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, September 25, 2022

Great excitement - the inauguration of our new square

 At the top of our road is a large crossroads where four roads meet and the tram crosses. The recent buildings have been built at an angle to the crossroads making a rather twisted open air called Place d'Armagnac. Over the past couple of months this square has been paved, trees planted, benches installed, lighting placed and a drinking fountain added. It's not quite finished.

But yesterday was the inauguration of the square. the Mayor of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, a lawyer who belongs to the Green Party, was to open it, accompanied by the chairman of Bordeaux Metropole - kind of the like the Super-Mayor of the whole city. That means speeches.

In addition there were to be animations - a food truck serving kebabs and drinks, a bicycle-driven roundabout, the street-band of the medical school Los (Téoporos) and a classical trio of violin, cello and marimba who would play Spanish ad Latin American music in the library adjacent to the square.

A demonstration was scheduled, too, by the cycling pressure groups of Bordeaux who are (rightly) aggrieved that during the construction of this whole area too little attention has been given to safety for cyclists. So they turned up on their bikes with a huge banner and were given the microphone to be able to express their views. About a dozen riot police were there, too, so the whole thing was taken very seriously.

An artist was drawing people's portraits and she did Pat and me, but she gave me blue eyes and made us look like a curious coupling of punk (Pat) and hippie (me), so we were not thrilled with the result.

We enjoyed the music, avoided the speeches as much as we could and look forward to some shops arriving in the square. And better cycle-paths.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Just in case

 The Welsh for ‘resurrection’ is atgyfodiad. To say ‘he was resurrected’ you’d say ‘atgyfodwyd ef’ and the Apostles’ Creed claims belief in the resurrection of the body, ‘atgyfodiad y corff’.

I just wanted to reassure you that these words do exist in Welsh.

I’m praying that Archbishop Justin Welby will tell the whole wide watching world that Jesus has conquered death by His resurrection and that He promises bodily resurrection to eternal life to all who trust in Him, however great or insignificant. 

This is the faith of the church.

(But the music was awesome) 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Long time no blog

Récent events - end of Boris Johnson, beginning of Liz Truss, loss of the Queen - have largely left me without much comment to make. However I will note the following : 

We met the Queen once when she came to open the Flintshire Bridge on a damp and overcast day around 1998. Catrin was a babe in arms. Pat was working at a day hospital and they decided to take the patients down to see the Queen arrive at the civic centre in Connah’s Quay for lunch. I went down with Catrin for moral support. We were stood, or seated in wheelchairs, at the corner of the square. The Queen’s car arrived and she got out. Immediately she scanned the scene and, as soon as she could, she made a beeline straight for us to chat with the patients. It was brief, it was small-talk. We thanked her for coming and talked about how we hoped the bridge would help reduce traffic through the town centre (it didn’t) and she said how much she appreciated coming to open something useful. 

One friend from years ago got a job as a footman at Buckingham Palace. He saw that the royal household was recruiting from inner city council estates. He lived in a small village in the Home Counties, but he applied anyway and got in. After a sheltered and modest upbringing; he had a lot to learn - for example how to distinguish different types of drinks! 

Another friend saw a job advertised as one of the housekeepers at Buckingham Palace and applied. She enjoyed the interview and was given the job, but based at Windsor Castle. She got a super little apartment in one of the towers of the castle and enjoyed her work very much. One of her duties, apparently, was to lurk outside the Queen’s sitting room and, whenever she left the room for any reason, to rush in and plump up the cushions. I thought how irritating I would find it to get the cushions just as I wanted them only to find that someone tidied and plumped them all up whenever I ‘cough cough’ left the room for any reason.

Both said that after a couple of years the royal routine was terribly monotonous. Both worked for the queen for a few years, but then were happy to stop. The Queen, of course, had to embrace the monotony and function within it.

We were so glad of the Queen’s open testimony each Christmas. We would always listen. Here in France it would be at 4pm, just the right time for a drink and some cake, and we delighted to watch the reactions of our friends from all over the world as the Queen spoke of the Saviour with the power to forgive, and so on. 

I am personally astonished at the ordeal that her children are having to bear as they take part in ceremony after ceremony, in the public eye, each move being filmed. I would be traumatized. I so hope that after the State funeral they can take some time to quietly catch up with themselves and hide away.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Linguistic shenanigans

 So over the summer while we were in the UK we were able to think a little about our decision to stay here for retirement. It’s a hard-headed decision, based on where we can most easily afford to live, where we already have a life to live and where we might conceivably be most useful in the future.

But of course, that means that we are not retiring to the United Kingdom, and we are not retiring to Wales. Had we returned to Wales I envisaged getting my Welsh back up to a reasonable level. Years ago I read contemporary novels with little difficulty. Now I struggle.. a lot..As for conversation, I don’t know any Welsh-speakers here in Bordeaux. But then I haven’t looked for them. So I can tackle, and am tackling my reading by getting the old familiar books off the shelf and getting books from Amazon in kindle format. I’ll also make a few trawls for Welsh-speakers in Bordeaux and see if they come up with anyone.

I continue to work on my French, of course, and hit situations still where I am uncomfortable. For example, on Sunday I read ‘celui qui est humble’. Do we do the liaison or not? I ask our French speakers. They don’t know. The Frenchman on the Caudéran omnibus would almost certainly not do the liaison and would definitely feel that it doesn’t matter either way, but … hey … I’m obsessive. So I work on things like that.

But we now have a German side to our family. That’s a whole new world of challenge. So I’m looking for a way to start learning German that does not break the bank or the diary. The university does classes, but they’re too expensive. The university of free time (our equivalent of the university of the third age) does classes, but there’s no beginner German this year. The Goethe institute is expensive. Looks like some kind of online thing, then.


Monday, August 29, 2022

La Rentrée

 So the summer holidays are drawing to a close. This week the teachers and children are returning eagerly to their classrooms. New people are contacting us about studying in Bordeaux. And the church's year is beginning, too.

Alongside our "Café Contact Centre", A Coeur Ouvert / Espace Gallien, is almost ready to open. We have tables and chairs, a counter made fetchingly from old wine crates, our swanky coffee machine, enough stocks to start with and we're all set to go on Wednesday 6 September for our grand opening.

There's still quite a lot to do, though, especially in terms of publicity. We need flyers, posters for the windows, a sign above the window, maybe a Facebook page and/or Instagram account.

In the past I would have cobbled these things together but that was then and this is now. Others have better graphic skills than I do, and accurate colour-vision, and so I leave those jobs to other. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Oh the heat !

 I just got back from my forced march to Lidl. I like to scuttle off to Lidl or to Carrefour early, get a rucksack full of food, and scuttle back perhaps a little more slowly.

This morning when I got up I opened all the windows and got the air changed in the flat. As the sun rose I shut the windows and shutters. At that time it was 28°C in the flat. Oh dear!

My dash to Lidl was quite pleasant in the shade of the tall buildings. I aim to walk quickly. My mental image is of an elderly man afraid of missing his train. Of course, once I arrived I started to perspire. The walk back was warmer but I took it slower to compensate - and because of the bag of peaches, cucumbers, peppers, courgettes, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese and butter on my back. As I write the flat is at 29°C and I am gradually cooling off!

We had a storm last night with plenty of light and noise but only a little rain.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Two weeks in Wales

 We flew to Manchester Airport on August 3rd with Ryanair, an easy and uneventful flight, and caught our train to Shotton. Everything was on time and convenient. The train was clean and comfortable and we enjoyed seeing the landscape slowly change from the city of Manchester to rural Cheshire and then to Wales.

We had been asked to "organise" the Missions Hall at the Annual Conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales in Aberystwyth. Flights in August are predictably expensive but our mission travel fund is there for that. We baulked, however, at paying a thousand pounds for a hire car so it meant travelling by rail. Aberystwyth is accessible by rail, but to go there from Manchester Airport would take a very long time so we took the opportunity to break the journey with a visit to our "home" or "sending" or "previous" church in Shotton, North Wales.

This was a joy, of course, and we got to visit our old next-door neighbour and to see various old friends who we had not seen for five years or more. Not only that, but some folk were travelling down to Aberystwyth and had room in their car for us, so we got to travel together, too.

The conference was a wonderful time - the first in-person conference since 2019, so especially valued. I had a few hesitations about being in a crowd of over a thousand people, known for their lusty singing, but we had no ill-effects and I am not aware of any clusters generated by the conference.

Our responsibilities included :

1) open up and be the door keeper

2) organise the placement of the missions' stands, ably assisted by the wonderful conference stewards who managed to get everything done while I was still making lists

3) begin each day's session with a brief prayer meeting

4) unblock toilets and car-park. (I'm not sure which was the worst)

5) try to provide adequate ventilation in the extreme heat

6) ensure everyone was happy and all went well

7) Pat ran the tea and coffee kitchen

8) be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

We had a wonderful time, though we are hesitant about doing it again. Our resistance to the automobile is particularly difficult in Aberystwyth where there is a very long hill between the Campus where every other meeting takes place and the two, where the Missions Hall was situated. We only climbed the hill once, getting lifts or the bus most times, but coming down long steep hills is still time-consuming and wearing on the limbs. Also the whole thing is pretty tiring. I think the role is best given to someone who is younger and, as we say in France, motorised.

We were accommodated in a student flat and we had a great time with the splendid characters who were sharing the flat with us: a couple from Belgium, some chaps from South Wales and others from all over. I enjoyed reverting to the accent and dialect of my youth for a while. I even had one or two faltering conversations in Welsh, though I stumble over the little words and struggle to find some vocabulary.

Flying back was a little more problematic. Ryanair told us that there were some delays getting through security in Manchester so to arrive early and to consider taking Fast Track. We did both, taking an earlier train and paying 12 euros to have the high speed line at security.

In the event we are diverted away from Fast Track because we were so early for our flight. OK. But getting through security was challenging - my bar of soap was challenged, as well as my canny decision to pack my adapters and wires in a large mug we bought in Aberystwyth. Still, on the third go through we were deemed harmless and allowed to wait for our flight.

Which was delayed because of violent storms over Paris and London. No problem. We took off perhaps an hour late and had a beautiful flight through cloud-free skies before landing at Bordeaux and arriving home.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

A cuisiniste

 One of the little challenges that awaits us with this new flat is the need to fit a kitchen. 

When we moved into our current flat there was just a sink unit. A new, but poor quality sink unit. But it's a rented flat and we knew that we probably couldn't stay here once we start living on our pension. So we didn't fit a kitchen. Instead we cobbled together shelves, drawers and a kitchen island on castors from Ikea Kallax units. Instead of paying thousands we spent a couple of hundred and it's all be very functional.

But the new place is our forever home, and it doesn't even come with a sink, so we have to do something. Not much - there isn't a huge amount of room, and we don't want to change our cooker, dishwasher and fridge, but we have to do something.

So here's the challenge. I am reasonably good at putting things together - I've built wardrobes, desks, beds, tables galore - so I think I could fairly easily construct a kitchen from flat pack. Not only that but we don't necessarily want to commit to hanging wall cupboards. We'll add them if we have to, but we would prefer not to. So all I have to do is construct floor units, screw them to the wall and fit the worktops.

Oh and tiling. I've tiled a kitchen before and I'm sure I could do it again.

Except for the sink. Sinks are complicated. It's not just a question of screwing them together. You have to cut holes in the worktop, seal them in and then connect them to the plumbing. All that I have never done and what's more I don't have the tools. But I do know people who do have the skills and tools.

All this is to say that I am psyching myself up to fitting the kitchen in our new place...

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Getting the swanky coffee machine

 For the new ‘welcome centre’, a UK charity offered to buy us our coffee machine. We had had long discussions about possible coffee machines and had come to the conclusion that one of the one touch automatic bean-to-cup models was what we needed. So armed with this information I did some research with a local-is supplier, based about an hour away towards the sea at La Teste de Buch. 

We went out there, hoping to see something in action, but though they have a very impressive showroom devoted to every gadget you can imagine for the production of coffee, and though they have a cafe with fine cakes, biscuits and cereal bars, and delectable coffees on offer, all we could really do was order the machine. It will be ready by Thursday, we were told.

It arrived on Thursday and I booked a car to go and get it - the only available time was the following Tuesday.

Then the forest around L aTeste caught fire. The shop was advised to close on that Tuesday. We waited. The fire was slowly mastered. This Tuesday the shop reopened, so I booked a car yesterday to go and get it.

It came with several kilograms of coffee beans, a few kilos of sugar in sachets, 200 paper cups, a little booklet - it was quite a pile of stuff to carry, so I took my courage in both hands and decided to drive to the church with my load.

The problem is that the summer is roadworks time in Bordeaux, and the GPS apps don’t always know what’s going on, so driving through the city can be challenging. Despite the best route being closed I found my way to the church and parked slightly illegally outside the welcome centre, just enough time to unload the coffee machine and all its vast array.

Then to get the car back to where I got it from. That WAS a challenge as the road it’s parked on is one-way, and can only be reached from a square that is being dug up. Some lateral thinking, some local knowledge, google maps and a lot of going backwards round corners (watch out for the bikes!) and I parked, feeling quite proud of myself.

The machine is fine. It’s no substitute for a skilled barista, but it makes quite a nice cappuccino, an acceptable americano and a reasonable espresso. Today I’ll try the other options, including latte macchiato and ’coffee’. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The heatwave has broken, but

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far for us, with temperatures of 42°C. Our bananas slow-cooked on their hook.

In addition our tram lines, C and D, are closed down for repairs. The company is providing a bus de substitution. There is no more terrifying term in the Bordeaux glossary.

However I had an errand at the bank to run, so I took my courage in both hands and went to court disaster on the bus de sub.

And disaster it proved to be. The bus arrived, stuffed with people and I found a small spot to insinuate myself into. A sturdy lady next to me was burdened like pilgrim. After a while I dared to say to her, Madame, si vous baissez le sac-a-dos ça va libérer de la place. Thankfully she agreed and laid her burden at her feet.

We lurched slowly along through the morning traffic like terracotta skittles ranked in the kiln to fire. At each stop more people insisted their way into the bus until we got about two-thirds of the way to the bank, where the poor doors of the bus, after much fighting with the big and bold of Bordeaux to shut, finally threw in the towel. The bus doors refused to even attempt to close and so the bus refused to move.

After a couple of minutes' wait I decided to descend from the bus and hoof it to the bank, carefully choosing my route through the shadiest streets. I fulfilled my errand and planned a different way home, but ended up taking a much emptier and swifter bus de sub. It's helpful to know where the stops are.

Some friends from the church had told us of this new restaurant. Their report of it was glowing - it's a gastronomic restaurant (this means clever food), and the lunch menu is just about affordable (many restaurants in Bordeaux are way out of our league), "and it's air-conditioned!" they said.

Well that was enough for me. I reflected and decided to book for lunch there on the hottest day of the year so far. The service was classic and excellent, the food was beautiful, delectable and surprising, the price was really reasonable considering what you were getting, but their internet wasn't working (the heat?) so I had to scuttle out and find a bank machine while "leaving Pat hostage" (my little joke). The poor things were going to have a difficult day; we have all been trained now to pay for everything by card.

Pat then had a dentist's appointment at the air-conditioned surgery at 3, and so we got through the day. Our top tip is to do some washing and hang it in the living room to dry.

At 1:30 am I was woken by the beeping of the fan. We have a fan in our bedroom which is specially quiet so you can sleep, and also came with a remote control. This latter is a bad thing, because it means that at night from your bed you can fiddle with the settings to try and get it at just the right speed, every minuscule adjustment accompanied by a loud beep, so you can't sleep after all. Anyway, this is how we discovered that the wind had changed because our apartment was now full of the smell of wood fires. I popped outside on to the balcony to be sure all was well, but yes, this is the woodsmoke from the forest fires to the south and west of us.

Today will be much cooler, but smokier. We're no longer sardines but kippers. We're longing for rain, for a good old thunderstorm.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Fire !

 The heatwave that will hit Britain over next week has been here for a few days now, and two forest fires are raging about 30 miles from our home.

One is at a place called Landiras, pretty well due south of Bordeaux. We can see the smoke of this fire from our balcony, like distant clouds.

The other is right behind the Dune de Pylat, pretty well due west of us and we saw that smoke, too. 

The firemen have been working night and day using bulldozers to create firebreaks and Canadairs to dump tons of water on the fires. What we really need is a heavy storm to drench everything for a couple of hours, but we aren't due to get one of those till Monday or Tuesday.

On Tuesday I have to go to the town next to that forest fire to collect our swanky coffee machine for Espace Gallien. 

Meanwhile we are living behind closed shutters, creatures of shades and shadows, hiding from the sun.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Post covid

 I’m pretty well back to whatever usually counts as ‘normal’. I have a sticky cough but I no longer absolutely need to nap during the day, I have resumed my forced marches to local supermarkets and I think I’ll try running next week, though early in the morning to avoid the sun.

Pat is also fully recovered and no longer needs to nap. At least not every day.

The city is now in summertime. This means fewer trams with more people in them. Since covid is once more on the rise we wear masks in the trams and try to avoid the busiest ones… Except we have no idea when the busiest times are! 

Summertime means parks, and the Jardins de l’Ars are resplendent with their trees and shrubs, picnic tables, sun-loungers and little platforms for performance poets. The trees are not yet tall enough to provide much shade, so the picnic tables are not as busy as they will be, but it’s great to wander through the paths and that’s where I will run next week, if I can rouse my inner pig-dog.

The summer also means travel. In August we are due to visit the UK, but to help at a conference, so there won’t be a road-trip or even a rail-trip. Meanwhile we have considered making a swift visit to Italy or to Spain, but we’re already awaiting two refunds from cancelled flights, and at present it seems unwise to make unnecessary journeys. We could get to Spain by train and we may well do this once we find a free slot of time.

We are aching to see our families and so we plan to make some visits in the autumn, perhaps separately to reduce costs. We’ll see. We’ve become like old-fashioned missionaries who saw their families only once every five years!

Meanwhile work on our retirement flat continues. We’ve paid half the cost now. We’re on the verge of taking out a small bank loan which will allow us to fit the kitchen nicely rather than with IKEA Kallax shelves, and also to put in an air-conditioning unit in the main room. We are assured by a friend who specialised in this that if we put in a unit in the living room it will keep the whole apartment cool in summer and also help with heating in winter if necessary. He would have put the unit in for us, but he’s retired some years ago. He might be able to direct us to someone reliable.

The builder has got to our (second) floor and is on the verge of starting the floor above. We can see where our bedrooms will look out and where our balcony will be. It all looks quite satisfactory. We’ll lose our view of hills and trees but gain in practicality.  After the third floor there’s ‘just’ the roof garden to complete, so it seems quite reasonable to believe that we’ll be moving around Easter.

Bordeaux Church goes quiet in the summer with so many of our folk away, but the project of a café / church centre continues and is almost at the point where we can open.

We have a bench, ten chairs and a big corner sofa. We have a square table OK for four people (we need another) and a larger extending table. We have an assortment of wine crates which will form shelving units, a counter, a coffee table, etc. We will soon have a wonderful coffee machine, paid for by a UK charity who contacted us at just the right time. 

Meanwhile one of the brethren is a handyman and he reckons he could put in a toilet for us. This would be WONDERFUL. We’ll do a low key opening perhaps on Friday of next week, or perhaps the week after, and get ready for the grand inauguration in September.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Should of seen that coming

 Some time into the adventure that is the learning of the French language, I became aware of an immense feeling of frustration. Despite the fact that I could hold conversations with lots of different people about lots of different subjects and in various registers : informal, polite, etc, there were things that came naturally to me in English but over which I would labour in French. For example, how does one say the commonplace "If I'd known you were coming I'd have baked a cake". I can render this into French, but it just all sounds wrong: Si j'avais su que tu venait j'aurais préparé un gateau

Why does it sound so wrong? Because nobody talks like that, that's why.

The other day someone in the choir complimented me on my French. "Mais tu parles drîolement bien français, le syntaxe et tout". I replied, "Eh bien, les gens croivent que c'est pas possible quand on est âgé" She laughed, "Ça tu as fait exprès" She was right. A very common error in French is to conjugate croire as if it was devoir, so je crois, tu crois, ils croivent, instead of ils croient...

Spoken French is relatively simple in that it doesn't use all the tenses that we're used to using in English. Of course, it has other complications, like grammatical gender, a complex phonetic system, etc. But in terms of tenses, modern spoken French is comparatively simple. 

People don't use the simple past. I washed the car. I ate my breakfast. I ran the race. I fell downstairs. This tense is replaced in spoken French with the perfect tense. I have washed the car. I have eaten my breakfast. I have run the race. I have fallen downstairs. The simple past does exist in literary French.

People don't tend to use the simple future. They generally replace it either with the present or with the immediate future. Instead of "I will wash the car", they'll say "I wash the car" or "I am going to wash the car".

In literary French there is an elegant and precise way of saying "They wanted me to wash the car". In contemporary spoken French there isn't.

All these verb forms exist in Spanish and are apparently used in common speech, but they have fallen out of use in French.

This has led one academic to suggest that because the language has become so simple grammatically that the French mind is losing its capacity to reason and to make fine distinctions. The simplicity of the language is leading to another kind of simplicity, according to this man.

He might say that. I couldn't possibly comment. In English or in French.

Buying the flat

 So when you buy a new flat there are pros and cons.

The pros are that you're buying something that conforms to the latest standards of safety, insulation, etc. In theory the place will be well built with no great defects. In the event of serious defects there is an insurance backed guarantee for ten years. For less serious issues you have a year to identify them and get the builder to rectify them.

Not only that, but much of the legal shenanigans that are involved in a house purchase are done on applying for planning permission - I mean things like checking for risks of flooding (ha ha) or industrial accidents, for nuclear risks, for polluted soils, for old mineworkings, etc etc. This means that the legal costs involved in buying a new place are much less.

So some people argue that you don't need the services of a Notaire. Notaires cost money, so if you don't need one why have one? I thought about this and decided I wanted someone on our side in scrutinising the flat purchase, so I found one with a good reputation and emailed to ask him to act for us. He phoned me straight away and said that that would be fine, and so it went.

A disadvantage is that you pay for the flat in instalments. A small deposit when you sign to reserve the flat. A percentage when you sign the contract. Another percentage on completion of various stages - the completion of the foundations, the laying of the first floor, the second floor, etc... The scheme's architect certifies that the work has been accomplished and you get sent a bill, called an "Appel de fonds".

We were due to sign the contract at the end of January, but there was some problem with the documentation, so it didn't happen. Meanwhile the building was progressing well. We saw the completion of the foundations and the building start to rise - the ground floor car park, then the first floor apartments, then they started on our floor.

Then we were told that we were ready to sign to buy. We arranged an appointment with our Notaire and contacted the bak to transfer the first instalment - 30% of the price of the flat.

Then covid struck. Our signing got pushed back a week, but the money was in the notaire's client account ready.

Meanwhile we were sent illustrations of the various tiles and floor coverings available for the bathroom and toilet and for the rest of the flat. We pondered the shades of grey, beige and marbled white and the different tones of parquet flooring and made our choice. We selected a vague "Hall of the Mountain King" theme for most of the flat with "Liberace's boudoir" in the toilet and bathroom.

The day came to sign. Our notaire is a young chap, educated at the Sorbonne, and very personable. I remembered to greet him properly: 'Bonjour Maître', "Au revoir Maître", but the tone of the session was informal. We pondered the grave risk of flooding. He observed that we were on the second floor and I informed him that we were both able to swim. 

Since then we have had to notifications that the ground floor and first floor have been completed. I contacted the bank to arrange the transfer of the next amount of money. When that has been transferred we will have paid for half of the flat.

It's due for completion at end of March 2023. I expect to move in some time around Easter.

A bit more about covid

 So I have been out and about and functioning now for over a week, and I'm basically fine. 

There are some continuing struggles. Firstly I have a very sticky cough. We're very thankful that I cough during the day but sleep sweetly, sound and deep all night. I have a steroid inhaler that the doctor gave me some months ago to use morning and night if and when I need it, so I've been using that at night. I noticed that a friend who came to stay last week and who's asthmatic uses the same inhaler.

The second is tiredness. I can't party. Well I can, as long as I do nothing physical all day beforehand. So I've been able to preach and lead on Sunday, but was drained afterwards, was able to go to dinner for someone's birthday but did nothing all day beforehand, and so on and so forth.

I first noticed symptoms just over two weeks ago and tested positive two weeks ago today. I don't want this to drag on, so I'm going to start working on stamina. I'll push myself in the mornings and get to bed as early as I can each night and hopefully I'll get back to normal soon. 

Meanwhile the virus is on the march once more in France. Masks are "recommended" once more in public transport. It's time to be very careful again. Although the virus is weakened, and most of us are vaxed to the max, it still messes you up !

Monday, June 20, 2022

Covid early release

 So the rules are that when you have covid you must self-isolate for seven days from the onset of symptoms. However, after five you may be released if you have been free of symptoms for 48 hours and you test negative.

My symptoms developed on Tuesday. Five days (inclusive) from then is Saturday. I was full of hope until I realised that I was not completely symptom free (I still had sinus pain etc... and, realistically, I will be coughing for some months yet.) I tested anyway and got a thick black positive line.

Oh well, after seven days you can be released anyway, symptoms or no symptoms, no point testing.

That means that today (still counting inclusively) I can once again run amok in the streets of Bordeaux. And it's raining.

Friday, June 17, 2022


In France when it gets to over 30°C in the day, AND it doesn’t get below 20°C at night, for three or more consecutive days, that’s a heatwave.

This was the case last night and will probably be for the next two days. This heatwavy period is due to break on Saturday or Sunday.


On Monday evening I felt the onset of something. Aches. Cough.

So Tuesday morning I tested myself for covid-19, and sure enough, there came a faint line by the T.

Tuesday I spent mainly sitting quietly, drinking water and taking paracetamol.

Wednesday I managed without pills till about 2pm.

Thursday morning at 2am I got up to use the rest room and realised I felt fine. Absolutely fine. It didn’t last.

Today I have a dry cough.

Current rules, I think, are that you have to isolate for seven days from the onset of symptoms.

HOWEVER on the fifth day you can test yourself and if it’s negative you can resume normal life.

So for me that’s probably Saturday morning. I’m hoping for a negative test on Saturday so I can preach Sunday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The beauty of the city

 We used to meet to do sermon prep together at a café called Gusco, but since we moved our meeting to lunchtime, and since that meant eating at Gusco and not just getting coffee, and since that meant that the preaching group became a rather expensive group to be part of, we now take sandwiches to a local park.

I feel bad about Gusco, though. The waiters and the manager are really nice folk, so I went this morning taking the reading for Sunday, got a splendid iced black tea with orange and clementine (not at all bitter - the secret is a long cold brew) and read and watched the world go by.

And it was so beautiful. Little things like two guys who went running by, one really tall, one really short, but perfectly in step with each other, or the woman in a diaphanous dress who came riding up on her bright red scooter. Or the lupins in the central reservation of the wide road leading out of town, or the fact that now the bike lane is HUGE and the lane for cars is tiny...

Yma o hyd

 I moved back to South Wales from Hemel Hempstead probably in the summer of 1982. I'd been sent for a few months to work in Cardiff anyway, and while I was there I applied for and got a job with HTV. About a year afterwards I moved to British Telecom where I stayed until I entered pastoral ministry in 1991. 

Our office was in the city centre and within a short walk, in a side-room of a concert hall, I discovered that Welsh classes were to be organised - one hour a week on Wednesday lunchtimes. I had long wanted to learn Welsh, so I thought I'd give it a go. It was good, but inadequate so I moved to evening classes with an extraordinary teacher called Ken Kane, then with a man named Chris Rees at the University.

At work some of our colleagues were local people as I was. My team leader at one time travelled down from Merthyr Tydfil each day. The 1980s were turbulent years, especially in some areas of Britain. After the unrest and upheaval of the 1970s Mrs Thatcher had vowed to break the power of the unions and, at the same time, the coal industry was to be closed down. This had a huge impact on us locally. Cardiff had once been the busiest port in the world, exporting coal from South Wales all over the world.

Things were so traumatic that we struggled to discuss it. For example, during the miners' strike of 1984 to 1985 some men dropped a concrete block from a bridge over the A470 onto the car of a strike-breaking colleague. He was killed. We were aghast. We all took this road regularly. And the thought of so brutally murdering a colleague was horrifying.

Nowadays some of my family still live in the Rhondda valley. The area has changed from the post-industrial grey place of my childhood memories to a green country park, with wonderful walks, lakes and streams, trees, birds and fish, and clean air. And, of course, unemployment, though people find work outside the valley in the industrial parks around.

The song "Yma o hyd" was released in 1983, sung by Dafydd Iwan and the group Ar Log.  It expressed a sense of defiance against the forces of globalisation that have, over the centuries, worked to drive the Welsh language and culture into extinction. Not just Welsh, of course. Cornish, Manx, Cumbrian, all became extinct. The regional languages of France : Gascon, Burgundian, etc, have suffered similarly, while others have done a little better, like Catalan, Provençal and Breton. 

By the time I learned the song some lines had been changed to reflect the conflict with the Thatcher government - er gweitha hen Faggie a'i chriw - despite old Maggie and her gang - but personally I don't think of the song as being particularly anti-English or anti-Tory, but rather expressing the struggle so many minority cultures face for survival.

For example, a Norwegian friend here once said to us, "I wish they would just abolish the language and adopt English. After all, who in the world speaks Norwegian?" "What about Ibsen?" "Translate it!" 

Now the song has undergone a huge resurgence of interest. The political climate in 2022 is very different from in 1983. The United Kingdom has other issues to divide over. Welsh language and culture is perhaps stronger now than forty years ago - well, the language anyway. 

Some Welsh people feel that the song is not positive enough. Resistance and dogged perseverance... well everyone knows the Welsh can do that! But hanging in there is not enough to enable you to thrive in the 21st century.

Maybe. But at least it gives you a starting point.

The next step

 One advantage of not being able to fly to London is that I can be a bit more relaxed about signing the various contracts on Friday.

Firstly, on Friday morning, there is the lease on Espace Gallien. The agency has prepared a standard commercial lease, nicknamed a 3-6-9 lease. It protects the tenant from sudden eviction from the landlord, but also holds the tenant to complete 3, 6 or 9 years of renting. 

The committee doesn't want to do this. They want a clause added to allow us to relinquish the lease early if we need to. I need to talk to the agency this week to see if they can and will do this.

Meanwhile the woman who is dealing with our account is ill and signed off until the 24th, so it may be that we just have to hold fire.

Then there's the contract to buy our flat. We sign on Friday afternoon and we've transferred the first part of our payment for the flat - just over a third of the cost.

Meanwhile we can choose the tiles for the bathroom and toilet, the shade for the flooring and the finish of the bathroom sink unit. It's all very exciting.

At our gabfest with the neighbours we were all talking about our future plans. One young couple are buying just up the road in a new building just being constructed. Another older couple is looking around for something. All want to stay in the immediate area. 

Monday, June 13, 2022

On not going to "Catalyst"

"But that's a presbyterian conference!"

"Yes, but it's in London and easy to get to."

Easy, that is, until easyJet cancels your flight the morning you're due to leave.

Oh well - so I miss some of my great heroes talking about the greatest themes possible. And I miss frolicking round the capital city for an afternoon and a couple of evenings. And I miss some gabfests with old friends from auld lang's syne.

But at leats I don't get stranded in Gatwick late on Thursday evening when easyJet cancel my flight home. And I get to preach this coming Sunday instead.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Property !

 I dont know why things always have to be so STRESSFUL !

Renting the Espace Gallien has proved to be one headache after another, including some comical mixups by the bank, ordering cards on the wrong account and sending things hither and yon. The agency demanded an urgent signature of a lease they had not yet fully prepared. The lease was a source of consternation - but will be modified. It’s been one thing after another.

Meanwhile our flat purchase is calmer, and we’re pretty confident that we have all the money we need, except that from time to time it becomes invisible on our internet banking. There’s currently several thousand euros that I just can’t see at all, while our current account yoyos wildly. I’m hoping all settles down this week as we sign on the flat next week!

Once all is done I will move our account to the nearest branch to where we live. It will be so much easier to sit with pen and paper and work things out - even in French - rather than to try and sort things out by telephone and email.

The CNEF day

 Monday was Whitsun Bank Holiday and the weather promised to turn out well, so we were very glad as we left the flat to go to the CNEF33 ‘Day Together’.

Planning for this day began some years ago. We’ve long wanted to organise a day when Christians from different churches could worship together but also spend time getting to now each other. Anyway I think it was in 2020 that we settled on a venue and started to plan the day when covid struck and put all our plans on hold. Meanwhile I left the CNEF33 committee. 

Now with covid on the back foot and much greater freedom it was possible to meet. The day consisted of a time of worship together with one of the local preachers, then lunch - you could either bring your sandwiches or order from a sandwich bar, or order a portion of a giant paella. The afternoon would involve various games, sports and also an open mike, before the day closed with a brief closing message.

It all seemed to be impeccably organized and to go very well indeed. Pat and I were a little tired after a busy weekend, so we sloped off at lunch time.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

The Perfect Saint

 I phoned the bank to ensure that the bank card erroneously ordered for my account had been cancelled. 

‘Oh yes, effectively, there is a card ordered and we can’t cancel it because it is in fabrication.

Oh ! We were born the same day ! You were born on the Saint Parfait’

She launched into an explanation of how in the old days in France when people were born they were often given the name of the saint who is celebrated on their birthday. Mine is the Saint Parfait.

Perfectus lived in Cordoba at the time of the Moorish invasion. He was cornered into declaring whether Christ or Muhammad was the greater prophet, found guilty of blasphemy, imprisoned until the end of Ramadan and then martyred.

‘Phone back next week and we’ll cancel the card’

‘OK, and meanwhile I’ll change my middle name to Parfait.’

‘Good idea’

Why so quiet?

We have this project of a kind of shopfront church centre - A Cœur Ouvert - Espace Gallien. It’s a small shop premises just in front of the church. It’s taken a LONG time for everything to get in place and has known such fun as :

An estate agent who said, in her first call to me, ‘if we don’t sign the lease tomorrow I’ll let the place to someone else’. I duly met her the next day to discover that she didn’t have the lease ready…

The counsellor at the bank, where it takes about a month to open an account, ordering our bank card for the wrong account and also sending the code for internet banking for the wrong account. This is not yet entirely sorted out.

Anyway, I have no idea at all what I’m doing, I don’t understand French leasing law and yet I am the best placed person to navigate our way through this.  Earlier in the week this all became a little stressful, especially as the cursed WhatsApp beeped incessantly on my computer as people let off steam. 

But we’re through that first shock period now to a situation where we just have to decide what to do and do it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


 Went to Carrefour for leeks and oats. Found sunflower oil. A big bottle !

Tuesday, May 17, 2022


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

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

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

I do hope that's right ! 

And another Choral update

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

Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Choral update

 Choirs, eh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Canonical relatives

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

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

No gelato for us this time

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

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

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

I have a recorded delivery for Patricia Davey

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

No. We hadn’t.

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

OK. I descend. I replied.

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

Sorry about the delayed delivery, he said.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 08, 2022

The estival hecatomb

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

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

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Tomorrow's an interesting one

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 29, 2022

Macron's vocabulary

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

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

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

crier haro sur le baudet

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

It seems to mean "looking for scapegoats".

Now to hear it and to use it.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Buying a flat - sequel

 Well I was right to be nervous. 

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

Good think I looked before calling the Notaire!

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

We need to :

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No, we'll give you drops." 

I thought they would.

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



 M. Macron won 58% of the vote.

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

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

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

There are background stories, though. 

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

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

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

Buying a flat

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

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

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

It's probably retirement itself, too. 

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

A visit to Norwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 10, 2022

CNEF journée juridique

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe harder. 

So patience.

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

More excitement !

 How much can one take ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excitement !

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

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Late frosts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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