les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tram C out of action again

On Saturday evening a fire started on floor -3 (minus 3) of the undergound car park on the quays near the Saint-Michel market square. Tram C passes directly overhead.

It took almost a day to pout out the fire. Over 300 cars have been damaged, as well as the structure of the car park.

Until safety experts can verify that there is no danger of collapse the tram can't pass over the car park, so there's no tram C between the main railway station and the interchange at Quinconces.

Hi, bus de substitution! Wish I could say I'd missed you!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Some photos of Bordeaux

 The square ones have all been through instagram, all with the same filter and brightness increased a little. The rectangular one of the tram stop is before instagram treatment, just as it comes out of the iPhone.

Anticipation is mounting

and so are the piles of earth

Friday, May 17, 2019

Les Jardins de l'Ars

The assiduous reader will know that our life here is one of constant anticipation as we see the building site around us change and as we hope for the promised gardens to emerge.

So certain recent developments have us all agog!

Firstly some bottle banks have been placed behind the car park. We watch these keenly because as soon as they are commissioned we have several months worth of bottles just waiting to be deposited. The local dump is often closed and its bottle banks inaccessible.

Then a container that had been used to store tools was removed.

Lately some membranes have been laid down and covered with soil.

Is this the start of terracing for the gardens?

Is the big square hole destined to welcome some artwork, like the Stick of Rock in front of our flats?

And why these earthworks? Are they permanent or temporary?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Place Fernand-Lafargue

You live and learn, don't you.

There are various folk on the interweb who occupy themselves with finding out unusual facts and putting them out there for all the world to see. Two such have recently alerted me to the fact that one of our squares in Bordeaux has a chequered past.

Place Fernand-Lafargue used to be known as Place du Vieux Marché because it was there in centuries past that produce brought to the city via the Garonne was sold to the eager townsfolk.

Nowadays it is a square of bars and restaurants. There you'll find various Thai restaurants. Bordeaux' fish and chip shop was there, but has since been replaced by a Peruvian Sushi Bar. (I promise you that I'm telling the truth.) You'll also find the popular Apollo bar.

But the Place du Vieux Marché had another, more sinister use.

It was the place of public torture where, as one writer put it, some were broken on the wheel, others had their tongue pierced with a red hot poker, and counterfeiters were boiled in oil.

Never was keen on peruvian sushi.

Monday, May 13, 2019

La nuit des Cathédrales

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday our choir, Arianna, was engaged to sing with three other choirs and two harmonies (town, wind or military bands) at the cathedral for the "Night of the Cathedrals". This is an evening where all over France cathedrals put on cultural events designed to draw in the crowds. Our concert was free, the cathedral was full to bursting and people were queuing round the block and way up the street to get in.

The programme was varied, including some martial piece I didn't know at all, followed without intermission by

Cantique de Jean Racine
Extracts from Carmina Burana (the loudest and most spectacular parts!)
Two extracts from Mozart's Requiem
Berlioz' Grande Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphante

The dress rehearsal on Thursday evening was brutal. We were stood around for hours, and Pat's back threatened rebellion. So she went home and didn't sing in the concert itself.

On Friday evening we were working, so that meant I was present and correct for the Saturday in my new black trews, white shirt, jacket and comfy trainers (!) and what fun it was! They added in Bach-Gounod's "Ave Maria", performed as a tribute to Notre-Dame de Paris by two harpists and an alarmingly mature 15-year old from the cathedral choir. Also in consequence, while last year the cathedral was lit by 2000 candles, this year we had some strings of led lights and artfully placed coloured spotlights.

We hung our coats in the gallery of the cathedral where they were guarded by some illustrious "souls".

The Berlioz is long and loud, with lots of bass drum and gong, and two brass bands up in the choir loft. We sing for the last three minutes with some of the most banal words I've ever had to joy to declaim.

Glory and triumph to these heroes who have fallen on the soil of the homeland.
Come elect of the other life!  (I'm not making it up)
Exchange, noble warriors, your laurels for immortal palms!
Follow the seraphim, divine soldiers, into the eternal plains!
To their infinite choirs be united!
Radiant angels, harmonious, burning like them, sublime sacrificial lambs! *
Glory and respect to their tombs!

Generally we all felt that the soldiers who fell during the 1830 uprising probably deserved a better effort from Berlioz than that, but we gave it all we had, including a choir of 200, 6 trombones, 8 trumpets, 2 euphoniums, one tuba and lots of horns with four strong and violent percussionists, and everyone agreed that even if the music wasn't the best it made a most splendid noise!

* An-ges rad-ieux
Bru-lant comme eux
Su-blim-es vic-ti-mes

I think these lines will be forever graven on my memory...

Bordeaux in the news

Read about Grand Parc in the Guardian today here.

Here's a little video en français with English subtitles.

EU Mies Award 2019 : Transformation of 530 Dwellings - Grand Parc Bordeaux from caviar.archi on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Codgers' railcard second attempt

I checked on the website this morning and, yes, the price had gone down and all was hunky-dory and dinky-doo, so off to the station I toddled through high winds and driving rain. This time I didn't make an appointment, I just took a ticket and sat in an armchair to read until my ticket number was shown on the screen.

The clerk took my details and printed out the card.

"On a pas besoin de justificatif ?"

"Ben, non."

So my proof of address, carte de séjour and all the other things that prove my date of birth stayed in my pocket and I was swiftly conveyed home by tram and gusts.

Mission accomplie !

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Codgers' railcard

We're trying to organise fetching Catrin from Charles de Gaulle in about 10 days' time. We'll go up by train, stay somewhere overnight and meet her in the early morning. She lands at 5:30am.

So I went online to buy my codgers' railcard which will give me a reduced price rail ticket. The card costs 60€ and entitles me to at least 25% off the price of my tickets. The website told me I'd have to have it posted to me and it would take up to two weeks to arrive. "That's no good" I thought, so I steamed off to the Railway Station and inveigled my way to the front of the queue.

The railway station here is bright and cheerful. It has two pianos, and there's always someone playing or plinking. The cafés and shops are pleasant, and the ticket sales office is open-plan and full of excited people chatting with advisors about the best date to return from Sainte-Perpète-les-Oies. Eager staff wear their SNCF caps proudly. There's no raised voices, just happy chatter. Bustling youngsters scuttle about hustling four-wheeled cabin bags or toting enormous rucksacks. In a snack shop I spotted a perky pug trying to snaffle some cookies off the bottom shelf.

The lady behind the desk said, "the thing is, on 9 May we're launching a new set of cards. The current duffer+ card costs 60€ and gets you 25% reduction, but on the 9th the new card will cost 49€ and get you 30% reduction."

"OK! Thanks! See you on Thursday." I said, and hurried off home.

Lousy weather, but there's good news

The weather has been unseasonably chilly, with showery days and windy episodes. Not much like April and May in the South-West of France.

It clipped our wings during Gwilym and Beth's visit. We had intended going to the seaside but there wasn't a reliable day.

It also turned our church barbecue into a staged meal with anything eaten raw, cold or chilled being served first, including crisps, salads and cakes, followed by barbecued vegetables, then by the meat at the end. Our gallant barbecuer did a lot of running, blowing, fanning and relighting...

More seriously two morning frosts have nipped the buds of 10% to 25% of the Bordeaux vines. This isn't always very bad news as sometimes less wine combines with higher prices to make no reduction in profit. It depends how the rest of the year goes. We'll see.

However, in brighter news, we were troubled by our first mosquito last night. It's a sure sign of warmer weather arriving at last.

Everything is always changing all the time

Every day something changes round here.

Yesterday I made one of my trips to Carrefour for trousers - my jeans are disintegrating and I still need some decent black trews - and on the way back the bus didn't stop where I thought it would.

"C'est pas ici, l'arrêt?" quoth I. "Non, c'était un arrêt provisoire. Il est remis à sa place."

It's place is right outside the local library about 100 yards further on.

Meanwhile we are very excited about some new bottles banks that are being installed about 100 yards from us. You're supposed to take bottles and jars to bottle banks for recycling, but our nearest is the municipal dump about 10 minutes' walk away and often when we go there we find it closed. As a result we have a large number of bottles and jars just longing for a new bottle bank to open. We can see these new ones from our windows and we are very excited about them.

Then the school opposite is taking shape rapidly. It has delightful fish-scale tiles on the wall facing us and a grass roof. It will be quite the thing when it's finished. I imagine it is scheduled to open in September.

The Jardins de l'Ars have not yet started to be arranged. I wonder how long it will take to shape, scape and plant them!

Friday, May 03, 2019

It's a long time since we had any music on here

Black Kite

Yesterday as the church committee was met at our flat a big old black kite was wheeling back and fore just across from our big balcony.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Hallo, I'm back

Sorry about the long absence!

Firstly it's a busy time. It's strange. I'm not sure if it's busier than usual or if I'm less efficient that usual, but whichever it is my days are fuller. And with less time spent on the number 4 bus, too.

Secondly we've had a super visit from Gwilym and Beth. It was a great time for so many reasons, but one was that they arrived with work to do so that meant that I could get on with work, too.

Another reason was that the weather was changeable so that stopped us taking trips to the sea or anything. Instead we pillaged Bordeaux of all its joys, including the cinema and our most favourite coffee shops.

Anyway, here's a rather odd photograph where you can clearly see them:

Monday, April 22, 2019

A literal resurrection unscientific


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Birthday festivities

These started last Saturday with a surprise party.

I had said some months ago that I expected a surprise party for my sixtieth birthday. (People need to be aware that we're sixty and we're not far off retirement!) However my birthday coincided with the visit of a team from the UK, so it wasn't going to be an easy thing to plan. Thankfully, I am an easy person to dupe.

So Mrs Davey, having loaned her key to friend William the previous day for evidently sensible reasons, coaxed me out to our nearest classy coffee shop, Oven Heaven. We settled down and drank our coffees, then we needed to get some shopping, so I was relatively easily persuaded to trudge off to Lidl. With our milk, butter, cheese, vegetables, fruit, power drill, ski-pants and folding stool safely stowed in our vast bags, we set off. The heaviest things I'd put in my rucksack, then we shared out the other bags and set off like donkeys on the dusty road.

As we got into the flat I was puzzled by how light it was. Hadn't I lowered the shutters. "It's very..."


People were hidden around the door. Then food appeared as well as a rather spectacular cake, which the master of ceremonies insisted that I cut. "Alan is now going to cut the cake!"

My birthday was on the Thursday, so I'd inveigled someone into bringing a caterpillar cake from the UK. There were three other birthdays that week, so we had a good time wishing a happy birthday to Alan, James, Thierry and Tom.

The UK team had come to run an Easter kids club and it went very well, with 18 kids. Their parents mostly stayed with them, so we may need to take that into account when we plan another.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bus de substitution

This has become my current favourite French expression because our line of tram is closed for maintenance for ten days during thr school holidays so they've put on buses de substitution instead. They're great but they make you appreciate the trams!

They're out for my birthday!

I realise that this may actually be bad news of the harbinger of doom type, but every year I am bowled away by the blousy splendour of the horse-chestnuts and this year they're out for my birthday! So many candles! Who blew the gaff?

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Smartphone notifications

Turn them off.

No sounds.
No badges.
No banners.

Also repeating alerts for text messages - turn them off.

I'm learning slowly!

I am also somewhat inappropriately excited about my impending SIXTIETH BIRTHDAY

Made it to 60!

Cheaper bus and tram tickets!

Cheaper rail tickets, too!

Maybe also in the UK and elsewhere in Europe!

We're very excited about the varied earthworks taking place below our flat!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

I hoped for an explanation but I got compensation

Oh well.

Swissair never explained why our flight was cancelled or why they told us such conflicting things, or why the meal was so bad. I think there were just too few passengers booked on it, but what do I know?

But in place of an explanation they have given us some monetary compensation.
We'll do something nice with it.

Monday, April 01, 2019

It's so exciting! I'm in the countdown to cheaper tram and bus travel!

In less than three weeks I'll be in that TBC office signing up for a cheaper season ticket!

I must also investigate the railcards here.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

On Mothering Sunday

Catrin visited the baby unit at the orphanage where she's volunteering this week. One of the infants there was found at about a month old, abandoned in a plastic bag. There are social and cultural reaons for this abandonment of children that Catrin explained to her mother but that I didn't really hear.

But this Mothering Sunday it reminds me of all those who for a variety of reasons, always powerful, always strong, maybe overwhelming, but surely never sufficient, have abandoned their children or killed them, and now live with that act in their past and their person. May they seek and find pardon and peace.


Yesterday evening Arpège gave a concert of Monteverdi motets and instrumental interludes at the church of Saint Severin (l'Eglise Saint-Seurin). This is the choir I joined briefly last September, but left because of the impossibility of committing myself to weekend rehearsals. They're a really good choir and to be honest I found their standard a bit daunting, too!

Anyway the motets were all psalm settings and so the concert took the form of a kind of "vespers light" without all the Stella Maris stuff, or bits from Song of songs dubiously sung to Mary.

They were accompanied by an approriate little group of baroque instrumentalists with a portative organ, two baroque violins, a cello, a bass and a theorbo! If you've never seen a theorbo then it's worth googling it. They're quite spectacular!

The church is large, chilly and the acoustic is not at all resonant, so it's important to sit quite near the choir.

We were travelling to the church by bus, the concert started at 20:30, and until 18:30 the city centre was impassable for buses and there were no trams because of the demonstrations, but more particularly, the rioters setting fires in the streets, etc. However, the choir had kindly set aside a free ticket for me, so we bought one for Pat and hoped to be able to get to the church.

At 7 we set off for the railway station and bus number one to Saint-Seurin. We were encouraged to see that trams were now running to the station, so we hopped on. When we got the station we saw that a bus was indicated to leave in 5 minutes.

"It won't be going through the city! It'll go via the boulevards." we were warned.
If we got off at Barrière Judaïque we'd have a longish walk, but plenty of time to do it.

The bus came. "I'm not going through Victoire, I'm going via the boulevards." repeated the driver.

I wondered how she'd get the bus to the boulevards because one of the streets leading that way had had rioters setting fires in it, but that wasn't my problem.

Anyway off set the bus - and followed its usual route. Victoire was calm and busy with the cafés open and people sitting and eating. The city had quickly returned to normal. The bus set us off at our desired stop, the driver smiled and waved goodbye and off we set for the church.

We got there 45 minutes early, but there was already a queue. What could we do but join it? So we ended up with nice seats and heard a super concert, prepared and rehearsed just since Christmas - under three months!

Beforehand one of the chorists came up to say hallo. This lady was one of the trio with whom I'd had to sing the opening of the Cantique de Jean Racine during one of the rehearsals - one of the more terrifying moments of my musical past, though I was gratified at the time to see that she was just as terrified as I was, and we gave each other mutual support. Anyway, she said, "I've never understood what happened to you?"

"Well you don't know what I do for a living..."

"Yes I do", she said.

"Well it's the weekend rehearsals - it's just impossible for me."

Afterwards we said hallo to one of the other choristers who's one of the leaders in the group, and a very kindly man.

We hopped back home on the number one bus and set our clocks for the summer, tired but happy.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Ville morte

It's the twentieth Saturday of vandalism in Bordeaux and to mark the occasion the Toulouse vandals have decided to travel up to help their hooligan chums in Bordeaux to smash up the town. (In French one talks of the casseurs.)

So the new mayor has asked shops and businesses to close up and the Bordelais to stay at home this afternoon as he fears real nastiness.


Strangely, although our bedroom has a lovely bathroom attached to it, it has no built-in wardrobes. The other rooms do have them, but share a small shower room.  Go figure.

Anyway we hung our clothes on those metal-framed things you can get and left some in boxes and waited for the augurs to be auspicious in order to get some wardrobes.

Much measuring. Much perusal of Ikea catalogues. More measuring. Calculations. Finally I knew which ones we should get.

Some more waiting. We needed the coincidence of funds to purchase them and time to construct them. This week the planets came together so the wardrobes were delivered at 12 on Thursday afternoon. Yes - instead of reserving a pool car and wrestling the seven (7) heavy two metre boxes around myself I opted to pay for two hulking guys with a van to bring them into the flat.

There was one narrow unit and one broad one. The narrow one went together easily, and there was space in the bedroom to construct it in situ. The broad one needed more floor space so I put the carcass together in the living room. Then I realised that getting it from one room to the other was going to be a challenge.

I had only one pair of arms and one back - good though fragile - but the best asset I had was my old geometry lessons so by lots of thinking, imagining shapes passing through other shapes, and then some jiggery pokery I got the thing in. About 30 minutes in total. The rest was a case of screwing on doors and making up drawers etc.

Well, you never saw a couple so blissful! We have put all our clothes away for the first time in months. It's remarkable. Every time we walk into the bedroom we grin with glee.

For those who understand French

This radio programme talks about a French family who recently left Colchester to return to France, a Frenchman who swore allegiance to the Queen, and an Englishwoman who took French nationality. Listen here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The difference Apple makes

We switched to Apple in 2013. Yesterday Apple held a keynote event which I think had very little relevance to us whatsoever. However it coincided with the release of updates of their software for iPhones, iPads and laptops.

When we had Windows PCs I dreaded updating the software. It would take hours - sometimes all day - and sometimes you would have to abandon halfway through and start again.

When I had Android phones I looked forward to software updates - sometimes for months, sometimes for years. Sometimes the updates just didn't come at all.

Now with Apple they announce the update. 30 minutes later all everything is done.

Monday, March 25, 2019


My father's strong views on British politics, usually expressed in unparliamentary language, are being utterly vindicated.

The health of the household

Mrs Davey's angine virale is slowly calming down. She has moved back from the spare room, though has not yet achieved a full night's sleep.

Mr Davey's share of the same infection is still mild and irritating. Vocalzone pastilles are very useful.

Miss Davey has occasional bouts of nausea, the explanation for which is still proving elusive.

Young Mr Davey seems in rude health.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Back almost a week

and the blog is so quiet!

It's because of various things:

1) Mrs Davey is unwell. She's been struggling with what we thought was 'flu ever since we got back from Zurich. Yesterday she went to the doctor and was diasgnosed with "une angine virale" - a viral sore throat. It's made everything swell up around her nech and throat and given her a rough time. Incidentally that means neither of us is sleeping very well! But though I'm not as well as I could be, I'm not affected as badly as she is. Maybe because of my 'flu jab?

2) Meanwhile there's lots to do, notably in preparing for the visit of our friends from Grace Baptist Mission the week before Easter.

3) At the same time we're preparing for our Annual General Meeting in May, at which time we need to change a little the structure of our association.

4) Still, at least from our point of view, there's nothing to do to prepare for the next few years in France. We've done all we can and all we need to.

5) Catrin is often unwell in South Africa. She seems to get recurring bouts of nausea, sometimes with vomiting. She thought it was linked to a particular food, but it may not be. Anyway, she's now over half-way through her time at the orphanage.

Bon courage!

Saturday, March 16, 2019


We arrived at the airport in good time, dropped off Pat's bag and went through security. Our plane was delayed because of problems with the de-icing machine at Zurich. No problem. We had an hour and forty minutes for our connection at Zurich.

Half an hour.

An hour.

Finally our plane came and we boarded. We got our snack - an apple strudel and a drink in our Starbucks mugs, but this time the flight was smooth. What awaited us was not quite so smooth though.

"Connecting flights information - here are the gates for various flights - could passengers for Bordeaux please contact the ground staff."

When we arrived at the airport there was just time for a mad dash for our flight, so we looked at the departure board.

Nothing. No departed. No late. No nothing.

Pat went to get her bag while I waited to talk to the ground staff. I received a text message, saying our flight had been cancelled. "Then you need to get a hotel" said the ground staff, ushering me into a long queue.

Some people had missed their flights to Newark, New Jersey. Others to Boston Massachusetts. One lady flying from Barcelona to the USA had a catalog of disasters to recount, involving mad taxi dashes from one terminal to another as well as multiple ticket purchases. I felt that my fate was not so bad.

The European Union has established the rights of passengers held up because of delayed or cancelled flights. You are entitled to meals and to overnight acommodation.

Two hours later I got to the front of the queue and was told where our hotel was to be. Two tram stops from the airport. We were booked on to the 7:15 flight the following morning, which meant getting to the airport for 6am. "The trams run all night." We would get a meal each to the value of 20 Swiss francs. I wondered what 20 Swiss francs would buy us in a hotel, but we had no other options so we took the tram, foudn the place, checked in and put our bags in the pleasant room.

At the dining room we were told that there was a buffet of pasta with meat or tomato sauce, and bread and butter. It was ravioli, so we ate our ravioli and our bread, we drank our water and then went to bed. In the morning we'd have an early start.

The first tram was at 4:55, then there was a gap till 5:23 and a tram every 7 minutes thereafter, so 5am found us eating little croissants, yogurts and drinking lots of coffee and fruit juice before heading off to the airport.

It seems to me that Swissair did the legal minimum.

No further delays, we ate another croissant in flight, arrived at Bordeaux just before 9 and got home thankfully.

We'll remember Florence long after we forget the journey and, who knows, maybe we'll return one day for another look. But not, I think, by Swissair or via Zurich.

Thursday, March 14, 2019


You can't travel to Florence without looking around at all, so at the end of the conference we booked an AirBnB right in the heart of the city for one night. I looked at the guides and talked to one or two people. We didn't fancy spending lots of time in queues for museums. One of the Italian staff at the conference said, don't go in the museums. Explore the squares. It's an open air museum.

So we arrived in Florence at about 3:30, I suppose, and deposited our bags in the super little apartment, then went out to explore. Top of our list was to climb up to the Piazzale de Michelangelo, so we wandered slowly along the river, then crossed the ponte vecchio and climbed the hill, then the steps. we were pretty tired after the conference and we had second thoughts half-way up the steps, but we persevered and were rewarded with the famous view out over Florence.

Afterwards we wandered slowly along the river and through the streets via the Piazza de la Signoria and its statuary, finishing up at the Duomo. At the conference we had been fed delicious food until we  could eat no more, but by this time we felt perhaps a little something might be an idea, so we found a pizzeria right by the cathedral and shared a napolitana. Then back to the AirBnB and a good night's sleep.

We hadn't bought breakfast so the next day we decided to go to the central market where we knew there was a food court. We enjoyed gazing at the porcini mushrooms and the tripe à la mode de Florence, then sampled - and bought - some very mature cheese and then hied us aloft to find some fodder. Two lukewarm cappucini (it's how they come) and some croissants later we wandered out for a final look at Florence.

We headed for San Lorenzo, consecrated by Ambrose of Milan (that Ambrose of Milan) and were astonished at its treasury then entranced by its paintings. Then back to the market for lunch before flying.

We'd cased the joint in the morning, so we headed straight for what we wanted - trapezzini - half a diagonally cut bread roll, filled with mixed vegetables for Pat or spicy beef for me. So good! Then I decided on a last dose of gelato - this time black cherry - and two glasses of fresh pomegranate juice. Then off to the tram to catch the planes home.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Centro Evangelico Poggio Ubertini

The European Conference was held about 25 kilometres outside Florence at a conference centre with glorious views and a delightful history.

The centre is on the brow of a little hill surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. It is the heart of a farm complex that in the 18th century belonged to a noblewoman of English birth. On her death she bequeathed her estates to the churches to be used to strengthen their witness.

We stayed in dormitories, but with one couple per dormitory, so Pat and I had a choice of eight beds and our own little shower room.

We'd never seen Tuscany before and we quickly understood why people fall in love with it.

We'd never experienced ordinary Italian cooking, either, and we doubtless gained at least half a stone in the three days we were there! So delicious!

These conferences are quite hard work, though. Our sessions begin at 8am, before breakfast, and continue till 9pm with a couple of hours break in the afternoon.

One afternoon we tried to go on the bus to Florence but there was some mix up over weekday and Saturday timetables so instead we walked down to the nearest town for gelato.

Gelato deserves its own entry really, but in Cerbaia I had Pine-nut, Cassata and Chocolate, very reasonably priced and utterly delectable. The walk down having taken its toll I had a comedy conversation with some bus drivers to find the correct bus back to the centre.

"Google maps, google maps!" said one, then turned my phone every which way to try and work out where we were going because I had a street address and the name of the centre but no bus stop names.

Anyway, we got on the correct bus and the driver dropped us at the end of the drive to the centre, then waved to us as he drove off.

Monday, March 11, 2019

It's all go isn't it! This time, Florence.

Once in a while our mission organisation holds a European Conference. We've been once before, a long time ago, perhaps in 2007 or thereabouts in Tossa del Mar near Barcelona. Since then we've been prevented either by ill-health (once we set off for Barcelona in our car but had to turn back because of Pat's back problems) or by lack of school holidays or because of the cost (flying four of us in March from Bordeaux to Istanbul was hugely expensive).

So it was a great joy to be able to meet up with old colleagues and friends, this time just outside Florence. We bought our plane tickets in a hurry, and before we realsied how easy it is now to get from Bordeaux to Charles deGaulle, so we had a farily early flight from Bordeaux to Zurich, then from Zurich to Florence. Once there we had to find the correct bus for a little town called Cerbaia where we would be collected by car.

In true Alan fashion I stressed about finding the bus to Cerbaia and managed to master "l'autobus per Cerbaia?" though I was warned that if you ask in Italian they'll answer in Italian. I started listening to Michel Thomas lessons via YouTube and after 30 minutes could manage a pretty convincing Non voglio comprarle perche e troppo caro e non e possibile per me. I realised that from music I could describe speed and loudness pretty well and wondered in what context this might be useful.

Meanwhile Europe had had a weekend of severe storms, resulting in fierce high altitude winds and storms conditions in Florence.

We took off all innocent and freshfaced, having checked Pat's bag into the hold as previously sworn. The Swissair cabin staff came round with the snack of the flight, a pack of cheese sandwich crackers. I was glad that I had had my porage early on. "And to drink, sir?" "A coffee, please." The generous stewardess filled my paper cup nice and full.

Thus it was that I had plenty of coffee to make waves, spurts, gushes, spouts and splashes when the turbulence hit. You know the expression, "a storm in a teacup"? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Hot coffee splashed onto my leg. I tried lifting the cup. Now hot coffee splashed onto my hand. I put the cup down and called the cabin crew. They gave me copious quantities of serviettes while holding on to the plane for grim death. The serviettes absorbed lots of the coffee but the cup had more to give. When an instant of calm came I took the cup and downed it in one gulp.

Hint to Swissair : LIDS

Hint to Daveys : take your own coffee mug on planes.

We landed at Zurich. Ah! Terra firma! the more firma, the less terra. During our wait for the connection we found a Starbucks and bought some drinks in their nice plastic coffee mugs.

Once we boarded the plane from Zurich to Florence we noticed that it had started snowing, so the captain announced that we would have to wait while they de-iced the plane. We eventually took off about half an hour late.

The connection to Florence was just as bumpy but with coffee in our lidded mugs we laughed at the storm, chomping on our salty roll and butter. "We cannot land at Florence because of violent tail-winds. We will be diverted to Pisa. Look for the Swissair signs at Pisa airport to find the bus that will take you to Florence."

Our omnicompetent administrator asked us "Where are you and what's happening?" and arranged for us to be collected from Florence airport. (Mrs May - here is someone who could make a success of Br**it.) So now all we had to do was find the Swissair bus.

Well we ran in all directions. Pisa airport was suddenly filled with very frazzled people hunting in vain for Swissair signs, for there were none.

Mrs Davey has excellent distance vision, and pointed out a distant stand of buses. We approached and examined them closely. None had a Swissair sign. There was nothing for it. I summoned up and adapted my one phrase of Italian.

"L'autobus Swissair per Firenze?"


Our joy knew no bounds, save that which we took onto the bus for the journey to Florence. There we met our colleague, Job and awaited the excellent Michelpresto in his little hire car.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Driving licence

Good news today about exchanging my driving licence.

In the event of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without an agreement the French government will put in place a legal framework allowing UK citizens resident in France to continue to drive using their UK licences until a permanent arrangement is found.

So no rush to get the forms in before the end of March.

(I think they may have been swamped with applications.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Some photos of Istanbul

taken either with my phone or with my compact camera. My camera has a fixed lens, at 28mm. It's a little wide for my liking really. I prefer a 35mm lens. It means you get lots of converging verticals, but you can fix those with a natty little programme called Snapseed. When I'm in the tram or the bus I enjoy loading photos onto Instagram, always with the LoFi filter and increased light.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A quick journey to Istanbul

I left on Monday afternoon for Istanbul - firstly a fast train to Paris, then an overnight flight to Istanbul. I arrived at 4am.

After a bit of messing around trying to decide which bank machine to use, then eating breakfast at - oh the shame of it - Starbucks - I spent a while trying to work out how to use the transport network, then travelled to Sultanahmet, the historic heart of the city.

In legend the city was founded by King Byzas who gave it the name sometimes used for the early Greek period of the city : Byzantium. Then in 330 Constantine was attracted by the strategic position of the city and founded the new capital of his empire there: Constantinople. For over 1000 years the city would become the centre of the Greek-speaking, Eastern Roman Empire, while the Western Empire and its old capital Rome was overrun and sacked by barbarian tribes.

Constantine built churches. Hagia Eirene (Aya Irini) was the seat of the archbishopric and the site of the church counciles that took place in Constantinople. After the fall of Constantinople it never became a mosque though the cross atop the dome was replaced with a crescent moon. Now the building is used as a concert hall.

Nearby was built Hagia Sophia, then rebuilt, then rebuilt again from 532-537 in the reign of the Emperor Justinian after being destroyed in rioting twice. The last building was to stand for over 1500 years.

At the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the building was converted into a mosque, then in 1923 at the founding of the Secular Republic of Turkey, it became a museum.

Nearby stands the enormous Sultan Ahmet mosque (the Blue Mosque) built in the early 1600s and its nearby mausoleum.

The Sultan Ahmet mosque and the mausoleum open at 8:30 am, so on a bitterly cold and foggy morning I took off my shoes, put them in the supplied carrier bag and tiptoed across the chilly carpet to admire the tilework, the immensity of the mosque and the strange little coffin-shaped markers showing where the Sultan and his family are buried, some of his brothers and sons murdered in their childhood to prevent awkward political struggles.

Then off to Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) where I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of the building. I couldn't see Aya Irini - it's closed on Tuesdays. I tried again later in the week but arrived just after closing time of 4pm.

I had a busy schedule with friends, but some involved exploring the city a little. It is enchanting. Beautiful. High-tech. Clean. Crazy. Busy.

Shortly before going we saw a little report on the way the city cares for its stray dogs. It takes them off the streets for veterinary care, gives them a microchip, checkes for health and has a programme of feeding the city strays. The result is a city full of healthy looking stray dogs who are extremely good-natured - like everyone's pet. They do tend to attack the wheels of pasisng cars, trucks, scooters and the city cleaning wagons, however. There are also armies of stray cats who roam around in little prides, lazily enjoying the city.

Once the sun came up it soon burned off the fog and the terrace restaurant of the Seven Hills hotel sold me a cup of hot chocolate to try to retore feeling to the toes, and gave me a panoramic view out over Aya Sofya, the Sultan Ahmet mosque and the Bosphorus with its myriad boats bustling back and fore.

Photos to follow.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Here we go again

Mrs Davey is immobolised by her back problem, so I scuttled out for a quick sortie in the sunshine.

 The police were gathering for this afternoon's ... meeting.
 I chatted with another tram passenger.
We're all fed up of these clashes taking place in our city.
It's become the battleground of a conflict that is not ours.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

May you live in interesting times

First Brexit.

Then Trump.

Not to mention various other fascinating situations, like Venezuela, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, etc..

Now we heard yesterday that our beloved Mayor of Bordeaux, M. Juppé, is leaving.

He's been asked to sit on the French constitutional committee and was given 24 hours to give his decision.

He loves the city of Bordeaux and has presided over its transformation. The trams are from his mandate. The quotes were transformed from inner city wasteland to waterfront gardens. Our area is one of his projects. He's quick, funny, positive, optimistic and his watchword is moderation.

He was banned from public office for 18 months in, I think, 2003, because of his implication in the Paris fictitious jobs scam that siphoned funds into someone's electoral campaign illegally, if I remember rightly. He ceded the job to his deputy, Hugues Martin, went to Canada to lecture at a university and afterwards came back and resumed his work.

I'll miss him terribly.

Then today we heard that the Airbus A380 programme is over. In 2005 we saw the first wings float down the river Dee near our home. Here in Bordeaux we regularly see the barges marked "A380 on board" going up and down the river.

We'll miss them terribly and we really hope there won't be too may job losses, especially in North Wales.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Panoramas of the Ars

It's a beautiful day here though we had mushy peas / a pea souper again first thing.

Here's some panoramas:

Yesterday's glorious sunrise

Our new work of art - a rock on a stick - I call it "Stick of Rock"

Today you can"t see the river or anything beyond it!

In the Jardin Public on the way to church on Sunday. Spring is coming!

Thursday, February 07, 2019

White-out and weird dreams

Yesterday as the day dawned we became aware that we could see nothing whatsoever out of our windows. There was a complete and total whiteout.

I've experienced this just a few times in my life during heavy snowfall, but it wasn't snowing.

It was misty.

The river is just about 100 metres away, and the mist was covering the city so thickly that the eye could see nothing whatsoever.

Pat looked at her phone to see what the weather app said : 100% humidity.

It took till lunch-time to clear.

Meanwhile I've been having weird dreams about driving a really nice car in the UK. It was some well-made but quite ordinary make of car, perhaps a Volkswagen? and as I drove I realised with alarm that my shoe was too wide to fit between the accelerator and the clutch pedal. Of course, this made braking awkward. So I decided to buy a pair of light shoes just for driving.

Some time later I became aware that while everyone else on the road was driving a right hand drive car on the left side of the road, I was driving a left hand drive car on the right side of the road. Yet, somehow, I had avoided any near collisions.

I had better get on with applying for an exchange of driving licence! If I lost the right to drive in France from April it wouldn't affect our daily lives much at all, but it would make some aspects of my work harder to accomplish. I wouldn't be able to get easily to churches that are off public transport routes. I'd probably have to give up CNEF33 presidency.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

The concert

We live not far from the conservatory now and they put on lots of free concerts. Yesterday there was a clash. Early evening a friend was playing saxophone in the spectacular Maison Cantonale on the right bank. But we were wet, tired, hungry and thirsty and had only just got in, so we ate, then thought we might slip out to the other concert, at the conservatory itself, a percussion ensemble playing a programme of music influenced by Steve Reich. It ran from 8 till 9:30.

It was wonderful. I had been in a grey and damp mood, saturated by the grey and damp weather and daunted by a to do list so long that procrastination seems my only option. What better way than by listening to a roomful of immaculately clad music students playing xylophones, marimbas, vibraphones, glockenspiels, drum kits, bass drums and electronic instruments? We heard some reich, obviously, as well as some Thom Yorke (singer with Radiohead), Tangerine Dream (now I feel old) and some new compositions from the percussion department. All was wonderful. You could have sat on floor cushions on the stage surrounded by the players, but we liked our theatre seats so we stayed where we were.

Here's some Reich :

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

More strong winds !

We upturned the table on the balcony and piled the chairs on top.
Still we had to bring two chairs in when they started to take off.

Meanwhile 200 000 homes in Nouvelle Aquitaine have no electricity this morning.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A windy weekend and some more photographs of Bordeaux

Over the weekend we had some strong winds. When this happens we overturn our table on the balcony and pile the chairs on it, then lay everything flat on the small balcony and shut the shutters on that side.

This time the wind came from the north, so it blew directly across the small balcony but didn't seem to move anything on the large balcony.

Meanwhile we saw some large sheets of metal blown from the top of the tower. They landed with a very loud bang within the fenced-off construction site.

They're topping off the tower at the moment so soon all the construction work will be for glazing, cladding and partitioning etc.

On the street side of the building they've started dismantling one crane. They've also planted trees in the courtyard and one side of the new road is all set to receive trees, too, probably today. It's all very exciting!

The photo of two ladies on the balcony is of Patricia and our friend Nancy Painter, up from near Marseille to visit some friends in the Lot et Garonne, they very kindly trekked up for lunch with us here.