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)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Boy it's hard sometimes

So we've got the keys to the new flat! Yay!

The guy explained the heating system to us, and made sure that we had hot water. I photographed the electric meter so I could set up the electricity contract and measured everything in sight to try and work out where our furniture will go and whether we can get it in there in the first place.

Then I tried to set up the contract on the electricity company's excellent website.

"Oh no you don't" came the harsh retort.

You can click a button to get someone to call you. They did. I explained what we were trying to do.

"OK" she said, "what's the address?"

I told her. It didn't exist.

"The mairie has just renamed the road. It used to be this."

No. It's not under that.

Eventually she found it allocated to a non-existent fictitious road that nobody can find or explain.

"We're not the first people in these flats. Others will have done the same thing."

"Oh yes!" A light bulb shone. She searched for clients at the address I had given her first and found some.

"OK, we're in business. Here's your estimated monthly payment.  Hop, there we are, ask sorted!"

My life is sometimes so varied

The day started with sermon prep with our preacher for Sunday, who is tackling Daniel 9. We had a great time discussing the passage. Our discussion was interrupted a couple of times by messages from Pat and by a phone call.

The phone call was from our insurance company who have decided they don't want to insure us in the future citing "frequency of claims". I phoned yesterday for clarification but the woman who took the decision was not in her office and the guy I got on the phone wasn't able to help. "I can't see all your dossier but I can see at least three claims in fourteen years." In 2009 for the big storm, in 2015 for a water leak and in 2017 for the burglary. The "at least" in his sentence was superfluous. There have been three. Exactly three. No more and no less. Anyway the call came and the woman's definition of frequency was indeed that. "From two you can speak of frequency", she said, "and the real problem was your burglary last year". I resisted the temptation to say that now her definition of frequency was reduced to one, asking instead for a list of our claims so that we can show it to other insurers. "We can"t do that", she said, "but you can on your client section of the website." Well if you can I can't find it.

Coincidentally we had already decided to change insurers and discussed this with another office in February. You don't think she knew, do you?

Not entirely unrelated, Pat was at the dentist receiving bad news of three extractions, a refixing of a crown and some implants to come. The thing is, our old insurers have a list of approved dentists and opticians - it's why I buy my glasses online and maybe why Pat's old dentist had said he was leaving a bad tooth in her mouth "to support the other teeth". The new dentist raised his eyebrows.

Pat was a little upset in the dentist chair thinking of the next weeks and months, and the expense. We have the money, though, I think, and anyway you can pay in instalments. Implants will almost certainly not be covered by our existing insurance and anyway, this new dentist is not part of their network. Maybe changing insurers is not such a bad idea after all.

In the evening it was the Fête de la Musique, and Catrin was singing at Ambarès-et-Lagrave. We'd booked a car from Talence so I met Pat who had spent the afternoon at the Maison de la Bible volunteering and being consoled with chocolate, of all things, and our friend Frances, and we scuttled off together. The GPS took us on the scenic route to the rocade, wasting perhaps 1/2 hour. When we arrived we quickly found a spot to park then set off to try to find the square where it was all happening. Frances is a Maths doctorand and generally very clever indeed, but we all had doubts about Google maps and joyfully trudged three sides of a square under the blazing heat before arriving about 30 yards from where we started. We enjoyed seeing the trees of Ambarès snuggled up in their knitted cosies. A Citroën 2CV had received the same treatment, as had most of the town's innumerable bollards, innumerable even for Frances. I think this might be the oddest thing I've seen in France.

Ambarès is at the confluence of the Dordogne and the Garonne and is a place of many stagnant pools and rampant mosquitoes. Catrin and her classmates were singing in a kind of rustic garage setup with a nice, intimate stage and rustling birch trees to one side. There were three stages in the town, two in the open air and this more intimate one, but only one group played at any given time, people being encouraged to flow from stage to stage. So there was a decent crowd for our girls. We missed Bérénice's prestation but were there for most of Chloë's and all of Catrin's.

Then we packed up quickly and found our own way back to Talence to park the car and get the tram to Pessac. Rendez-vous for the choir was at the church at 10pm, but at 10:06 we were still waiting for the tram. It came. We got on. It was packed. They all got out at Doyen Brus where there was a discothèque set up under the trees. We carried on to Pessac and arrived to find our choir just assembling itself on stage. We sidled in inconspicuously, though if I had known we would be sidling I might not have chosen my  beautiful "spring flowers" shirt, and given the time it took to set up the dreadful piano, we could have taken our time anyway.

Our rendition of popular classics was not an utter catastrophe and we left the stage feeling pretty happy. Biggest accolades to the pianist who coped with the lamentable piano and who repeated the same bar seamlessly until the conductor remembered to launch the sopranos into the next section of the Bizet.

Meanwhile, poor Gwilym. A cheque I wrote him from our British bank account bounced. I'm surprised but not shocked. It was a relatively big cheque and the money was in the account when I wrote it, but maybe it wasn't by the time he received it and cashed it. Or maybe the date was wrong, or maybe the bank just panicked at a big cheque... The problem is compounded by the fact that our statements take several weeks to arrive and we cannot interrogate our account online from France. Oh well, we'll get the money to him from our French account somehow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fête de la Musique

It's a play on words.

Originally, apparently, the idea was for everyone to get that violin out of the attic and to make some music (faites de la musique).

It's turned into a nice way to mark the start of summer with all kinds of concerts, open-air, in cafés and restaurants, in churches, in public squares etc.

When it falls on Saturday or Sunday the whole of Bordeaux turns into one big mushroom, with different styles and genres in different squares and halls. So you can wander round the city listening to jazz, to rock, to street music, to choirs, to classical players, to folk music, to rap, slam and hiphop, you name it you can find it.

But this year it's on a Thursday, so it's just a musical evening. Which brings us to tomorrow:

Firstly some brass friends are playing in bandas (street bands) in a bar called the Chico Loco (I think). I would love to go and hear them but I don't think it will be possible.

Then Catrin and two collaboratrices will be singing some of the songs from their show about Mai '68 in Ambarès. Ambarès is way over the other side of the city, so we've booked a car to get us there.

Then our choir, Arianna, is singing a half-hour slot in the centre of Pessac at 10:30. Usually things run late, so I expect that we'll actually sing at about 11:00.

So our Fête de la Musique is planned out for us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Monday adventure

First a confession. I totally forgot "No screen Monday" and took my phone with me. Ooops!!!

Anyway we first went to explore the new area around the old docks at the far southern end of Bordeaux. There is a vast number of new apartment blocks up here and I tried to rent one place up there but got no reply when I submitted our dossier. Oh well. Here's some thing that we saw.

La Base Sous-marine. A U-boat base built by the occupying nazis.

The concrete is so thick it can't be demolished,
so it's used as a gallery and concert venue, including for Jazz à la Base

Later we went down to see the new flat, for which we get the key on Friday.
We discovered a few things:

1) some people have moved in
2) the building was accessible
3) the door of our flat was open
4) there's still quite a few things to finish off before Friday
5) the address we have been given and with we have given to others will not work!

The living room

Our bedroom

The bathroom door

The view from the small balcony

The view from the big balcony

The second bedroom

Friday, June 15, 2018

The unpardonable

On Thursday morning my phone vibrated in my pocket. It was Sylvain.

The Conseil National des Evangéliques de France is a national body uniting evangelicals from pentecostal, charismatic and other groupings. As soon as the CNEF was formed we in the Gironde transformed our local pastors' fellowship into a CNEF33 group.

Since then the CNEF has issued guidelines and structures for local groups, so we decided to knock down all we had and start again. And the Assemblée Constitutive was this Thursday morning.

Sylvain, one of our all-round good eggs, volunteered to go to the meeting for me. And now he was trying to phone me.

"I am in a meeting. Is it a grave emergency?" I messaged him.

"They want you to be président of CNEF33. Are you willing?"

"Yes, if that's what they want."

Moral of the story. Never miss a meeting and always turn your phone off!


The conference had four basic threads.

First thing in the morning, addresses from Leviticus from Jonty Rhodes, one of the International Presbyterian Church worthies. He talked about the offerings from the manual for communicants and the manual for celebrants in the early chapters of Leviticus.

Then Richard Gaffin gave addresses on the work of the Spirit. Professor Gaffin has written several very useful books and it was fascinating to hear him speak to us, he must be well into his eighties.

Lunch was foraged in the emporia of Ealing. One day I spotted Geoff Thomas, Gary Brady and Richard Gaffin sat at a pizzeria. I took a photo of them. "Come and join us for pizza", said Geoff.

After lunch was Sinclair Ferguson's spot. His manner is wonderful now. He has his material so mastered that he can proceed at a slow pace, searching out the way as he goes, and be lucid, coherent and luminous. Each day he gave us something special to ponder. For example, the first day was on the Spirit as mediator of Jesus' presence - "homemaker", said Sinclair.

The last session was shared between Jonny Gibson and Mark Earngay, who have coauthored a book on Reformation Worship.

I got a "whole stack" of free books because I was a good boy and booked for the conference early. Some I have already, like Richard Gaffin's "Perspectives on Pentecost", so I guess that will either get given away or become a loan book. Others were new to me. One was a vast copy of "Reformation worship" by the aforementioned coauthors. And at last I bought Sinclair Ferguson's "And some pastors and teachers".

I skipped the last session to be sure of a stress-free journey to Gatwick for my flight back, this time with Easyjet. I discovered that they too have changed their policy and now only allow one bag per passenger unless you have paid for speedy-herding etc... I hadn't. One of the people at the desk seemed much more severe and controlling than the other. Thankfully I got the other. She certainly saw my small bag in my hand. Did she notice my rucksack full of books? Who knows. "All OK?" I said. "Have a nice flight." Meanwhile from her colleague to another passenger, "You have two bags, sir..."

The flight back was delayed but smooth, and buses 1 and 4 brought me home safe and sounder than I left.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Prospective removal men

How do you find good removal men?

Well first I asked on Facebook and got one recommendation.

Then I looked on Google and found some highly rated ones.
The Yellow Pages also give you people's feedback.

Then there's a service where someone will look at your rooms by video-conferencing, identify your furniture (three Billy bookcases) and work out the volume of your stuff, then invite removal firms to quote.

Two removal people came to the flat to see for themselves.

One guy stood out as being the friendliest and most easy to communicate with.
He wasn't the cheapest but we're going with him.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Prospective tenants phase two

Poor Pat's Tuesday afternoon was marked by visits, from removal meant then from our letting agency.

Three prospective tenants came together. One seemed very keen because the flat is near her children's school.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tate Modern

I flew Ryanair into Stansted. I'd never done that before, but the flight was at a good time and price, and access to London was easy. My flight was at 10am from Bordeaux and I would land at about 10 in England.

The Billi low-cost terminal at Bordeaux is great. Basically it's a large shed where you can see the departure gates from the entrance. You zigzag back and fore through security, the small duty-free shop, the cafeteria and on the the departure gates. The one tiresome aspect is passport control. Entering and leaving the country means queuing up to show your photo-id to one of the three policemen in their little booths. It's not that slow, really, but it's the one occasion where you feel that you have been queuing.

We went to our departure gate. There was the zigzag of queuing alleys. I followed some people who snuck in without going all the way back to come zigzagging all the way forward. Slowly we all formed our queue and waited for the police to arrive.

The Ryanair staff appeared at the other side from time to time. After a while I waved to them. They waved back. Still no police. Then one installed himself in his booth, looked at the queue, sighed a little, opened his computer screen and readied himself to work. I was about the fifth person through. "Bon courage", I said. "Merci" he smiled back, wanly.

Ryanair used to allow one small cabin bag and a second smaller bag. They emailed me to warn me that now it's just the one, unless you've paid extra. I was flying back Easyjet, so I put a folding bag inside my little rucksack and all was well.

On arrival I decided that once I had lots of time I would take the National Express bus into London. I wasn't sure where to get off so I watched for anything that seemed interesting, and that's when I saw that we were just a few yards from the Tate Modern. I hopped off quickly.

Here's some pictures from the Tate Modern.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Catalyst at IPC Ealing

My old friend and compatriot, Paul Levy, is pastor at the International Presbyterian Church in Ealing in West London. Last week they organised a conference entitled Catalyst dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit.

It coincided exactly with the ministers' conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales at Bala, where some excellent people would gather around the theme of "The Generous Leader". At the same time in another part of London the Evangelical Ministry Assembly were meeting around the theme of "The Unsearchable Riches - Preaching Christ from all Scripture".

I was spoilt for choice. First choice was Bala - a few days by the lake would do me good. But getting there was pretty impossible without hiring a car. Sinclair Ferguson was to be at Ealing. The choice was made.

Another old friend and compatriot, Gethin, is currently coming to the end of a year at Ealing and he said I could stay with him during the conference, so all I had to do was fly in and out of London. Capital!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Prospective new tenants

"Can we bring someone round who might rent your flat?"

"Well you can, but if I were you I'd wait till the gardeners have been and mown the grounds because it doesn't give a good impression of your company."

"Ah, but you are responsible for the spot of lawn outside your flat!"

"Oh yes, and you will see that our garden is neat, as is the next-door neighbour's, but be careful in the common areas, which are your responsibility. They haven't been mown for weeks."

"Oh well, the gardeners are scheduled to come on Friday, but this person wants to come and see it on Wednesday."

So it was that on Wednesday afternoon a young chap came to see the flat and on Thursday morning in the heavy rain a gardener came to mow the lawns and trim the hedges.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Preparing for the move

On Wednesday we went down to see the new flat again, from the outside, to reassure ourselves that it will be possible to move in late June early July.

This is it, seen by hanging precariously out of a nearby multi-storey carpark.

We wandered into the grounds, now fenced and gated and planted with salvia, until a workman chased us out, then climbed the multi-storey carpark. From one of the floors, if you hang out over the cladding, you can just see our apartment. We were able to tell that one balcony has a textured flooring while the other seems to be a kind of rubberised surface.

The flat won't have a fitted kitchen and we are reluctant to fork out for fitted units for a couple of reasons. The first is that we are tenants, so we don't want to donate a carefully planned set of units to our landlords. The second is that here we are somewhat disillusioned with wall cupboards after several incidents of things falling out onto heads. Every member of the family has been victim to these unfortunate accidents. Not only that, but once we have lined up our appliances against the kitchen wall we will have used up all available space. So we plan to put in a tall cupboard in one corner, to hold tall things like ironing boards, hoovers, brushed, mops and such, and a kitchen island which will be the main preparation and serving area and will partially separate the kitchen from the sitting and eating spaces.

I'm quite excited about the prospect of constructing this island. I've watched some videos where skinny teenage girls put one together in no time at all, so I've decided to simplify their design in order to place it more centrally in my sphere of competences. We already have some of the things you need, too!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

New car, new hoops!

We have a new car!

Yesterday morning there was a committee meeting of the CNEF33 group, so I booked a car to take me out to Outer-Eysines where the meeting was to be held. What's this? A Polo? I quickly reserved it.

And there it was, all silver grey, new and shiny, with that Volkswagen touch of class. I was so excited!

And hey - hoops!

At many places in Bordeaux the Citiz cars have hoops - arceaux - which rise when the car is driven away to reserve its parking space. These are a Very Good Idea because generally whenever I take a Citiz car out someone rushes up to park in the space - even though they are labelled in jaunty yellow "AUTOPARTAGE - Stationnement interdit". I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the drivers in Pessac are now arrivals who have not yet mastered reading public notices in French because they will shun hundreds of metres of unrestricted kerbside in order to place their car carefully inside the yellow box labelled "AUTOPARTAGE - stationnement interdit".

Anyway after some years of reluctance from the authorities, we now have hoops. You move the car and - "hop" - press the button to raise the hoop. On your return press the button once more and - "hop" - there is your parking space.

The Polo is smooth and comfortable. It has a BIG touch screen with a super GPS that recalculates your journey if there's a buildup of traffic on the rocade. It has a speedo that is really easy to read and a nice, flexible engine. Fin, bref, I LOVE it!

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Giving notice

There we are. The firm we rent from has acknowledged receipt of our notice. We're moving.

The other evening one of our neighbours said she needed to come round for a chat about something. We wondered what her problem was. We've invited her several times to come and eat, to take a tea, a tisane, whatever. She did come to the royal wedding tea but she has family living nearby and surely if she had a problem she'd go to them. We was baffled.

Anyway I got home to find her and Pat chatting on the sofa, and she just wanted to come round and talk about tus leaving. We were very touched.

We're sad to leave this flat. It's been a happy place to be, and a good compromise between accessibility and comfort. It's been nice to have a garden and the terrace has been good. But now it's time to be thankful for what we've had and to move on.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A potential loss averted

We're moving.
(Our neighbour was displeased.)
End of June.
Have you given your notice to the landlords?
Not yet. Why?
I'm not sure but I think we're on three months' notice.

Oh dear. That would mean 1500€ lost for nothing. I checked the documents. They said three months. I phoned the agency. The person we deal with was on holiday so I left a message and emailed them.

The agency phoned back. We can give one month's notice by recorded delivery citing the fact that we are in "zone tendue".

So this morning I set down to write the letter. In France there are websites that will write the letter for you if you give them the basic information, like the date you're moving and the town you live in. The government site specified that in large towns where people come and go a lot whatever your tenancy agreement says the law specifies that you can not require more than one month's notice.

Yay! Once again France rocks!

So the letter is written and printed out and I must remember to tell our neighbour.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My shoes were trying to kill me!

I have told you that Bordeaux was paved by a psychopath who specified slabs in a variety of shapes and colours but which all become extremely slippery when wet. That's their part in the drama. My part was to buy shoes labelled as all-weather walking shoes from my local shoe store. It is required of all-weather walking shoes that they grip in the wet. Mine did not.

Thus on Saturday when the storm roared about me and my way was wet and smooth my shoes conspired with the paving slabs to make every step I took potentially lethal. I must have looked an odd sight as I carefully planted my feet vertically and shifted my weight carefully through the heavy downpour, anticipating the movement of the crowds so I would have to make no sudden moves.

Well I've lived with these little assassins long enough and the soles were quite worn down so they went in the bin and I scuttled off to find some replacements in the shoe emporia of Merignac.

Big mistake. The shoe emporia had the kind of thing I was looking for but at prices I was trying to avoid. My quest was doomed to failure.

So I turned my downhearted trudge to the supermarket where I needed some cereal and some spread - and spied some shoes that would do. They are not supermarket own-brand. They are of American manufacture. I quickly looked up the reviews on my phone. They were positive. The price was OK. I went for it.

On Tuesday we were at our niece's wedding. Pat's sister was wearing the same brand of shoe.
Do you like them?
I wear no other brand.
And they last OK?
They're excellent.

Jolly good!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sad news

We have suffered a bereavement. Laurence the rat has left us. He was about three years old and recently had surgery because of a tumour on his leg. He was obviously elderly, not the perky, inquisitive rat he once was, but he still enjoyed his food and was still very sociable.

Laurence is now resting in the corner of the garden by the hedge, protected by lots of pepper to discourage the local cats.

Apparently some people ask whether our pets await us in the world to come. This question has never really occurred to me at all, but it is charming to think of Catrin one day being welcomed into eternal dwellings by a tiny throng of glorified rodents.

The storm

"Orange alert for storms in New Aquitaine", they said.

"Yeah, right", but I still decided to look for my black waterproof - unsuccessfully.
How do we manage to still lose things in such a small flat?

Anyway, I pulled on my cotton jacket and rushed out. It was just starting to rain. The number 42 bus came as the thunder started.

We reached the tram top at Merignac, and now it was raining very hard indeed. I ran across the road to the tram stop and was drenched. Thankfully there are shelters, though it was too late by anyone's reckoning.

The tram arrived and we rushed on. We went through perhaps four stops before we were told that we'd be held up for a while because of the rain. After about 10 minutes we started going again through roads perhaps a foot deep in water, with cars inching through.

At Mériadeck we were told that that was it, the rest we'd have to do by foot. I wanted to pop into H&M but found that the Mériadeck branch has closed. Flunch, the cheap self-service restaurant, has also closed in the same centre. Across the road the Passages de Mériadeck are almost all empty.

Meanwhile some of the other shops were having trouble because water was pouring in from higher up in the building. I left and started off to the Maison de la Bible through streets where hailstones lay in piles and shopkeepers were brushing water from their shops.

It started raining again. I had my bad shoes on, so I had to walk gingerly. Bordeaux was paved by a sociopath who designed paving that becomes extremely slippery when wet. They did that for the town that is colloquially known as the "chamber pot of France" because it rains so much. I imagine them laughing every time the weather forecast is bad and thinking of their horrible revenge on the Bordelais, slipping and sliding and falling to their doom on the smooth, shine streets.

At last I made it to the bookshop and towelled myself dry. The storm lasted 10 minutes. The damage done to the vines further north is severe and some families have had to be rehoused after the ceilings in their apartment blocks all gave way. Nobody was injured or killed but the firemen were called out over 300 times. Some storm, eh!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Home alone

Mrs Davey hath hied her away unto England to spend the weekend with her sister before travelling up for a wedding somewhere like Daventry. (Not entirely sure where that is...) I am joining her on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Miss Davey hied her away for a sleepover with some friends in Bordeaux.

The house is quiet. Very quiet. Oh well, time to cut my hair.

Sorry about the scowl.
I need practice taking selfies.

Me and my big mouth

After saying how beautiful the weather has been, how fragrant the hedgerows, how verdant the vines, how perfect the springtime, it lashed down with rain all morning.

After talking about my grand solo operatic debut, my pianist pulled out.

Ah bon.

Friday, May 25, 2018

About that sermon from the Primate of America

I am so grateful to those who have so wonderfully expressed my thoughts.

Now let's move on.

Springtime in Pessac

The vines are green and full of life.

The hedgerows are fragrant with honeysuckle and mock-orange.

Gentle breezes bring relief from the noon-day sun.

The evenings are warm and mosquito-thronged.

It's a bit sad

As you know, gentle reader, that Mrs Davey and I go for singing lessons to our local municipal music school. For us both it's a "get involved, make friends and improve your French" thing, and for me it offers cheap breathing training (I'm asthmatic).

There is a financial cost, though not a large one as the lessons are short and subsidised by the municipality, but there's another kind of cost, too. Now and then you have to sing. I mean, in front of people.

Last year we all had to take an exam; Three Daveys in a row. Catrin sang some lyric thing about victory, Pat sang a song called Syracuse and I did a bit from Figaro.

This year Catrin couldn't continue because of her university course but Pat and I were scheduled to sing a duet. I found something that vaguely fitted our range - a setting of "It was a lover and his lass" by Vaughan Williams, where Pat was to sing the low voice line and I the high voice. I don't have a high voice, but with a bit of volume I could squawk it out reasonably.

We had our first rehearsal with the pianist. It went OK. We came back hoarse and all sang out. I checked my diary for the following day.

"Darling. You know our grand concert debut. When is it?" ... "And when is your flight to England?"

Pair of chumps. Maestro Sechet was displeased.
"How come?"
"Sheer stupidity."

The situation seemed irredeemable.
"What if Alan sang alone?"

So it is that this evening I have my grand operatic debut solo, singing the same piece what I done last year for my exam. The poor pianist is having to almost sight-read, but she's a trooper. We hammered our way through it a couple times last night and, as I tell myself, no-one will die. I shall channel Bryn Terfel, though my voice doesn't have his size, of course.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Our house move

In theory we get the keys to the new place on the 22nd June, but meanwhile we have not yet received the letting contract to sign. Hmmm. I am sincerely hoping it will come by the end of May so that we can give in our notice for the end of June here.

Meanwhile how will our removal van get near the building? At present the front of the building does not appear to be suitable for parking a lorry, and the roadway is narrowed by bollards and railings. Oh well, there's a month yet.

Meanwhile, in another interesting development, I saw on the rental website that the same company has a flat available right in the middle of town, near the Musée d'Aquitaine. It's a good size, has three bedrooms, but has no balcony. I've tried numerous times to contact the company using two different numbers and I've also emailed and left a voicemail but I have had no answer. I guess they're office is closed today. I'll try again tomorrow morning.

We might conceivably need to slow down a little...

Last Thursday was the rehearsal with the pianist for Pat's and my debut in our big duet for the Music School end of year concert at the library. Ralph Vaughan-Williams' setting of "It was a lover and his lass". Very wise choice because if we forget the words we can just make it up and nobody at all would notice and anyway we're sure we'd have the best pronunciation in the place. Our accompanist is a very pleasant lady who made us sing it through 4 times (four). We have another rehearsal scheduled for this coming Thursday.

We got home. I idly looked at my diary.

What time is the concert?
Half past eight.
And what time is your flight to England?
Half past four.

Well, she sent a text message to Pierre-Henri. We saw him the next day. He looked sore vexed.

How did you not realise?

We had no satisfactory answer.

But Alan's still here. He could sing alone.

Pierre-Henri considered this.

But what could you do?

We settled on something. He perked up. I was sent off to tell the Music School secretaries who would then contact the accompanist and see if she was happy to do that instead.

Hallo, you know the duet my wife and I are due to sing?
She has to go to England.
Oh dear.
The is what Pierre-Henri suggests.

In the end the exchanges ended happily, but we may need to slow down a little. I'm starting to arrange clashing appointments again, and this time Pat is joining me!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Baptism - the report

Well last Sunday had everything!

A flat-pack furniture baptistery to assemble.

A dear friend with whom to test various positions of baptism:
both in the pool, from standing position
candidate in the pool, Alan outside, from standing position
candidate in the pool, Alan outside, from sitting position.

Water-play with hoses and buckets to empty and fill the baptistery.

Brave fellows running back and fore with kettles, flasks and bowls of hot water.

Bright sunshine and menacing clouds that threatened but did not attack.

Happy candidates with attentive and loving family and friends.

Intelligent children far too sensible to stand on the splash end of the baptistery, despite my urging.

A preacher who is director of an internationally renowned theological training institute.

Joyful songs sung in English, in French and sometimes both at once.

Delicious snacks including wonderful cakes.

Hugs, kisses and joyful dances.

Then on Monday that dull brain and throbbing back that tells you that it's time to take a day off...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

More on the baptism service

Last night at 6 I went to get the car to go and fetch the baptistery.

The car wasn't there.

I looked around a little in the streets and car parks, then phoned the service centre. "Oh yes, the previous user will be a little late."

About 25 minutes later the car arrived and two types got out and left by tram. I went and looked the car over , started it and drove off.

"STOP! FLAT TYRE!" shouted the dashboard. Funny, they hadn't looked flat, but then tyres these days seldom do. I phoned the service centre. "Oh yes, the previous user said that they'd had that flashing, but all had been OK. You can change car if you like to carry on."

I needed the length of the Clio estate to fit the baptistery in, so I decided to carry on, but to stop for air on the way. There's a garage near the motorway slip road, so I put my 1€ coin in the air machine and blew up the tyre. It had been pretty flat! Now the dashboard said "Check the tyre pressure sensors" so I was quite reassured. Oh yes, and should I mention that evidently someone is living rough at the garage and using the air machine corner for toilet duties? YUK!

The rest of the journey passed off uneventfully and the baptistery went in the car OK.

This morning I checked what other cars are available to get the baptistery to the church and then back to where I got it from. Yes! the Peugeot Partner at Talence Forum was available so I booked it quickly!

The weather yesterday was dreadful. We went from 27°C on Thursday to 15°C yesterday, with nasty drizzle punctuated by occasional downpours. "It's the icy saints," (les saints de glace) explained our neighbour. "It's always cold around the 12th of May. There are plants you shouldn't put out until after the 13th. It'll pick up again now." And so far today it has been fine, a blue sky with nice fluffy white clouds.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

What a shock!

I had a doctor's appointment at 9 am. Because my doctor is still the one we had when we first came to France, way over in the suburb we haven't lived in for 12 years now, that means reserving a car and hitting the rocade. How that word strikes fear into my heart! Still, instead of joining the rocade at sortie 13, near our home, I scuttle through the university campus and join at sortie 16. I need to come off at 18, so even if there is a hold up, at least I'm not in it for long.

This morning the traffic was fluid, so I arrived at 8:40. Oh well. 10 minutes of music in the car, then into the waiting room.

Doctors here are very good, but you do tend to go in late because they spend more time with people than they allow for. Once you understand this it's OK. You just take a book to read and all is well.

This morning I was out of the surgery at 9:20 with a contented doctor and the comment to keep doing whatever I'm doing. We also chatted about Pat and the kids in that time. "We were not made to run", she said, referring to Pat's problem with her heel, "horses were made to run because of the structure of their leg."

So home, then off to meet our baptism candidates at Horace café. I was in one room at Horace talking baptism while Pat was in another room talking with someone else.

"Vous savez que votre mari est à l'intérieur avec deux autres femmes?" said the waitress. "Ah bon!", exclaimed Patricia, who knew very well indeed.

Then to another café, OvenHeaven, to say goodbye to the splendid Oliver, who is returning to Blighty having fallen in love with Bordeaux.

Then off to Peixotto to meet the friend who is loaning us their car for the weekend. Yay! Swift passage to choir and back this evening!

Then home. Meanwhile.

You know sometimes people say the French are inefficient? Don't you believe it! As part of our flat hunting we decided to register for a logement social, a council flat. The French very sensibly have housing associations that run logements sociaux and some of their flats are just awesome. There are some in the very centre of Bordeaux. Anyway, I started filling in the website but it required the figures from our 2018 tax return, which I have not yet completed. So I left it.

So this morning we received a letter telling us our request for a logement social has been noted and giving us our unique number and stuff. It may not lead to anything, and we have found a flat anyway, but it's an impressive piece of French efficiency.

Now then, where's the figures I collected to do my tax return?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Baptism service

OK, here's a little look at the life of a missionary pastor.

We have two baptisms on Sunday! It's great!

And not only that but we have a visiting preacher, the Director of the Belgian Bible Institute is in town and has agreed to preach for us!

So why am I especially asking for prayer?

Because on Saturday evening I have to take our carshare Renault Clio estate, collect a collapsible baptistery from some colleagues out in the Medoc and bring it back here.

Then at lunchtime on Sunday take it in said car to our meeting place, erect it in the courtyard and fill it with water. I'm told this takes two hours.

The forecast for Sunday is wet, but I am hoping for sunshine to warm the water.
If not we'll add kettles to take the chill off.

Then, after the service, I'll need to empty and collapse the baptistery and get it home again.

I've never seen the baptistery. I don't know if it will fit in the Clio. At present there's no plan B!

So thanks for praying!

Monday, May 07, 2018

And here's some artists' impressions of what our new flat will look like in a couple of years' time

 It faces a new park that is to be created called "Les Jardins de l'Ars". The Ars is a brook that is currently channelled through subterranean pipes but will be brought to the surface once more to feed the gardens. The terminal "s" is pronounced, by the way. We'll be on the left hand side of the building just about at tree-top level in these drawings.

The aerial photograph shows the site a couple of months ago. Building work on the various components of the site has advanced considerably but landscaping will be the last job to be done, I guess. Meanwhile we'll have access via a fairly important road that runs just on the other side of the building from our flat.

It'll be wonderful to have an office again, and to have a spare room!

Sorry we've been so quiet!

Here's some nice soothing music!

Monday, April 30, 2018

And yes, we are

We heard this morning, first by email, then by telephone, that our dossier for the larger apartment in the new Euratlantique district of the city has been accepted. We should be moving at the end of June.

It is facing the not yet created Jardins de l'Ars. L'Ars is the little stream that runs currently under the road and that will be brought back to the surface to feed the gardens. And the final "s" is pronounced.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

So are we moving?

We slowly compiled our dossier for the new flat by the river, the bigger one, at 83m2. The last letter to be added was an attestation from our current agency, stamped and signed, that we are up to date with our rent. This we received on Monday and added to the dossier. I texted the lady to say that our dossier is now complete.

Then on Tuesday we went to see another flat at the other end of the same block. On the seventh (7th) floor, this flat had a LARGE balcony. It was a super little place, but the lounge was small, with a separate, small kitchen. In a show flat someone had put a corner settee and a round table with four chairs. That was OK, but we had trouble imagining 20 people for a bible study. Two bedrooms were ok, but the third was small. That third bedroom has to double as my office and a spare room, and we struggled to imagine putting a desk and a bed in it. But the balcony was huge. Biggest space in the whole flat. By the time we got home we realised that the flat was too small.

So now it's clear. We need more than 72m2.

Then while in town in Bordeaux I got another email from the 83m2 lady. There were several dossiers for the third floor flat. She proposed positioning us for same thing on the fourth floor. I emailed her back, "Yes, we'd like that".

When we got home I looked at the website for the letting agency. Would it now show the two flats? It did, and on the fourth floor apartment it said "You have accepted this flat".

Oh yes? So does that also mean the agency has accepted us? Are we moving? Is this it? No more searching? No more visits? Just planning the move?

I have a phone call to make.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Visiting flats

We went to see two apartments yesterday, very different from each other.

The first was in the new area of town called Euratlantic. This is projected to become a new presitigious part of town with lots of offices for a financial centre and new apartment blocks built to the highest environmental standards. Until recently it was the edge of the district where the working girls are to be found, and at present it's a huge mass of construction sites.

The flat was on the eighth floor of a block optimistically called "Residen'ciel". It had a lounge facing south and bedrooms facing north. Unusually, the bathroom had a window. On both sides there were balconies floored with that decking material. (I don't like the way it springs under foot.) The views were wonderful, out over the river. From the living room we could see the bridge that carried the motorway on the south side of the city. From the bedrooms we could see the spires of Bordeaux and the motorway bridge on the north side. Atop the building, on the 10th floor, is a rooftop, a roof terrace open to all residents.

The flat has been bought to let by someone taking advantage of tax breaks offered by the French government. It's a good idea, but it does make these flats hard to let. Why? Well rents are expensive in Bordeaux and French law states that you have to have income of at least three times your liabilities (rent, mortgage, loans, etc.) That means you need a minimum salary to afford the flat. However the tax breaks are only available if you let to people who income is under a certain ceiling. So the number of people eligible to let these flats is restricted. You have to earn enough, but not too much!

The lounge was about 20 m2, but the kitchen was along one wall, so we would lose about 6 m2 compared to what we have now. There were four bedrooms, but all were smaller than ours now, and none had fitted wardrobes. The rent includes heating and hot water, powered by the somewhat distant recycling plant at Bègles. We tried to fit our lives into the flat, and failed.

We arrived by tram and trek through the dusty heat between the building sites, and we left by bus. Just nearby three women were plying their trade, watched, possibly supervised by a man sat on the grass opposite leaning against a large plastic container of water.

The next apartment was up at Bordeaux Lac. We arrived a little early and enjoyed a walk around the area, watching the ducks, fish and coypus playing in the canals that separate the blocks of apartments.

This apartment was on the ground floor with a balcony that gave directly onto the road on one side and onto the park on the other. Every window was a french door. There was a lounge about the size of our current one, with a separate kitchen, a little bigger than what we have now, then three bedrooms, again each one substantially smaller than ours. One was really small. This apartment is heated, along with the whole district of the city, by a huge central wood-chip burning boiler, so the rent includes heating and hot water. Again we tried to fit ourselves into the apartment, and again we failed. I was a little concerned about security, too.

We are also applying for another apartment at present, again in the Euratlantic area. This block is built, but the apartment won't be completed until the end of June. We have plans. It has three bedrooms, nearer the size of ours at present. The two smaller rooms have fitted wardrobes. The largest room has an attached bathroom. The lounge has the kitchen in the corner but it is substantially bigger. It should be more feasible. Again it's in the buy to let scheme. The woman dealing with it apologised for asking personal questions, like, "Do you have any other income? Does your wife work? Is that all the household income?"

Friday, April 20, 2018

We are considering moving home

We love our flat. It's a very pleasant place to live. It has two faults, though. Firstly it's quite a long way out of the city centre. Secondly I have no office and we have no guest bedroom. I usually work on the (small) kitchen table, just alongside the washing machine.

So today we are going to look at two different apartments, both in new areas of Bordeaux.

The first is in a new district which is just being constructed on the other side of the station. It's one of M. Juppé's projects, the quartier Euratlantique, an area with financial services offices, a new bridge, the Pont Simone Weil, that crosses to the new Floirac Concert Hall, and two tram stops from the central station.

The second is on the other side of town, at Bordeaux Lac, between the lake that was constructed decades ago on the site of the old land-fill and the huge shopping complex where Ikea is situated.

We are also being considered for another flat that is being built and is due for delivery in June, again at Euratlantique. We can't visit that one, obviously, but I've seen the plan and despite its moderate size it looks like it could be a very practical and comfortable living space...

We'll see!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The race for naturalisation

We have not proceeded with naturalisation, partly because it would cost us about 500€ just to get everything translated that needs translating, without any administration fees.

Birthday meal

Pat had saved up a little spending money for our anniversary which we hadn't used, so we decided to push the boat out for a birthday meal. That meant, after some reflection, la Tupina.

La Tupina is one of the more prestigious but less swanky restaurants in Bordeaux. Rather than candelabras and funky crystal, it's gone for the best quality meats and fish from the river, cooked in traditional ways, often over the fire. For example, they do lamproie à la bordelaise (lamprey cooked in its own blood and red wine). It was around 30°C in Bordeaux today, but their fire was lit for grilling, as usual. We ate outside.

They do a really good value lunch for 18€ and we would have had that but it was langue de boeuf - ox tongue - so we decided to go for their à la carte menu. Much more expensive, but we had that little fighting fund. So the girls had roast chicken.

At la Tupina they despair of the quality of the chicken we get in the supermarkets. So their chicken comes from a farm on the Medoc where the birds live free-range and then the roasting is done slowly over the fire. "We used to have a really good chicken once a week as a Sunday treat", their website says, "and we could do with getting back to those days". Their chicken was served with chips fried in goose fat and sprinkled with crunchy salt.

Meanwhile I was undecided, so I asked the waiter what I should have. I almost always ask the waiter what I should have. I was considering breast of duck (he nodded and pursed his lips), lamb (his eyes lit up) or a steak (he nodded). I had seen the steaks displayed and they did look exceptionally good, but the waiter said, "You'll never eat lamb elsewhere like we do it here." I almost never eat lamb anyway these days, so I agreed.

The traditional Easter meal in this part of France was a shoulder of lamb which was braised very slowly in a low oven all day and served with equally slow-cooked beans. They call it seven-hour lamb. "Ours is cooked for eight hours", said the waiter.

He persuaded Pat to have a starter, partly because she didn't hear what he suggested she order - a skewer of grilled duck's hearts, beautifully cooked and served with a salad. Pat ate them with gusto while we looked on! He also brought us some saucisson, some cauliflower florets, some radishes and some fresh warm bread and butter while we waited for our main course.

Well the chicken looked really good, propped up on a little block of stuffing and with a bowl of really good chips. Meanwhile my lamb came in an low earthenware dish, surrounded by rich gravy and sprigs of rosemary. It took the waiter some time to meticulously spoon all the sauce onto my plate. The thick white beans were in a beat-up old pan together with slices of carrot, parsnip and chunks of bacon. It really was so good. "I'm never eating lamb again", I told the waiter.

The waiters were very well trained. When they collected plates they had to turn away from you to scrape the chicken carcasses onto one plate. You mustn't see them do that! Our half-bottle of wine was carefully placed on the table and turned with the label facing us. When one brought the bill he hid the bank machine card behind his back. Pat had cash. "We don't need the machine", I said. He looked relieved. But along with the ritual and formality there was an easy friendliness. We spoke a little English with them, but mostly in French.

Dessert was ice-cream. For me prune, for Pat fruits of the forest (fruits rouges) with "confiture de vieux garçon". "What is that?" The waiter laughed. "It's fruits rouges", he said. Catrin had gros canelé with ice cream. She'd had better canelé, but never fatter and never with ice cream.

Considering the quality of the meal, the bill was reasonable. More than we've ever paid before, and more than we'll ever pay again in a hurry, but what a birthday lunch, eh!

Some Wednesday music

So we joined this choir

Last year was very serious. We sang Bach and Vasks.

This year we have a big project on - the Requiem for Rossini, an Italian romantic requiem composed by a committee of composers.

But it's also the 30th anniversary of the founding of the choir, so we're doing a birthday concert on 1st May. And for that the programme includes:

In the Hall of the Mountain King, sung in Norwegian.
The Hallelujah chorus, sung in Franglais
"Oh Happy Day, from Sister Act, sung inaccurately (He taught me how to wash, fight and pray)
America from West Side Story
"Voici la quadrille" from Carmen
"O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana
Pavane, Fauré
Cantique de Jean Racine, Fauré
Ave Verum Corpus, Mozart
The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, from Nabucodonosor.

That's a lot of singing, and all accompanied by our gallant little pianist!

Every year they take me by surprise!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The City of God and the Goal of Creation, by T Desmond Alexander

I sounded off a while ago about our tendency to have a somewhat one or at best two-dimensional approach to Biblical Theology, seeing one theme as key to unlocking the whole development and direction of the Bible's message - perhaps Covenant, or Kingdom. But the Bible gives us various diverse themes that run through the Scripture from beginning to end. One of these themes is the City.

We can have a somewhat ambivalent approach to the city. On the one hand some of our cities are so polluted that you cannot breathe safely, your lifespan is shortened by the smog. Sometimes our cities are characterised by injustice and inequality, with extremely wealthy penthouses and terrible slums and housing schemes. Cities can be dangerous places with areas where it is unwise to go unless you are known and know how to behave.

We dream of the countryside, of escaping to the hills, to the beach, to the mountain, to the forest. Of silence and solitude. Of clean air and crystalline water. Even typing these words makes me relax.

The story of creation in the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. But not just any kind of city. the City of God.

Alexander's book helps us to grasp the sweep of the Bible's focus on God's city chapter by chapter, beginning with Babel, the city that has no need of the creator-God, the city of self-sufficient pride. God's purpose, however, is a different kind of city - a Temple-City, a City that is a Holy Mountain, the City of the Great King, the Jerusalem that is to come, that comes down out of heaven from God.

It's a short book, but not quickly read. It's a distillation of lots of research and reflection by many scholars, making it so rich and suggestive that you have to keep pausing to think over on what you've read. But along the way you get insights you might never have noticed otherwise. Thoroughly recommended.

I received the book free from Crossway in return for an honest review. I have to say that I get to choose the books I want to review, so it's not terribly likely that I'll ever give a negative review!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Is that ECT, BST, GMT or DKT?

We're an hour ahead of our dear ones in the United Kingdom. France operates on what, I believe, is called Europaean Central Time, currently at GMT + 2.

Meanwhile the UK is now on British Summer Time, GMT + 1, which must seem like a bitter irony as the winds lash and the rain cascades.

Incidentally the stress of adapting to this national tidal wave of sleep lost and gained is enough to account for a noticeable rise in heart attacks. So take it slowly. Certainly last week I along with many others was suffering with la crève, an extreme fatigue that comes upon you for no discernable reason, if not the change to Summer Time.

But here in the Davey household we had another problem. Between our living room and our kitchen there was a noticeable time difference of about 6 minutes. We called this Davey Salon Time (DST) and Davey Kitchen Time (DKT). DST was well aligned with all the other clocks we knew, such as the internet, our mobile phones. DKT was six minutes behind.

Our flat is what estate agents would call "deceptively spacious", but it's not that big. Why this time warp?

Well time, as we know, is not really a constant. It is composed of waves of timey-wimey stuff and therefore extremely variable, and the quantum effect of moving between the salon and the kitchen was strangely sufficient to warp time to the ...

Our living room clocks are battery powered. Our kitchen clocks, on the oven and the microwave, are mains-electric. Mains-electric clocks commonly use the 50Hz cycle of the alternating current to measure time. And since January, because of some jiggery-pokery in which I seem to recall the Russians were involved ("Oh no we were not!" "Oh yes you were!"), the alternating current in Western Continental Europe was about 49.9996Hz, enough over a couple months to put our clocks slow by six minutes.

So THAT'S why I missed those buses! And THAT'S why the (mains-powered) clock on Pat's side of the bed was six minutes slow all the time.

It's now been sorted out and by some more jiggery-pokery (they ran the current at 50.00001Hz for a while) the ovens of the continent are showing the correct time once more.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The inauguration of the Chinese Church

Yesterday we were so very privileged to be present for the inauguration of the Chinese Church, which took place at the Eglise Evangélique Libre in Pessac, about a 1/2 hour walk from our home. It's a rainy weekend, so we travelled indolently, by 42 and 44 bus, walking just a couple of yards either end of the journey.

They say that when you are drowning your whole life flashes past you. Well we were drowning in a happy sea of thankfulness as all our life in France flashed before our eyes.

We saw way back 15 years ago, before we arrived when two Chinese girls started meeting for Bible Study. Soon afterwards they were joined by a lad who became a friend of ours, and who later married one of the girls. Slowly the group grew. Our involvement with the group grew, too, until 2014 when we focused on the International Church Plant. Incidentally, it was thanks to a gift from the Chinese Group that I bought my first Apple computer.

Friends were there who we have not seen for years. There were huge hugs, lots of stories, a few tears and a lot of applause. Then a good Chinese meal. "Never ask what's in it", joked one of the Chinese pastors.

We came home pretty stoked up.

Briefing the church leaders

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Monday, April 02, 2018

At last

Spring has finally arrived, we had reasonable temperatures today and yesterday we turned off the heating in the flat. Usually we don't have to heat after mid-February, so we're at least 6 weeks late. Still, today the air was warm, the sun was agreeable and we felt like we had turned a corner.