les Davey de France

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Choirs and covid-19

Whoever thought that choral singing would be a dangerous sport? 

Well it is now, thanks to the new coronavirus. 

"How so?" I hear you cry. 

The problem is that singers do various unhelpful things:

1) they breathe in deeply, thus taking in more air and, possibly, more droplets which could be carrying viruses. By this means they invite an infection and a bigger initial dose of the virus.

2) they breathe out deeply and project their breath, especially when they sing loudly, thus expelling droplet-laden breath into the air and, potentially, sharing their viruses generously with all in the room.

3) they insist on doing these activities in synchronised groups, thus providing an excellent substrate for the virus to propagate.

Yesterday, incidentally, I met with a colleague here who recovered from his covid infection just a couple of weeks ago. He's in his thirties and contracted the virus playing volleyball. Enough said for his state of fitness. Nevertheless he was very unwell, experiencing great difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue and still has odd symptoms now. This isn't a disease to fool around with.

Getting back to the point. Choir directors all over France have arranged online conferences to share warnings, regulations and best practice. The upshot is to distance your singers and to insist that all be masked.

Some choirs are forced to find alternative rehearsal rooms or just to rehearse in small groups. There has been some reaction, sometimes strong reaction, to the idea of singing masked because of the risk of brain damage from the effects of oxygen-depletion, excessive carbon-dioxide and the build-up of the toxins that we naturally breathe out each day. Since I've been regularly singing, praying and preaching in a mask since early July I will leave the reader to judge the state of my poor beleagured grey cell.

Of course, singing with a mask on is disagreeable and so someone has come up with a wonderful system involving a bent wire coat-hanger that your jam over your head before putting your mask on. This keeps the mask away from your mouth and allows a more normal singing and breathing experience, except for the hook at the back of your neck, of course.

Since I bent my best wire coat-hanger to make a stand for my laptop to raise up the webcam to a more natural angle for zoom calls I am waiting till I can ransack Pat's wardrobe for something suitable.

In other news researchers have declared that the disposable "surgical masks" that we see littering our streets now, and which are more effective than the cotton "anyone and everyone" masks when new, can be washed. Washing them does diminish their intial effectiveness but they are still better than cotton masks, even after 5 times of washing.

Since these masks are far less disagreeable to sing in than the thicker cotton masks, this is good news. 

And we need good news like that, do we not!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Slowing the circulation of the virus

 On Monday the Prefect of Nouvelle Aquitaine spoke to introduce further measures to slow the epidemic in the Gironde. There was nothing that stopped the church meeting, especially in our new configuration os small groups at the church and in two homes.

However, our friends who planned to marry at the beginning of October with over 100 guests have had to cancel their wedding reception and plan quickly something much smaller in the satellite town of Libourne. They have reacted with admirable flexibility and resolve.

Now the Health Minister is speaking. His tone is so good. It is hard to get tested just now because the government promised a free test for anyone who wanted one. This has led, understandably, to bottlenecks in the laboratories. So after thanking French people for their patience and their understanding, he has introduced a system of priority testing for people who show symptoms or who havebeen alerted that they have been in contact with the virus. Other people who just want to be tested, he explained, will face a wait. He explained, too, that a test does not prevent infection.

Here's the rules for a week's quarantine:

Seven days from the appearance of the symptoms if you're ill.

Seven days from a positive test if you are asymptomatic.

Seven days from being alerted that you have been in contact - then get tested.

There is some push-back to the masks in France because it is believed that if you breathe in your own carbon-dioxide then you will suffer health problems, in addition to the moxious toxins which you breathe out all the time. It's a wonder surgeons don't all drop dead, no?

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Friday, September 11, 2020

Things have been relatively quiet in Bordeaux

 Just the usual combats :

Vampire flies : attacking my arms and feet. I got some cream from the chemist to help with the inflammation following their attacks.

Covid-19 : two men in the French church have become ill following a volleyball match with their club. Both are youngish, fit and well, but the virus is vicious.

We have implemented our multi-site micro-church plan, dividing up into three groups. Two will meet in homes and cosist of up to 10 people. The third will meet in the church room and can accommodate up to 30.

For this we have to pre-record our sermon and generally organise the whole thing well in advance. I gabble even more when preaching to my smartphone. Oh well.

Meanwhile the town hall has announced that there will be no more Christmas Tree in Bordeaux. This is what we must expect when the Narnian Party has taken over the town hall, I suppose. I am hoping for free turkish delight for every household, but I fear I may hope in vain.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The train wreck - I mean the audition

The saga of trying to find a practicable choir continues, this time with me seeing a notice that a chamber choir needs men. The choir rehearses not so far from where we live: about 20 mins by bike, 30 by bus and tram or 45 mins' walk. I replied to the notice and got a respone from someone I know from another choir urging me to contact the musical director. I did so and he phoned straight away to arrange to come and do an audition.

Then begins the mental wrangling. What could I sing? I decided on a rather awkward but beautiful piece of Poulenc but each time I worked it through (without accompaniment - I'm not good enough on piano) I messed up a tricky chromatic section in the middle. I decided to go with something else. Anyway, as I was still warming up he phoned to say he'd arrived. Oh help! What a disaster!

We did some vocalises to establish my range. We did the bass line of "The silver swan", which we'd sung at the gîte. He brought out a Fauré test vocalise for entry to the Paris conservatoire in 1910. I incorrectly identified the key as the relative minor and made a complete hash of sight-singing it. 

"No conservatoire for me", I said.

"Well that all seems fine. I'll put you on the lower bass line."

"Really? But I lack volume in the low register."

"That's normal, everyone does."

"Oh. OK."

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

They're all after my blood

 So now I have a bruise from my blood test and several lumps, bumps and scabs from the attentions of the mosquitos that have decided to add their plague to the season's pestilence. I must dramatically increase my garlic intake.

Back to school today

 Our flat overlooks a primary school and today it's back to school day.

I first noticed a tall guy walking with a small boy beneath our window, chatting as they loped and trotted along. They crossed the future gardens to get the the school. Halfway across the man slipped a mask onto his face.

We're outside the area where you have to wear a mask in the street in Bordeaux. It stretches from the station, about 8 minutes walk away, to just before where the church meets, but doesn't include our immediate area! You're also exempted if you're running or riding a bike. You do, however, have to have a mask on in the immediate vicinity of the school gates.

Meanwhile small groups of parents and children appeared at the far end of the car park and followed the same route. A little procession left the flats further down, each mother masked, the children scuttling cheerfully.

A flotilla of bikes came round the corner and crossed the future gardens, adult and child gliding along, all unmasked. Oh the joys of bicycles in these pestilent days. 

Leter we'll hear the children playing in the school yard.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Masks, masks and more masks

 The virus is once more being spread in Bordeaux. We currently have an r number of about 1.78, and an incidence of about 52 cases per 100,000 population. 4.2% of tests for coronavirus give positive results. There are still few hospitalisations and few in intensive care, but we are told that this is because for the moment the virus is spreading among young people, and that when they start to infect older folk the numbers in hospital will rise.

This picture is true of various places in France, so on a national level the government is prearing for local confinement and for restrictions on travel.

Meanwhile masks have to be worn in the two busiest streets in Bordeaux as well as in shops and in public transport, but from next Monday they'll need to be worn everywhere in the open air. 

Meanwhile churches are champing at the bit to fill their premises and choirs are waiting eagerly to resume rehearsals.

For Bordeaux Church we're working on a plan to try and enable us to thrive in the present circumstances.

For the choir I seriously wonder whether we need to break into small choirs of 8 to 10 people, who can then rehearse in people's homes.

The blood tests

 So armed with my new prescription I got up, drank some mint tea and headed off to get the blood taken. The laboratory had a sign on the door saying that the waiting room was now outside in the street, but there was noone in the reception area, everyone was just behind in the office section, so I opened the door and shouted Bonjour. They beckoned me in.

I had my usual annual blood tests for my doctor to do, as well as my blood group for the hospital. Blood groups are done by double determination at present, so there amount of forms to fill in was impressive. After all that was done, in I went into the back room to get the blood taken.

Meanwhile a university lecturer was there to get a coronavirus test. She asked if there was anobody doing saliva antibody tests, but there isn't. The phayrngeal swab is just more reliable. Everyone commiserated with her.

The phlebotomist was terribly upset to have bruised me, though she'd not hurt me with the needle so I wasn't bothered. She drenched my arm with alcohol and put a thick dressing on, which I tore off as soon as I got home.

Now 48 hours wait for the results - probably Monday.

12:30 - the usual blood test results are in, and it seems that all is fine.

Now just a wait for my blood group.

13.01 - and my blood group results are here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

chez le nouveau médecin

 I have to have a small investigation under general anaesthesia in early October - just to make sure I don't have what my father had - and the anaesthetist wants me to take my "Blood Group Card" to my appointment at the end of September.

"Blood Group Card"? I went to the blood laboratory of my choice, at the bottom of Cours Victor Hugo, where I learned that they can do it, it costs 50€, but you get that back if your doctor writes a prescription.

I stewed on this for a while. My doctor is about 45 minutes journey away by tram and a short unpleasant walk, so going to see her generally takes a whole morning. But opposite our pharmacy where the nurses' office is there's now a plaque for a GP.

I searched on Doctolib, our online appointment service. An appointment was available for this morning.

Along I toddled. He's a young chap with a man bun. As I waited he said goodbyre to his previous patient, "Bye, have a nice day". Ah! He speaks English.

We didn't though. I explained what I needed and he made me a nice prescription and told me where the nearest laboratory is. "Are they better than Cours Victor Hugo?" (one of the best rated labs on Google Maps!) 

"Just the same!" he said.

My appointment was for 9:15. I left the flat at 9, took the stairs instead of the lift and walked slowly so as not to be too early and still arrived at 9:08. I was out at 9:28. In addition (no pun intended) you don't pay him. Your social security and top-up insurance pay him directly.

I might switch.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The stage that never was

 There are various choral workshops that take place during the months of July and August. A few years ago someone in the choir approached me about going on one held just about an hour north of Bordeaux in the little town of Guitres, but at that time ... well there was no point even considering it.

Now things are a little different so when a message went out that there were still places available, notably for chaps, I made enquiries, discussed it quickly, and sent off my form. Two works would be prepared and performed, by living composers.

Ha! Coronavirus had other plans. We normally rehearse and perform in the abbatial church of Guitres, a tiny town with a splendid romanesque basilica plonked right in the middle, but in light of the crise sanitaire the mairie cancelled the workshop.

Pat and I made plans to take a quick trip to explore Pau, Lourdes and environs, but then I was contacted by  a member of the choir to say that even though the choral workshop was not going ahead, they were still planning on occupying the gîte they'd booked in the countryside outside Guitres, and doing some singing. Two of the tutors, involved in the choir, would join us for some of the time. A room was free. Would Pat and I like to come? Incidentally, they were short of men. We'd be about 8 people.

Pat at the time was on a quick farewell jaunt to San Sebastian with our friend Sally who is about to leave France and return to lockdown England. I messaged Pat. She at once replied "Yes!" So there we were.

The gite was a rambling farmhouse in a clearing in the oakwoods. It had a splendid fig tree laden with not quite ripe fruit, and an enormous privet tree. We got systematically eaten by mosquitos, I think they were coming from a kind of pit in the garden that had stagnant water in it - the moustiquerie. We suspected that there were bedbuds, too. Either that or the mosquitos were good at crawling up your legs.

We spent a happy few days singing all kinds of things from the sublime to the ridiculous. "J'aime l'ail" - a culinary round, "Un satire cornu" - a cheeky renaissance madrigal, "Beau rossignol qui chante"- a rather tricky round, "The Silver Swan" - Gibbons, "De profundis" - Janczak, "O radiant dawn" - Macmillan. We made a quick stab at a Byrd "Ave verum corpus". We were two sopranos, four alti, one high baritone and one lower baritone, and we had to choose our works to fit our ranges. We worked without a leader and got on very well, though it may have been a good idea to choose a leader, perhaps for each piece.

On the last day we were joined by our voice coach and our choir director and they helped enormously in getting our voices further back into shape - I had not sung in anger since March - and in spotting overlooked things in the score, or trying different approaches here and there.

Food was important, and we dined like kings on delights like lamb cous-cous, a curiously non-spicy pork curry, courgette quiches, cèpe risotto, a pear charlotte, peach melba... Our jar of marmite provoked strong reactions.

We visited the abbey church in Guitres, but despite the temptation, we decided not to blast our way through any of the pieces in a kind of mini-choir flashmob.

As things stand our choir is struggling to resume rehearsals. Our usual rehearsal room is far too small. A local church would give enough room but would cost around 70 euros per rehearsal to hire. 

I wonder whether we could break the choir up into small chamber choirs of fewer than 10 people and rehearse in folks' homes. At least until the current crisis is over.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Spoke too soon

 We were out yesterday evening and were accompanied all the way home by ominous flashes of lightning. I was concerned to make it home before the torrential downpours started, but none came. Instead we oozed and slithered our way home through the hot and humid evening with one eye on the road ahead and one eye on the menacing heavens.

This morning it's emptying down. Torrential downpours. The monsoon season. No storm. Just RAIN.

It's very refreshing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Bordeaux Summer

 If the English summer can be defined as two nice days and a thunderstorm, then the Bordeaux summer largely consists of perhaps 30 English summers repeated from about July to September. Thunderstorms provide much entertainment but they are also the bane of our lives.

Yesterday at about 6 Patricia announced that the newspaper said the Bordeaux parks would close at 8pm because of the impending storm. So at about 7 or so we went out and prepared the balcony. This involves turning a wooden bench and table upside down and moving all our plants to the shelter of the windward wall. The wind strikes the wall and the plants are sheltered on the other side. I originally left our splendid little passionflower cutting on the balcony wall where it was starting to cling to the balcony railings, promising ravishing flowers perhaps next year, but I had to think again and move it when the wind started whipping it about like a freed garden hose.

The storm struck at 8 and was the fully garnished kind - wind, lightning, thunder and, briefly, torrential rain. It was relatively calm when we went to bed, but at about 4am we were woken again by thunder and wave upon wave of tighning passing overhead. The balcony was as prepared as it can be so we wer efree of concern, but we still heard ominous metallic noises coming from somewhere in the building site that is the future Jardins de l'Ars. 

Today the storm alert is still in force but it is calm and, thankfully, cooler. Last night the temperature never dropped below about 22°C and though we had our windows open and the shutter slits open, not much air passes through even with stormy winds. 

Still, we may be at the end of this current heatwave. Some cooler evenings will be very welcome!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Linguistic adventures

Covid-19, lockdown (UK), confinement (FR) and sheltering in place (US) as well as the Zoom-boom, YouTube and Facebook live services have had various effects. 

For one thing life has become busier. While travel is been curtailed, instead we can attend things virtually and so be in two places at one time. So a couple of weeks ago we attended the Keswick Convention's addresses from Christopher Ash on the Psalms in the morning, UFM's Summer Conference in the afternoon then did our own work in the evening. 

We can also visit churches virtually. I think I mentioned how the first Sunday of UK lockdown I realised that I could attend several UK churches on the same day as well as our service here if I got the timings right. I only did that once.

We've also had great support from various agencies. Our Mission held online prayer meetings each week and the Evangelical Movement of Wales also holds weekly meetings to inform and encourage people.

On Sundays I get a happy list of notifications from churches across the UK and France, and some in the USA, whose services are being streamed. Two stand out from this week. 

The first is a friend I've never met, a US worker in Spain who is working to start a presbyterian church in Toledo. We got in contact when he planned to stop over at our church service on his way through France but the timings didn't work at all.  This week I saw that his service was online on YouTube, so I watched for a while - and discovered hymns and songs in Spanish. I don't think I'd ever sung a song or a hymn in Spanish, apart from la bamba and la cucaracha, of course.

The second was yesterday. I spotted that a man I heard once giving a talk on Welsh church history in our county of Flintshire (I think) was preaching online for the Welsh church in Mold. He's a fine chap, so I thought I'd listen in. I was relieved to find that I can still understand Spanish and Welsh. Welsh more easily than Spanish.

There is a cost to this though. Normally, in order to attend different things you have to leave other things behind. You travel to Keswick and you're only there. You travel to the mission conference and you're only there. You visit a church and you're not at any other church.

At present we can flip from one thing to another and be present in lots of different places and it isn't necessarily very helpful! I've become more forgetful than usual, even with the help of rigourous computer diary-keeping. It only works if you remember to look at it!

Not only that but it makes you busier and more immobile than usual. Your soul gets fettered to your office stool and you lose the brain down time that travelling imposes on you.

So we're taking a break. For three Sundays other guys are preaching in Bordeaux and our online participation will  be minimal. As little as we can reasonably make it. We can't go away for three weeks, but we can lie low.

We have been able to go away on holiday, but now that we're meeting physically again I am reluctant to be away on a Sunday. Still we spent four nights in Biarritz and Pat went to San Sebastian with our friend Sally. Soon we plan to spend a short week in a gîte in the countryside with friends from the choir.

I hope to get down to some proper reading again. I have a big backlog! And some books in Welsh to read.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Keswick, Hothorpe Hall and the rive droite

This week is the week of the Keswick Convention and also of the UFM Summer Conference normally held at Hothorpe Hall in Leicestershire. This year both have gone online, as did the Bala Ministers' Conference in June and the Evangelical Ministry Assembly, also held in June.

The advantage of this is that I have been able to attend at least parts of all four conferences.  The disadvantages include that we don't get to go away, we miss out on all the informal conversations and we have to fit work in around everything. Makes life busy! Busy but blest.

Meanwhile we continue to meet on Sundays, masked and distanced. It's OK, but only because we hope for a better future! After the service we adjourn to the local park where there is an ice-cream kiosk and we sit and chat under the trees.

We're currently allowed up to 10 people in a home at any one time. When we get together in homes we are careful to wash our hands on arrival and to avoid touching each other. It's all a bit distant.

And this amidst successive heatwaves. Today we're in the high thirties. Pat spent her day in the bookshop. I spent my day at my desk. Keswick continues all week. UFM finished yesterday, so this afternoon was a catch-up time getting ready for the weekend.

On Saturday morning I have a mini-message to give for our sending church in North Wales, then the Company of the Preachers is meeting here to work on Colossians 2. Afterwards it's all hands to the pumps ready for Sunday afternoon in the latter part of Colossians 1.

Next week Pat and Sally are due to spend a few days in San Sebastian as a farewell outing. I'll have rather too much peace and quiet. I might be able to check out some of the new cafés that have opened recently!

Monday, July 20, 2020

We're havin' a canicule... a tropical canicule... the temperature's risin', it's hardly surprisin'

A heatwave in France is a canicule, and is defined as a period of three days or more where the temperature does not fall below 20°C, even at night. And that's what we've got just now.

It isn't THAT hot, to be honest. Today it's been at 34°C and we've certainly known 38°C in the past - Patricia is sure it has got to 40°C - but it's unrelenting. The sun is very strong. There's no cloud cover. 

You get up and it's hot, you go to bed and it's hot. 
We have fans on all over the flat, our windows closed and the shutters down, and it's hot.

First thing in the morning I run around opening all the shutters and windows to change the air in the flat, but by 9 or 10 everything has to be closed again against the heat.

The government puts up posters telling you to drink enough. You need to drink lots of water.
The posters remind you to eat enough. The temptation is to not eat, but if you don't you don't replace the salts you lose through perspiration.
The posters also tell you to avoid physical effort. Everyone moves slowly. 

The temptation to stay in your flat and not move is strong, but we think you need to get out, so we go to walk under the trees. The refrigerated sections of supermarkets are also very pleasant, as are air-conditioned shops and libraries.

The canicule is forecast to end on Thursday with temperatures under 30 for next weekend.


Friday, July 17, 2020

At the hospital

I'd never been the the centre for hepato-gastro-enterological surgery before, so I let Waze guide me. Big mistake. It told me to take two entrances that were gated and locked - I can't imagine what the driver of the van behind was thinking, thankfully he didn't tell me - and once in the hospital complex it had me driving round in all directions. Eventually I saw a building that looked like the one on the map I'd looked at previously so I parked near it and went inside.

Incidentally this hospital has a beautiful free car park and also a nature trail through its grounds. Maybe a idea for another time.

In France you go to the main reception, take a number, wait to be called and they enter you into the hospital database. Then they tell you where to go. Everywhere is colour coded. Even the reception desks. I stared intently trying to distinguish the yellow and the green, the blue and the violet. Anyway when my number came up I chanced upon the correct desk. "Go to the orange waiting room" said the guy. "I'm colour blind", I said. "OK, waiting room number 4, it's the second one you come to on the left." I found it easily.

I waited in the waiting room. It seemed the right thing to do. I was very early, as usual. I could see the door with my doctor's name on it. Other doors opened and closed, people came and went, but my doctor's door never moved.

A lady came in concerned that she was not getting her fibroscopie. She discussed with the reception desk. "Look, it's the right date". It was, but it wasn't in the system. Some more discussion ensued, then she got another date that suited her and went away happy. 

I wondered what a fibroscopie is. Whatever it is, they had a room for it, or at least a door labelled "Fibroscopie".

Eventually at about 4 the door opened and two people came out, one obviously a doctor. There followed some to-ing and fro-ing and scuttling about, then a moment of calm, then "M. Davey"

I went in. She started at the very beginning. Checked pretty much everything there was to check. Then said, "So, it will be a colonoscopy. This is what is entailed (ha - geddit? en-tailed !), these are the risks, this is what you need to do, and this is when it will take place."

I said, "In England there's no general anaesthetic. They give you a cup of tea, then hop!"

"Yes, in France we do a lot of anaesthesia."

So my appointment with the anaesthetist is for the 29 September. The colonoscopy will follow between 3 days and three months after that appointment assuming the anaesthetist is happy.

To prepare I have to eat a low residue diet for a few days, then use a preparation called "Moviprep" (I laughed) for the la purge. "Vous allez passer une nuit ... perturbée !" said the doctor, somewhat too cheerfully for my taste.

I thanked her, we said goodbye, but did not shake hands, and off I went to read the many sheets of A4 she'd printed off for me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

First an apology

As I come out of the pain and fatigue filled torture chamber of a weekend I feel immediately that I owe you an apology, gentle reader, for some IMMODERATE LANGUAGE in the last blog entry. Specifically when I may have appeared to threaten to give my doctor a slap for prescribing the vaccinations that plunged me into the gulf of hopelessness. It wasn't meant as a threat; merely an observation of the temptations to which I was prey.

Anyway after a weekend in the crypt of despair I at last feel that I am emerging into the sunny plains once more. Yesterday Mrs Davey and I even attempted a visit to a promising pizzeria not far from our house - alas too far for even the lure of a proper italian pizza to coax me onwards - we ditched and bought a French one from the nearest supermarket instead.

French food is excellent. Even the bad stuff is good. It really is. But like, I suspect, every nation under the saun, the French pizzaïolo has adapted the sublime staple of Neapolitan peasants to make it a sumptuous treat for the bourgeois Bordelais. 

So the thin and crispy economical crust? Thick, with big bubbles and moelleux - moist.

Toppings? Juicy and luscious, gooey with emmental and rich with duck breast, potatoes, apple and truffles.

Pizza is always good, but that one time I tasted a genuine italian pizza has made my whole pizza experience like searching for the holy grail and finding a cup of builder's tea in a chipped mug in a cafe on the Old Kent Road. Wonderful, ecstatic even, but not quite the same.

Where was I?

Anyway, I'm feeling better. But on Thursday I have an appointent to arrange another of my doctor's bright ideas - an internal examination by camera to seek and destroy any budding cancers that might conceivably be lurking in my innards.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Ee I am vexed

I feel ill-disposed towards my doctor just now. If she were here right now I'd be sorely tempted to give her a good slap.

The thing is, she's decided that it's her responsibility to keep me alive and in the best health possible for as long as she can. Which this week meant anti-pneumonia vaccinations. Two. One in each arm.

There's a nurses' surgery right opposite our pharmacy so on Wednesday when I picked up my anti-histamines I popped in to make an appointment. Thursday at 4. I knew the pharmacy had the vaccines in stock so all I had to was pop in the pharmacy first, get myself well-stabbed and voilà, it's all sorted. Ha! Poor ignorant sap!

So at 15:40 precisely I left the house. At approximately 15:48 I arrived at the pharmacy and said, "Could I have the vaccines, please?" 

Well, this being France, I said, "Good day, it's for the vaccines."

"Good day. Do you have an appointment with the nurse?"

"Yes. At 16 hours."

"OK, so will you being going home first?"

"Um, no, it's right opposite."

"Silly me, I didn't realise it was 16 hours."

We laughed, I picked up the vaccines and skipped off to see the nurse. After a few minutes he arrived on his motorcycle.

"Have I seen you before?" he said.

"I don't know. Last year a nurse here took out my stitches after an operation. He was on a motorcycle, too, but I don't think it was you."

"No, that was my colleague."

An injection in each arm. I wasn't sure it was necessary for the nurse to show me the length of the needle before driving it into my upper arm, but there we are. 

I went home and that was that.


Friday morning I had a meeting with two of our likely lads to plan a day of evangelism. We met in a new-to-me coffee shop. It is adorable! Good coffee and a sublime terrace with little tables under the trees - the essence of France, but in the wrong place. It's way up by the fire station where I never ever go! Pity.

Afterwards we met some of the other for lunch in our friend Grace's café near the church. They had a special menu on with really good burgers. Some others were going to join us afterwards for a coffee, but Grace's place was really full with huge queues, so we went to our third coffee shop fo the day!

And that's when it started. We were sat drinking our iced coffee when I realised I had sweat trickling down the back of my neck. I felt OK, but I was sweating profusely, so much so that I decided to high-tail it home. The cool tram helped and it was not crowded. I had a early night and slept better than usual.

Notwithstanding all this rest today, Saturday, I have felt absolutely exhausted all day. We had folk round for lunch, but after lunch I sneaked away and eventually went to bed.

Pat looked up possible reactions to pneumonia vaccinations on the interweb. "Fatigue, sweats, muscle pains, aching joints, 'flu like symptoms".

Rotten doctor! I bet I wouldn't even have got pneumonia anyway! 

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

If it ducks like a quack

My six-monthly doctor's appointment fell this morning. I got the 8:30 slot and someone was already in with her before me, so I went in on time and was out by 8:41. Ace. It means leaving the house at 7:30, but the tram takes me to within a 15 minute walk of her surgery, past building sites and car dealerships.

She pronounced herself content with everything, wants me to get vaccinated against pneumonia (to ward off the old man's friend?), to get blood tests done again and we chatted about confinement, trams, masks and stuff.

Monday, July 06, 2020

A night at the opera

At the weekend the Opera National de Bordeaux Aquitaine held a series of free concerts - at lunchtime performances of Peter and the Wolf, at tea-time some dance and then in the evening the Fauré Requiem, some movements from Beethoven symphonies and a couple of arias from Florian Sempey. We went along for the evening.

Marc Minkowski opened proceedings explaining the rules for entry and exit and telling us we could remove our masks while seated. (Hurrah!). Salvatore Caputo, the charismatic chorus master, introduced and conducted the Fauré, then gave place to the Musical Director, Paul Daniel, to conduct the rest of the programme. 

The concerts were held in the amphitheatre that is formed by the Eglise Sainte Croix and the Conservatory, the Square Dom Bedos, as a tribute to the healthworkers "who gave their lives to save ours". The sound is surprisingly good, especially with some amplification. All sang well - we had some lovely moments in the Fauré, an excellent time with M. Sempey and the Beethoven.

I'm usually too slow off the mark to get tickets, and sure enough, on Wednesday when the tickets went on sale I was busy with someone and something important. But when I looked later there were still seats. Not only that but we were told that many people reserve places but then don't turn up - so there was plenty of space.


When bank robbers go to church

So we were back together yesterday.

The brethren have removed all the cushions from the benches and arranged them a meter apart for proper physical distancing. They have done all the hard work of putting up signs, indicating the capacity of the room, organising one entry and one exit and so on.

We arranged to meet up early to disinfect - I got confused about times and so we arrived 30 minutes apart - oops - but we swiftly disinfected the varnish off the benches and remembered the door handles, light switches and so on.

Even though everyone was masked, it was great worshipping with the windows and doors wide open to get air through the place. I am told that if the preacher is 10 feet from the nearest person he can preach without a mask, but I would not have felt comfortable being the only unveiled person in the church so I persevered with it. It's tiring.

Afterwards we cleared up and locked up and went to the local park where we sat in a circle, ate ice-cream and sang unmasked.


Friday, July 03, 2020

Living near the river

has advantages and inconveniences.

One inconvenience is the way that mayflies, having completed their complicated journey through the stages of life and accomplished their great task of perpetuating the species, seek refuge in our living room where their ultimate ambition is to go towards the light of our beautiful white ceiling, there to expire - and remain - all dry and light and insubstantial and as permanent as the river, stuck forever to its emulsioned brilliance.

So this morning I had to find the right implement to sweep them all off. There must have been about 20 of them as well as one small living fly who wondered why I was persecuting him as I incessantly poked him from his resting places. The mayflies float down, gossamer flecks of down, and disappear on the dark tiled floor where we hoover them up.

Monday, June 29, 2020

A vast green wave is covering France

Anyway it's not my fault. I don't have a vote.

Well M. Juppé was in Bordeaux yesterday evening to see how things went for the elections to the municipal council and therefore for the post of mayor. I wasn't sure M. Juppé had handled things as well as he could - he was asked in an interview whether there were any possible successors to him in his team, and he said none that he could see. Some short months later he had the call-up to the consitutional council and Nicolas Florian from his team became his successor.

One of the first things M. Florian did was to put his photo on lots of billboards in the city, so we would know what he looked like. France does accord glory to its more illustrious citizens, but it has issues with citizens assuming glory, so these posters were not terribly popular. But things went basically OK.

Then came coronavirus, bringing a deliciously quiet city. Once shops reopened the town hall arranged free parking at Quinconces to encourage trade. They also put on an open air drive-in cinema session. Recent developments to the road system notoriously neglect bicycles, but we're encouraged to walk or cycle in order to take pressure off the public transport system.

Meanwhile France is taking global warming seriously. Locavore food, produced nearby, is very popular. Vegetarian and vegan cafés spring up everywhere. 

So it was that after 72 years, the right has lost control of Bordeaux's town hall, passing control to the greens. We have a new mayor, who's a 65-year-old lawyer who lives in the Saint-Genès area, works near the town hall and gets round the city mostly by walking. It will be interesting to see what changes this brings to the city.

M. Juppé, shod in rather funky trainers, expressed his sadness. "That's politics. A vast green wave is covering France."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Tiger mosquito !

It's been a rather hectic week, but hey, we got through it! One evening I managed to get myself triple-booked, with family quiz, first-time-back choir rehearsal and speaking for a UK CU. That kind of week.

So yesterday I suggested that we take a moment to go out for lunch somewhere. We live in a city of cafés and restaurants, some of which are quite affordable. Why not?

Our next zoom call was scheduled for 2pm, so we needed to keep it close to home. There's a really good organic and local produce pizza place near the station - really good pizzas. There's several places we've never been. Oh yes, and there's that new chicken place - Chicko-so - that just opened. We decided to go and see.

It's a fast-food style place with a couple of tables outside and lots inside. The idea is that you choose your meal from a kind of table of options :

 Chicken     Accompaniment Sauce Dessert     Drink
 Roast chicken Caesar salad Pesto Pineapple Water
 Chicken drumsticks Rice Peanut Fruit salad Coke
 Chicken in breadcrumbs Fries etc. etc. etc.

You get the idea. The base price is 9,80€ or 11,80 if you include a dessert.

We made our order, took our alarm puck (it buzzes when your meal is ready to collect from the kitchen hatch) and sat at an outside table. Almost immediately we were surrounded by mosquitos. At lunchtime!

We decided to retreat indoors. "Good idea" thought the mosquitos and came with us. We could see them happily hunting all round the restaurant. One settled on my elbow. I squashed it, but I still have the lump. Another must have got me on the knuckle.

When we collected our meals we moved again, to a table right in the middle of the restaurant and there we were troubled less.

It is unusual for ordinary mosquitos to attack in the daytime, but Bordeaux is increasingly prey to the tiger mosquito which is more agressive, attacks at any time and also can carry serious diseases.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


We downloaded and activited our StopCovid apps on our phones a while ago. I forget what date it became available but as good citizens we got it straight away. So far 14 people in France have been alerted that they have been in close contact for 15 minutes or more with someone who has tested positive to covid-19. I am hoping that means the app works well and the virus is rare.

Meanwhile Bordeaux has been doing free screening for people who are especially vulnerable. Today is the last day they'll be doing this, and we understood that we could be screened too if we went to Place Meunier. However this would entail queuing up in 31°C under a cloudless sky to have an extra long cotton bud stuffed up your nose, so we reluctantly decided to forego it. Anyway in all the screening nobody at all has tested positive.

Regarding the churches we are feeling a little frustrated, but also ... resigned?

Cinemas and concert halls can now open. People must be masked while taking their seats. People or groups of people must be separated by one empty seat. Otherwise all is fine.

However churches must allow 4 square metres per person, congregants must be masked at all times, one way systems must be devised to stop people's paths crossing and all surfaces must be disinfected before people arrive.

To be fair to the government, churches have generated a number of clusters of infection, from ordinary Sunday meetings to a cluster originating from a funeral.

I suspect that one big difference is singing. When you sing you breathe more deeply and exhale more strongly so droplet infection is more likely.

Incidentally, it's la covid-19 and le coronavirus. The Académie made a ruling on it.

Friday, June 19, 2020


Despite further deconfinement churches still must allow 4m2 per person, wear masks all through the meeting, avoid eating, drinking or "attroupements" and disinfect all surfaces liable to be touched...

Since attroupements are an important part of what we do, and the thought of singing and preaching in a mask is unattractive (that is not an invtation for unkind jokes!) we will carry on meeting online.

We are building a community, not an audience, and starting a church, not a ministry, so zoom suits us best.

However we understand that the government are expected to revise the directives for churches etc with new guidelines appearing on the 22nd of June, so we're waiting with bated breath.

At the same time, we're now entering the sunlight zone of July and August, when the holiday spirit siezes the entire nation and we practice a kind of compulsive transhumance, the July people flooding down from gloomy Parisian regions to the radiant south during the first weekends of July, only to return just when the August people are rushing down like a innumerable herd of giant tortoises causing the notorious "black weekends" of journées croisées, where immovable objects and irresistible forces meet all across the centre of France.

Enfin bref, we probably won't meet in our building on Sunday till September.

A long and laborious trip to Ikea

Tram C leaves from about 400 yards from our home and arrives about 500 yards from Ikea, so for small errands we can quite adequately go by tram. We needed 6 new dinner plates after the incident that shall not be mentioned, when half our everyday dinner plates went in all directions instead of into the dresser. Our current plates were a natty rich brown and a beige colour. Ikea continue to do the same plates, but not in the same colours.

So off I set with my rucksack for the plates and the inevitable batteries and wires that I would purchase, and a large Ikea blue bag for cushions and any other treasures I would purloin.

I checked the time when setting off and when arriving. About 45 minutes. You wouldn't do it much faster in a car. The biggest irritation is the need to wear your mask in the tram. Masks keep you very warm. Very warm indeed.

I found a trolley and set off into the interior. "You can't take a trolley upstairs." said the helpful security man on the door. "I'm staying downstairs", I reassured him, and entered the impenetrable maze, trying to ignore the signs saying things like "Have you said a last farewell to your loved ones?" "Does anyone know where you are in case of disappearance?" and "Set your phone to traceable".

You enter the ground floor by the checkouts and plunge into the dense undergrowth of the houseplant department. I knew there was a shortcut from there into the tableware section, but the door I found took me into lighting. Still, I needed wires so I noted where they were, then hunted for another door that would take me to tableware. What about that one? Ah no, storage. There was a plan hanging from the ceiling. It looked like the plan of a bus line and shows you where on your journey you are without detailing any of the twists and turns that got you in or that would, hopefully, get you out.

Some intense gazing enabled me to see where on the line I was and where I needed to go for tableware. I followed the arrows - backwards - does it count as following if it's backwards? I defied the arrows systematically and stubbornly until a mass of pots and pans announced my imminent arrival at tableware. Now, those plates...

You identify the exact type of plate by the name displayed - Gūttrøtt, or something similar. I spotted three colours - a pale blue, a dark colour that might have conceivably been brown and a pale colour that could have been anything really. Well pale blue would be no good, so I took 3 of each of the others.


No then, those wires. I got the cables I wanted and some batteries, and a good quality loudspeaker and almost bought a cajon, but instead took photos of it so our cajonistas could weight it up, then hied me off to find the cushions. Pat needed cushions. Firm ones. Most of the square cushions seemed rather flaccid to me, so I chose some small bolster style cushions and headed for the exit, back through the Amazonia section. It was there that I fell head over heels in love with a beautiful, dusky sanseveria. These robust plants have an invincible will to live and come in so many shades and - now - shapes. I could find no price, but any price was worth paying for this beauty - I had to have it! (Well, any prise that Ikea are likely to charge for a medium sized houseplant...)

The fast tills are for those with up to 15 items. I counted mine. The houseplant was number 16. Oh, alas! I would have to go to a slow, manned till with a physically distanced queue.

Physically distanced queues are something new and daunting. There can be hardly anyone waiting but the queue stretches far out of sight. I was bahind a young couple buying large and heavy garden furniture and in front of a young chap buying some chocolate. Did he not know about the fast tills? Anyway I showed him how slow a slow till could really get, taking ages to sort out what went in which bag and making sure my houseplant could not be crushed.

Ikea blue bags are carefully designed so that if I carry them by the short handles all my purchases get crushed (NOOOO!!!!!!!!!) and if I carry them by the long handles the bag bounces on the floor as I walk.

Fine. Bounce then.

One nice thing about our tram journey is that I was pretty sure of getting a seat. I waited happily, listening to Emma Kirkby singing arie antiche, until everyone started leaving the tram stop. There was a breakdown all along line C. The city transport app insisted I take tram C, but I knew that bus 15 to Victoire, followed by bus 11 would get me home just as well, though m-u-c-h slower. There would be buses of relay, but they were being put in place. That could take a while.

Without further ado - there has been plenty of ado so far, has there not - my journey home took twice as long, but now the plates are getting their first wash, the cushions are supporting the wifely back, the speaker has blasted out a brief moment of Bartlett and the sanseveria is sitting with his cousins on the balcony after getting a good watering.

Saturday, June 13, 2020


It is possible to travel in France now so we took the opportunity to rent an AirBnb and get some train tickets to Biarritz. My doctor said I can do whatever I like as long as I stay in Aquitaine. Biarritz is in Aquitaine. There we are.

We travelled at lunchtime on Monday and came back yesterday. We enjoyed mainly good weather - we had one day of persistent rain when we stayed inside, read and watched films. Otherwise it was the usual Davey holiday of forced marches round the town.

We found a splendid eating place in Bayonne - a mexican restaurant where we were served excellent food by the charming your proprietor. Biarritz is a classy seaside place and though we found affordable places to eat nothing stood out to us as special.

Our AirBnB was a small basement flat in a secure mansion of apartments where the neighbours drove Porsches and Bentleys. It was great. It had everything we needed, including a comfortable bed and a sofa. It was good to get away, but now we have a busy weekend ahead!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

What a difference a week makes!

Well there we are.

A little while ago the church could not meet, and what's more, even if it could I couldn't meet with it.
The choir could not rehearse, and even if it could, I could not rehearse with it.
We could travel up to 100km and even stay overnight, but no cafés or restaurants would be open.
Everything was somewhat difficult.

Now we can meet as churches and I am allowed to go, too!

However, we do have to wear masks for the whole duration of the service, removing them briefly for the purposes of the Lord's Supper, we have to disinfect all the surfaces, we have to ventilate the church well, we must stay always 1 meter apart,  but we can do everything else we usually do.

And I can do it too.

Now choirs can meet, observing physical distancing, and can sing, faces masked.

And I can meet with them. (I think I probably won't until September, just to be doubly certain.)

Also we can travel anywhere in France. Soon we might even be able to cross into Spain.

In Aquitaine, our region, yesterday over 2500 peolpe were tested for coronavirus, everyone was symptomatic. There were 10 positive cases identified. In Bordeaux itself 800 people were tested - all were symptomatic. None of the tests were positive. The numbers in hospital are falling. Fewer than 40 people are in intensive care for covid-19 in the whole region.

From Tuesday cafés, bars and restaurants can open, keeping physical distancing. Tables are being hastily rearranged and where possible the town hall has given extra space for outside seating. Clients can be unmasked but staff must wear masks. Spare a thought for them. Masks make you feel very hot, and kitchens are already pretty hot and humid.

Concert halls can open from Tuesday.

From 22nd June our cinemas will be open.

There is every prospect that from September life will look more like before.

Some things will probably change permanently, at least until the good weather ends. More people on bicycles. Fewer people in the public transport.

People ask whether we will forget how we used to greet each other. I doubt it.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Worse things happen in Troas

I can do tech. I can. And I can do church. But mix tech and church and I set off like Scott of the Antarctic to explore new regions of chaos where never foot trod and never finger prod.

Last night it was the mute/unmute button in zoom. Sometimes I could see it but not poke it. No cursor! I poked, slid, woggled, nothing!

Notably this was for the songs. So instead of muting myself like any normal human being would I had to pretend to be muted, miming a heart-felt rendition of ‘Before the throne’.

At the end of the service I said “Jean-Sam pray for us”, and reverently bowed my head. After a moment wherein he was obviously gathering his thoughts there came the clamour, “Alan, what’s happening now? Alan, you’re muted.”. I unmuted and said with all the aplomb i could muster, “Jean-Sam pray for us”.

Oh well, worse things happen in Troas. Our passage was Acts 20:1-12, where we meet the singularly hapless Eutychus.

We discussed the government’s somewhat reluctant permission to conduct services. Here’s the conditions, some from the government document, some from the CNEF guidelines.

All 1m apart.
All wear masks at all times.
Hand gel on entry.
Disinfect and ventilate the place between services unless there’s a 5 hour gap.
Establish a one way system so people are not squeezing past each other.
No “attroupements” (no hanging around in groups)
You can take your mask off for a moment to accomplish a rite (they’re thinking of eating a wafer)
Obviously, no coffee, no larking about, no tickling children, no hugs or high fives.

About half of us are not comfortable with travelling on public transport just now, and about half of us live too far from the church to walk or cycle. Very few of us have cars. We’re so green! About a quarter of us are in some way “vulnerable”. So we could muster perhaps half our number in the building.

We discussed live-streaming the service. There’s no internet in the building we use, so we would need a sizable data plan on a mobile phone. That’s doable, and we would live-stream to YouTube.

However none of this takes us back to where we were before confinement.
Attroupements is part of it for us. It’s what we do, it’s who we are.
And life on Zoom, for all its clumsiness and ineptitude, seems preferable to the masked distance and YouTube.

So for the moment we’re staying as we are on Sundays.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

What a palaver!

Well the Conseil d'Etat (whatever that is) told the government that their ban on religious ceremonies was too restrictive and gave them 8 days to lift the ban and issue guidelines to follow.

So yesterday the government issued a décret authorising religious ceremonies once more under the following conditions :

1) physical distancing of 1m to be respected
2) 1 person per 4m2 of space
3) surfaces, doorknobs etc. to be disinfected before the ceremony
4) a one way system and people in charge to ensure no "attroupements" (gatherings)
5) all to wear masks (masks can be briefly removed if the rite demands it)
6) hand gel at the entrance

You can see that they have the Roman Catholic mass in mind, where it's you, the priest and the bread, and you're broadly happy to come, commune and go.

In our churches "attroupement" is part of the whole deal, so we may even decide to continue as we are until September, or until conditions allow a more normal meeting style.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The cat and the pigeons

This phase of deconfinement, if all goes well, will last until the 2nd of June. On 25 May the Prime Minister should outline the details of the next phase, what further freedoms will be permitted, what risks seem reasonable, what activities can be resumed and under what conditions.

It is in this speech of 25 May that we expect cafés to be allowed to reopen, along with places of worship, under guidelines to be published to be adopted from 2nd June.

However, Pentecost falls on 31st May, and the Roman Catholic Church would dearly love to open for worship for Pentecost.

This is the background to a decision by the Conseil d'Etat published yesterday that the measures forbidding public worship are to restrictive and that guidelines should be issued so that churches can resume public worship from 25th May, a whole week earlier, which would allow mass at Pentecost.

Many catholic churches are very large and would permit people to be spread out widely. This is not always the case with the protestant churches. We await guidelines to see whether we can safely meet.

Meanwhile I had better book an appointment with my doctor before the 25 May so I can know whether I can be allowed to mix or not.


Some years ago Mrs Davey concluded that she didn't really need a laptop and that an iPad would be just as good for her. This has indeed proved to be the case.

At that time we had a family computer, a 2012 Mac mini, in our living room. When we moved to the bigger flat and I got an office we concluded that we didn't need a family computer - a large screen with a Chromecast plugged in would do just as well. So the Mac mini has become my office computer, in place of my 2015 Macbook pro. Since then I have used my Macbook pro as a portable computer to use in coffee shops and for projection in meetings etc.

We've upgraded the Mac mini over the years. It has an ssd instead of the original slow hard drive, and I boosted the memory to 16gb. Despite the fact that it is essentially an eight-year old computer it does pretty well everything I need it to and it has a nice big screen for doing analysis of Bible passages. Its biggest weakness is that it doesn't have a webcam, so for zoom I have to use my laptop.

However, I'm coming to the conclusion that for me, too, a laptop is not necessary. Now that I have the Mac mini in my office, everything I do in other rooms of the house could work perfectly well on an iPad. Not only that, but in terms of performance for cost, iPads are excellent value. They're easy to carry around. They also have very good webcams, while most laptops have dreadful ones, including my Macbook.

In the late 1990s, early 2000s the move started from desktop computers to laptops. Many of us were sceptical. The screens were too small and not as easy to use. They were heavy and awkward and you couldn't get in a good position to work.

Now most people thinking of buying a computer think of a laptop. They're convenient. You don't need a dedicated worktop for them. If you want to spread papers all over your desk you can. You can take your work wherever you want to.

Now I think we're slowly moving to tablets. They're even more convenient. Lighter. More powerful. More economical.

And the thing that I find most helpful about the iPad is this - they help you focus on one thing. Rather than having lots of windows open and flitting from program to program, they encourage you to choose what one thing you're doing and to do that.

When the time comes to change my laptop I can't see me getting another.

A brighter week in store

I'm feeling brighter this week and the reason is pretty superficial - the weather is good! But it's not just that. Also I have a less frantic week in terms of zoom meetings.

Yesterday we made a little trip to Lidl together. During confinement we never went out together at all. Now in phase 1 of deconfinement we can do that, so we summoned up all our courage and hied us away to Lidl in search of goodly fare. Generally all was well but they had no porage oats so I have to shuffle off elsewhere later, bringing a moral dilemma - do I go to our nearest supermarket or do I deliberately go to the further one just so I get to walk further. I think we all know the answer...

Here's some photos of the nature in town.

Friday, May 15, 2020

At the quincaillerie

One of the downsides of our flat is that quite a lot of the fixtures and fittings are not of the best quality. The windows are fine, thankfully, but I'll be surprised if the sink unit lasts 10 years. It's the cheapest tat you find in the least prestigious diy shops, and was installed with the corresponding level of care. So our Heath Robinson system of outpipes under the sink is leaking a little. I took off the trap and cleaned it out and put it back and screwed it as tight as possible, but the leak isn't coming from the trap. It's coming from some of the other joints.

One good way of making these joints good is to use a little PTFE tape. It actually helps you screw the fittings together, but it also fills the threads and stops leaks. It's great. But the hardware stores were closed during confinement. Then they opened the out of town ones. Ha! They're no good to townies like us! But now the ones in town are open.

I went in to one of my favourites. They made me have a little trolley so they could count the people in store, checked I had my mask on and had gelled my hands. I happily gazed at the bits and bobs, thinking of all the great things I could do if I had half an idea. I found the plumbing area and a pleasant chap came shooting up to help.

Bonjour monsieur, est-ce que je peux vous aider ?

Bonjour. Oui, je ne sais pas comment ça s'appelle en français mais en Angleterre c'est du ruban PTFE. (tapes in France are usually called rubans, so I hazarded a guess)

Voilà, chez nous ça s'appelle du teflon.

Out in the city once more

A tough week

It's been a tough week.

For one thing I've had LOTS of meetings by zoom or varying kinds. Some have been very helpful. Others have been demanding. All have been important. These have included :

1) A doctrine day on the incarnation run by the Pastors' Academy. First time for me to attend an event of this kind and it was very stimulating.

2) A conference run by a new group of presbyterians in the UK called Gospel Reformation UK. It involved three addresses, by Kevin deYoung, by Garry Williams and by Jonty Rhodes. Again, this was stimulating and helpful

3) The CNEF33 pastorale designed to share issues relating to confinement and more urgently to deconfinement. We adapted quickly and well to confinement. Preparing for deconfinement and adapting to its demands is like to be far more difficult.

The national CNEF group is proving to be very helpful, producing succinct advice for churches like, "holding house groups during this period is strongly discouraged".

Add in the prayer meetings and so on, and the weekend will be busy with lots of zoom and facebook live (my bête noire). Still. By Sunday evening the week will be over and on Monday maybe we can go exploring.

Then some individual contacts have been challenging emotionally for a variety of reasons that I won't go into.

We moved Catrin back into her own flat. We'll still see quite a bit of her, though, until she gets wifi installed because she spends a LOT of time online for teaching and for her church work.

And then I'm wrestling with my status of a "vulnerable person", which means I should avoid choral singing and church meetings until things change. Asthma means that when I get a repiratory tract infection my lungs remain irritated for weeks on end. For years I believed I was getting chest infections, but slowly the doctors convinced me that it was just me and the way my lungs work.

We've had good news, too, of my sister's health being much better, and we've been out to explore the city, together, for the first time in months.

Weeks like this come and go. Next week will be different.

Friday, May 08, 2020

French Evangelical losses to covid-19

According to surveys done by the CNEF, French evangelical churches have lost 72 people to covid-19, including 31 from the church that became the centre of a cluster in Mulhouse.

Blasted gourds!

With our new status as "vulnerable persons" come some consequences.

1) We're not likely to be allowed to go to church. (yes, you read that correctly)

2) We're not likely to be allowed to sing in choirs, especially since choral singing in lethal, according to the Gospel Coalition.

Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I frown.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020


We've received our Bordeaux Municipal face-masks, made of what seems like slightly shiny, close-woven poly-cotton. It's actually fairly tough to breathe through!

The idea is that you wear once for up to four hours, then wash it at 60°C.

You must not take a mask off and put it back on.

That means that sometimes you'll need multiple masks to get you through the day, and some way of carrying supposedly contaminated masks home to wash them.

The alternative is to wear disposable paper masks like surgeons do in hospital. The shops are selling them at about 95c each. But you can make a serviceable alternative.

 You need two sheets of kitchen paper, a paper handkerchief and a stapler. Also some rubber bands or a length of string that will go round your head one and a half times.

Put the kitchen paper on your work-surface and fold it into three lengthways.

Open up the two sheets and pop a folded paper handkerchief between them.

Take the bottom "third" and fold it back on itself. Do the same with the top.

Turn your assembly over. Fold over the ends and either 1) staple a rubber band into the fold or 2) leave a loop big enough to feed your string through.


OK, I've got my favourite recipe. It's for a no-knead "turbo" bread.

In a large bowl (in France once uses a salad bowl) put 1 1/2 cups of hand-hot water and a good spoonful of yeast. Add 3 cups of flour and mix till all the flour is incorporated.

Cover the bowl with cling-film and put in a warm place to prove for two to four hours, till it's well risen.

De-gas the dough by poking it vigorously with a spoon or spatula and turn it into a bread pan.

Cover the bread-pan with cling-film and put in a warm place to prove for up to an hour.

Once you see the dough is rising well preheat the oven to its hottest setting.

Once the dough and oven are ready, place a tin of water in the bottom of the oven and the dough on its shelf, then turn the oven down to 200°C and bake for forty minutes.

Voilà !

C'est ça

After a couple of fruitless attempts to get to talk to my doctor (10am. Ah no, she's with a patient, try at 11:45. 11:45 phone rings endlessly.) I decided to check at the pharmacy. So in I goes with my prescription. The pharmacist gets my life-giving herbs. Incidentally I'm wearing my Bordeaux-issue face-mask, nice and white but tightly woven so every breath is an effort - but it does stop you picking your nose. Thinks - what is to pick your nose in French?

"So does that stuff mean I'm a vulnerable person?"

"Oh yes."

"Because in England it's very clear - if you're called up for the 'flu vaccination you're a vulnerable person and you don't get to come out of lockdown, but here it seems more flexible."

"Well, you just need to be very careful."

"Like, no cinemas, no theatres, no restaurants."

"That's it."

Attentive readers will be aware that they're all closed just now, anyway.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

A quick trot to Lidl

Lidl were selling their occasional bargain sewing machines yesterday, so I made a quick trot out there, arriving probably at about 9:15. Catrin is hoping to begin sewing. They open at 8:30, but by the time I got there all had been sold. I was glad to have avoided the possible scrummage and fisticuffs and used the visit instead to buy some of their coffee pods and a couple of other things we don't find in our local supermarket at the moment.

On the way I stopped to experience as much as I could the flowers and trees along the path. Below are some photographs.

Our mayor wants us to wear facemasks in public transport, in shops, in parks and even in some streets. The city is providing everyone with a washable mask, so he considers this a reasonable demand to make. So I wore one of Pat's masks all the way to Lidl and back. They sure make you hot, those things!

The latest tentative proposition from the French government is that, if all goes well and there is no new escalation of cases of COVID-19, that we can resume worship services from the first Sunday of June, from Pentecost. This would have huge symbolic significance and would be an easy concession seeing that the govenmenr was originally thinking of the following Sunday, the first in June.

However several things need to be worked out, like how we keep the required distance, how we handle entrance and exit, toilets, communion, offerings etc. One church has been working on this and their seating capacity is expected to go from 440 to 108. We have a couple fo weeks to learn what the requirements will be, and to prepare by ordering hand gel, bleach and possibly face-masks.

There is another, more personal question. In the UK I would be classed as vulnerable and asked to stay home, despite deconfinement, because I'm asthmatic and get called up for a flu-jab every year. Will France apply the same criteria? I am being brave today and trying to phone my doctor.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Well just look what I found!

Yesterday the flat became stifling so I decided to go out for my statutory hour of walking my neighbourhood. Only problem - torrential downpours. It's been raining now for what seems like months, but is actually just about two days or so. After lunch the clouds took a siesta so I ventured out. Now, if you go shopping you can go further afield and for longer, so I ticked that box and took my rucksack and an order for lemonade from someone here with cravings for it.

Off I went and ambled through the streets looking at how various buildings were progressing. I found myself by the station and thought I'd go over the west bridge and come back over the east bridge (the wibbly bridge - it zig-zags), so down I came to the station forecourt. It's weeks since I've seen the station forecourt and - hey, what's that? Just beyond the station, where the row of über-french cafés starts, I was sure I could see horse chestnut trees! And sure enough, that's what they were. I stopped, gazed and took photos while the station forecourt dawdlers boggled.

Since I was here I had just as well go to Carrefour, so I did, got my lemonade and a few other essential items like some bulbs that don't fit any of our lamps - you know the drill.

I decided to come back along the river-road but then changed my mind and turned up the street that leads to the back end of the station. Some riot police were hanging about, so I said hallo to them and tried surreptitiously to see what they were doing. I think the city is trying to clear out the squats, for health reasons.

Turn down through the nice square and arrive home just a couple minutes late for my 4pm scheduled zoom interview.

Man, that walk did me good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Lots to do and sometimes a little fed up

Well confinement has been going OK.

In family life we get what we need. Flour has sometimes been an issue, but at Carrefour we sometimes hit rich seams of bread flour (T65), plain flour (T45) and I even got some organic wholemeal spelt flour (spelt f l o u r). The other day they had piles of yeast, so we're set up for a good long while, but the spelt flour will come in useful if and when we decide to make a sourdough starter.

Standard recipes now are honey and oatflake bread, slow-cooker bread and turbo no-knead. All recipes from YouTube.

For breads that go in the oven here's my top tips.

1) put water in a tin in the base of the oven. Steam helps.

2) preheat the oven to its maximum temperature using the fan if it's a fan-oven.

3) when you put the bread in turn the oven down to the temperature you need and turn the fan off.

The extra oven heat at the start really helps the bread to rise.

Why have I been a bit fed-up?

Well for one thing I miss the city I live in.

I want to get out by the riverbank, but though we can see the river from our flat there's a dirty great road that cuts it off from us.

I want to see my friends who run cafés. They're grand lads and I miss them.

I want to see the horse chesnuts flowering. Every year they take me by surprise, but not this year. I've hunted around our neighbourhood but if there's a horse chestnut within a kilometre of our flat I haven't found it.

Meanwhile we have some great blessings. We're getting on very well together. The flat is big enough for us to get away from each other. We have very good internet, so we can hold three different meetings in three parts of the flat by Skype, Zoom and Facetime and it all works great. We have access to some great films and TV series. Our health is good, except for my allergic reaction to the rats, and that doesn't really count. And we know now that soon we'll be set free.

May 11th is the end of this phase of confinement. We'll be able to roam the city once more and shops will be able to open again. The bars, cafés and restaurants will stay closed at least until the beginning of June, however, because the government wants to see how well this gradual deconfinement works before going any further.

Churches can be open but we're asked not to hold any ceremonies until the beginning of June.

We'll need to wear masks in public transport.

So Pat has been making masks using some old material from Ikea and some joyful cotton prints from Africa that I was supposed to make bags from, but the sewing machine was playing up. Somehow she got it to work long enough to make perhaps a couple of dozen masks. Some we use and some we put in the hallway of our flats for others to use as they want.

We also put up a list for people to put up phone numbers, email addresses or to communicate via a facebook page, but that got no responses at all. I wasn't all that surprised. People love their privacy and once you're in your flat you can forget that there's people living above you, below you, to the right, left and behind you...

So there we are.

Meanwhile church life continues, and I feel busier than usual, partly because of the time it takes to keep in touch with all the folk who are making sure we're OK! I think this time may turn out to have been beneficial to the church's community life.

Thinking wider, the departmental committee of the CNEF (Conseil National des Evangeliques de France) met at the end of last week, and we plan a pastors' fellowship in mid May when we'll try and share best practice on health precautions to take ready for when our churches reopen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


In March, for our wedding anniversary, which fell just before confinement began, Pat called at a florist near the station. The lady asked Pat if she could give her a hand unloading her van, so Pat spent a happy twenty minutes getting bundles and boxes of flowers and foliage our of the van and into the shop.

As a thank you Pat was given three little pinks that we put into one of our troughs.

They've brightened the balcony ever since with their profuse, scented blooms.

Another video recorded and sent out

Honestly, with all the video work we're doing, before long they'll be calling us the Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Judy Dench of Bordeaux.