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)

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Just shows how wrong you can be

 We have three local take-aways. 

One is called "Eat Salad". It's a salad bar.

Another is called Dubble and it's a salad bar.

The third, we thought, is called Chicko'So. It's essentially a chicken lunch bar with a choice of three preparations of chicken - caramelised drumsticks, breaded fillet or half a rotisserie chicken.

Yesterday, instead of going out to lunch we decided to sneak out and get it - Catrin was coming round in the afternoon with her washing and a friend - so I decided to order from Chicko'So and Pat from Eat Salad. It meant looking for their websites.

That's when we discovered that what we THOUGHT was a terminal "o" in the name of the restaurant was actually a small round chicken. The restaurant is called "Chicko'S" Admittedly, the capital S was confusing.

This is good news - it means that we can go out occasionally for "a cheeky chicko's".

Late frosts...

 are a problem for our wine growers because the recent sunny days and high temperatures have encouraged the wines to bud - now a sharp frost could damage the delicate young tissue and then the harsh sunlight finishes off the job, leaving the vines weakened and with several weeks of growth lost.

The winegrowers employ various methods to stave off the frost, like "candles" (small braziers) placed up and down the rows of the vines, and windmills to try to manage the cold air. To protect the buds from the sun smoky fires are lit to make a smoke screen.

It's not all that rare to have these late frosts, but defending the vines is still difficult.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Holiday snaps

 We’re on holiday and we’re allowed to travel up to 6 miles from our home as long as we’re home by 7pm. We considered going to a local campsite, but it seems wiser to stay where we are and instead to lunch like kings from the wonderful takeaways and street food places of Bordeaux. Today I’m hoping for duckburgers !

Thursday, April 01, 2021

O dear, what's happened now ?misc

Pat got a letter from the public transport company. Please arrange to pay the 12 euros you owe which we tried to draw from your bank but there were insufficient funds.

It's several years since we had that kind of thing, so I was non-plussed. So I went online to look at the bank accounts. Neither was overdrawn and neither had been recently. What a relief ! Not only that but our transport payments had both been made.

So we went to the transport office. "Excuse me, we had this letter, but what's this 12 euros about? We've paid our tickets, and our bank account was never overdrawn."

The woman looked on her computer and said, "well, it's for the child."

"What child?" 

"For Louis."

"Who's Louis?"

Some numbers have been typed in wrong, I suspect, in setting up poor Louis' ticket.

New restrictions

 Yesterday evening President Macron announced further anti-covid measures.

Firstly the conditions that applied to Paris, to the North East and South East of France will now apply everywhere. Essentially this means a 10km restriction on travel and non-essential shops are to close. (Food shops, hairdressers, bookshops, garages and bike shops are regarded as essential.)

Secondly schools will go into learning from home next week.  Monday is already a bank holiday and primary schools close on Wednesday anyway, so for many people this means three days of learning from / teaching to home. Then the school holidays are being moved to the next two weeks all over France. This will effectively close schools for three weeks. Return to school buildings will be staggered thereafter.

M. Macron is also accelerating further the vaccination programme. Of course, this depends on vaccines being produced and delivered.

For us personally and in the church it doesn't make a huge difference to anything much.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What do you know !

 This morning early I got a text message from the doctor's surgery to check I was OK post-vaccination.

I told them I was fine with almost no noticeable reaction.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A chicken ?

 There are LOTS of beggars in Bordeaux, often outside the doors of the Catholic Churches, but also outside the supermarkets. Yesterday I scuttled to the local U supermarket in the morning. I generally say hallo to the beggars but I never have any money on me. 

Then one day I saw a young man say to a beggar that he had no money but could he buy something for them. What a good idea, I thought. So I tried it with the lady outside our local supermarket.

"Yes please, a chicken." she said in her broken French.


She pointed to the pictures of bread on the door.

"You mean a chicken sandwich?"

"No, I have that at the house but I'd like a chicken."

I ought to explain that she was sat on the floor in the sun on a rather hot day and it was only about 10 am. I wouldn't want to sit there all day with a dead chicken, then take it home and eat it.

"A cooked chicken?"

In the bigger supermarkets you can get delicious rotisserie chickens, but not in our local U.

Anyway we went in and hunted. Pat found a smoked cooked chicken and got her that.

Later on we scuttled off to a bigger, more distant supermarket. There was a beggar outside. 

"Forget it", I thought, "a chicken is enough for one day", but Pat was already in detailed negotiations.

"Some tomatoes, please. Little tomatoes."

"The very small ones? The cherry tomatoes?"

"Yes, those"

I can't explain why, but somehow that felt much more sensible than a chicken.

Monday, March 29, 2021


 So my appointment to be vaccinated was for 17:48. In our local surgery there are two doctors and both were taking rendezvous, 8 minutes apart. I thought it highly unlikely that they could really vaccinate people in 8 minutes, all the admin included, so I didn't bust a gut to arrive on time. I was about 2 minutes late.

At the door the two eager young doctors were hovering. The one has a man-bun, the other shaves his head. I often wonder what would happen is you could average them. Anyway, I digress.

The one with the man-bun checked my name off his list and then took my Carte Vitale. 

"We'll do the necessary, you'll have a short wait, the nurse will do the jab, then you'll need to wait here a while before going home."

"I thought you'd never be able to do a patient every eight minutes!"

"We're doing them every four."

They'd combined their list and created a kind of vaccination-line.

So while they did the necessary I sat in the little waiting area. After just a couple of minutes the nurse called me in.

"Which side?"

"This side", I said, rolling up the sleeve of my tee-shirt.

"Oh, you're well-prepared in a tee-shirt!"

In went the injection in no time.

"Do you have Doliprane?"

"We have enough for a week."

The nurse laughed.

Out into the waiting area and I got my certificate of vaccination, entitled "Données télétransmises à l'Assurance Maladie". "We'll just keep you here a little while. Do you have Doliprane at home?"

"We have enough for a week!"

The doctor laughed.

I sat and read my book. Every so often the bald doctor would call a name and say "It's OK for us." and the person would go home. Soon it was my turn.

Very impressive!

Pat's doctor told her to take paracetamol as a precaution, so she didn't until she developed flu-like symptoms.

My doctors didn't tell me to take it as a precaution, so, of course, I did.

Movers or burglars ?

 There is now a Facebook group for people who live in our apartment complex - the Neighbours of the Gardens of the Ars - and it's a great way of keeping abreast of the various changes and so on.

The other day someone posted that they had found a smear of tobacco on the doorhandles of their front door, so they had looked on all the corridors to see if this was chance or design. Sore enough, a few other doors also had smears of tobacco. Maybe a signal left by burglars casing the joint?

About a day later they came home to find that someone had attempted to drill through the lock but had been interrupted so had not gained entry to the flat.

This morning at about 8:30 am there was some noise in the corridor outside. There are just three doors on our corridor. I popped my head out to look. The corridor was full of furniture and two young guys were busily getting it all to the lift.

"Ah, it's a house move?" (We almost never see the guy who lives in that flat)

"Yes, sorry about the noise"

"No, it's not a problem. It's just that some flats in other buildings here have been burgled."

"Well if that's the case we're taking everything!"

I later popped down to check the door of the apartment and found them hoovering the place. 

I think it really was removal men.

It's quite hard to get to know people in these flats. We now know:

Bilel, Marie and their three boys.

Pablo and Gwenaëlle and their little one.

Alphonse the Samoyed and his owner.

The family who live above us, though we don't know their names.

The two students who share the other flat on our corridor.

Two guys who share the same name and with whom I promised to share a beer, but then covid came.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

You shall get the jab

 So, I thought, my official letter saying in big blue letters "VACCINEZ-VOUS" suggests I look for an appointment either with my doctor or another doctor to get the jab. I wonder what would happen if I looked on the doctolib website.

Doctolib is a website that enables you to find medical services and to book appointments. Under it's "Vaccination" tab there were various vaccination centres and doctors listed, but none had appointments to propose. 

Strong demand means there's no dates available, but come back later as more dates will come online.

I went back at bedtime and saw that the nearest doctors' surgery had appointments for next Monday, and that a clinic in a part of town I didn't know could do Saturday morning. I looked at how to get to the clinic, but by the time I'd found a route those appointments had gone. So I booked myself in with the doctor down the road.

Then today my doctor phoned. 

We can do you next Wednesday. 

I'm sorted. 

Jolly good.

The Grand Théâtre

 The Grand Theatre (somehow "The Big Theatre" just doesn't sound classy in English, does it) has just been evacuated by the forces of order.

"What?" you cry, and "Why?"

Well the most obvious effects of covid in France are on the cafés, restaurants and on the world of culture. Museums, cinemas, theatres, all have been closed now for something like a year ! So last week a group of show people decided to take matters into their own hands and occupy the Grand Theatre.

Until today, when they were removed by the police. They're now stood all over the tram rails discussing their next move, apparently.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Sorry about the pause - it's been a busy and pressured time.

 So. Covid.

When I last saw my doctor we arranged a date for vaccination. It's tomorrow at 13:20.

Then this morning a letter arrived from the health authorities telling me to get vaccinated. I thought "That's well-timed".

Until I just got a phone call telling me that vaccination is off. The doctor has no vaccine.

Oh well.


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Chez l'ophthalmo

 Get it all over in one foul sweep, that's what I say. Then, if you're careful crossing the road, you may not see another white coat till next year.

Anyway I went to get my eyes checked. My vision has improved since last year, apparently. The long sightedness of my advancing years is cancelling out the short-sightedness caused by my failing focusing muscles. The doctor examined the back of my eyes, too. 

"These drops will sting and you won't be able to drive home." 

"As long as I can walk and get on the tram."

My eyes were fine, I can carry on with the same glasses, I can carry on being indiscipline and forget to take them with me. Basically I can do almost whatever I like and my eyes will cope fine.

But when I left the ophthalmologist's, boy was I in trouble. I think the drops dilate your pupils because even with my dark glasses I was dazzled by everything.EVERYTHING! 

I managed to make it across the road, I think the traffic all stopped for me, but when I got to Place Gambetta I couldn't tell the kerb from the path from the flower-bed. An hour of groping my way round the place and by the time I went for my first meeting of the day at 11:30 I could basically see OK.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Chez le médecin

 So I thought I'd better go and see my doctor. She works just beyond the end of our line C tram but Google Maps helpfully suggested I switch to line 15 bus. This means standing at the bus stop wondering if the bus will come. It did.

She came into the waiting room. 

What time's your appointment? 


What about you? 

9:15. So it was me first.

Any news on your colonoscopy? 

Yup, I've had it and it was clear. Here's the report.

That's very good. Shall we do a blood test? 

Had one. here it is.

(Reading it) that's all great. Did you have a covid test? 

Yes, it was negative.

Let's do your bp. 

Well yes, I came for that because at the hospital it was high. She gave me a look. 

12/7. That's fine. You're eligible for vaccination, aren't you? 

Well that's for you to decide.

So the upshot is that she's very pleased with me and I'm getting the jab on 23rd March.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

The last straw

 My father lived all his life, except the last week, without a telephone.

In contrast I have accumulated :

  • Postal addresses
  • Telephone
  • Mobile telephone
  • Text messaging
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Facebook messenger
  • Skype.
  • Twitter messages
  • Google messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Zoom
  • Signal


Here's the deal. 

On 1 June I am leaving WhatsApp and Signal. 

On 31 December 2025 at the latest I am leaving Facebook. (We use it for the church)

If you want to contact me send an email. I check my emails and keep my unread mail at 0.

If you need to contact me immediately send a text message.

If you need to speak to me use my mobile phone.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Latest culinary experiment

 We occasionally need peanut butter but we don't like all brands. Some have added sugar, most have added oil. And let us not forget - you don't have to read the list of ingredients if there isn't one.

Well I have heard that you can just blend roasted peanuts until they become peanut butter. 

So I tried. And it's fine. So we now have a jar of home-made peanut butter, made from peanuts.

Friday, March 05, 2021

So have you decided yet?

 Friends, knowing that we are due to retire in 2025 (there's still four whole years, people) often ask us if we have decided yet where we should live. Should we return to the UK or stay in France? Should we stay in Bordeaux or head out into the suburbs or even down to the Mediterranean? 

We are hoping that God will make things clear before 2025, but meanwhile here's some factors that will shape our decision :

1) we're happy in this flat, but we don't own it and the rent is a lot. After retirement we might not be in a position to afford it BUT we could take in a student after changing my study back into a bedroom.

2) house prices in many parts of the UK are expensive. We do have the equity from our house saved up in French government schemes but it may not stretch to something in the heart of a UK city. We should, however, be able to afford something in a small town in North Wales, for example.

3) taxation is low for the low-paid in France. Essentially if we stay here we'll probably pay no income tax or poll tax. If we buy a place we'll pay property owners' tax, but that is not a vast amount. However you don't get free public transport.

4) taxation is high in the UK for the low-paid and rising. What will happen in the next few years is anyone's guess.

5) the health service is excellent in France, pretty good in England and OK in Wales. Some friends choose to live in England simply because the health service is better there. 

6) we will need to watch closely what happens in the UK over the next few years. 

And we’re almost back to normal

At the hospital they had told me to do nothing on Wednesday and next to nothing on Thursday. Mrs Davey, ex-nurse, nevertheless authorized me to leave the flat to go and buy nice ground coffee from our friends at Cafeincup, and then to walk home as fast as I liked. I had to call at the pharmacy, too.

It was a beautiful day with wonderful light and the coffee is good. 

I hurtled along the quays, pausing every now and then for yet another photo of the Pont de Pierre.

I had to be back by 11am for a wenibar, no winebar, no webinar on the misuse of power, given by the forthright Marcus Honeysett under the badge this time of Acts29. This was an excellent and direct talk followed by a question time. I very much appreciated the approach Marcus took and got quite upset because of the way we ape secular culture just now. It’s a nightmare.

When the recording is available I hope we can watch it with our leaders here and I’ll certainly give you a link to it.

Incidentally I almost typed Marcus’ approach, but this opens another, though smaller can of worms that has been bothering me since Christmas Day. The Queen pronounced Jesus’ as jeezussis. Has this changed? Was I always wrong? Is it one of those optional things now? I always understood that when s was followed by an apostrophe you made no change in pronunciation or perhaps you might harden the s.. So “Jesus’ disciples” is pronounced ‘jeezuss disciples’. And ‘Marcus’ approach’ would be ‘Markuss approach’. I am prepared to be wrong, especially when it comes to the Queen.

The new crane

The keen-eyed will observe that we have a new crane opposite our flat just behind the school. 

It’s for building the new college. 

Thursday, March 04, 2021

It's been an adventure!

 Someone congratulated me on knowing what I did thirty years ago when I left British Telecom and my job as a database administrator. I generally have an extremely bad memory and often think it's quite a blessing really! But I remember that weekend very well because I was leaving British Telecom to become an Assistant Pastor in North Wales.

The weather was atrocious on March 4th 1991 as I steered my little blue Fiat Uno up the borderlands road from Cardiff up to North Wales and the village of Hawarden (one says "harden"). The arrangement was to be that I would stay three years as Assistant Pastor, then leave and go elsewhere. Instead the Pastor, Peter Milsom, left after two years to go down to South Wales and continue ministry there, and I ended up staying in the church until 2005 before coming to Bordeaux.

So much has happened in those thirty years that it's really hard to know even how to sum them up, except to say that it has all been a great adventure and I'm so thankful for it all.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Well it's all behind me

 Friend Rory drove me to the hospital bright and early, I was admitted and shown to my room. 

"Change into this - it opens at the back - and put these on your feet."

The nurse took my blood pressure (élevé) and tried to pop a canula in my arm (ça ne marche pas) then said they'd come and get me presently.

After a while two fine chaps came and took me to the pre-op room. On the way we argued about the rugby and the fact that Wales was sure to beat the French and win the grand slam (grand chelem, not to be confused with grande hlm, which means a large block of flats). The game probably won't be played anyway because the French team is currently a cluster of covid infections.

In the pre-op room they took my blood pressure (moins élevé), checked I hadn't forgotten my name or birthday then put in a canula (ça marche) and wired me up ready for ecg. They told me that someone was currently being done, then it would be my turn. Everyone checked my state of preparation and so on (when did you last eat, when did you last drink, have you taken your stuff, what has been the result).

At 9:00 the nurses wheeled me into the endoscopy room, I was wired up and positioned and they checked I had not forgotten my name and date of birth before being sending me off to sleep. "Don't ask me to count down from 100 to 1, please. It's too complicated in French." "You don't have to count at all. Just go to sleep and dream of bananas" they said.

I woke in a big room with lots of beds, slightly confused about where I was and how I got there, aware of having had pleasant dreams that I couldn't quite remember and feeling extremely refreshed! As for discomfort in the area under examination, there was nothing.

It was 9:45. "Bonjour", I said. Nurses came and checked I had not forgotten my name or date of birth. The endoscopist came up. "Est-ce que vous avez vu de belles choses?" I asked. "Tout c'est très bien passé. Y'a rien. Prochaine fois dans cinq ans."

I lay there enjoying the fact that the procedure was over and observing my falling blood pressure on the monitor behind me. "We'll take you down soon." "I'm in no rush!" It was true. 

In due course my rugby loving friends came to wheel me back down to my room after checking that I had not forgotten my name or date of birth. The nurse appeared and checked whether I had forgotten my name or date of birth, then took my temperature and blood pressure. (élevé) "You should check that machine, it was lower upstairs". It's probably me then, said the nurse cheerfully. 

"Get dressed, but easy does it, then you can come down for breakfast." Rory was waiting for me, but I still enjoyed my coffee, toasts with strawberry jam with pips in (first pips since Saturday), orange juice with pulp in (first pulp since Saturday), compote de pommes (first apples since Saturday) and chocolate wafers (first chocolate since Saturday). "The worst thing about all this is the diet beforehand" I told the nurse, "you really appreciate your fruit and veg". "Too true", she said.

"Now you do nothing today, nothing. Don't sign anything - it's not legally valid if you do, no diy, no ladders, nothing. And tomorrow do next to nothing." Then off to the office for my discharge sheet and my report.

The report said that I had prepared perfectly, they had examined everywhere and everything was normal. Next time in five years.

Monday, March 01, 2021

At the laboratory

 "M. Il faut un rendez-vous. Une prochaine fois on vous refuse." (Sir, you need an appointment. Next time we'll send you away."

There was a queue outside the laboratory, everyone wanting to get tested for covid. Some had symptoms "for two days". I had an appointment and a prescription from the doctor.

That meant that once I had filled in my form they called me in first. 

"Lower the mask and lean your head against the seat." 

I exposed my nostrils, leant back and thought of the lavender fields of Provence.

"There we are, all done. It's pre-operation? OK I'll mark it urgent"

From arriving at the end of the queue to leaving with my nose well and truly poked it took 12 minutes.

I walked home glad that little game was over and looking forward to a slap-up lunch of chicken and mashed potato with home-made yogurt and honey to follow.

Celebrating 30 years since quitting

 On Saint David's Day of 1991, a Friday, I left the office at British Telecom in the very centre of Cardiff for the last time. I was also leaving a happy career as a database administrator that had begun in Hemel Hempstead in October 1980 when I joined Honeywell Information Systems in their Systems Centre. A couple of years there, then a year at Harlech Television, then the rest of my time at BT.

I still miss the office, the gang I worked with and my life in Cardiff. It was a great place to live and many of my family were nearby. I still have a misspelled name badge (Alan Dayey) and the name plate from my desk, though I think that came from Honeywell.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Effets secondaires

 (Side effects). The doctor told Pat that 50% of people who get the AstraZeneca vaccine suffer side effects ranging from soreness in the arm where the nurse injected you through to full-on flu-like symptoms for one or two days. Take paracetamol. Take it straight away. Don't wait.

Pat waited but sure enough full-on flu symptoms developed about 8 to 10 hours after the injection. So she's popping paracetamol.

I would see it as an encouraging sign. She's getting a strong immune reaction to the vaccine. Those T-cells are being made.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Medical stuff!

 So this morning I accompanied Pat to her doctor's appointment. She phoned her doctor the other day to check on the results of an annual blood test - we both get annual blood tests - and her doctor said, "Have you been vaccinated? Would you like to be?" 

So Pat made an appointment and we moseyed on over there this morning. The story is that currently people aged 50 to 63 who have serious health issues like compromised immune systems are being vaccinated. However, Pat's doctor knew she would have several doses of vaccine left over from an opened phial so rather than waste it she offered it to people who called.

First there was some computerised administration to accomplish, then we went down to the office of a very kind nurse who duly stuck it in Pat's arm. One guy filmed his own vaccination recently, so she wasn't at all surprised when I took a photo.

Meanwhile I have started my zero-residue diet. It's essentially an adolescent's idea of paradise - meat and taters but no fruit and no veg. I can haz pasta and I can haz rice. For breakfast it's out with the oatmeal and in with cornflakes and toast. When I was 15 I would have loved this.

We worked out that I am also allowed pancakes and waffles etc, so one day we'll do that. I have to do this until Tuesday, when it's clear fluids only. They imagine me drinking clear stock. I think not.

We called at the pharmacy to get my Tuesday evening "meds". I have two doses to take, one on Tuesday evening and one at 3am on Wednesday morning. I asked the pharmacist if I could advance them to, say, early evening and 11pm. No, was the categorical reply.

Oh well. It's all part of life's rich pageant.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hey pigeons, meet the cat!

 I greatly enjoyed this short and sweet little article.

The gardeners are hard at work


Yesterday they dug a dirty great hole, then filled it in. Today it's mounds of beautiful black soil. We sometimes watch and dream of tall trees full of songbirds.

More on moral failures in ministry

 This time a short plea to you, and to myself.

When someone suggests that you are making a mistake, or committing an error, or on a wrong path, or even suggests that there is some dreadful secret in your life, please don't react with anger and indignation.

Your goal is not to establish your own innocence and righteousness. Not if you are a Christian.

Your goal is to face up to your own pervasive guilt and moral ineptitude, and to accept an alien, imputed righteousness freely given to you, and then to make progress towards a holiness that at present you do not have and can not obtain, and that you need absolutely if you are to see the Lord face to face.

That means even a scurrilous, erroneous, malicious accusation could be useful in achieving your highest goal - glory. 

Entertain the possibility that there is a grain of truth in the accusation. There may well be.

Thank the person and tell them you will take what they say seriously.

Then do so. 

Consult someone who knows you well, without naming your accuser if possible. 

"Do you think that I might be...."

"Has someone said something?"

"It's not that, it's just that I wonder whether..."

If it's a serious accusation, invite investigation. 

Call in outside help if appropriate.

Get help dealing with persistent bad habits that affect your relationships, discipleship and service.

Remember, if you are sincere, you believe that the eternal fate of your soul is at stake.

If you are not sincere then leave quickly and discreetly and get some other job.

We have assured people at Bordeaux Church that all serious accusations will be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. We think this will help to prevent frivolous accusations, but also that people will know that we care about their well-being here, and hereafter.

Friday, February 19, 2021

I almost put the phone down

 I get lots of cold calls from different companies, and they always try to make it sound like you are expecting their call. They go like this :

Allo ?

"M. Davey?"


"C'est la Société Machin Truc-de-Bidule"

That's the moment when I say "Ah non ! Merci beaucoup ! Au revoir !" and put the phone down.

This time the conversation went :

Allo ?

"M. Davey?"


"C'est le service ambulatoire"

Ah bon ?

"La date du 3 mars est confirmée."

It was then that I twigged who it was. The hospital was phoning not to postpone the visual inspection of my innards but to tell me that we're on and to get ready.

Ah bon.

So here's the timetable :

Saturday 28 February - begin the régime sans-résidu. Basically I am allowed lightly cooked lean meat, poultry or fish along with potatoes, pasta or white rice. For breakfast bland cereal or white bread. No fibrous vegetables. No beans or pulses. No fruit. Essentially a really bad, bland diet.

Monday 1 March 10 am get my covid PCR test - this is the stick up the nose test.

Tuesday evening 2 March - The Purge (must get the purgative beforehand ready)

Wednesday 3 March bright and early present myself at Xavier Arnozan hospital.

I hope to be home at lunchtime with it all behind me.

If you'll pardon the expression.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Getting a new battery put in the MacBook Air

 We bought Catrin's MacBook Air when she started her degree course in 2015. Recently the battery has struggled to hold much of a charge, so we looked at it. "Service battery", said the diagnostic.

You can order the batteries, the special screwdriver to open the computer and the various bit and bobs to prise the battery out, or you can get a cokmputermonger to repair the thing for you with their screwdrivers, bit and bobs and knowhow. There are three such placed in Bordeaux, but all were booked up for rendezvous-vous a couple weeks ahead. But there's a branch of one in a small town shopping centre on the way to the sea. A short train ride gets you there easily. We booked a rdv for Monday and hied us away.

"We'll send you a quote then once you've paid it'll take a week."

We retrieved our fallen crests and left the thing there.

Next day the quote arrived, slightly cheaper than I expected. We paid.

Today the message arrived that it was ready to collect so off I went to get it.

I love our trains. We have these massive thundering trains with split-level carriages, big, curved sofas and jovial ticket collectors in smart, blue uniforms. They hurtle you along through the forests of maritime pine then warn you to watch out for the interval when you descend from the train.

Some French still seems awkward, though it comes out OK. 

"Good day. It's for to recuperate my daughter's MacBook. She you has called this morning."

"You have your piece of identity"



"Thank you"

"It's good for us"

"Till next time"

"Till next time"

She may get another 5 or six years out of it now. It's working fine and all is good.

This is "La Plage" nightclub, closed now for almost a year, I think.

 It basically takes up that entire block of somewhat decrepit buildings. The owner is now selling fruit and veg in the satellite town where he lives and some newspaper reports suggest that he is planning to convert the nightclub into cafés and restaurants. 

Yesterday we scuttled off to Pessac Alouette where we used to live for a quick walk amongst the trees of Bourgailh

 Pat and I talked about the past, the present and the future and enjoyed the mild weather with its hint of spring.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

OK, here we go

So another world-famous preacher with a global ministry named after him has been revealed to be abusive. He is the latest in a long and shameful line, and he won't be the last. Here's my two-pennorth.

People say it's a problem of, among other things :

a lack of accountability

a lack of focus on and involvement in the local church

a symptom of our embracing of the cult of celebrity

I'm sure these people are all right - it's all that and more. As for me I have been personally bruised and buffeted by a good number of these public, scandalous falls. Here's what I try and learn from them:

1) you can't think your way through - it's often the most brilliant people who wreck their lives

2) you can't rely on giftedness - some of the guys are the most gifted of their generation

3) money can be a huge temptation - so I have no direct access to church funds

4) power is intoxicating, so share it out and give it away (it's why we try always to have multiple elders, duh)

5) sexual attraction creeps up on you, so set strict safeguards on one-to-one counselling. 

Here's a couple of practical situations over the years : 

Once I was cornered into driving a particularly vulnerable lady to an evening meeting, alone. When I left the house Pat and I checked the time on the clock. When we arrived at the meeting I made a point of asking, "What time is it?" and remarking on it so people would remember. Things like this keep everyone as safe as possible.

A colleague found it difficult to work at home and felt too insecure to work alone in the church office, out of sight, behind locked doors. I point blank refused to share the office. "You're very strict about these things", she said. I'm still in my job, and so is she.

I don't have a church chequebook, though I am a signatory on the church account. To write a cheque or withdraw money I would have to contact the treasurer, just like anyone else.

I've never believed that I was intended to build a ministry, but rather to serve the Saviour by serving his church. I know that ministry and service are synonyms, but somehow they are also not exact synonyms, are they?

A friend once told me that the Lord had given him the assurance that he would never fall. That must be wonderful, but as for me, he has warned me that more intelligent, more gifted and more respected people than me have absolutely wrecked their lives and damaged the lives of countless others.

15 February : I want to add a couple things :

It's not enough to argue that the correct polity will safeguard everyone. It's essential, but insufficient.

You also need a healthy does of the fear of God and a real grasp of the seriousness of the gospel call to that holiness "without which no-one will see the Lord".

Add to this a distrust of yourself and an awareness of the deceitfulness of your own sinful heart.

Finally the best and most important ingredient is joy and satisfaction in Christ. "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God"

Friday, February 12, 2021

We're holding our nerve, and so far it seems to be working

 We watched the health minister with bated breath. No, silly, not when he slipped off his shirt to be vaccinated and caused a sensation! When he made the weekly speech. He announced that the virus is circulating and active, but the situation is stable. 

We wondered whether our current 6 till 6 curfew would be maintained, or hardened to a weekend confinement, or even a full-time confinement. Last week the government closed all the big shopping centres - eleven in our department, about 7 of the Bordeaux centres - because that's where people mix most just now. The government really doesn't want to close down the economy any further than it is just now, but some scientists are pushing for stricter measures - even for a full confinement.

Well no. We stay as we are. And it seems to be working. Last week in Nouvelle Aquitaine our R number was calculated at 1.08. This week it's 0.92. Anything under 1 means a disease in retreat. Our number of cases per 100000 is lower and our rate of positive tests is still way under 5%. We're not doing systematic mass testing. We test people who have symptoms or who request a test.

So there we are. We continue as we are for now. The health minister says that it is possible that we will avoid another confinement completely.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How to straighten your head out during a pandemic

 As well as the usual advice, like "Get up and get dressed, even if you're working from home", "maintain contact with people and with God", "read helpful things", "don't watch the news too much"... it's important to do the thing that helps you to maintain your physical and mental well-being. For some people it's team sports. For me it's music.

It's good for me physically because I've always played wind instruments or sung. It means working on your breathing. Good for an asthmatic. It's good for me mentally because my mind works like that. There's nothing quite like listening to Bach for clearing my brain of it's mental fug. There's nothing like singing or playing in an ensemble for totally engaging your mind. 

Jigsaw puzzles, colouring or sudoku don't cut it for me. I do a frightful amount of reading in my work anyway. TV series or films are OK if I have the time and if I feel like them. But I can't remember the last time I didn't feel like listening to some difficult music.

Now here comes the problem. I don't go to expensive concerts. I barely go to concerts at all! I've always sung and played. Some folks recently were asking what was the first concert people went to, and I imagine mine was probably a brass band concert somewhere in South Wales when I was about 13. 

Enter YouTube and Apple Music. Our Choir Director has very helpfully sent out some suggestions for groups to listen to, and very fine they have been, too. In addition groups like Voces8 have done choral workshops online. YouTube gives you Apollo5 as well as the Netherlands Bach Society, the Academy of Ancient Music and sundry others. Some of these groups have organised online concert series for a quite modest sum of money.

But the big find of this time has been a group called I Fagiolini, led by a rather ... unusual ... University Reader from York. This group, in addition to posting super choral videos, also produce a series called "Sing the Score" where they'll talk you through a piece of music before performing it. They have one asset which for me is a slight weakness. To me, they sing like excellent soloists rather than like an excellent ensemble. It's a bit like the difference in an opera between the quartet sung by the principal roles and the moments where the opera chorus sings. For me it's a weakness, but for others it would be a strength I'm sure. It's a question of taste.

I think they've done about 20 of these "Sing the Score" videos, and I've watched perhaps the first 7. I ration myself strictly, otherwise I'd being watch them and lose the effect!

One thing our choir has done for me is to open my ears to Herbert Howells as a choral composer. Anglicans what sing in cathedral choirs know their Howells, but I knew him as a brass band composer, firstly of the wonderful "Pageantry"  that we played a few times as a competition piece but also of the fiendish "Three Figures" we had to play for another competition, and which I hated. Herbert Howells four Carol Anthems were a real find this Christmas!

I Fagiolini gave me Thomas Tomkins, a Welsh composer in the time of Elizabeth 1st who spent most of his life working at Worcester Cathedral and wrote some wonderful part-songs.

A couple more things coming up - one is a massed choir of Welsh people singing "Hen Wlad fy Nhadau" for a March 1st online concert. I must get on and register to do that. 1st March marks the thirtieth anniversary of my leaving my employment in British Telecom to become an assistant pastor in North Wales. Another is a series of online choral workshops that I might try.

Out to lunch

 It stopped raining this morning and my phone said it would be dry all afternoon so we left high ground and took the lift down to the swamp. We decided to walk down to a street in the Saint Pierre district where there are various street food places - one place sold empanadas, another focaccia and so on. When we got there the empanada place was closed and we fell back on something we know, caféincup. I got a toasted pastrami sandwich and Pat decided to go with BLT, but changed last minute for grilled cheese. I also got some ground coffee for my morning boost.

We took our bag of scran and found an empty bench looking out over the river. Bliss.

We can stay! (till 2031 at least)

 Our new Carte de Séjour arrived this morning. They're mighty fine and say on them "Permanente" and expiry date of 21/1/2031.

This is good news. Next week we'll help our daughter start applying for hers. She'll go on to ask for citizenship.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

A marriage at the town hall

 It's been so grey and gloomy today that I have ben obsessively putting all the lights on. It didn't actually rain until just before we were due to leave the flat, so we took our new Lidl umbrellas (those swanky ones that kind of open inside out) and headed off to our neighbour's wedding.

Pat got to know our neighbour over the last year. She's a woman with three small lively lads and just before Christmas she told us she was getting remarried. We met her fiancé who seems a nice guy, and they invited us to the wedding.

So off we went on the tram through the rain to the town hall. We had the time slightly wrong and arrived early, but we weren't the only ones, so we hung around under the portico trying to stop the kids from getting too messy and waiting for the wedding.

Two clerks were looking after the wedding parties, and they came over to check which party we were with and herded us into the wedding room, then fussed for a while until the happy couple arrived.

The wedding at the town hall is pretty good. They read the relevant clauses from the French marriage laws, detailing the duties and responsibilities of the couple towards each other and towards any children. At this point the boys said "it's us, the children!"

Afterwards there comes the "consentement", the moment when the mayor or his deputy says "Will you, Fred Bloggs born on such a date in such a place, take Elsie Higginbotham here present to be your spouse". The reply has to be "Yes".

From this comes the expression "ils se sont dit oui", they said yes to each other, which is an informal way of saying someone got married.

Then there's signing of the "Act of Marriage", optional exchange of rings and presentation of the pen that was used to sign the marriage act.

Then the clerks started to worry about getting us all out again in time for the next wedding to come in.

While we were waiting to go in for the wedding the police were mustering outside ready for the next demonstration of the gilets jaunes.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021


 An unusually high spring tide has combined with the passage of storm Justine to cause flooding along the Garonne. In Bordeaux this has been limited to the river banks. On the right bank the parks and some of the riverside roads have been flooded. On the left bank some of the walkways were under water.

Other towns have come off worse, with extensive flooding to town centres and to housing. In one town the mayor has been inspecting the problem in a boat and delivering bread to people who have chosen to stay in their homes.

It's perhaps the second or third time I remember this kind of problem in our 15 years here.

Evangelicals in France

 It's not an easy time. The government wants to tackle youth radicalisation, so it's targeting religious groups with a new proposed law. This was originally called the anti-separatism law, but is now renamed the law for the reinforcement of republican principles.

The problem in France is that Evangelicals are seen as being relatively new in the country - many churches have been founded essentially since the Second World War, and as an import from US culture - in France dubbed Anglo-Saxon. Recent US history has not encouraged a positive view of US evangelical politics, especially if you have limited exposure to real life French evangelicals, so there's a lot of ignorance around.

Thus our Minister of the Interior (equivalent of the Home Secretary) quite regularly gives the most horrifying TV interviews saying things like "anyone must be able to state formally that the laws of the republic are superior to the laws of any god", and "evangelicalism is a big problem, of course, obviously different to radical islam".

The law targets 1905 Associations. In 1905 a law for the separation of state and church had widespread support from protestant and evangelical churches because it guaranteed freedom for churches from state interference and also freedom for France from interference from any politically powerful church. It gave churches the right to register as 1905 Associations and to give tax relief to their donors. This right is extended to any group formed to organise worship, whether christian, buddhist, muslim, whatever. So many churches are registered as 1905 associations and most 1905 associations are in fact churches. Most mosques are registered as 1901 associations, subject to fewer conditions and not eligible for donor tax relief.

The law proposes that associations be banned from making any statement that is seen as counter-republican, and also states that any gift from overseas of more than 10 000 Euros should be declared and should make the association liable to professional auditing. The target is pretty obvious but the law as currently framed will miss its target and hit churches hard instead.

The Protestant Federation of France and the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France have been making representations to government and have had the support of the Roman Catholic Church, too, so there is hope that the law will be amended in such a way as to preserve religious liberty.

Otherwise I can imagine many churches dissolving their 1905 associations and declaring themselves as 1901 associations, with greater freedom.

Curfew etc.

 We are not in confinement. We can leave the flat at will any time between the hours of 6am and 6pm, for as long as we like and go as far as we like.

However, there is a curfew from 6pm to 6am. During this period if we are caught outside the flat we need a good reason, such as coming home from work, walking the dog, caring for a vulnerable person, etc.

Also the borders are closed to any country outside the European Union, so we can't go to the UK, for example.

Also anyone entering France from a EU country has to have a negative PCR test from within the last 72 hours.

All large shopping malls are closed, except for food retailers.

And the concert halls, cafés, restaurants, museums etc. are closed.

We avoid public transport more than we used to and although the weather is now much milder than in January, it's pretty wet, so buying take-out coffee and sitting on a bench somewhere isn't a very attractive option.

So I've taken to walking to one of the supermarkets every morning for enough shopping to fit in my backpack. Yesterday it was our local Carrefour, about 25 minutes walk away. This morning it was Lidl, about 20 minutes walk in a different direction. Lidl is nice because it is outside the mask zone, so you just have to mask up to go into the shop. Carrefour is about 5 minutes into the mask some so you have to mask up and demask in the street under the railway bridge.

I know this is what I always advised very elderly people to do, but hey - times are strange and we must adapt.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Sunrise over the Jardins de l'Ars

 Work continues on the Jardins de l'Ars. Last week they dug two of the "bassins", two ponds for the more swampy areas meant to recreate and evoke the wetlands of the Gironde. Yesterday they did something quite inscrutable to the area just below our flat, including rollers, spreaders and diggers. This was when at sunrise they were spreading white dust in tracks of about a lorry-width. Then they rolled a larger area, including some of the white tracks and later covered it with a kind of glossy black substance. We're baffled. I would have thought some kind of soil-conditioning, but why roller it? 

Viral Bordeaux

 The pandemic takes its toll on the city. A café run by a charming couple has not survived, but they have survived and they both have good jobs. When you walk around the city you especially notice the empty squares where there once were café and restaurant tables. Then the closed up places - not everyone can do takeaway.

What you don't see is the knock-on effect of that on students. Lots of students work in cafés and bars, so they have lost their income. The government has a scheme to provide students with meals twice a day at 1€ to help them to be able to eat, even if paying their rent is still complicated.

Friends who work in music are also stuck. Schemes exist to mitigate the financial impact, but that doesn't solve everything. Some students at the conservatoire can study in place, some classes are held online. It's the same at the university - a mix of online and in person.

Teachers feel vulnerable. Schools are meant to social distance and pupils are masked, but in the playground and in the street the kids rough and tumble and share their bugs. Still, clusters of infection in schools are rare.

Shops are quite busy - after all, it's sale time and where else can you go just now? I decided I had to do something to support our favourite cafés, so I went to buy coffee pods from Jimmy. I thought I could go and buy something each week. He had some coffee pods upstairs. Boxes of 100. I won't be buying one of them each week, that's for sure. We're reluctant to use UberEats or Deliveroo or similar because they take quite a big cut, though I suppose it's better than nothing.

Then at 5 the mad dash home begins. Shops generally close at about 5:30, though some push it till 6. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

La Chasse, Clément Janequin

 This renaissance part-song is about a stag hunt. It is often performed unaccompanied.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


 I've never understood the French tax system ever since we first arrived and they reimbursed us for tax we'd paid in the UK. Now they've reimbursed us for tax we may pay this year but that will be reimbursed if we do. 

We need a new word - preimburse?


 Folks are concerned that we get vaccinated. One colleague suggested that we go and ask the doctor to get us done as soon as possible. Other folks tell us to just go and get it done. Asthma, you see.

Here's how it's working in France. From yesterday everyone over 75 is eligible to be vaccinated, as well as at-risk people in certain categories, like transplant patients or cancer patients with compromised immune systems, people with two or more organ failures, people suffering from a list of rare diseases. In short, not us. I suspect that we will be in the next tranche, perhaps in early February. 

You can go to the vaccination centre and blag your way in - we have heard of one person who did that. Otherwise you need a prescription, so if we nagged the doctor they may well comply.

But to be honest, I don't think we're at high risk of catching the thing. (Famous last words, perhaps?)

Sunrise over the gardens


Saturday, January 16, 2021

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

IMPORTANT - Supporting your mission partners through COVID-19 and beyond

 UFM are hosting a webinar for church leaders on the above subject.

Find out about it here : https://www.ufm.org.uk/about/events/church-leaders-webinar/