Monday, August 31, 2009
So today Pat is at a meeting to talk about chidlren's ministry. On Wednesday I will be at a meeting where we'll be talking about ministry in the various congregations and plans for this year. Meanwhile soon we will need to hold our student work planning meeting, though for this various reinforcements arrive this week.
Meanwhile Catrin starts school on Wednesday, but tomorrow we have to go and collect her textbooks. Gwilym goes to school for an hour on Friday (it'll take him longer to get there and back than he actually spends there !) then his term starts properly next Monday.
Meanwhile we are in the countdown to my mini-visit to Britain.
On Saturday evening I was a little down about the new year, lots of changes, etc, but after yesterday I am in good heart and rearing to go !
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Because of the vigipirate plan - the government anti-terrorist public security measures.
It didn't surprise me in a way. Remember when all the rubbish bins vanished from London mainline railway stations ?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We'd had a breadmaker in Britain, but it was one of the things we gave away when we got ready to come to France. ( We got shot of lots of good stuff and kept all the junk. )
Anyway there was no price, so I found Pat and showed her. It's a Slytherin, a brand you see quite a bit in France. So I found a young lady and asked her how much. She said she'd have to find out at customer services.
Off she went. We followed slowly, getting to ready to say 'Merci bien, on n'le prend pas, au revoir, bonne journée.'
But she said "ben, wé, c'était à vingt-neuf euros quatre-vingt dix-neuf, donc à quatorze euros et quelques."
15 euros. Really ? "Ben, on le prend, quoi."
So there we are.
A friend at church has been telling us how she saves a fortune by making her own bread using the cheapest flour that Aldi or LIDL can afford, so we tried it, and it's true. Type 45 flour for patisserie works just fine at 39 c a kilo, which makes your 1kg loaf of bread about 25 pence ?
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I did wonder whether, if I got the doctor's prediction in writing, and if one day I depart this life in a sudden and untimely manner, whether Pat would have some recourse in law...
Monday, August 24, 2009
In the evening Ben preached and it as nice to welcome regulars old and new as well as the Gilbart-Smith family from Twynholm church in Fulham.
Nobody knows why they haven't received out tax return - it's an even bigger mystery when you consider that it's the 2007 tax return they base it on !
Still. I have promised Gwilym a new rucsac when we get the allowance !
For various reasons :
1) the sheer fun of pairing clarino trumpet and recorder.
2) for all friends who have roblems with brian or heart. I am CONVINCED that a good dose of Bach or Mozart helps my brian-waves to get into rhythm in the morning. Moody Sibelius or sunny Dvorak is no use for that, but some nice obvious harmonies and very subdivided simple time signatures get the brian marching along...
That's my theory and I am sticking to it.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
I was talking with someone today about the need to get Gwilym's certificat de scolarité before the start of term to get his tram season ticket set up. She said "I have the same problem - I need the certificate to get the start of term allowance".
"Oh ! Do you get that ?"
"Well yes, you should phone the family allowance people."
Well by the time I had got the codes needed it was too late to ring them (they shut at 4) so I looked on the website. It's all very clever. You used to have to declare your income to the tax people AND to the allowance people - on two different forms that don't seem to correspond at all. However a couple of years ago the tax people started to send your details to the allowance people and they automatically pay you what you're due.
Except that according to the website the allowance people have no idea of our income.
Clever system. But is it working ? Hmmm.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Regular readers will be aware of the dreaded "listes de fourniture scolaire" - the lists drawn up by teachers detailing the pens, pencils, paints, paper, pritt-sticks, perforators (?) and other paraphernalia needed for their classes. You have to go shopping when in a rather silly mood so that you don't mind hunting down the more obscure objects ( lutins, critérium ). This year I took the English Patient with me as a bit of cross-cultural experience.
It's different this year. For one thing I got my wires crossed and took the wrong list to get Catrin's stuff. Thankfully most of it was ok anyway and the supermarket reimbursed me for stuff we didn't need.
Then Gwilym's list is just textbooks. I don't know if they'll suddenly dump a surprise on us and give a massive list of other things to get... I hope not.
For us this year so far the bill isn't so bad - about 80 euros for Catrin and 60 for Gwilym. It's been more in previous years, I'm sure. However they don't need new backpacks this year and it's still much more than the 40 euros per child target of the government. For those on very low incomes there is an allowance paid to kit your child out, but not many homes get that.
So the papers and the TV have been doing their shopping and, surprise ! with backpack they get to much more than 40 euros, too, even always buying the cheapest paper, pens etc...
They're not 'appy !
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
This means the taxman is giving us money this year. 189 euros.
I don't think it will dramatically affect our spending power, but it's gratefully received, all the same.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The writer is under the impression that in the UK sporting fixtures are banned on Sundays and that supermarkets are not open. "Sunday's closed !" he writes.
It reminds me so much of when we first came to France on a camping trip. We Brits had been told during the Sunday trading debates that supermarkets were open on Sundays on the continent and that this had not at all damaged the peace and quiet of the "continental Sunday".
After a last minute change of plan, we arrived on a Saturday and need to refuel, find something to eat and make a longish journey on the Sunday. And all supermarkets were closed ! With the fuel warning light blinking we eventually found an open petrol station in a village. We couldn't eat till we found our first Macdonalds that evening !
Now the French are debating liberalising their Sunday trading laws and our writer believes that in Britain everything is closed. Fancy !
You'd never guess that just 40 km of water separates our countries, would you.
Then Pat and I went off to explore. First we drove down the road to the little town of La Hume and found our way to its beach. LOVELY ! No, I mean REALLY NICE. The nearest thing I remember to it would be West Kirby, but with cleaner sand, better weather and even less commercialised. There was a little snackbar. There's a few campsites, but tucked away (and 25 - 30 euros a night !). There's a little marina with a passage marked out into the Bassin d'Arcachon. A playground for kids. Some isometric fitness machines for adults. Picnic benches under the parasol pines. It was just lovely.
We scuttled off to find something for lunch in La Teste and at a bar-tabac-brasserie Pat had paëlla and I had tartiflette. The waiter was really good, the kind that keeps an eye on everything and makes sure it's all OK. The only irritation was La Teste's complicated parking code (white boxes, blue boxes, white and blue dashed boxes, horodateurs, they got it all and I was baffled) and equally complicated one way system. In the end I just stuck the car into a space and hoped for the best. And that's what we got.
Then quickly to Carrefour for a necessity or two, then back to the lovely beach to read and wait for the kids. Really relaxing.
Meanwhile the kids had a WHALE of a time at Aqualand and fell asleep in the car on the way home.
1) the law forbids evictions during the colder months of the year, so apparently sometimes students don't pay their rent knowing they can't be evicted till April anyway...
2) the law permits landlords to put a stop on tenants' or guarantors' salaries to get their rent...
3) you can only put a stop on a salary paid in France by a French company
so people who intend to pay their rent from an overseas company or with money that comes from overseas are immediately a less secure proposition than a French student with a parent on a decent salary.
In order to rent a place you have to submit a dossier. Typically this will include the latest tax return and three months' payslips (either yours or your guarantor's).
If the dossier is accepted you then pay a fee to the agency (perhaps one month's rent) plus a deposit on the flat (typically one month's rent).
Often dossiers are rejected and frankly our dossier stinks because we are paid from Britain. Some agents just refuse to even talk about places to rent with us.
The best opportunity is through agencies that already know us - those who took a chance in the past and know that we are good tenants. That means the agency through which Fiona and the Griffins' place is rented or the agency that handles the student centre. Narrows the field a bit !
That's one reason why we need prayer for accommodation.
The other is that it's expensive. The place we looked at yesterday is great - but it is essentially a medium sized bedroom with a platform built for sleeping on, a little kitchen unit under the bed platform and a partitioned off shower room at the back. It's lovely - clean, tidy, practical, great for study, sleeping and living - and it's 400 euros a month. But there's two other dossiers being submitted to the landlord.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Partly because it is the Fête de l'Assomption.
This is, of course, the traditional belief, made official Roman Catholic doctrine in (I think) 1950 that Mary was taken bodily up to heaven, with or without having died (traditions vary on this and the Pope's decree is worded so as to hedge all bets).
The book of Acts makes no reference to this event, though I did once see a cartoon strip of Acts where the cartoonist depicts John rushing into a room saying "Guess what ! Mary's just been taken bodily up to heaven !" You have to compare your translations, though, don't you.
What does this mean practically ?
It's a bank holiday, so lots of shops and businesses are closed and there's no post or refuse collection.
There are festivals in the seaside towns where boats pass in cavalcade before local senior clergy to be blessed.
There are fireworks in the towns surrounding the Bassin d'Arcachon.
I think the Féria at Dax is timed to coincide with the Assumption.
We, meanwhile, have spent a quiet day at home apart from a quick sortie to the supermarket for essential supplies of school diaries and coca cola. I sneaked in a bit of translation work that nobody knows about. Please don't tell. A late evening rendezvous about accommodation is postponed. Voilà.
Ubuntu 9.04 works happily on our bargain FT sell-off Medion Akoya (MSI Wind-clone) with everything seemingly working as predicted (with the possible exception of slumber - whatever you call it in English).
Yahou ! The day draws nearer when Windows is a thing of the past in my life !
A French iPhone was next, but this one put on a real fireworks display, shooting fragments of glass a foot into the air, and into the owner's boyfriend's eye. "My son has not lost his sight", his mother was reported to have said.
Meanwhile iPod touch version 3 is rumored (sic) to be released in the next week or so - complete with camera if the rumors (sic) are to be believed.
It all adds to the allure, doesn't it ?
Not only are iPods and iPhones cool, but also you live dangerously - there's always the alleged possibility that your pocket could smoulder, ignite or even explode !
Wow ! Way cool !
Friday, August 14, 2009
It started off with excitement as we MAY have POSSIBLY found a studio for Liz when she comes to help with the student work. More on this if it develops.
Then off to Lacanau to meet up with the Griffins on la plage centrale. The beach reminded me of a barbecue grill with chicken drumsticks all in a row. Many ladies topless and lots of smoking which kind of spoils things for me a bit. But everyone had a great time.
Then some lads two rows in front of us signalled to us to ask if we had a knife to cut their melon. I said "a small one" and Pat hunted for it. In return they offered us some melon, but I refused. Then they pulled out a second melon from their bag and gave that to us. I thought this a very good deal. The chap who did the "bargaining" is a Kurd and we had the briefest of chats. Must say he had a lovely colour. He won't have red burnt knees.
Then back to the Griffins' campsite for tea. Gwilym helped cook this as he is developing his own cooking style, which involves fried potatoes plus additions; tonight lardons, thyme, merguez etc. The campsite is in a mature pinewood. Those trees are TALL. It's situated on the banks of the Lacanau Lake and seemed a nice place.
No word from the English Patient. One must assume that he is safely in the bosom of his companions.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
We found a super spot in the car park and ate our picnic in the shelter of the oak trees, then launched our assault on the dune. The dune was crowded, sunny, but there was a pleasant breeze that stopped it from being too hot. After a bit of hanging around at the top of the dune we descended into Pyla itself and parked by the first beach we came to. It had pros and cons. Cons : Access was awkward. A very large topless lady. Pros : lovely clean sand, super warm water and boats slowly gliding round.
Our first trip to the beach this year. Shame on us !
Then to a supermarket for ice-creams and for our friend to get the photo he needs for his youth rail card. Then home. E. P. is off out with the students on a "bye, but see you soon jamboree" this evening. We are eating sweet and sour judging by the smell.
Photos will follow when I turn the office computer back on. I didn't take any of the very large topless lady. Well, at least, I hope I didn't !
The aftermath ? I have a sunburnt nose. I look like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.
Band prês Ystradgynlais yn chwarae yng nghystadleuaeth yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol.
This brings back memories. Yaa-ta ta-ta-ta for what seemed like hours on end.
And I have just realised that after words like cystadleuaeth, then Camaïeu shoudl hold no terrors...
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The only discordant note is the sheer number of battles between the French and the English. EVERY CENTURY they were at it - except the 20th. I tell you, I'm glad I'm Welsh !
"Nothing to do with me, pal, we was annexed in 1535... ça n'a rien à voir avec moi, pote, on a été annexé en 1535"
Afterwards we went to admire the finished paintwork at FAC. Trop beau, le vert et blanc. We suggested dashes of blue and yellow here and there and came close to death.
Then we splashed out on a kebab at a kebabberie just round the corner from FAC near Bradley's Bookshop.
Meanwhile Daveys 2.0 sleep a lot ! But they're slowly regaining their energy, I think. Gwilym was pleased to be reunited with his guitar, Catrin with the multitude of guinea-pigs.
I am officially off duty. We had anticipated zooming off to Normandy but we've ditched those plans and now expect to do short sorties hither and yon in the South-West. Biarritz here we come !
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
We have not yet submitted his bike to a full examination - by the time I collected him from Victoire last night it was already twilight - but there is just a suspected scuff to the handlebars. Beauty marred but function spared. But then it is a Specialized Rockhopper, and rockhoppers are sure to get scuffed.
With the return of Daveys 2.0 from camp the English Patient now has no room of his own. Last night he started off on the sofa but then tranfserred to his sleeping mat on the floor - the sofa is just too soft after weeks of camping.
So today we'll transfer him down to the church where he can have some independence and be more in the heart of all that's going on at the student centre.
Meanwhile the main room at the student centre is undergoing radical transformations, with green and red paint appearing then disappearing in the continuing make-over.
Monday, August 10, 2009
The English Patient ate with the students and came along to the International service. After our BUMPER WEEK last week we were back in the teens, but what we lacked in quantity we made up in quality. Didier, a new regular, found out that the papa of one holiday-maker family is a rector somewhere. Ah !
Reminds me of a chap who used to come to Deeside every couple of years. He came back for coffee after the evening service.
"So what do you do ?"
"I'm a Christian minister."
"Oh, is that in a church, or in a mission situation...?"
After some prolonged evasion he eventually said...
"I'm the Bishop of North-West Australia."
We became good friends, though we never got to North West Australia to visit them !
Anyway, back to Bordeaux International; much discussion ensued after the service and we eventually left the building some time after 10pm.
Today we collect the children from Mos Eisley Skyport near Bergerac, and the English Patient will have to camp in the church or sleep on his roll-out mat under the dining table.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Ikea put a strain on the English Patient's burns, and it seems that maybe he won't be able to rejoin his companions on the route to Barcelona on Monday.
Then home for lunch. Quiche cooked by Pat's fair (but diseased) hands.
Then the English Patient phoned his parents for advice - the decision - ride to the student centre and see how it goes.
Then Pat said "Alan, come here..." I followed the sound out to the garden and to the guinea-pig run where Pierre and Tom were. Pierre has been really putting on weight recently and a few days ago I said "Of course, he's not pregnant is he..." Well yes he was - and we now have FIVE more babies.
We went off to the centre and found that the bordeaux paint that had been bought was ... pink as a rose.
So we went off mob-handed to the DIY place to change the paint.
It turned out that the man who had mixed the paint yesterday had put in the wrong colour reference, so they were happy to reimburse the money and sell us the colour we really wanted.
Then followed many happy hours looking for posters, frames etc.
I'm bushed ! Meanwhile the English Patient's leg is blistered, but current thought is that he ride to Cenon tomorrow to see how he goes, then that he rejoin his companions next Saturday at Avignon.
Friday, August 07, 2009
And this week not only have we had the unexpected arrival of our welcome "English patient", so horribly burned that his own mother would not recognise him (at least not if she only saw his ankle - the part most affected) who we have been able to accommodate and Pat has been able to nurse through the crises, but also Pat herself has been struck down with a heavy cold / suspected swine flu.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
First job, decide on the colour. The main meeting room in the centre has grey skirting boards. It is decided. They will be green.
Then, remove the table. This has a stone top, so it's a major undertaking.
Then take up the carpet. I don't know what colour the carpet is, but I do know it is ghastly. Underneath is a really nice parquet floor, but we will have to sand and varnish it *.
Then a quick rub-down of the skirting boards while Fiona went out for the paint.
Then we painted one of the benches just to see the colour when it dries, because in the tin it is like mushy peas.
Then we left through the early evening heat to cook lamb chops, potatoes and carrots and get off to the prayer meeting.
* This could be a job for Pete and Dave in September...
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Just the thought of hunting for A4 Exercise book covers in yellow, red, green but not blue, plus intercalaires (how many sets ?) plus the stuff for maths...
Wonderful for building perseverance, character and patience.
For Gwilym a list of books. All except one are available from Amazon, some second-hand ! Hurrah for Amazon !
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Well that other family certainly is - they've got Bibles !
So we were 33 - mainly holidaymakers, from Finland, Holland and England, but also some first-time French people and a new student who's just arrived in Bordeaux.
And would you believe that one of the Dutch couples knows our Dutch friends from Deeside !
Saturday, August 01, 2009
All at the same time.
This resulted in a huge traffic jam right through the middle of Pessac Alouette (because the main road two blocks from us leads to the beach) and an EVEN BIGGER traffic jam on the motorway leading to Spain (and also to the beach).
A BAD DAY to be travelling anywhere in France, though I got to the supermarket and back OK on the back roads past the hospitals.
We went on Tuesday to visit our old friends from North Wales who have recently moved to the Dordogne. They live in a place called Le Bugue, south of Périgueux and east of Bergerac. Originally the plan was that we would visit them while the children were at camp - a way of taking our mind off the emptiness of the house - but I got the dates all messed up. Since the kids had to leave from Bergerac, however, it wasn't so bad, except that Ben ended up going to the airport by train instead of with us.
Well I can WELL understand why everyone wants to live in the Dordogne. It's gorgeous. Think of the Lake District with hot sunshine and good food and you wouldn't go far wrong.
Every Tuesday evening the town square is filled with trestle tables and then various stands set up around the outside : crêpes, casseroles, steak and chips, bread, wine, soft drinks, ice-creams, you get the picture. The crêpes were normal prices (2 to 3 euros depending on what went inside) and the casseroles about 5 euros. I didn't see the prices of the rest of the stuff, but it means that you could eat a nice meal for under 10 euros.
Near the end of our table was a small stage whereon stood the entertainment for the evening - a guy with a guitar and a big selection of backing tracks. He proceeded to sing and play a vast range of songs from the 70s - 90s. Some of the locals danced and I reckon the local physiotherapists and chiropracters do good business on Wednesdays and that some of the folks would soon be on their third or fourth new hip...
At 10:30 it all wound down and people wended their way home, tired but happy.