Saturday, May 31, 2008
Today, for example, I went into Bordeaux after lunch wearing my cotton jacket and thinking how nice and warm it was in the sun, though not so hot in the shade. Everyone was in tee-shirts or lightweight things. As we wound our way through the campus on the tram I noticed that there were still huge puddles on the grass from the last downpour we had on Wednesday. I think the ground is pretty saturated !
I was due to come home a little earlier than normal because Pat was babysitting this evening. And at about 5:45 - a MASSIVE storm.
It HOSED down.
So much so that the trams were running through lakes in the city centre ( so the underground power system works even when flooded ! impressive !) and a friend got trapped in a supermarket when a drain burst and filled the whole place with water. The intrepid Bordelais won't let a small thing like a flood stop their shopping. They just waded on through it.
I got to the tram stop just as a tram was due to pull out but a man who was sopping wet in his tee-shirt was holding the door for everyone to get on. Lots of steam. Lots of drips. Lots of laughter.
Bordeaux is just like that. Usually it's either raining or about to rain. And my cotton jacket is neither use nor ornament in the rain.
1) to do Powerpoint presentations, which it did via "Openoffice Impress"
2) to show the Bordeaux, Brittany and beyond video, which it did via VLC.
3) to keep on top of emails, especially when some people contacted me by email about visits etc. This it did via Firefox, Gmail and Macdonalds free wifi.
4) to Skype the family, using Macdonalds free wifi - we never did this because I never caught them online but I am pretty sure it would have worked fine.
5) to be light and easy to carry. And it is.
The machine does have two drawbacks - the small ( 7 " ) screen and keyboard.
However it remains incredibly useful. For example I take it on the tram to the student centre. It fits in my sacoche together with two or three paperback books, my diary, my notebook, my Gideons New Testament and other bits and bobs, and it is fine for the English class, for example, where we sometimes listen to MP3 files or use the BBC Learning English website. Also at the centre I can plug in a standard keyboard and just work on it. I could even plug in a bigger screen if I needed.
Now Asus have released a version with a 9" screen which you can get with either Windows XP or Linux. However I would suggest that unless you need something quickly you wait a while because there's a whole batch of alternatives about to come out, from Dell, Acer, etc. etc.
These little machines are light, portable and should be much cheaper than you'd normally pay for a laptop. I think of all those churches paying out for a laptop which will basically do one job - project Powerpoint files. One of these mini-jobbies would do the job much more cheaply and just as well.
Friday, May 30, 2008
It's a serious question.
If they are people then we have the responsibility to share with them the riches of life as we live it "we, the civilised ones", as the spokesman puts it. To enable them to live long and comfortable lives. To become civilised, too. And to share the message of the Bible with them, of course.
If they are animals then fine, we can leave them there, try to preserve their natural habitat (which we must do anyway, because it's a habitat created by God) and study them as unobtrusively as possible.
Of course - that's the big question for us "the civilised ones" because we have swallowed the line that we are all just animals.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I thought it could rain in Cardiff, but Cardiff has got nothing on Bordeaux.
I remember it raining so hard in Cardiff that the drains couldn't cope and the whole road was about an inch deep in water. Here it rains so hard that the ground in the garden can't soak it up fast enough and the whole garden is about an inch deep in water.
Well, I don't think we'll die of thirst, anyway !
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
But we were pipped at the post by a swift buyer.
Still, at least it shows that what we need to find is not absolutely impossible.
Monday, May 26, 2008
These rats really have been excellent pets and I was reflecting today on how various ones have met their end.
Designer Rat, a real bimbo, died of heatstroke from not drinking. His death was tragic and he was a beautiful rat though obviously not blessed with common sense.
Patch died very suddenly overnight. One day he was fine. The next morning he was gone. Patch was the friendliest rat.
Ratty, the mother, lived up to her name and never really liked being handled. She died of old age, though she had tumours, too, but she just faded gracefully away.
Black Beauty was most obviously ill, but still comfortable and enjoying life.
Nobody remembers how Golden Siesta quit us.
It's been useful for the kids to experience this. We'll wait till after the Davey Summer Expedition before deciding what to do about a replacement. Meanwhile Gwilym's gerbil hops on strongly.
This little piece is about Switzerland. Here Catrin is always at school 8:25 - 11:45, 14:00 - 16:45 but Gwilym has a different start-time nearly every day. Lunch is always 12:00 till 14:00, but he finishes the day at different times too.
Next year when Catrin goes to the same collège as Gwilym running them back and fore to school will be more complicated than now because of all the staggered starts.
However here in Bordeaux we are muc more relaxed about timekeeping. We call it le quart d'heure Bordelais (the Bordeaux 1/4 hour). An uncanny resemblance to Deeside-Time, which is about 15 minutes behind Greenwich.
Step 1 - look at how much space you have on your hard disk. Answer - not enough !
Step 2 - look at prices of bigger hard disks to add to the machine. Here I got a spot of providence. In our supermarket they have a little section where they sell ex-display electrical things. They had a 250Gb hard drive for 20€. OK - that'll do.
Step 3 - move My documents from the C drive to the external hard disk - this takes all my photos (there's so many) and all my music files with it.
Step 4 - see how much space that has freed. Answer - LOADS ! Defragment and chkdsk the disk to ensure its integrity.
Step 5 - pop in the kubuntu live disk I downloaded last week, boot off it and click install. It partitions the disk for you and then does the install. Easy-peasy.
Windows still works. iTunes forgot that my music is called "Ma musique", so I had to fix that. But so far so good.
And so far kubuntu is great.
1) someone complained about the coffee I made for church yesterday - that it was too strong. Result !
2) we often get caught in the rain - but at least the rain is warm.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I like to have a plan B and while I was looking round the area I spotted a hall that belongs to the municipality which would be really nice for a carol service, though it is smaller than the place we have asked for.
In Bordeaux, with lots of associations, using a municipal hall for regular meetings is pretty unreliable - you're unlikely to get the use of the same place each week. However for a Christmas one-off it may just work, and the town hall may be happy to let us use it for something which is anglophone and christmassy.
However, to use a municipal hall we'd have to have formed an association culturelle (1901) , so we may attack this in the next few weeks. Also the municipality is obliged to let associations use a room once each year.
Nothing more easy, say our French guys here. Great.
Anyway I found a nice silhouette of the London skyline and managed to identify blue and red for the text (red was easy but I was relieved not to have chosen purple or pink for blue) and then unleashed my slogans:
Venez nombreux découvrir : l'Angleterre ! Sa belle langue ! Sa culture unique ! Sa cuisine exceptionnelle ! (le repas est offert)
Come one and all to discover: England ! Its beautiful language ! Its unique culture ! Its exceptional cuisine ! (free food)
In fact Gwilym's teacher, Joseph, whose best man is our friend at church, suggested some months ago that Gwilym play one of his pieces in an audition - a concert for parents and friends. Once Gwilym understood what an audition was he turned forty shades of white, though he did rehearse with the music school pianist.
Anyway, Gwilym has agreed to play in an ensemble de saxos on June 21st. Joseph always has exciting things for his students to play. One time he had them playing the theme from the Magnificent Seven.
Renaud is a Toulousien and now and again he gives me some piece of music terminology then starts chuckling at his own accent. He recently said "Si tu fais un peng fais un bon peng" ( if you do a bum note make it a good one - advice generally not needed by ex-brass-banders ! All our bum notes are corkers! ) He continued, "You know un peng ? a bum note ?"
"Peng", I said, carefully. He laughed. "It's my accent", he said. It's really either pin or pain and rhymes with vin and pain.
Slobodan is from Sarajevo. When the Balkan war broke out he was 18 and in Holland for a jazz weekend. He never went home. He stayed with just his trombone and the clothes he was wearing and has not seen his family since. He fears to go back to Sarajevo. Lessons with Slobodan were a ball. One time he was trying to get me to actually put some air through the trombone and he said think of Pavarotti ( who had just died ) "Légèreté à lui!" said Slobodan ( lightness to him ). He's orthodox and was intrigued to meet a protestant pastor.
One evening, if possible, we'll get Renaud and Slobodan round for a meal.
Anyway we'll be playing :
Chariots of fire (trombones begin with 7 bars of repeated quavers on a d-flat in 5th position !)
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen ( yes, in Chariots of fire ! ) which we do as a brisk march
A trombone quartet - Renaud, me Thomas and Slobodan.
I was intrigued that no attempt was made to tune everyone. But when we started playing I understood !
Meanwhile Catrin's school has been rediscovering its Occitan roots by learning folk dances and traditional songs for a show they put on last night. It was a typical "Davey evening dash" - the kids got home from school at just after 5 and then Catrin had to be habillée et coiffée (dressed and hair up in a chignon) and at the Salle Royale for 6pm. Well we didn't make it but then neither did lots of other parents. We dumped her unceremoniously then battled our way down a blocked road to wait till our 8pm showing.
Well it was lovely. The girls were all so pretty in matching long skirts, white blouses and shawls with lace ribbons attached to their chignons. The lads were all very handsome in waistcoats and berets. And they sang and danced in Occitan to the accompaniment of hurdy-gurdy and violin.
We were especially pleased because it is the first time the school has done anything like this in our experience. It adds an element of fun and joy to school life and also teaches solidarity and the team ethic much better than a course of lessons can do. Catrin, of course, was the prettiest and stateliest girl there, singing like an angel and dancing like a princess.
On Tuesday the association put on its show. I had something else on too, so I dropped the family off for rehearsals then went back in time for the show which was entitled "Différent mais pareil" and aimed to draw parallels between the 19th century culture of Les Landes and the culture of the countries the various participants come from - e.g. marriage customs in Morocco and India, the vanilla harvest in Madagascar, sheep farming in Australia, etc.
Pat played an Australian sheep farmer's wife and a Landaise bride, to great critical acclaim.
Friday, May 23, 2008
This is just unspeakably beautiful. I bet the players loved Stokowski. The freedom he gives to the flautist is amazing. Watch for the interplay between :
sound and silence - ooooohhhhh!
stillness and movement
freedom and structure
Hold your breath, watch closely and listen hard.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
'Eurovision is not a place for culture,' says Sebastien Tellier.
Well he's right about that !
¤ The Muppet saxophonist, not the misspelt mild naughty word. You don't think I'd deliberately put naughty words on the blog, do you ?
Queues at petrol stations, that's why. The fishermen are protesting at the price of diesel µ by blockading the crude terminals at La Rochelle and Ambès. (it seemes likely to me that this blockade will push the price of diesel up, but hey...) So people are panic-buying fuel, queueing onto the road and generally causing chaos.
Meanwhile the city centre was crawling with police.
Because of the arrest of Francisco Javier Lopez Pena, the alleged leader of ETA, in the heart of Bordeaux at Cours de la Marne, near the Victoire Baptist Church. You don't want to see what they did to the door of the house to get in ! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/2003335/Eta-leader-Francisco-Javier-Lopez-Pena%27s-arrest-is-%27major-blow-to-terrorist-group%27.html?DCMP=EMC-new_22052008
On the way back out of town I decided that I had better fill up with diesel because I am at Blaye this Sunday morning. Wow, I thought, the price has doubled.
When we arrived in September 2005 we paid about 90 centimes a litre for diesel. The exchange rate was at about 1.40 € to the pound. So that gave about 64p per litre.
Now we pay about 1.38 € and the exchange rate is at 1.25€. So that gives £1.10.
That's not double, is it? Oh well, that's all right then.
µ - and pension reform - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7413967.stm
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
For Pat it's two years since she's touched the soil of Blighty though the rest of us have been there this year on school trips and church visits.
As well as scuttling round the country seeing "Rabbit's friends and relations" we hope to be at the UFM Family Conference, which is always a good time.
Wow ! I've had so many teachers and all of them have been outstanding. How to choose the five best. I'll take the five that come first to mind.
1) Mrs Rossiter. My primary school teacher. I think it was probably she who worked hard to convince me that I could do anything that I wanted to. I later found out she was wrong when I tried pole-vaulting. I asked her what the symbol "pi" meant and she sent me to ask Mr Evans, who was seven feet tall and had a voice like Zeus. We owe our primary school teachers a huge debt and we can best repay it by praying for primary school teachers now.
2) Geoff Thomas. You learn to preach by hearing preachers. Geoff taught us to forget ourselves in the pulpit and concentrate on getting the point across with as much force as possible. He said "You can't say at the same time that Jesus is great and I am clever".
3) Stuart Olyott. Stuart taught us that you can do it with clear structure, short sentences and simple words.
4) Ken Kane. Simply the best language teacher I have ever come across (and I've known a few !) I laughed myself silly and learned Welsh more efficiently than I could have ever thought possible.
5) Alexandre Fernandez and Colette Choussat (I am cheating here and sneaking two in) at the language school in Bordeaux. M. Fernandez taught us "Contemporary French history". He began with Charlemagne and his classes were basically two hours of story-telling in his strong Landes accent (which I covet) where the story was France. Brilliant. Mme. Choussat enthralled and terrified (do your work in pen, please, and don't come late to class). Like a roller-coaster - you laughed and ... well you never screamed, but you know what I mean.
Oh dear. I have to tag five people now. Ben and Liz Griffin, Daniel Foucachon, Caleb Woodbridge, Richard Myerscough, James Eglinton. That should get us a varied batch !
We all understand how she felt.
In the wake of Mervyn King's description of a decade of Non-Inflationary Consistent Expansion (NICE) the BBC reflects on niceness. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7405470.stm
The Bible tells us that God is kind. Godliness is kind.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
But at the recent gathering of EREI churches in the South-West we picked up leaflets for three young peoples' camps in France. They last a fortnight. Pat says a fortnight is too long, though I think the kids would become strong and tough, just like the Milky Bar Kid. However the cost of the camps is pretty high. Apparently many people are eligible for vouchers to send the kids on camp. Our regional youth leader advised me to phone the family allowance people to see if we could get vouchers to use. That doesn't reduce the fortnight, though.
Monday, May 19, 2008
8 May is Victory Day (1945) and there's a ceremony at the war memorial at the centre of town. I was waiting for the bus, which was fitted with these little flags. They'll pop 'em on again for 14 July, I think.
On 8 may there were no trams (strike, I think) and I discovered the n° 45 from Pessac centre. It's actually quicker than the tram, though less frequent and a bit more alarming. You get thrown round like James Bond's vodka martini.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
This morning was the inaugural meeting of the English language ministry of the church - at our home and therefore we can't publicise it, but it went OK. We were eight, but because it coincided with the Sunday School picnic then there were at least another five definites and two more possibles, plus some of the anglophone students were away for the weekend, so I guess on a "normal" week we'd be mid-teens. It was a good time and I think probably very helpful for those who don't yet follow in French properly.
Then this afternoon preached on Ephesians 2 : 4 - 7 in French, really on being united to Christ in his death, resurrection and exaltation. I used a silly illustration and it seemed to work well.
Silly illustrations. When I preached through James (I think it was) I became a big fan of Thomas Manton and his silly illustrations. For example he'd say (on giving thanks) "we should be like hens, who eat and look up". It would make me laugh but also stick in the mind and help me remember his point.
Anyway my silly illustration today was that normally when I enter I room I enter head first, then the rest of me follows. It's practical because that way I can see where I am going. Well it's just the same with union with Christ - my (federal) head has gone before me into heaven. The rest of me will follow pretty soon I think !
Of course, Paul is thinking corporately. He does this lovely alternating you-all, all of us, we, you-all but I didn't get into that - you can't say everything all at once.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
It is hard to explain his visceral my feelings are for the AECW. It's my folks, my gang.
So it was brilliant to see the photos. It looks like it was a really good day, though some of the guys have lost some (more) of their hair. You know exactly who I mean, don't you.
Then home for lunch and preparation for the big inaugural day tomorrow. Then into Bordeaux for an intensive English session with one of my students. Then home for more preparation.
My student was talking about how hard French is for him. He feels that he will never master the language - just the technical language for his business studies. Well he is Chinese. Then in the future actually English will probably be more important for him than French.
Tomorrow begins nicely here at home with the first of our services in English, then lunch together, then scuttling off for the afternoon service at the centre where I am preaching.
In the morning we're in Ephesians 1 - I suggested a few options to my colleague, Ben, and he went for Ephesians. I made the mistake of reading Olyott - the problem is that you end up just wanting to use his structure. The same problem happens with Dale Ralph Davis in the Old Testament history books - you end up completely convinced by his strong covenantal interpretation of the text - though to be fair he does leave the job of getting from there to Christ for you to do.
In the afternoon we're in Ephésiens 2.
I hope I don't get too confused.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Anyway, two bits of computer news caught my attention this morning:
Firstly that Asus are now putting a really small version of Linux in flash memory on their mother-boards ( Splashtop / Express Gate ) The idea is that within seconds of you turning on the power to your PC you can check your mail, access online applications, use Skype, do what you need to via wifi internet. If you need to use your hard disk on your machine you start your operating system (and have a quick shower while it starts up...)
Secondly Windows is now being supplied with the OLPC $100 laptop project. They've negotiated a price of (I think) $3 to put XP on the things.
Could it be that the tide is turning in personal computing and that the gigahertz and gigabytes race is being overtaken by the use of online services and software ?
Could it be that Microsoft are concerned at the upsurge of interest in Linux ?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
However, on Sunday afternoon I am preaching a message I previously did in English, but this time in French. This will be more work to prepare because as well as the review I have to type up full notes.
That's why I have as a goal for this year being able to preach in French from an outline rather than from full notes.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
What is not so brilliant is that us ex-pats cannot listen to any of the competition because the BBC iPlayer won't play any TV to people wot live outside of her Majesty's domains.
So congratulations to Peter - and maybe someone will pop a clip of him on Youtube or Dailymotion.
Yesterday started with the UFM team prayer meeting - we meet up to talk about the works we're involved in and to pray for the student work, for the church, for the language school etc.
We've been concerned recently for the number of contacts we have who don't have functional French. Some come to church but don't really follow much. Others don't go anywhere. The church has the goal of ministering to different language groups - including the anglophones and the Chinese speakers. A good start has been made via a relationship with a group of Chinese churches in Paris, but the anglophone project has been hampered by the lack of a suitable place to meet. Anyway we have decided to begin Sunday morning meetings at our home in English. Because it'll be in our home we won't publicise widely. We aim to start small and to see what happens. If and when we get a venue of our own then we'll launch properly and more publicly. We hope eventually that the English language ministry will create a bridge into the French work.
Then yesterday afternoon I scuttled into town to negotiate a venue for an International Carol Service, hopefully the second Sunday of December. If this works out we will need to publicise widely and early.
Then back to Pessac for a lift (in a Dacia MPV - very impressive - spacious and comfortable) to the church council meeting, which ran from 4h30 to 9 - a bit of a marathon, but there were big things to discuss.
There aren't many days quite like that, but when they happen they make the blog quiet.
Today is calmer ( just as well, it's my day off ! ), but the rest of the week will be pretty busy and I am preaching twice on Sunday, English am, French pm. I am looking forward to the time when I can preach from the same notes ( in mindmap form ) either in English or in French. We aren't there yet but it's one of my goals for the coming year.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Friday, May 09, 2008
Thursday, May 08, 2008
I used the eeePC during my trip to Britain and it did all I asked of it. The addition of an external screen, keyboard and mouse would make the eeePC even more useful.
Ses prédications sont disponibles en français en format MP3 et cela gratuitement.
And you can listen to lots of Stuart's messages in English, too.
(No Welsh yet, but give him time)
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Jesus speaks :
Clean and Unclean1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"
3 Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, 'Honor your father and mother'[a] and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'[b] 5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' 6 he is not to 'honor his father[c]' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 " 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'[d]"
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. 11 What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"
13 He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[e] If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."
15 Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."
16 "Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. 17 "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' "
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008
(Click on the title of this blog entry for the hyperlink)
This week Thursday is a bank holiday for Victory Day 1945. The children are back in school, so they have school all day on Wednesday then they have Thursday and Friday off.
This gives people the opportunity to "do the bridge" or "make the bridge". That is, because Thursday is a bank holiday, to take Friday off and have 5 days away for the price of one day's leave.
It makes the roads and supermarkets busy.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
This is just sublime. You'll notice that with these "period instruments", like the one-keyed wooden flute, the sounds comes out very slowly. You see their fingers move, then a little while later the sounds comes. Of course, with modern Boehm-system flutes the sound comes almost instantaneously.
Amazing, eh ?
I also like the way they are just standing around randomly, like a playground crowd scene from Grange Hill.