New Year 2020

 There's a curfew at the moment which means that everyone must be indoors by 8pm. Covid regulations also restrict the number of folk you can have in your home to 6 (not counting children). So New Year's Eve found us on our own this year. It meant we could do things simply.

We were on duty in the Christian bookshop from 2 till 4, so we had a big lunch of cauliflower cheese before heading off into the city. We wanted to call by Bradley's bookshop, the English language bookshop, on the way, and we spent a happy moment chatting with the guy who should really have been stocking the shelves, but hey. Then off to the bookshop through the pouring rain, dodging the many cyclists and the few cars. 

Because we'd be along we decided we could skip eating an evening meal and instead go for snacks finger food, so I whipped up some hummus, Pat chopped carrots, peppers and cucumbers and we cracked open a bag of those vegetable crisps, too. We don't get TV but we do have a Netflix subscription, so we decided to watch again The Bodyguard, the TV cop and political intrigue drama from some decades ago while munching our peppers and scraping our hummus (with smoked paprika).

Midnight found us on the balcony watching the fireworks in the various suburbs around us, Floirac, Bouliac, Bègles, Villenave. People seemed particularly happy to see the end of 2020, with loud cheers for 15 to 20 minutes and some wag somewhere playing bugle calls into the night.

2020! What a year! We know that God's goal for us in this world is to make us less like the hell-bound mindless rebels we are by nature and more like the Lord Jesus Christ. To achieve this he uses every circumstance of our lives, working everything together for our good and his glory. 

That's why I wonder whether despite the frustrations and challenges that 2020 has thrown up, and the very real fear, pain and grief we have known, whether in the end 2020 will prove to have been one of the nest years we have ever known. It has brought us - dragged us kicking and screaming - back to the essentials. Stripped us of our frills and shown what we are underneath.

On another note I write to you from inside the European Union, aware that many of you have now left definitively. I was surprised when the Christmas Eve Deal popped out of the hat. I thought there would be no deal. I suspected that this was the desired outcome - certainly it was for some. Now to make a success of it, as a former Prime Minister promised, but was unable to deliver.

For our part we have our 10-year residence cards. Yesterday a man urged us to apply for French nationality, and we may do that one day. What's stopping us is the expense of getting lots of documents translated and the awareness that whatever we do we can never be French. Let me explain.

I joined various groups on the internet which are designed to share information for those applying for residence or for nationality. The process is long. It takes a minimum of two years. People who are granted their prized French passport sometimes encourage everyone by saying "I'm French". French people are quick to reply that they are not French, they just have French nationality, and that is not the same thing.

We love France and we love living here. We think the French way of running the country is eminently sensible and has reaped tangible benefits. We see the French state as benign and benevolent and we are happy to pay our taxes - mainly VAT - and support the country as much as we can. We love the city of Bordeaux and we are very happy to live and work here and do all we can to contribute to its well-being.

But we don't think or work like French people and I don't think we ever could. We were not made in France and we are ill-equipped to cope here. So we'll shelve any decisions about nationality until we know where we should settle once we retire from the work we're engaged in here. That's planned for 2025. Goodness, just four years!

All things work together for good, according to his purpose, to be conformed to the image of his Son.

'From heavenly Jerusalem's towers,
The path through the desert they trace;
And every affliction they suffered
Redounds to the glory of grace;
Their look they cast back on the tempests,
On fears, on grim death and the grave,
Rejoicing that now they're in safety,
Through Him that is mighty to save.

And we, from the wilds of the desert,
Shall flee to the land of the blest;
Life's tears shall be changed to rejoicing,
Its labours and toils into rest.
There we shall find refuge eternal,
From sin, from affliction, from pain,
And in the sweet love of the Saviour, 
A joy without end shall attain.'

David Charles, 1762-1834
tr. by Lewis Edwards, 1809-87


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