Showing posts from 2005

How's that for service?

The cleaning service telephoned us to let us know that they couldn't empty our geen bin because we had put expanded polystyrene in it, and if we put the polystyrene in the black bin, then each bin would be emptied next time round as normal.

Link - Mormonism

French radio

We often listen to CDs in the car. At the moment Red Mountain Church hymns, or Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band Christmas Carols, or the Bach Magnificat (really loud!) are favourites. But sometimes we listen to the radio. In France there are two stations that seem to be a bit like Classic FM. You don't often get a whole symphony, but you don't get experimental stuff for Autoharp and Flymo either. They are Classique and Musique . But our favourite station is Nostalgie. "Sweet, sweet music, nostalgieeeee". You get lots of Edith Piaf, a bit of Sacha Distel and the occasional Maurice Chevalier. You also get a lot of British music from the 1970s. Now I was a teenager in the 1970s, but they play songs I don't remember, like "My Lady Darbanville" by Cat Stevens. I am SURE I had never heard this, but Nostalgie are really fond of it, and play it most days. They also like Tom Jones' "She's a lady" as well as sundry others of his renditions

Link - Sinclair Ferguson sermons online Since changing the layout of the blog (I hope you agree that it looks better and is clearer) I lost my links section. Pity. I hope to get it back but it means quite a bit of messing about. Meanwhile I will just post some links from time to time. If you find them useful that'll be great.

The King with his army round him - reason to be optimistic

Proverbs 30: 29 - 31 There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing: a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a king with his army around him.

This may be taking accountability a bit far, but

my plan for the new year is to read through the whole Bible in French aloud. Reading aloud is really good. It enables you to practice shaping words. It helps you to remember. It slows you down as you read and helps you to listen to yourself. At one time aloud was the only way to read (I think it was Ambrose of Milan who first began to read silently in Europe, and people used to watch him, amazed.) The drawbacks? You need a quiet private place. It's slower. (Funny how these drawbacks sound like advantages when thinking of reading Scripture.) But for these reasons, if I don't read it all aloud I won't fret too much. For a translation, I will choose one I can carry on my Palm computer, which means either the "old" 1910 Louis Segond or the 2000 Semeur. Pity. One of the 1970s Segond revisions would be better (Genève or Colombe) but there you are. You can't have everything.

OK, you've had your fun

Now it's time to get down to HOMEWORK. Gwilym has some long divisions to do and a little grammar. (I reckon 45 minute's worth) Catrin has some English to do and some French. Of course, both have been reading in French and watching French TV, which kind of counts as homework, too, at the moment! Pat has some worksheets she has to do. I have a book to read, a report to plan with my colleague, Brett, and some grammar exercises. Of course, we've been reading in French, too, but not watching much TV, we confess. * We don't have English TV, only recordings. I don't intend to get English TV (satellite) for at least a year - or until we are in our own house, whichever is the later.

Parc de Majolan at Blanquefort

It's very cold today. The ducks are walking on the lakes between here and Carrefour. But no snow. 

There's a peacock at Parc de Majolan


Children can scramble among the grottos


There are some lovely spots


The mairie are restoring the park


The park has follies like this one


Parc de Majolan; Blanquefort

We took the children there for a run around this afternoon. 

on being Doctor Who

Some friends here who have satellite TV recorded Doctor Who and kindly loaned us the video. We just watched it. Doctor Who is very brave. He challenges aliens. He presses buttons. He launches himself into impossible situations. He will go anywhere and try anything. The thing is, it's OK for him. We know that he always wins because there'll be another episode next week. Not only that, if he dies he lives again. So he can afford to be brave and risk everything, because really he cannot lose and so he is not really risking anything at all. Romans 8 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ... If God is for us, who can be against us? ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neit

Article in Le Monde

Here's an example of the media's fascination with the spectacular and extreme. Like the British press, they identify "evangelical" with this kind of extreme charismatic, and see it as a threat coming from America.,1-0@2-3226,36-724143,0.html Anyone know why the people pictured at Frankfurt have those head-dresses on? (Google can ... "translate" for you: )

A nice linguistic moment

This morning Sammy preached about Luke 2:8-14, where the angel told the shepherds that they would see a sign, a baby wrapped in cloths etc.. While he was talking about signs in general he said what sounded to me like " le premier signe du canard " (the first miracle of the duck). I thought, "I don't remember a miracle with a duck. Fish, yes. Ducks, no." Then the penny dropped. He had actually said " Le premier signe de Cana " (the first miracle of Cana). The big difference in French between Cana and canard is a gurgle in the throat at the end of the duck (which kind of sums it up for ducks at this time of year.. but enough of that). It illustrates another jolly facet of the task - learning the pronunciation of Bible names. Usually quite different!

A very happy Christmas to all our readers

Blogging on Christmas Day? Not really. Today will be quite busy and we couldn't see where a Christmas dinner would fit, so Christmas came early this year, on 23 December, closely followed by Gwilym's birthday (24th).

French "Christmas carol service"

(in quotes because the French don't really have them, so this is what ours was like) Yesterday at the church Christmas Eve meeting we sang: Les anges dans nos campagnes (Angels from the realms of glory) Once in Royal David's city ("in the language of Shakespeare") Voici Noël (Silent night) O peuple fidele (O come all ye faithful) Thou didst leave thy throne (Shakespeare's tongue again - for Sammy's epilogue) O nuit bienveillante (goes to a tune we use for "sweet the moments, rich in blessing") Invitations had been sent to all sorts of people who were connected in some way with the church, and lots of people came, most of whom I had never seen before. Pray that some of these folk will respond to the gospel.

International Christmas carols

You are probably aware that following the distressing rebellion of the western colonies our cultures diverged somewhat. This has created differences which crop up all the time. For example, it's no good upsetting the apple cart or setting the cat among the pigeons. Our friends don't have these phrases. Also we sing different Christmas carols. If you know the tune, the words will be different. If the words are the same, it won't be the familiar tune. "Go tell it on the mountain" is a Christmas carol, as is that Harry Belafonte number, "O holy night", with all those high notes at the end. But we did get to sing "We three kings", for the first time since childhood.

"We won't get much in the way of frosts"

When I went to Aberystwyth my landlady told my parents that it was mild there and never snowed. It snowed every year I was there! And despite all my predictions, this is definitely frost.

Our street on the afternoon of 24 December

Yes. It really was that frosty. It thawed a little towards evening. 

Les Landes atlantique

When we moved here we brought a big carrier bag full of huge pine cones from the maritime pines that grow on the campus at Aberystwyth. They are in our fireplace, some sprayed with gold paint. These same maritime pines are characteristic of the "landes", the wooded areas of France's south western atlantic coast. They're everywhere. 

A walk in the woods a few days ago

The Bois du Burck at Merignac. 

It's the little things that you notice

We have floor cleaning detergent that smells of mint. We have salt and vinegar washing-up liquid. And the bananas are pink (though the pink ones cost 4x as much as the yellow, so we don't know what they taste like.) 

Unusual weather

When we arrived it was unusually hot. Now it is unusually cold. I don't THINK it's anything to do with us as such. 

It's cold here!

Taken at church at 12h30. The trees are frost-laden. 

the ex-pat thing

We decided pretty early on that we didn't want to do the ex-pat thing of shopping in the English shop for HP sauce, Heinz beans and proper sausages made of sawdust and pigs' ears like they should be. But we have to confess to three things: 1) We brought over (and have had replenished by friends and family) HUNDREDS of PG Tips tea bags. As far as we are concerned, we feel we are simply helping ourselves gently to make the transition to Lipton Yellow Label. 2) We have so far been to two carol services - one at the Anglican chaplaincy and one at a friend's house. The Anglican one was quintessentially English - "In the bleak midwinter", readings from Scripture and from George Herbert et al, and a choir singing Rutter, Handel and Bach. It was followed by quiche, pizza and vin chaud * in the adjoining hall, but if you rename it "mulled wine" I suppose you are back in the quintessentially English again. What could be more English than quiche with the vicar? 3)

Another "Get out of jail free" word

"Voila!" is good for getting out of life sentences. Another good way that I have witnessed in use is "quand meme" (even so). I have overheard entire conversations where one party said "oui, quand meme"... "mais quand meme!"... "quand meme, uh?"... Pretty good, eh? You do have to be a bit careful - too much "quand meme" and it's a bit like "I was so, like, and stuff, you know?". But even so, uh? ...

Prayer meeting

At prayer meeting tonight it was me and my friend Jean-Marc, who speaks no English. It was just him and me, and so I had to pray, and I had to pray in French , and we had quite a conversation afterwards about complicated stuff like my theological training and our call to France and how we are supported, and why Welsh isn't much like English, etc. This was good. I got into a couple of life sentences, but I managed to escape one way or another. A life sentence is one where you get in OK, but then you get trapped by the syntax to such an extent that you can't find your way out again. In the worst case you grind to a halt and the sentence never ends. This is a " true life sentence" or "life sentence without remission" . It seems that sometimes the French get into them - and the standard way out is to say "Voila!" which means "there we are then!". Alternatively for extra emphasis you could say "Franchement, voila!" which means &quo

Light in the darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5, ESV) La lumière luit dans les ténèbres, et les ténèbres ne l'ont point reçue. (Jean 1:5, LSG) Y mae'r goleuni yn llewyrchu yn y tywyllwch, ac nid yw'r tywyllwch wedi ei drechu ef. (Ioan 1:5 BCN) The other day a friend was talking about Christmas and how God loves the world so much he sent his Son to do everything necessary for man to re-establish his relationship with God. (Two essay questions for you - 1. Discuss the translations of John 1:5 above. 2. Discuss the statement made by my friend. Don't send your essays to me, though!) France is very dark. It really is. The churches are small. And tragically mainstream Christian churches are smallest of all. Unhelpful (at best) new diversions have overwhelmed straightforward Christian truth. Meanwhile the populace at large is basically untouched by the gospel and the media are fascinated by the crazy and the outrageous. Sometimes I am fearful.

Christmas dinner

I have been inundated with an e-mail asking what we will have for Christmas dinner. After spending this afternoon fighting my way round Carrefour I can reveal that we have a pintade - a guinea fowl. Please don't tell the children. I hope they won't ask what it is till after they've eaten it! Anyway, a guinea fowl is a kind of chicken isn't it? It sounds amazingly exotic, but the pintades were not very expensive. Maybe I caught them on a special offer day. (later found out that I did!) But no foie gras and no oysters. Our Christmas dinner will be a slime-free zone! (Unless we overcook the sprouts.)

Secret weapons

I had a test the other day, based on three passages from a book where the writer writes about a writer who is writing a book about another writer. Confused? I think you're meant to be! I wrote 6 pages of dodgy French and then wondered why.. But I have two secret weapons. The first is an effaceur. It's brilliant! The white end effaces washable ink without trace. The blue end then writes over the area you effaced in a pretty good match of the original blue. Great for getting rid of extraneous accents, etc. The second is a Parker fountain pen that says "I write for the glory" (they must mean for the glory of God..) 

Why France is like it is

Those big green "blobs" in the trees are huge balls of mistletoe. It's EVERYWHERE round here!

God is King and nasal vowels are inscrutable

# Knowing that God is king changes how you think about things. Sometimes it takes a while to percolate through, mind you! Take my ears' distressing lack of nasal vowel acuity. It's one of those situations where there's not a great deal you can do about it. I mean, I practise. I listen hard (eyes open!). I try to visualise where the vowel sound is, and all that. But you can't make your ears do the trick! However, knowing God is king makes it all quite exciting, really. Somehow this little snag will be overcome (it's only another snag, after all) and one day I'll realise that on, an, en and in are as different to me as da , ta , la and na . Meanwhile here is some good news and some bad news on the phonetic front. Do you want the good news first or the bad news? Good news - I can now tell whether people are saying saint or sang . (That's major good news - those are not just vowels - they are nasal vowels...) Bad news - I have become somewhat perplexed by th

Why might a secular state contemplate building mosques?

This article by Henri Astier explains some of the background.

OK - here we go

About a month ago the man who organises the people to read asked me if I would read that morning. I said "Give me another month". (You can see what's coming, can't you?) Well it's a section of the Apostles' Creed in Spanish (yes, that's right) and Isaiah 52:7-10. Here's the section from the Apostles' Creed: padeci o bajo Poncio Pilato, fue crucificado, muerto y sepultado, descendi o a los infiernos (I don't think this keyboard can put an accent on the o) Here the Lecture dans Esaïe 52.7-10 7 – Qu’ils sont beaux, sur les montagnes, les pas de celui qui porte la bonne nouvelle, qui proclame la paix, de celui qui porte l’heureuse nouvelle, qui proclame le salut, qui dit à Sion : Ton Dieu est roi ! 8 – C’est la voix de tes guetteurs : ils lèvent la voix, tous ensemble ils poussent des cris de joie, car c’est face à face qu’il voient le Seigneur revenir à Sion. 9 – Eclatez en cris de joie, toutes ensemble, ruines de Jérusalem ! Car le Seigneur con

End of term picture

Subjects somewhat reluctant, as you can see. 

We have not yet decided what to eat for Christmas dinner

but the brochure from one of our supermarkets suggests: Lobster, oysters (there's MOUNDS of these in the supermarkets), crabs, crayfish, frogs' thighs, scallops, tiger-prawns, goose-liver pate (yellowish), sucking pig, poultry gizzards, snails, capons, turkeys, guinea-fowl, duckling, hens, geese, quails, duck, venison, pheasant, chicken, kid, roe deer, boar, beef, lamb, pork, horse, veal and rabbit. After that we might not fancy Christmas pudding.

Pat has returned from the dentist

Having had discussions with him in French about all manner of things, (pretty good, eh?) though she has to go back again for him to fix her teeth, and she thinks he told her not to eat for a week.

More about the riots

Catrin went to play with a school friend who lives in a flat at Saige in Pessac. Saige has about eight tall tower blocks of flats and lots huge four-storey blocks. It's the most obvious area in Pessac to have had riots. The flats were immaculately clean and very pleasant. I asked if there had been any trouble in the area. Yes - a few cars had been burnt in the car parks near the tower blocks, but as soon as the fires were extinguished the cars were removed and so you saw almost nothing. And where our friends live it had been very calm. However, the CRS (riot police) still patrol from time to time. So there we are. You could live in the estate where the riots are taking place and see and hear nothing whatsoever.

Christmas looms

In English some words can be taken in different ways . Either Christmas menaces us from the horizon or we have taken up festive weaving. Same thing happens in French. Anyway, now that 1) we are all healthy again 2) our classes have finished 3) much of the photos and stuff we ordered has been delivered we can apply ourselves to Christmas. Which means people will be getting New Years cards this year. Very French! Oh well - it's not the first time and it probably won't be the last, but it may be the best excuse we ever have!

Campus picnic area


There's a lot of us for Grammar

two groups this size, too! 

So do we invert here or not?


Revising the passive voice while waiting for grammar


Waiting for grammar

Everyone is a little demob happy - note the cameras and phones (mine among them, of course)  

The Christmas season

There are many overseas students in Bordeaux who cannot return to their home countries for Christmas - perhaps because of money, or for other reasons. So the FAC Student centre is open in the afternoon and evening of Christmas Day, with an invitation to students to come and not be alone that day.

The French think that Welsh is difficult

I had to do a brief talk-ette today in "communication" about a festival in my country. So I spoke about St David's Day and eisteddfodau in general, and took in a tin of Welsh cakes for people to eat. The Welsh cakes went down very well, until I told them that they are called picau bach ar y maen , when the French lecturer threw up her hands in horror and dissolved in a peal of laughter. I told them that St David's Day is Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant , and she said "The first word is David, yes?" I said "No, that is day - the third word is David." Once more peals of laughter. I decided to skip any discussion of cynghanedd, the mutation system and y fedal ryddiaith . She said "But Welsh is very difficult, no?" I said "On the contrary, it is very easy". It transpires that the French find the Welsh language utterly inscrutable and impenetrable. They say "that's not a language, that's torture". Now that should mean that Wels

Pat's appointment

I told you about how, in what can only be described as a frenzy of republican fervour, Pat toppled the crowned heads of no fewer than three teeth? Well she went to the dentist today, a charming man who spake never a word of English, but who sang to himself "un grand abime, un grand abime" as he gazed into the depths. She goes back on Friday for him to do the necessary construction work.

More complexities with the name

Davey is not a very easy name for the French to cope with - I don't think an "e" in a different syllable ever modifies an "a" in the preceding syllable in French (indeed, why should it? They do outrageous things to other "e"s, though...) and e is never "ee" - so we are now the "Dahvays". HOWEVER - the French "d" is not as hard as the English "d". You put your tongue behind your front teeth, not on your gum. So when we say "day - ah - vay - ur - ee-greck" peopel hear "tay - ah - vay - ur - ee-greck" and think we are called "Tahvay". Another thing we just have to learn - our tongues must descend!

Quick scholastic report

The headmistress has been unable to meet up with Catrin at all since our discussions. However while I was waiting for her that morning I saw on the noticeboard an advert from a student of English and Spanish offering tuition etc. to primary age kids. So we deliberated and decided that we should try and find someone like that to give Catrin perhaps an hour or two each week of one-to-one at our home. We have a shortlist of two students (so far) to contact and I mentioned it to the headmistress after the Christmas service on Saturday. Today she told Catrin to go and see her each morning at 9am, but she's so busy that I don't think she'll be able to keep that up. So when we've found a suitable tutor I'll let you know.

Pat's prosaic tongue twister

Si six scies scient six cyprès, six-cent-six scies scient six-cent-six cyprès.

Pat's poetic tongue-twister

Et la mer et l'amour ont l'amer pour partage, Et la mer est amère, et l'amour est amer, L'on s'abyme en l'amour aussi bien qu'en la mer, Car la mer et l'amour ne sont point sans orage. Pierre de Marbeuf

Crown her!

Pat has a dental appointment tomorrow morning. The ultimate test! To speak in French with someone's arm down your throat. The appointment has been made necessary by the spontaneous removal of certain crowns!

tests, tests and more tests

It is official. I cannot tell my nasal vowels from my nasal septum (the little bit that separates your nostrils). I got 9 out of 20 in our test of nasal vowel acuity. 9 out of 20! That's pathetic . That's the mark I get from a certain lecturer who shall be nameless but who always gives me really duff marks! The phonetics lecturer (bless her!) said "Don't worry - your ears will improve!" I wasn't the worst. One person got 2/20 and a round of applause. I was a little bit glad in a way, because I got 17 out of 20 in the dictation test and I was rather worried that she might have thought I had cheated. I told her that I am in "chute libre" (free-fall), but I don't really think I am. I have been using a website that gives you phonetics exercises, but if I am honest I have to use all my creative powers to hear a difference between bon and banc (for example). Let's hope my ears do improve! Strangely I don't have much difficulty understanding

The most homesick Sunday morning yet!

It was a combination of factors: 1) We sang "Quel ami fidele" (What a friend we have in Jesus) to Blaenwern - no. 604 in Arc en Ciel. 2) Patrick read an extract from an article on the effect of the 1904 revival on the South Wales miners 3) We 4 MPEF workers (and kids) had to go and stand at the front while being prayed for, then sing "How great thou art" (referred to in the article) 4) The crunch came when the pastor prayed for the church in the nations, citing Pays de Galles and Angleterre in his prayer.

There was I, waiting at the church (2)