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)

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Eating my words

Dishwashing machines?


Invasion of the bloodsuckers

What we feared.

The general swampiness of the gardens round the block of flats has provided an ideal nursery for mosquitos, it would seem, judging by the number of big beefy examples we were squashing last night. So our flat is now pervaded with insecticide.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Catrin's concert

As part of their end of year assessments the students on Catrin's Musicologie et Chanson Française, Jazz et Musique Actuelle course have to give a recital. Catrin's was last night, along with her comrades Bérénice and Chloé.

The professor has a kind of arrangement with various bars and little venues in Bordeaux and so we found ourselves in a private club. I know it sounds dodgy, but it wasn't really, it was very tame, and it is apparently one of the well-known small-scale music venues in Bordeaux.

We planned our route with Moovit, which told us to take the 24 bus at 19:25 which would get us to the bar at 20:20. The concert was due to start at 20:30. Catrin, meanwhile, having gone to the beach with some of the students from church, had arranged to meet them at the tram stop at 8:15, so she went on tram B.

Our bus got us to the bar by about 7:45. I don't know how. Maybe we walk much quicker than Moovit allows for. Maybe it was the absence of traffic. Maybe I just read the stupid thing wrong, but anyway we were there. We so chatted with Bérénice's mother and so on.

Eventually everyone was there, the sound check was done and the concert unfolded. Catrin played piano for Bérénice. Catrin and Chloé played the cups for Bérénice. Chloé played guitar for Catrin. All seemed to go off very well.

Afterwards Catrin was ravenously hungry so we tried to go to the fish and chips place, but it was just closing. Not far away was a Thaï place I have heard good things about, and so it was that late in the evening I ate a massive Randeng while Catrin tucked into a Beef Thaï Salad. Others had curries of various hues. Pat, showing immense common sense, just had a dessert. The food was very good, and copious too, but after catching the last tram home I then woke in the wee hours with indigestion.

Serves me right. Party animal.

Mrs Davey, the osteopath and running

Well Pat's back is much better and she resumed hr service at the Maison de la Bible. She did have an appointment booked with an osteopath on Monday, who told her not to run.
"Walk fast for an hour, instead", she said.
So there we have it.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Oh well, it was bound to happen some time

Yes. I fell.

I tripped over a very small water tap cover just alongside the vineyards of Château Pape Clément.

Thankfully not many folk were around, and on our white dust pavements you land quite softly, really. Not like on tarmac (ouch) or gravel (yuk).

I have a small graze on the heel of my hand, and sore spots on my elbow and knee, but apart from that more fear than harm (plus de peur que de mal), and to be honest, not much fear either.

I landed with a soft sound, quickly realised that I had done no serious damage, considered how much further I had to go and carried on without difficulty.

I'd love to know how things were at the airport yesterday

Yesterday was the 1st May, the Fête du Travail, the only day in the year when there are no buses or trams at all.

It fell on the first Sunday of the month, which is Bordeaux 'No Car Day" when cars are banned from the city centre.

So we reluctantly cancelled our service.Almost all our folk come by mass transit, and if we had reserved a Citiz car then we would not have been allowed into the city centre anyway and we'd have had trouble parking.

So some folk came to our place and we spent an agreeable day together.

As the day unfolded we saw lots of aeroplanes taking off and landing from Mérignac airport.
I wondered whether some of the people arriving would end up stuck or would have to pay a fortune for taxis into the city. A good day to be an Uber driver!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

I don't know how we are all going to get through the month of May

Usually May is punctuated by public holidays and long weekends. The ponts de mai.

This year, however, there's a disaster.

The 1st May and the 8th May are both on Sundays. That means two public holidays lost and no opportunity for a long weekend.

The only saving grace is Whitsun Monday and Ascension Thursday, which are both public holidays.

But even so May will be tough for us all in France this year.

Wow! I can't believe that that worked!

Yesterday was one of those megadays.

I'm sure we all have them.

A day when one engagement followed another, sometimes so closely that I really couldn't see how I could avoid being very late indeed.

Add in the fact that one involved travelling by car in the WORST rush hour (a misnomer if ever there was) around the WORST blockages of the ring road, then followed closely by a meeting in the middle of town where, frankly, parking a car is a huge liability...

Anyway, long story short, as our transatlantic brothers so charmingly say, some creative route-finding, allowing an hour to travel 12 km/7 miles, and being able to park in the car park of a block of flats in the middle of town, and it all came together, guided by an unseen hand.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Well that was disconcerting

I burst out of the flat at 6:50 this morning like a ball from a cannon only to discover that it was light outside. Perfectly light.

I was profoundly unnerved. This meant that anyone would be able to see me lumbering my way past the vines. Not only that, but my orange stay-safe fleece had turned from super-fluorescent to superfluous in one foul sweep.

Oh well, I ran on. There was nobody about anyway and my run went well, thankfully. And the chilly start to the day made my fleece a welcome warming covering rather than a dayglo liability.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Honestly, it was perverse

I listened over some days recently to a recording of the Messiah, on Spotify, conducted by one of the new wave of baroque conductors.

You know the type. They conduct with eccentric, dance-like contortions.

If you had the sound off you'd swear they were conducting Schoenberg.

Guess that piece! 
Pierrot Lunaire?
No, it's Bach Cantata no 4, "Christ lag in Todesbanden".

Their singers are just the same.
They perch on stools waving their arms around while they sing baroque arias.

If Purcell were alive today he'd turn in his grave.
If Quixote rode into town he'd take them for windmills and tilt at them for tuppence.

The whole thing has become very kinetic, very mobile.
Watching a video is extremely distracting.
I thought Spotify might be OK.

Well it wasn't.

I mean, I know the conductor in question is not British or even anglophone by birth, but why would you direct your chorus to sing "Hallelujah" as quietly as possible?
Why the need to think through the most usual and natural dynamics and then reverse them?
Quiet, reflective passages belted out.
Cries of delight and praise whispered sotto voce.
Why? Why, unless out of sheer perversity?
A fresh approach is not a bad idea, but in this case the whole effect was perturbing in the extreme.

Never again!

(Rant over)

A delegation!

This morning we had the immense privilege of receiving several members of the Overseas Missions Board of an evangelical denomination in Hong Kong. They came to talk about the work amongst Chinese people in Bordeaux, and more specifically about the prospect of perhaps sending a worker or workers to help the Chinese Christians here.

What lovely folk! We had a very happy time exchanging about the work here and in Toulouse and about the possibilities and their hopes for the future. We parted reluctantly and we missed them immediately.

Morning trots

I have not spoken of my morning running sessions for a while.

Oh dear. EVERY TIME I go away for a few days I have to battle to get my running back on track again. It's a nightmare! Five days in Scotland severely disrupted my routine such that when I got back out on the road I struggled gravely to get going again.

Add in my weekend tummy bug and frankly... well, it was not until this morning that I began to feel that perhaps I would get back on track soon.

Still. Even when it is a struggle, it is a manful struggle, and worthwhile!

And these mornings are beautiful. The vines are sprouting. The vineyard is changing out of its winter charcoal corduroy into a lush green velvet. The irises have blossomed briefly. The various wildflowers are flourishing. The trees are blooming. And a wisteria hangs over a wall to greet me as I rumble viscously past.

Tummy bugs, back problems and unforeseen consequences

James Hammond's birthday was the day before mine.

Now I live in Bordeaux in palatial (if pokey) luxury, in the bosom of my family, with dining table, patio and every comfort known to man. Well, every comfort I could reasonably hope for, shall we say. James lives far from his family in monastic isolation in his upstairs flat in the quarter judaïque.

So I arranged a surprise birthday party for him, using a surreptitious Facebook group I proposed that we do something festive on our patio involving sausages and cake. Picture my surprise when I was ejected from the group and the discussion continued. It did not need the deductive powers of Inspector Barnaby to realise that the birthday party was to have a double focus - for James and for myself.

Until the tummy bug struck. And the bad back flared up.

Our feeble physical form forbade us to attend.


Oh well. There's always another year.
Well, not always, but there's reasonable hope of another year this time, at least!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book review - Brian W Thomas - Wittenberg vs. Geneva (A Biblical Bout in Seven Rounds on the Doctrines that Divide) - New Reformation Publications

Am I stupid or what? I just don't know what anyone could do to help me. No, seriously, I really don't.

You see, I saw "Wittenberg vs. Geneva" and I thought it would be really cool to read some historical theology on Luther and Calvin and the areas of agreement and dispute between the great streams of the reformation, the Lutherans and the Reformed.

Then I saw that it wasn't that, but I thought that still it would be cool to read a book from someone who had belonged to today's Reformed stream and had by conviction switched to Lutheran convictions and so would be able to explain his path.

How come I didn't spot the rather giveaway title 'Bout in Seven Rounds'.

This isn't an irenical testimony or an exercise in tracing historical discussion. This book is modelled on a boxing match. Well, OK, there's historical precedent for robust speech in theological discussion -  Calvin didn't always pull his punches though I think Luther could show him a thing or two when it came to "plain speech".

However when I read the book I did feel a certain discomfort. I didn't always recognise myself in the reformed views presented and I didn't always feel that the boxing match was being conducted in a fair way. So here's my reflections on how to conduct a fair fight:

1) Define your terms. Reading brother Thomas' book made me realise that when we speak of "grace" we are not always speaking of the same thing. If you use the same word to mean different things than it will not be easy to reach agreement!

2) Define your opponent's position in a way that he will recognise and approve. No "straw men", no reduction ad absurdam, no weak arguments. Build your opponent's case so strongly it seems unassailable. Then how great will be the crash when you knock it down! Not only that, but surely this is the way of brotherly love.

3) Avoid vague terms. For example, at times brother Thomas writes of things that are taught "in the reformed churches". Well, frankly, depending on how you define "the reformed churches" you'll find anything and everything taught in them today, from atheism to pantheism. I imagine the same thing is true in "the Lutheran churches".

4) Discuss confessional statements rather than preaching. Preaching is ephemeral stuff and from time to time preachers say things that would not be their last word on the subject. Not only that, but not everyone would accept Pastor Siril as the best and finest spokesman for the reformed folk. Confessional statements, like declarations of faith, are worked over together by a team of people, reflected upon and presented as a position on with people stand, so it's best to discuss and debate these documents.

So there we are. If you are looking for a rollocking good rout of the reformed folk by a Lutheran heavyweight who doesn't pull his punches, this may be the book for you. If not, perhaps pass on.

We are sick, I tell you, sick!

Mrs Davey has another flare-up of her back problem.
I have a slight digestive upset.

Oh well. These things won't last.
And at least Catrin is in good shape.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Victoria Wood

Sad to see the end of this talented lady's presence with us.

This song isn't very kosher, but for me it's very memorable and sums up what I appreciated about her. She seemed to like and to love people, even though she saw their funny side. You felt she counted herself among the eccentric herd she laughed and sang about.

The Queen's birthday

Some friends express their republican convictions on Facebook.

I'm glad they are able to freely.

Perhaps the irony is not lost that Britain has had that kind of freedom longer than perhaps any country in the world. Certainly French dissidents fled to England in the past. That freedom was assured by our tradition of a monarchy that was not absolute, a king who was not above the law and who was answerable to his parliament.

One reason I'm thankful for the Queen is that for me she expresses something that is at the heart of the essence of what it means to be a Christian. She was born into a role, destined for a life-long responsibility that she never chose, and she has embraced that role, shouldered that responsibility with diligence and perseverance. She has not always got everything right, but she has got that one most important thing right, to bow to God's providence, to accept his plan and purpose, to accept who you are, and to run with perseverance the race marked out for you.

Bravo! How many countries are there where people can be freely thankful for a leader who has been in office for over 60 years?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

UFM Scottish Conference

On Thursday at 7pm I left the house taking everything I needed except the adapters for my computer and boarded the number 42 bus to connect with the no 1 for the airport. I was off to Edinburgh! I soon remembered that I had forgotten the adapters and was able to email a colleague from Swindon to bring his. The plane was on time and I was met at Edinburgh by the excellent Iain Cameron, our rep for the North of Great Britain (everything north of Watford but not including Ireland) and taken to his home near Glasgow where I was very comfortably installed.

On Friday morning I was able to meet a dear friend who got their doctorate in Bordeaux and now works in Glasgow. Although my friend is Chinese, they were able to translate for the person in the coffee shop who said to me, twice, GRRRGGRRRRCCCHHHHHRRRHHHHHCCGGGRRRR. I understood nothing. Nothing.

Anyway, then off to Pitlochry for the UFM Scottish Conference. I had the graveyard session, Saturday afternoon after lunch, so I considered waking people up with a few choice jokes, like
"What is the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney?"
"Bing sings and Walt disnae"
but something stopped me. Anyway, it seemed to go OK.

William Brown was the main speaker and expounded passages from the life of Elijah (no, not that one) and Peter, helpfully, carefully, gently and pastorally.

I was accompanied by the amazing David Barnes of Peru - you can have no idea of how many HUNDREDS of pastors he is training for ministry there - and the wonderful Susanna Clark. Susanna is considering where her ministry among African children should take her next.

Flights meant that after the conference I had a free day to explore Glasgow. It happened to be my birthday so I made merry with Waitrose sandwiches (surprised to find a Waitrose in the middle of Glasgow) and a Starbucks filter coffee for which I think I was undercharged, but I knew that if I tried to speak to them about it we would not understand each other so I was stuck. I also bought some Ambrosia apples in Waitrose, and they were very nice indeed. I could also browse a Waterstones. And it didn't rain!

My flight home landed a little ahead of time so I was able to hop on the no 1 and the no 4 to be restored to the bosom of my family. We'll have a birthday tea sometime when we don't have a million and one things to do. Perhaps Friday evening?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Birthday thanks!

Thanks, everyone, for your kind birthday greetings. 
I'm blown away to be blessed from all over the world.
My birthday was just as happy as a birthday far from home can be, including: 
browsing in a bookshop, 
coffee in Starbucks, 
guzzling Chocolate Cake and 
gazing awestruck at the amazing unidentifiable products on offer in Waitrose.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A troublesome dream

So all night, off and on, I dreamt that somehow - or possibly not - I had been in the drab and dingy apartment of some language teacher and - for reasons I coud not remember - I had despatched the person by means of the forceful application of a flat-iron to the side of the head.

The!s person, now defunct, I had concealed in the boot of my car to await some ingenious means of disposal.

Except that even in my dream I remembered that we do not have a car.

But what eluded me was whether I had actually murdered this person and concealed them in someone else's car.


Even on awaking I wondered if I had actually murdered someone at some time...

Then I remembered reading a news article about the macabre discovery of a woman's body in the back of a van in central Bordeaux.

Phew! It wasn't me!

Queen Mary had no objection to my popping this on the blog

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I don't know why or how it works

Perhaps by simple distraction, but yesterday when I was feeling pretty tired and shot at, on the bus into town for street evangelism, I thought, "I know... Let's find some music"

I found Stravinsky's Octet for wind, and it perked me up no end. On the way home the Concerto for Orchestra, Dumbarton Oaks.


This made me laugh out loud!

Note to self:
Keller in the study.
Dylan in the pulpit.

Running - back on track

I've had a bad couple weeks running.
Since last Monday, really, the last time it went really well.
Perhaps it's been tiredness.
Who knows.
But this morning I got back on track.
The sunrise helped.

Oh boy what's happened to me?

One night on the tiles at Catrin's Opera and I am WRECKED afterwards.

Running was a big no-no yesterday.
One does not simply go to bed at 1am and then go running at 6:30.

But the bookshop went OK, then I came home because I needed to sit somewhere comfortable, then back into Bordeaux for the street outreach.

Progress so far

Well not bad.

The prayer letter was sent off on Monday and is now winding its way round the many cogs of the inner workings of the mission. I need to print it off today, so if the politburo hasn't declared itself by lunchtime I'll print it anyway.

I'm checked in for my flight and I have my bag ready to pack. I have enough clean shirts - I've been counting them periodically all night - and I'll also take a t-shirt or two just in case, ha ha. My bag is RhinoAir size but still fits 35 litres in, so I'm hopeful.

I have to do the song sheets for Sunday and the PowerPoint for Scotland, but that shouldn't be beyond the wit of man, even this man.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Oops. Caps lock button hit by mistake...

So Catrin's first year in Musicologie et Chanson Française, Jazz et Musique Actuelle is drawing to a close, and he last week has been marked by the first "Histoire de la Danse" lecture, by several exams, including the "Histoire de la Danse exam, by a concert with Freddo on Saturday and by an epic production of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera, which translates into French as l'Opéra de Quat'sous - or Fourpenny Opera. Everything is more expensive in France.

Before the production started their professor explained that in the first year of the degree in Musicology, title as before, they pile on the stress, and this includes putting on an opera in two weeks, five rehearsals. Catrin came out of the rehearsals knowing that many things were not as they should be and some of the songs were almost pulled from the show...

However something happens on the night, and it was all splendid. The opera is about MacHeath (Mack the Knife) who is a general thug and who marries the strangely sweet and innocent daughter, Polly, of the local pimps who manage the city's beggars and prostitutes. Catrin had to sing Polly's song, "Jenny the Pirate" as well as play in the chorus of call-girls. The songs are musically difficult, and Catrin's was complicated by the fact that she had to sing while standing on a chair and being mistreated by a gang of thugs and cut-throats.

But despite a dress rehearsal that was by all accounts unpromising, the students really pulled it off and their lecturer was later seen lying on a sofa, beer bottle in hand, laughing quietly to himself.

Monday, April 11, 2016

OK. Now for a new week.

After a wild and varied week last week (fly to Wales, funeral, fly home, Pat's operation, Bible Study, sermon prep, etc. stuff like that) this week is going to be different. This week is largely about the UFM Scottish Conference, so I have to:

1) write a prayer letter and get it approved by the UFM politburo

2) send it out

3) plan out a 50 minute presentation for just after lunch for the UFM ScotConf

4) do the powerpoint that will go with

5) check in for my flight with RhinoAir

6) work out how to squeeze everything into the small bag RhinoAir allow you in the cabin because it is 50€ to add a bag in the hold.

7) add events to Facebook for Bordeaux Church on Thursday and Bordeaux Church at Dan

8) send out the emails for Bordeaux Church on Thursday and Bordeaux Church at Dan

9) prepare the song sheets for Sunday

10) get to the airport in time for the flight to beautiful Edinburgh in bonnie Scotland!

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Well, that was a tough one

The weather was OK. Mild, wet, April weather. The former rains.

The birds were giving it all they had to encourage me.

The town hall had repaired the verges of Deep Street, my vine-side running track, and they had even put up a little marker "17K", ready for the Bordeaux Marathon this evening.

I had my route planned out. My basic 2K up to the Pape Clément traffic lights and back, augmented by circuits of Fisherman's Street and Monteil Square, each circuit adding another kilometre.

And the desire was certainly there. I had been looking forward to this run since coming home on Wednesday.  Early meetings on Thursday and Friday had prevented me running, so the desire had been growing.

And I like to think that in my own way, to the limit of my capacity, I, too, took all that was in my possession and devoted it, consecrated it, ladled it out in great dollops.

But the result was poor. I ran slowly and laboriously. My time was not good.

But what of it! I got out there and ran again.

And Monday might be better!

Friday, April 08, 2016

Waiting by the telephone

Pat went into the operating room to have her sebaceous cyst removed about 45 minutes ago.
They'll call me to go and get her when she's in the recovery room.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

L'Angleterre = la malbouffe

In the course of two full days in the UK I consumed:

a Cornish pasty (lamb and mint)
a packet of prawn cocktail flavour crisps
a small cod accompanied by the European chips mountain
a packet of salt and vinegar flavour crisps
a bacon roll with brown sauce, which I asked for in French at Reading station
a packet of cheese and onion crisps
some very good beef stew - the one healthy moment!
a packet of chocolate-coated raisins
three (3) bottles of water
two americanos
one cappuccino

It's hardly healthy eating, is it.
The three packets of crisps were eaten in quick succession, too.
Still, I'm back to porage, apples, oranges and cheese.

We are roughly half-way through the former rains.

Bordeaux has two main rainy periods each year.

The period known as the former rains runs from early January to late June and is characterised by heavy rain mixed with high winds.

This period is quickly followed by the latter rains, which last from early July to late December.
These latter rains are marked by thunderstorms, some of which can be very blustery.

While you were away

poor Mrs Davey is suffering from pain in her hip and so has had to stop running.

While you were away

The gardeners came to cut the grass around our block of flats.
And - joy of joys - they cut our little patch of grass, too!
That's wonderful! It means we don't have to buy and store a mower!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

And back again

Well I can barely believe it.
The planes landed on time, or were early.
The trains all ran on time.
The bus from Cardiff city centre to my sister's house was easy to find and ran directly.

The funeral went well and it was good to see my sisters and my cousins - though I have sadly lost all my aunts.

Then coming home the trains were on time and the plane was not full and the journey was easy and we arrived at Mérignac 1/2 hour early - where I caught bus 1, then bus 42 and got dropped off at the front door.

Feeling grateful!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Bordeaux Church and off to Wales

So yesterday again we were full to bursting with some notable folks absent - brave-hearted Michaël got the extra chairs down from the corridor.  It was good to preach the renewal of all things from the raising of Lazarus and John's seven signs. Great hope!

Then this morning a fine run - my first km was in record time. I knew I was running well, but I was really pleased with the time. It was just kicking the threshold of crossing from jogging to running. Give me a couple of months and maybe I'll decide to do that 10k! Then I slowed down deliberately and finished my circuits of the vines. Beautiful with the thorn bushes in flower, the birds blasting out their territorial arias and the sun peeping through the clouds.

Now get ready to fly off to South Wales for my brother-in-law's funeral. Do I iron my white shirt before rolling it up and squashing it into my cabin bag or not bother? I'm going to end up looking like a badly upholstered old sofa anyway. Oh dear.

Chocks away!

Saturday, April 02, 2016

At the colloque

The theme for the Colloque this year was "The loss and recovery of joy in Christian ministry". It wasn't the theme that attracted me to Lyon, but the opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the francophonie, and to make new friends, of course.

I travelled there and back by coach, by Starshipper. It's the same company that took us to San Sebastian the other month. I looked first at the train - it takes a very long time indeed and costs a fortune. I considered flying - Easyjet go there but the plane leaves at 7:30 in the morning and there's no practical way to get to the airport for 6:30, so it was the coach.

The coach has its advantages. You have space. You can read, listen to music, doze, watch the scenery. We passed through the region of the volcanoes where there was still snow on the ground, calling at Périgueux, Brive, a motorway services where there was a Flunch where we could eat, Clermont-Ferrand, where the trams are some dark colour I can't distinguish - maroon, perhaps? - then into the sprawling stain of city that is Lyon. It's ENORMOUS.

To get from the coach-station (and because France has only just discovered long-distance coach services the coach stations are dreadful) I had to take two lines of métro then a bus to climb one of the hills that surround Lyon up to our Monastery turned Diocesan Conference Centre turned Hotel. My room was very nice, but for the first time in a very long time I thought, "home is nicer".

The colloque speakers included Iain Hamilton who was bravely translated by Emmanuel Durand, Gordon Margery and Olivier Favre. I wouldn't like to translate Iain. He doesn't use a simple word where a complicated one would do, and at one point Emmanuel said, "Oh no, no Latin please!" which must have been quite a magna angustia for Iain.

Iain essentially preached from 2 Corinthians 4 on the nature of ministry. Olivier took three of Paul's prayers, from 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians and Philippians. Gordon Margery spoke from the life of Jeremiah and from the life of Jesus. All were stimulating and helpful.

It was a huge blessing to see Emmanuel and Anatole, who came to Deeside on stage in 2000 - 2001. I reminded them of Emmanuel's wedding where Anatole had the job of interpreting the proceedings into French and I had the job of trying to make Anatole laugh. Happy days!

I'm always very impressed by the students from the IBB who come. One this year is a Durham graduate in French and Arabic who aims to stay in Brussels and work once his studies are complete. I met a lady who encouraged Pat and I to continue running - she's been running a year and now routinely runs for an hour after work to shed the stress of her job. She says that running for an hour is MUCH better than running for 30 minutes, and that after a year you really see benefits in your well-being. We'll see.

On the journey back we had an adorable bus-driver who elected herself everyone's aunt and made sure we had a very pleasant journey. I ate chicken, green beans and a really nice ratatouille at the Flunch and enjoyed listening to music and reading as the sun set. Then home where my armchair and good tea awaited me.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Four candles

The ending could be better, but the sketch itself is nothing short of magisterial.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"I call you, 'The Runner'"

Because I'll be somewhat hither and yon for the next couple weeks I thought I had better go stock up on a ventolin, so I hied me away to my favourite pharmacy at the Alouette. The queue was short, there were about 6 or 7 pharmacists dispensing and my chum, whose name I do not know, waved a cheery greeting from the back of the shop.

Lo and behold, when I got to the front of the queue his was the next free counter.

"How are you?"
He likes to practice his English.
"Je vais très bien, mais je suis très déçu."
"Déçu? Pourquoi? Ah, le rugby!"
He went off to get the ventolin.

It is, by the way, feminine. La Ventoline/La Vento.

He scanned the sticker and scribbled over it.
"I call you 'The Runner'", he said.
"Ah bon?"
"Ouais. Hé, je vous ai aperçu!"
"Quand ça, et à quel endroit?"
"C'était un samedi matin.
"Ah ouais. Tiens, ça va doucement, non?"
"Non, mais c'est bien! C'est courir, c'est tout ce qu'il faut.. Ah! Attendez!"

He charged into the back of the shop and came back with his mobile phone.

"Regardez! J'ai scanné quelques vieilles photos."

They were of a visit to the Arms Park in 2004.
One of the stadium.
One of his ticket.
Here's me and the wife in Westgate Street.
Here's Cardiff Castle.

Oh boy, all of a sudden homesickness hit me like a brick!

"Au revoir!"
"A bientôt!"

Well that was a funny Easter

Our friend Peter came back from holidays all full of lovely energy so there was a mini mission of the Open Air Campaigners last week in Bordeaux. Pat and I went along as we could, which for me meant Tuesday and Wednesday and for Pat, Friday. 

On Friday, Good Friday, a time of prayer was scheduled followed by open air preaching. I sat happily on the bus heading into town and wondered why I was aching in strange places after my morning run. 

I mean, why my shoulders? Why my head? And why all the shaking?

By the time I got to where the others were it was pretty clear I had the flu or something, so I was despatched straight back home to bed with ibuprofen, paracetamol and lots of coffee and water.

And there I stayed until Sunday, basically. James was preaching on part of 1 Corinthians 15, Christ the first fruits. I got to the service, got home and got back to bed.

Yesterday I stayed up all day! Yay! And a gang of folk came round to eat, play, hunt eggs in our tiny garden and then watch the Village. 

Today I feel - well yesterday I was an origami man - made of folded paper. 
Today I am bone china. Still fragile but a bit stronger.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A short visit to the UK

My brother-in-law died quite suddenly and his funeral is planned for the 5 April, so I will be making a quick visit to South Wales.

Oh well, I think I might only get two runs in next week.

On Wednesday I have to scuttle off in the big white bus to Lyon to the Colloqve Bibliqve Francophone, and I don't get back till Friday evening. I can't see me taking my running shoes with me so there'll be no hurtling round the streets of Lyon.

I did wonder whether I could run Sunday morning, Tuesday and Saturday, but I've had this sudden swift flu thing, and though the agues, aches and shakes have gone, the feeling of being a wet rag remains, so I doubt if I'll feel up to charging along the vines tomorrow morning, though it is resurrection morning, so you never know!

However I have planned out routes alongside the vines for 1K, 2K, 3K and by combining them you get 4K, 5K etc., so I am ready when the green light shows once more.

Friday, March 25, 2016


It's like the sun rising in your heart.

I think it was on Monday that I got an email asking me how we had left things with the Cenon church and whether we could "look back with thankfulness and say good things of the church".

I was more than a little nonplussed. Only the previous evening I had given a new person directions to the church and said, "tell them Alan sent you". I frequently see Cenon folk and our relationships seem warm and friendly. I wasn't aware of any bad things I had said of the church and I would take that very seriously. I asked for clarification.

What came back was that in a conversation one of the church leaders had expressed his incomprehension at why we are no longer working with the Cenon church.

Now our decision to stop working with the Cenon and Blaye churches came when I suffered a breakdown including panic attacks and depression following a period of great conflict in the churches. This conflict didn't involve me directly except in trying to resolve things and calm it all down. Then followed a period of major overwork where I was, as we say, cutting myself in four - quite literally - to try and fulfil the ministry in the four groups I was serving at that time.

I took nine months sabbatical to recover, and the depression only really lifted in late 2015.

All this was communicated fully, both orally and in emails, letters and reports, in English and in French, to such an extent that the president of the denomination complimented me on my "great transparency". At the time I wondered if he really meant verbosity.

I tried to cover up nothing except the sins of others, as I believe Scripture urges us to do.

And the church leader concerned was fully involved in all this.

OK. What to do now?

I forwarded all the documentation - emails, letters, reports - to the person who had contacted me now.

Then began the anxiety attacks.

"Do I really have to go over all that again, years later?"
"How can I make someone understand when they are already fully aware of everything that happened?"
"Will I never be able to move on?"
"What if this blows up into the kind of conflict that forces me to leave Bordeaux?"

I committed it all to God, and each time some new anxiety arose.

Pat was concerned. I was concerned. I asked for a response saying that the matter was closed.

Then yesterday I read one of the countless emails that come from the ministries that I cherish.

"Be still and know that I am God." it said.

I knew that. Of course I did. But suddenly I was still. It's like the sun rising in your heart.

I later got an answer from the person who'd raised the issue.

"I had no idea of what you had lived through."

"Tread carefully.", I replied.

So I am still fragile. OK. I'll need to continue to be careful to keep a quiet heart.

C25K - Thank you, and goodbye

So this morning at 6:30 I sprang quietly from my bed, full of optimism and confidence. I drank my customary two glasses of water, started the C25K app on my phone and walked out of the flat.

"HI THERE AWESOME RUNNER! GREAT DECISION TO RUN TODAY!" rang out through the corridors as I struggled to untangle the wires of my earphones. Eventually I got the things plugged in and sauntered up the hill to my starting point.

This morning's mission - 35 minutes of running. I had my plan of campaign. I would essentially follow Wednesday's route - which introduced circuits of Place Monteil - with the addition of circuits of the road between the swimming pool cross-roads and the Pape Clement crossroads. In this way I should be able to achieve 35 minutes of running, approximately 5 kilometres, without looking too much like a madman on the loose.

And all went well. The skies were grey but the birds were singing. It was warm so I unzipped my danger fleece and pulled off my hat. Up, down, round, back, forth. Yes, I have this.

Then I reached 30 minutes of running and off they went:

"You said 5K in 30 minutes by Easter. It's Good Friday and we've run 30 minutes. That's our side of the bargain done. If you haven't covered the whole distance you can't hold us to blame."

I never knew my legs were so articulate, but those limbs can argue, I can tell you.

"Feel that? That's the start of those shin splints that Mark told you about. You're getting them. Better go home!"

It wasn't. I didn't.

"Isn't it time for tea and porage? You love those oats, don't you."

I allowed the thought of the creamy goo to encourage me onwards.

"Ha! A chest pain! Did you feel that? You'll end up all white and lifeless at the side of the road."

It wasn't and I didn't. By this time I decided to retaliate.

"Shut up, you two. You're like the legs of a five-year old!"

"We're tired! Carry us!"

Anyway, though this struggle was annoying, it passed the time and now I had to slow down and walk. I'd done it!

"CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'RE NOW A 5K RUNNER!" triumphed the chirpy lady. Technically it would have taken another couple hundred yards to fully complete 5K of running but I daren't risk a mutiny from my hind-limbs so I called it a day.

Wow! Up until January 23rd I had occasionally run for the bus. Perhaps 45 seconds maximum. On March 25th I have run 35 minutes.

I am not swift or supple.
I am not elegant or athletic.
But I am, indeed, a 5K runner!

(And so is Patricia. She just made it home.)

Now for the future I plan to just do 30 minutes, three times a week, using the "Map my run" application to track my distance and my speed in the hope of gently increasing.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

When your family is absolutely barking mad

For some years we have held an annual Easter Egg hunt in our garden on Easter Monday and invited the students to come and hunt eggs.

This year our garden is about the size of a small living-room and is entirely set to lawn with a privet hedge that has not yet filled out. You'd have a job hiding ANYTHING there. But the lunatics that live with me have decided that we should still hold the Annual Easter Monday Easter Egg Hunt.

Had a rough couple of days

but the sun rose again in my heart this morning.


Bit late, but hey

these people are in the antipodes!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

C25K 30 minutes. Patricia and I are now synchronised, though I run faster than her (longer legs)

I wish I could show you the scene this morning as I hurtled lugubriously along the path most followed at 6:45. I saw the moonset, the great fuzzy ball all wan and gibbous, making way swiftly for her big brother. Behind me the sun's rays heralding his arrival. The birds, heeding my warning of the other day, were now singing each his own melody, one crying tirr-whirr-whirr, another sounding his hoboy gallantly, all doing well. The weather was perfect, a little cold, but when one is running a little cold is agreeable. I thundered my way out of the vines and decided to take from then the path least travelled - to run round and round my favourite square at Pessac Monteil. One circuit and I was halfway through my half-hour, so I did one more circuit and set off him, running into the face of the rising sun. Oh it was beautiful.