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)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Home alone

Mrs Davey hath hied her away unto England to spend the weekend with her sister before travelling up for a wedding somewhere like Daventry. (Not entirely sure where that is...) I am joining her on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Miss Davey hied her away for a sleepover with some friends in Bordeaux.

The house is quiet. Very quiet. Oh well, time to cut my hair.

Me and my big mouth

After saying how beautiful the weather has been, how fragrant the hedgerows, how verdant the vines, how perfect the springtime, it lashed down with rain all morning.

After talking about my grand solo operatic debut, my pianist pulled out.

Ah bon.

Friday, May 25, 2018

About that sermon from the Primate of America

I am so grateful to those who have so wonderfully expressed my thoughts.

Now let's move on.

Springtime in Pessac

The vines are green and full of life.

The hedgerows are fragrant with honeysuckle and mock-orange.

Gentle breezes bring relief from the noon-day sun.

The evenings are warm and mosquito-thronged.

It's a bit sad

As you know, gentle reader, that Mrs Davey and I go for singing lessons to our local municipal music school. For us both it's a "get involved, make friends and improve your French" thing, and for me it offers cheap breathing training (I'm asthmatic).

There is a financial cost, though not a large one as the lessons are short and subsidised by the municipality, but there's another kind of cost, too. Now and then you have to sing. I mean, in front of people.

Last year we all had to take an exam; Three Daveys in a row. Catrin sang some lyric thing about victory, Pat sang a song called Syracuse and I did a bit from Figaro.

This year Catrin couldn't continue because of her university course but Pat and I were scheduled to sing a duet. I found something that vaguely fitted our range - a setting of "It was a lover and his lass" by Vaughan Williams, where Pat was to sing the low voice line and I the high voice. I don't have a high voice, but with a bit of volume I could squawk it out reasonably.

We had our first rehearsal with the pianist. It went OK. We came back hoarse and all sang out. I checked my diary for the following day.

"Darling. You know our grand concert debut. When is it?" ... "And when is your flight to England?"

Pair of chumps. Maestro Sechet was displeased.
"How come?"
"Sheer stupidity."

The situation seemed irredeemable.
"What if Alan sang alone?"

So it is that this evening I have my grand operatic debut solo, singing the same piece what I done last year for my exam. The poor pianist is having to almost sight-read, but she's a trooper. We hammered our way through it a couple times last night and, as I tell myself, no-one will die. I shall channel Bryn Terfel, though my voice doesn't have his size, of course.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Our house move

In theory we get the keys to the new place on the 22nd June, but meanwhile we have not yet received the letting contract to sign. Hmmm. I am sincerely hoping it will come by the end of May so that we can give in our notice for the end of June here.

Meanwhile how will our removal van get near the building? At present the front of the building does not appear to be suitable for parking a lorry, and the roadway is narrowed by bollards and railings. Oh well, there's a month yet.

Meanwhile, in another interesting development, I saw on the rental website that the same company has a flat available right in the middle of town, near the Musée d'Aquitaine. It's a good size, has three bedrooms, but has no balcony. I've tried numerous times to contact the company using two different numbers and I've also emailed and left a voicemail but I have had no answer. I guess they're office is closed today. I'll try again tomorrow morning.

We might conceivably need to slow down a little...

Last Thursday was the rehearsal with the pianist for Pat's and my debut in our big duet for the Music School end of year concert at the library. Ralph Vaughan-Williams' setting of "It was a lover and his lass". Very wise choice because if we forget the words we can just make it up and nobody at all would notice and anyway we're sure we'd have the best pronunciation in the place. Our accompanist is a very pleasant lady who made us sing it through 4 times (four). We have another rehearsal scheduled for this coming Thursday.

We got home. I idly looked at my diary.

What time is the concert?
Half past eight.
And what time is your flight to England?
Half past four.

Well, she sent a text message to Pierre-Henri. We saw him the next day. He looked sore vexed.

How did you not realise?

We had no satisfactory answer.

But Alan's still here. He could sing alone.

Pierre-Henri considered this.

But what could you do?

We settled on something. He perked up. I was sent off to tell the Music School secretaries who would then contact the accompanist and see if she was happy to do that instead.

Hallo, you know the duet my wife and I are due to sing?
She has to go to England.
Oh dear.
The is what Pierre-Henri suggests.

In the end the exchanges ended happily, but we may need to slow down a little. I'm starting to arrange clashing appointments again, and this time Pat is joining me!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Baptism - the report

Well last Sunday had everything!

A flat-pack furniture baptistery to assemble.

A dear friend with whom to test various positions of baptism:
both in the pool, from standing position
candidate in the pool, Alan outside, from standing position
candidate in the pool, Alan outside, from sitting position.

Water-play with hoses and buckets to empty and fill the baptistery.

Brave fellows running back and fore with kettles, flasks and bowls of hot water.

Bright sunshine and menacing clouds that threatened but did not attack.

Happy candidates with attentive and loving family and friends.

Intelligent children far too sensible to stand on the splash end of the baptistery, despite my urging.

A preacher who is director of an internationally renowned theological training institute.

Joyful songs sung in English, in French and sometimes both at once.

Delicious snacks including wonderful cakes.

Hugs, kisses and joyful dances.

Then on Monday that dull brain and throbbing back that tells you that it's time to take a day off...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

More on the baptism service

Last night at 6 I went to get the car to go and fetch the baptistery.

The car wasn't there.

I looked around a little in the streets and car parks, then phoned the service centre. "Oh yes, the previous user will be a little late."

About 25 minutes later the car arrived and two types got out and left by tram. I went and looked the car over , started it and drove off.

"STOP! FLAT TYRE!" shouted the dashboard. Funny, they hadn't looked flat, but then tyres these days seldom do. I phoned the service centre. "Oh yes, the previous user said that they'd had that flashing, but all had been OK. You can change car if you like to carry on."

I needed the length of the Clio estate to fit the baptistery in, so I decided to carry on, but to stop for air on the way. There's a garage near the motorway slip road, so I put my 1€ coin in the air machine and blew up the tyre. It had been pretty flat! Now the dashboard said "Check the tyre pressure sensors" so I was quite reassured. Oh yes, and should I mention that evidently someone is living rough at the garage and using the air machine corner for toilet duties? YUK!

The rest of the journey passed off uneventfully and the baptistery went in the car OK.

This morning I checked what other cars are available to get the baptistery to the church and then back to where I got it from. Yes! the Peugeot Partner at Talence Forum was available so I booked it quickly!

The weather yesterday was dreadful. We went from 27°C on Thursday to 15°C yesterday, with nasty drizzle punctuated by occasional downpours. "It's the icy saints," (les saints de glace) explained our neighbour. "It's always cold around the 12th of May. There are plants you shouldn't put out until after the 13th. It'll pick up again now." And so far today it has been fine, a blue sky with nice fluffy white clouds.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

What a shock!

I had a doctor's appointment at 9 am. Because my doctor is still the one we had when we first came to France, way over in the suburb we haven't lived in for 12 years now, that means reserving a car and hitting the rocade. How that word strikes fear into my heart! Still, instead of joining the rocade at sortie 13, near our home, I scuttle through the university campus and join at sortie 16. I need to come off at 18, so even if there is a hold up, at least I'm not in it for long.

This morning the traffic was fluid, so I arrived at 8:40. Oh well. 10 minutes of music in the car, then into the waiting room.

Doctors here are very good, but you do tend to go in late because they spend more time with people than they allow for. Once you understand this it's OK. You just take a book to read and all is well.

This morning I was out of the surgery at 9:20 with a contented doctor and the comment to keep doing whatever I'm doing. We also chatted about Pat and the kids in that time. "We were not made to run", she said, referring to Pat's problem with her heel, "horses were made to run because of the structure of their leg."

So home, then off to meet our baptism candidates at Horace café. I was in one room at Horace talking baptism while Pat was in another room talking with someone else.

"Vous savez que votre mari est à l'intérieur avec deux autres femmes?" said the waitress. "Ah bon!", exclaimed Patricia, who knew very well indeed.

Then to another café, OvenHeaven, to say goodbye to the splendid Oliver, who is returning to Blighty having fallen in love with Bordeaux.

Then off to Peixotto to meet the friend who is loaning us their car for the weekend. Yay! Swift passage to choir and back this evening!

Then home. Meanwhile.

You know sometimes people say the French are inefficient? Don't you believe it! As part of our flat hunting we decided to register for a logement social, a council flat. The French very sensibly have housing associations that run logements sociaux and some of their flats are just awesome. There are some in the very centre of Bordeaux. Anyway, I started filling in the website but it required the figures from our 2018 tax return, which I have not yet completed. So I left it.

So this morning we received a letter telling us our request for a logement social has been noted and giving us our unique number and stuff. It may not lead to anything, and we have found a flat anyway, but it's an impressive piece of French efficiency.

Now then, where's the figures I collected to do my tax return?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Baptism service

OK, here's a little look at the life of a missionary pastor.

We have two baptisms on Sunday! It's great!

And not only that but we have a visiting preacher, the Director of the Belgian Bible Institute is in town and has agreed to preach for us!

So why am I especially asking for prayer?

Because on Saturday evening I have to take our carshare Renault Clio estate, collect a collapsible baptistery from some colleagues out in the Medoc and bring it back here.

Then at lunchtime on Sunday take it in said car to our meeting place, erect it in the courtyard and fill it with water. I'm told this takes two hours.

The forecast for Sunday is wet, but I am hoping for sunshine to warm the water.
If not we'll add kettles to take the chill off.

Then, after the service, I'll need to empty and collapse the baptistery and get it home again.

I've never seen the baptistery. I don't know if it will fit in the Clio. At present there's no plan B!

So thanks for praying!

Monday, May 07, 2018

And here's some artists' impressions of what our new flat will look like in a couple of years' time

 It faces a new park that is to be created called "Les Jardins de l'Ars". The Ars is a brook that is currently channelled through subterranean pipes but will be brought to the surface once more to feed the gardens. The terminal "s" is pronounced, by the way. We'll be on the left hand side of the building just about at tree-top level in these drawings.

The aerial photograph shows the site a couple of months ago. Building work on the various components of the site has advanced considerably but landscaping will be the last job to be done, I guess. Meanwhile we'll have access via a fairly important road that runs just on the other side of the building from our flat.

It'll be wonderful to have an office again, and to have a spare room!

Sorry we've been so quiet!

Here's some nice soothing music!

Monday, April 30, 2018

And yes, we are

We heard this morning, first by email, then by telephone, that our dossier for the larger apartment in the new Euratlantique district of the city has been accepted. We should be moving at the end of June.

It is facing the not yet created Jardins de l'Ars. L'Ars is the little stream that runs currently under the road and that will be brought back to the surface to feed the gardens. And the final "s" is pronounced.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

So are we moving?

We slowly compiled our dossier for the new flat by the river, the bigger one, at 83m2. The last letter to be added was an attestation from our current agency, stamped and signed, that we are up to date with our rent. This we received on Monday and added to the dossier. I texted the lady to say that our dossier is now complete.

Then on Tuesday we went to see another flat at the other end of the same block. On the seventh (7th) floor, this flat had a LARGE balcony. It was a super little place, but the lounge was small, with a separate, small kitchen. In a show flat someone had put a corner settee and a round table with four chairs. That was OK, but we had trouble imagining 20 people for a bible study. Two bedrooms were ok, but the third was small. That third bedroom has to double as my office and a spare room, and we struggled to imagine putting a desk and a bed in it. But the balcony was huge. Biggest space in the whole flat. By the time we got home we realised that the flat was too small.

So now it's clear. We need more than 72m2.

Then while in town in Bordeaux I got another email from the 83m2 lady. There were several dossiers for the third floor flat. She proposed positioning us for same thing on the fourth floor. I emailed her back, "Yes, we'd like that".

When we got home I looked at the website for the letting agency. Would it now show the two flats? It did, and on the fourth floor apartment it said "You have accepted this flat".

Oh yes? So does that also mean the agency has accepted us? Are we moving? Is this it? No more searching? No more visits? Just planning the move?

I have a phone call to make.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Visiting flats

We went to see two apartments yesterday, very different from each other.

The first was in the new area of town called Euratlantic. This is projected to become a new presitigious part of town with lots of offices for a financial centre and new apartment blocks built to the highest environmental standards. Until recently it was the edge of the district where the working girls are to be found, and at present it's a huge mass of construction sites.

The flat was on the eighth floor of a block optimistically called "Residen'ciel". It had a lounge facing south and bedrooms facing north. Unusually, the bathroom had a window. On both sides there were balconies floored with that decking material. (I don't like the way it springs under foot.) The views were wonderful, out over the river. From the living room we could see the bridge that carried the motorway on the south side of the city. From the bedrooms we could see the spires of Bordeaux and the motorway bridge on the north side. Atop the building, on the 10th floor, is a rooftop, a roof terrace open to all residents.

The flat has been bought to let by someone taking advantage of tax breaks offered by the French government. It's a good idea, but it does make these flats hard to let. Why? Well rents are expensive in Bordeaux and French law states that you have to have income of at least three times your liabilities (rent, mortgage, loans, etc.) That means you need a minimum salary to afford the flat. However the tax breaks are only available if you let to people who income is under a certain ceiling. So the number of people eligible to let these flats is restricted. You have to earn enough, but not too much!

The lounge was about 20 m2, but the kitchen was along one wall, so we would lose about 6 m2 compared to what we have now. There were four bedrooms, but all were smaller than ours now, and none had fitted wardrobes. The rent includes heating and hot water, powered by the somewhat distant recycling plant at Bègles. We tried to fit our lives into the flat, and failed.

We arrived by tram and trek through the dusty heat between the building sites, and we left by bus. Just nearby three women were plying their trade, watched, possibly supervised by a man sat on the grass opposite leaning against a large plastic container of water.

The next apartment was up at Bordeaux Lac. We arrived a little early and enjoyed a walk around the area, watching the ducks, fish and coypus playing in the canals that separate the blocks of apartments.

This apartment was on the ground floor with a balcony that gave directly onto the road on one side and onto the park on the other. Every window was a french door. There was a lounge about the size of our current one, with a separate kitchen, a little bigger than what we have now, then three bedrooms, again each one substantially smaller than ours. One was really small. This apartment is heated, along with the whole district of the city, by a huge central wood-chip burning boiler, so the rent includes heating and hot water. Again we tried to fit ourselves into the apartment, and again we failed. I was a little concerned about security, too.

We are also applying for another apartment at present, again in the Euratlantic area. This block is built, but the apartment won't be completed until the end of June. We have plans. It has three bedrooms, nearer the size of ours at present. The two smaller rooms have fitted wardrobes. The largest room has an attached bathroom. The lounge has the kitchen in the corner but it is substantially bigger. It should be more feasible. Again it's in the buy to let scheme. The woman dealing with it apologised for asking personal questions, like, "Do you have any other income? Does your wife work? Is that all the household income?"

Friday, April 20, 2018

We are considering moving home

We love our flat. It's a very pleasant place to live. It has two faults, though. Firstly it's quite a long way out of the city centre. Secondly I have no office and we have no guest bedroom. I usually work on the (small) kitchen table, just alongside the washing machine.

So today we are going to look at two different apartments, both in new areas of Bordeaux.

The first is in a new district which is just being constructed on the other side of the station. It's one of M. Juppé's projects, the quartier Euratlantique, an area with financial services offices, a new bridge, the Pont Simone Weil, that crosses to the new Floirac Concert Hall, and two tram stops from the central station.

The second is on the other side of town, at Bordeaux Lac, between the lake that was constructed decades ago on the site of the old land-fill and the huge shopping complex where Ikea is situated.

We are also being considered for another flat that is being built and is due for delivery in June, again at Euratlantique. We can't visit that one, obviously, but I've seen the plan and despite its moderate size it looks like it could be a very practical and comfortable living space...

We'll see!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The race for naturalisation

We have not proceeded with naturalisation, partly because it would cost us about 500€ just to get everything translated that needs translating, without any administration fees.

Birthday meal

Pat had saved up a little spending money for our anniversary which we hadn't used, so we decided to push the boat out for a birthday meal. That meant, after some reflection, la Tupina.

La Tupina is one of the more prestigious but less swanky restaurants in Bordeaux. Rather than candelabras and funky crystal, it's gone for the best quality meats and fish from the river, cooked in traditional ways, often over the fire. For example, they do lamproie à la bordelaise (lamprey cooked in its own blood and red wine). It was around 30°C in Bordeaux today, but their fire was lit for grilling, as usual. We ate outside.

They do a really good value lunch for 18€ and we would have had that but it was langue de boeuf - ox tongue - so we decided to go for their à la carte menu. Much more expensive, but we had that little fighting fund. So the girls had roast chicken.

At la Tupina they despair of the quality of the chicken we get in the supermarkets. So their chicken comes from a farm on the Medoc where the birds live free-range and then the roasting is done slowly over the fire. "We used to have a really good chicken once a week as a Sunday treat", their website says, "and we could do with getting back to those days". Their chicken was served with chips fried in goose fat and sprinkled with crunchy salt.

Meanwhile I was undecided, so I asked the waiter what I should have. I almost always ask the waiter what I should have. I was considering breast of duck (he nodded and pursed his lips), lamb (his eyes lit up) or a steak (he nodded). I had seen the steaks displayed and they did look exceptionally good, but the waiter said, "You'll never eat lamb elsewhere like we do it here." I almost never eat lamb anyway these days, so I agreed.

The traditional Easter meal in this part of France was a shoulder of lamb which was braised very slowly in a low oven all day and served with equally slow-cooked beans. They call it seven-hour lamb. "Ours is cooked for eight hours", said the waiter.

He persuaded Pat to have a starter, partly because she didn't hear what he suggested she order - a skewer of grilled duck's hearts, beautifully cooked and served with a salad. Pat ate them with gusto while we looked on! He also brought us some saucisson, some cauliflower florets, some radishes and some fresh warm bread and butter while we waited for our main course.

Well the chicken looked really good, propped up on a little block of stuffing and with a bowl of really good chips. Meanwhile my lamb came in an low earthenware dish, surrounded by rich gravy and sprigs of rosemary. It took the waiter some time to meticulously spoon all the sauce onto my plate. The thick white beans were in a beat-up old pan together with slices of carrot, parsnip and chunks of bacon. It really was so good. "I'm never eating lamb again", I told the waiter.

The waiters were very well trained. When they collected plates they had to turn away from you to scrape the chicken carcasses onto one plate. You mustn't see them do that! Our half-bottle of wine was carefully placed on the table and turned with the label facing us. When one brought the bill he hid the bank machine card behind his back. Pat had cash. "We don't need the machine", I said. He looked relieved. But along with the ritual and formality there was an easy friendliness. We spoke a little English with them, but mostly in French.

Dessert was ice-cream. For me prune, for Pat fruits of the forest (fruits rouges) with "confiture de vieux garçon". "What is that?" The waiter laughed. "It's fruits rouges", he said. Catrin had gros canelé with ice cream. She'd had better canelé, but never fatter and never with ice cream.

Considering the quality of the meal, the bill was reasonable. More than we've ever paid before, and more than we'll ever pay again in a hurry, but what a birthday lunch, eh!

Some Wednesday music

So we joined this choir

Last year was very serious. We sang Bach and Vasks.

This year we have a big project on - the Requiem for Rossini, an Italian romantic requiem composed by a committee of composers.

But it's also the 30th anniversary of the founding of the choir, so we're doing a birthday concert on 1st May. And for that the programme includes:

In the Hall of the Mountain King, sung in Norwegian.
The Hallelujah chorus, sung in Franglais
"Oh Happy Day, from Sister Act, sung inaccurately (He taught me how to wash, fight and pray)
America from West Side Story
"Voici la quadrille" from Carmen
"O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana
Pavane, Fauré
Cantique de Jean Racine, Fauré
Ave Verum Corpus, Mozart
The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, from Nabucodonosor.

That's a lot of singing, and all accompanied by our gallant little pianist!

Every year they take me by surprise!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The City of God and the Goal of Creation, by T Desmond Alexander

I sounded off a while ago about our tendency to have a somewhat one or at best two-dimensional approach to Biblical Theology, seeing one theme as key to unlocking the whole development and direction of the Bible's message - perhaps Covenant, or Kingdom. But the Bible gives us various diverse themes that run through the Scripture from beginning to end. One of these themes is the City.

We can have a somewhat ambivalent approach to the city. On the one hand some of our cities are so polluted that you cannot breathe safely, your lifespan is shortened by the smog. Sometimes our cities are characterised by injustice and inequality, with extremely wealthy penthouses and terrible slums and housing schemes. Cities can be dangerous places with areas where it is unwise to go unless you are known and know how to behave.

We dream of the countryside, of escaping to the hills, to the beach, to the mountain, to the forest. Of silence and solitude. Of clean air and crystalline water. Even typing these words makes me relax.

The story of creation in the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. But not just any kind of city. the City of God.

Alexander's book helps us to grasp the sweep of the Bible's focus on God's city chapter by chapter, beginning with Babel, the city that has no need of the creator-God, the city of self-sufficient pride. God's purpose, however, is a different kind of city - a Temple-City, a City that is a Holy Mountain, the City of the Great King, the Jerusalem that is to come, that comes down out of heaven from God.

It's a short book, but not quickly read. It's a distillation of lots of research and reflection by many scholars, making it so rich and suggestive that you have to keep pausing to think over on what you've read. But along the way you get insights you might never have noticed otherwise. Thoroughly recommended.

I received the book free from Crossway in return for an honest review. I have to say that I get to choose the books I want to review, so it's not terribly likely that I'll ever give a negative review!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Is that ECT, BST, GMT or DKT?

We're an hour ahead of our dear ones in the United Kingdom. France operates on what, I believe, is called Europaean Central Time, currently at GMT + 2.

Meanwhile the UK is now on British Summer Time, GMT + 1, which must seem like a bitter irony as the winds lash and the rain cascades.

Incidentally the stress of adapting to this national tidal wave of sleep lost and gained is enough to account for a noticeable rise in heart attacks. So take it slowly. Certainly last week I along with many others was suffering with la crève, an extreme fatigue that comes upon you for no discernable reason, if not the change to Summer Time.

But here in the Davey household we had another problem. Between our living room and our kitchen there was a noticeable time difference of about 6 minutes. We called this Davey Salon Time (DST) and Davey Kitchen Time (DKT). DST was well aligned with all the other clocks we knew, such as the internet, our mobile phones. DKT was six minutes behind.

Our flat is what estate agents would call "deceptively spacious", but it's not that big. Why this time warp?

Well time, as we know, is not really a constant. It is composed of waves of timey-wimey stuff and therefore extremely variable, and the quantum effect of moving between the salon and the kitchen was strangely sufficient to warp time to the ...

Our living room clocks are battery powered. Our kitchen clocks, on the oven and the microwave, are mains-electric. Mains-electric clocks commonly use the 50Hz cycle of the alternating current to measure time. And since January, because of some jiggery-pokery in which I seem to recall the Russians were involved ("Oh no we were not!" "Oh yes you were!"), the alternating current in Western Continental Europe was about 49.9996Hz, enough over a couple months to put our clocks slow by six minutes.

So THAT'S why I missed those buses! And THAT'S why the (mains-powered) clock on Pat's side of the bed was six minutes slow all the time.

It's now been sorted out and by some more jiggery-pokery (they ran the current at 50.00001Hz for a while) the ovens of the continent are showing the correct time once more.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The inauguration of the Chinese Church

Yesterday we were so very privileged to be present for the inauguration of the Chinese Church, which took place at the Eglise Evangélique Libre in Pessac, about a 1/2 hour walk from our home. It's a rainy weekend, so we travelled indolently, by 42 and 44 bus, walking just a couple of yards either end of the journey.

They say that when you are drowning your whole life flashes past you. Well we were drowning in a happy sea of thankfulness as all our life in France flashed before our eyes.

We saw way back 15 years ago, before we arrived when two Chinese girls started meeting for Bible Study. Soon afterwards they were joined by a lad who became a friend of ours, and who later married one of the girls. Slowly the group grew. Our involvement with the group grew, too, until 2014 when we focused on the International Church Plant. Incidentally, it was thanks to a gift from the Chinese Group that I bought my first Apple computer.

Friends were there who we have not seen for years. There were huge hugs, lots of stories, a few tears and a lot of applause. Then a good Chinese meal. "Never ask what's in it", joked one of the Chinese pastors.

We came home pretty stoked up.

Briefing the church leaders

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Monday, April 02, 2018

At last

Spring has finally arrived, we had reasonable temperatures today and yesterday we turned off the heating in the flat. Usually we don't have to heat after mid-February, so we're at least 6 weeks late. Still, today the air was warm, the sun was agreeable and we felt like we had turned a corner.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Gironde Estuary

Lifestyle changes - again

The faithful reader will know that I am not afraid of incorporating the assured findings of recent scientific research and the latest fads of the snake-oil vendors into what I so ambitiously call "my life". Also that I am not usually shy of sharing these fascinating snippets with you, gentle reader, though I did spare you, I think, the inclusion of nuts into my daily regime - something that caused me long reflection. Long story short, chocolate nut porage, with walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts and almonds. Carry on like this and I'll be adding fish-oil and chopped liver to my morning oatflakes.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, I'm trying to sleep longer. Our wild social agenda prevents me going to bed earlier, so that means staying in bed later in the morning.

But I've always got up by 6:30!

But good men get up early! Everyone says so!

But I go running at 6:30!

Aha. Leaving aside any pretence at being a "good man", whatever that may mean, and the steely glare of tradition, how can I run if I don't get up till ... shudder ... 7:30 or even 8?

So today found me gallumphing down Rue Profond at 9am. 9am! It was light! The sun was shining! The good burgers of Pessac were hieing them to the market! And I was hoofing me down the newly-resurfaced lane to the chateau.

It was fine. Nobody screamed, pointed, stared or even stopped their galloping horse.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Am Abend da es kuhle war

We'll long remember this Easter

Daniel Liechti is a missiologist who works for the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France to encourage new churches. He says, "We'll long remember Easter 2018... If usually Christians, with their faith in Jesus who died for them, are not always understood, by the example of Arnaud Beltrame, giving his life to save others, this act is seen in all its strength and its love."

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What fun!

Yesterday we celebrated four years of Bordeaux Church in the centre of the city with a day conference, a nice lunch and an evening barbecue. The speaker was big Guillaume Bourin from Paris who I first got to know some years ago when Gwilym went on a week in Belgium with him. 

The day went well, and then came the time to come home. We cleaned up and left for Pessac in luxury in Rita's Fiat Panda. No bus 4 for us that night! In fact, no bus 4 for anyone, because of the Bordeaux Marathon which was being run along a substantial part of the bus' route.

So we set off for home, guided by Rita's GPS in her phone. Pretty soon we arrived at the end of a street where we could not proceed because of the marathon runner. Some drivers hooted, others shouted, one got very rude, apparently, when told to reverse. "Does your sister reverse?" he said.

Anyway no-one could go forwards so eventually even the most recalcitrant accepted the inevitability of regress and we careered blindly backwards down the road whence we had come. After a certain time I decided that there might be a better GPS programme for these circumstances, so I started up Waze, which knows about blocked roads and traffic jams. "You are 5 minutes from home and it will take you 27 minutes", it said. 

A lively discussion ensued, wherein we eventually concluded that we should follow its directions. Follow, that is, until I realised that the programme was making gallant efforts to achieve the impossible. It could get us to within 1/2 mile of our house, but no closer because the marathon runners formed an impenetrable barrier to wheeled vehicles.

We persuaded Rita to drop us at the most beautiful roundabout, from whence we proceeded on foot without incident in the opposite direction to the marathon runners, shouting helpful encouragement, "Bravo!", "Jusqu'au bout!", and "Plus vite que ça!"

Rita, meanwhile, was staying with friends at Saige, and from the most beautiful roundabout to Saige it was an easy and clear road.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Life is improving all the time here

First a new public toilet in Pessac.
Then a pedestrian crossing exactly where we need one by the stop for bus 4.
Now a new public toilet is going up at Hotel de Ville.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


We're entering a period of strikes, prompted by the current climate of austerity in France. A friend who is a civil servant explained it to us.

Civil Servants' pay has been frozen for some years, with just small index-linked rises, but their pouvoir d'achat (ability to buy) has been eroded. In addition they receive various allowances linked to their status, but these allowances do not count towards their final pension, so they are concerned about retirement, too.

Meanwhile railway workers are the main antagonists against the government, pointing out that while they have to live with pay freezes, members of parliament and the government have not had their pay frozen. What's sauce for the goose is, after all, sauce for the gander.

So today sees a BIG demonstration in the heart of Bordeaux and from the middle of next week the railway workers will be striking two days out of five, with a calendar of strikes published lasting up to the end of June.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


The airbnb that we were staying in had a little kitchen that was fine for preparing breakfast but we didn't cook any other meal in it. That meant eating and drinking in various different kinds of places, and being served by lots of different waiters. They came from Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Italy and France. All were excellent and all said that they were very happy and that life was good.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

We have just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary

with a short trip to London.

We stayed in a super little AirBnB at Queen's Park, within easy bus and underground reach of the city, and we were able to visit the Shard, the British Museum, to watch some street performers at Covent Garden, to catch Choral Evensong at Saint Paul's, to ride on a 1962 Routemaster bus, to visit the Imperial War Museum, to visit our lad, Gwilym, at his church in Harrow, to visit our nearest church in West Kilburn and finally to explore Borough Market, having lunch with Gwilym once more before an undulated flight back to Bordeaux.

Here's some photos:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

At the bank

to open an account for the church.

"Oh no, the president of the association has to be here. It's the president that opens the account."

"But he's the treasurer."

"No, the president"

The president is on holiday for a couple of weeks. Oh, it's only delay.

Mother tongue interference


serck-rett-air, not sec-rett-air

...repeat until you can no longer say it wrong...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring has come to Pessac

One day it was -4°C and the next 16°C. Thankfully that was the day we flew back from icy Prague.

It means lots of daffodils and yellow mimosa. It means some forsythia - not as popular here as in the UK. It means the start of the blossoming trees. It means beautiful sunsets. It means people are starting to get over their colds and coughs.

Sadly the beautiful buds on the magnolias were all frozen by the beast from the east, so no magnolia blossoms this year. Instead there are withered brown dead buds.

And everything looks more cheerful and hopeful.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

French is a crazy language

The French language has a lot of character and tends to set challenges for you. Some people profess to be rubbish at French. Others show a high degree of expertise. For example:

Did you know that when you say on page 41 in French it is expressed as "à la page quarante-et-un" and definitely not quarante-et-une... Une is an article, not a number. Numbers do not change with gender. But you'll often hear people say, à la page vingt-et-une, or à la mesure cent-trente-et-une.

Did you know that French does have a neuter gender, but it hides it behind the masculine. This was all explained to me this week but it got very technical so I pretended to follow while quietly zoning out.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Praying in Prague

Last week was the International Christian Communities of Eurasia Prayer Conference, which was held in Prague. Pat and I went along for the first time ever. The conference ran from Wednesday lunchtime to Friday lunchtime, but flights meant that we flew on Tuesday and returned on Saturday.

Prague was going through a period of extremely cold weather though the dryness of the air meant that there was little snow. I have never been so cold in all my natural born days. We had lots of warm clothing, but my hat and scarf combinations generally left my cheekbones exposed, and they froze.

We flew Air France, Bordeaux to Paris, then Paris to Prague, which gave us the right to a bag of pretzels and a sandwich on the way, and pretzels and a pineapple and coconut sponge cake on the return. We stayed together in a nice hotel with very powerful heating. It was -14°C in the street and +26°C in our room. The hotel served a buffet breakfast of the usual euro-miscellany and then made up sandwiches and snacks which were left for guests to help themselves to as the day unfolded.

The participants at the prayer conference ate together on two evenings, once in a Prague institution which is a kind of brewery and traditional eating-house. I had svíčková, which is a kind of Czech version of boiled beef and carrots, served with slices of bread dumplings. It was very good and very filling. the second evening we ate at the restaurant of a deacon of the international church in Prague where the set menu was a gastronomic tour de force, with meat and fish courses and a very good chocolate mousse with marinated bitter cherries.

We had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with Prague friends, Romana who worked with us in North Wales in the mid 1990s, Jitká who was here in Bordeaux for a year in 2003 and Ted and his family. Ted teaches at universities in Prague. Romana met us at the airport on our arrival and then escorted us back to the airport along with Jitká.

A highlight for me were two visits to Bethlehem Chapel, the meeting house built for Jan Hus to preach in the 1400s. It was built to accommodate 3000 people, stood, and apparently up to 10,000 actually crammed themselves inside. At the time Prague had a population of some 40,000 people. You can see just how popular a movement it was. His Prague ministry lasted just 12 years, then followed two years preaching in the Bohemian countryside under the pope's anathema, then he was tried and burnt.

Prague now is a beautiful city with a illustrious past and a rather sordid present. Nasty gift shops line the streets of the old town. Supermarkets display cannabis leaf signs to show that you can buy cannabis cookies and cakes. On Wenceslas Square Marks and Spencer is on one block and on the next a large building advertises Thai massage and through the open doors you can see ten or more eager girls lounging on sofas and beanbags waiting for their needy punters to arrive. That's us Europeans, eh?

I had a list of good coffee shops to visit. We didn't do any. I had a list of cheap restaurants. We didn't do any. We did explore Old Town, the river bank, New Town, the Jewish quarter and the Castle area. Oh, and the Czech language is a czallenge!

Friday, February 23, 2018

What is happening to our town?

Yesterday afternoon I got home from a meet-up in the city centre to find a row of police cars, a trails moped and an ambulance parked on what we nickname bang-crash wall.

Initial fears were fed by the fact that the ambulance seemed in no hurry as a stretcher was loaded up and its load completely covered before being placed inside. Still the vehicle waited before eventually driving off. "They placed the white sheet", said one neighbour, ominously.

More extensive investigation (we asked the people who were moving out just as the accident happened) revealed that nothing quite so tragic had transpired: a young hothead on a moped was being chased by a police car alongside the Pape Clement vines. On our really dangerous corner he hit the pavement and came off his bike, appearing to have perhaps broken his arm.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

and Lawrence is home...

Public transport incident

I had an appointment at the bank at 3 to talk about insurance. To be honest, I wasn't very keen on going but I want the bank to be good to me so at present I'm being especially good to the bank. So I left the house to hop on bus 4 down to the Alouette where our branch is. As I approached the stop I saw bus 4 pull in so I speeded up on the off chance that I would catch it. It stayed at the stop and the driver put the hazard warning lights on. He let me on board and continued a conversation with the bus controller.

"Ah no, the police are not here yet. Well no, but the way things are they'll be hitting each other soon."

Two men at the back of the bus were having a very heated conflict while the rest of us watched and wondered whether intervening would help or inflame the situation.

"Come away" urged some women to one of the chaps.

After several minutes the police arrived, charged onto the bus with pistols drawn, and yelled at the main combattant to stand up. He didn't. "I'm going to witness a shooting", I thought. The police got to the guy, who was drunk and also obviously had some psychological issues. They dragged him to his feet, cuffed him and frog-marched him off the bus.

Then followed interviews with various folk involved. "He'd been threatening to slit everyone's throats, and so on". (At present in France this kind of threat is particularly unwelcome.)

Eventually we all got off the bus and onto a following one, the bus driver had a much-needed cigarette before returning the the depot and I was 30 minutes late for my appointment at the bank.

Oh well.

Mi Band 2

It's working again!

When I changed my mobile phone, probably through not following the correct procedure, I ended up with a band that was neither use nor ornament because it would not connect to my phone.

There was a fix on the internet, which involved discharging the battery, putting the module in the fridge for a few days, then trying to connect again. It didn't work.

So a few days ago I thought it was time either to sort it out once and for all or to send it off for whatever recycling is possible for these things. So once more I ran down the battery (it was already flat) and put it in the fridge for about a week.

Then I tried connecting.

"You need to factory reset your band" came the new message. I did that.

Then with just a tiny amount of jiggery-pokery - IT'S WORKING AGAIN!

I'm pretty sure that a few software updates from Xiaomi have made the difference.

A three-legged friend

Lawrence survived the surgery, but unfortunately the nature of the tumour demanded the removal of his front right leg. So he has become a three-legged rat. Not only that, but his back legs have weakened with time. So the poor old feller's days of acrobatics, climbing and charging around are well and truly over. We're awaiting his discharge from the vets.