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)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bible in MP3 format (free)


Another (more important) encouragement in this whole language learning thing...

Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Josué 1:9 - Je t'ai donné cet ordre: Prends courage et tiens bon, ne crains rien et ne te laisse pas effrayer, car moi, l'Eternel ton Dieu, je serai avec toi pour tout ce que tu entreprendras.

Starting a new term

This language study lark is very ... discouraging. You don't notice when things go well. You notice every conversation where people say "eh? What?" and every time you have to stop to try and work out how to explain what you mean. And of course you forget that that happens in English, too!

So now and again it is helpful to realise how much progress we have made. And the start of term is like that. It FEELS different starting now. I am not scared of talking. Pat is confident and relaxed in class. The kids are happy and prattle cheerfully with their friends in French.

There is still some distance to go, but now it is possible to believe that we will get there, and even to begin to see the goal in the distance. It feels like we're in the foothills of Kilimanjaro now. All we have to do is climb.

More fuss about the timetable!

Well! What revelations!

It turns out that our phonétique course only lasts 6 weeks - i.e. up to Easter, as does our Friday morning seminar. That means that after Easter Friday ill be free again.

Also it means that if I don't take 20° century novels (i.e. Proust et al) then after Easter Monday afternoon will be free, AND Pat doesn't have to muck about fetching and carrying me on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The cost is that I will not be home on Wednesday mornings when the kids are home. Still - you win some you lose some.

Another advantage is I stick with the same options as last time, when the lecturer who failed almost all my homework then went on to give me 85% and 90% in the exams! (And they're exciting. Those classes are like a roller-coaster ride.)

Starting back

Pat and I arrived in good time for our 9h30 -because we dropped the kids off for 8h30, so I read to her some choice passages from Alain deBotton's book about the benefits of reading Proust (I am trying to psyche myself up...) We particularly like the letter from the American lady living in Italy who said she had devoted the previous three years to nothing else reading Proust when she wrote to him to ask him what it was all about, and the example of one of Proust's long sentences, written in extremely discursive and meandering style, which seemed to stretch on and on over, around, across, up and down the page, leading the reader's eye in ever-drecreasing circles towards a conclusion which never seemed to come, though one longed for it so greatly that full-stops seemed as precious as diamonds, commas like rubies.

It was good to be back in class again. There are 28 of us in 4th degree. This morning in communication we had to introduce ourselves - and it started with me. I don't care any more. I told them about the children. I told them I was a pastor, and after another chap spoke who is a RC seminarian it developed into a discussion of why the French are scared to allow any teaching even of comparative religion or even of the history of religion in their schools. "It's a neurosis!", said the lecturer.

She asked me what I thought of France. "It's cold!", I said. "But Britain is colder", she said. Not Wales. I didn't have to scrape the ice off the car every morning.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The class of 2006

A friend (sat kind of cross legged in the middle) sent me this picture of DEFLE 3° people taken after one of the exams. Posted by Picasa

More from the excellent Mr Edwards... written in 1700s

There is a kind of vail now cast over the greater part of the world, which keeps them in darkness; but then this vail shall be destroyed: Isaiah 25:7. "And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations." Then all countries and nations, even those which are now most ignorant, shall be full of light and of knowledge. Great knowledge shall prevail every where. It may be hoped, that then many Africans and Indians will be divines, and that excellent books will be published in Africa, in Ethiopia, in Tartary, and other now the most barbarous countries, and not only learned men, but others of more ordinary education, shall then be very knowing in religion: Isaiah 32 : 3, 4. "The eyes of them that see shall not be dim; and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge." Knowledge then shall be very universal among all sorts of persons, Jeremiah 31:34. "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them."

Jonathan Edwards,


Thank you Mr Graham J Weeks (christiansquoting.org.uk)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Forgive me, but does this article say anything about the "why" of conservation?


Surely, if the species we see on the world around us (including ourselves) arose by natural selection, with the ultimate reality of death and extinction as the creative driving force of the process of the generation of complexity, then to defy that process and preserve dying species is perverse. What right do we have to interfere?

If, on the other hand, we were made and appointed to care for a world that then fell into death and decay through our fault, then we have a responsibility to defy the destructive process of decay that we see all around and to preserve species when we can.

p.s. just noticed that perverse and preserve are anagrams of each other...

Pat's results

She gave me permission to post this. AB means assez bien (pretty good), B means bien (good), TB means tres bien (very good) Posted by Picasa

H5N1 Bird flu confirmed on French poultry farm


This may be too much detail...

Here's Alan's timetable. Wednesday morning will be free because I have dumped Litterature actuelle in favour of 20th century novel.

Lit act. : Anti-heros and the fascination with the banal in contemporary lit: boredom, depression, inaction, loneliness, the many themes that pose a stylistique challenge. Study of a complete work: Ndiaye. M. Un temps de saison. (sounds just up my street!)

20th century novel: The novel in the 20th century. Proust Du cote de chez Swann, Duras L'Amant. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 24, 2006

Things I like about France - computer parts

We just had to upgrade our family computer. It's a year old, so out of warranty and I could break the seal on the system box.

The hard disk was full (it's all these photos everyone takes) and it was SLOW, because it only had 256 MB of memory.

So I got a hard disk from the supermarket while doing the weekly shop, and 1GB of memory from a computermonger out near the airport. (The supermarket had memory too, but it was too expensive. Strangely the hard disk price was very good!)

And now the computer flies!

A good week

Catrin has had a really good week. It's been like a different girl at a different school. Her teacher said "Oh, you speak a lot of French!" and the headmistress agreed, so that encouraged her too. She even enjoyed volleyball this morning (and she's not the most sporty girl around, our Catrin..) She's impatient to really settle in with friends and stuff, but it's been a good start.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

OK - here's the dilemma with the timetable

Do I drop contemporary literature in favour of 20th century novel? (Oh the crises of this modern age!)

Contemporary literature:

I really enjoy the classes.
I liked the books.
I got good marks for homework from one lecturer and a fail from the other.
The lecturer who failed my homework gave me 17/20 in the exam (85%!) but loads of stress en route, as well as lots of fun.
I have to go in for 2 hours on Wednesday morning, and I have 1 hour (15h30 - 16h30) on Monday afternoon and 2 hours (18h00 - 20h00) Tuesday night.

20th century novel:

We get to read Proust (is that a pro or a con?)
I keep one lecturer from contemporary literature (the calmer one).
I get Wednesday morning off, and I go in for 2 hours (15h30 - 17h30) on Monday and for 3 hours (17h00 - 20h00) on Tuesday night, which is more efficient.
Also perhaps 20th century novel is more what I want to do than contemporary literature.

I think I'll do 20th century novel - because of the more efficient timetable.
I'll still have lots of fun and failure in two other classes.

And I sometimes find French pronunciation hard!

The Chaos.
Gerard Nolst Trenité.
This version is essentially the author's own final text, as also published by New River Project in 1993. A few minor corrections have however been made, and occasional words from earlier editions have been preferred.

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you'll tear;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, hear and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word.
Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it's written).

Made has not the sound of bade,
Say - said, pay - paid, laid but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak,
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
Woven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
Missiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.

From "desire": desirable - admirable from "admire",
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
Peter, petrol and patrol?
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
Discount, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward,
Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation's OK.
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes with Thalia.
Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
Buoyant, minute, but minute.
Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
Would it tally with my rhyme
If I mentioned paradigm?
Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?

Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
Rabies, but lullabies.
Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
You'll envelop lists, I hope,
In a linen envelope.
Would you like some more? You'll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice,
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,
Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with "shirk it" and "beyond it",
But it is not hard to tell
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the A of drachm and hammer.
Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
Cow, but Cowper, some and home.
"Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker",
Quoth he, "than liqueur or liquor",
Making, it is sad but true,
In bravado, much ado.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.
Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
Mind! Meandering but mean,
Valentine and magazine.
And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
Tier (one who ties), but tier.
Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?

Prison, bison, treasure trove,
Treason, hover, cover, cove,
Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn't) with nibbled.
Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.
Don't be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
Evil, devil, mezzotint,
Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)
Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don't mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
Rhyming with the pronoun yours;
Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
Funny rhymes to unicorn,
Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don't want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. Yet Froude compared with proud
Is no better than McLeod.
But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.
Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
But you're not supposed to say
Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.
Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
Episodes, antipodes,
Acquiesce, and obsequies.
Please don't monkey with the geyser,
Don't peel 'taters with my razor,
Rather say in accents pure:
Nature, stature and mature.
Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.

The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.
Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget 'em -
Wait! I've got it: Anthony,
Lighten your anxiety.
The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight - you see it;
With and forthwith, one has voice,
One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does [1]. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,
Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry, fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.
Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
Puisne, truism, use, to use?
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
Put, nut, granite, and unite
Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.
Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
Bona fide, alibi
Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally with ally; yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess - it is not safe,
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
Face, but preface, then grimace,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;
Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.
Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,

Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.
A of valour, vapid, vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
I of antichrist and grist,
Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

Pronunciation - think of Psyche! -
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
Won't it make you lose your wits
Writing groats and saying 'grits'?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington, and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?

Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough?
Hiccough has the sound of sup...
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

[1] No, you're wrong. This is the plural of doe.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Richard Dawkins urged to support churches


Oops! I got it the wrong way round. Silly me.....

Information meeting

Here is the news.

Pat going up

Pat, who is currently reading "Rendevous avec la mort" (Agatha Christie in French) has been promoted to IL5. Her results are on display - but in the secretary's office, which is locked. I shall try and get them tomorrow morning.

Her timetable is exactly the same as last semester.

Alan to be flogged to death

Alan's timetable is bigger, longer, later and now includes every day of the week. However it no longer includes compte rendu or translation from the American. But it will include a larger amount of oral presentations.

I'll still be doing contemporary history (glad about this - we haven't even got to Napoleon yet) but my other options will change.

I'll also have to do a sort of dissertation on some subject of my own choice. I am wondering about something to do with the documents of the French reformation - perhaps "Calvin and the King", exploring the background to Calvin's dedicatory preface to the Institutes, or maybe something more general. It'll have to be "literary", but if I can make it literary, historical and gospel related, then I will.

(My friend from Vietnam helped give me ideas - he suggested in our meeting that he could work on St Augustine, but Augustine was rejected on the grounds of not being French! I thought "yes, but Irenaeus was (sort of), and Martin of Tours certainly was, not to mention the Bernards and ......"

Jonathan Edwards predicts email

and GPS and the Airbus A380, it seems to me!


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Catrin's first day in her new class

went very well.

They DID have to do complicated maths where she didn't entirely know what to do, but the teacher assigned a lad to help her get the hang of it.

She thinks she will be happy in this class, and last Wednesday she spent the afternoon playing with a little girl who lives just round the corner from the school who is now in her class.

So all has gone well today.

Tomorrow will be interesting. Pat and I have information meetings for our next classes at DEFLE - at the same time! 15h30. So we'll have to take the children. They'll be fine - they'll have their Gameboy things and some books to occupy them, but the lecturers may raise an eyebrow or two!

Another Sarlat picture

 Posted by Picasa

Back to school

Everyone happy.

Catrin somewhat apprehensive about the maths in her new class with her own age group. "The teacher times you", she said. Sounds good to me!

She'll be fine. Thanks for praying.

We read Daniel 1 this morning. I wonder what they'll be like in 3 years' time. Not bothered about them being 10 times better than anyone, but I hope and trust they will look back with thankful hearts and acknowledge how God has been their help and strength and given them all they have needed along the way - and that they will trust him for the future, too.

Fascinating statistics about cities


Including those great metropolis of Wrexham and Stevenage, but without Swansea.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Long divisions - French style

In the first we are dividing 1307 into 50990 and in the second dividing 193 into 10274. Posted by Picasa

Just thought I'd tell you

Pat is reading an Agatha Christie in French...

Good eh?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Recordings of many Stuart Olyott messages on CD


A cool sweater

Where my heart is in peace
Where my soul feel no lies
I don't like losing
and dore the wind.

They didn't have it in a size for any of us. Pity. It's a lovely sentiment, don't you think? Posted by Picasa

Bird flu


The French are Europe's largest poultry producers, exporting a great amount.

The government has ordered that all poultry be kept under cover in endangered areas, but often ducks are kept in quite large fields, with no shed available that would be large enough for the whole flock.

Sarlat - the great escape

We got away for two nights. Here is a representative view of Sarlat. All the old town is like this. Ridiculously lovely. We visited the amazing cave paintings at Lascaux, and the chateau at Castelnaud (another way of spelling new castle). Posted by Picasa

Sarlat is almost entirely given over to the consumption of the duck ...

Could be "The midday duck", "The lunchtime duck", "The noontide duck" or (my favourite) "the southern duck". You pays your money and you makes your choice...

(The southern duck sounds best in a strongly northern accent - "tha swthun dwck". Somehow "thah sahthahn dahck" doesn't have the same effect). Posted by Picasa

and the goose

 Posted by Picasa

We escaped for two nights in Sarlat

Sarlat is hopelessly picturesque. Imagine a cross between Bourton on the water and Portmeirion. Beautiful. Posted by Picasa

Outside our window, Saturday morning

We enjoyed hearing the vans arriving and unloading very early on Saturday morning. Posted by Picasa

One queues from the right

and one says "Good day" to the lady!

Got it?

Good! Posted by Picasa

Country sausages

Look up the ingredients in the dictionary, especially faisan, bison, sanglier and ... âne. Posted by Picasa

Any Wensleydale?

This friendly stall-holder sweet-talked us into buying some very nice and rather expensive Cheddar cheese.

She asked what we are doing in France. "I'm a pastor", Alan said. So she told us about the English church that had started in the Dordogne. We have read about it. "All the English people are going", she said.
Posted by Picasa

Castelnaud - stronghold of the 100 years' war

 Posted by Picasa

View from Castelnaud towards Beynac

The next chateau up the river. When Castelnaud was English, Beynac was French, which reduced the amount of travelling required to fight. Who knows, the knights may have even operated a horse pool scheme. The Dordogne river was the border between France and England in those days.
The rivalry between these chateaux forms the setting for Michael Crichton's book 'Timeline'. Posted by Picasa

Castelnaud with seige engines

The castle changed hands about 5 times when the English and French fought for the Dordogne during the 100 years war. The French then controlled the area for the next few centuries until very recently, when the English took back the Dordogne by retiring there in vast numbers. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Things I like about France - the stationery aisle

Probably 50 different fountain pens, all at the cheap end of the range. Effaceurs in blue, black and pink (for rubbing out fountain pen ink and writing your correction over the top). A huge array of every kind of paper except ruled feint and margin.

And - get this - components for the computer! Hard disks, DVD drives, keyboards, mice (mouses?), graphics cards - all sorts!

However not many greetings cards...

Things I like about France - books are cheap

I mean really cheap. The supermarkets stock paperbacks of all sorts of things, from "mills and boon" through to history books, and they are all just a couple of quid.

Christian books are harder to get and more expensive. For those you have to order online or go into town to the Christian bookshop, but you can't have everything.

Things I like about France - la politesse

I know he probably doesn't mean it, and he couldn't care less really, but it is still nice when the man at the Park and Ride wishes you a good evening as he gives you your change. And somehow to say "good day" to the shopkeeper as you walk into the shop feels right (though we still sometimes forget!).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bird flu - lock up your poultry, says the government


Things I like about France - the Euro

Don't get excited. I know the euro caused immediate inflation in France and that if Britain adopted the euro then ... well it is unthinkable.

However there are positive points. For example, euros are smaller than pounds, and so it takes more of them to buy anything, and so everything seems more expensive, and so you don't buy it! Great, isn't it!

For example, our internet connection (broadband, pretty fast) costs about 30 euros a month. That seems HIDEOUSLY expensive to me. However 30 euros is about 20 pounds. That's not so bad.

Again, a Ford Ka here costs 10 140 euros according to www.autoplus.fr. That's extortionate! 10 140 euros for such a small car! But that's just under 7,000 pounds, which seems more realistic.

Great, isn't it! I imagine that after a while we will stop thinking in pounds and start thinking all the time in euros. But it's good while it lasts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The race is well and truly on...


Europe's crisis

But having turned away from Jewish and Christian faith, a Europe based solely upon the Enlightenment cannot long survive. The Europe that is declining in population is a Europe more rational than Europe has ever been, more scientific, less religious, less pious, more mundane, wealthier, more consumerist, more universally close to living etsi Deus non daretur (as if God does not exist). A very large part of the "European crisis" is the crisis of theEnlightenment. On that ground, a civilization cannot be built, a civilization can only burn down to the last waxed threads of its wick.

For the beginning of culture is cult. Apart from the worship of God, human beings cannot in practice (whatever may be said in theory) transcend themselves - not at least, in the large numbers necessary to sustain a civilization. Unless human beings have a vision of something larger than their own natures, and beyond the bounds of their own natures, they cannot be pulled out of themselves; they cannot be inspired; they will not aspire, in the way that Gothic steeples aspire. To be sure, there are secular ways to interpret the word "transcendence": as some potential already within human beings to break their own records, to go beyond what has already been achieved in order to achieve new marks, and the like. But that is not the sort of transcendence on which civilizations are built. Real transcendence is from outside, a new form of life, a new human nature, an uplifting into participation with the divine. This transcendence is known to all religions, and is sensed by many artists. It is a new dimension of the human spirit, which does not spring from human potential, but is given from outside. It is experienced as an uplifting, a newness, a vision and a vitality not within one's own powers to achieve or to deserve. It comes as a gift.

Only the type of transcendence that points to the divine inspires a civilization or a culture, properly so called. Ancient Chinese culture, worldly in its practical Confucian wisdom, aspired to harmony with the stars and the will of Heaven. As yeast lifts dough, so the great religions of the world haveinformed and inspired cultures. A merely secular culture instead reduces human beings to creatures of chance, deprives them of any end for which they have been purposely created, and renders universal moral principles into pragmatic bargains or subjective personal preferences. While it often promotes highly moral living, a secular culture can give few reasons for such living except personal preference, and in ethical practice it frequently borrows a sensibilityand even concepts formed by an earlier religious heritage. The social morals of a secular culture these days tend also to depend on moral credits stored up in the past. Even such supposedly secular values as compassion, liberty, fraternity, and equality sprang first from Jewish and Christian moral commitments, as even Richard Rorty notices - not from Greece or Rome or philosophical source.

(Michael Novak, "Troubled Continent", National Review, February 13, 2006)

Thanks to Graham Weeks, Christians Quoting

Monday, February 13, 2006

Perhaps we British are not SO daft after all?


We celebrated the results with a walk in the park at Gradignan

Such high living! (This is a daim.) Posted by Picasa

Two girls pumping water in a snazzy rotary pump in the park

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Gradignan has a reputation for being rather posh

Certainly the houses and flats near the park all look very nice! Posted by Picasa

The park at Gradignan has lots of different animals

This is a wallaby. Posted by Picasa

Swinging kids

Taking advantage of the holidays at DEFLE, and the school winter hols, some friends came from North Wales for the weekend. It was great to have them here for Catrin's birthday, and it helps them to get a picture of our life here in France. Posted by Picasa

DEFLE results

The results of Pat's tests were not posted up, but Alan's results were. He got:

3100 (Français oral) Mention Bien
3200 (Français ecrit) Mention Bien
3300 (Histoire & Litterature) Mention Très bien

Overall Mention Bien

I don't know yet what I'll end up doing next term - 6 people got Mention bien and 2 got Très bien. So it may be 4th degree next semester, or I could continue at the 3rd degree and try for a higher mention next time. Either is fine, of course. I'm not worried either way.

(I have heard several messages recently on not worrying, so I have decided to put it into practice. Most alarming was the indisputable evidence from America that people who worry die younger. I lost a lot of sleep over that one, I can tell you.)

A bird at the park in Gradignan

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Catrin's Birthday, l'anniversaire de Catrin, penblwydd Catrin

Today Catrin is 9. Isn't that OLD!

She has written a letter to Deeside church thanking them for their support, and here at Floirac the church sang happy birthday to her (after the meeting, of course) in English.

(Muggins here thought people were singing in French. I was so busy thinking, "do you say the person's name when you sing Happy Birthday in French?" that I didn't realise we were all singing in English. I was quite surprised when they told me later.)

I think she has had a good day, today, amidst a nice weekend. Yesterday a couple of friends were here and they had a nice, gentle girlie party.

Inside the little church at Anglade

Just to clarify - it's not a crucifix. It's a plain, empty cross but still draped with tinsel after Christmas. Posted by Picasa

Inside the little church at Anglade

Today was an Anglade Sunday. Here are some pictures of the inside of the building. They are taken without flash, using long exposures, so some people are blurred. Posted by Picasa