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, March 14, 2018

At the bank

to open an account for the church.

"Oh no, the president of the association has to be here. It's the president that opens the account."

"But he's the treasurer."

"No, the president"

The president is on holiday for a couple of weeks. Oh, it's only delay.

Mother tongue interference


serck-rett-air, not sec-rett-air

...repeat until you can no longer say it wrong...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring has come to Pessac

One day it was -4°C and the next 16°C. Thankfully that was the day we flew back from icy Prague.

It means lots of daffodils and yellow mimosa. It means some forsythia - not as popular here as in the UK. It means the start of the blossoming trees. It means beautiful sunsets. It means people are starting to get over their colds and coughs.

Sadly the beautiful buds on the magnolias were all frozen by the beast from the east, so no magnolia blossoms this year. Instead there are withered brown dead buds.

And everything looks more cheerful and hopeful.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

French is a crazy language

The French language has a lot of character and tends to set challenges for you. Some people profess to be rubbish at French. Others show a high degree of expertise. For example:

Did you know that when you say on page 41 in French it is expressed as "à la page quarante-et-un" and definitely not quarante-et-une... Une is an article, not a number. Numbers do not change with gender. But you'll often hear people say, à la page vingt-et-une, or à la mesure cent-trente-et-une.

Did you know that French does have a neuter gender, but it hides it behind the masculine. This was all explained to me this week but it got very technical so I pretended to follow while quietly zoning out.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Praying in Prague

Last week was the International Christian Communities of Eurasia Prayer Conference, which was held in Prague. Pat and I went along for the first time ever. The conference ran from Wednesday lunchtime to Friday lunchtime, but flights meant that we flew on Tuesday and returned on Saturday.

Prague was going through a period of extremely cold weather though the dryness of the air meant that there was little snow. I have never been so cold in all my natural born days. We had lots of warm clothing, but my hat and scarf combinations generally left my cheekbones exposed, and they froze.

We flew Air France, Bordeaux to Paris, then Paris to Prague, which gave us the right to a bag of pretzels and a sandwich on the way, and pretzels and a pineapple and coconut sponge cake on the return. We stayed together in a nice hotel with very powerful heating. It was -14°C in the street and +26°C in our room. The hotel served a buffet breakfast of the usual euro-miscellany and then made up sandwiches and snacks which were left for guests to help themselves to as the day unfolded.

The participants at the prayer conference ate together on two evenings, once in a Prague institution which is a kind of brewery and traditional eating-house. I had svíčková, which is a kind of Czech version of boiled beef and carrots, served with slices of bread dumplings. It was very good and very filling. the second evening we ate at the restaurant of a deacon of the international church in Prague where the set menu was a gastronomic tour de force, with meat and fish courses and a very good chocolate mousse with marinated bitter cherries.

We had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with Prague friends, Romana who worked with us in North Wales in the mid 1990s, Jitká who was here in Bordeaux for a year in 2003 and Ted and his family. Ted teaches at universities in Prague. Romana met us at the airport on our arrival and then escorted us back to the airport along with Jitká.

A highlight for me were two visits to Bethlehem Chapel, the meeting house built for Jan Hus to preach in the 1400s. It was built to accommodate 3000 people, stood, and apparently up to 10,000 actually crammed themselves inside. At the time Prague had a population of some 40,000 people. You can see just how popular a movement it was. His Prague ministry lasted just 12 years, then followed two years preaching in the Bohemian countryside under the pope's anathema, then he was tried and burnt.

Prague now is a beautiful city with a illustrious past and a rather sordid present. Nasty gift shops line the streets of the old town. Supermarkets display cannabis leaf signs to show that you can buy cannabis cookies and cakes. On Wenceslas Square Marks and Spencer is on one block and on the next a large building advertises Thai massage and through the open doors you can see ten or more eager girls lounging on sofas and beanbags waiting for their needy punters to arrive. That's us Europeans, eh?

I had a list of good coffee shops to visit. We didn't do any. I had a list of cheap restaurants. We didn't do any. We did explore Old Town, the river bank, New Town, the Jewish quarter and the Castle area. Oh, and the Czech language is a czallenge!

Friday, February 23, 2018

What is happening to our town?

Yesterday afternoon I got home from a meet-up in the city centre to find a row of police cars, a trails moped and an ambulance parked on what we nickname bang-crash wall.

Initial fears were fed by the fact that the ambulance seemed in no hurry as a stretcher was loaded up and its load completely covered before being placed inside. Still the vehicle waited before eventually driving off. "They placed the white sheet", said one neighbour, ominously.

More extensive investigation (we asked the people who were moving out just as the accident happened) revealed that nothing quite so tragic had transpired: a young hothead on a moped was being chased by a police car alongside the Pape Clement vines. On our really dangerous corner he hit the pavement and came off his bike, appearing to have perhaps broken his arm.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

and Lawrence is home...

Public transport incident

I had an appointment at the bank at 3 to talk about insurance. To be honest, I wasn't very keen on going but I want the bank to be good to me so at present I'm being especially good to the bank. So I left the house to hop on bus 4 down to the Alouette where our branch is. As I approached the stop I saw bus 4 pull in so I speeded up on the off chance that I would catch it. It stayed at the stop and the driver put the hazard warning lights on. He let me on board and continued a conversation with the bus controller.

"Ah no, the police are not here yet. Well no, but the way things are they'll be hitting each other soon."

Two men at the back of the bus were having a very heated conflict while the rest of us watched and wondered whether intervening would help or inflame the situation.

"Come away" urged some women to one of the chaps.

After several minutes the police arrived, charged onto the bus with pistols drawn, and yelled at the main combattant to stand up. He didn't. "I'm going to witness a shooting", I thought. The police got to the guy, who was drunk and also obviously had some psychological issues. They dragged him to his feet, cuffed him and frog-marched him off the bus.

Then followed interviews with various folk involved. "He'd been threatening to slit everyone's throats, and so on". (At present in France this kind of threat is particularly unwelcome.)

Eventually we all got off the bus and onto a following one, the bus driver had a much-needed cigarette before returning the the depot and I was 30 minutes late for my appointment at the bank.

Oh well.

Mi Band 2

It's working again!

When I changed my mobile phone, probably through not following the correct procedure, I ended up with a band that was neither use nor ornament because it would not connect to my phone.

There was a fix on the internet, which involved discharging the battery, putting the module in the fridge for a few days, then trying to connect again. It didn't work.

So a few days ago I thought it was time either to sort it out once and for all or to send it off for whatever recycling is possible for these things. So once more I ran down the battery (it was already flat) and put it in the fridge for about a week.

Then I tried connecting.

"You need to factory reset your band" came the new message. I did that.

Then with just a tiny amount of jiggery-pokery - IT'S WORKING AGAIN!

I'm pretty sure that a few software updates from Xiaomi have made the difference.

A three-legged friend

Lawrence survived the surgery, but unfortunately the nature of the tumour demanded the removal of his front right leg. So he has become a three-legged rat. Not only that, but his back legs have weakened with time. So the poor old feller's days of acrobatics, climbing and charging around are well and truly over. We're awaiting his discharge from the vets.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lawrence is scheduled for surgery this afternoon

The surgery might be too much for him as he's quite an elderly fellow now, but he's still quite perky so it's worth a go. If not the tumour will necrotise and become painful.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A grand trip to Toulouse

On Saturday we made a quick trip to Toulouse to visit a recent church plant called Saint-Cyprien.

After a fitful and restive night I woke and considered calling off our trip. We hadn't booked tickets or accommodation and, more substantially, I woke with a raging sore throat - in France, une angine. I gargled with aspirin and got on with it.

Some reflection : budget hotel or AirBnB? We opted for the former. Hang the 20€ extra expense!

Train or coach? That was easy. Fares and timetables obligent, we went by coach and returned by train.

We hurried to the station to get a train from Pessac to Bordeaux and waved it goodbye as we narrowly missed it. So Bus 4 then 9 it was. We were in plenty of time for our coach and settled ourselves in. Arrived in Toulouse I consulted Google Maps to see how to get to our hotel by public transport. "Search me!" said Google Maps, "but you could hoof it in half an hour."

So hoof it we did. It was a pleasant walk through the brick and stucco elegance of Toulouse with its wright iron balconies and the ever-present fragrance of burning compost heaps - so it's not just Bordeaux. Exotic tobacco is everywhere.

We easily found our hotel and got in. Room 310. "No Smoking" scolded the sign. The stale smell and the cigarette ends on the windowsills said otherwise. We opened the windows wide, put the air-conditioning on high and ventured out to find food.

Tripadvisor listed three possibilities and so we found ourselves in a very popular pub where I had a super chicken curry with the biggest onion bhaji you ever saw and Pat ate a big burger. We chatted with our waiters, from Sheffield and Illinois and wondered at the world today.

Toulouse seems much more full of traffic than Bordeaux and there's quite a bit of traffic noise at night but we slept OK then left to find our breakfast.

An elderly man took advantage of one of my sneezing fits to pass us on the pavement, then decided to stop for a chat.

"Where have you visited? Have you seen the Cathedral? Les Jacobins?"

"Yes, we visited them in the summer, we paid our respects to Thomas Aquinas. Where is good round here for breakfast?"

"Just up there on the other side of the road there's a good baker and you'll be sat outside in direct sunshine. Where are you from."

"Well I'm English and my husband is Welsh, but we live in Bordeaux."

"Oh, my children live in Bordeaux where my son is a percussionist and my daughter a violinist. I was a harpist."

Breakfast was a massive pain au raisin with orange juice and a big coffee, then off to church.

The church was started in 2014 and meets in a nightclub in the centre of the city, but on the less fashionable side. Since then they've grown to capacity in the nightclub and started another group over the other side of the city, but two congregations of one church.

The service was fine, with good preaching from Ephesians 4. Our friend Aaron came and sat by us and introduced us to his charming son. It was encouraging to see how things can work out.

Then off we hoofed back to the station, calling into a bargain-price pizzeria on the way where we got a big salad and a small pizza with a coffee for 12€! For students with a student card it's 7€50!

The train was on time and we got home a little earlier than expected. Then more gargling with aspirin, a quick paracetamol and off to bed...

Mission accomplished.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lawrence is at the vet's

He has a big fatty tumour on his front leg and a weepy eye infection.

He's also around 3 years old, which is a good age for a rat.

We're hoping he comes home.

Postnote: He did come back. You need an appointment. He's going again on Monday

Friday, February 16, 2018

The simple things you see are all complicated

OK. Here comes a rant.

Well, I'll try not to rant.

I think there's a great temptation, trend and desire to simplify things that are actually much richer and more complex than we want to make them, and I think that this oversimplification applies in various areas of life and thought at present.

Biblical theology

In finding the overarching story, the metanarrative of the Bible, pretty well everyone is agreed that the key is Christ.

But how does this work out?

A couple years back a group of us were meeting up to discuss a bible overview book that focused on God's covenants as the metanarrative that points to Christ. I compared this with the other great trend that sees kingdom as the overarching story - God's people, in God's place, under God's king.

OK. But where do temple, priesthood, sacrifice, prophetism, etc, come into these schemas?

Perhaps it is time to recollect another style of Biblical theology that takes covenants, Kingdom and adds them to a rich palette of promise and fulfilment, type and anti-type, shadow and reality, that copes well with the temple theme that runs from Genesis to Revelation, with priesthood and prophetism, with the range of presentations of Christ that we find in the Bible.

When we oversimplify we impoverish ourselves and make everything bland, like living on a diet of rice.


In the same way there's a silent discussion going on about how God makes his people holy. Some focus on the role of the truth of the gospel on our thought-patterns. It's a case of applying gospel-truth to your heart and changing the way you think and behave.

Well yes, but what if the toolbox God uses to make us holy has this at its heart, but also includes other factors? Sinclair Ferguson , in a long article on the Union website here unfolds our sanctification focused and centred on our union with Christ and speaks of the wide range of ways in which God makes us holy, including "providences", the things that come into our lives, the fellowship of the church and the sacraments.

I think these silent discussions are interesting. We're having another on the charismatic (non-)issue. We have decided that continuationism or cessationism is a non-issue. But it isn't. Or again, the question of forms of worship, from the neo-liturgists through to the new standard model of 1/2 hour singing, 1/2 hour preaching ("There was a worship war, the pentecostals won and we all got the victory" is the way one man put it).

It's as if we are tired of discussing things, so we try to pare everything down and make it as simple as possible. Maybe it's part of the current trend for decluttering and for minimalism.

But as we throw out the simple, soapy bathwater, let's keep our grip on the slippery, moving, complex things that is the baby.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Catrin's 21st Birthday

It was Catrin's 21st birthday yesterday. Festivities included a fun party with suitably unhealthy food, a visit from her old friend Meghan from London and a planned lunch in town yesterday which had to be called off when the soporific effects of cough mixture overtook her on the tram.

I just took Meghan to the airport for her flight back to London and returned to Pessac through the snow. It must be about 12 years or more since I drove a car through a snow-shower. It snowed heavily but briefly and has now reverted to glim drizzle.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Le plan du grand froid

Bordeaux has put into action its plan du grand froid. There's a three-stage plan for cold weather to care for folk on the street. It goes from froid, to grand froid, to extrème froid.

Grand froid means that as many places as possible are provided to shelter everyone who requests it, in Bordeaux that means over 1500 places have been made available.

Home made ice cream

The latest party trick is to make home made ice-cream from recipes supplied by a website called "Bigger, bolder baking".

The trick is to whip 400ml of cream soundly until rigor sets in, then to add a can of condensed milk and whip again.

Into this foamy custard you fold whatever flavourings you favour, be it vanilla, crushed up Oreo biscuits or whatever, and freeze the mix for as long as you can.

The result is almost 2 litres of ice-cream - and you know what's in it.

Alan's wizard tips

I have these great socks from Uniqlo. They're really nice! But sometimes my toes go through them and you end up with a really nice sock with a hole in the toe. In the past I have darned socks but I would rather prevent the problem than solve it.

I considered the way I cut my toenails. Frankly I have heeded advice over the years and I don't think there's much improvement to be made in my technique. That was not the problem. More thought ensued.

And now I believe that I have found the solution. After donning your socks but before inserting your feet in your shoes push your sock into the space between your first and second toe and hold it there with your toes. Then put your foot in your shoe and wiggle your toes to release the fold of sock. Tada! This makes a loose area in the sock preventing the tautness at the toe of the sock which results in the friction that makes the hole.

I arrived at this solution a few weeks ago and it really does seem to be working.

Snow in Bordow!

It snowed this morning for about 5 minutes and even started to settle on the garden wall.
Then it stopped and now we have bright sunshine.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Singing the Hallelujah Chorus with a French choir

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For de Lord God omnipotent reigness!

and so on and so forth...

The conductor eyed one of the basses and said "There's still one bass singing 'ze Lord God'"...
The culprit nodded sheepishly.
"It's Alan!" accused one of the sopranos.

Ha ha ha... Minx!

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Running on pause

Running has been on pause since last week because I hurt my leg getting on the bus.

Oh look, I'm getting in practice for being a bumbling old duffer, OK?

I've pretty well perfected the bumbling.
I hope that old will come naturally.
Now I'm working on the duffer part.

Anyway last Wednesday evening Patricia and I were getting on the bus. She'd had some problems scanning her bus card. I was watching to make sure it worked OK rather than looking where I put my feet. I missed the step and slammed my shin into the side of the bus.


Later that evening I wondered if it was broken, but I could move my foot normally, so I slathered it in ibuprofen and arnica.

Now, a week later, the lump has almost gone, the bruise is progressing through the spectrum, the pain is subsiding and I am taking great care when I get on the bus.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Guilty as charged, your honour



The word repression is used much more widely in French than it would be in English, and generally means any measure designed to put pressure on people to stop breaking the law. You would contrast it, I suppose, with education or with the promise of reward.

Recently in Bordeaux fines have been increased dramatically. Parking fines went up from about 17 euros, I think, to almost 40. Meanwhile the fine for travelling on the tram or bus without a ticket has gone up to 72 euros if you settle within three days. After three days an additional 50 euros is incurred. The cost of a bus or ram ticket is 1,60€.

The other day we were on the tram when the ticket inspectors swooped. They arrived in gangs and move through the tram preventing people from alighting without first showing their valid ticket. One woman behind us was caught. She had a wallet full of tickets, none of which had been punched in the machine. "See", she said, "I have lots of tickets". But to no avail. "The fine is 72€ if you pay within three days, if not it goes up to 122€. You can pay me now by card."

"Can't you extend some indulgence? They do in Paris" said the woman, shocked at the cost of her misdemeanour.

No indulgence was extended. No indulgence was possible. The woman argued, complained, wept, railed, and paid. "You have ruined my night out!" she told the inspector.

After the inspectors had gone she continued to complain to the passengers around her about the cost of the fine and the lack of indulgence on the part of the Bordeaux ticket inspectors when compared to the kindly, forgiving Parisians. (Frankly, I have my doubts.)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Changing the hard disk

We don't have a television or a hifi system. Instead we have a Mac Mini computer that stores all our music and accesses films and programmes that we might want to watch. We've had the computer about three or four years and it's very good, but it has always been very slow indeed.

The problem is that Apple put slow hard disks in their base models, and to buy a computer with a fast hard disk is very expensive indeed.

The solution is to change the hard disk for a SSD. Well, following the computing adventures of last month I decided to bite the bullet, buy a drive and change the thing.

In the centre of Bordeaux there is a computer-monger who sold me all I needed, including a very natty little case full of the special screwdrivers I would need. Youtube has videos showing the procedure to follow step by step. What could possibly go wrong?

So in I hied me on the trusty number 4 bus. The chappie in the shop remembered my name and sold me the bits I needed, recommending a particular piece of software to copy the old disk onto the new. (CopyClone)

I came home and used a different piece of software (SuperDuper) and waited as the copy took hours, several hours.

Then came the surgery. I set up a lamp by the table and laid out kitchen paper to receive the various screws. One website said it would take about 45 minutes. It didn't. It took about 20. There were a few steps that people said you could leave out, so I did. One screw didn't want to go back in, so I left it out! Then...

The Mac Mini is now REALLY FAST! I couldn't believe the difference it made!

If you're hesitating, do it!

Continual rain and flooding

You've seen the images of flooding in Paris. Here in Bordeaux the Garonne is very high but as yet only the cycle paths and walkways alongside the river have flooded. The streets of the right bank have not yet been inundated.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The great Nutella riots

Supermarket chain Intermarché has an offer on 950g jars of Nutella. Usually sold for about 5 euros they've cut the price to 1,41€, limited to three jars per customer, and sparked the great Nutella riots of 2018, rivalling the infamous British Ikea Sofa Stampede for notoriety.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Yatal concert

This January gets you down. You never dry out! Every time you leave the flat you get drenched by constant, persistent, penetrating drizzle. It's just like Cardiff, it really is.

So last night I was the only Davey to brave the brief journey by train to the Eglise Sacré Coeur near the central railway station to hear the group, Yatal, who hail basically from Grenoble.

Yatal is a kind of folk-pop group made up of a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, a violinist and a multi-instrumentalist who is known especially for playing the hang-drum. He also wowed the crowd by playing the spoons. (I'll have to tell Pat. We can both play the spoons. Fame awaits us!)

My train was 10 minutes late so I had to hoof it fast up the road to the church. I've been there once before. A friend from the language school used to go there. It's one of the more interesting Catholic churches, it has perpetual adoration of the host, as well as pop-music youth masses on Sunday night and has renamed itself "L'Eglise de Bordeaux Centre". It's also often the venue for Christian concerts, including the catholic groups, Glorious (you pronounce it like "glory-house" without the h) and Be Witness.

In front of me was a young chap I know from a church in Bordeaux. We chatted about the size of the crowd. 

"I expected more people."

"We're about 150, I guess."

"But they could have held this in one of the Assembly of God buildings?"

"Certain doctrinal differences perhaps? They come from a baptist church don't they? Or is it some kind of frères"

"CAEF, I think". I looked around. "So more differences than with this?"

"The place of the Word of God?"

Sometimes I feel very foreign. 

I think that what has happened is that the charismatic movement in the Catholic church has created a certain coming and going between the charismatic protestant and catholic communities and made a bridge between the two. This hasn't happened between the pentecostals and the other groups, so in the end people like my friend feel a greater affinity with the church that maintains perpetual adoration of the host than with the local AoG groups. Maybe my friend doesn't know the local AoG people at all.

Makes you think, doesn't it!

France is awesome

I mean it. Clear sign of God's common grace and love for humanity.

Lots of reasons. Here's another.

This week the government finally decided what to do about a possible new regional airport near Nantes, in a little place called Notre Dame des Landes. (Nothing to do with the Landes de Gascogne)

The project had created a lot of discussion, protest, sit-ins and Swampy-style squatting, but no decision from the government either for or against the plan.

Macron's government promised to make a final decision, and there were lots of consultations with all sorts of people on the local and national level. And this week Edouard Philippe, the prime minister, announced the decision. Not before large numbers of riot police had been ferried into the area.

He said that where large-scale projects had succeeded there had always been united support - they had been projects that commended themselves to all kinds of people. This project obviously created a lot of division. So the government had decided to knock it on the head once and for all.

No decision would have been easy, which may be why previous governments have chosen that path? To decide for the airport would mean a huge backlash from the environmental and agricultural lobbies. To decide against leaves Nantes without a regional hub and leaves large businesses wanting compensation for the work they have already put in.

It reminded me of a situation many years ago where I learned a lot about rule by elders. In a happy church not far from London the elders had decided that it would be good to start area house groups. They worked it through and announced it to the church meeting.

Shock and awe. Some people were horrified. Some years previously there had been a serious dispute in the church which seemed to have come from some bad behaviour on the part of house group leaders. Now history seemed about to repeat itself.

The elders looked at each other, looked round the room and promptly knocked the whole idea on the head. Ruling means more listening than talking.

Friday, January 19, 2018

My friend's cafe

My friend has a café that he runs with his fiancée in a busy little street of Bordeaux.
It has perhaps 20 chairs, a nice little patio - well, tiny really - and a small cellar where they can store stuff. The rent is over £1300 a month, which means they have to do REALLY WELL just to cover their expenses. The other day a chap and I were eyeing it up and working out how many people you could get in there if you laid it out as a church, and you could get perhaps 40 people in. That's rents in central Bordeaux for you.

The January blues

Here we go!
Roll on March.

Rich and poor - on Dollar Street

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

On cream once more

The avid reader of this blog will be aware how much I appreciate easy recipes, and my attention was recently drawn to a very simple recipe for home-made ice-cream - no machine, no incessant churning, it's easy.

Armed with my home-made mincemeat I found a recipe for Christmas ice-cream and set about buying the requisite ingredients.

Let's see. Condensed milk - that's easy - and ... whipping cream.

Here we go again!

Over a decade ago when my eyes were keen and my beard dark I tried buying whipping cream here in France and discovered to my dismay that cream is a territorial species.

We Brits delight in half-cream, single-cream, whipping cream, double cream and clotted cream.

Americans, however, separated by a wide ocean and two-hundred years of cultural divergence, have their own classification, which includes "heavy cream".

Here in France I am still struggling to understand why some crème still tastes sour, and so is obviously crème fraîche, even though it doesn't say so on the pot.

Here is what I have discovered.

If you want whipping cream then you buy crème fleurette, which has added alginates to provide a frothing agent and help it whip. (shudders ... I can't, I just can't...)

Otherwise if you want to whip your cream you need to buy 30% cream.

To get non crème fraîche and have a cream that does not taste soured at all I only know of one brand, which comes in a kind of 33cl sachet.

Otherwise, since the ice-cream recipe contains sweetened condensed milk and I need 50cl of cream, I just frown, knuckle down and buy crème fraîche.

The holy grail of cream here is France is Crème d'Isigny, which is thick and unctuous and will play the role of clotted cream if you have good scones and are of a greedy and forgiving nature.

All clear?

Darkest Hour

On Monday afternoon we took the tram to the nearest UGC cinema in Talence to see Darkest Hour in VOSTF. There were four people in the room. Well, it was Monday afternoon.

Of course, watching the film in Bordeaux probably increases the visceral blow of the film. How do you defend against panzers and blitzkrieg? How do you negotiate with totalitarianism? How do you willingly wake up from a nightmare?

I had a new appreciation for the pace of events. In just two weeks everything was unleashed.

I wondered at Chamberlain. Was he really such an evil old buzzard, controlling the voices and reactions of his party with just the flick of his handkerchief? Could this be a true portrait? At the same tie I have known people like that and, to my lifelong shame, I have not always explained the danger of their habits.

I wondered at Churchill's energy. He was born in 1874, so at the outbreak of war he was already 65. No wonder he needed his naps! And his drink!

It would be good to find a historian's review of the film. What about the King's change of heart?

And then Brexit. Probably for the UK it doesn't matter much whether we are in the EU or not. I mean, obviously, economically it matters hugely, and probably in terms of rights and protection of citizens, too. But in the event of war on the continent of Europe, it is hard to see how Britain can avoid getting drawn in.

Perhaps the real hero of the film is the spoken word. Popular folklore credits Churchill with winning the war by means of the radio, and without in any way overlooking my father's, and others' sacrifice in devoting the best years of their youth to combatting the fascist plague, I would like to believe that that is true.

Here is one historian's take on the film

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A worldwide reaction on a global scale

We have been inundated by a worldwide reaction of two messages asking us to keep the blog alive, one from an undisclosed location believed to be deep inside the European Union, the other from a Mr Davey of the Home Counties.

Faced with this unprecedented emotional outpouring the blog is, of course, reprieved.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The week the blog almost died

It's been a very busy week here in Bordeaux, just one thing after another, to such an extent that I thought the best thing to do was to announce the death of the blog. However last night Mrs Davey told me that this would be a pity, and so the blog will live on.

What's been happening? All sorts of things.

Monday is now sabbatical day, and I ventured out into Bordeaux without my phone and quite, quite alone. It was very liberating to know that nobody knew where I was and nobody could contact me. I ate lunch in one of the cheap cafés and watched the empty square - Mondays are quiet in Bordeaux and many of the shops are closed.

We had some computer problems sorted out. Catrin's laptop hit problems due to lack of storage but in the centre of Bordeaux there's an independent computer shop that was able to sell us a bigger disk and fit it. I'd have been able to fit it myself, but it was cheaper to get them to do it than to buy the tools I would need.

Then Pat's phone had a cracked screen. Catrin's had previously suffered the same thing, so we got Catrin's repaired at the same place for a very reasonable sum and Pat took over Catrin's phone.

Again on the computer front a young chap asked me to help him upgrade his cloud storage but unfortunately he could not remember his password - or rather he correctly remembered the wrong password - so there was nothing constructive that we could do!

I met up with a young student who is working on the role of women in protestant churches in Bordeaux and after our interview we discussed how he feels about President Macron. We are both glad to have a president who knows how to behave without embarrassing the whole country, not something we felt so able to say with the two previous incumbents.

It's been the CNEF week of prayer, but I only got to one of the evenings, in the Eglise Libre in Pessac. It was good to meet up with folk and to pray together.

The church council had a very constructive meeting, and we're progressing towards declaring our 1905 Association, we hope at the beginning of February.

And I've started working on a big music project, that of singing a complete Bach cantata, number 82 for baritone. It represents about 25 minutes of singing! Some movements are very achievable, others are far more difficult. I've started by tackling one of the easier movements. Someone drew my attention to this Radio 4 programme that discusses the piece : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09l07ly

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Some radical decisions being taken here...

Here's one.

Monday is Desert Island Day.

I leave my phone at home and my laptop turned off and I venture out. The idea is to take a proper break one day a week.

I was a little unsure about what might happen if I am taken ill and need an ambulance, but since I have never been taken ill or ever been inside an ambulance this seems to be a rare occurrence. Anyway I'm not actually going to a desert island, so there'll usually be someone who can phone if they find me supine and unresponsive.

And what to do? Well it is a bit sad that lots of my favourite things are closed on Mondays, like museums, galleries etc., but the Mériadeck library is open Monday afternoons. I've now lived in Bordeaux for over 12 years and never yet visited this awesome place. The parks are open, as are many shops and cafés, the cinemas etc.

Why this stern action? Well both Pat and I have had grumbling health issues this autumn - in my case niggling asthma and shingles. So we're trying a couple of things. Hypoallergenic detergent, for example. A new regime of early nights (we'll see how long that one lasts). And a weekly break from everyone and everything.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Poor Catrin's computer

We needed to download a new piece of music software, but before we could her computer needed to be on the latest update of the system software. (Ahem, ahem, who has not been doing their updates, then?)

And that was when the fun started.

There was not enough disk space to download the update. So we deleted some things and it downloaded and started to install.

However - then it said there was not enough room to install the update, and got stuck in a loop that we couldn't break out of.

The solution? By a bigger hard disk and either fit it or get it fitted by our friendly local independent Mac expert. The cheaper option was to get them to fit it, so they did, this morning.

And all is well again, with the storage space on her computer now doubled!

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

So that was Christmas

I took time off to spend with the family. It was wonderful!

Gwilym came home from London on 18th December, he slept in the lounge on the sofa bed, and this gave a certain shape to our time together, with early nights and late mornings (or at least late for me - I normally get up at about 6:30).

For Gwilym's birthday we ate at the Regent Bistro in Pessac, a local chain of restaurants that does steaks, salmon or breast of duck at a reasonable price.

We also ate a kebab from the most popular kebaberie in Bordeaux, the Coluche. I find it hard to love kebabs, but it's the nearest Bordeaux comes to authentic street food so...

For Christmas dinner we added some friends to our family and ate a raclette together. This is a very unwise mix of boiled potatoes, grilled bacon and dried sausage with a topping of melted cheese. It has the sole virtues of being good fun and very filling, so it was followed with a mincemeat flavoured ice-cream following a really simple recipe I found on the internet.

Christmas Eve we worshipped with our friends in Merignac. In the evening Pat and I went to the late night service in the Pessac church, leaving at the moment of the mass. There must have been about 200 people there. The priest's sermon was kind of OK, full of historical detail, application focused on being people of peace and goodwill. OK as far as it went, but that wasn't very far. The service was extremely badly organised!

Yesterday Gwilym left on the 11:20 flight to London, missing storm Carmen by just a couple of hours. I spent the rest of the day moping.

Now it's back to work! Lots to do!

Monday, January 01, 2018


On New Year's Eve a mosquito was desperately trying to get into the flat through the firmly closed, double-glazed window.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Some more Christmas Bach

BWV 82 Ich Habe Genug is based on Simeon's song, known as the Nunc Dimittis ("Now dismiss")

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Diolch yn fawr iawn i S4C am y rhaglen hon!

This programme shows the valley where I grew up, features the brass band I played with as a lad and then goes on the my university town. I half expected Bryn to hop on a plane to Bordeaux, but he didn't.


The BBC won't let me watch anything, but S4C allowed me to watch this.

Christmas Day

Well, just like in the old days, the kids got us up. We'd opened our presents on Christmas Eve as you do in France, but we also had little stockings with bits and bobs in. Then the rush to get the table ready for lunch.

Some genius had had the idea to have a raclette for lunch - I think it was a collective decision - so there wasn't a vast amount of cooking to do beforehand. We'd bought too much charcuterie, some chicken pieces, too much cheese and so we boiled too many potatoes.

For an apero we opened a bottle of Lillet someone gave us and which we'd been saving for just this kind of day, and we had crisps and cashew nuts. To accompany the meal we had some French cider, barely alcoholic but sweet, light and fruity - not at all like English cider.

For dessert we had some mince pies, of course, but this time made with home-made pastry and home-made mincemeat. I tried someone's secret that they'd shared with me years ago and used self-raising flour in the pastry. It worked very well. We also had some Christmas ice-cream that I'd made according to a recipe I found, consisting of:

2 cups of whipping cream (I used the thickest cream and thinned it a little with milk)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk.
1 cup of mincemeat, made a little runny by added liquid - orange juice or whatever...

You whip the cream to stiff peaks. Then you add the condensed milk and whip again. Then you mix in the mincemeat and freeze overnight.

This improbably easy recipe resulted in a really good soft frozen ice-cream that was light and tasted of Christmas.

Our friends arrived and we ate our main course, then played Uno, Jungle Speed and Dobble before tackling dessert. The Queen's broadcast gave us a chance to have some coffee and tea. Two of our friends were from commonwealth countries, and all were from countries where Great Britain had had a historic influence (cough, cough). Then "The Great Escape" which I honoured by doing off in the middle.

A fine Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Some Bach for Christmas

If we decide to retire to Britain

will there be language courses so we can understand whatever strange tongue you are speaking now?

"I didn’t hear any edition of the Today programme this week, due to deciding recently that it harshed what little zen I possess too early in the morning."

On the discipline of rest

This time Pat and I are sleeping in our bedroom and Gwilym is sleeping on the sofa-bed in the lounge. We're sleeping a lot. A LOT! Like last night bedtime was 9pm, and we got up at about 9am.

I can't remember the last time I spent 12 hours in bed. Not even when I'm ill. Perhaps when we used to go camping and we'd go to bed with the sun. But anyway, we are certainly catching up on sleep!

I once knew a student who didn't believe in the necessity of resting or of taking a break. "I'll get plenty of rest in eternity!" they'd say.

But I think they still slept even so.

Sleep forces us to rest. If we don't sleep we quickly go nuts. And sleep is quite a subversive act. It says that we accept that we are not the centre of the world. It says that we accept that the world can survive without us. It says that we can walk away and leave things, at least for some hours.

Sleep restores us in ways we still don't fully understand. We quickly learn to appreciate sleep and to prize it highly.

It's harder to lean to appreciate taking a break, taking time off to rest.

Sometimes, like the student, we get the idea that we don't need to do that. "I'm very tired, I need to lean in and rest in Jesus!" we say to ourselves and to the world.

Well, yes, you do, and you also need to trust in Jesus and take some time to rest. When you rest in Jesus you rest in the one who would go off to quiet places to get away from people for a while and rest.

To take a break and to rest is an act of faith. And determination.

It takes discipline.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mint Spies version 1.0 and 1.1

Well I made some mint spies. Two batches thereof. This is what I learned.

1) our bin tin is very deep. More like a muffin tin really. placing mint spies in the bottom of the holes works, but it is fiddly.

2) paper cases work fine and they mean you don't have to grease the bun tin.

3) shop-bought pâte sablée (sweet shortcrust pastry) works ok but the pastry is very thin and crisp.

4) shop-bought flaky pastry (pâte feuilletée) basically doesn't work at all.

5) the mincemeat is good.

So basically I have to make some shortcrust pastry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Home made mincemeat

The French know not mincemeat.
I mean we know not even candied peel!
Suet is an issue.
So for many years we have not had mint spies at Christmas unless someone has been able to smuggle them over in their hold baggage or something.

Then this year I found a recipe.
It's not perfect.
It has suet. I substituted butter.
It has candied peel. I left it out.
It has fresh cranberries. In your dreams.
It doesn't have grated apple. I'll add some next year.

But I found some dark brown sugar, at HUGE expense in Auchan.

So basically I did my best with what I have available.
Next year I'll adjust the spices. Less cinnamon. Some ground cloves. I'll add grated apple. I'll buy one of those zester things. Above all I'll try and make the mincemeat a couple of months before Christmas, instead of a couple of days!

But we shall have pies!

StarWars The Last Jedi

A group of us went to see the film last night, and I enjoyed it very much.

Good old fashioned escapism.
Big explosions.
Hokum galore.
Cute robots.

The old words rolling into space looks so dated now.
Forty years ago I saw StarWars in Aberystwyth with a gang of folk, and Geoff Thomas was sat a couple rows behind.
I am SO CONFUSED about the war between the Empire and the Rebels.


Life has been quite busy, health has been more of an issue than usual and the ugly monster of excess fatigue has been waving to us. Last week I thought, "let's just get through this weekend, then we can flop" and we did and we can and we are.

The weekend went well. I was a bit down and unhopeful but we had good numbers for the carol service including some splendid small boys, all who introduced carols and Sylvain who preached done good and Pat was well enough to come.

Now we are taking a break. The decision was taken when during a conversation one of my supervisors/mentors/bosses/partners referred to me in passing as Mr Duracell. It might mean that I blog more, though!