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)

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Le Pass Sanitaire

 Once you have been vaccinated twice with the appointed vaccine - AstraZeneca for certain people, for other Pfizer - you get a document with two QR codes that you can scan into your Tous Anti Covid application. This then becomes your European Covid Passport, also known in France as your pass sanitaire.

A pass sanitaire can also be obtained by getting a recent PCR test. This must be a temporary thing, I imagine, because the validity of the test expires.

French people are quite reluctant to be vaccinated. They have a very high degree of respect for science, but much less for scientists. There is also much more evidence of occult healing, clairvoyance and so on than you typically get in the UK.

So on Monday when M Macron announced that the pass sanitaire would be needed to attend concerts, cinemas and the like, and to take trains, aeroplanes or long-distance bus services the cat was put among the pigeons.

The first effect was that hundreds of thousands of people booked appointments to be vaccinated. Almost one million on Monday evening. 4 million this week.

A secondary effect has been a great outpouring of wrath at the assault on individual freedom. "Bienvenue à la dictature sanitaire !" Welcome to the health dictatorship. Thousands of people have marched against the pass sanitaire.

Meanwhile, for our part, we are coming to terms with not visiting our son in the UK this summer. The UK has imposed a ten day quarantine as well as expensive PCR tests for travellers from France, even the fully vaccinated. This is because of the prevalence of the beta variant in those parts of France that are to be found in the Indian Ocean - Reunion and Mayotte. Here in mainland France we now are dominated by the delta variant which ironically probably arrived here from India via the UK.

Oh well. We remind ourselves of all those summers we spent in the UK wishing that we could explore France more. We'll head for the mountains and the mediterranean.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Tour de France

 It's an ill wind that blows no good. That's what they say.

Well, due to covid we are confined to France for another summer. Usually at this time of year we would be well ensconced in dear old Blighty. Just now we would need to pay for government listed PCR tests and quarantine for a minimum of 5 days. Makes a quick trip to see the folk a bit ... inconvenient.

But the upside is that we're in France at the time of the Tour de France. And it was passing within easy striking distance of Bordeaux. 

I did a small amount of research. Essentially the choice lay between Cadillac on Friday 16 July, a town a little south of here, and Libourne on Saturday 17th, a little north of here. Both are accessible by train. We opted for Cadillac.

To get to Cadillac you take the train to Cérons - so small it has no bar or café, just a take-away pizza place - and walk across the river bridge. Cadillac is a megapolis in comparison, with numerous restaurants and cafés. We duly crossed the bridge.

One of the restaurants was selling chips (French fries) on its forecourt but when we expressed interest in eating they showed us to a nice table inside and brought us the menu. 14€ got me a salad niçoise, steak and salad followed by a chocolate pud. Mrs Davey had a salad de la mer.

Afterwards we surveyed the scene and chose some steps that led up from the main route to a car park - the steps were blocked at the top so it became our hidden hole where we waited for the "caravane" to come through. After an interminable 20 minutes or so the Skodas started to flow through the town, soon followed by every sort of crazy contraption you could imagine - from sublime gingham painted 2CVs belonging to Cochonou - manufacturers of fine dried sausages - through to a motorised basket of strawberries. All the floats were manned by over-excited young folk singing, yelling and waving and occasionally tossing goodies into the crowd, such as small bags of haribo, Tour de France tee-shirts and hats, bags, packets of seeds, key-rings, small dried sausages and bottles of Vittel water.

These last were handed very skilfully and from our vantage-point we were very successful at securing bottles of water, but not so good at anything else. A bit too close, perhaps. But we also managed to avoid getting too wet when the Vittel wagons rolled by soaking the crowd. It was all good fun. 

We then had another wait before the cyclists came. Some people were following the tour on their app and informing everyone or where and when and what.

So we moseyed back to the bridge before deciding it was too exposed to the sun and standing at the side of the road instead. One family had been visibly successful in securing hats and tee-shirts.

The cyclists came by in two waves - first the coureurs - about 20 of them escorted by a flotilla of Skodas and motorcycles. The noise of the bicycle transmissions was other-worldly - a strange whirring noise.

Then about 20 minutes more and the main body came through. Very impressive, though they are past in about a minute and a half.

Some church friends had driven out to Cérons just in time to see the main body pass and they asked if we wanted a lift back to town, so we ended the evening in a burger bar before walking home.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

When your favourite grammar-checker speaks with forked tongue

I have had to revise the rules on numbers following a little controversy between two French friends over whether it is correct to say on page twenty-one as à la page vingt-et-une, or à la page vingt-et-un. 

The thing is, you can't necessarily trust your friends, even those who are really clever and educated and adamant and stuff, because the rules are a bit ... opaque.

Still, you can always trust your favourite grammar checker website, Le bon patron.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

M. Macron's speech

 It's very difficult in France to oblige people to do something. After all, the first word of the national motto is freedom. 

At the same time we now have lots of vaccine and cases of the delta variant of covid-19 are rising. Our test and trace system is working really well with free PCR testing available in lots of places in the city. But still there is a certain reticence about getting vaccinated.

So last night M. Macron addressed the nation. Would déconfinement be put into reverse gear? would there be new measures?

He announced that for all care and medical staff vaccination will now be compulsory. They have until September to get themselves vaccinated with the two doses. 

Meanwhile the "pass sanitaire" - covid passport - which is already required for entry to events of more than 1000 spectators will become necessary from August for events of over 50 people and for everyone over 12 years old. 

That means two doses of vaccine or a recent negative PCR test if you want to go to the cinema, to a concert, to a talk, to anything with over 50 people. We do not yet know whether that includes churches.

Then, again to encourage vaccination rather than relying on test and trace, PCR tests, currently free in France, will be charged for from the autumn.

This morning M Macron's twitter account has a gif of him speaking (no sound) but the words under his head are "FAITES-VOUS VACCINER". Get yourself vaccinated.

La fête nationale

 Wednesday is "the fourteen July", France's national holiday. To mark the occasion the town hall puts on a firework display in the centre of the city. Meanwhile we have our midweek meeting in someone's home. 

So this Wednesday, weather permitting, we will meet on the quays for a picnic and for prayer, then stay around for the fireworks. If the weather is bad, and rain is forecast, then we'll meet at the home nearest the quays and then scuttle up for the fireworks.


 We have two biting mosquitos in the Bordeaux area now. There's the usual small kind that hangs around under trees and bushes at night and will come into your home. Then there's the tiger mosquito, the new kid in town, bigger, more aggressive and more dangerous - in some parts of the world the tiger mosquito carries illnesses like dengue fever and chikungunya. Here in Bordeaux they don't transmit anything but they will bite you in the daytime.

We've had mosquitos in the house around Christmas in the past. It's pretty miserable when they come for you at night when you're in bed - you hear the buzzing, like a tiny moped zipping past your ear. You smack your ear, your cheek, your forehead, everywhere, then in the morning you find the bites.

American friends wonder why we don't have screen doors, fly screens on our windows, air-conditioning so we don't have to open our windows. I don't know. I don't know.

French friends relativise it all. It's only the female who bites and she only does it so she can let her eggs. 

This is no help to me, because when I get bitten at the very least I get large hard bumps that ooze. At the worst, so far, I get huge inflamed areas that make me go to the pharmacy for creams and gels to try and take the inflammation down, and I spend a week putting hot and cold compresses on. At present my left arm is inflamed below the elbow, my left knee, just on the knee and my right ankle. People tell me I'm allergic.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Choir restarting

I auditioned for our chamber choir around the beginning of the pandemic, did a lousy audition, especially the sight-reading, and was surprised to be accepted. Since then we have been able to rehearse perhaps three or four times, always masked from the moment we meet to the moment we leave. So I had never seen the faces of some the folk.

It's chamber choir and we sing unaccompanied. We do some pretty easy stuff but also some more challenging music. Most of it I've never sing before because I've always sung in big accompanied choirs.

I'm at the list of my musical competence. I'm singing 2nd bass, and I'm really a baritone. I can get down where I need to, but I need to work on my volume down below. I'm learning the pieces, but I'm not a bad reader really, thanks to the time I spent as a kid playing in a competing brass band in South Wales.

So last night there were two new experiences for me. First was singing Debussy for the first time. "Dieu qu'il l'a fait bon regarder". It's wonderful music. Very much Debussy with crazy cross-rhythms and surging dynamics and smudgy harmony. It's "La mer" for singing.   

Then from the sublime to a different kind of sublime - Rachmaninov "Bogoritse dievo". This is much easier to sing because the harmony is less out there and the rhythms are more predictable, but it's still quite exquisite.

In my previous choir I was one of the stronger basses, mainly because I can read the part and, especially if it's not too funky, I don't mind belting it out. In this choir I'm the weakest bass. But hey, they have not yet given me my marching orders, so in the meantime I'm having a ball. 

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Bordeaux, buses and bikes

 Lockdown was a strange time. The city was quiet. There was almost no traffic at all. When people went out for their hour of exercise or to do their shopping the city felt calm and safe.

Then a year ago for the election of mayors France was swept by a green wave - ecology party candidates won in lots of cities, including Bordeaux.

There had already been pressure to replace large areas of concrete and wide roads with trees and green spaces, but now things have accelerated. Trees are being planted in the vast paved square outside the town hall and the cathedral. Bike lanes have been painted onto the inner ring road. More streets have been pedestrianised or made one-way with bikes allowed to go against the traffic. There are noticeably more bikes in the streets than before. 

Meanwhile the city has a principle it is trying to put in place of having all the basic services you need for everyday life available to you within a 15 minute walk. So the idea is that everyone within the city of Bordeaux should be able to walk to the doctor, to a dentist, to a hairdresser, to a baker, a café, a supermarket, and so on.

For our area this is hard because it's all new. We do already have a doctor and a supermarket well within 15 minutes, and cafés and bakers are not much further.

It is bound to make you think of churches. Will Bordeaux see a day when there is a gospel church within 15 minutes walk? 

We are praying for the day when the 8 sub-town-halls of Bordeaux all have a gospel church within them. That's one goal, and though things have greatly improved in the suburbs of Bordeaux, in the city itself we're still a long way off. 

The CNEF is encouraging prayer to see a gospel church for every 10,000 people. That would mean 24 gospel churches within the inner ring road. Another goal 

A church within 15 minutes walk of anyone and everyone adds the idea of being spread out through the different areas of the city - the smart and trendy Chartrons as well as the multicultural Saint-Michel. 

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Next step in déconfinement

On Wednesday France entered the next step in déconfinement. For us in Bordeaux this means :

No more masks outdoors, except in the two main shopping streets after lunch, and within 50m of schools, stations or transport stops.

No more limits on number in cafés, restaurants and bars - or churches

No more curfew.

We can all sit next to each other once more, but we must still be masked inside the building.

We're very happy to see our infection rates continue to drop as well as the numbers in hospital and intensive care. Meanwhile in the next department south of us, les Landes, there is a cluster of the delta variant.

We can eat together once more, though it is recommended that we do this outdoors and minimise as much as possible passing things round.

For us Davey we watch the news closely because we would love to be able to visit the UK without quarantining or paying hundreds of pounds for tests. We're both fully vaccinated now, so maybe in August?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The big shop

 Monday. Day off. Weather unsettled. We need adventure. We also need shopping. Lots of shopping.

« I know, we can go on bus 11 from right outside the flats to the big Carrefour at Rives d’Arcin. There’s lots of places to eat, we can get lunch then get our shopping. »

So we did. We ate Poke Bowls (don’t laugh - it’s just a salad really) at Heiko. (I thought of a guy who came to church with us in North Wales for a while whose name was Heiko.)

Then a quick browse round the vast shopping centre. À door led outside. We went to take a look. At this.

Then back into the mall, off to Carrefour and back home on bus 11.

Heading off to church through the Jardin Public

 On Sunday we missed tram D, which takes us nearest to the church, so we hopped on tram C instead. 

It drops us opposite the Jardin  Public, Bordeaux' most central park, so we weren't disappointed to be able to scuttle through the park and take photos of the flowers on the way.

The weather has been pretty unstable - humid heat interspersed with torrential downpours. Our friends from the tropics say the rainy season has arrived at last! They feel quite at home!

Friday, June 25, 2021

Bordeaux is fractal

 I don’t mean it’s cracking, except in the positive sense of the word. I mean that the closer you look, the more detail you see.

The other evening I went to a concert given by a church choir directed by a friend from the choir I sing with. It was being held in Bordeaux’ finest baroque church, thé Église Notre Dame on thé Place du Chapelet near the Grand Théâtre. I arrived too early, as usual, and spent a happy half hour gazing round the square.

Last summer when we did our Year 1 tour of Bordeaux and heard all about the Terror following the revolution, we were told that the Eglise Notre Dame was chosen to become the Temple de la Raison. Imagine that! 

So I hunted round the square a little and, sure enough, the square was not always named Place du Chapelet (Rosary Square) but carved into the stone is … Place de la Raison!

Another street has carved into it Rue St. Dominique. How odd! Is Notre Dame Dominican? I know another church, Saint-Paul is Dominican.

It turns out that Louis XIV wanted to build a fortress to keep the bordelais in order, so he demolished a Dominican monastery. The Dominicans, undaunted?, built a new monastery which has since the revolution passed into public ownership and use for offices and exhibition space, the lovely Cours Mably.

I walked back to the tram across the beautiful Allées de Tourny, all lined with fragrant lime trees. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Bordeaux is falling down

 well, parts of it.

Some time ago a building collapsed in Marseille. I remember feeling quite sniffy about the fact that a city could let some buildings get into such a poor state of repair that they collapse.

Then last week a building in the St Pierre area of Bordeaux collapsed. But it was an old stone building and was due to be demolished ready for the space to be occupied by something new. 

So that's different.

Then on Sunday evening two more buildings collapsed in the St Paul area of the city. We know the street well, just behind one of the shopping streets.

This time one was unoccupied but in the other nine people had to get out as the building fell down around their ears. One man was left seriously injured. Two more were taken to hospital. Others are being cared for otherwise. Some neighbours were blocked in their houses, while others were evacuated.

At present it's hard to say why the buildings collapsed. The dry springtime? The recent torrential rains? We hope to know something soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

P G Tips galore

 We have been concerned for some time now that our last box of tea bags is nearing its end. It was the last of the four boxes of 240 that we found on Amazon last November. They rescued Christmas.

Anyway, the same company is still selling packs of four boxes of 240 on Amazon, so I ordered them. They came one day later. And by searching through our previous orders we can fairly easily conclude that we get through approximately 2000 teabags each year.

I know we are meant to shun Amazon, but during confinement, and in household teabag crises, they are there for us.

Friday, June 18, 2021

La météo

 is very important just now.

Firstly we've had grosses chaleurs - very high temperatures - with the night staying above 20°C. This means you don't really cool off at night.

Then we've had grosses tempêtes - big storms - with strong winds and hail. It's been quite rough in some parts with flooding in a few areas of Bordeaux.

Now we are heading into an important weekend, because we've been told we no longer need to wear masks in the open air, except in certain situations, and this is a long weekend with the Fête de la Musique on Monday - for which ideally we'd like pleasant, warm weather with a gentle breeze so we can go into the nearest park and play and sing.

Well I have had side-effects

 to begin with we thought it was the heat, but the heat has subsided and been replaced with torrential downpours. So Mrs Davey searched on the inter web and found that the AstraZeneca vaccine can cause diarrhoea. 

Oh joy. Oh bliss.

It has one more evening to sort itself out before I take medication.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Second dose of vaccine installed

 My appointment was originally for 17h26 on 21st June, but 21st June is a public holiday for midsummer, what is called the Fête de la Music. I think I've written about this in the past. We're wondering what form this will take in Bordeaux this Monday under covid restrictions. Time will tell. However, we digress.

So the doctor's secretary sent me a SMS to tell me my appointment would be shifted to the 14th June.

Then our computerised doctor system, doctolib, told me it would be 14th June at 17h16. So at about 17h I started out for the surgery.

This was about 5 minutes too early, but the afternoon was very hot indeed so I wanted to allow time to walk slowly. Not only that but I wanted to call into the pharmacy to get some precautionary paracetamol in case I had a reaction. The pharmacy is opposite the doctor's surgery.

Well as I approached the surgery there was a small ill-defined group of elderly men hanging around outside.

"Good day. Is this a queue to be vaccinated?"

"You have to speak to the doctor."

Even as I spoke the tall, shaven-headed doctor appeared in the door. (my auto-correct changed this to seven-headed. I sometimes wonder what world my auto-correct lives in)

"Good day. I'm a bit early"

"Good day. That doesn't matter. It's?"

"Mr Davey"

"Oh yes, you sent me a message."

"Well, I was so impressed by your efficiency!"

"I only read the message yesterday."

"That's a bit less efficient."

"Yes. It went to an account I never use. If you wait here for a while we'll call you in"

Two minutes later I was assigned a seat in the waiting room.

Two minutes later I was called into the nurses room.

"Good day. I'm right-handed."

"Good day. You didn't have any reaction last time?"

"Nothing at all."

"Let's hope this time is the same. OK, I'm sticking it in (je pique). And, there we are. See you again!"

"See you again!"

Out to the waiting room to hang around for 15 minutes.

"Mr Davey, for us it's good."

"Very well. See you again!"

"See you again."

Sunday, June 13, 2021

On gifting things

 I'm coming round to it. I used to hate the new verb, to gift something to someone, or to gift someone something. After all, we used to have a perfectly good verb, to give. But it is falling into disuse.

"The lieutenant gave the Queen a bouquet of roses" has become "the lieutenant gifted the Queen a bouquet of roses".

"The Queen was given a bouquet of roses" has become "the Queen was gifted a bouquet of roses".

Why not? Who says you can't turn nouns into verbs? And given the general irregularity of the English language, why not replace one old verb with a new one derived from its related noun ?

Anyway it is better that blessing people with things, which for someone from an Anglican background is fraught with misunderstandings, as when a friend once told me someone had blessed him with a puppy. 

I was genuinely baffled. Water, OK. Hand signals. OK. Touches on the top of the head. OK. But a puppy ?

We could even make whole new useful verbs to replace phrasal verbs. 

For example, to car, meaning to convey someone in a car.

With this new and simple verb we would no longer have to say "Richard gave me a lift to the airport." 

We could say "Richard carred me to the airport". 

It has lots to commend it. For example, consider this exchange:

"How did you come to the airport? I bussed it."

"I almost bussed it, but in the end Xavier carred me."

It works, doesn't it! It's logical, simple and economical.

Let's get verbing! Let's see how much we can new today!

The Gardeners

 We are constantly baffled by the earthworks that the gardeners are doing. 

They pile up earth here, then remove it to pile it up elsewhere before once again bringing it back.

They construct roads then destroy them only to construct others alongside the previous one.

They are creating an artificial hill just below our balcony, but alongside it is a deep ditch.

Circular flat areas lie above strangely shaped holes.

The latest excavation for a road unearthed three drainage covers.

We are fascinated, but also anxious for it all to be over and for planting to begin !

Got my shot lined up

 Second armful of AstraZeneca is scheduled for tomorrow at 17h16 precisely. 

I'll leave the house at about 17h. Last time I arrived exactly at the rendezvous hour, and this time I want to be a little early.

I expect to be back at about 17:45, allowing for the walk and for the 15 minutes wait in case of anaphylactic shock.

They'll give me a piece of paper with a QR code to scan, which will then register my Pass Sanitaire in my TousAntiCovid app. 

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Bordeaux summer strikes again

 It's been very hot recently and time for my antihistamines. I went to the pharmacy and asked for enough cetirizine for two weeks. 

"Do you want eye-drops? Nose sprays? Sea-water to squirt up your nostrils? Homeopathic stuff guaranteed to stop you feeling anything at all ever again? Look! We have this!"

The pharmacist indicated a lovely purple box. I took some homeopathic hay-fever stuff once. Then I read the label. It said "Contains silica".

"No, these will do." I paid for my pills and left.

I'm not sure the pharmacy gets my approach to things. I don't aim to remove every symptom of hay-fever by squirting stinging drops in my eyes or foaming waters up my snout. I aim to get things to a point where I can cope without sneezing, sniffing and snuffling every two seconds. If my eyes water a little or itch slightly I can cope with that.

Anyway Bordeaux summer. Well, they say an English summer consists of two nice days and a thunderstorm.

If this is so, then a Bordeaux summer consists of forty English summers in a row.

Here from our lofty perch (fourth-floor balcony) we watch the gardeners moving vast quantities of earth and modelling ponds, troughs, terraces and hillocks. We gaze up and see Kevin our black kite (fr: Milan noir, like the city. "Vous venez d'où ?" "De Milan." "Tiens, ça fait long temps.") making lazy circles in the sky. We watch nasty magpies trying to intimidate a prowling cat. We listen out for ducks and geese in the day and for frogs in the evening. And all this before a single plant is planted nor any tree treed. It's so exciting to think of those future torrential downpours falling on the leaves below.

I scuttled into Bordeaux this afternoon. I wanted to accompany Pat on her walk to her stint in the bookshop, to go into the FNAC, my favourite shop, where I hardly ever go, and then to call to see a friend and arrange a coffee-date. 

On the way back I bought some more socks - I do seem to run short of socks - and then as I headed off to get the tram home some women were walking along with their umbrella up. Everyone was looking at them crazy, but they had the last laugh when sure enough, ten minutes later, the raindrops started. By the time I got home a full-blown thunderstorm was in progress right overhead.

I had neither coat nor umbrella, so I ducked into the multi-storey carpark to get some cover at least, then scampered through the courtyard to the entrance to our building. 

Home and ... sodden.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Catrin's Carte de Séjour

 Catrin, our daughter, has her rendezvous at the prefecture tomorrow for her application for a carte de séjour. All should be straightforward, except...

because she entered France as a minor they ask for different supporting documents, including something to confirm the date on which you entered the country. This could be our rental contract, or my tax return, or one of my pay slips. From 2005.


On the tax website the earliest tax return I can access is from 2008. It does make mention of 2005, saying that we used up all our allowances for that year, so I've printed that off for them.

The earliest pay slip I still have is also from 2008, but it says I entered employment on 9 September 2005, so I have also printed that off for them.

And we'll see.

Vaccine passport

 Yesterday evening Mrs Davey got her second AstraZeneca injection and, with it, her certificat de vaccination. 

The sheet of paper that tells you what's been sent to your health records also has a QR code. Scan it into your tousanticovid app and it turns into your vaccination certificate.

I'm due in the third week of June.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Cake and coffee in the rain

 So yesterday we got the chance to go to the best café for getting good coffee on the terrace. It's a little way out of the city centre and has a huge area of paving dotted with lovely trees, so they put tables and chairs under the trees.

Yesterday it was raining, but hey, so we went anyway and met up with some of the folk. The guy in the coffee shop brought us out dry chairs and placed us under the awning, so we were fine. Kind of. And it wasn't raining much.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Today we take our next step out of confinement

 That means :

1) café and restaurant terraces can open.

2) Museums, art galleries, cinemas and theatres can open

3) non-essential shops can open

4) our curfew goes from 7pm to 9pm

Now come on England, put France on the green list!


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

How can you do a duvet day when the sun shines ?

 Sunday the weather was foul and as we got home just after curfew, fearing for our lives, gigantic raindrops battered the backs of our legs. I had been feeling somewhat fatigued all day, partly because of the text I was preaching on, partly because of the context of preaching and partly because of ... well you know. It's been one of those times for a couple months. 

In addition the weather forecast for all this week is for cold, hard rain. After a glorious Saturday. With a public holiday on Thursday and a long weekend to follow - the Pont de l'Ascension. In the afternoon I suddenly realised what would help. Spend my day off on a duvet day !

A duvet day is something people use when they can no longer cope with anything. They stop everything and spend the day on their sofa under their duvet watching diverting films or binge-watching situation comedies.

So yesterday, my day off, I rose early and looked to see what I fancied binge-watching. First mistake. Nothing grabbed me at all.

I opened the windows to change the air in the flat. Second mistake. The day looked glorious.

I ate my banana and chocolate porridge. Pat got up. "Duvet day today", she said, "Wow, what a gorgeous day!". 

It was decided. We would go on an adventure instead into Bordeaux to find lunch and a park bench on which to eat it. We ventured out and visited Pat's doctor and the pharmacy, but quickly realised that though the day was indeed glorious, the park benches all over the city would still be absolutely saturated from Sunday's torrential downpours.

So we changed our minds and got lunch from our favourite emporia - chicken salad for me from Chicko's, ham salad for Pat from Eat Salad, and we caught up on a rather whimsical detective series from some years ago, called "Murder City".

A demi-duvet-day.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Vaccine, traffic lights and England in June

 So Pat got her vaccine at the beginning of march, I think, and her original instructions said to get her second injection at the beginning of May. So she's been watching Doctolib for appointments and when one came up tomorrow at our local GP she booked it.

A while later she got a phone call asking for her relevant data. We were puzzled because they did have it, but hey.

Then a little later still she got a message saying her appointment was cancelled because the gap between the injections was too small.

So we went down to ask.

It appears that they have changed the rules. Where before you had a eight week wait between injections, now the wait is twelve weeks. So she's due her injection towards the end of May and I'm due mine on 24 June.

Meanwhile the UK have brought in the traffic light system for visitors and France is Amber. This means a PCR test before coming, another 2 days after arriving, a third 8 days after arriving and ten days quarantine in an address that you have given to the authorities.

Since I am due to attend a conference in mid-June with a friend from the church here then we need France to be promoted to green by the beginning of June, ideally.

Otherwise there's no London conference for us. We could still go visit our son in Norwich, quarantining at his house. Or we could delay our visit until we have both had both our doses of vaccine.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

I think I just realised why it's so hard to get dark sugars in France

 It's well-nigh impossible to find sugars like demerara, muscovado, etc. in France. In the supermarkets we have cassonade, which is a light golden sugar. Sometimes you can find organic dark brown sugar with a lovely toffee taste, great for making ginger cake, for example, but not often. But things like treacle? Forget it.

I have long puzzled over this. France had colonies in the Caribbean and part of France is in South America, so surely...

Then I heard someone talking about the unique taste of Mexican Coca Cola (really?) and the difference the sugar makes and I twigged.

I think it all goes back to the Napoleonic Wars. During the wars the British navy blockaded France and prevented trade with the colonies. This cut off the supply of sugar.

Napoleon got people doing research and development and since then France has been self-sufficient in sugar, produced from sugar beet. 

This means that for two hundred years there's been no need to import sugar from anywhere else, and so those dark treacly sugars you can get from sugar cane are not widely available.

Friday, May 07, 2021


Last night was the Assemblée Générale of the local branch of the Conseil National des Evangélique de France. One of the big items on the agenda was electing new committee members. There were four candidates. Two were elected. 

This election was necessary because two of the current members were leaving the committee - our excellent former délégué départemental - and me.

Soon after I arrived in Bordeaux I was taken along to what we then called the "Evangelical group" - a group of pastors and christian workers who met to pray, to share news and to encourage each other. With the formation of the CNEF about 10 years ago now, I think, we changed the group into a local CNEF group. I became its chairman. Later the secretary resigned and - as a temporary measure - I took on the essential functions of the secretary.

So I'm glad to pass on the baton. I hoped to see a younger and more diverse committee, and it is certainly younger. So this morning I typed up the minutes of the meeting for my last responsibility.

Thursday, May 06, 2021


 Both Pat and I have had our first dose of AstraZeneca, Pat at the beginning of March and me at the end. That means that she is due her second dose now and I'm due my second dose at the end of May. This matters to us because we would like to visit England in June. So each day we hunt down a place to get our second doses using the excellent French medical services website.

Today a pharmacy on the right bank at the end of one of the tramlines was offering appointments over the next few weeks, so Pat is booked in for next Friday for her second injection.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Journey out of confinement

 Bit spasmodic, this blog, isn't it!

Anyway, yesterday France began its journey out of confinement, by lifting the 10km limit for journeys.

It was my day off, so Mrs Davey and I celebrated by hopping on the 11:30 to the beach. We bought sandwiches at the station and ate them on the train, surreptitiously lowering our masks, then walked happily up and down the waterfront, soaking up the sun rays, breathing deeply the clean sea air and speculating as to which size of powerboat we should aspire to. After some reflection we saw a small black dinghy that we might eventually stretch to!

It wasn't terribly warm but it was awfully pleasant. We ate chips and ice-cream and chatted with the chip stall-holder. They're surviving from the commerce on sunny days and longing for the day when they can put out tables and serve meals. That is scheduled for the 19th of May.

We got home really tired from all that se air. It really got in our lungs! But we had an Elders' and Deacons' meeting in the evening about us for which we needed to keep our wits. Our E's and D's are a fine bunch and we finally went to bed tired but happy.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Taking a break under confinement and with a curfew

Well that was a long absence. Sorry for the silence. We took holidays.

At present in France you can travel only up to 10km unless you have a very good reason or for professional purposes. We wondered about taking a chalet at the lakeside campsite to the north of Bordeaux, but in the end decided it was better to stay at home and spend the holiday in other ways.

So my job was to find places to buy lunch. The cafés and restaurants are not open, but many are doing takeaway and anyway Bordeaux has lots of street food. So during the past few weeks we have eaten delicacies like Vietnamese salads, Argentinian empanadas, Italian street food.

Pat's job was to find all the parks, ALL the parks, accessible within 10km of our home. So we would walk or take bus, tram or boat to a park and explore.

Bordeaux has some awesome parks and we wandered through the forest in Mérignac, climbed the hill in Cenon, watched and listened to the frogs in Lormont, smelt the perfume of the wisteria arch on the right bank, and so on and so forth.

We needed a break. Around Easter the old spectre of anxiety was beginning to haunt me once more. I wondered if we could carry on or if there would need to be a fairly radical change in the nature of our ministry, but now I think that we can probably make smaller changes to enable us to get right through to retirement without a huge change.

Anyway, we'll see !

I'll try and post some photos, but I warn you - it's flowers, trees and plants !

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.