les Davey de France

In 2005 Alan, Pat, Gwilym & Catrin Davey moved from North East Wales to 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)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Que du bonheur!

This morning Catrin left for a school trip to Caen to visit the peace museum, the D-day beaches and the war cemeteries. She had to be at Gare Saint-Jean for 6:40. A train from Pessac at 6:33 gets to the station at 6:40, but we booked a Citiz car and I picked it up last night.

5 am found us all bustling about the house and 6 found us hurtling towards the ring road in the car, to find that the slip road was closed.

Quick change of plan, to get to the next slip road would take too long, we headed for Pessac station and got that train.
Catrin hurriedly texted her friends to say that she would not arrive by 6:40.
We caught the train, alighted, found her friends, then Pat and I got on the next train back.

Before leaving we searched the departure boards for a train leaving soon after 6:40 in the direction of Caen, but nothing.

I texted Catrin. So what time's this train, then?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

While I had the car I took a load of old worthless treasures to the dump, then Pat wended her way to the bookshop and I got down to my emails.

Cut to lunchtime.

Urgent message from Lycée François-Magendie. Your daughter has been absent from class all morning.

It's no wonder parents go grey. When the kids are sensible the schools are bonkers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Imaginary people who really exist

it's so embarrassing I hardly dare confess it.

I used to read the reformation 21 blog until they finally drove me nuts with their various antics and I forsook them forever.

One of the somewhat less-infuriating antics was their habit of inventing various different characters with crazy names and blogging in that name. A sort of pythonesque humor, I suppose. We all did it, as schoolboys.

Except that one by one I am discovering that these fictional imaginary names are real people.
No, I promise, they are!
Yes, the truth is stranger than fiction!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pat's Birthday - la suite

After our lunch at Miles we popped in at Maison de la Bible to collect Pat's mobile phone, left there the previous day, then we had a couple hours to get ready quietly for the Bordeaux Church Thanksgiving Meal Invitation Extravaganza. The evening was starting at 7pm at James' flat.

I had prepared a Thanksgiving Turkey and Prune Tajine - with chicken instead of turkey because they didn't have any in Auchan the day I looked, accompanied by Cranberry Couscous.

Pat was planning to make a Banana Custard Tart, but she was saved from this by having the rest of the lemon meringue pie from the morning.

We intended arriving at 6:30, but we waited longer than intended for the bus so ended up arriving at about 10 to 7, just in time to put up the pasting table (call yourself an ex-plumber) and help set up the food corner.

7pm came. One person arrived. 7:15. A few more. By 7:30 we were buzzing' and almost half the folk were there for the first time.

James welcomed people. I gave thanks. People introduced their traditional dishes. My favourite was Jamaican rice and peas with coconut milk. After a while James gave a short talk about Squanto and the Canadians, leading into the gospel invitation to the great thanksgiving meal to come. Shortly afterwards I saw that Catrin was wilting and we decided to split. Pat said se-he'd follow on the later bus.

A good evening to end a splendid birthday!

It's been a long time since we had a trombone video

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pat's birthday - so far

The day began with a short lie-in as Catrin didn't start till 10 this morning, which meant the girls getting up at 8.

Then off to the book group, where I was presenting "The Shock of the Fall" by Nathan Filer.

One of the folk had ordered a birthday lemon tart, which was both very kind and very delicious.

We then went for lunch at Miles, recently given a joint first prize by Fooding magazine with a restaurant in Paris. Their prices are very reasonable, the team is young and friendly, all was just great.

Now getting ready for the Thanksgiving Meal this evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sin is not cosmic treason

Grateful to Ligonier Minstries for this.

I was speaking with a colleague the other day and I remarked that for the majority of people, be they Christian or not, people are basically good.

Where people will talk about sin, generally they think of it in terms of sins.

Good people doing bad things.
Good people with bad habits.
Good people who slip up.
But good people, hey?

If you think about sin like that, then your view of God, his holiness, his mercy, the cross, the price paid by Jesus, all will be affected.

But sin isn't like that. It's a declaration of autonomy and independence by dependent creatures.

Even that is difficult for us. After all, if Scotland wants to vote for independence, why not?
Everyone should decide who governs them and how, shouldn't they? Isn't that a basic human right?

That's why it's so important to see sin as the Bible portrays it:

as a sickness that infects everything about us
as a rebellion against our good and great creator and father God
as a perverse nature and a twisted heart that means we can't even think straight or desire good things of ourselves.

We are bad people who manage nevertheless, by the common grace of God, to do good things.
After all, presumably murderous, brutal dictators are kind to their dogs, or their wives, or their mistresses.
And traitors and rebels who have wonderful home lives are still traitors and rebels.

We have rebelled against this great and good God who gives us life and breath and everything else.
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(Even if the majority of people take another view)

"This time EDF will pay for the installation of the solar panels"

A couple years ago a guy came to the house to talk about installing solar panels on the roof. He said our roof is ideal. It's big enough, at a suitable angle and faces due south. Here was the deal - you took out a loan to cover the cost of installation, repayable over twenty years and meanwhile the revenue from selling your electricity to EDF paid the load. In twenty years time, quids in!

Had we been in our twenties we might have considered this, but not now.

Anyway last night a woman rang saying that EDF were looking for homes to install solar panels, and they would cover the installation charge.

Now on the phone you can never tell whether someone is from EDF or not, but hey...

I recounted the above, and she said, "No, this time EDF pays for it. We'll make an appointment and someone will call in about 20 minutes to confirm it."

Twenty minutes later, someone calls. I recounted the above. The person said, "well what we're proposing is the same thing, a loan over twenty years. Shall we cancel the appointment?"

We cancelled the appointment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tri chynnig i Gymro (three tries for a Welshman = third time lucky)

Well what a palaver!

Bougie-wougie-telecom, the people with whom we have our internet and with whom Patricia and I have our mobile phones, wrote to me a while back announcing BIG NEW THINGS for which existing customers would be eligible.

Further details emerged.

Firstly new tariffs - for the same price as what I pays now my mobile phone would work in the UK - internet too. This seemed very interesting to me, especially since every time I go to the UK I buy a £15 top up from Three to get mobile phone cover while in the UK.

Then a new kind of ADSL and TV box coming out in January, the MiamiBox, which will have most wondrous properties.

Well the tariffs came into force on 17th November, so on 17th November I went online and looked. Sure enough, there was the new tariff. It looked fine. I clicked on the place where it said "Change for this". The reply was "We can't change your tariff online. You have to go to a shop."

Well today I was in town and heading for a shopping centre where there is a Bougie-wougie-telecom shop. I went in. I took the little number. I waited. A guy said, "Monsieur?"

"You have new tariffs, I'd like to think about changing tariff."
"OK, let's look. Ah no, you can't because you are still in minimum contract."

On the bus home I pondered. But that letter said existing customers were eligible. And I'm an existing customer. I don't remember it saying you had to be out of minimum contract. I'll have to look for that letter. (We got three or four copies, so I was pretty sure I could find it.)

Then I thought, but my phone shows me everything I need to know, too. What if I look on my phone?
I looked. My phone said, "Would you like to change to this contract that will work in the UK?"
I clicked on OK. It said."OK. Done that."

Oh well. Tri chynnig i Gymro!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wow! I wasn't sure it would be possible, but

it's Pat's birthday on Friday and I just booked us in for lunch in a little restaurent that was recently judged the best restaurant in France!
Can you believe it!
Peter Mayle, eat your heart out!
By the way, don't tell her.

Monday, November 17, 2014


It has RAINED and RAINED and RAINED here - Saturday night it rained so hard that it was not easy to sleep, so after a lively Sunday I was very tired indeed.

So today after doing the week's tweets (for BordeauxChurch on twitter and Facebook page) we had an early lunch and headed off to Ikea!

Ikea is on the other side of Bordeaux so to get there we took bus 4 right to the end, then bus 32. It deposited us just outside Auchan Lac and we weaved our way to the recently enlarged Ikea.

We had a nice time discussing sofas and chairs and eyeing up shelves. Then off for our free cup of coffee, because we have an Ikea Family Card. Afterwards some replacement bowls and odds and ends, including a brolly for €2.50. Then walk to the tram stop at the end of line C in the middle of the new Ginko Eco-quartier, then change in the Chartrons to bus 4 once more.

A nice escape!

So he left us a...

a cake. A brioche, to be precise.

Who? Constant, a chap who lives on the street in Bordeaux. He's an old-fashioned homeless guy, he looks and dresses like a tramp and he wanders the streets of Bordeaux.

We've met him in Cenon, where he accepts a cup of coffee, but drinks it outside the building. He has come in, but not often.

And the first time we met at Dan he came past and was very upset by our presence. "It's a restaurant, not a church", he yelled. But he soon got used to us.

The other week he yelled again, the Sunday that Pat and I were in Nice. Was he upset by a voice he didn't recognise?

Sometimes we try to give him food, but he always refuses it. At Cenon a coffee. At Dan we don't have coffee, so we have nothing to give him. He likes to exchange some treasure: a glass, a spoon, a metal rod, anything he finds. But we're not in our own place so it ain't easy to swap with him.

Anyway, this Sunday, during a moment when I couldn't really be interrupted, the door opened and his hand came in. There's a hook near the door where he hangs his treasure for exchange, but this time he left a bag and went.

We looked inside. It was a brioche! Nice, too, apparently!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Our poor neighbour

came in for a quick coaching session in English ready for his exam in April.

His homework for this week?

To master the pronunciation of "a thoroughly developed law".

Monoprix, mayhem and malentendu

On the way to the Christian bookshop from the oft-feted number 4 bus one passes through the cathedral square, here known as Place Pey-Berland. One corner of the square has a shopping centre and in the basement thereof is Monoprix.

You might think from its name that everything in this supermarket is the same price, but you would be wrong. There are shops like that in Bordeaux, with names like 2€, etc. But in Monoprix the prices vary, normally upwards, that is to say that it is not known for its bargains. In fact the clothes never fit me and they're too expensive. Carrefour trousers and jumpers are fine and Géant-Casino shirts. Auchan is OK for coats. Anyway, I digress.

Monoprix's chief attraction, apart from its convenient location next to the cathedral square, is its attractive range of food. There it was that I once bought real scones, and thus it was that my lunch today was Covent Garden Soup Company Chorizo and Pearl Barley Soup. And very nice it was, too.

At the Maison de la Bible, where I am on duty today, I am struggling with technology. The till-roll machine says it's out of paper. It isn't. It has lots of paper. I've blown on it, turned it on and off, pushed, pulled, thumped and abused it. It still says it's out of paper. The keyboard of the computer says nothing at all. I guess it's out of batteries. It's technological mayhem.

Malentendu is the french word for a misunderstanding. Do not confuse it with malentendant, which means hard of hearing. A chap charged into the shop.

Vous ne pouvez pas casser 10 euros pour garer la voiture?

Oui, bien sur, qu'est-ce qu'il vous faut?

N'importe. Disons un billet de 5€ et des pièces?

D'accord. Et cinq fois un euro, ça vous convient? (passing him the coins)

Ben, cinq euros. Merci. Tenez. Au revoir.

I reflected. One part of the exchange seemed strangely dissatisfying...

Cinq fois un euro, ça vous convient?

Ben, cinq euros.

Whatever did he think I had said?

Aha! Cinq fois un euro ça vaut combien? Ben, cinq euros.

Yes. That makes sense.

It means instead of my very sensible question he heard a very stupid question, but at least his answer suddenly makes sense.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Some photos

The first photo merits a little explanation. I was at a café with a friend and he likes a "petit café bien serré" a "really strong little coffee made with just a little water". The barista produced a tiny coffee that could have comfortably fitted in your average thimble. My companion laughed a lot, but said it was very, very good.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book review : The Foundation of Communion with God - The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, edited by Ryan McGraw

Before we came to France I looked round our straining bookshelves. Something had to give. We didn't know what kind of accommodation we'd have, how much space, whether I'd even have an office. Hard decisions had to be taken. Some books were sold on Amazon. Some books were sold at pastors' conferences and fraternals (fraternaux?)

One set of books stubbornly resisted all attempts to sell it: a beautiful 16-volume set of John Owen, purchased in the Mecca of second-hand books in Hay-on-Wye. A friend looked at it with such interest and kindness. "I tell you what, you promise to pray for us every time you open it and you can take the books." Like a true Augustinian, he took the books, he reads them and what's more he has prayed faithfully for us for almost ten years.

I can't find room for 16 volumes of John Owen on my shelves. Anyway, now I can get them in electronic format from various sources at various prices. And to be honest, John Owen's insight and wisdom comes wrapped in 16 volumes of John Owen's somewhat heavy, sometimes turgid prose.

Enter Ryan McGraw and Profiles in Reformed Spirituality. In this happy little volume he gives us a useful little biography of John Owen, a little sketch of historical theology so we can place John Owen in the grand flow of Christian thinking, he gives us super little illustrations of the people and places that were important in John Owen's life and ministry, and then he gives us little extracts from Owen's works. Just one or two pages on sublime subjects such as "A Spiritually Thriving Christian", "A Heavenly Directory for Worship" or "How to Obtain the Gifts of the Holy Spirit".

Honestly, if you ever thought John Owen would be wonderful but beyond you - too rich, too much, too dense, too hard - get this book. You'll be very glad you did. One section, a page or two will give you a super little boost in the morning and provide you with material for reflection for many happy moments.

I was given a copy of the book in electronic format free of charge in return for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Saying farewell

Some friends are asylum seekers from a middle-eastern country and for a time I accompanied them to the various offices that deal with their case, as well as doing introductory Bible studies from John's Gospel ( English, French, their national language, it was always delightful ). We spent some very happy times together in parks and cafés, in queues and in buses.

On Saturday we heard that they have been allocated a flat in a town way south of here, so Monday lunchtime found me at the station with a little gang of people to say goodbye. Coffee, macarons and the TGV. Au revoir! A bientôt!

Autumn has finally come, and it's COLD!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Covenant of Redemption, the Westminster Confession and its Scripture proofs

Someone started a conversation the other day about the Covenant of Redemption and its Scripture proofs, specifically, where from the Scriptures do we find support for the Covenant of Redemption. I looked in the Westminster Confession which, though it doesn't name the Covenant of Redemption, does speak of it and gives a fairly substantial list of texts in support.

The 17th century was a time of great development in Covenant Theology, and since the Westminster Confession dates from 1646, its section dealing with the Covenants does not reflect later distinctions, definitions and refinements.

Here is a passage from a book I'll be reviewing, hopefully on Monday, which speaks about this :

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Retreat - the therapeutic value

Both female Daveys have expressed their appreciation of the therapeutic value of the retreat in Nice.
It done them both a power of good. We're all very thankful!

Voyage à la Belge

That's funny. There's nothing on the information board and the train hasn't come. And that posh-looking passenger in the suit and business wheeler-trolley is starting to look agitated. I know, there's an app for SNCF, I'll just download it and look.

1245 Alouette-France - Bordeaux Saint-Jean Train supprimé.

What?!?! My TGV for Paris leaves at 13:18. I don't have a hope!

Well, I know there's a strike, but when I looked this morning the train was still running.
Let's book a taxi.
What train are you on?
13:18 to Paris.
Us, too.

The taxi driver took a while to come. I emailed James Hely-Hutchinson, the director of the Institut Biblique Belge to tell him I had a bijou petite problemette. The taxi driver came, we piled in and he hurtled off to town, regaling us with stories of how he lost and regained points on his driving licence. A reluctant barrier at the station was coaxed into cooperation. People moved aside slowly for the taxi to pass through ("ECARTEZ-VOUS") and we scuttled off to the ticket office while one of our number who would be reimbursed settled up with the taxi driver. 45€!

A sign in the ticket office told us that there were fewer booths because of the strike, but the queue diminished fairly quickly and I soon got to explain my plight to a charming lady who popped me on the TGV to Paris one hour later and the corresponding TGH Thalys to Brussels.

At Paris Gare Montparnasse - so where's the Metro? I charged up and down the platform and eventually found it. I had 55 minutes to do a journey that the internet told me took 25. The Paris metro is a bit like a ghost train, in that the tunnels wind around a lot so the train doesn't go very quickly. Anyway, after somewhat more than 25 minutes I was washed up on the platform at the Gare du Nord.

Where's the Main Line platforms? I charged up and down the platform and eventually found someone to ask. Down the other end and turn right, sir. Did that.

Now where are they? A well-placed greengrocers stall directed me onwards. Down the other end and turn left, sir.

Eventually I saw what looked like platforms ahead. I emerged by platform 8 and a big departure board. Thalys for Brussels, platform 7. Hurrah!

After that it was comfort all the way.

The day of prayer was very encouraging. The students prayed well and were a most pleasant bunch. Penne alla puttanesca with David Vaughn of Aix-en-Provence and with James Hely-Hutchinson, and a bed for the night with our friends Maxime and Demelza.

The journey back was to be by tram, coach and plane, but the trams were on strike (is it me?) so the efficient folks at IBB worked out what to do. A quick walk to the Gare du Centre with James, a quick coffee in Haagen-Däz accompanied by a croissant and a pain au raisin, then the train to Gare du Midi where we could find the coach and pop me on it. The coach got me to Charleroi without incident. It's a nice, small airport, a bit like Bordeaux, and the flight was 15 minutes early getting me home.

Here's a few photos of Brussels :

Let's stick a harpsichord in a shed next to a dead moped and get someone to play Bach's Chaconne on it

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Retreat - on the Wednesday we did an all-day excursion

to Saint Honorat, an island just off the coast from Cannes, where a monastery produces classy wine.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Squirting the sea up your snitch

I didn't take my seawater aerosol with me to the retreat.

Today I have a sore throat.

Just saying! Squirting recommences in 30 seconds...



A video from some friends we have yet to meet, the Dulawad

Retreat at Vence - the teaching Sessions

John is a pastor in an international church and currently preparing a PhD at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Maybe I should make clear that this name uses "divinity" in a slightly archaic sense, to mean the study of God - like Theology,  divinity is the latin cognate of the greek word theology. It is not a school for aspiring divinities.

Anyway, having cleared that up, he did a great job with a difficult task, to introduce Revelation and to  expound the letters to the seven churches in four half-days. He steered a careful course between the rocks of various millennial opinions, eventually professing respect for the amillennial and historic pre-millennial views. Anyway, we were WAY before Rev 20, which is where the discussions heat up.

To be honest, the only real problem I had with the teaching sessions was that the programme was perhaps too ambitious. We had LOADS of sessions, sometimes one after the other, and scheduling one major teaching session per day would have been perhaps more practical.

However what came across to me again and with renewed force was how much the culture of the place where a church is situated colours and shapes that church's faith and practice. The church must be in "the world", by which I mean the world's outlook, way of life and values, but "the world" in that sense gets into the church, too.

We need to keep in mind that God has given to us a new culture, a heavenly one, that churches are colonies of the new humanity, of the world to come.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Retreat at Vence - the stated goal of the week

The retreat at Vence was organised by ICC, the International Christian Communities of Eurasia. This is a network of workers and churches who ail to reach internationals in the cities of Europe and Asia. There is a European Board, and two churches at Saint Paul de Vence and at Nice collaborated with a team of workers from Denton Bible Church in Texas, plus a few other folk from hither and yon, to make the week work well.

The stated goal was to remove our socks from our feet by the express force of the benedictions imparted.

This goal was to be achieved by various means :

1) and it was the first thing we noticed - everyone was really nice and kind to each other

2) teaching sessions of a very high standard taking us through chapters 1 - 3 of Revelation, given by a pastor from Istanbul who is currently working on his doctorate from TEDS

3) comfortable accommodation and good food. We had a flat in Vence with views as seen below. It was basic holiday accommodation, but compares very favourably with some conference accommodation I have known (e.g. nuclear bunkers with 42-person bunks)

4) "little things" like a welcome pack containing a jar of jam, some apples, some chocolate bars and a box of Thorntons chocolate. This latter was due to a grave misunderstanding. We had to fill in a questionnaire which asked what our favourite "candy bar" is. One of our number has fond memories of buying the occasional Thorntons Continental bar - it was small but of good quality. It seems that Thorntons bars are not known outside the UK. Oh well. It's an ill wind that blows no good!

5) Times of worship led by various members of the Vence and Nice churches.

6) Excursions. We took one excursion to the island of Saint Honorat.

The weather was gorgeous, the folk were kindness personified, the food was excellent, the teaching was wise and judicious, all in all it was a very good week.

I wore two pairs of socks all week, just in case, but let it be known that I am typing this barefoot.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Retreat at Vence - Trains

Trains, eh!


We headed off to Vence on Saturday 25th October and we'd decided to play it crafty. We took the grand old Bus 4 to Pessac, then the train from Pessac to Bordeaux Saint-Jean, then the train from  Bordeaux to Antibes, then from Antibes to Cagnes-sur-mer. We'd arrive at about half past seven.

The Bordeaux to Antibes stretch is LONG. VERY LONG. We got on the train just before 11 and we'd get off just after 7, I think. Still, the refreshments trolley passed twice and we had stocked up with a flask of tea and various comestible goodies.

All went swimmingly till we were almost in Antibes. Then I looked at the time and we were late for our connexion to Cagnes. I texted our hosts in Vence. They asked hard questions, like "What time is the next train?" and stuff. We alighted from the train and charged up and down the platform looking for someone who would know something, anything.

Then I spotted on a display-board that the train to Cagnes was also late. HURRAH FOR LATE TRAINS! It came from Ventimiglia and was a super old thing covered with graffiti and with a very lively conductress who had a loud whistle.

We arrived just about 1/2 hour late and were conveyed to our flat.

Back Again

On the way back we arrived at Cagnes station and wondered which platform our train went from. I asked two guys loafing round near the lift. L'autre côté, y'a l'ascenseur. The other side, there's the lift.

As we entered the lift I saw a train pull in and looked at the time.

"That's our train". I hurtled through the tunnel and up the stairs, with Catrin and Pat in hot pursuit, and got to the train, pushed the button to open the door and a bike fell on me. Propped the bike back up, pushed my way into the train, followed by Pat and Catrin, and breathed a HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF.

At Antibes we got some rolls from the station buffet (thankful for this impulse) and waited for our train. It was a short one. We were in the last wagon, wagon 7. We settled ourselves in, displacing a foreign lady who'd been sat with her shod feet on our seats.

The refreshments trolley didn't come.

Then we stopped. The train in front had broken down. There was a wait. Then it was explained that we were going to push the train in front into a station before continuing. It would entail a delay of about 2 hours.

I decided to stroll up and down the train. Still no refreshments trolley. No buffet either.

I noticed a man in SNCF uniform trying to break into a compartment by levering off a padlock with a big screwdriver. I almost asked him if he was robbing the train, but it seemed not quite the thing to do.

I regained my seat.

"A buffet service is available in wagon three"

Really? But I just came from there. I was worried about us not having enough to drink on our now-prolonged journey, so I went so to get some bottles of water. The buffet service was the compartment the guy was breaking into and a girl was now installed in front of a pile of crates selling chocolate bars, bags of crisps and bottles of water.

We entered Montpellier. We proceeded to Toulouse.

"Baskets are available for you, please show your ticket to the guard."

Pat went off and collected three boxes of SNCF emergency rations:

A tub of tuna salad, with some nice disposable cutlery in wood to eat it with.
Two halves of petit pain, toasted.
Two shortbread fingers.
A bag of nuts, raisins and papaya.
A bag of Haribo Tagada.
A colouring book and coloured pencils.
A most welcome bottle of water.
Instructions on how to complain.

So we proceeded till we got into Gare Saint-Jean some time after 11 and applied ourselves to getting home.

Bus 16, then bus 4 and at midnight we were back chez nous.

Meanwhile here's something interesting to read about the amazing church in China

Note especially the last paragraph! From the Economist here.

The paradox, as they all know, is that religious freedom, if it ever takes hold, might harm the Christian church in two ways. The church might become institutionalised, wealthy and hence corrupt, as happened in Rome in the high Middle Ages, and is already happening a little in the businessmen’s churches of Wenzhou. Alternatively the church, long strengthened by repression, may become a feebler part of society in a climate of toleration. As one Beijing house-church elder declared, with a nod to the erosion of Christian faith in western Europe: “If we get full religious freedom, then the church is finished.”

It's been kinda quiet round here

Yeah, I know.
We been on a retreat for International Church Pastors down in the Côte d'Azur.
We had an amazing week, and I'll tell you about it real soon.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cats, eh?

I hope you're sitting down.

We're contemplating getting a cat.

Yes, I know I'm allergic to cats, and I know it's a risk, but in more recent years I've had much less strong reactions and maybe, just maybe, given the fact that our house has very few carpets and is more or less open-plan, maybe I'd be OK.

The rationale?

Well with the sad demise of the guinea-pigs the girls feel the need of someone to love and cosset.

(Love ME, girls! Cosset ME!)

Now a dog would be great, but the problem with dogs is that when we go to the UK we'd need to find someone willing to look after the dog for several weeks. Hmmm. Or pay kennel fees. Hmmm.

Pat suggested a hamster that would live in Catrin's room, but we tried that kind of thing before and the kids were woken up by the nocturnal antics of their little pets, who then had to live in the bathroom, the lounge, etc...

A cat, with the natural independence and aloofness of their race, could happily wander off roaming and also make friends with the neighbours, who would then be delighted to feed it and keep an eye on it during our absence.

That's the theory, anyway.

Which leads me to one snag. We are currently visited by two local cats.

Grey cat lives across the road and comes in looking for pieces of chicken defrosting in the kitchen. She found one once, and the memory is sweet. She sneaks in and seems genuinely alarmed if you show any sign of having noticed her.

Ginger cat is big and aloof and doesn't need to try to steal food. She seldom comes into the house, but she has adopted the garden where she sits on tables and seats and surveys her annexed domains.

Grey cat and ginger cat do not get on.

Which is why yesterday I was alerted to a brewing confrontation by their aggressive yowling from our garden. I went out to look and saw grey cat shooting down the driveway hotly pursued by ginger cat.

"You NAUGHTY cats, stop at once!" I yelled.

They took as much notice of me as I once took of General Pinochet.

I pursued ginger cat who pursued grey cat. They stopped and fought in grey cat's driveway across the road.

"Stop at once, you NAUGHTY cats!" I yelled, clapping my hands.

This time they did stop and stared at each other. Grey cat's ear seemed bitten. I advanced and clapped again. Ginger cat went off down the road. Grey cat shot through the gateway. Peace was restored.

Hmm. Adding another cat into this?

Moments of geekery - 2

Inbox, from Gmail.

I heard about it yesterday and thought I'd like to give it a try. Basically it's a small programme you use to view your gmail that groups it together into categories, like adverts, social media, finance, purchases, etc. You can define, rename and change your groups, or "bundles" and it enables you to prioritise according to the type of email.

You can also write yourself little reminders and prioritise emails within their bundle.

But for the moment you have to wait till Google invites you to try it. You can ask them for an invitation, but that's it.

I asked. And thought no more about it.

This morning my invitation came. And it's AMAZING!

Moments of geekery - 1


I am like SO EXCITED, it's AMAZING!

No, but really, I am literally excited!

You know that we meet in a restaurant on Sundays, and we don't have a piano or anything?
We don't even have a guitarist just now, so we sing to the MP3 files from Christian Hymns 2.
I have loaded them all onto my little iPad and I play them through a bluetooth speaker.
That's great, and it works just great, blasting out from the corner like an invisible pianist.

But sometimes the recording is just a little high - like the second half of "Before the throne.
And sometimes it goes a little fast, like for Spirit of the Living God...

Steve MacLean, who I got the idea from, plays the files through Audacity on his laptop and you can adjust the speed, the pitch and a whole bunch of other stuff. But I don't want to carry even more stuff to the restaurant and I don't want to muck around with audacity during the service, or spend time learning it.

Well, someone told me about this app for the iPad. It's called AudioStretch, it will play any music file from your iPad, and it permits you to speed up and slow down with one set of buttons, and to adjust the pitch up and down in semitone steps with the other.

Just that.

I tried the free version and it worked just great. We probably could have got by with that, but the paid version allows bigger transpositions and rewards the author for their work, and costs 5€!

How cool is that!

And if I want I can listen to any music in the key of my choice!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Encouragement at the Maison de la Bible

I was a little early arriving at my stop on Wednesday so I thought I'd wander about and see what photos I could take of the city centre. In the end I just enjoyed looking at the law courts and their huge water feature, and the shops across the way. I counted four (4) Pibal bicycles (Pibaux?) in the bike rack outside the law courts and generally had a good time.

Then I arrived at the shop on the stroke of 10.

I greeted our friendly local beggar and his friend, who come at opening time for their morning coffee, popped into the back to the loo, switched on the coffee machine - ah - there's a customer - and I haven't even turned the lights on or started up the till. He bought 100€ worth of Bibles, then the morning became very calm. Still. Not bad for the first 2 minutes.

Two Mormon lads came in. Short trousers. Snotty noses. Bruised knees. Badges that said "Elder Bonnie" and "Elder Clyde".

They said, "Nous cherchons des Bibles".

I said, "What kinda Bibles you guys looking for?"

So we talked about Bibles, French, Utah and Oregon, Montpellier, where they're working, visas etc. They tried to talk to me about the Book of Mormon. I tried to tell them it's a load of old tosh, without using the words load, old or tosh, of course. I have forgotten their real names but why not pray for the Mormon lads. God knows who they are.

There's a new missionary in town, a splendid chap who has spent a year in Paris learning to speak French properly before coming to Bordeaux to learn how to speak French ... improperly.

Anyway do pray for him. He needs encouragement! And proper encouragement, not like the following :

1) conversation on Sunday evening. "Oh yes, I helped another person with their French who came to work with students. And when they arrived their French was worse than yours!" in that, 'you'll never believe this but it's true all the same' tone of voice.

2) in the bookshop. New chap, in French, "Yes, I'll be working with students on the campus." French interlocutor, "Oh, OK, but English-speaking ones, of course!"

Keep going, lad, it's just people's way of showing they love you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What is it with editors these days?

Perhaps I have misunderstood how things work in publishing?

I mean, I thought an author would write a book, perhaps by hand with a pen, perhaps on a computer.
If on a computer, then he would run a spell check, or the computer would auto-corrupt his text - the best means yet invented of encouraging you to reread your text before sending it off.

Then I thought there followed a process of negotiation where an editor or editors would attempt to weed out unfortunate expressions, sheer, gross errors of fact, words that have no existence and deserve no existence, speling erers, would check references and citations.

Then the book, purged of all that the editors could succeed in purging, would go to print...

Then how come in the books I so happily and gladly review there are just plumb, stupid mistakes?

For example, please tell me, what is a forebearer? The latest book refers to our forebearers.

I thought it might be a joke. Sometimes in discussion I refer to the convictions shared by all our four bears, or at least by three of them.

I thought that I might have it wrong, so I looked up the word. Or tried to. Forebearers.

A worldwide strike of editors? A global dictionary shortage? Some bizarre declaration of genteel anarchy against the conventions of the English language?

Who knows!

But I warn our hindbearers, if it is like this in the bud, then wat wil thu ful frute bee lyke?

Monday, October 20, 2014

A busy weekend

So the weekend began with me being in Maison de la Bible from 10 till 5 on Saturday, then closing up rapidly and speeding off to speak to the Chinese group.

It was great to be with them, perhaps about 10 people, one family with two small children, two pregnant ladies, the group is changing!

I spoke from Colossians 1 about how the real good news of salvation in Jesus Christ and it was a good time.

My journey back to Pessac was not wonderful, though. I got up from my tram seat and realised that the seat I had bene sitting in was damp, and had left some of its dampness on me. Lovely! Then bus 4 had a rowdy gang of drunk students. Binge drinking is catching on here. They were not aggressive or threatening, but they needed space to fool about.

Then Sunday evening at DAN seemed to go nicely, with some of our folk back from travels, including Frances, who is back from Nigeria for a PhD. It was great to see her.

The message was from Colossians 1:15-20 and it's the most wonderful passage to preach.

Afterwards we went for a picnic on the quays in the autumn heat. This may have been a mistake as only six of us went down to the quays. Maybe eating at Dan is a better option.

Later, at home I thought, "What's wrong with me? I have a head-ache. Ah yes, I'm probably tired."

Anyway, the quays were charming and here's some photos :

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nasal perfusions of sea-water

Well I have started.
Last night and this morning so far.
It is not difficult or even markedly unpleasant.
Despite my aerosol being labelled "Dynamique" the water does not reach very far up my nostrils, though it does get to areas that sting a little.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MOT test

This morning I had my six-monthly checkup with my doctor.

There were positive things and negative things to report :


Blood-test - as usual my bloods are impeccable. She reckons I have a long life ahead of me if I can only manage to avoid fast-moving vehicles.

Blood-pressure - after an initial period of uncertainty because she couldn't hear my pulse because we were talking too much, she said 13/8, that's fine.

Weight - she weighed me and pronounced herself content

Breathing - she confirmed that I am breathing and give every sign of continuing so to do for the immediate future.

Flu-jab - she approved of me having my flu-jab


She told me to resume eating breakfast. I protested that it was just carbohydrates, but she says carbohydrates are what you need in the morning.
On mange le matin comme un roi, a midi comme un baron et she said
Ouais, ouais, ouais I interjected, discouraged that my master plan for getting smaller did not have medical approval.
I told her that all the skinny people I know skip breakfast, but she was unmoved.

Nasal-perfusions of sea-water
She told me to squirt sea-water up my nose night and morning after or before brushing my teeth to avoid catching colds.
Quite honestly I fail to see how this ill-conceived practice could possibly have anything to do with the prevention of viral infections of the upper respiratory tract,
but in a moment of weakness I told her I would do it. I was laughing nervously, but I don't think that releases me from my word.

She does want me to do a stress-test at the hospital with a friendly cardiologist with whom she is in cohoots, 
but she says it's not at all urgent and she tends to do it with people in their mid-fifties.

So there we are. I have once more passed my MOT. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hermione leaves Bordeaux

Harriette was there to film it.

Book review - Songs for a Suffering King (The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1 - 8), by J V Fesko

This is a book with many strengths. Fesko believes that the Bible is God's word, given by the Holy Spirit through the agency of many human authors. He believes that the Bible is authoritative and relevant for the life of the Church and of the Christian today. And he writes from these convictions, giving his book a direct and helpful character.

Another great strength is Fesko's evident conviction that, as Jesus taught, the psalms all speak of Christ. He looks for Christ in each psalm, and aims to communicate the grace of Christ to his readers. How good that is! What is the point of opening up the Bible if you don't direct people to Christ?

The book has eight chapters, one for each psalm, entitled:

Song of the Righteous Man
Song of the Lord's Messiah
Song of Deliverance
Song of Hope
Song of Protection
Song of Forgiveness
Song of Vindication
Song of Majesty

Incidentally, seeing Christ in Psalm 8 reminds us of the delicacy of the task of Bible translation - "What is man, the son of man" - if we translate that as "What is mankind, human beings" we put a linguistic tank trap on the road that takes us to Christ and to Hebrews 2. It's a pity, and bravo to the Segond 21 which has kept "le fils de l'homme".

Weak points? Yes, a couple.

Firstly sometimes Fesko comes across as being angry, "many people do this", "some people say that". I'm not sure it was always appropriate or persuasive.

Then there are occasional lapses, of good sense or of good style.

Good sense, well he writes, "In the words of Scripture, made famous by Handel's Messiah: "The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15)"

Does he really think this text lurked in obscurity for 1700 years until Jenner chose it and Handel set it and suddenly it took its rightful place? Of course he doesn't! And I thought of the millions of Christians all over the world who will never hear Handel's Messiah, but who have heard or read this text and rejoiced. This sort of silly lapse, well we all make them, but before books are printed editors have to find them and get rid of them.

Good style? Well authorise me, genteel lecteur, to propose the consideration that less complicated words should be selected in preference to more obscure. For example, don't say "explicate" when "explain" is better.

But these are minor, nit-picking faults, and perhaps more to be blamed on the editors than on the author.

How many books do you have that show you Jesus Christ in the Psalms? Well here's one. Buy it and read it.

I was given a copy of the book in electronic format free of charge in return for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

We took an after-church stroll to say goodbye to the Hermione