Showing posts from November, 2005

Who's Carol?

Yesterday we got our marks for our "stylistique" test. Mine weren't brilliant, but I got a safe pass. But the lecturer whispered to me "Are you learning French for your work?" "Yes, I'm a pastor" "What will you be doing? "Working with the evangelical reformed churches of the Gironde" "Oh, then do you know Carol?" It wasn't Carol Liddiard. This Carol was a student at the DEFLE last year and is in her 40s. Who is she? What's she doing now? If you know, tell me.

It's only to be expected

Yesterday morning Gwilym had a sore throat, but he still went to school. (Good man!) Yesterday evening his glands were up. Today he has been fairly unwell. (No school today anyway.) I can't imagine he'll bounce back ready for tomorrow. They've both been unwell more than usual, but then we're in a foreign country. The bugs are different. It's almost bound to happen. He fell asleep at about 4h30 on his bed with one of the certificates he got from his old school in his hand. Things like that make us homesick and sad - but it's all part of it. We're in transition. In just a little while everything will be much better, and God will help us all through it.

Bon courage, Madame la Directrice!

  We see the headmistress on Friday. I suddenly remembered that we have Catrin's "Welsh speaker of the week" certificates from year 3 at Ysgol Croes Atti. Proof positive that Catrin has done this language learning thing before. 

This shows the corridor better

  just outside the lecture theatre. I can catch the lecture I missed tomorrow morning (as long as the circulation isn't perturbed again). 

There was one student in the corridors

  perhaps he was late, too. 

Some views of the DEFLE

  I arrived late one morning (grand perturbations in the circulation), too late to go into my first lecture, so I took some pictures of the DEFLE. They're just with my phone, so don't expect too much! 

Random jottings!

1) Scooters. Have I talked about scooters before? They are EVERYWHERE, zipping round like mad little bees. Even really old ones, like Velosolex and those old Peugeot ones that you have to pedal. 2) Weather. We are back to typical Gironde weather. It's either raining or about to rain! 3) Phonétique. This morning was the beginning of the complexities of the liaison system and nasal vowels. It is important because it enables you to distinguish easily between: Jeanne est là. Jean est là. J'en ai là. 4) WIFI. The campus has WIFI and I have about an hour to wait before my next class (Stylistique) so while the lion is sleeping I will listen to some White Horse Inn radio, I think. Jolly useful, this WIFI! 5) Pat struggles on with her class. She finds it hard when she doesn't understand everything. (Me, I'm a pastor. I am WELL USED to not understanding everything.)

Compte rendu test

I know some people just long for news of compte rendu. (saddos!) We just had a test. We had to summarise a text talking about the deadly heatwaves in France and in Chicago and about protecting the elderly. The summary ought to have 130 words. Good news: I understood the text. I knew about the subject matter. I hit the word target. Bad news? We await the scores next week.

Uncertainty about the future of the planet

Psalm 96 10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity." (ESV) Psaume 96 10 Proclamez aux nations que l'Eternel est roi! Aussi le monde est ferme, il n'est pas ébranlé. Dieu juge avec droiture les peuples de la terre. (Semeur) Salm 96 10 Dywedwch ymhlith y cenhedloedd, "Y mae'r Arglwydd yn frenin"; yn wir, y mae'r byd yn sicr ac nis symudir; bydd ef yn barnu'r bobloedd yn uniawn. (BCN)

Real freedom in the ancient middle-east?

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (ESV) Les juges 21:25 En ces temps-là, il n'y avait pas de roi en Israël. Chacun faisait ce qu'il jugeait bon. (Semeur) Barnwyr 21:25 Yn y dyddiau hynny nid oedd brenin yn Israel. Yr oedd pob un yn gwneud yr hyn oedd yn iawn yn ei olwg ei hun. (BCN)

The tram stop by the cathedral


The student welcome centre (FAC)


The open air ice rink at Bordeaux


Looking towards the Cathedral from the steps of the Musee d'Aquitaine


A torc from our celtic forbears


Catrin and Andrew at the Musee d'Aquitaine


Phil and Andrew at the airport on the way home

  Phil and Andrew Harman came from Deeside to visit this weekend. We took them to the airport after church this morning. 

A service on the car, free of charge

Well we know now that this warranty till 2008, service included, is good and works. The car went to M. Ducasse, who duly offered me his arm to shake and serviced the car. I went to get it at 3h30, but it wasn't ready because they had to make out a dossier for it. M. Ducasse said to come back at 6h00. "But my children!", I said, "I have to get them from school". So he invited me to pull his ears and loaned me a partly-red Citroen ZX, of uncertain age. It was diesel and I managed to get it started despite a lack of glowplugs. Then we managed to get the shopping in the boot despite it not opening, and we managed to get the kids from school despite there being no power steering. Some of those roundabouts are really small! In fact it was quite nostalgic for me, we once had one very similar which we hated. I got our car back at 6h00, there was nothing to pay and it was a "completely normal service". The receptionist asked me what I thought of the ZX. I said


Today we had to read a report of a British study that established that penguins do not fall over backwards when a helicopter passes overhead. We then had a test of "transcription orthographique", where you have to listen to a passage read on tape and write it out "perfectly". Thankfully you can use a dictionary, though there isn't a huge amount of time. It has been revealed that I lack one nasal vowel, and have been substituting another for it. I have spent almost all afternoon saying "vacances dans un an". Also I have a distressing tendency to lose my terminal "r". "Vacances en voiture dans un an!"

School update

Pat bumped into the head today. Meeting arranged for lunchtime 2 December.


On Sunday evening the Annual General Meeting of the student group was held, and I met all our officers, some for the first time. Among these last was our secretary, a lady named Rhian who is a Welsh speaker, teaches English in a school like Gwilym & Catrin's, and whose children go to G & C's school. One child is in Gwilym's class! She lives in Pessac and I was parked at Pessac, so I had a lift there with her and we spoke Welsh all the way. I was pleased to find I still could. I didn't ask her advice about our little scholastic matter, but I may do some time.

The Public Gardens


Couple with hats in Public Gardens


Here comes the tram


Man with beret on Velosolex


Public Gardens, Bordeaux


When was the National Eisteddfod in Bordeaux?

  The Gorsedd circle in the Public Gardens. 

Pat and the DEFLE

We have chatted through whether the DEFLE is the best approach for Pat - whether she would do better with one to one conversation classes. Here are the reasons we are sticking with the DEFLE. 1) It is working. Pat's French is better now than it was when we arrived. 2) It is enjoyable. Pat does like the course. 3) It is cheap and paid for. Well - that's a consideration! 4) It is great for meeting people. One to one, you just meet one. At the DEFLE Pat is meeting with people from all over the world.

A bit more on Pat and Alan's courses

The courses at the DEFLE vary quite widely. There are three strands of course that they run, from IL (Initiation a la langue) through the 3 degrees of diploma, through to a certificate for teaching French as a foreign language. Pat is in IL4 - in that class they have a conversation-based approach, using a method and a grammar but essentially talking about all sorts of subjects. From time to time they do exercises in the language lab on pronunciation or on grammar (change these statements into the past). Pat MAY have exams at the end of the course. She will certainly have the TEST to do for admission to the second term next February. Alan is in a diploma class, and there we have a variety of subjects that we study, though the depth varies greatly. There are compulsory subjects relating to written and spoken French: Compte Rendu (summarising a speech), Translation from English, Civilisation, Phonetique, Communication, Stylistique (use of language in poetry etc.) and Grammaire. Then there

Scholastic update

After Tuesday's little crisis ... nothing has happened. Catrin went into school happily on Thursday and Friday. Friday there was a trip to a local forest, which seemed to have gone OK. Pat has exchanged the time of the day with the headmistress but we haven't been given a time to meet up. If nothing is forthcoming on Monday I will ask on Tuesday when we can see her. The school culture is quite different here from in Britain. It is much more like school when I was a kid. For example teachers here do use the "You are no good and you'll never get anywhere" method of encouragement, they also use physical punishment and the kids are encouraged to sort out their own problems of bullying etc. It all reminds me of when I was a kid. Strangely, for years I have argued that things were better when I was young than they are now. I think I may have been wrong!

Wales, pivot of world history

Today in Contemporary History we got to the start of the French Revolution, and I was all agog waiting to hear what role the Welsh had played in the unfolding of events. The answer is precious little, it seems - though we almost concluded that the Scots had been involved. It was about the role of the sans-culottes, the ordinary folk of Paris in those days. One South-East-Asian friend wondered if they were nicknamed the sans-culottes because they fought nude, and it reminded me of the Scots habit of wearing no trousers on ceremonial occasions, and of the man who informed us that when charging into battle the Highland warriors would even fling off their plaid and fight simply in their shirts. That brings us to the Camisards.

Gwilym's homework

One of the great things about this language learning lark is that we are in it together, and that means I get to do something I have hardly ever done before - help Gwilym with his homework. It's a mixed blessing. For example: 1) We had to do some long divisions tonight. Now the French do them differently from the British, and I don't know the French way and Gwilym doesn't remember the British way! So I got the pastor to show me the French way tonight and I THINK I understand it.... 2) Grammar. It just so happens that Gwilym's class is shadowing mine in grammar - so last week we were pondering the compliment of the direct object, and this week Gwilym has been doing just that self-same thing. This is both encouraging and humbling. After all, he is 10! 3) Conjugation. This is even more humbling. On Monday some of us were reflecting on the passe simple, and one girl, a French degree student, said "What's the point of learning that - you never have to use it, only b

Fiona arrives next week!

  and this is the view from one of the windows of her flat. The flat is within spitting distance of the student centre (and so it's near the tramlines and so on). Fiona has a masters in French and will "hit the ground running"! 

Small scholastic crisis!

Episode 1. Catrin comes home from school at lunchtime saying that her English teacher has said that she is very cross with her, that nobody is pleased with her, that she is not making progress and that she will never learn to speak French. (Remember we only have Catrin's report of this!) Episode 2. Lunchtime spent explaining to Catrin that this is a tactic some teachers use to encourage you to prove them wrong - and also spent encouraging her to face the teacher when she has English again that same afternoon. Episode 3. Pat delivers Catrin and Gwilym to school after lunch and the headmistress tells Pat that we need to meet up to discuss Catrin. She'll arrange an appointment. Episode 4. Catrin comes home explaining that she didn't go to English this afternoon because nobody came to collect her. It's funny - it's only a blip, and writing about it helps you to see that, but it's these things that make you lose sleep as you ponder the misery of boarding schools, the

The big student cafe opposite the DEFLE


More on Islam in France

Here's the temple at Anglade

  Anglade is in the Blaye region, and this church was built about 100 years ago. Here we are arriving for the service. People say that the chap in the hat looks like Francois Mitterand. You may say that. I simply could comment on it either way. 

Here's our preacher

  looking happy and relaxed after the end of the service. 

Our preacher this afternoon

  Alfred Mbambou preached on the parable of the weedy field / wheat and tares from Matthew 13 

The inside of the cute little church at Anglade

  You can see that it is very attractive and in good order. 

The Sunday School at Anglade

  These children were busy learning Scripture verses set to simple melodies 

Looking for accommodation (again!)

Our mentor is looking for accommodation for the fourth member of our team here in Bordeaux, who is due to arrive on 24th November. Now the current time of unrest is actually quite a good time to look. Why? Because it accentuates the difference between the good streets and the rough ones. For example there's a flat available near the market between Victoire and the station. What's the street like? Well today it was clear that people had been out last night setting fire to the bins. That one can be crossed off the list!


You would think that when we learn something we would make progress proportional to the effort we put in, after considering things like health, flair, etc. Of course, it's not true. Instead we learn in fits and starts, with many periods of stagnation which are often nicknamed plateaux. It's good to remember this because from time to time you struggle away and feel as if you are flogging a dead horse for nothing. It's not true. It's only a plateau, and it is important not to get discouraged but just to plug away until things start to work again. Two examples not related to French - It took me three goes to get the idea of statistics! I could do the formulas and equations and get the right answer but I just did not understand what on earth I was doing - until it all clicked on the third time through. Three tries for a Welshman, they say. The other example comes from learning the flute. There were times when a piece wouldn't come together at all. So we (teacher and I)

Being Welsh

I said in our last letter that I had become Anglo-saxon. Well there is one person here who is very aware that I'm not Anglo-saxon, and that's our history lecturer. In fact I think this week's session was the first one where he did not mention the Welsh and their pivotal role in world history*. And every time he mentions the Welsh he gives me a kind of conspiratorial grin. (He isn't Welsh himself, is he?) It seems that although it was the Welsh archers who won the battle of Agincourt for the English (witness Flewelyn in Henry V), and it was the Welsh who were the first inhabitants of France (well - I may be stretching his point about the gallois celts and the gaulois celts just a little...), it appears that we had very little to do with the build-up to the French Revolution. I look forward to our re-entry into world affairs when we discover that the cannon on Victory were made in foundries in Merthyr Tydfil or something... (Perhaps he'll mention Jemima Whatsername,

The lake on the way to Carrefour

  Don't get too envious - behind those trees is a big cement factory, and where I am standing I am ankle deep in rubbish!