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)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Burglarized! Burgled! Cambriolé!

We got back from church at about 22:15 on Sunday to find the French door forced and several things missing, including our computers and cameras. The burglars were very clean and made no mess whatsoever. The police came round straight away and next morning the scene of crime unit came. The burglars wore latex gloves. Oh well. I was able to give the police the serial numbers of the computers and we have receipts for all the computers but nothing for the cameras. Thinks : must buy more by internet...

We're OK. We don't feel violated or anything. We feel frustrated because, obviously, we use the computers for work. I think I can still prepare to preach on Sunday even though my office is my computer. It will just restrict the range of books I can refer to.

Meanwhile someone in the church has offered to produce the song sheet, and who knows - maybe this will be a good way of bringing in delegation!

And the police have all been charming, the insurance company have been sympathetic so far.
And the mission have said that if we need a quick transfer of funds to get a computer to get moving again it can be done. I am hanging fire on that for the moment.

Also, and we are SO thankful for this, the burglars didn't even open the door of Catrin's bedroom, so all her equipment is there and intact, including her computer with all her recordings for her degree work this year on it.

Incidentally, these two weeks have seen a spate of break-ins in Pessac, coinciding with the school holidays. Not only that bu the tobacconist just two doors from our insurance office was held up at gunpoint. Our insurance agents are concerned because people do not always realise that insurance offices do not hold large quantities of cash.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Getting back to it

after the Colloque (where I didn't take my running shoes, trews or sweatshirt). A gentle start this morning, sabotaged by the trees with their shedloads of pollen:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Getting to and from the Colloque

Easyjet flies to Lyon Saint-Exupéry airport, which is a LONG WAY out of the city. There's a special high-speed long distance tram that takes you from the airport into the city, called the RhonExpress. It's 16 euros per journey. On the way to the colloque I looked for a cheaper way - bus, coach, whatever - but there was nothing like that. There is a railway station, but the train fare was more expensive. Oh well..

Coming home was interesting. My flight went from Terminal 3 at 19:15, so I had lots of time to get to the airport. Paul Wells found someone to take us to the airport on his way to Switzerland, so that was great. When we got to the airport we saw signs for Terminal 1 and for Terminal 2, so we wandered into one of them at random. We were staring uncomprehendingly at a notice board when a member of staff greeted us.

"Oh, Terminal 3 no longer exists, but Easyjet flies from this terminal."

OK. Paul Wells' flight was leaving from Terminal 1a (?) so we sais goodbye and separated.

Later that evening, at 21h, I got an email from Easyjet telling me that my flight would leave (= had left) from Terminal 1. Are things always better late than never?

The flight was delayed about 30 minutes because of sickness earlier in the day. After boarding I chatted happily with the person next to me, a Frenchman with a Berber background and a PhD in medical biochemistry who was on his way to a fun weekend in Bordeaux.

BWV 42 :

This is lovely for just after Easter in the context of attacks by violent thugs and of a presidential election.

The Colloque Biblique Francophone

There were four main threads to the Colloque:

1) Alain Joly, from the Evangelical Lutherans, gave us an outline of Luther's life and thought.

2) Paul Wells, ex-Dean of John Calvin Seminary in Aix-en-Provence, gave a comparison of the thought of Luther and of Calvin with regard to Free Will

3) Edouard Nelson, Baptist pastor from Paris, preached from Luke's gospel

4) Charles Nicolas gave us a very warm and encouraging comparison of the pastoral role in the 16th and 21st centuries.

It was a good, intensive time and super to spend time with friends and heroes.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What an exciting day!

Well, after an early night and somewhat light sleep I rose at about 4:15 to shower, eat my porage and hie me away to catch the 5:17 Number 4 bus to Bordeaux. My doubts about it coming were unjustified. It hove grandly into view and I was surprised by the number of people aboard.

I was also surprised at Palais de Justice, where I had to change to the bus 1 for the airport, to find there wasn't one for almost half an hour. This put the whole project at risk. Last boarding was 6:35 and the bus didn't come till almost 6.

The driver made a gallant effort and we got the the airport bus stop at 6:28. I walked smartly into the departure area to find a HUGE QUEUE for security. However we were encouraged to take our trays and fill up spaces in front, so I did. I had removed my belt and stowed everything at the bus stop so I was ready!

I found myself behind another passenger for Lyon who was in a slight flap and was not ready. He had concealed large aerosols in his bag and wanted to argue adamantly that they should be allowed in the cabin with him. I thought, "Shut up man, we don't have time for this" but I uttered never a word. Eventually he gave up, I was nodded through and while he put his belt on I waddled to the departure gate and got on the plane with seconds to spare!

Lyon is a very big city and very technologically advanced.
You can pay to use the public toilet by card!
I was grudgingly impressed.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A quiet birthday

After a HECTIC Easter weekend, yesterday we made the best of the beautiful sunshine by going for a nice walk over the new Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas, along the right bank of the river and then back over the Pont de Pierre. It really was a beautiful day and we got rather hot, so we stopped off at a cafe for a cold drink.

Today, my birthday, we spent making rolls, cakes and a trifle and eating on the terrace - at least until the wind chased us back indoors.

Tomorrow I have to get up very early to get to the airport for an early flight to Lyon, so I'd better have a quiet early night, too.

The French election process explained

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What a BIG Easter

Thursday we were in he centre of town with Ali and Pete and their sketchboard.
It was a good time, one big crowd stayed to listen. Good chats. Happy people.

Friday was Good Friday meal with message and songs at our house.
Pizza, Psalm 22 and Christian Hymns.

Saturday was preparation day. Pat was baking with some of the folk.
I was reading, thinking and also watching some detective tv to relax the old brain muscle.

Then in the evening up to the vineyard to watch the marathon runners pass.
14000 signed up to do the half-marathon round the quays.
3000 marathon runners came by us and we were delighted to spot:
Firstly Jian, who came and gave us a great hug.
Then Julien, who waved like a crazy man.
Both looked in good form and were around the 4 hours 15" marker.
Read about the marathon in French here.
Note the word frisquette, in Bordeaux this means nippy, chilsome.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Christ lag in Todesbanden

In either 1977 or 1978 I joined a choir in Aberystwyth, the Bach Society Choir. It was by audition. You had to sing for the conductor and there were three possible outcomes: you got to belong to the excellent and famed Madrigal Singers and to the Bach Society, to just the Bach Society, or not at all. I have an awkward voice. I'm not really a tenor and I'm not really a bass, so when I'm singing well I sing with the tenors and when I'm out of form - or I just can't be bothered - I sing with the basses. Nobody has ever told me which line to sing. I've always decided for myself. Anyway... I sang with the Bach Society Choir.

So I got my copies and found a friendly bass and found we were singing two pieces: the Pergolesi Magnificat and Cantata no. 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden. I've loved both pieces ever since, but especially the Bach.

A couple months ago I decided to join a choir. There's one that rehearses a 10 minute bus ride or 30 minute walk from us, at the Alouette school of music. I emailed them. You don't have to audition. They rehearse on a Wednesday, an evening that suits me. I went along.

I got my copies and saw that we're doing two pieces, the Vasks Mass and Cantata no. 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden. "What voice are you singing?" "For this I'll sing bass. I sang it forty years ago and I still have a vague memory of how it goes."

"Christ lag in Todesbanden" is a hymn written by Martin Luther, both the text and the tune, though based on earlier material. The text recounts the gospel story very simply. Because it's difficult to translate poetry it isn't easy to find a version in English that sticks to the meaning of what Luther wrote, and I have almost no German, so I can't translate it. But I can tell when someone has made a total hash of it! Here's a translation that I think captures the meaning:

Luther's hymn was published in 1524. Bach's cantata in 1707. It isn't easy for a movement to keep its vitality for 200 years, and sure enough, the lovely earthy energy of early Lutheranism soon fossilised into just another religious system. But in the late 1600s a movement called Pietism was born through the work of Philipp Spener, who emphasised personal conversion and renewal within the structures of the Lutheran church. Bach seems to have been influenced by this renewal.

His cantata is scored for four part choir, strings, cornetto and trombones, the brass doubling the voices. It starts with a short sinfonia just for the strings which is a kind of variation on part of the hymn tune.

Then follow seven movements, one for each verse. The writing is polyphonic and in each movement Luther's melody is the raw material that Bach uses. Three movements, verses 1, 4 and 7, are for full choir, and they are not at all easy to sing. Even though Bach was only in his twenties when he wrote the cantata, he had lots of inventive skill and the music suits the text really well.

Performances vary in the size of choir used. At Aberystwyth I think we were no more than thirty. At Pessac we're between 40 and 50. Some recordings use just the soloist's voices. At Aber and in Pessac we have no soloists, and the tenors will sing the tenor verse together, the basses singing the bass verse.

I'm both touched and thankful to be singing the Bach again. Meanwhile the Vasks Mass is written by a Latvian Baptist pastor's son, Pēteris Vasks, who had to study in neighbouring Lithuania, apparently, because of persecution against Baptists in his home country. It's good to discover a composer new to me.

When your lunch guests don't turn up

It wasn't the best plan ever made.

They didn't know our address.

We don't know their phone number.

"We'll ring you when we get to Pessac."

Came neither call nor caller.

So at 1:30 we had nice bread, blue cheese, strong cheddar and little Bonne Maman cakes.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A splendid day off!

We reserved a Citiz car, my favourite Yaris hybrid, and planned to go on the razz to the lake.

But first I had to run to the pharmacy because I had left only one dose of my life-giving compound. They have turned our pharmacy into a huge chemist-supermarket with high shelves stocked floor to ceiling with quack remedies of all sorts based on every kind of pseudoscience imaginable. I had a prescription for my life-giving compound, but to get it I had to sniff my way through the shelves like a rat in a maze. Eventually I found the counter and got what I needed.

Ha! Another month of life, buses permitting!

Then I collected Mrs Davey and we hied us off to Ikea. To begin with we sniffed our way through the upper floor like rats in a maze. I felt that the kitchens looked so clean and clinical that I would be scared to spend too much time in one in case someone appeared to give me an injection. Too shiny. We examined a marvellous rucksack that was on display but that had no price attached and no relatives in sight. Poor, lonesome article.

Then off to feast in the Ikea restaurant. Mrs Davey had some kind of vegetable preparation while I had leg of duckling in pepper sauce, which was very good indeed.

Then off to find the various things we needed: a proper chopping board, a pillow, some plants, some potting compost. We successfully nosed our way through the labyrinthine lower floor after the fashion of laboratory rodents and thereafter made our hasty retreat to an ice-cream emporium, calling at Decathlon on the way for shoes.

When I first arrived in France I invariably wore Clarks shoes which I bought at the outlet village in Ellesmere Port, usually for £35. In France I stood out like a sore thumb. Here two kinds of shoes are commonly worn. Everyday shoes are like training shoes but in subdued colours like dark brown or light brown. Any kind of brown, in fact. Shoes for special occasions are called chaussures de ville. They are black and they have very long pointy toes like you find on fifteenth century armour. I have never worn and shall never wear chaussures de ville. My feet are not that shape and it's too late to try and squeeze my toes into a long point. Forget it.

So - everyday shoes, well I asked someone once where those shoes were to be bought and the reply came back, Decathlon. So for a while I have gone there for my everyday shoes. Clarks shoes are too expensive here, even in the outlet shop, and I do want to try and blend in somehow. Decathlon used to have a whole section of shoes for La marche en ville - walking in town - where somewhat paradoxically they never had chaussures de ville - so we went to try and get some everyday shoes. I'm rambling a bit here, aren't I.

Long story short, they now do shoes for La Marche Sportive, which seems to be speed-walking - you know, that thing where you swing your hips and waggle your arms to go along faster, or for La Marche Nordique, which seems to be a special kind of gait that comes from Scandinavia. I have had several Scandinavian friends over the years but have never noticed anything particularly unusual about the way they walk. Honestly. I am SO unobservant.

So as a Welshman who aspires to walk in town at moderate speeds I came away unshod. Swiz.

The ice-cream was nice though.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

It's very clear

that the trees are out to get me.

The birds cheer me on.
The sun smiles down as I puff and pant.
But the trees shower dust, carefully planned to shoot straight up my nose and set me wheezing.

Still, a quick burst of the inhaler and off I go again.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Thursday, April 06, 2017

The forthcoming presidential election

OK, Emmanuel, I need you

I cut our grass last night, and the neighbour's, too. Her mower was stolen from her patio a couple of months ago after a car demolished the fence.

Anyway this morning she popped round with some money in an envelope. She doesn't want to bu another mower for fear of it being stolen again, so she prefers to pay someone - me if I want the job - to mow her lawn. It's not a big lawn. It takes ten minutes, perhaps, to cut it. I'd happily cut it for nothing. For a piece of cake from time to time. For neighbourliness.

Now comes the dilemma. Can you politely refuse payment like that here? Or should we save up the money and buy really nice food when we get the neighbours round for cake and coffee? (I suppose I could put it towards a trip to Evian in a couple of years' time!)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

You know that thing about closing doors and opening windows

Shortly afterwards an email arrived from Vaughan inviting me to go to EMA and to take a friend at a special buddy rate.
Time for quick reflection.
Could we stay anywhere with friends in London?
I messaged someone and the instant reply came back that we could.
What about flights?
Yes, three a day to Gattewycke.
We booked quickly before we could think twice. Patricia is my "buddy".

More harsh realities!

I reflected and remembered that I decided not to go to the outstanding EMW Ministers' Conference this year because of the Evian conference, so I thought I would investigate the possibility of attending that.

Ha! Flights to Liverpool are on Saturdays or Tuesdays. No good whatsoever.

And frankly the idea of flying to Bristol and then somehow trying to get to Bala was most unappealing.

Meanwhile Mrs Davey considers that I need to get away from Bordeaux a little.

Hey! I'm trying!

The harsh realities of life!

There's a conference in June that Pat and I ought to go to. Two days in Evian-les-Bains, on the French side of Lake Geneva. We could prolong it by a day in an AirBnB, perhaps, and breathe the mountain air and gaze at the scenery.

Easyjet would get us to Geneva slightly late for the start for 300 euros.
There's no public transport from Geneva to Evian, so it would mean hiring a car. 250 euros.
The conference fees come to another 300 euros for the two of us.

So we're talking 850 euros for a two day conference.

We have a little fund put aside, 100 a month, so that we can afford to go to conferences and pastorales. That gives us 1200 a year to play with. But we've already spent out for the colloque in Lyon and there's another conference in October which will take place in Germany. Plus we'll need to travel back and fore to Paris a little in the year ahead.

We can't do it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Gideon Dinner

We were very kindly invited to a dinner thrown by the Gideons in the local Mercure hotel. What ho!

I'd previously asked one of the Gideons what one wears. You know that in France we're not quite as formal as in the UK. I can still remember how shocked I was the first time I saw a funeral, where people in their 50s turn up in jeans and leather jacket. Now I'm so well adjusted that doing "formal" has become frankly rather a headache.

"Oh no, whatever," was his reply.

Yeak. OK. So Pat got out a nice dress and a kind of lacy long cardigan thing.

I dug out my nicer black trousers and decided on a grey shirt. No tie. There is a limit. But I'd wear my navy blazer I got in Asda.

Well it was AWFUL!

The thing is now much too big for me. I look like I've had consumption or something. I just couldn't wear it. Instead I have an old leather jacket that I got over ten years ago and which was a much better fit.

The meal was very nice. Ham with some salad to start. Then roast chicken with a sort of hash brown. Then a kind of chocolate, strawberry and speculoos dessert.

One of our Bordeaux Church folk was telling how she'd been converted after receiving and reading a Gideon's New Testament. It was good to chat with the other folk.

So that was last night sorted.

The Gideons were well dressed. Other folk came in a variety of outfits ranging from jacket and tie to jumper and jeans. We done fine.

But we're going to a wedding in the summer. Yay!

Do I have to find a new jacket, one that fits, or can I get away with a navy cardigan?
Do I still have a navy cardigan?

Pat's exam day

Pat had her TCF ANF (Test de Connaissance de Français - Acquisition de Nationalité Française) at the Alliance Française yesterday. We decided to make it a little special by going into town for lunch. It would have to be a hurried lunch because she had to be there for 13:15.

We messed up our plan by leaving the house too late and just missing a number 4 bus, so we arrived in town with just an hour to eat and get to the exam centre. OK. Subway it is. Two mega sandwiches eaten in the street later I waved her goodbye and went off to explore Bordeaux.

Pat stared at cartoons and strained to hear recordings before ticking random boxes.

Meanwhile I scoured two stores in Bordeaux looking for a pale yellow top for her before finally giving in and having an ice cream.

After her "chat with a friend about preparing for a job interview" we met up and looked at the yellow tops I'd found. She bought a pale blue one as well as a surprise birthday present for me. We then went to one of the new posh tea-rooms before heading home.

So far so good. Now three weeks for the results to be available.

Meanwhile, on the physical front, yesterday began my run round the vines, 3km through the fog. Then as we walked back to the flat in the evening I checked how far I'd walked during the day - 18000 steps, about 10 miles in total.

I slept well.

Monday, April 03, 2017

You can tell

that I've had a busy week when the blog is quiet, very very quiet.

Anyway it's been a busy week, but an OK week.

Some highlights?

Well an evening with the students talking evangelism and apologetics. Tried to emphasise a holistic approach - people need to believe with their hearts as well as their minds - they won't believe till they want to believe, till they choose to believe.

An evening with our car share scheme hearing about their new plan for a "pick-up anywhere, drop off anywhere" fleet of shared cars in inner Bordeaux. Sounds great, though not too relevant to us, living in "outer Bordeaux".

A morning distributing gospels in the big market in the middle of Bordeaux. Great people, very friendly. It was a nice time.

Then yesterday we started the service VERY LATE INDEED because people had been held up by antifascist demonstrations (the full monty, broken windows and cash dispensers, tear gas, riot police and everything) that took place in response to a visit from Marine LePen, who could well be our next president if recent events are anything to go by. Then we can look out.

I just switched mobile phone operator. I have been with a rather expensive contract because it gave me included data cover in the UK, very useful for church visits, etc. It also included premium Spotify! Wonderful.! Then a couple of months ago they lost Spotify. And from July the hated European Union is abolishing roaming charges, so all operators will be forced to include data cover as long as the UK is part of the EU, at least. So I've switched to a scheme that gives me all I need for just 3 euros a month. Yay!

Today Pat has her TCF ANF exam which she needs to take to become a French citizen (keeping her British nationality, of course).

Music for Monday

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A varied evening

So yesterday we Daveys went off to our different rendez-vous.

Patricia to the Alliance Française for her preparatory workshop before her TCF-ANF next week.
She had a wonderful time listening to the recordings (just once) and ticking the boxes according to the conversation she thought she heard. Then discussing the discussion section.

Meanwhile Catrin and I were at James' flat with the GBU bunch for an evening discussing evangelism and apologetics. It seemed to go OK, and James cooked us an excellent spicy pasta meal!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Some more Stravinsky

After the concert

the other Saturday a little group of us headed for the nearest tram stop. We got talking. As often happens the subject got on to how long I've been in France, whether I came directly to Bordeaux and stuff. It comes up because I have an accent (American? Canadian? Belgian? Martian?) but I do pronounce things like what we do in Bordeaux.

One woman said, "Ah yes, I am from north of the Loire and it wasn't till I came here that I had any idea that in and un could conceivably be pronounced differently."

So for her there were just three nasal vowels, and in un grand pain rond, un and ain sound exactly the same. As do un and in in un bon vin blanc.

I'd read about this in the unique and unparalleled Harriette Walters books. And all of a sudden the penny dropped on something that I'd not thought about.

A friend who is very cultured, well-read and a professional story-teller did some workshops on the use of the voice. We went along to some. She insisted that en and an are pronounced differently in (subtly) different parts of the mouth. We all shrugged and tried to humour her, but Harriette Waters points out that in some parts of France there are actually 5 or 6 nasal vowels, and a clean distinction is made between en and an.

Ah bon.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time for some Stravinsky!


When I had my eyes tested the ophthalmologist said, "Now I don't know if your additional health assurance will cover your new glasses. Some of them have gone to once every two years.

So I watched out for the reimbursement.

On 14 February the state scheme reimbursed 14 euros of the cost, and the message said that the bill had been passed to our additional health assurer.

Since then nothing.

So I called it at the local office armed with every possible relevant piece of paper.
The lady at the desk phoned head office.

"They say that it's every two years now, unless your eyesight has changed", quoth she, holding the phone in her hand.

"And what does this prescription say?" asked I.

"Ah yes. ... But his eyesight has changed", she said down the telephone.

So today I was glad to see that I have been reimbursed.

Should think so too!

When you have la crève

I haven't looked up this word, I warn you, so I've just worked it out from context but:

when you have a flat tyre c'est crevé.

when you want to tell someone to drop dead (I know you don't, of course) Crève!

when you feel under the weather, exhausted, generally below par, j'ai la crève

when you are exhausted and desperate for sleep, je suis crevé

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Yay! A day off!

I knew there'd be one around here somewhere.

Morning run round the sodden vineyard and through the damp streets.

Maybe shopping for cotton trousers later.

And music, music, music.

Some music for Thursday

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dialogue Véritas

Well there we are. Two evenings that went OK.

On Monday evening I had to deal with "Is there life after death", and the pastor from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Florian, had "Does God exist". There were 37 folk present, about 1/2 unknown to the GBU people.

On Tuesday evening my subject was "Does life have a point?" and Florian got the biggie, "If God exists, why is there evil?" There were fewer people present but again about 1/2 were folk unknown to the GBU types.

I realised how far out of my comfort zone I was. "Philosophical" style subjects. A Lecture hall setting. Questions and answers after the talks. Very short talks, 15 mins maximum. And, of course, everything in French.

Today I was a little bushed, but we had a prayer date and a lunch date with some friends and colleagues, then Pat and I went and booked her in for a preparatory workshop for her French test, then went and had an excellent coffee from Café Piha before she returned home and I went to a free workshop at the Apple Store.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Today I was brave

On Friday morning as I tottered out for a scamper round the vines I saw that there were two people waiting by the bus stop. I don't wear my glasses to run and sometimes I have to squint to decide whether the animal in the distance is a sweet little pussycat or a ravaging dobermann pinscher - this morning when the thing began to move I could tell it was a cat - so I didn't recognise the people at the bus stop. Not until they both said a cheery "Bonjour" and I realised it was our neighbour and her daughter....

So early this morning, perhaps it was knowing that all was revealed and my feeble attempts at secrecy were all in vain. Or perhaps it was that my back was aching and I was hit by one of those early morning existential crises, so eloquently sung by my neighbour on a Welsh language camp all those years ago - "ffili gweld y pwynt o godi, ffili gweld y pwynt o gwbl" - I don't see the point of getting up, I don't see the point at all. Anyway the clock said "6:30, time for your run" and I said to myself, "time to roll over".

At 7 I thought, "it's now or never", so I got up and ventured out. The morning was overcast but mild. I have these navy cotton running trousers - well, they are designed to wear for loafing round the house, really - yes, they really do make trousers specially designed and made for loafing round the house - can't you just hear people saying, "Oh, it's too bad, I have absolutely nothing to wear while loafing round the house, I'll just have to do the garden instead" - and they are cut quite tight to the calf. I wear a grey sweat-shirt which is just big enough. I imagine it gives the effect of the cart horse who somehow got into the corps de ballet by a fluke. I warm up by gently moving anything that can move as I slowly ascend the hill to the inappropriately named Rue Profond.

I needn't have worried. Except for one small pussycat - "or is it a rabid dobermann pinscher?", he squinted - the streets were deserted.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Here's something a tiny bit more serious on Patrick

from the website of the Gospel Coalition - click HERE

and from Wales Today - click HERE

Here are some things that made me smile

Bobo = bourgeois-bohème (the rich and trendy)
Facho = fascists (the extreme right)

Beer for Patrick's Day,
Leffe, Desperadoes and Hoegaarden! 
Figures, I suppose:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

24th anniversary

On Tuesday, having discovered new reserves of energy, we decided to go out for a meal to celebrate our anniversary. This means lunch, for reasons I won't go into. Now Bordeaux has an embarrassment of wonderful eating establishments, but at the moment we have a little project of eating our way round the world near the Place de la Victoire, so we decided to eat at Nobi Nobi Japanese restaurant. Pat had a predictably cool curry while I had some chicken thing with rice. We ate in the sun, quaffing San Pellegrino, then went to the nearby Banana Café for dessert and coffee. It's a grand life!

24 years of photographs

I'm pretty sure that when we got married and went on honeymoon I had an Olympus Pen EE3 half-frame camera. It was great. It took no batteries and was as reliable as can be. It took great photos, though the processing was expensive!

After a while I bought the best camera I ever had. Now I had slr cameras over the years. First a Zenith E that I bought as a student and sold on. That was followed by a Cosina CSM - really good! Then came a Nikon FE, I think, bought second-hand, and then a Canon Eos 300. That was my last slr.

No, the best camera I ever had was an Olympus mju2. Quick, easy to use, a splendid lens, a good focusing and exposure system, some of my favourite photos were taken with this camera.

Digital cameras became cheaper, with the prospect of immediate photos and no processing charge. There followed a little list of cameras like the Olympus C3000 (refurbished from Morgan Computers!), a compact Olympus C2/D230, a really natty little Minolta X20, which was very good at foliage!

Soon after that came the camera-phones, and separate cameras were never quite so convenient, though we enjoyed our Lumix FZ3 and our TZ1 - with splendid fast lenses. Indeed, we still have them.. But the camera-phone is always in your pocket.

I still pine after that mju2. If someone would make a digital camera with a good, fast, non-zoom lens - preferably 35mm equivalent - and a good focusing and exposure system at a reasonable price, I know they would sell at least one.

Perhaps they have. Perhaps it's the camera-phone in my pocket.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I went to a concert on Saturday evening

in the Eglise Saint-Nicolas, a big 19th century heap with lots of trompe l'oeil swags and bows in the interior.  The concert was given by the amateur vocal ensemble, Stella Montis, which specialises in singing stuff by living composers, or at least those not long dead, and in which the bass player from the Pessac Jazz Band sings.

I wasn't sure what to expect. We are going through a period in music where living composers are writing music that is pleasant and accessible - in the UK people like John Taverner and Paul Mealor, and internationally with people like Arvo Pärt and the American minimalists. But you never know, do you.

Well I was blown away by their repertoire. The theme of the concert was Bach's influence, so they began with a quick and simple chorale, then another by Mendelssohn, then we were into works by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Knut Nystedt and David Lang. And one from Arvo Pärt.

Here's one of the David Lang pieces, "Again". He's Jewish and the text for this piece is taken from Ecclesiastes.


One problem with being a creature of habit and fitting a 6:30 run into your life is that when your life is disrupted in any way - late nights, for example - your habits go out of the window and take your early morning runs with them. I cannot go to bed at 1am and then get up at 6:30 to run. Others may be able to. I cannot.

So for some time I've been intending to add in a 1km loop to my morning circuit. This morning I did it. Hurrah! And what a morning for a run. Light, for the first time this year. A haze over the vineyard. The local rowdy birds yelling their heads off again. Some young lad about 30 - 40 years old running the other way looking all wiry and angular, a proper runner, while I oozed in the opposite direction. But I like to think I encouraged him as he did me as we puffed "bonjour" to each other.

My "fitness band", a Xiaomi Band 2, receives frequent updates to its firmware and to the application on my iphone that goes with it.

One recent update gave it the capacity to track my route, though to be honest I think the birds can track my route now as it's always the same. There's a little rut in the tarmac where I habitually trot.

It also likes to tell me every 100 metres how fast I am running. "You're going dead slow." "You're going even slower." "Wow, are you sure you're not running backwards?"

It also tracks your heart rate.

Now tracking your heart rate is a mixed blessing. I mean how fast should it beat? Is it beating too fast? Do I need to try to run faster? Slower? See a doctor? Have a stent? A by-pass? However at least the wretched thing is beating, and though these wrist-based heart monitors are notoriously inaccurate, it does at least show an increase when I run and a decrease when I stop.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Today is our 24th wedding anniversary

so we decided to go out for cake and coffee.

There is now an embarrassment of cafés in Bordeaux that I really like and want to go to. It took us just a little time, however, to decide to go to the very posh café near the Opera House, la Librairie de la Comédie. It's a bookshop with a posh café, and they have REALLY NICE cakes.

Some music for Monday

"Komm süsser Tod" by Knut Nystedt after Bach.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring has arrived in Pessac

It's glorious here. Sunshine. Loud birds. Flowers everywhere. Wonderful running weather.

And LATE NIGHTS, so only one bout of early morning running. Oh well.

Some music for Saturday morning

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Today I had LOTS of emails to catch up on and some conferences and flights to book.

Emails was OK.

Some were replies saying sorry, this year I cannot come because our dates for church visits are booked up now. :-(

One was a reply to someone who'd like to come and help for a couple months.

Some were to do with Dialogue Véritas. I'll need to do another post about that.

Booking conferences was another thing.

Essentially every year I have to choose between attending the Colloque Biblique Francophone or attending the Banner of Truth Conference. To go to Banner I schedule church visits near the dates of the conference and that works out OK, except that really church visits are better done later in the year, in June. Anyway.

So this year I thought I could try and attend both. They are on consecutive weeks, but one is only three days and the other four. We even planned that Patricia would come with me to the UK and while I was at Banner she would spend the time with church folk in North Wales. HOWEVER.

Banner is held in the UK near Stoke on Trent in April.
There are no Easyjet flights to Liverpool in April.
There are no Easyjet flights to Bristol on suitable dates.
Easyjet flights to Gatwick are extremely expensive.
Ryanair could get me to Edinburgh, but not on good dates, or to Stansted!
Air France could get me there, but at great cost and via Amsterdam.

I'm not sure of the wisdom of spending £600 - £800 on going to the Banner Conference, so we decided to forget that one.

Now the Colloque. It's held in Lyon and you can fly there or take the train. It starts on the Wednesday at 5pm.

Easyjet has several flights to Lyon, but to get me there for 5pm I'd have to take the 7am flight, which means catching the N°4 bus from Pessac at about 5am.
Alternatively there are several trains but much more expensive, and the journey time is 7 hours.
Oh well, just as well I'm good at getting up early!

The French President

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Public transport in London

To get from Victoria to the British Museum I could have taken the Underground, but before committing myself I thought I would check with Google maps and it told me that I could take a bus directly. Buses are MUCH better. You can see the city as you travel through. So off I went to find the stop.

Well the Victoria area is being redeveloped, so the whole place is a little difficult to negotiate. Added to that it wasn't obvious to me how the bus stop functioned! But despite my uncertainty I managed to find the stop, wait for the bus and hop on it, and I was pleased to find that it was one of those redesigned Routemaster Boris buses.

To pay for public transport in London you have several options. You can buy a ticket from a machine. You can load money onto your prepaid Oyster card and present that at the turnstiles. Or you can simply use your contactless credit or debit card. I have an Oyster card, but I didn't want to load money onto it unnecessarily, so I used my bank card.

On the buses you scan it once when you get on. On the trams you have to scan twice - once when you enter the station and once when you leave. I was a little perturbed by the way it doesn't tell you what it's charging you. In fact I think you don't get charged until the end of the day when a complicated computer algorithm works out what tariff to apply.

Anyway, the bus went along the back of Buckingham Palace garden, along Hyde Park, up to Marble Arch and along Oxford Street. It was great to see some of the sights.

Later, to get to Child's Hill, I took the tube. Boring, but much quicker further out of the city.

Oh la la la la - The French Presidential Election

OK. So back in the autumn there was a plebiscite to choose the candidate for the centre-right party, which at the moment is called "Les Républicains" in a fine show of resistance to the inexorable march of American culture. The greatly loved mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, stood alongside François Fillon, considerably more right-wing, but who presented himself as the squeaky-clean candidate, resolutely and traditionally Roman Catholic and with a Welsh wife, Penelope.

Fillon won.

Then came Penelopegate. French politicians are allowed to use parliamentary money to employ their family members as aides, secretaries etc. BUT it has to be for real work really done. M. Fillon had paid his wife a generous but not unreasonable salary amounting to something approaching a million euros over the years. Unfortunately an interview emerged where Mrs Fillon, who comes from the disputed territories of Monmouthshire, was asked if she helped François with his work.  Her reply went something along the lines of "Goodness me no, I don't get involved in all that!".


M. Fillon says she had worked, and they could prove it. His accusers say that she had already proved that she had not worked. M. Fillon says that if he is investigated by a judge he will pull out of the presidential election. M. Fillon is duly investigated by a judge. "I will fight to the end", quoth Fillon. M. Fillon could face criminal charges. "I will fight to the end", quoth he once more. His allies, advisors, spokesmen, campaign chairmen are resigning from his campaign. His response? "I will fight to the end."

So the Republicans face the prospect of losing the presidential election.

Enter Madame Marine Le Pen. She is the candidate for the right-wing National Front, counting among her policies the abolition of the euro and the return of the franc, alongside other very popular anti-Brussels rhetoric.

Madame Le Pen is accused of using European Parliamentary money in a similar way to M. Fillon. She has been summoned to be interviewed by an investigating magistrate. "I'm not going!" quoth she, and went she not. She will be summoned again at a future date. "I'm not going!" came the ready reply.

As in the UK, the left wing Socialist Party is in disarray. I ask you, are we living in left-wing kind of days?

Thus far this leaves the field clear for an outsider, Emmanuel Macron, who says he is neither of the left, not the right, nor of the centre, but he wants an eclectic programme of measures including the best ideas of left and of right. He wants to stop us paying Taxe d'Habitation, which is the only direct tax we qualify to pay, so he can't be all bad, can he?

With the general hoo-ha our fine and funky French friends have found a rich comedic vein to explore.

Amongst them a video of policemen catching people in flagrante delicto shoplifting or committing other infractions.

"Excuse me, Madame, you have stolen all those goods from this store."
"And I'll carry on and take them home!"
"Oh, OK, have a nice day."

"You are under arrest. Come with me to the Police Station."
"I'm not coming!"
"Oh, OK, have a nice day."

The one bright spot is that it could turn out that we end up with M. Juppé as president after all.

He has maintained through the whole sorry mess that:
1) the French chose Fillon in a plebiscite
2) Fillon is entitled to the presumption of innocence just like anyone else
3) therefore he, Juppé, would not even consider taking his place as candidate

He now says he would consider replacing Fillon as candidate if
1) Fillon withdraws from the election
2) the Republican party backs him (Juppé)

What a palaver, eh?

Affinity Theological Studies Conference

On Tuesday I took flight to go to the Affinity Theological Studies Conference.

This is held every two years and takes the form of six papers exploring a theme in theology, these papers being sent out beforehand accompanied by a series of discussion questions. During the conference each expert delivers a synopsis of his paper, or homes in on sections they feel particularly relevant. The assembled company then divides into groups of about 10 people to discuss the paper and the questions set by the speaker. I had agreed to lead one of these groups.

I set off from a tempest-racked Bordeaux having weighed the misery of catching the 42 outside our flat, then crossing the road at Mérignac to wait for the 1 to the airport against the misery of trudging to the centre of Pessac to catch the 48 directly with no change. I decided on the latter and made it to the airport not entirely drenched. Some of this water came from my trek to the bus stop. Some of it fell INSIDE THE BUS. I consoled myself with the thought that just last week there were concerns of drought in the summer. Our aquifers were being refilled.

The airport at Bordeaux is easy. Easy to get to. Easy to get through security. Easy to avoid the duty-free shops. Easy to find a coffee is you want one. Easy to find the toilets. Easy to find the departure gate. We are very spoilt.

Boarding the flight wasn't quite so easy. Because of the weather, for the wind wrought and was tempestuous, they decided to embark with only one set of stairs, and I entered the plane to find the steward drying the seats with paper towel. "It's raining INSIDE THE PLANE?" I asked, and he said it was.

Having seen videos of aeroplanes shimmying and sashaying down the runway to land I was, perhaps understandably, a trifle apprehensive but my fears were banished when I heard the steward address the pilot as "Maverick". With Tom Cruise at the joystick, with a few unusual manoeuvres and with bated breath, after a few short minutes we were above the wind, which indeed wrought and was tempestuous and into the brilliant sunshine and peace that you find above the clouds.

I was sent into a revery about the difficult periods of life, which has so often wrought and been tempestuous, and how, if we can find out how, like Maverick, to rise above we can nevertheless find brilliant sunshine and peace.

Oops - here we are in Gatwick. A bit of argy-bargy with shuttles and I was soon on the train opposite two chatty young ladies who had just returned form a fortnight's adventures in Cuba! What experiences they had had! Now it was back to work but with their secret weapons - their memories of their Havana experiences, and not a few bottles of real rum, the good stuff.

As for me I took the 73 bus through the potholes and pneumatic drills of the capital of the rebel kingdom to the British Museum. I was headed for the Greek and Roman rooms with my copy of "Through the British Museum with the Bible". Or is it called "Through the Bible with the British Museum". One or the other.

I first visited Sargon II's Winged Lion Gates. I love those things and if one day I can have a house built for me then that's what I'll have for my garden, perhaps a trifle smaller. I was thrilled to find Sargon II's Winged Lion Bookends in the gift shop later, but at £55 each they stayed there.

Past the Parthenon Frieze, a quick visit to the ever-youthful Alexander the Great, then down to the inscriptions that demonstrated Luke's scrupulous trustworthiness in his travelogue in Acts, a quick sideways glance at the mummies, then off to the cafe for a cup of ... what-do-you-call-this ... coffee. Then lunch I suppose. I found that London shares the current vogue for eating raw fish wrapped round little balls of rice, but adds a plethora of Korean cafes. I ate in Macdonalds. Of course.

Then on the Underworld Railway to Golder's Green where I was to stay overnight with my old friends Gary and Eleri Brady. We would travel up together the following day to the conference.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Plans for a brief visit to the UK in May/June

Thus far:

May 28 Sandbach (am)
May 28 Rhuddlan (pm)
May 30 Cwmbran
May 31 Swansea
Jun 1 Mynydd Isa
Jun 4 Leftwich (am)
Jun 4 Mold (pm)
Jun 5 Carmel
Jun 6 Newtown
Jun 7 Wrexham

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book review - Explore by the Book - 90 days in John 14 - 17, Romans, James, by Tim Keller and Sam Alberry

Devotional books are great, aren't they. Nobody would suggest that we need anything to supplement reading the straight Bible text, but sometimes some brief comments, some questions, some observations made by someone who doesn't think exactly like we do just help the Bible's text and message to hit exactly the right spot in order to help us.

90 days in John 14 - 17, Romans, James, is an excellent example of a helpful devotional book. Written by two leading figures in the evangelical scene, covering a good range of Bible books and giving you undated devotions for three months, what more could you possibly want?

You get the John passages and James dealt with by Sam Allberry and Romans by Tim Keller. These four chapters of John are very rich and sometimes you really need to stop, think and digest what you've read. So it's great that Allberry has dealt with the passages slowly - sometimes just a handful of verses per day - using helpful questions to bring out the meaning of the text, brief comments to elucidate and then little sections to apply and pray about what you've been considering. Romans and James are dealt with equally usefully. Keller navigates carefully the more controversial passages of Romans; Not all readers will agree with his position on Romans 7 and 10, of course. The same could be said of Allberry on James 5. But the passages are dealt with helpfully and usefully.

It would be churlish, niggardly and snide in a book of this size to want more detailed explanations. Or perhaps it would encourage the authors if we are left wanting more. Perhaps that is just what our response should be to these daily glimpses into light. Highly recommended.

I received a free copy of the book in electronic format in exchange for a fair and truthful review.

Book review - Bible Studies on Mark, by William Boekestein, published by Reformed Fellowship

Devotional books are great, aren't they. Nobody would suggest that we need anything to supplement reading the straight Bible text, but sometimes some brief comments, some questions, some observations made by someone who doesn't think exactly like we do just help the Bible's text and message to hit exactly the right spot in order to help us.

"Bible Studies on Mark" is a good example. Too brief to be a commentary, this book aims to open up the text of Mark in 21 brief chapters, around 8 pages a "lesson", commenting, explaining and applying. It's a book where you read the Bible text and then read Boekestein's comments. At the end of each chapter there are questions for reflection and application, then the end-notes. Boekestein's approach is very practical and helpful, but you'll be doing quite a lot of reading.

The book is conservative, straightforward and reverent. The "long ending" of Mark is regarded as authenticated by centuries of tradition, though Boekestein considers what would be meant if the "short ending" was the authoritative text.

This is a wholesome and useful book, good for daily reading or for studies in Mark at a fairly light level. Recommended.

I received a free copy of the book in electronic format in exchange for a fair and truthful review.

Madame Pang's

We called at our friends, Jérôme and Harmonie's new place, "Madame Pang's", very near Dan where we used to meet. It's their new venture, with interior design by a talented young architect, divided into small, intimate seating areas and with a menu of dim sum - Cantonese tapas - and a long and varied list of different drinks.

We ordered three things : crispy chicken, crispy beef and vegetable tempura.

The chicken came first, super little crispy-coated pieces of chicken piled artfully into a column. We guzzled them with gusto.

Then arrived the beef, in little strips, more crunchy than the chicken, but equally good.

Last to arrive, after a little pause, was the vegetable tempura. Green beans, mushrooms, sliced courgettes, I think, and maybe courgette leaves coated in a light mousse of crispy batter. This was our favourite.

The prices start at 4€ per portion and go up to about 12€. Three portions between two of us was plenty for us, and we chose from the cheaper end of the scale.

Thoroughly recommended for anyone, whatever their budget.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hitting the road again

A beautiful morning.
Figaro going through my mind again.
Running faster in the presto.
Oh well.
Birds singing.
Out before dawn, though.
On my way back I passed Mrs Davey heading out.
We have this plan to all three of us go running together to see if we spread panic and confusion amongst the good folk of our neighbourhood.

(Mrs Davey said, "You run fast, don't you!" Honestly, she did!)

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Le Gorafi is a French spoof news agency. The name gives it away, loosely modelled on a kind of verlan version of Le Figaro. But that didn't stop some Algerian newspapers taking this story seriously and publishing it on their front pages.

It says, "Marine Le Pen will build a wall around France and make Algeria pay for it."

Oops! I suppose we are living in rather crazy times.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Citiz cars

During the week someone asked about the cost of using the Citiz cars and I started nosing around on their website. You can download an excel file of all the times you used a car during a particular period and once I worked out what to press and where it was easy to work out what we spent on Citiz cars in 2016. 

It came to 848 Euros. That's more than I thought it would be, but still a good deal when you take into account the cost of insurance, of servicing, of fuel, of depreciation and so on.

It has been a quiet week in Bordeaux

but not that quiet!

From Saturday to Wednesday some friends from England came to visit, and Roger preached for us at Bordeaux Church, giving me a Sunday off, plus the preparation time, plus a real feeling of being demob happy.

So much so that it's taken me a while to get my head back in gear again!

I plum forgot a little list of things I normally do on Tuesday or on Wednesday. Oh well!

Now spring has come to Bordeaux. We have temperatures in the mid teens, some wonderfully sunny days and soon we'll be eating on that terrace. Already the washing is out there, though it has been there for two days now - perhaps it's dry...

Here's a couple photos from a boat trip we took on the river bus down to the cité du vin.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Who do you write the blog for?

asked a friend some years ago. Actually it probably wasn't worded exactly like that, but that was the essence of the question. And a very good question it is.

My cousin who lives near London and is perhaps 20 years older than I recently read my piece on corporal punishment in schools in the 1970s and sent me a delightful email about a teacher who had an immensely positive effect on his life.

I knew the man. When I went through junior school I was taught by this man's wife and they both made a huge impression on me, too.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Chez le médecin

I have stubbornly stuck with the first doctor we went to in Villenave d'Ornon, a 30 minute drive away, rather than going to one of the myriad excellent practitioners that have their surgeries within a five minute walk of our flat, so I booked the super little Toyota Yaris Hybrid from 10 till 13:30. My appointment was at 10:45, but I was unlikely to be seen on time.

You can park right in front of the surgery, it's great, and there were few people in the waiting room. Unfortunately they were all waiting for my doctor, so I was an hour late going in. She apologised, but I said I didn't mind. If you know in advance it's OK. You take something to read or some work to do and that way it's OK.

She checked me over, listening to my heart for slightly longer than I felt comfortable with. 'It's still beating?" "Oh yes, no problem." She decided she's happy with me and sent me on my way.

The remarkable Hans Rosling. We will miss him.

The internet is a weird place

Our Mission, the unique and unrivalled UFM Worldwide, posts tweets of short prayer requests from its missionaries more or less every day. I try to retweet these, but sometimes I miss them, so from time to time I search in twitter for "UFM Worldwide" to get them all on the screen together. Twitter slips in an advertisement of its choice. This morning it was for the new "Fifty shades of grey" film.

Going to see the quack

I was supposed to go and see the doctor at the end of January. "Come and see me at the end of January", she said. But January came and January went with its joys and sorrows, its nostalgia and anticipation, and I hadn't been to see her.

Now we're getting wafted towards the middle of February. I decided that I had better go soon, but I can't go with the 'flu. Still, I'd have to ring and make an appointment for when I'm better, otherwise we'll be in late February, and that would never do.

"Hi, I'd like an appointment please."

"Is it urgent? What about tomorrow?"

Thinks: Oh help. Will I be up to going tomorrow or will I still be shaky. "Is Thursday possible?"

"Thursday would be with the locum. What's the matter with tomorrow?"

"Well it's just that I have the 'flu."

"Oh well in that case we can fit you in this afternoon."

"Oh no! I'm not coming to the doctor with the 'flu! I'm quite OK drinking lots and taking paracetamol. Tomorrow then."

So tomorrow it was. And now it's today.

After the phone-call I decided to go for a little walk in the afternoon just to get out of the flat and breathe moving air for a while. But instead I went back to bed.

Now I'm sick of the sight of my bed and looking forward to stepping out to see the quack.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

If you ever hear that I am devoting myself to an itinerant ministry

do me and everyone else a favour.

Hire a hit man - one in the head and two in the chest is what I'll need.

Let us not forget...

Well I just read a newspaper article written by a CofE clergyperson talking about the marks and scars he bears from the physical punishments doled out in his school - meted out, of course, "in the name of evangelical decency".

Obviously! What other reason could there possibly be?

Well in the case of my school you'd have to look for one.

I grew up in the Rhondda valley and attended normal state schools in the 1960s and 1970s. We had morning assembly, but the act of worship would probably best be described as common or garden liberal moralism. No muscularity here, thank you!

Yet despite this apparently laudable open-minded and flabby approach to christianity, education was still red in cane and slipper. Well, let's not go too far.

One of my earliest memories of primary school was a teacher who rolled up the trouser legs of one small lad and slapped his legs thoroughly for some misdemeanour or other. The cane was used, kids were shaken and slapped, physical punishment of kids under 11 was part of life.

In the secondary school I saw kids lined up in maths lessons to be caned - boys and girls. Others were slippered on their backside, what we called 'the dap', dap being the valleys word for a rubber soled gym-shoe. I was once boxed around the ear - I think it left a permanent defect in the hearing of that ear. Women teachers would routinely send children to men to be caned. I never saw a woman teacher use the cane.

I'm not writing this to justify these types of punishment, or to excuse or to relativise them. I still feel the horror of seeing that lad having his legs slapped and still remember with dread that one irascible teacher who I just avoided. You never knew what would send him off the deep end!

But these things had nothing to do with the brand of christianity espoused. It was the 1970s. Our schools were like that. They should not have been, but they were.

My father grew up in the 1920s and 1930s. He said there was one teacher who would throw chisels at the lads!

It's a bit like Luther's earthy language, the martyrdom of heretics, the hanging, drawing and quartering of traitors. There is such a thing as historical context and we mustn't forget or ignore it.

Our kids in North Wales went to schools where there was no physical punishment whatsoever. In the 1990s. Here in Roman Catholic France corporal punishment is against the law, but our kids saw pupils hit with books. And of course, there are lots of ways of bullying kids other than physically.

You cannot trace child-abuse to one theological current. Bullying is human, the result of sin and crosses all cultural and ideological boundaries, sadly.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Well it's 'flu and we both have it

but at least I am no longer living in denial.

I managed to get through the service, lock up etc. run for the bus home and get home before the shivers started! So it's paracetamol, lots of fluid and staying in the warm for me for a while.

Poor Pat says that so far each day has been worse than the one before. Nice!

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Bourrées from Praetorius' Terpsichore

The big storm and the sickbay

We're in the middle of a big storm here, mainly with very high winds and occasional heavy rain. No trams are running, some areas have no electricity and train services between Bordeaux and Poitiers are interrupted. All night something has been banging somewhere across the street. Our flat is on the leeward end of the building, so we don't feel anything much - last night I upturned the patio tables and piled everything into the most sheltered corner of the terrace and this morning nothing seems to have moved.

Meanwhile Pat is ill with what looks like 'flu - aches, fever, coughing - you know the drill. I hope I didn't give it to her. Just on Wednesday I thought to myself how all this winter I have been pretty free of colds - then on Thursday started brewing something up. I'm currently in denial with a voice about a fourth below it's usual pitch and mild aches, shivers and coughs. Perhaps I have the same as Pat but with its fangs drawn by the 'flu jab. Who knows!

Friday, February 03, 2017

The new specs have arrived

OK. To save about a fiver I got my glasses delivered to a "relay point". Yes. I know. There are various networks of relay points in France and the online opticians use a particular one that has addresses in Mérignac, in various places dotted about Bordeaux and at the main railway station, Gare Saint-Jean. None in Pessac. I chose Gare Saint-Jean.

Now to get from Pessac to Gare Saint-Jean can take anything between 5 minutes and an hour. Trains from Pessac go there directly without passing go, the journey is not included in our monthly bus and tram card but it costs about 2€. At 15:00 I got the message that the specs were ready for collection. There wasn't a train for a couple hours.

So at about 4 I took the bus. Bus 4 to Barrière de Pessac, then bus 11 to Gare Saint-Jean. It was pouring with rain, so the buses were crowded and steamy, but we got there OK. And it took about an hour including perhaps 15 minutes hanging around at bus stops. Collecting the glasses took a little while. To come back there was a train at 18:00, so I bought a ticket and a burger from MacDonalds and assumed my new identity as a mild-mannered, nordic theologian with his signature round plastic specs.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

At the Mairie

When I popped into Pessac centre to get the cinema tickets I also went to get an address at the town hall. I had a serious letter to write.

The junction just outside our block of flats is an accident blackspot. I know of four accidents in the year that we have been here, but people whose flats overlook the road say there have been many more, perhaps 20. The problem is that just before the flats the road curves to the left and the road markings get very slippery in the rain. So if drivers are not very precise in their steering and allow a wheel to sidle onto the line then the car will be liable to skid.

The last accident was on Christmas Eve when a Peugeot 308 skidded across the pedestrian crossing, mounted the kerb and smashed into the fibre-optic internet installation, smashing the fence behind it (and the front of the car).

What concerns me is the very real possibility that someone could have been stood by the crossing waiting for the road to clear. That someone would have been very seriously injured.

Anyway, I was ushered in to talk to someone in the public spaces department, explained what is happening and later followed it up with an email and the photo of the aftermath of the last accident. "If someone is mown down by a car I could not forgive myself if I had not alerted the authorities",  I wrote, perhaps just a trifle melodramatically.

Celebrating life in a culture of death

We heard this week of a couple of books and of a film that have been produced by Anne-Dauphine Julliand. The first book is called "Two little footsteps in the wet sand" and is the story of her daughter. During a pregnancy, the author noticed that her two-year-old daughter was walking oddly. Tests revealed a degenerative disease and the little one was given just months to live. Further tests showed that both she and her husband were carriers of the disease and when the baby she was carrying was born she was also affected.

The author was impressed by a remark a doctor made, "When you cannot add days to your life, you can add life to your days". She wrote a biography of her daughter, a biography because until the moment she died she was living, and living her restricted life to the full.

I brought the book home on Tuesday and Pat read it yesterday.

Another book followed, and then a film, entitled "Et les mistrals gagnants". The title is taken from a popular song by Renaud in which he sings of the way his daughter's childhood days are passing, never to be repeated. The film is a documentary showing the daily life of five children from various parts of France, all of whom are seriously ill. One lad has a condition where his body produces no collagen, and so his skin is prone to peel away. Another had a brain tumour. Another had renal failure. A girl has problems with her heart and lungs. I forget the fifth child's problem.

The children accept their situation and live each day to the full. They have no taboos. The lad with the skin complaint insisted that his daily bath and dressings be filmed. The little lad with the tumour said, "When I'm dead I won't be ill any more." The child with renal failure said, "I haven't peed in two years." He's had a kidney transplant from his father since the film, and says, "To begin with it was great to pee, but after a while it's kind of inconvenient." The lad with the brain tumour has since died.

I don't know when I last saw a happier film. The kids enjoy their life, charging round the hospitals, terrorising the staff, planting gardens, riding bikes, acting in plays, fighting with siblings and generally doing what kids do. It reminded me of a Peanuts cartoon I saw recently.

Charlie Brown: You know, Snoopy, one day we will all die.
Snoopy: Yes, but all the other days we will live.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

It's a shambles!

The presidential election is three months away, in May.

The Republican candidate ("right-wing"), François Fillon, is up to his neck in scandal. It is alleged that he paid his Monmouthshire wife over 800,000€ for a non-existent job.

The National Front candidate (extreme-right), Marine LePen, is accused by the European Parliament of having used 300,000€ of EU money to pay two people who worked for her NF party.

The Socialist Party is quite divided, but there is a presidential candidate, Benoît Hamon, who for the moment is not embroiled in any scandal.

Then there is Emmanuel Macron, an independent, who might just end up being president!

Unless we get Madame LePen.

Monday, January 30, 2017

All these restaurants and fast food outlets are within 100 yards of the Porte d'Aquitaine at Victoire

Speed Rabbit Pizza

Le Break is a pub - it was closed


Japanese - this place had sparky woks in the window!

More kebabs


Thai food

Yet more kebabs

A bagelerie

A Lebanese restaurant - I love the name

Chick'n'links - I think it's kebabs, though

Take away wok food

Asian restaurant


Not sure - looks Japanese to me, or Korean


Another wokerie

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I stumbled across this

when I was looking for a video of Catrin Finch playing the Goldberg Variations. I listened to it while working yesterday and put it on twice at the Maison de la Bible this morning. This woman's story is just astonishing. A real 20th century story. At a time of sadness and madness this kind of thing helps tremendously.

Friday, January 27, 2017

"Rigueur au fond, fantaisie à la forme"

That's what someone said of French music, apparently.

Alerte gastro

Wash your hands thoroughly, people. There are bugs around.
Mrs Davey has succumbed. She's OK but resting and staying at home today.

Hit the road, Jack!

Those nasty, hard frosts have stopped for a while, to be replaced by the traditional warm, winter rains of Aquitaine, so about 6:40ish found me hurtling helter-skelter along the little roads to the château and back. Of course it was a slog after such a long time not running, but it felt good to be out again and to be back on track.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Giving out tracts on Sainte Catherine,

a chap came down eating his way through a tub of chocolates.

I offered him a tract, which he took.

Then he turned back and gave me a chocolate.

Nice, too!

I probably ought to clarify that fact that Penelope Fillon

actually comes from Monmouthshire, the Welsh Alsace-Lorraine, the part of Wales that has been disputed for centuries.

There is this difference.
The Welsh think it should be part of England and the English want it in Wales.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sometimes it is hard to believe that Bach never actually heard a sewing machine

From the utterly excellent "All of Bach" collection:

I turned down marrying someone again

The last time it was a dear friend who needed someone to conduct a wedding in Slovenia.

In Slovenia!

I put him in contact with people who could find them a pastor in Slovenia, but nobody was available. But I can't go swanning off to Slovenia to conduct a wedding! I advised them to distribute different parts of the ceremony to different family members and guests. You don't need a pastor to marry you. It isn't a sacrement or a church ordnance. You don't need diddly squat. It's fine.

This time it was about an hour from here, a couple we don't know who I believe live overseas are coming back to France to marry because she's French. It'll be a great opportunity for someone to minister into an important moment in a couple's life, but it isn't a service that we can provide. I gave them some contacts that may be able to help.

I'm so excited - not

Well I've ordered my new glasses. I'm allowed, I think, a new pair once a year if my prescription changes. It has changed, so I've ordered them. This will be my third pair.

My first were little, rectangular, wire-framed things. Not very prominent, but they did have an unfortunate tendency to cut grooves into the sides of my head.

My second are the ones I am wearing. They are rectangular but larger and with a more prominent grey plastic frame. Essentially they make me look like Joe 90. But at least they don't do the groove thing.

The ones I have ordered are round but with arms that poke out a bit. Essentially nordic theologian glasses. Like Bonhoeffer used to wear.

The firm I order my glasses from has this natty website where you can superimpose the glasses onto your face using the webcam in your computer. It all sounds very good, but it didn't predict the grooves in my head and I didn't spot the Joe 90 resemblance.

Oh well. Vanity is a bad thing, anyway, and it is more important to be able to read and stuff.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oh boy it was so cold today

and I, fool that I was, decided not to wear my big, thick, padded, leather coat that I got for 20€ from Auchan in the sale and that one day I will have to leave to someone in my will because it will outlast me, but I decided to wear my thick-ish Blacks fleece.

Bad move. The fleece was hopelessly inadequate and it looks funny anyway. But then so does the leather coat. But at least I look funny and warm in the leather coat.

Anyway. I was on duty in the Maison de la Bible but things were very quiet because of the bitter cold!

Still, three more weeks and we should see things starting to warm up.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A wee Monday ditty

So relieved!

Saturday evening at about 5pm, the sudden thought comes - quickly, without warning, unannounced, as if from nowhere - "You should have been on duty in the Maison de la Bible this morning, the 21st of January, and you forgot to go."

Anguish and terror seize my heart with a strong, swift, vice-like grip.

I dare not look in my diary.

I tell Pat, 'I think I forgot to be in the Maison de la Bible this morning."

"Oh dear. What does your diary say?"

I dare not look, but look I must, so I brace myself, take a deep breath, poke the little square and up it comes.

Nothing. There is nothing noted for that morning!

Relief is short lived, a mayfly, a shooting star of hope.

"I bet I forgot to note it in my diary!" Like a gambling addict in a bent casino, which essentially means any casino, I know I cannot win.

"I'll ask Catherine."

"No, don't worry about it. There's nothing you can do now anyway."

I listen to the voice of reason, but reason cannot drive out the dreadful feelings of guilt, culpability and blame.

Yesterday at about 14:00 hours Catherine sends me a text message about something else.
I reply, surreptitiously appending, "Did I forget to be in the MB yesterday morning?"

No response came.

It's an obvious "yes".

They're trying to spare my feelings.

Oh dear, it's time to engage a personal carer.
I can no longer live unsupervised in this world.
I contemplate a bleak future being spoon-fed and accompanied to the cough-cough bathroom.

At 20:00 another message. Tacked on the end thereof, "No, it was John's turn."