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, May 17, 2022

Tax

 "It would be in your interest to tick box 0UU" said the government website.

I thought I had better do it. I could always untick it if it was a problem.

I ticked it. The government gave me lots of tax back.

I do hope that's right ! 

And another Choral update

 The Pizzicati sent out a poster containing the date of the Gjeilo concert. I'm in the UK.


Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Choral update

 Choirs, eh?

Anyway at present I am back at Arianna and we are rehearsing a work by James Whitbourn, called Annelies. It’s a kind of cantata or oratorio based on the diary of Anne Frank. It’s not very cheerful, though it has some charming passages. I’m also finding it quite a difficult work to get into. I sing low bass for Arianna, thought I can’t remember why.

The choir continues to rehearse at the Pessac library, which is far easier for me to reach than the old Music School rehearsal room, but I’m not sure what they plan for the future.

Annelies is sung mostly in English. English pronunciation is a minefield for the Gallic mouth. Enough said.

Meanwhile another choir advertised for help from any basses, tenors or high sopranos. I looked into them. They rehearse in a part of Bordeaux which is easy to get to by Tram D. You just sit on the tram for about 30 minutes and then walk 5 and you’re there.

They’re a smaller group and thin in tenors and baritones. They need me in baritone for four works, two of which I kind of know. Firstly Ola Gjeilo’s Northern Lights, which is a setting of a latin text from the Song of Solomon. It’s very nice and not terribly challenging. 

Then two extracts from the choral version of Grieg’s Peer Gynt, which for some reason we’re singing in German.  

Then comes Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass, again in Latin. This is much harder to read, with lots of changes of time signature, lots of modulation and loads of enharmonic notes where you get for example G# followed by Ab. Strictly speaking they’re not the same note, and they are written differently because of the harmony, but they’re so close in pitch as to make little difference in a 50 person amateur choir. If you’re used to them you just have to look out for them, but they do have a tendency to throw you if you cannot really read music. And most of our basses are not readers. 

Thus Alan’s helpful remarks like ‘you see how that note is HIGHER than that one? That means you go UP, not down. (Ça monte là, et monter, c’est vers le haut). But THOSE two notes are the same. They just LOOK different’. As well as ‘pp, that means pleine puissance (full power) while ff means faible et feignant (weak and lacking)’

I have three weeks to learn Sunrise Mass, and to begin with I thought it would be a tall order. But we sang through it yesterday and there’s only one passage where I struggle, really, so with a bit of effort I should be able to pull my weight. And the end of the piece is breathtakingly beautiful.

The ADIL

 So on Friday we were meant to be visiting Venice. That still awaits us. Instead we went to visit the ADIL.

The ADIL is a government backed advisory service that helps people with issues about housing. You can go there if your landlord is treating you unfairly, or if your accommodation is insalubrious, or to get advice on insulating your home or whatever. We went to get impartial advice on what we should do.

The advisor was someone who used to be an advocate but who decided to come and work for the ADIL instead. Some of her colleagues used to be notaries. Most have some legal training. She began by of course telling us that she could advise us of the options available to us, but that she could not tell us what we ought to do. I of course said that we were depending on her to do exactly that, and we laughed.

We showed her our situation and by the time we left we knew what we ought to do, namely to take out a mortgage over three years for the shortfall in purchasing the house, plus a little more. That way we pay it all off shortly after retiring. Interest rates are low, and in France you can take out a home loan over a short period. She suggested five years, but we chose to reduce the term.

So on Monday we need to contact everyone involved and get the whole thing sorted out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Canonical relatives

 While we were not preparing to fly to Florence, the Davey clan was gathering in Bangor, Gwynedd, for the occasion of the installation of my nephew to the Cathedral there. He’s joining the bishop’s team working in HR, effectively, after being in charge of recruitment of trainees in the Llandaf diocese. The new job involves being installed as a canon of the cathedral and being installed with Gordon the cat in a splendid house near the Menai straits.

I don’t think we agree about much theologically, We have yet to ind common ground. David is liberal Anglo-Catholic in the Church in Wales. But I hope we can either visit him in Bangor soon or get him down here to visit Bordeaux. 

No gelato for us this time

 We were due to fly to Florence on Monday for the UFM European Conference. It’s held in a brethren conference centre up in the Tuscany hills and is as idyllic as it sounds. We booked a weekend in Padua afterwards so we could visit Venice.

However Pat’s back problem played up while we were in the UK and put our return journey to France a little in jeopardy. So we thought long and hard, then cancelled our Padua pad and our flights.

The down side of this is that we don’t yet get to go to Italy. The up side is a quiet week at home and a chance to come as reinforcements to help out a choir short of basses performing Gjeilo music in about three weeks’ time.

I have a recorded delivery for Patricia Davey

 Our notaire (it’s a cross between a solicitor and a Lord Chief Justice) asked whether we’d received a thick packet of papers from the builder’s notaire.

No. We hadn’t.

All was explained last Friday when the postman rang the intercom to say that he had a recorded delivery for Patricia Davey. 

OK. I descend. I replied.

I did so, to be greeted by a friendly young postman bearing two thick envelopes, each recorded delivery, one to me and one to Pat.

Sorry about the delayed delivery, he said.

Well, it’s not your fault, it’s the system.

He looked at me sheepishly, « well in this case I am not sure I helped the system to function as it should…»

« Oops! Oh well, it hasn’t made a lot of difference on this occasion. »

Posted on April 14th, it’s a packet of specifications, certificates and information relating to the purchase of our apartment. We had 30 days to peruse and to respond.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

The estival hecatomb

 has begun. Thus far have I been bitten on my heel (the VERY FIRST TIME I wore sandals this year) and in the small of my back.

Meanwhile the dengue and chikungunya bearing tiger mosquito has colonized almost the entire hexagon of mainland France, hesitating only before breaching the borders of Brittany or piercing the polar plains of the extreme northerly departments.


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Tomorrow's an interesting one

 May 1 is the Fête du travail, the festival of work, which we celebrate by not doing a stroke.

This means no buses or trams. It's also the first Sunday of the month, so in theory cars are not allowed in the city centre.

As most of our folks come to church by bus or tram, and it's the last Sunday of the Easter hols anyway, and lots of us are away, then tomorrow will be a small, select band.

Hey, let's not forget the value of calm, quiet Sundays when we can relax and take things a bit easier.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Macron's vocabulary

 As some wag remarked, at least with Macron you learn some new words.

Last election we learnt poudre de perlimpinpin which means snake oil.

This time we learnt ripoliner, which means to paper over the cracks, and carabistouille, which means blatant, bare-faced lies.


crier haro sur le baudet

 someone used this expression recently and I just had to look it up. 

It seems to mean "looking for scapegoats".

Now to hear it and to use it.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Buying a flat - sequel

 Well I was right to be nervous. 

Our savings have shrunk over the last six months so that we no longer have all the money we need!

Good think I looked before calling the Notaire!

I'll speak to our adviser at the bank and then we'll decide what to do, but we may end up having to pull out of the purchase.

We need to :

1) check why - I suspect he will say covid and Ukraine

2) see if we can make up the shortfall and at what cost

3) ensure that they don't shrink any further! 

I think I may have missed a column.....

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

ORL

My home syringing proved ineffective, so I asked my GP (in France, généralissime) to look down my ears with his little intraauriculoscope. 

"Hmm, that's a job for the ORL", he said.

So it was that yesterday evening I found myself in the charming Augustin district of Bordeaux at the ORL's cabinet. It's a family business with mother and daughter being orthoptists (I looked it up but I'm still a bit foxed) and father being an ORL.

He was a charming man, addressing me as "Cher monsieur" and it didn't sound odd, contrived or even outdated. 

Just as well, really, as he proceeded to hoover out the inside of my lug holes before using alarmingly long probes to scrape out gobs of evil-looking goo.

"I won't get an infection?", I asked. 

I got one once after a doctor in Cardiff used their new electric syringe machine and put me in agony such that I cried into my pillow every night for days on end.

"No, we'll give you drops." 

I thought they would.

"The left one needs a bit more attention. Do this night and morning for ten days then come back and see me again."

 

Macron

 M. Macron won 58% of the vote.

This is a huge amount, especially for his second mandate. 

It has been equalled once, by Pompidou, and exceeded twice, firstly when Chirac beat Jean Marie le Pen with over 80% of the vote, and then for Macron's first mandate, which he won with over 60% of the vote.

French politics is regionally patchy, too. Bordeaux gave Macron 80% and Paris 85%.

There are background stories, though. 

The first is the fragmentation of French politics. People tend to found their own parties, so Macron's centrist party is called En Marche (E.M., get it?) Edouard Philippe, the hugely popular ex-Prime Minister, has founded his, called Horizons. 

This makes your election decision very different. No more can one say that the family has always voted conservative since the first d'Avey came over with the Conqueror. You got to decide who you want to be president.

The second is the collapse of the left and the rise of the far right. This west-wide phenomenon (Trump? other things?) has not spared France. If we are not to drift together into an alarming dystopia we need to get involved now.



Buying a flat

 I hate to admit it, but I am very nervous.

Shouldn't be. This is the sixth time I've bought a property. It's never been a total disaster, even if I do regret buying the house in Pessac. Each time I've / we've stretched ourselves. 

I suppose it's not the flat, really. It's the thought that this is the last house purchase, perhaps. This is the one we retire into.

It's probably retirement itself, too. 

Anyway, today's top priority is to ensure that we have all the money we need to buy the flat. Then to communicate same to the Notaire and arrange to sign the act de vente.


A visit to Norwich

 After Easter weekend, which was sunny and warm and filled with church folk in the park and on the quays and in worship and in song, we flew off to Norwich to see our son and daughter-in-law after over two years of covid separation.

It's easy to get to the airport here, though it takes about an hour. Bus 1 wound through the streets from one terminus to the other and we picked our way through the roadworks of the future tram stop to drop our bags at bag drop, then slip through security and off to our departure gate. The flight to Stansted was on time.

At Stansted we treated ourselves to meal deals before hunting down the railway station, unhelpfully indicated in all directions at once: inside, outside, frontside, backside - in the end we worked it out for ourselves and found a ramp going down. The train was waiting for us so we settled ourselves into our beautifully clean and comfortable seats. We would pass Cambridge, Ely and Thetford before arriving at Norwich. It would take about two hours.

I once escaped for a holiday where nobody knew where I was and spent some happy days at Cambridge. Pat and I stopped off once at Ely en route for a wedding at Norwich and we were captivated by the place. So I craned through the windows to catch a glimpse of the smart little housing estates, high tech profit stations and cycle paths of Cambridge and then to see Ely Cathedral's lantern standing tall over the river.

"Why do I remember Thetford?", I mused, aloud. A family opposite said, "Thomas Payne? American revolutionary?" I had heard of him but I didn't think it was that or remember that he was from Thetford.. Oh, I've got it. They make camping toilets. 

Soon we drew into Norwich and began our week of Great British Food, sightseeing and generally being spoiled. Pat's back problem flared up but only towards the end of the week and did not dampen our revels too much. I bought paracetamol and ibuprofen from Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Asda, Sainsbury, Superdrug and Morrisons before deciding that the rules were so stupid there must be another way. I asked the helpful lady in Boots and she offered me enough paracetamol and ibuprofen to kill an elephant or to last Pat for about a month. So we came back with some stocks in hand.

On the Monday Pat said she was fit to travel, so we caught the ten to seven train from Norwich to Stansted, dropped our bags at bag drop, slipped through security, bought and ate our meal deal, filled our water bottles and found the departure lounge. The flight was efficient and comfortable and bus 1 picks up close to the terminal. We let the first one go - no seats - but the second was waiting just a few minutes behind and so we sat in regal comfort all the way home.
















Sunday, April 10, 2022

CNEF journée juridique

 French association law has changed in an attempt to track and trace radicalisation so the CNEF organised study days where people could come together with various experts to get advice o what we need to do. The Bordeaux day took place in the church in Eysines. It's one of the to-uter suburbs of Bordeaux but tram D goes from our flat to within a 15 minute walk of the church so I didn't bother reserving a car. Thankfully the weather was very pleasant and I listened to various podcasts on the way.

The day was made up of one plenary session where after the usual speeches of welcome and appreciation and how's your father the CNEF's legal expert explained the background ad the aims of the law. Then we had workshops.

Our first workshop was with the same lawyer, explaining the new procedures for declaring your association to the prefecture - a declaration that you will now have to do every five years including your accounts for the last three years. This is to stop money-laundering through religious fake shop-fronts as well as to monitor sponsoring of religious groups by potentially hostile states.

Then accounting. Well I don't understand the jargon in the first place so I was with the little group who at the end said "well that was all Chinese to me". But basically we have a list of three things to put in the accounts we declare to the prefecture - our balance sheet, our profit and loss sheet and the explanatory notes that go with it. At least I think that's what we mean by Blin, Compte des Résultats and Annexe.

The last workshop was with a charming lady, also a lawyer, who explained the ins and outs - mostly outs - of what you can and cannot do - mostly cannot - with a 1905 association like a church.

So we came away with a list of things to do and a warning not to do them yet - to wait perhaps until the autumn because just as we have to get ready to observe the law, so the prefectures also have to get ready to apply the law, and it's just as hard for them as it is for us. 

Maybe harder. 

So patience.

Meanwhile we had fun at lunchtime eating our picnics together with new friends from Sarlat, from Bergerac and from Biscarosse.


More excitement !

 How much can one take ?

Some months ago one of the choirs I sang with briefly was putting on the Bach B Minor for their fiftieth anniversary. They're a very good choir so I was excited to go and hear them - how often do you hear a live B-minor? - so I happily forked out the price for two seats.

The a storm hit and the trams were disrupted and our journey to the theatre (!) where they were singing was made impossible. 

Well they decided to do "excerpts" - essentially almost all the choruses - from the B-minor in one of the city-centre freezers churches on a "give generously" basis in aid of the local fund to support Ukraine. We gladly went along.

The pianist put out a request for a page-turner but found someone before he got my message offering to help. I was very glad because the pianist was centre-stage with the page turner facing the audience.  

Well, the choir sang very well. The conductor is very animated and pretty well dances as he conducts. The tempos for the more lively movements were very fast. Personally I prefer clarity to velocity, and churches are resonant, so it didn't scratch me where I itch but it certainly had fireworks. 

Without the arias and duets the B-minor does become a bit of a fugue-fest, but they never got lost, the entries were nice and deliberate and the ripieno chorale melodies - the slow chorale melodies that are sung through (or above, or below) the running passages - came across well.

For me the highlight was the Sanctus. It's one of my favourite movements anyway, but this Sanctus was splendid - perhaps the best I've heard sung. It was like a mountain in a blizzard, or a cathedral in a hailstorm. The swirling triplet passages churned relentlessly, while the ostinato octave scale passages anchored you down in the ebb and flow. Magical. 

Excitement !

 Bordeaux has a new Aldi store, right in the middle of town. It's where a huge shoe shop used to be and it's a two-storey store with all the usual things Aldi sells but with more of it, more space and better laid out. It may conceivably wean me away from Lidl, except that from our flat we can walk to Lidl in about 20 minutes, but Aldi is a 45 minute walk away.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Late frosts

While British friends have been playing in the snow, our gallant wine growers have been fighting the frosts. Last night it got to -6°C here in the Gironde, and the problem is that this comes after a week of warm sunshine, so the vines have started budding.

A sharp frost can kill the buds, and that means less shoots from the vine, which means fewer harvests of grapes and less wine. 

So the winegrowers use various techniques to try to combat the frosts.



Candles - a bit like garden flares but on a bigger scale, some pepper their vineyards with these braziers to raise the overnight temperature just that little bit.

Windmills - some vineyards have windmills installed that are powered at night to keep the air moving and stop the frost settling on the vines.

Helicopters - I've never seen or heard this, but some areas hire helicopters to fly over the vineyards and churn up the air so the frost doesn't settle.

I'm to sure how long this cold snap is due to last, but for the winegrowers it can't end soon enough.

We're free !

 On Sunday I was due to preach on Luke 4:1-13, the temptation. I thought I'd have enough breath control to cope without too much coughing, though I knew that singing would not yet be possible. Mrs Davey, on the other hand, was not due to be released until Monday, one week after she tested positive for covid.

We've effectively lived apart. I've lived in the office and the spare bedroom. There's a small showroom and a toilet. All this on one side of the living room.

On the other side of the living room is our bedroom and an attached bathroom. That's where Pat lived.

The living room was our dirty zone. In there we would wear masks and be careful to wash our hands on entering and leaving. Whenever possible we would leave a window open. There I would prepare lunch and we would yell thanks at each other across the room before going to our own ends to eat.

It all sounds very tedious, and it was. But others have done similar things or worse. A doctor friend in the UK hired a caravan and put it on his driveway so he could isolate in that. The Welsh Prime Minister moved into his garden shed.

Meanwhile Catrin and Froim were both struggling too. I was able to deliver paracetamol and self-tests to them. You can order food deliveries.

So Sunday morning I got out the test and carefully probed, dunked and dripped. Look after 15 minutes and before 20, said the instructions. I looked. Negative ! I could preach.

I'd made a quatre-quarts with chocolate chips - this is a kind of buttery madeira style cake that's very popular in France. It's a sandwich mix - the weight of the eggs in sugar, butter and flour, that you prepare by the creaming method, but then you bake it in a loaf tin for up to an hour. It makes a big cake, so I wanted to take it to church to share.

Encouraged by my test, Pat decided to try. She too was negative! 

We both cough. Lots. I am still very restless at night. Pat is incredibly tired.

But we're free !

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Checking with the doctor by video consultation

 We're so thankful for this flat just now. I can live at one end and Pat can live at the other. We have a "dirty zone" - the kitchen and living room - where we have to wear masks, open windows and wash our hands obsessively. I prepare the meal then scuttle down to my end shouting to Patricia that it's feeding time. Then once the coast is clear she gets her plate and scuttles off to her end. We sneak in with our dishes and pop them in the dishwasher decontamination apparatus to await thorough cleansing.

It occurred to me that this might be a lot of effort to no effect if my catching covid is inevitable. It also occurred to me that there might be things we should do that we have't even thought of. So I arranged to call the doctor.

"Well you mustn't see her", he said.

"I mustn't SEE her?" I emphasised.

"Well, you must't spend time in the same room."

I explained our arrangements I detail and asked if there was any point. He said there was every possibility that I might not catch the thing, and that our approach was appropriate.

This afternoon we had an appointment at the bank to open an account for the café outreach, so I did a quick test after lunch. These are public events as we pop photos of our results online and ask, "does this look negative to you?"

It did. Quite gloriously negative. So off I scuttled to the bank and followed it up with a lightning assault on Auchan to buy various essentials, like cake and strawberries and hard toffees to bring some sunshine into Patricia's life, and into mine. Well, except for the hard toffees...

As I paid in Auchan a lady outside was dashing back and forth shouting "Au secours ! Au secours !"

I turned to look. "She hasn't paid." said the cashier.

In the tram there was some kerfuffle going on. The driver stopped the tram and said he wouldn't start it up again until people calmed down. 

They did, so he did, but then at the main railway station he ordered us all off. (There's always a lot of police hanging round the main railway station.) 

The kerfuffle continued. 

The next tram came. 

I came home, thankful for the peace and quiet of my end of the flat.

Monday, March 28, 2022

And Mrs Davey has covid

 She's been ill since Friday and tested positive this morning.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

They’re planting the gardens!

 








Chez le médecin

 Vocabulary is always a challenge. For example, what about the range of different kinds of pain, like ache, throb, stabbing pain, discomfort ? I only know two, I think... douleur and courbatures. As well as the old mal à la tête, mal à la gorge, etc... It seems quite important to me to know whether something aches, throbs or stabs, but I'd have to launch into quite a long speech to explain it in French.

Thankfully on this occasion pain wasn't part of the issue, and I had most of the words I needed. Respirer, s'allonger, le fauteuil, constricte, bronchodilateur - though it turns out this one needs a bit more tatata in it. it's dilatatation, so bronchodilatatateur. Or I think that's what he said. You have to remember that a cough is a girl - la toux, and to cough is tousser... oo, oo, oo, never ü, ü, ü.

How do you address yourself to the doctor? I asked a friend. Can you say, Bonjour Docteur ? Bonjour Toubib ? Bonjour M. le Médecin ? What is appropriate ? As it turns out you usually don't call him anything. "Bonjour, ça va ?" is quite enough.

He remarked on my Batman tee-shirt. "J'ai mis ça pour vous faire plaisir." I said (I wore it specially for you). "Well take it off so I can listen to the whistling in your chest."

I tried for "The British Grenadiers" by controlling my inhalation and exhalation, but it wasn't a good rendition. Loud enough, but out of tune.

He checks your blood pressure by sticking your hand in his armpit. The first time I was mildly shocked. The second time just nonplussed. This time I was armed. Vous n'avez pas peur des guilis, vous ? (You aren't ticklish?) He laughed and promised that one move of my hand and he'd break my fingers for me.

He wondered aloud about heart failure but since I'd told him that the day before I'd trotted up to Lidl and back, about an hour's round trip on foot if you count the shopping time, and he could see that my ankles bones are still nice and visible I was quite confident that it wasn't that. And after checking, so was he.

A tip, and a reminder for spoken French - someone says to you "asspwala ?" they mean as much as that, to that extent, etc... Written it's "à ce point-là", but e's tend to disappear in French, as do most consonants and of course combinations of vowels are usually pronounced as a totally different vowel which is not present in the combination. For example, most ways of writing the sound "o" do not contain the letter o.

Anyway.

The upshot is that I came away with a prescription for a steroid to inhale to calm the inflammation in my lungs. Twice a day for a month. And something to start if the pollen begins to get to me. And another Ventolin.

Now Mrs Davey has gone down with something similar but not exactly the same. Hers involves PAIN and swollen glands and a feeling of impending doom. 

She's suffering. 

I'm just coughing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The downside of unmasked faces

 We got back Tuesday evening and a happy and full week of activity awaited us. Wednesday was Bible study and prayer at the home of a couple who live in one of the suburbs - Mérignac. It's quite a hoof from the tramline, so you switch to the bus and the journey, though not long, takes up to an hour. Sometimes I reserve a pool car but it takes just as long because of having to get around the city centre, then negotiate a maze of different routes. The evening was good, however.

Wednesday morning we had met up to work through the statutes for the association which will run the café-style centre in front of the church building. We met in one of the local coffee-shops and I drank a great flat white to kick-start my little grey cell.

Then it was preparation. We changed our preaching schedule a while ago but, still high on San Sebastián, I totally forgot so launched into reflexion on Luke 3, instead of the end of Luke 2. Luke 3 is a fascinating chapter and Rory will preach that this coming Sunday.

I also needed to prepare for our Saturday afternoon on Worship. I was covering the sections entitled "How we got here" and "How do we do this". Sylvain had the central section "what do we do, then". Powerpoint slides work really well as an aide-memoire, but I also attached notes to them just in case.

On Friday Catrin, Froim, Pat and I met up in town. I had the beginnings of a sore throat, and so did Catrin and Froim. By Saturday morning I was concerned.

I did my webcast to North Wales (on Luke 18:15-17) then hopped off to the pharmacy.

I described my symptoms and said my voice had to last through the weekend, then I could flop. 

"Do you have anything to wash up your nose?"

No.

"OK you need this. It's often because of nasal infections that your throat gets inflamed. Also this, it's essential oils that are anti-bacterial and anti-viral. You aren't asthmatic are you?"

Yes.

"hmmm. Here we are" It was a herbal syrup for singers.

Should I do a covid test?

"You could"

Could or should.

"Well, perhaps if the symptoms change...

Now I am not convinced by herbalism or by homeopathy or by flower therapy. Basically if it isn't produced in a massive petrochemical plant somewhere I can't see how it can have any beneficial effect on the human body. But at the same time the pharmacist is the expert in this exchange, so I paid my money and went home to squirt sea-water up my nose and to drink the sweet syrup of elderberries and thyme.

And I added Olbas oil, Potter's pastilles and aspirin gargles.

I got through the weekend, and before setting off for the worship gathering I did a negative covid test. 

Saturday afternoon started with a delightful meal in the sunshine of the courtyard, then our time of discussion, explanation, review and exploration.

Sunday was also a good day, with Jesus in the temple amongst the teachers, 

Incidentally, were the teachers in the temple amazed at the precocious 12 year-old, or was it something else? Was it the fact that he thought the whole Bible was about him (like in Luke 24), AND that he thought the temple was his Father's house...

But Monday came. 

Well what do you expect if you've been wearing masks and keeping away from people. I had a raging sore throat that was rapidly developing into a nasty hacking cough. 

Bring back masks, that's what I say !

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Long time no blog

 We were married on 13 March 1993, so last weekend we hopped on the TGV to Hendaye. There was a church officers' meeting at our home on Friday evening so we took the 9am TGV from Bordeaux.

Hendaye is a border town just south of here. The TGV gets there in about two and a half hours. We get cheaper tickets because of our age (codger cards) and when I booked the tickets it cost perhaps 3 euros more to travel first class, so we did.

Large armchairs with electric reclining mechanisms, a mains socket and a USB socket, various lights and natty tables to fold out. We travelled like kings. You now only have to wear a mask on public transport, but even there you can take it off to eat or to drink, so we regally ate apples and bananas and drank from our water bottles.

At Hendaye you change to the Euskotren which goes from a station about 100 yards away. I wasn't sure what kind of ticket we needed and there wasn't a lot of information displayed but a friendly lady came up to help us. Our singles to España cost 2,75€ each Then off to San Sebastián in the Basque country.

We had booked into a guest house which we found on AirBnB but which was cheaper if you booked directly at their own website. It was near the main beach, a decent-sized bedroom with a kettle and cups and a very small bathroom attached. On the way we found a café that was serving lunch and ate a copious set menu that put us off eating anything more that day!

In San Sebastián we walked lots, including around the new town where the chain shops are, around one of the hills where the huge waves drenched us with surf while I was busy giving someone directions to church. I didn't scream, yell or lose my sang-froid. We rode the rickety funicular railway up to the not-yet-opened amusement park, but great for the views out over the city. We explored to our hearts' content. And we ate Basque food. 

In one bar near the funicular railway the proprietor was speaking Basque to several of his customers and we ate hearty bocadillos and drank Spanish cider (it's 1,50 a glass but only 5€ for the bottle, said the proprietor) while a group of seriously elderly people at a table alongside chomped away on various pintxos and laughed at the folly of our youthful leaders.

Pintxos. On previous expeditions to San Sebastián pintos had not figured At all. Once we went in a rainy, bleak November and another time Pat went with a friend who is vegan, so this trip we wanted to tackle them. The old town is stuffed with bars and we ventured in on Saturday evening. It was fiesta time. Everywhere was absolutely stuffed with people laughing, shouting, singing and dancing in the street. We were not sure we were quite ready to shove ourselves into the festive throng, and we were still full from lunch, so we found something to drink in a quiet place and went back to our room.

Sunday was a different story. We had spotted one quiet bar on a quiet street in a quiet corner of the old town, so after online church we ventured out to find our pintxos. We reckoned that if we went early we'd be OK. By the way, my Spanish is now seriously lousy and I'd had no time to revise. I understand pretty well anything anyone says to me, but answering is another matter, I mix up "here" and "there", and don't ask me to conjugate verbs, though 2nd form Latin still seems to work...

So -  Pintxos. Essentially they are kind of like tapas, but not really. They're snack-size meals prepared with skill and delicacy. The official way to do it is to go on a pintxos crawl, eating a snack and drinking a glass in a succession of different bars. We decided that we didn't want to quite do that, so we stayed in the one place and ordered what we fancied.

The classic is called La Gilda - named after the heroine of a 1940s film, It consists of a skewer dressed with an olive, and anchovy fillet that encircles three small pickled green peppers and finished with another olive. 

Others come on toasted slices of baguette, and feature tuna, anchovies and shellfish, as well as little lamb cutlets and cheek of beef, stewed slowly in rich gravy. It's all quite delicious and cheaply priced as long as you don't get carried away. Also we slipped up one time and ordered dessert. Big mistake! It was expensive and ordinary.

The local wine is called Txakoli and has to be poured from a great height, as does the cider. You need to get air into it. They're both light and acidic, refreshing but not at all strong.

San Sebastián was full of French people and we chatted with them about the city and the food we were all eating and how we could do them back in France for apéros dînatoires. We got chatting with an American guy who works all over the world by didn't want to tell us what he did, just as you'd expect from an international hired assassin.

On our last day our TGV left at 6 from Hendaye, so we needed to catch the train from San Sebastián at 5. We popped out for breakfast in a nearby café, then tidied our room and checked out to explore the city for one last time. San Sebastián has lots of charming little parks dotted around the city. Then we went for a late lunch to another place I'd spotted that did a reasonably-priced pintxos set lunch. It was next door to the splendid café El Quijote and had a kind of greenhouse where you could sit and eat while watching the world go by untroubled by the breezes. The proprietor spoke un poquito of English and French, so we managed in Spanish, with me blithely making up any words I didn't know.

Back to Bordeaux and we hit the ground running before I developed a raging sore throat - une angine. It's not covid. I checked.





Monday, March 07, 2022

A nice, busy weekend

Our Ukrainian friends had car trouble in Germany and the repairs required a part to be ordered, so instead of arriving on Wednesday evening they arrived on Friday. Not only that, but nine people had swelled to seventeen. 

This changed our plans. We had imagined accommodating them in church members’ homes but on Saturday two of our folk were having their wedding ceremony and reception, and spare rooms were full of guests, so we decided that the best thing was to get them rooms in one of the basic hotels on the ring road. There’s one just over the river from us, so once we knew they were definitely going to arrive I phoned and booked the rooms - four I think - and then booked a pool car for the journey over.

We anticipated cooking them a meal, but we abandoned that idea when we realised that they would arrive late at night, with very young children. Church folk had bought vast quantities of boxed drinks and cartons of coffee as well as bread, ham, cheese, biscuits, cookies, chocolate, fruit… you name it, they had it. I was a little concerned that there wouldn’t be room in their vehicles to take the stuff, but I think it was OK.

Their impressive little convoy entered the car park at about 11:30, so we lost no time bedding everyone down and we scuttled off, explaining that we wouldn’t see them again. They sent us a photo, however, to say thank you to the church folk.

The next morning I got up bright and early to do my Saturday morning talk for our church in North Wales, then broke out my suit, ironed my shirt, printed out my notes, cleaned my shoes, ate a sumptuous lunch, then we assembled our passengers and drove off to Saint Palais de Négrignac in the Charente. The sign is bigger than the village, but the church was beautiful - a lovely, simple 11th century stone freezer. The sun shone brightly and the north wind blew to keep us all alert. The ceremony over, we dropped some people off at the reception hall then drove home. The meal was due to begin at 19h and dessert was scheduled for 23:30, so we decided so skip the reception, come home and be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Sunday.

This may be the last wedding I conduct, so I was glad to look quite the part in the swanky black suit that someone recently gave me - they’ve grown out of it and I’ve shrunk into it - with my outrageously floral shirt bought in the Desigual sale and a plain navy tie to tone it down a bit. My shoes also attended their last wedding. They’re Clarks I bought years ago in the outlet shop in Ellesmere Port, and now the soles have holed. The uppers are all rather strange shapes too, though they still shine up well enough, so I think it’s the end for the road for my fine old comfortable shoes.

Sunday came and we were in Luke 2:1-21 - the glory of Rome and the Glory of the baby in the manger. I was thankful that « powerful people who take themselves for God Almighty » was relatively easy to translate into French. A rather apt description of Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Julius, Pre-eminent, Saviour and Emperor, I thought. We have an excellent interpreter now to save time and effort in doing bilingual preaching, but finding a suitable word for a see-saw eluded all our best French minds, and the only name our excellent interpreter knew for a see-saw is unfortunately quite vulgar. I know one word, balanceoire, but our French folk use that for a swing, other alternatives being trebuchet (my new favourite) and bascule. I won’t give you the vulgar one. You can find it for yourself.

We now have a couple of refugees in the church - not Ukrainians - but sadly one of our number has had his visa renewal refused, so he’s returning home in about two weeks’ time. We’ll miss him terribly but in God’s providence it might not be such a bad idea for him and for his family.

Today is quiet.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Helping some Ukrainian families on their journey to Spain

 A friend in Spain - who, incidentally, I have not yet met - contacted me to say that some of his Ukrainian family are on their way from the Ukraine. Could we help them on their way by accommodating them for a night before sending them on their way.

Originally they were to arrive on Wednesday, but car trouble has delayed them two days. This complicates matters for us as we have a wedding on Saturday and several friends from hither and yon are descending on Bordeaux for the wedding.

In addition the original 9 people increased to 17. 

So we have alerted our friends in other churches locally, but our backup plan is to lodge them in one of those cheap hotels that we used to stay in on our way from France to the UK. They're fine for an overnight pit-stop.


Tuesday, March 01, 2022

The Americans came, and now they've gone again

 So last week was the International Christian Communities of Eurasia annual prayer retreat, and it was held in Bordeaux. It kept us going from early morning to late evening, so we spent a lot of the weekend asleep. 

One of the important little moments of the retreat is a meal out in a restaurant. Sometimes host churches have members who own posh eateries. We ate somewhere very impressive in Prague some years back. Others are in awesomely cheap cities. I was more than a little concerned here in Bordeaux. We don't eat out in the evening. Hardly ever. I mean, we're generally busy in the evening. Not only that but most restaurants in Bordeaux are more expensive in the evening than at lunchtime. And I didn't want to use one of the chains, but we needed something affordable and ...

Anyway, you get my drift. So Pat and I were very happy to chance upon somewhere up near Place Gambetta, not too far from the church premises, where they catered for groups. They could handle a group of up to 40 people and gave special menu at a special price including a choice of three starters, main courses and desserts. 

I was especially pleased that one starter was "Salad du Sud-Ouest", which means salad dressed with duck gizzard. It's really good! And this one also came with a few slices of smoked duck breast. Then one main course was "Confit de canard", duck cooked slowly in duck fat. Again, shockingly good.

It all went pretty well, though I did get more cranky as the week went on. Sorry!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!

 Next week Bordeaux Church hosts the Annual Pastors' Prayer Retreat of our network of International Churches. Friends will be coming from Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary and Turkey, as well as some from the USA who are en route to Portugal etc. There'll be about 20 of us. It'll be great to show them the city as well as to pray together.


The monsoon

 has hit us. Constant, heavy, persistent, torrential rain. 

Sometimes with strong winds, so then we have constant, heavy, persistent, torrential, horizontal rain.


Covid relaxation

 From yesterday we can go to discothèques, eat and drink standing up in cafés and bars and buy and eat popcorn in the cinema. I guess you are allowed to remove the mask while you eat, but then you got to stick it on again.

Meanwhile it is proposed soon to no longer require masks in places where the pass vaccinal is checked - so no more popping your mask on to go to the loo in a café, for example. At present when you're seated you can take your mask off, but when you're standing you have to pop it on. Unless you're eating and drinking standing.

Oh, look, we're transitioning, OK.

Meanwhile the virus is on the retreat pretty much everywhere in France.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

A quick scare

 So here's the plan for the next few years :

A) purchase an apartment using the equity from our house sale in North Wales, plus savings

B) move in and stop paying rent, so reducing our support requirements for the next few years

C) progressively hand over to my fellow elder in a increase/decrease kind of way

D) retire from UFM at the end of 2025, drawing on our UK and French pensions to live, so freeing up all our support to go to other people

Obviously buying the place is the first step (A above) and we're actively engaged in doing this thanks to the prix maitrisé scheme that makes unaffordable flats affordable.

HOWEVER, at the end of last week I observed in a Facebook group for Brits living in France somebody enquiring about the legal fees that would be incurred if somebody gave them a house. The fees came to 8% of the value of the property.

This served to remind me that I had not seen a detailed breakdown of the legal fees involved in our purchase. 

GASP! 8% would sink the project. But I know also that prix maitrisé also involves frais de notaire maitrisés.

I emailed our notaire first thing on Monday morning. 

The reply came back. 

It's all OK.


Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Things are looking up

 Well, especially me, as it turns out. Warned by an esteemed colleague in the city of lights that the digestive upset of the weekend could possibly be the initial signs of covid, I decided to scuttle off to Lidl to get some more tests - 6€ for a pack of 5. I walk as quickly as I can to Lidl and back, and it's about a 4km round trip, so enough to get the blood flowing.

I purchased desired tests along with rather a lot of oranges and grapes, then hurried off home. As I neared the entrance to our courtyard I looked up and saw a most welcome sight - the common cranes circling overhead. I took some worthless photos with my phone and just gazed at them for a few short minutes.

Some time in early November the cranes (grues cendrées) fly overhead crying loudly as they head south for the winter. It is the harbinger of colder weather. They never get it wrong.

All winter we long for their return. Usually on a day like this - the first day that has felt sunny and warm enough to open the windows, and to venture out without a scarf with just a light jacket instead of a heavy coat - you can begin to hope to hear them crying their way back north.

But today they were circling silently overhead - a rallying point, I suppose, before continuing their onward journey to the nesting grounds.

The long winter is drawing to a close. Spring will come. The cranes never get it wrong.



 

Monday, February 07, 2022

A perturbed weekend

 Mrs Davey was ill from Thursday and I fell ill on Saturday. We're pretty sure it wasn't covid related. Pat tested herself, but mine was what we charmingly call here a gastro. It led to me sleeping in the spare room on Saturday night so that my frequent risings might not wake Pat. I alerted the lads on Saturday afternoon - we'd met on Wednesday to thrash out the main cut and thrust of the passage for this week - Luke 1:57-80, and I was very much anticipating preaching on it, but it was not to be. Instead the lads took charge like bosses and I was able to sleep most of the day.



Friday, February 04, 2022

The choir

 So I'm back with my old choir in Pessac. They currently rehearse in a room at the municipal library, which suits me as it is walking distance from the railway station. The Bordeaux railway station is walking distance from our flat, so the whole journey takes me about 1/2 hour walking and 5 minutes on the train.

And to cap it all, I get a lift back!

We're singing Annelies, by the British composer James Whitbourne. From time to time I am asked for my opinion on various English vowels. For example, one passage has the words "countless", "wounded" and "smouldering". 

Annelies is a setting of excerpts from the diary of Anne Frank. It has some very beautiful moments. There is a good recording on Naxos.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A night at the opera

 A couple weeks ago we had tickets to go hear a choir sing the Bach B minor mass (it's OK, it's a Lutheran mass). I sang with the choir for a while and contemplated going back for the B minor but it's the weekends...

Anyway we set off in good time for the tram journey to the theatre. It was TAMPING down (that is, it was raining very heavily indeed).

We got to Porte de Bourgogne where you change trams to go to Mérignac and the theatre. "Trams interrupted till 8pm". We had no chance of getting there on time. We returned home, dampened in body and spirits.

Last night the Bordeaux opera chorus were putting on a programme of Arvo Pärt. I'm very pärtial to Pärt, so I asked Pat if she'd like to go. She's never knowingly heard any Pärt so she said yes.

It was in the Grand Théâtre. We could walk there, even through a blizzard, so I was confident that this time we'd be present. But just to make sure I thought we could go for a pre-concert drink in the Bar à Vin of the Maison du Vin just opposite the theatre.

This place is the apotheosis of Bordeaux, a classy room with sofas and small tables, a stained glass window of Dionysus and bas-reliefs of quotations about the civilisation of wine. They don't do meals, but you can get a platter of cheese or of charcuterie with really good bread. And the wine ranges from 2,50€ a glass upwards. It's designed to promote Bordeaux wines to visitors and to help you find out what you like. The waiters refuse to serve anyone who's there to over-indulge or anyone who has already sufficiently indulged. It's a very classy place.

So we spent an hour slowly sipping Bordeaux's best, then sauntered over to the theatre, there to find at least half of the members of Alan's choir attending too. We were sat next to one alto. The choir director was sitting opposite us, on the other side of the hall.

I really like Arvo Pärt's music, but it leaves me emotionally drained and crushed. It's the effort of all that hope in the darkness. But the folk I talked with said "It was beautiful, wasn't it?" 

And indeed it was. I overthink things.

 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

All the way up your hooter

 So the drill is that if you are a cas contact, you hie you away to the pharmacy to get yourself tested. If the test is positive, congratulations, you have covid and you must isolate yourself.

If, on the other hand, the test is negative, then you must test yourself two days, and again four days later, with the home test kits which are now on sale in our supermarkets.

Thus it was that yesterday found me wielding a rather long cotton bud. I put off doing the test as long as I felt I could, and set the appointed hour for 3pm. On opening the kit, obtained from a big pharmacy in the middle of the city about a week ago by Patricia, I traced the instructions, printed in  various segments and not in the correct order, but in several languages.

To my great relief the cotton bud does NOT have to reach the innermost parts of your nasal sinuses, like what they do at the pharmacy. It is enough to insert it about 4cm up your nostrils, one after the other.

I did it. I dripped two drops of the gloopy liquid on the test pad. I waited the prescribed ten minutes. The desired result is one stripe by the letter C. Otherwise, two stripes, one by the C, the other by the T, means you're infected. 

As I watched a dark bar spread across the test pad, and no lines appeared. I re-read the instructions. Pat read the instructions. We discussed the instructions. We tried to reinterpret the instructions. We reflected on the instructions. 

I got another test and probed my proboscis once more. This time my poor snitch protested by making me sneeze repeatedly for about 30 minutes. Dip, squeeze, stir, squeeze, drip drip.....

Result ! One bar ! By the C ! A negative result !

Rolls on Wednesday. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

It had to happen

 We've had a covid scare. It was overdue. After all, at least a quarter of our folk work with children. Small children. The type that pick their nose then pat you on the cheek to get your attention. Anyway.

Word reached us yesterday that one of our number has covid. 

I messaged the couple concerned. "We're about to get tested". The chap doesn't have it, but his wife does, with mild symptoms of a runny nose.

Quick time of deliberation. 

1) Inform all the folk who were at the Bible Study on Wednesday that they need to get tested.

2) Move our Bible Studies online until the all-clear is sounded.

3) Go get tested and see what we do from there.

Messages were duly sent, repeated and reinforced. "you should get tested" turned into "you really need to" turned into "you must get tested". English is so subtle and flexible :-(

Then I hied me off to the pharmacy, which was suspiciously empty. Like just three customers and two staff. I got to the counter. It was the pharmacist. He's a good bloke.

Je dois me faire tester.

Vous avez le droit ? 

I laughed, I hadn't considered how to assert my right to have my proboscis probed.

Je suis cas contact et la personne a des symptômes - mais rien de grave.

He gave me the form to fill in and I went to await the exploratory mission.

By the time the second member of staff came down we were three waiting. I wanted to let the women go first but no, it was strict first come first probed.

Voilà. Si c'est positif on vous appelle tout de suite. Sinon vous recevrez le message avant ce soir.

I have my phone set to silence calls from unknown numbers - they go straight to the answerphone - so I unset that and waited for a while. Then about 15 minutes later I got the text message. 

Negative.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Plumber extraordinaire

 I don't know what it is about plumbing. I'm not scared of electrics. You turn them off, do what you need and turn them on, and they very seldom do irreparable damage.

But plumbing. It's a NIGHTMARE!

Well a while ago we became aware of a tendency to drip from the out-pipes under the sink. I bought some PTFE tape with the intention of taking it all apart, cleaning all the joints and putting it all back together again with tape to help get a good seal.

But it's plumbing. One false move and there's dirty water down four floors of apartments.

Anyway one day the washing machine emptied all over the floor. I had to strike. We got a drain-cleaning-spring-thing (in French, a ferret (un furet) from a hardware store in the middle of town and I took everything apart before sending the ferret in all directions.

There came out a plug of nasty goo. I was glad. There was doubt that I had found the offending blockage.

Then to vaseline joints and reassemble. In the course of reassembly I noticed that one rubber washer was distorted, so I greased it and put it back in straight.

Hurrah! Plumbing victory!

Then the toilet played up.

We have two toilets. One in the large en-suite bathroom attached to our bedroom and the other in the hallway. Our toilet decided to fill without ceasing, so I took my courage in both hands and disassembled the filling mechanism.

Toilets always seem to have some part of the mechanism that I don't understand. We studied the syphon toilet flush in Physics, but these don't use that. They have some sort of clapper mechanism to flush.

To fill there's a float that slides up and down a filling pipe, but the water seems to magically and invisibly pass over the pipe from one side to the other. I cannot for the life of me see how it gets from the in-pipe to the inlet valve.

Anyway, let us pass on.

The inlet valve had a rubber membrane which seemed to have fissured, squirting water in all directions. I studied it and wondered if by simply turning it I might get it to squirt water downwards thus effecting a bodge.

I tried it. It worked. However the float no longer moved up and down.

The mechanism was encrusted with limescale. I sprayed limescale remover around. I sprayed vinegar around. I tried various manoeuvres. Essentially nothing worked.

Days passed.

Eventually it was a case of either try further drastic action or call a plumber. Calling a plumber means lots of vocabulary work before you can even pick up the phone, so I took my courage in both hands and looked at how to disassemble the filling mechanism. 

There was one screw that held it in. I turned off the water and removed the mechanism. Off to the kitchen sink to take everything apart, wash it in hot soapy water, make sure everything was smooth and slippery and put it all back together again.

"This'll never work", quoth I. 

But it did! And what's more it is now four days later and it's STILL working!

Friday, January 14, 2022

The new flat

 Did I say that we are buying a flat here for "retirement"?

Well it's just up the road, near the tram stop. Just four storeys high, with lift and roof garden and stuff. Our bedroom windows will face south (good for getting the sun in to warm the place in the winter) and the living room window will face west (good for sunsets). We'll be about 50 yards from the tram stop and surrounded by houses and so on. Shops and things a little nearer than now. 

Anyway...

At the end of the month we're due to sign the contract to buy and to make our first and largest payment. So on Wednesday morning we spent a happy hour or so working out how to get the money transferred from a UK account into our French current account so that we could then transfer it to the Notaire's account when we sign the contract. It involved scanning various documents, taking photos of ourselves, phoning offices in the UK, filling in forms, scanning and emailing them. Frankly I was a little alarmed at how smoothly it all seemed to go and I am looking forward to confirmation that all is in order !

Meanwhile Pat noticed action at the place where the flats will be built. Currently occupied by an old warehouse serving a termite eradication company, it seemed as if someone was working up there. I trotted up for a quick glance and, sure enough, "Attila Demolitions" had started work. Two short days later everything was reduced to a pile of rubble, and our friendly local property developer had sent us a photo to show us that things had started.


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Oatcakes

Some of our colleagues live in Paris where until recently Marks and Spencer had a number of food shops selling their prized delicacies. Indeed, last year we made a pre-Christmas trip to Paris to visit the food shops - as well as to see the sights of Paris, of course.

For reasons that escape me just now, Marks and Spencer have since closed almost all these shops, keeping just a few at the major transport hubs. In addition, for some reason or other, the range of products available is greatly reduced. Our colleagues in Paris are sad, and we did not bother to take a trip to Paris this year.

Anyway, I saw a discussion about oatcakes, and how to obtain them. 

Now how hard can it be to make an oatcake? I sensed a challenge.

Some internet searches and a lot of selection resulted in the following - our oatcake recipe.

200g oats, pinch salt, 2 tablespoons melted butter*, 100ml boiling water

Mix till combined. Work into a reasonably cohesive ball of dough. 

Either : Break off tablespoonfuls and form into disks between your fingers

Or : Roll out thinly (for us the thinner the better) and cut out rounds with a suitable cutter

Bake at 170C for 20-30 mins. 

The oatcakes are nutty and crisp and wonderful with strong cheese or whatever.

* we have successfully used some left over duck fat from a breast of duck that we cooked. The oatcakes were wonderful. But butter is OK, and I reckon coconut oil or similar would also work fine.

We have also successfully used coconut oil instead of butter. this makes the oatcakes vegan. 

For a crunchy texture rather than a crisp one, add 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the mix. 

For a less granular texture put half or all the oats through a blender or a food processor very briefly.


Covid scares

 From time to time someone in the church becomes a "cas contact". This means that someone they have been in contact with has contracted covid or has tested positive for covid. Omircon being so contagious, this seems to happen every couple of weeks. In fact, if we counted our teachers, then they'd be "cas contact" all the time since there's always some child or other off school.

Anyway, the drill is that if you are fully vaccinated (at present this means the two doses) and a cas contact you get yourself tested by test antigénique as soon as you can. If that test is positive then you are positive and you must isolate. If the test is negative then you must test again in 2 days' time... and so on.

Our excellent pharmacy does testing without a need for an appointment, so for us it would be quite easy to get tested, but so far none of our "cas contacts" has transformed into a "cas". We're very happy about that because informing all the church that they have to get tested is an unenviable proposition.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Buying a flat.

 So we're buying a flat. We've put down a reservation deposit, but at the end of this month we'll start paying for it in earnest, step by step, as the property developer builds it.

It's a small block of about 20 flats in four storeys, with the ground floor given over to parking. It's being built on the site of a rather dilapidated warehouse and an old house with a yard which used to house a termite company. It's right next to the tram line, about 50 yards from the stop, but facing the other way. We can expect to hear the bells.

We'll be on the second floor. We'll have two bedrooms and a good sized living room. The bedroom windows will face south and the living room faces west, so we'll get the sun all day in the bedrooms and in the afternoon in the living room.

We'll also have a balcony of a useful size, though not quite the enormous thing we have now.

Sadly we'll lose our views of the gardens, but we'll see out over Bègles instead.

We have enough money to buy the place outright thanks to us saving the proceeds of the sale of our house, and thanks to the city of Bordeaux demanding that property developers sell a proportion of their flats at a reduced price to people in certain categories, into one of which we fall. 

We shopped around d a little before deciding on this one. Some other flats had more attractive views, looking out on future parklands. Others had different advantages. The one we're buying has the great advantage that all its surrounding infrastructure - roads, gardens, trams - are already in place, so we won't be picking our way through building sites at all.

Another advantage is that once the flat is ready and we have moved into it and out of this rented accommodation the mission will no longer need to pay our rent. This means that for the last couple of years of our service here our stipend will be greatly, massively reduced, and our support needs along with it.

Now then, this month's task is to assemble from the various accounts that hold our equity the first instalment to be paid. I think I know what needs to be done!


Bordeaux à 30kph

 The city seems to have accepted the classy steel and glass conical sculpture commissioned from a local artist that was erected in place of a Christmas tree, judging by the crowds that always seemed to be present  after dark, taking photos and generally admiring it.

Now the whole city has imposed a 30 kph limit, except for the major roads into the city and the inner ring road, which stay at 50kph. 50 kph is about 30 mph, and 30 kph is about 20 mph.

They want to make the city safer. At 50 kph if you knock down a pedestrian the probability of killing them is at about 80%. At 30 kph this falls to about 10%. Surprising, no?

They also want to make the city more welcoming for pedestrians. Crossing busy streets full of cars doing 50kph is one thing. Crossing busy streets where cars and bikes are doing roughly the same speed is quite another. In addition, of course, more of the city centre is being pedestrianised, too.

They also want to encourage cycling. Bordeaux has already seen a huge increase in the number of people cycling since covid started, and those quiet streets and healthier people speak for themselves.

I'd already been struck by the difference between Bordeaux and some other cities we've visited, where wide roads cut through the centre and cars seem to dominate. Thankfully Bordeaux has largely retained its awkward mediaeval street layout, which makes driving a nightmare but walking a delight. 

Friday, December 31, 2021

Essential supplies

 Our stocks of tea are running low, so had we gone to England for Christmas our plan was to come back with substantial supplies of tea bags. 

Here in France we pay in excess of 2€ for 20 nasty tea bags, and if we can find good ones generally they're around 8€ for a box of 40. This compares with the typical price we pay in the UK of perhaps £4 for 240. In addition recently it has become very hard to find the good tea bags here in France, probably because of that ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal.

About six months ago I ordered four boxes of 240 tea bags from Amazon for a cost of about 30€; more than twice what we'd pay in England but much less than in France. I found the old order on Amazon and looked at what they could offer now. Our usual brand was not available.

Pat looked at alternative suppliers. I looked at other brands. In the end we ordered this :

Now to find somewhere to store them.


A covid false alarm

 One of the chaps who was at church last Sunday became a "cas contact" - someone he had been near had contracted covid. For UK readers, I think it's a bit like being pinged.

The drill is that if you get covid or test positive you warn the people you've been having out with so they can get themselves tested. 

We faced the possibility of telling the folk who were at church that they all needed to be tested. Our man went to get a test, but was unable to do so. In addition he said that he had some symptoms.

We called at the pharmacy on the way back from our walk. There's no shortage of self-test kits and we could also get a test done by the pharmacy without needing an appointment. We said that if there was still doubt the following day we would call back and get ourselves done to be sure. There was a little queue of people waiting to be swabbed, and I noticed that the main pharmacist was wearing protective goggles as he served. 

Later that day our friend said he'd seen a doctor and been given a test which was negative. 

Jolly good ! As you were !

A spot of nature

 Catrin and Froim came on Wednesday to kidnap us and take us on a walk. There's an app and a website for people who want to go on walks in the countryside surrounding Bordeaux. It had rained heavily for some time, so we avoided anything we thought might be too sticky and headed for Bassens, a suburb on the right bank of the river.

Then Thursday brought the promise of good weather again with temperatures of 18°C, so we headed to our nearest wooded park, Parc Mussonville in Bègles, for a quick scamper through the trees. 
















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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Covid - new measures

 Of course, we wondered whether we had been wise to cancel our trip to the UK. One couple travelled by train from Paris to the UK uneventfully. 

But then we heard other reports. One family flew from a south Asian country to the UK. Clear to fly, their day 2 test revealed that all the family were infected. They would spend most of their two-week visit in quarantine. Another family travelled from France and one child tested positive for covid on day 2. Another family has a child stranded in the UK because he tested positive and was not cleared to fly to their home in Southern Europe for Christmas.

Yesterday the government met to discuss the rise of the omicron variant and announced new measures.

A limit of 2000 people meeting indoors and 5000 outdoors.

Masks must now be worn in all city centres. (The local Prefect had already imposed this in Bordeaux)

No eating or drinking stood up - everyone in cafés, bars and restaurants must be seated. (I thought this was already in force!)

No eating or drinking in theatres, cinemas or concert halls. This is to ensure that people stay masked.

No eating or drinking outside in the city centre (see above).

They want to avoid people crowding together unmasked and so transmitting the infection by droplets. French scientists are pretty convinced of aerosol transmission.

This means that people can still gather for New Year, though the government had already asked us to refrain from house-warming parties (crémaillères) and from leaving do's (pots de départ). I would think that it is wise to ensure everyone is seated, not crowded together and most of all, to ensure the room is aired periodically. The government recommends about 10 minutes every hour or so.