still, I just stop, inhale, walk till the wheezing subsides and then resume.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
this hospital visit is next week. I had better :
- Check I have the right forms ready to sign
- Print out or copy all the various bits and bobs I need to take with me
- Check the no-residue diet I need to be on for a few days beforehand
- Check the NHS website to see if there are things explained more clearly there
- Stick the list of allowed foods on the kitchen wall with blu-tac
- Also the timing of the stuff I have to take beforehand
Having done all that I got a phone call.
It's postponed till 3 March because covid.
Oh well. As you were.