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, August 04, 2018

Wow! And I just decided to preach through Titus in September.

Read here.

Life in the gloom

Shutters are down.
Windows are closed.
Lights are on.
We're hiding from the heat.

Friday, August 03, 2018

The sectional tower

This is the 9th floor going on. After this concrete sectional base there will be a glass area, then the rest of the tower in wood.

It's fascinating to see them build this.

Cigales (cicadas)

In 2004 we visited Aix-en-Provence in August. It was hot. Very hot.

One thing I remember was the constant chirping of the cicadas. It seemed to me that they sang all day and all night.

In 2005 we moved to Bordeaux. A couple years ago we visited some town about 50 miles south of Bordeaux in the summer and heard cicadas. We never used to hear them in Bordeaux. It wasn't hot enough.

Then last summer we heard them for the first time in a nearby tree from time to time.

This year we hear them in the trees just across the building site from our flat.

It's surely not a good sign, but I like to hear them nonetheless.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Jacob van Eyck: Courant, of Harte diefje waerom zoo stil

Capucins et Canicules

Today we are on orange alert for canicule. A heatwave (vague de chaleur) is as vague as its name implies. It just means it's hot. A canicule, however, is much more serious, implying that the temperature at night doesn't fall below around 20°C. The problem is that if the nights are cool your body can get some refreshment while you sleep. Also the walls of your home can radiate heat to the outside air, allowing the building itself to cool down. If the nights are too hot then the heat just continues to build up and the daytime heat has a greater effect on your health.

It is estimated that in 2003 during the extreme canicule it is estimated that between 14000 and 20000 people died of the effects in France alone.

Obviously it is important to drink lots of water. Also shopping centres and our local library are air-conditioned, so you can always nip out to get cooled off!

On a happier note, after 13 years living in Bordeaux at last we visited the Marché des Capucins, Bordeaux' most important covered market. Here's a picture of some plates of seafood, looking almost good enough to eat.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

I found this helpful on the subject of burnout

Gospel Coalition Podcast here

Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances

Listening to this takes me straight back to Cardiff in the 1980s when there were series of chamber music concerts in the Reardon Smith lecture theatre attached to the National Museum.

Once I bought a ticket for a flute and piano recital. I was very excited because the programme included the Prokofiev Sonata and I was going to see and hear it live. On the evening I managed to park right by the theatre and I sat in the car waiting for the doors to open. They didn't. Eventually I went and found a notice sellotaped to the door saying the concert had been cancelled and the tickets would be refunded where bought.

After the refund I asked why the concert had been cancelled.
"Not enough tickets sold."
"Really? Do you know how many were sold, then?"
"Just yours."

In the Reardon Smith I heard Brandenburg No. 5 live. The (famous) harpsichordist got lost in the middle of the cadenza but carried on playing, making it up until he got back on track. We were all very impressed.

I heard these Symphonic Dances played by Richard McMahon and Martin Jones Piano (we used to reckon that that was his full name, we saw it in print so often). They played a bit more fluidly than these two fellows, and I remember being fascinated as the two men watched each other and passed the lead to and fro during the ravishing slow melodies.

Rachmaninov can really get the tears flowing.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Well that's not entirely bad news, what.

We received two emails yesterday. The first was our tax report. The second was our final water bill. The tax man owes us 156€, refunding us all the tax we had paid this year. The water company owes us 12€. Jolly good.

Here is the moon seen from our balcony on Thursday evening

Last night the sky was completely cloud-covered. We didn't catch any glimpse at all of the moon during the eclipse.

Oh well, at least I didn't rush out and buy that long-zoom camera. If I had done I would have been so disappointed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Registering to vote

Since I was doing admin I printed off several justificatifs de domicile, photocopied my passport a couple of times and set off with a jaunty step.

That didn't last long. Bordeaux is in turmoil because the tram system needs major maintenance, so our wonderfully convenient tram C and A that would normally sweep me smoothly to the Town Hall is not running. Tram C stops at the Gare Saint-Jean.

So I got off, intending to take bus 1 that would drop me behind the town hall. As I walked round the tram a woman said, "Monsieur, c'est le terminus, ce tramway s'arrète ici" "Oui, et du coup je prends le bus.." I replied, wondering why this public-spirited citizen felt the need to warn me.

Anyway, the world, his wife, their three kids and their dogs and cats were all waiting for the number 1 bus, so I decided to hoof it. My route took me through the glorious Marché des Capucins. Pat and I have decided that we must visit this market from time to time but we have not done so. Modern life, eh... I paused to admire the wonderful fruits de mer, so beautiful, so nicely arranged that I almost wished I ate the stuff. Almost.

After some kilometres under the blazing sun I got to the town hall and the man checked my bag for guns, knifes, bombs and chemical agents.

"Quel service?"

"Les listes electorales, porte 7."

The man pondered a little then said, "Allez-y"

The sole occupant of the service electoral was signing up a charming family recently moved form Brest. I looked round the office. There were removal crates everywhere. There was also a fascinating A3 sign saying "MUR Lamentation".

Eventually the family were all sorted and they wandered off. We chatted about Brexit, about European elections, about taking French nationality, about football and rugby, about offices that move from one room to another and then back again, and about administration.

There we are. My card will come in March and the next municipal elections are in May.

Pat's Bordeaux Bike

Before moving here we sold (some of) our bikes.

I sold the Raleigh Mirage "moutain bike" that I mistakenly bought some time in the 1980s.
I bought it because the wheels on my wonderful Raleigh Magnum kept buckling in the potholes and ruts of Cardiff's city centre. I thought the more robust wheels of the Mirage would resist better. They did, but the bike was never as comfortable and I never really liked it.

Pat sold her bike that she had been given by a leaving student some years ago. It was a fine example of a common or garden lady's bike, mixte frame, not too heavy, with 5 derailleur gears. We renewed the brakes and lubricated the gears and all worked well, but she never really liked that bike, either.

So they went. For small sums. Pat's to a neighbour.
Mine to a student who was going to do cycle food deliveries.

I still have a Rudge Bi-Frame full-size folding bike which probably needs new tyres but which is fundamentally good.

Pat decided to have a free loan bike from the city. So she went to the office.

"We need a justificatif de domicile (proof of address), a pièce d'identité (proof of identity) and a rib (bank details). We use the rib if we need to take your deposit."

Proof of address means a utility bill. So she went back the following day with our electricity bill, with her passport and our rib.

"Ah no! This is not in your name! You need a justificatif de domicile in your name"

We pondered the facts. You are allowed one bike per household on loan for ten months after which you can then borrow a different kind of bike (folding, electric), then after 14 months, that's the end.

So this time I went back with the same justificatif de domicile and rib, but with my passport.

"This is the woman who came yesterday. But she must come in her own name!"

But it's one bike loan per family?


And anyone in the family is allowed to ride it?


Then I shall borrow the bike and my wife will ride it.

Pat had been at the dentist, but she arrived in time to check the dynamo lighting and to get the saddle adjusted.

"We're sorry we made your wife come back again and again."

"Don't worry. It often takes three visits before something works. We're used to it."

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Living on the fourth floor

We've noticed a couple things.

Firstly it's much easier to use the balcony than when we were on the ground floor. You have more privacy. You feel less vulnerable.

It's quieter. We get hardly any street noise. Some planes fly over but they are not loud. You can hear the building sites but it's not very loud and the windows cut the sound completely.

We don't hear our neighbours much. There's a family with children below us. I heard them the night of the 14th when we were out on the balcony watching the fireworks. There's a small child on the ground floor. One morning he fell out of bed and cried. We've not yet seen people on the other balconies.

Deliveries are a pain. I ordered something from Amazon, which was sent with a firm called Colis Privé. Because the town hall renamed our road our postal address is different from the street name on Google Maps, so the firm said our address was unfindable and sent the package back. A book was sent by post, however, and that got to us fine. So I've started using our nearest postal deposit service, a wine shop just behind the station.

Panoramas de l'Ars

We might have headed it off at the pass...

The carbuncle, that is.

I phoned my doctor for an appointment. She's on holiday till early August but her locum could see me.

I wanted her to see it, really.

So I thought about what might help. We have an antiseptic that penetrates through the skin, so I started applying that to kill of the bugs. We also have some Magnesium Sulphate cream from last time. You smear that on and cover with a dressing. The purpose is to draw out the infection.

Then I went to the pharmacy and explained the situation. The pharmacist had a good look.

I would bathe it twice a day with this antiseptic that penetrates through the skin (check) and I would suggest this old fashioned rememdy - it's a gel with a painkiller in it and also magnesium sulphate to draw out the infection (check). Then when the abscess opens come back and we can give you an antibiotic cream.

Well we're now about four days into antiseptic and gel, and it seems to me that the inflammation has gone and that the abscess has started to disperse.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Here we go again!

July means carbuncle time!

(Anthrax in french. Everything sounds better in French)

Monday, July 16, 2018

What a weekend!

We had it all.

Flute duet and trio rehearsals in our living room.

Morning worship instead of afternoon.

Intense heat!

Then a gang of about 10 to 12 who preferred watching the World Cup Final in our flat to watching it in a bar somewhere.

Then car horns, sudden downpours and at 2am an impressive electric storm.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Change of time

Tomorrow afternoon France will be plunged into international conflict and there will be chaos on the streets of Bordeaux. The Football World Cup Final will cause huge disruption to the public transport network. So we've changed the time of the service to the morning, at 10:30.

A quick photo-tour of the flat

Yesterday evening we met at the flat to pray. There were about 10 of us and we fitted well round the table. For a while we thought of getting rid of our enormous table (it's 180cm by 101cm) but it's been so much part of our life here that we were glad that there's plenty of room for it.

Someone asked for a photo tour of the flat. Here's the main features (I omitted Catrin's bedroom):

The entrance hall.
Study straight ahead, living-room to the left.

Patricia demonstrating the living-room.

The other corner of the living-room

The big balcony.

Our bedroom. We need better wardrobes!

The bathroom attached to our bedroom.

My study from the small balcony

and another angle.

The throne room.

The shower room.

A meeting place

It's been a tough week in Bordeaux for the Francophone project.

Firstly our preferred meeting place said they did not want to rent a room to a church.

Then our second-best said they could not rent us a room for complicated reasons.

Then another meeting place said they did not want to rent to us either, after seeing our website.

This last is a tea-room that organises and hosts esoteric workshops on subjects including hypnosis, yoga and sacred numerology. I was a little hesitant about using their space because I feared that people would tar us with the same brush, but still the gospel can compete with the more unusual belief-systems of the world. But no. We were refused. Go figure.

The search goes on.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Order is slowly being restored

I'm writing this in my office. I'm sat at my desk in my office writing this.

My office was originally supposed to serve as a spare room, too, but in fact the room is just too small to fit in a desk, bookshelves and a sofa-bed. Of course, I'm bitterly disappointed about that.

Our living room seems colossal. The kitchen occupies most of one wall, then we have our (enormous) sofa-bed and my armchair in the sector near the patio doors to the terrace. By the other window is our dresser and our (enormous) table and chairs. We considered getting rid of the table and finding a smaller one, but the table is so much part of our life that we don't want to. Not only that, we have lots of room now.

The building sites around us are interesting rather than annoying. We enjoy being on the fourth floor, being able to sleep with the window open, being up above the stuff happening below.

We also enjoy the sunrises over the river and seeing the wooded hills of the entre-deux-mers away beyond Floirac and Bègles.

In short, so far so good.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Well there's good news and there's bad news

The good news is that we're safely arrived at our new flat and so far, so good, everyone seems to like the place. I have a study (YAAAAYYYYY!!!) and we have nice big windows and for the first time since I lived in OK Ridge in Cardiff, a view. We can see the river, the new Floirac Arena concert hall, the hills of the Entre-Deux-Mers, the apartment blocks of Bègles and lots and lots of building sites.

Also good news is that it's quieter than where we used to live. There we couldn't sleep with the windows open because of the noise of passing traffic and late night revellers returning home. Here we slept with the windows open, not too much noise (it's never silent in the city) and no mosquitos came to find us.

The bad news? Well our wardrobes won't fit. We'll need to buy two wardrobes. Not a disaster since our old wardrobes are pretty rotten old things anyway.

And the worse news, the agency is going to take money from our deposit to pay for a cleaning firm (there's dust on the floors) and to get two walls painted (marks where the table was and where Catrin's bed was).

I pointed out to the guy that the flat is three years old and that the lift has had peeling paintwork for months now, the fence has been broken since Christmas 2016 and the weeds in the grounds are two feet high.

He offered us a weekend to paint and clean further, but we think they'll just take the money anyway on other pretexts and there's no point breaking our backs further. But I shall write them a strongly worded letter pointing out the incoherence between their exigences of their tenants and their negligence of the property, and explaining that their remaining tenants are not content.

Interestingly they have not yet found a new tenant, despite showing several people round.

Oh well.

Oh yes, and Amazon deliverers cannot find the road, let alone the apartment block, so that's going to reduce our spending drastically. Good news or bad? You decide...

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

We're getting there

The lawn has had its last cut. Then I showed our neighbour how to use it and sold it to her.
My gardening shoes have gone in the rubbish. No gardening on the fourth floor where we're going!

Our neighbours are getting sweeter and sweeter as the day approaches.
One offered to put some boxes in her flat. She also offered to come and help us pack.
Another made us a leaving card on her computer with a "petit mot", a short note of appreciation.

All the tables are cleared and dismantled.
We're getting through it slowly.

Meanwhile Catrin's gastro-enteritis drags on miserably.
This house-move is epic!
Next one is the old folks' home.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Going at it gently

Well it's 7pm and we think the books are done. Basically.

That leaves the far easier tasks of clothes (I've started on that), crockery and kitchen, plus the various electrical and computer related things.

We work in short spurts punctuated by long breaks and lots of water. It's hot today, but not as hot as the weekend. It's been in the low 30s. Much better.

This morning I took almost all our light fittings here and swapped them with the bulb holders and bulbs from the new flat. That's the deal. You leave the flat with bulb holders and bare bulbs.

Our neighbour came in and offered to help us packing! Isn't that kind! We may take her up on it if we see the time is running away from us.

Pat's abscess has responded to further antibiotics and today she's pretty well back to normal.

Catrin, however, was taken ill in the night with very painful diarrhoea and vomiting. The doctor came out and she has gastro-enteritis. It's very common in Bordeaux in the summer months, and one of her friends at church has it too. Miserable in the heat.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Wow! What an awesome day!

I left at 5am to catch the 7am flight to Gatwick, then train and tube to Northwood for Gwilym's graduation. Then tube and bus to Luton and return flight to Bordeaux, home by 11pm. Thankful!
We've taken that 7am flight before. Once I just took the first buses to the airport - it meant a mad dash through security and up to the gate just before they closed the aircraft doors. Other times we've taken a hotel room near the airport and slept over. This time I reserved a Citiz car, the excellent Polo, and decided to park at the airport.
There were threats of strikes causing cancelled flights, but it turned out to be just for Marseille. Then poor Patricia came up with a huge abscess and after a sleepless night decided she should go to the dentist rather than graduation. I I drove to the airport alone.
Travel was a doddle. You arrive just after you left, once you change your watch, and then I hopped on the Bedford train to Farringdon, and the Tetrapelican line to Northwood. I arrived really early, in time to walk to the college, find a loo then chat with Gwilym and Beth before sidling along the procession looking very inconspicuous in my floral shirt. The procession in their robes and hats looked like the prelims for an international quidditch tournament, attended inexplicably by Thomas More and Philip Melanchthon.
Once inside I headed for the section labelled "Rabbit's friends and relations" and found a nice seat alongside the spouses of the chair of the trustees and the director of masters and doctorates by distance learning. It meant I could get nice photos of our two as they shook and hugged their way along the line of luminaries.
The ceremony was a joy. Nice hymns and songs, great piano, organ and band (Gwilym on bass guitar), nice choir, lovely speeches by chairman of trustees and principal. An address from a visiting principal was too long, really, but had some really nice lines. There was quite a bit of falabalam, but also some moving testimonies from a gifted lad who has done a masters and found a wife, and another in a broad Scots accent without subtitles from a lady who is a prison chaplain and somehow found herself doing a theology degree without ever having passed any exams in her life. I think. One brief moment jarred. Someone read Philippians 2:1-11 and the response went "In this is the word of the Lord". Come on! NOBODY says that. I looked. Google. You need to stop that now and have a serious talk with whoever put that in the order of service. There, I said it. Afterwards back through Northwood for a fine buffet lunch!
I chatted with some awesome people. First Gwilym's future outlaws, the Elkins tribe, out in force from Norwich. Then Emily, who deals with vocational advice and is pleased as punch to have placed Gwilym in the church where he is now working full-time. Spouses as noted above. Some of the students, one maybe going to serve in a church in Llandrindod Wells, another off to Trinity, Bristol for Anglican ministry. Bon courage, lads.
At 2:30 I started to panic so hugs all round, then I left and got the tube to Finchley Road, then the Greenline to Luton Airport for the flight home. The French family opposite me were flying to Bordeaux, too, so we found our way together through the maze of building works and into the airport. Then the fun began.
EZY2031 - Bordeaux - Consult Easyjet app.
The flight was delayed an hour. Oh well, that's OK. I wandered round the shops, resisted the cheap stuff, looked in the cafés, decided to eat a beef salad and then consulted the Easyjet app again. The flight was no longer delayed. 
EZY2031 - Bordeaux - Boarding Gate 28.
I hared off to gate 28, saw the French family again and a lady hobbling along, found a seat alongside the pen, then we heard "Easyjet customers for flight EZY2031 to Bordeaux, your gate has changed, you are boarding now at Gate 12".
Gate 12 is at the other end of the airport, so we hurtled, scuttled, rampaged, trundled, hobbled and trudged our way across to Gate 12. One bright chap said "Are there any Easyjet staff here?" No there wasn't. Then we heard over the tannoy, "Easyjet customers for flight EZY2031 to Bordeaux you are boarding now at Gate 28" 
Well we were beginning to suspect monkey business and I feared that some of our number would begin railing (here the best way to deal with monkey business is to express your feelings loud and long until the monkey business stops). However when we got back to Gate 28 I sat down briefly as my little protest while the easyJet staff quickly scanned our cards and got us through the gate,
onto a bus,
which took us to
Gate 12. 
I will leave you to imagine our comments as it became clear that we had hurtled, scuttled, rampaged, tramped, trudged, hobbled and trundled from gate 12 to gate 28, only to be hied back there by motorised conveyance. On the tannoy we heard other passengers being similarly directed hither and yon, yon and hither. It was party time in the tannoy room.
Anyway the rest of the flight was uneventful, except that we landed in spectacular thunderstorm. I'd always wondered what it's like to take off or land in one of our storms, and it is a trifle bumpy, but generally OK. 
I chatted with a gang of ladies flying together to a gite in the Dordogne. "We're all family going on holiday together. We're flying with the children and the husbands have driven down with the luggage. It means the kids get a short journey and the husbands get a road trip!" What a brilliant idea!
The French couple in front of me looked wary of the rain. "Do you have far to walk?" "No, it's just his suit for the wedding?" "The wedding? Whose wedding?" "Ours! Next weekend." "Wow, that's great! Where?" "In the Basque Country." "Congratulations, that's awesome." They looked at each other and repeated, "Oui, c'est trop bien."
I got a little drenched as I hurried to the car and drove the 10 minutes home.
What a day! Thanks to all who made it possible for me to be there to see my lad graduate!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Strike alert

Will we get to Harrow for Gwilym's graduation?

There's a warning of strikes causing disruption to services in and across France this weekend.

Easyjet say to check on the day.

We'll see!

The boxes are piling up slowly

as we slowly empty bookshelves and throw out piles of papers.

I'm enjoying touching up paintwork on the corners, by the light switches and where pictures hung.

I've found out how to prepare the dishwasher for removal.

I'm a little concerned by access to the new apartment block.
I'd value prayer for a good solution for the van to get as close as possible!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Is it me or does it seem sneaky?

I have completed building all the shelving I propose to build for the near future after a quick trip to Ikea this morning and manhandling the last of our kitchen units into place.

The area around the flats was crazy-busy with people everywhere. I had to drive a big circuit of the building site to get to where I could unload. I shudder to think what the removal men will be faced with next week.

Meanwhile, in a move that seems somewhat devious, France Telecom have wired the building for their fibre-optic system alone. That means that we have to change operator - and pay considerably more for our connection. Pity... But the good news is that in theory we should have our internet up and running from 10 July.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

and the boxes have arrived

so it's off we go!

Etat de lieux

"et ils sont pénibles pour l'état des lieux... chez les voisins il y avait une griffure au mur et ils ont réclamé de repeindre le mur entier"

and they're a pain when it comes to the état des lieux... the neighbours had a scratch on one wall and they made them pay to have the whole wall repainted.

We have a couple of scratches on our walls, as well as a few holes to fill in where pictures hang, so yesterday I slunk off to the paint place to get some paint to touch up. I had the code for the colour, together with the wrong name, SE 2091 gris opium, it's actually gris scorpion, and together we worked out what finish the paint must be. 25€ later and I came away with the smallest tin possible. One litre.

And what a relief. The areas I've touched up so far are fine. Just fine.

Building shelves

Two more done.
One VERY BIG ONE and one small one.

Now I'm getting impatient.
There's still a whole week before the big move, and our removal man comes this evening with the boxes.

Meanwhile today poor Patricia has a dental appointment for the start of some long, tedious and expensive treatment.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Not in the Swiss

Today I was due to fly to Switzerland with a small gang from the Maison de la Bible for the annual little conference. We almost cancelled my participation in the trip once we knew the timing of the flat move, but the tickets were paid for so I decided to still go.

However there's some strike or other and our flight to Switzerland is cancelled. The others are going by car, leaving at what-time-do-you-call-this tomorrow morning. I took it as a good moment to stay and carry on getting set for the move.

So this afternoon saw us pushing a trolley of shelving round Ikea, then hurtling down the quays of Bordeaux to our flat and wheeling said shelving on our little cart (un diable) up in the lift to our flat.

Under two hours served to construct a kitchen island, which consists of a shelving unit set lengthways on big locking castors, and a window bench, again made of a lengthwise shelving unit with cushions atop. On Monday we have another window bench to make and another shelving unit.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Boy it's hard sometimes

So we've got the keys to the new flat! Yay!

The guy explained the heating system to us, and made sure that we had hot water. I photographed the electric meter so I could set up the electricity contract and measured everything in sight to try and work out where our furniture will go and whether we can get it in there in the first place.

Then I tried to set up the contract on the electricity company's excellent website.

"Oh no you don't" came the harsh retort.

You can click a button to get someone to call you. They did. I explained what we were trying to do.

"OK" she said, "what's the address?"

I told her. It didn't exist.

"The mairie has just renamed the road. It used to be this."

No. It's not under that.

Eventually she found it allocated to a non-existent fictitious road that nobody can find or explain.

"We're not the first people in these flats. Others will have done the same thing."

"Oh yes!" A light bulb shone. She searched for clients at the address I had given her first and found some.

"OK, we're in business. Here's your estimated monthly payment.

Hop, there we are, all sorted!"

My life is sometimes so varied

The day started with sermon prep with our preacher for Sunday, who is tackling Daniel 9. We had a great time discussing the passage. Our discussion was interrupted a couple of times by messages from Pat and by a phone call.

The phone call was from our insurance company who have decided they don't want to insure us in the future citing "frequency of claims". I phoned yesterday for clarification but the woman who took the decision was not in her office and the guy I got on the phone wasn't able to help. "I can't see all your dossier but I can see at least three claims in fourteen years." In 2009 for the big storm, in 2015 for a water leak and in 2017 for the burglary. The "at least" in his sentence was superfluous. There have been three. Exactly three. No more and no less. Anyway the call came and the woman's definition of frequency was indeed that. "From two you can speak of frequency", she said, "and the real problem was your burglary last year". I resisted the temptation to say that now her definition of frequency was reduced to one, asking instead for a list of our claims so that we can show it to other insurers. "We can"t do that", she said, "but you can on your client section of the website." Well if you can I can't find it.

Coincidentally we had already decided to change insurers and discussed this with another office in February. You don't think she knew, do you?

Not entirely unrelated, Pat was at the dentist receiving bad news of three extractions, a refixing of a crown and some implants to come. The thing is, our old insurers have a list of approved dentists and opticians - it's why I buy my glasses online and maybe why Pat's old dentist had said he was leaving a bad tooth in her mouth "to support the other teeth". The new dentist raised his eyebrows.

Pat was a little upset in the dentist chair thinking of the next weeks and months, and the expense. We have the money, though, I think, and anyway you can pay in instalments. Implants will almost certainly not be covered by our existing insurance and anyway, this new dentist is not part of their network. Maybe changing insurers is not such a bad idea after all.

In the evening it was the Fête de la Musique, and Catrin was singing at Ambarès-et-Lagrave. We'd booked a car from Talence so I met Pat who had spent the afternoon at the Maison de la Bible volunteering and being consoled with chocolate, of all things, and our friend Frances, and we scuttled off together. The GPS took us on the scenic route to the rocade, wasting perhaps 1/2 hour. When we arrived we quickly found a spot to park then set off to try to find the square where it was all happening. Frances is a Maths doctorand and generally very clever indeed, but we all had doubts about Google maps and joyfully trudged three sides of a square under the blazing heat before arriving about 30 yards from where we started. We enjoyed seeing the trees of Ambarès snuggled up in their knitted cosies. A Citroën 2CV had received the same treatment, as had most of the town's innumerable bollards, innumerable even for Frances. I think this might be the oddest thing I've seen in France.

Ambarès is at the confluence of the Dordogne and the Garonne and is a place of many stagnant pools and rampant mosquitoes. Catrin and her classmates were singing in a kind of rustic garage setup with a nice, intimate stage and rustling birch trees to one side. There were three stages in the town, two in the open air and this more intimate one, but only one group played at any given time, people being encouraged to flow from stage to stage. So there was a decent crowd for our girls. We missed Bérénice's prestation but were there for most of Chloë's and all of Catrin's.

Then we packed up quickly and found our own way back to Talence to park the car and get the tram to Pessac. Rendez-vous for the choir was at the church at 10pm, but at 10:06 we were still waiting for the tram. It came. We got on. It was packed. They all got out at Doyen Brus where there was a discothèque set up under the trees. We carried on to Pessac and arrived to find our choir just assembling itself on stage. We sidled in inconspicuously, though if I had known we would be sidling I might not have chosen my  beautiful "spring flowers" shirt, and given the time it took to set up the dreadful piano, we could have taken our time anyway.

Our rendition of popular classics was not an utter catastrophe and we left the stage feeling pretty happy. Biggest accolades to the pianist who coped with the lamentable piano and who repeated the same bar seamlessly until the conductor remembered to launch the sopranos into the next section of the Bizet.

Meanwhile, poor Gwilym. A cheque I wrote him from our British bank account bounced. I'm surprised but not shocked. It was a relatively big cheque and the money was in the account when I wrote it, but maybe it wasn't by the time he received it and cashed it. Or maybe the date was wrong, or maybe the bank just panicked at a big cheque... The problem is compounded by the fact that our statements take several weeks to arrive and we cannot interrogate our account online from France. Oh well, we'll get the money to him from our French account somehow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fête de la Musique

It's a play on words.

Originally, apparently, the idea was for everyone to get that violin out of the attic and to make some music (faites de la musique).

It's turned into a nice way to mark the start of summer with all kinds of concerts, open-air, in cafés and restaurants, in churches, in public squares etc.

When it falls on Saturday or Sunday the whole of Bordeaux turns into one big mushroom, with different styles and genres in different squares and halls. So you can wander round the city listening to jazz, to rock, to street music, to choirs, to classical players, to folk music, to rap, slam and hiphop, you name it you can find it.

But this year it's on a Thursday, so it's just a musical evening. Which brings us to tomorrow:

Firstly some brass friends are playing in bandas (street bands) in a bar called the Chico Loco (I think). I would love to go and hear them but I don't think it will be possible.

Then Catrin and two collaboratrices will be singing some of the songs from their show about Mai '68 in Ambarès. Ambarès is way over the other side of the city, so we've booked a car to get us there.

Then our choir, Arianna, is singing a half-hour slot in the centre of Pessac at 10:30. Usually things run late, so I expect that we'll actually sing at about 11:00.

So our Fête de la Musique is planned out for us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Monday adventure

First a confession. I totally forgot "No screen Monday" and took my phone with me. Ooops!!!

Anyway we first went to explore the new area around the old docks at the far southern end of Bordeaux. There is a vast number of new apartment blocks up here and I tried to rent one place up there but got no reply when I submitted our dossier. Oh well. Here's some thing that we saw.

La Base Sous-marine. A U-boat base built by the occupying nazis.

The concrete is so thick it can't be demolished,
so it's used as a gallery and concert venue, including for Jazz à la Base

Later we went down to see the new flat, for which we get the key on Friday.
We discovered a few things:

1) some people have moved in
2) the building was accessible
3) the door of our flat was open
4) there's still quite a few things to finish off before Friday
5) the address we have been given and with we have given to others will not work!

The living room

Our bedroom

The bathroom door

The view from the small balcony

The view from the big balcony

The second bedroom

Friday, June 15, 2018

The unpardonable

On Thursday morning my phone vibrated in my pocket. It was Sylvain.

The Conseil National des Evangéliques de France is a national body uniting evangelicals from pentecostal, charismatic and other groupings. As soon as the CNEF was formed we in the Gironde transformed our local pastors' fellowship into a CNEF33 group.

Since then the CNEF has issued guidelines and structures for local groups, so we decided to knock down all we had and start again. And the Assemblée Constitutive was this Thursday morning.

Sylvain, one of our all-round good eggs, volunteered to go to the meeting for me. And now he was trying to phone me.

"I am in a meeting. Is it a grave emergency?" I messaged him.

"They want you to be président of CNEF33. Are you willing?"

"Yes, if that's what they want."

Moral of the story. Never miss a meeting and always turn your phone off!


The conference had four basic threads.

First thing in the morning, addresses from Leviticus from Jonty Rhodes, one of the International Presbyterian Church worthies. He talked about the offerings from the manual for communicants and the manual for celebrants in the early chapters of Leviticus.

Then Richard Gaffin gave addresses on the work of the Spirit. Professor Gaffin has written several very useful books and it was fascinating to hear him speak to us, he must be well into his eighties.

Lunch was foraged in the emporia of Ealing. One day I spotted Geoff Thomas, Gary Brady and Richard Gaffin sat at a pizzeria. I took a photo of them. "Come and join us for pizza", said Geoff.

After lunch was Sinclair Ferguson's spot. His manner is wonderful now. He has his material so mastered that he can proceed at a slow pace, searching out the way as he goes, and be lucid, coherent and luminous. Each day he gave us something special to ponder. For example, the first day was on the Spirit as mediator of Jesus' presence - "homemaker", said Sinclair.

The last session was shared between Jonny Gibson and Mark Earngay, who have coauthored a book on Reformation Worship.

I got a "whole stack" of free books because I was a good boy and booked for the conference early. Some I have already, like Richard Gaffin's "Perspectives on Pentecost", so I guess that will either get given away or become a loan book. Others were new to me. One was a vast copy of "Reformation worship" by the aforementioned coauthors. And at last I bought Sinclair Ferguson's "And some pastors and teachers".

I skipped the last session to be sure of a stress-free journey to Gatwick for my flight back, this time with Easyjet. I discovered that they too have changed their policy and now only allow one bag per passenger unless you have paid for speedy-herding etc... I hadn't. One of the people at the desk seemed much more severe and controlling than the other. Thankfully I got the other. She certainly saw my small bag in my hand. Did she notice my rucksack full of books? Who knows. "All OK?" I said. "Have a nice flight." Meanwhile from her colleague to another passenger, "You have two bags, sir..."

The flight back was delayed but smooth, and buses 1 and 4 brought me home safe and sounder than I left.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Prospective removal men

How do you find good removal men?

Well first I asked on Facebook and got one recommendation.

Then I looked on Google and found some highly rated ones.
The Yellow Pages also give you people's feedback.

Then there's a service where someone will look at your rooms by video-conferencing, identify your furniture (three Billy bookcases) and work out the volume of your stuff, then invite removal firms to quote.

Two removal people came to the flat to see for themselves.

One guy stood out as being the friendliest and most easy to communicate with.
He wasn't the cheapest but we're going with him.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Prospective tenants phase two

Poor Pat's Tuesday afternoon was marked by visits, from removal meant then from our letting agency.

Three prospective tenants came together. One seemed very keen because the flat is near her children's school.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tate Modern

I flew Ryanair into Stansted. I'd never done that before, but the flight was at a good time and price, and access to London was easy. My flight was at 10am from Bordeaux and I would land at about 10 in England.

The Billi low-cost terminal at Bordeaux is great. Basically it's a large shed where you can see the departure gates from the entrance. You zigzag back and fore through security, the small duty-free shop, the cafeteria and on the the departure gates. The one tiresome aspect is passport control. Entering and leaving the country means queuing up to show your photo-id to one of the three policemen in their little booths. It's not that slow, really, but it's the one occasion where you feel that you have been queuing.

We went to our departure gate. There was the zigzag of queuing alleys. I followed some people who snuck in without going all the way back to come zigzagging all the way forward. Slowly we all formed our queue and waited for the police to arrive.

The Ryanair staff appeared at the other side from time to time. After a while I waved to them. They waved back. Still no police. Then one installed himself in his booth, looked at the queue, sighed a little, opened his computer screen and readied himself to work. I was about the fifth person through. "Bon courage", I said. "Merci" he smiled back, wanly.

Ryanair used to allow one small cabin bag and a second smaller bag. They emailed me to warn me that now it's just the one, unless you've paid extra. I was flying back Easyjet, so I put a folding bag inside my little rucksack and all was well.

On arrival I decided that once I had lots of time I would take the National Express bus into London. I wasn't sure where to get off so I watched for anything that seemed interesting, and that's when I saw that we were just a few yards from the Tate Modern. I hopped off quickly.

Here's some pictures from the Tate Modern.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Catalyst at IPC Ealing

My old friend and compatriot, Paul Levy, is pastor at the International Presbyterian Church in Ealing in West London. Last week they organised a conference entitled Catalyst dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit.

It coincided exactly with the ministers' conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales at Bala, where some excellent people would gather around the theme of "The Generous Leader". At the same time in another part of London the Evangelical Ministry Assembly were meeting around the theme of "The Unsearchable Riches - Preaching Christ from all Scripture".

I was spoilt for choice. First choice was Bala - a few days by the lake would do me good. But getting there was pretty impossible without hiring a car. Sinclair Ferguson was to be at Ealing. The choice was made.

Another old friend and compatriot, Gethin, is currently coming to the end of a year at Ealing and he said I could stay with him during the conference, so all I had to do was fly in and out of London. Capital!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Prospective new tenants

"Can we bring someone round who might rent your flat?"

"Well you can, but if I were you I'd wait till the gardeners have been and mown the grounds because it doesn't give a good impression of your company."

"Ah, but you are responsible for the spot of lawn outside your flat!"

"Oh yes, and you will see that our garden is neat, as is the next-door neighbour's, but be careful in the common areas, which are your responsibility. They haven't been mown for weeks."

"Oh well, the gardeners are scheduled to come on Friday, but this person wants to come and see it on Wednesday."

So it was that on Wednesday afternoon a young chap came to see the flat and on Thursday morning in the heavy rain a gardener came to mow the lawns and trim the hedges.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Preparing for the move

On Wednesday we went down to see the new flat again, from the outside, to reassure ourselves that it will be possible to move in late June early July.

This is it, seen by hanging precariously out of a nearby multi-storey carpark.

We wandered into the grounds, now fenced and gated and planted with salvia, until a workman chased us out, then climbed the multi-storey carpark. From one of the floors, if you hang out over the cladding, you can just see our apartment. We were able to tell that one balcony has a textured flooring while the other seems to be a kind of rubberised surface.

The flat won't have a fitted kitchen and we are reluctant to fork out for fitted units for a couple of reasons. The first is that we are tenants, so we don't want to donate a carefully planned set of units to our landlords. The second is that here we are somewhat disillusioned with wall cupboards after several incidents of things falling out onto heads. Every member of the family has been victim to these unfortunate accidents. Not only that, but once we have lined up our appliances against the kitchen wall we will have used up all available space. So we plan to put in a tall cupboard in one corner, to hold tall things like ironing boards, hoovers, brushed, mops and such, and a kitchen island which will be the main preparation and serving area and will partially separate the kitchen from the sitting and eating spaces.

I'm quite excited about the prospect of constructing this island. I've watched some videos where skinny teenage girls put one together in no time at all, so I've decided to simplify their design in order to place it more centrally in my sphere of competences. We already have some of the things you need, too!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

New car, new hoops!

We have a new car!

Yesterday morning there was a committee meeting of the CNEF33 group, so I booked a car to take me out to Outer-Eysines where the meeting was to be held. What's this? A Polo? I quickly reserved it.

And there it was, all silver grey, new and shiny, with that Volkswagen touch of class. I was so excited!

And hey - hoops!

At many places in Bordeaux the Citiz cars have hoops - arceaux - which rise when the car is driven away to reserve its parking space. These are a Very Good Idea because generally whenever I take a Citiz car out someone rushes up to park in the space - even though they are labelled in jaunty yellow "AUTOPARTAGE - Stationnement interdit". I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the drivers in Pessac are now arrivals who have not yet mastered reading public notices in French because they will shun hundreds of metres of unrestricted kerbside in order to place their car carefully inside the yellow box labelled "AUTOPARTAGE - stationnement interdit".

Anyway after some years of reluctance from the authorities, we now have hoops. You move the car and - "hop" - press the button to raise the hoop. On your return press the button once more and - "hop" - there is your parking space.

The Polo is smooth and comfortable. It has a BIG touch screen with a super GPS that recalculates your journey if there's a buildup of traffic on the rocade. It has a speedo that is really easy to read and a nice, flexible engine. Fin, bref, I LOVE it!

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Giving notice

There we are. The firm we rent from has acknowledged receipt of our notice. We're moving.

The other evening one of our neighbours said she needed to come round for a chat about something. We wondered what her problem was. We've invited her several times to come and eat, to take a tea, a tisane, whatever. She did come to the royal wedding tea but she has family living nearby and surely if she had a problem she'd go to them. We was baffled.

Anyway I got home to find her and Pat chatting on the sofa, and she just wanted to come round and talk about tus leaving. We were very touched.

We're sad to leave this flat. It's been a happy place to be, and a good compromise between accessibility and comfort. It's been nice to have a garden and the terrace has been good. But now it's time to be thankful for what we've had and to move on.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A potential loss averted

We're moving.
(Our neighbour was displeased.)
End of June.
Have you given your notice to the landlords?
Not yet. Why?
I'm not sure but I think we're on three months' notice.

Oh dear. That would mean 1500€ lost for nothing. I checked the documents. They said three months. I phoned the agency. The person we deal with was on holiday so I left a message and emailed them.

The agency phoned back. We can give one month's notice by recorded delivery citing the fact that we are in "zone tendue".

So this morning I set down to write the letter. In France there are websites that will write the letter for you if you give them the basic information, like the date you're moving and the town you live in. The government site specified that in large towns where people come and go a lot whatever your tenancy agreement says the law specifies that you can not require more than one month's notice.

Yay! Once again France rocks!

So the letter is written and printed out and I must remember to tell our neighbour.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My shoes were trying to kill me!

I have told you that Bordeaux was paved by a psychopath who specified slabs in a variety of shapes and colours but which all become extremely slippery when wet. That's their part in the drama. My part was to buy shoes labelled as all-weather walking shoes from my local shoe store. It is required of all-weather walking shoes that they grip in the wet. Mine did not.

Thus on Saturday when the storm roared about me and my way was wet and smooth my shoes conspired with the paving slabs to make every step I took potentially lethal. I must have looked an odd sight as I carefully planted my feet vertically and shifted my weight carefully through the heavy downpour, anticipating the movement of the crowds so I would have to make no sudden moves.

Well I've lived with these little assassins long enough and the soles were quite worn down so they went in the bin and I scuttled off to find some replacements in the shoe emporia of Merignac.

Big mistake. The shoe emporia had the kind of thing I was looking for but at prices I was trying to avoid. My quest was doomed to failure.

So I turned my downhearted trudge to the supermarket where I needed some cereal and some spread - and spied some shoes that would do. They are not supermarket own-brand. They are of American manufacture. I quickly looked up the reviews on my phone. They were positive. The price was OK. I went for it.

On Tuesday we were at our niece's wedding. Pat's sister was wearing the same brand of shoe.
Do you like them?
I wear no other brand.
And they last OK?
They're excellent.

Jolly good!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sad news

We have suffered a bereavement. Laurence the rat has left us. He was about three years old and recently had surgery because of a tumour on his leg. He was obviously elderly, not the perky, inquisitive rat he once was, but he still enjoyed his food and was still very sociable.

Laurence is now resting in the corner of the garden by the hedge, protected by lots of pepper to discourage the local cats.

Apparently some people ask whether our pets await us in the world to come. This question has never really occurred to me at all, but it is charming to think of Catrin one day being welcomed into eternal dwellings by a tiny throng of glorified rodents.