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)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

In less good news

there are four manifestations (demonstrations) in the centre of Bordeaux today: velorution campaigning for more use of bikes, a march against the closure of a Ford factory, a march for the climate and... the gilets jaunes are back in business.

Good news

Tram C, out of service between Gare Saint-Jean and Quinconces since the massive deliberately-started fire of the end of May which destroyed almost 400 vehicles parked on four levels, and in the meantime replaced by the equally appreciated and regretted ‘buses de substitution’, will begin running again on 28 September.

We are overjoyed.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Crème cicatrisante

So how long should I carry on rubbing this stuff in morning and night?

I know, the interweb will tell me.

Ha! Some hope! The websites say things like, rub it in morning and night. Continue until the scar is well-healed. It may take two years for the scar to lose all its redness.


I decided to ask for a second opinion at the pharmacy. After all, they sold me the stuff.

This créme cicatrisante, how long should I use it for? 

What have you got?

The one you sold me.

But which one, cicacrème, crèmocique, crèmcica?

The one with copper and zinc in.

OK. That one. Well you need to use it till the scar is well healed.

Yes, but that means what? Till it's no longer red? Or what. Because it'll stay red for a long time.

It depends on the person.

Yes, but two weeks? Two months? Two years? A lifetime?

What did you have done?

This. It was a sebaceous cyst. So just the skin, but well opened.

Well your scar will never disappear completely. Look, here's one on my arm from when I was a small child.

How long did you put cream on that?

I didn't.

OK. So basically every time I put it on that's great and when I want to stop I stop, and that's fine too.

Yes, stop when you're fed up of doing it. Oh, but protect it from the sun.

(I put my backwards cap back on) I don't wear this for style. 

Yes, but put some sunscreen on as well.

OK. Bye, have a nice day.

Bastille Day Fireworks Part Two

The fireworks for the 14 July were cut short by a fire on the boat they were being launched from. It did give us all a good view of the fire-boats in action, but the town hall felt that we had all been short-changed so they arranged for another show for the 14 September, when Bordeaux this year celebrated the grape harvest. (I tell you, it's one fête after another just now!)

This time the show went off as planned. We had a small pizza-party at our house, followed by a nice evening walk through the building sites down to just this side of the Pont de Pierre.

We're such poor saps - real suckers

So, remise en selle, cycle paths etc... It's all part of a fiendish plan.

This week is the week of alternative mobility, when all over France cities try to stop people driving into them. In Bordeaux this strategy includes things like:

attractive park and ride places with low prices for a car-load of people
punitive car parking charges in the city centre
exorbitant fines for illicit parking
a vigilant band of enforcers

but also:

encouragements to walk - for example there's an app now that will count your steps and award you a free drink when you've walked a long way to get it
encouragements to cycle

Yesterday en route (by "bus d sub" *) to church we saw the Vélo-tour stands all down the Quai des Sports and then we saw people with eccentrically adorned cycle helmets riding gaily down the cyclepath. One was dressed as a Roman Centurion. On a bicycle.

We get sicked into these programmes without realising it. Poor saps.

* The "bus d sub", or bus de substitution, is the replacement for tram C, out of action since the fire in the undergound car park in May. It is hoped that it will start running again in October

Tram D, which will link our home with the room where the church meets, is due to enter in service in December.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Cycling in Bordeaux

They closed off the sidewalk pavement opposite our flat for a few days. It was rather annoying because it's flat and wide and smoothly tarmacadamed and a pleasure to walk on and to ride your bike on.

It is our standard practice to cycle up this pavement, then through the square to just before the station, turn right, through the awkward area just where the railway crosses the river, then onto the quays. The quays are the cycling motorway of Bordeaux. Wide, flat and divided into cycle paths and mixed areas, well protected from cars, you zoom along care-free until you reach the spot where you need to penetrate into the streets of the city.

Yesterday I cycled to a meet-up at the breakfast club. To get there I cycled up a street that Pat and I had prospected for getting to the Maison de la Bible. All was good except for the occasional deliver van that totally blocked the carriageway. At those points you get off, walk past then resume your course. At least it's a one-way street.

Coming back I cycled down the same street. Did I say that you're allowed to ride the wrong way down one-way streets? Then onto the quays, past the railway bridge, up the road, through the square, onto the pavement up to where it's closed.

They'd re-opened the lower section just opposite the flats. They've laid down a cycle path.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Les Panoramas de l'Ars

It's all go in the Jardins de l'Ars. Large mounds of earth are positioned, shaped and repositioned. A small road is being built to serve the school. It's all very exciting.

Crème cicatrisante

I'm being a good boy and vigorously massaging my neck with the crème cicatrisante three times a day. Until now I've also taken a photo of the operation site each day just to see how things are changing, but really now it's slow progress so I'll reduce it to perhaps twice a week. Mrs Davey did, however, take a photo with a tape measure alongside and the operation site is almost 5cm long.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Remise en selle

This morning Pat and I are signed up for a session of remise en selle (Get back in the saddle) with the association Vélo-Cité. The idea is to be a bit more confident riding on the more busy streets of Bordeaux, to master the complicated junctions and so, somehow, to become one of those cyclists that weave effortlessly through the vehicles and then disappear like wraiths as the cars and buses stand there in the traffic jams.

morituri te salutant


Well we didn't die.

What we did do was get a lesson on the various road formats for cyclists, pistes cyclables (cycle-paths), bandes cyclables (cycle-lanes), zones 30 and zones partagées where cars, cyclists and pedestrians share the space. We had a practice going round in circles and figures-of-eight, doing quick stops and so on.

Then we rode very slowly up the quays and into the Chartrons area where I almost collided with someone carrying frankly too many carpets - ding "Attention !" - and with a lady walking blithely into the aroad while looking backwards - "Attention, Madame !".

The woman following me said that I should have given way to both but I maintain that it is unwise to career into the road in front of a bicycle without so much as a by-your-leave. Anyway, she later found herself confronted with a car that was going the wrong way round a corner, and she soon protested. (I saw the same car coming and veered onto the wrong side of the road to avoid it.)

All in all I'm surprised we survived cycling as slowly as we did. Probably a morning well spent.

As we came home we saw lots of riot police and various somewhat elderly "gilets jaunes" arriving. The protests are starting up again.

Pique-nique de Quartiers

Last night was the annual area picnic. Bordeaux has two special evenings when you're encouraged to hold a street party. The Fête des Voisins (Festival of Neighbours) is in June, the Area Picnic takes place in September.

We discussed what would be the best approach to the area picnics and we decided that rather than the whole church going to the area picnic nearest to the church, we'd use the occasion to go to the nearest area picnic to our home. In our case that was just up the street, just by the tram stop. The picnic was scheduled to begin at 7, so just after 7, armed with baguette, cheese, tomatoes, Pringles, rosé pamplemousse and some fizzy water, we headed up the street.

We weren't sure what the protocol was. In France communal meals can have various descriptions - repas tiré du sac (meal pulled from a bag - sounds almost magical), repas canadien, repas partagé, pique-nique ensemble. pique-nique partagé. You can't really know what is meant by what, except that partagé means you'll bring a dish, a dessert, an apéro or whatever, and you'll share it all, like an American pot-luck.

Anyway our local area picnic was organised by one of our neighbours and was focused on the residents of three small streets. They did the fête des voisins 10 year ago and the lady decided that it was about time to do it again. You register your pique-nique on the town hall web site and they provide you with flyers, an official organiser's badge, some tables and lots of chairs.

It was a splendid evening. People's ages ranged from a couple of months up to over 70. Recipes were shared. There was lots of home-made food including pizza, quiche, rice, salmon, ham, saucisson, home-grown tomatoes, olive cake, chocolate cake. I went to bed too full and had very odd dreams.

Before going home we told folk that next year either we would organise something for our towers, or we would join them again.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Disturbing news from Toulouse

A student has been missing for about a week after an evening in the bars. Some people reported finding him sleeping in the street. They woke him up.

Examining CCTV footage has shown him climbing into a bin. He's not seen climbing out. The bin was later emptied into a lorry which takes the rubbish for incineration.

His family must be distraught.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019


Regular readers will be aware that I try to keep off politics and British readers will know why. There is one little matter that I thought ought to extract some comment, however, and that is the issue of how our politicians tell such blatant lies without embarrassment and with no fear of challenge, contradiction or consequence.

We all know that they are doing it, too, and we seem to have entered into an agreement where we accept their lies, suspend disbelief, and approve of policies and courses of action based on outright fiction. Incidentally, in France this seems to be tolerated less than in the Anglo-Saxon world at present. Anyway, I digress.

Some words my mother would use come to mind. She used to talk of people as being strangers to the truth. I think she meant that some folk so believe their own propaganda and so trust their own thoughts that they are no longer capable of distinguishing whether they are presenting facts based on concrete evidence, capable of being demonstrated or challenged, or whether they are just saying whatever is in their head at the time. In fact, to them there is no difference.

I think that's why I'm starting to consider that the category of "lies" is no longer of much use in trying to cope with current political life. We're not dealing with science or history, where evidence can be marshalled, queried and exposed. We're dealing with a kind of art-form where reality is what I want it to be, what I believe it to be, and if you don't agree with me, so what? What is that to me? Why should I change what I say?

I think it's postmodernism, the implicit rejection of objective truth, the absence of meta-narrative, all that stuff. It begets an extreme pragmatism that rejects foresight and hindsight and lives for the immediate expedient.

Crème cicatrisante

When he took my stitches out the nurse told me that in about 7 to 10 days I should get some crème cicatrisante (scarring cream???) from the pharmacy "and don't hesitate to massage it well in".

I looked up crème cicatrisante on the pharmacie websites and as far as I could see it was snake-oil. Some contain vitamin B6. Others silicone. I can't see me taking in much in terms of vitamins through the back of my neck, and I would only consider rubbing silicone into it if I wanted a good shine.

Still, one either follows medical advice or one goes one's own sweet way, so after rubbing in some arnica cream last night and this morning (I'm sure that would do) I accompanied Mrs Davey to the pharmacist. She was after some cream to clear up an itchy spot on her arm. The pharmacist showed her a wonderful cream that contains copper and zinc (!).

I said, and I need a crème cicatrisante.

"That's the one", she said.

"Wouldn't a simple moisturising cream or a cream with arnica do the job?"

"Oh no, you need the copper and the zinc."

Well at least we could share the one tube.

So for the next two to three weeks I must rub the crème cicatrisante into the back of my neck, massaging energetically, until I achieve a dull metallic sheen.

"Oh, and protect it from the sun", she said.

"Time to get out a scarf?"

"Or wear a baseball cap backwards".

We tried out various solutions, including a nice scarf and a kerchief, but by far the easiest is the backwards baseball cap.

On medical advice, don't you know.

Saturday, August 31, 2019


The good news and the bad news. Mrs Davey doesn't like the Brompton folding bike. The handlebars are too low and not adjustable. This is good because it means we won't fight over it. However, it means that when the city folding bike goes back in September we'll need to look at getting another. You CAN get Bromptons with higher bars, but would they be high enough? Could we even try one out to see? And it means another eBay job, unless we spot one second-hand in Bordeaux.

Otherwise it'll mean an inferior make. Decathlon has a range which seems to fit for size. They don't fold down as small, but you see a lot of them in Bordeaux and they seem to do OK.

The healing

It is SO GOOD to sleep without a dressing on my neck.

It is SO GOOD to be able to twist and turn my head without stitches pinching.

I'm looking forward to the end of the itching, aching and general feelings of discomfort, but we're getting there. Every morning I take a photo of the operation site and every morning there's a noticeable improvement.

Panoramas de l'Ars

Here's the latest photo of the gardens below our balcony. There has been frantic removal of rubble, detritus and junk from just below us and wholesale earthmoving, sometimes rather early in the morning. It seems they are trying to get this school good and ready to open in January.

Then the tower just the other side of the car park seems to be pretty well completed. We're excited to get a chance to go up and see the views from the top floor. They MUST have an open day, surely? If not we'll have to try and rent a flat and go and see it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Stitches are out


Now to wait another ten days before starting to rub in well some "scarring cream" (crème cicatrisante) to keep everything soft and supple.

Monday, August 26, 2019

A new bike

Before we moved from Pessac Pat sold her nice old mixte frame bicycle to one of the neighbours. I thought it was a pity, but the deal was concluded and the 40 euros changed hands. I sold my old Raleigh Magnum mountain bike, too. It was a faithful old thing, but I had never loved it. Even adding natty blue road tyres somehow didn't do a lot for it.

Soon after we moved here we got a Bordeaux bike. The city will loan you a basic bike, designed for robustness, and Pat loved it but seldom used it. We wondered if the problem is the bike store.

The bike store is a room next door to the main entrance to the building. It has two doors fitted with locks and automatic closers and then it has lots of hoops for attaching bicycles. To get your bike out you unlock it from the hoop, then manhandle it out of the door while fighting with the automatic closer and negotiating two right-angles. You then have two more automatically closing doors to exit, one opened by a button on the wall, the other by a simple handle.

It's a faff.

So after taking the city bike back we decided to borrow a folding bike. This would live in the hallway of our flat. The idea was to carry it, folded, into the lift, through the two main doors and then unfold and ride away.

The bike is bright yellow and has that slightly crazy look that small wheeled folders pull off so well. However, it weighs over 16kg. We know. We weighed it. It's not absolutely impossible to carry it out of the building and then unfold it, but it's far easier to unfold it in the flat, then wheel it out.

So this is what we've done, and the bike has had far more use in its few short weeks with us than any other bike ever had. It's there as you leave the flat. It says, "don't wait for buses and trams, take me", and often we do.

Folding bike loans are for two months only, so in about two weeks the thing has to go back.
Bordeaux has a couple of bikemongers so I asked some of them for their counsel.

"What you need is a Brompton". They sounded like a Greek chorus. Whence such unanimity?

"But you sell another brand?", I asked one.
"We very occasionally sell another brand"

"Do you ever get them second-hand?", I asked another.
"About once every ten years."
"When was the last time?"
"About five years ago."
"So five years to wait..."

British humour doesn't translate, as his blank look reminded me.

The thing is, those bikes are expensive. They're expensive in the UK, but in France even more so. Recent readjustments in the value of the pound against the euro have not been reflected in their price.

I went away and thought about it. In the "dismissing it from my mind" sense of thinking about it.

Then a few things happened.

Firstly the French tax people gave us a refund. I don't know how. We hadn't knowingly paid any tax, but they refunded it anyway.

Secondly we happened on a cyclemonger in Paris who stocked Bromptons. We lifted them, we unfolded them, we folded them back up. The salesman knew we live in Bordeaux so we wouldn't be buying from him. It gave us a sense of detachment. We felt for ourselves how light and small they were.

Thirdly I started hunting on eBay and on le Bon Coin (French Gumtree) There were bikes available in Paris, Lyon, Beziers, La Rochelle... I seriously contemplated catching a train or bus to La Rochelle.

But then one came up on eBay. A good vendor. A good price. A good model. A reasonable price for carriage.

I was still a little terrified at spending so much on eBay, so I sent the details to a friend who rides these things in England. "Looks OK", he said.

So we ordered it and it came. It's a glorious lime green. I still have a stiff neck, but I took it round the block and it all works fine. Tomorrow Pat and I plan to ride to her rendezvous, her on the new bike, me on the city bike, then we'll swap and I'll ride the new bike home.

Sometimes a smidgin of Vaughan Williams just hits the spot

Saturday, August 24, 2019

45 has landed

US Boris has landed at Mérignac airport and presumably been whisked in his motorcade down the A63 to Biarritz. I didn't see Airforce1 on its approach. Maybe I'll see it as it takes off.

Panorama of the Jardins de l'Ars

Still takes a bit of faith and imagination to see the promised gardens.


All seems to be healing up quite nicely. I put on a dry dressing overnight so as not to catch the stitches on my pillow, and in the morning there are little spots of blood that correspond to the eight entry and exit sites of the four stitches. I've had less discomfort each day, easily banished with paracetamol.

I've made an appointment to get the stitches out on Tuesday, and I'm quite excited about getting rid of them. I think most of the discomfort comes from them, now. I do remember how excited I was about having the operation - and that had I known that it would feel like the surgeon was digging out the cyst with a sharpened dessert spoon my enthusiasm would have been lessened. What do you mean, of course he wasn't - I know what I felt.

Anyway I'm sure that taking out the stitches will be unpleasant, too, but afterwards I'll be able to move my head without that sharp reminder.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Hurrah for paracetamol!

The dressing's off.
The operation site looks quite clean and dry.
It's sore but not unbearable.
Paracetamol is more than adequate.

I've been feeling OK, but taking things quietly. No running, jumping, cycling or tram-riding for the present. (The back of my neck looks just a little alarming for now.)

I have a prescription to take to a local nurse to get the (four purple) stitches out next Tuesday.
There's a trio of well-regarded nurses just alongside our tram-stop.

Attentive readers

will observe that I make little comment on politics.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Getting my cyst cut out

I thought that since there would be lots of administration to do that I'd go quite early to the hospital, so for my 10 am appointment we walked into reception at about 9:10.

Round to the desk. Identification please - Titre de Séjour - OK, up you go to operating block 1.


30 seconds and it was all over.

I'll never get the hang of this.

Anyway it gave time for a quick visit to the toilets.

Pat located the coffee shop for when I was in theatre.

We presented ourselves at block 1.

"Oh, you're quite early. Take a seat and my colleague will call you."

Two other patients arrived and sat beside us. A nurse said that Dr Canard (that's his name) was still in theatre but he'd be with us soon. Then at about 10 she called me in.

Tee-shirt off - hop on the table, face down.

The doctor arrived. Try your head to the left. Try to the right. Try face directly down. Is that OK?

I could breathe. It would be fine. A quick wash with betadine, the placing of the blue paper cover and we were off. About four injections of varying discomfort. Lots of rattling of surgical hardware, then pulling, tugging and the occasional very sharp twinge.

Then the stitches. "There's four", he said.

I took a photo of the cyst - it was about 4cm by 3cm. A good-sized pigeon's egg.

If it gets enflamed or infected come back to see me. Otherwise get a nurse to take out the stitches in a week to ten days. From tomorrow leave it without dressings. Wash in savon de Marseille and dry thoroughly.

I thanked them, apologised for the blood all round the room and left at 10:20.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

OK this means war

I killed one the other day, but this morning ANOTHER mosquito was hiding under my desk waiting to attack my legs in the early morning.

Friday, August 16, 2019


Regular readers will know of our family history with rodents. A gerbil. Guinea-pigs. Rats. It is now over a year since Lawrence, the last of our rats, abandoned this vale of tears.

A year is a long time and the prospect of getting her own place energised our daughter into dreaming and searching. She located a breeder of rats. She ordered a cage. She negotiated her price. We built the cage. It only remained to drive out to the breeder's home to get them.

So we met Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the three wise rats. They are husky dumbo rats. That means they are born with husky-like markings that fade over time, and their ears are rather lower on their heads than one would usually expect. This gives them a rather goofy and endearing appearance.

The young rats came home and were placed in their cage. Disaster! They are so small that they can get through the bars. So they were put securely in a box until we could get a small mouse cage to be going on with.

Disaster again. On one of the roll-calls it was discovered that one rat was missing. A general search of the whole apartment ensued. Drawers were ransacked that had been undisturbed for a year! No rat was found.

Then, very late, he was seen scuttling from the bookcase to the piano and back. His hiding place was revealed, deep under the recesses of the bookcase. The rats were reunited once more, though they seemed unmoved by this.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption, for which we get a public holiday, so the pet shop in town was closed, but the one out near Ikea was open. Ikea is normally very accessible by tram C, but the fire damage to the car park is not yet repaired and tram C is therefore not running between the station and Quinconces, so it took some jiggery pokery to get to Ikea. Not only that, but on public holidays there are fewer trams. It took a long time to get the cage. We rewarded ourselves with lunch at Ikea then wended our way home by another route, bus 15 to Victoire, then bus 1 to the station.

So the juvenile rats are now happily housed in their natty little plastic cage, with a big tunnel to hide in, a wheel to ignore and all modern conveniences. And we can sleep soundly again.

Monday, August 12, 2019

They've started testing the new tram Line D

This is important for us because it will link directly our flat and the building where the church meets, as well as Catrin's flat (assuming all goes well for her rental).

They hope to open the line to the public before Christmas.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Summer in France

The summer in France can be frustrating.

Sometimes it's very hot. We bust the record a couple of weeks ago, with a temperature, I am told, of over 42°C. On days like that everyone moves very slowly in the streets, and you hope with all your heart that your bus or tram will have working aircon. It's touch and go.

Sometimes it's not too bad. Today it's 24°C. To us now that feels just a little chilly.

Sometimes you get thunderstorms. From our flat we see the lightning and watch the rain fall hard on the parched ground.

But it isn't that that's frustrating. It's the summer slow-down.

For example Catrin is waiting to hear about this flat she'd like to rent. We went to see it weeks ago, but the agency (which has very bad reviews on Google, by the way) is shut until the 19th. OK.

Tram C has been out of action between the station and the other side of town following the devastating fire in the car park. But added to this we have the reduced frequency of the summer timetables for the buses and trams in general.

Then there's the roadworks. They're happening everywhere. Everywhere. You need to take advantage of the reduced traffic on the city streets, you see.

Meanwhile there's another dispute about the new bridge that will go from near our home to near the concert hall on the other side of the river. The court that oversees public works thinks we aren't getting good enough value for money.

But with all this there's the promise of better to come.

They're clearing the burnt-out cars from the underground car park. Soon they'll begin repairs and one day tram C will run again.

Meanwhile on Monday they start testing tram D. This will run from near our home to near where the church meets. It will be great.

And soon the autumn transport schedules will be out and we can zoom around to our hearts' content.

Friday, August 02, 2019

A Welshman at the hospital

The trouble with being Welsh and living in France is that I am a bit obsessive about being on time. So my appointment with the surgeon was at 10:20 but I thought I had better allow for traffic and for finding the building and for finding a parking space so I sailed non-stop through the deserted suburbs of Begles at the limit of 30km/h, then a little faster though the empty streets of Talence at 50km/h, found the hospital, found the building easily and was spoilt for choice as to where to park. So at 9:30 I listened to a programme about Stefan Zweig's attitude to the First World War while waiting to go in.

The trouble with being Welsh and living in France is that you forget that everything starts with a song and dance at the computers. So at 10:05 I went into the building, trekked to the toilets, then took a ticket to go to reception. I was number 53. There were seven people before me and two receptionists. But the receptionist has to

1) verify your identity and your address from your carte de séjour

2) verify your carte vitale is valid and up to date

3) verify your mutuelle and the cover it provides

4) scan all these documents

5) create a patient record for you

6) send you to the relevant department.

All this took some time, so I ended up being late anyway. Not only that but the receptionist said "Follow the violet signs". I can't see violet. He'd just as well have said follow any sign at random. So I had to ask him what the violet sings said so I could find the right ones.

Still I got to the door of Dr Canard's waiting room just as the secretary was opening it. They're used to the system even if I'm not. They probably say 10:20 if they want you to arrive at 10:30...

Dr Canard was tall and slim with light brown hair and an efficient gait, just in case you were wondering. He looked at my cysts.

"No, it's the same one. Shall we take it out?"

I might have hesitated longer than I should. "That's the idea, I think."

"Oh yes, it's pretty big!"

So I have an outpatient appointment for 10am on 20 August. I can eat my hearty bowl of porage beforehand and drive myself there and back. He'll do the local anaesthetic and the excision. It should all be over by 11:30 and about a week later I'll have the stitches out.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Appointment made - I see the surgeon next Friday

We have cloudy skies!

Last night we had discreet and gentle storms with, thunder, lightning, rain and everything except those nasty strong winds. I, meanwhile, was having trouble sleeping, so I saw some of the show, paying for it with mosquito bites on both legs.

I've not posted any photos of Paris yet. They will come. I'm drip-feeding them into Instagram and thence into Facebook. Once all has been done I'll pop some on here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It wasn't my idea, OK?

To combat the heat the SNCF are distributing bottled water at the central railway station, the bus and tram company are giving free granitas at Quinconces and at the place where trams A and B cross a little team of folk are on hand to spray passers-by with water - the "pschit-pschiteurs".


We did our outside chores early, then lowered the shutters, closed the windows, put on the fans, washed towels and hung them around to dry and managed to keep the temperature in the flat down to 30.5°C.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Paris will always be Paris

The morning after the Fête Nationale we packed quickly and sped off by fast train to Paris where we had booked four nights in an AirBnB not far from Montmartre and Sacré Coeur. Our goal was to explore parts of Paris that we'd never seen and, perhaps, to kindle that affection for the city that we see in so many others.

We live just 10 minutes walk from the station so we stopped off at McDonald's to buy salads to eat on the way, our train left at noon. The place was very crowded indeed and salads are not the most high volume sellers, so we waited rather longer than we felt comfortable with before charging off to the platform, where there was nobody to check our tickets, and installing ourselves in our upper-storey seats. The train gives you a good view of the changing French countryside, vines giving way to sunflowers, then to pastureland, then to wheat fields that you just long to run through.

Bordeaux is just two hours from Paris by train - if you choose the right train. Our, cheaper train would take three hours by stopping at Angoulême and at Saint-Pierre-les-Corps before arriving at Montparnasse.

We thought we'd walk across the river before getting on the metro, passing the Grand and Petit Palais, but the route we took meant that we ended up trying to walk through the Elysée palace. Oops. The charming policewoman with the submachine gun explained our error and we took a detour via the Place de la Concorde then back down the rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré where quite by chance we fell into one of Paris' coffee shops, Honor. Suitably refreshed we gazed at the other side of the Elysée before hopping on the metro for our area.

We booked our apartment on AirBnB and the rules are that you book the place before you know the exact address, so we were pleased to discover that we were staying in Rue Davy, in the middle of a busy and crazy area filled with bakers, cafés, restaurants and shops of every kind. In fact Napoleon had a bare-faced cheek calling England a nation of shopkeepers. I guess he never took a bus in Paris. It's shops all the way!

Monday, July 15, 2019

La Fête Nationale

The firework display was interrupted when the barge carrying the fireworks caught fire, but there was a  rapid intervention by our fire service boats and nobody was injured.

A visit to Méca

We went to visit the new Maison de l'Economie de la Création d'Aquitaine, a massive building just a short walk from our flat.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Bordeaux to triple the rate of tree-planting

The city council has realised that the pedestrian areas of Bordeaux are short of shade, especially in terms of tree cover. Pedestrianisation has been pretty rapid and extensive. It's great. It means that huge areas of the city are easily accessible and safe on foot. But there are HUGE squares with no shade at all and many of our lovely streets also have no trees.

So the city council has decided to plant 20,000 trees over the next three years and they've made an immediate start by putting tubs of trees in the square outside the town hall.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Stories of Coal

Will this get us on our bikes?

We have two bicycles - my old Rudge BiFrame, which needs a new cable for the rear derailleur, and a splendid upright town bike we got second-hand in a bike shop. Recently Pat also borrowed a bike from the Maison du Velo in Bordeaux. They'll lend you a town bike free for ten months.

Our apartment block has a bike store - it's a big room near the entrance with lots of hoops to attach your bike. But to get the bike out you have to wrestle it past the self-closing doors and negotiate several right angle turns. It's awkward. So we walk and tram and bus and forget the bikes...

So here's the plan - the same Maison du Velo will loan you a folding bike for two months. We'll get one on Monday. That way we can fold it up when we get back to the apartment, lug it into the lift and store it by our front door.

If it works well maybe we could get our own once the two months are up...

Friday, July 05, 2019

Catrin's job interview

Catrin's been interviewed for a job teaching English at her old primary school in Pessac. 
She'll hear by Tuesday.

It's hotter

Like 24°C minimum overnight. Which means that in the morning when you open the widows to air the flat it's already hot.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

It's too hot!

So the heatwave is over, but now we just have heat.

The heatwave in this area never got above a yellow alert, so we were spared the extremes of heat, but it was still extremely hot indeed.

The way we manage this is by :

1) keeping the shutters lowered on all windows where the sun strikes.

2) opening all the windows in the early morning and closing them once the sun rises in the sky

3) drinking LOTS of water and quite a lot of tea

4) moving slowly and keeping to the shade as far as possible

5) sleeping under a sheet

6) fans

Americans find it amazing that we don't have air-conditioning, even in new flats, but French people are a little wary of cooling the house too much anyway, and the dry air that air-con produces is bad for your throat.

But even with these measures the heat can be difficult to handle. For example, last night was the choir's end of year meal. For us it meant a 10 minute walk to the railway station, then a 10 minute rail journey followed by a 20 minute bus ride. We'd get a lift home. Hardly excessive. But we couldn't quite rouse ourselves to go.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Daveys in Britain 2019

We made a quick trip to the UK, flying into Bristol and then visiting places like Swansea, Leicester, Chippenham and Darlington.

Part of the goal was to spend some quality time with our sending church in North Wales. We've now been away fourteen years so we needed to get to know some new folk as well as to renew more established relationships.

Otherwise it was mainly the pretty standard Daveys in Britain experience - motorways and different towns galore - but we were also able to sneak off for a couple of afternoons. One we spent walking the Chester walls - well as far as we were able to because of maintenance work - and we got to re-explore Bath a little as well as spend a weekend with Pat's sister and a family barbecue with the Hodgson clan.

We're very thankful to folk who helped in myriad ways, meeting us at the airport, giving us a bed for the night, feeding us delicious British food, loaning us a car - or rather a Ka - and ferrying us hither and yon.

Another important part of the goal was to have our five-yearly review interview with a section of the Mission Council of UFM. Firstly Pat was interviewed by the kindly Linda, then I had my turn with council chairman Matthew. Some weeks later we met with the council who reviewed our situation quite thoroughly, talking about the past, our health, our current situation and work, immediate goals, and plans for the next five years and for 2025 onwards.

2025 is our retirement date when we cease to be supported by UFM and live on our various pension funds in the UK and in France. Little is certain about our retirement just now. Some things should be clearer on 1st November. There are various pension pots fermenting in different places, but even with all of them combined it may be difficult to afford to stay in Bordeaux. Not only that but we'll need to prepare for one of us to lose the other - and Pat thinks that she would find it impossible to live in France without me.

So there we are. A hectic month of June! Now I have quite a lot of admin to do - some important letters arrived while we were away!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Thursday of the Ascension and the Bridge of the Ascension

Republican France is nevertheless very attached to its public holidays, many of which mark events in the story of Christianity. So it is that this week we mark Thursday of the Ascension (the BBC used always to play an Ascension Day hymn, and the following couple of days. If you take Friday off then you get four days off in a row!

It's not without drawbacks. Ascension Day moves back and fore with Easter so this year falls just at the end of May. Coupled with the other public holidays on 1st May and the 8th May, it can effectively paralyse anything you're trying to accomplish in May. That leaves June to get something done before you hit the holiday months of July and August head-on.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Income tax

I'm pretty sure I did it right, but I just did my tax declaration again and they say they owe me money.

Couple of photos

and another one

a fire, that is.

This time in a block of lovely stone buildings just behind the waterfront at the start of the Chartrons area of Bordeaux. Renovation works are suspected at present. The fire spread through the roofs of six houses and destroyed some of the buildings pretty thoroughly. One has effectively collapsed.

We're hoping for no more fires this summer!