Showing posts from April, 2006

Back to school

Well, I was told it was about time I blogged again (Pat here) So here goes.. Back to school after the Easter break. We had a great time, as my brother and his family came to visit. We weren't able to take them anywhere unfortunately, as there are 5 of them and our car isn't big enough. Still, we were able to have them at the house for a bit of nosh. They tried the delights of the Bordeaux tramway! And they took us to a rather scrummy restaurant in the centre: The puds are to die for, the Dolce vita I think. Then back to school for all. Well I always dread the first day back, cos I have this dread of having forgotten absolutely everything!!! However the teacher for that morning (she is great fun and a good laugh) told me that I had made great progress! I then spent the next 20 mins in confusion and fog, as I didn't know what was going on in the lesson..well I got the basics, which of course is important, and you can always look at the person next to you, and find out what y

It reminded me of Cyd adrodd in school

In Phonétique we had to recite together the following, breathing only at the punctuation marks and with the right vowel sounds and with all ' r 's gurgling nicely, thankyou (and preferably without coughing, M. Davey): Le chant de l'eau Là-bas, Le petit bois de cornouillers Ou l'on disait que Melusine Jadis, sur un tapis de perles fines Au clair de lune, en blancs souliers Dansa; Le petit bois de cornouillers Et tous ses hôtes familiers Et les putois et les fouines Et les souris et les mulots Ecoutent Loin des sentes et loin des routes Le bruit de l'eau.

While the kids were away

we consoled ourselves by filling the house with students from the DEFLE and with the younger folk from the church. We had a very nice evening eating pizza, playing charades in French and introducing friends from two different spheres to each other. We hope to do a bit more of this in the future, and to build in more structure and content bit by bit.

Return of the scouts

The kids are back. They had good time, though I think it was tiring and they missed us. We missed them, too, but we are very proud of them and very glad to have them back.

The language lab was playing up today

Sometimes the teacher's mike from this room feeds into the room next door, and vice versa. Sometimes the entire lab picks up the local radio. Today various workstations were starting and stopping at random, and then one started screeching loudly. 

Near the letters library (the building with big letters on the side)

There are lovely pink chestnut trees. 

Part of the campus

And all the planners gathered round the architect's drawing and said " Yes, that'll look really good ! " On the way to the language lab we walk down a dingy, dismal, dark corridor of wooden cupboard doors on which are stuck the remains of 30 years of flyers. It's a dump. Our dustbin is more beautiful. And it's the ART department.

Oh yes! And the letter from Newcastle arrived today

in French, too! So maybe on Tuesday I can scuttle down to the CAF in Bègles and register for family allowance.

Now the good news

A group of us went for lunch and one had to go to the autoteller to get money out. So we went over to the Sirtakis where there is a machine. While we waited and whistled (as you do) I noticed a chap with a handful of little blue diaries. I thought "What a lot of diaries that chap has! I wonder if he is distributing them?" Just then a student went by loudly protesting that he was muslim. "And?", I thought. Then the chap approached a student fairly near me and offered him a blue diary, so I sneaked up to hear. Well they were Gideons (Gédéons), Gideonising the university. So we had the briefest of chats, he gave a New Testament to all in my group and we scuttled off to get our lunch while we could and there discussed thankfulness for food, safe travel etc. One of the group is a believer from Korea. Another is Orthodox from the former Yugoslavia. Another is Russian and we have never talked about these things before. I'll have a look at my Gédéon NT and see if there

Oh boy, that lunch in the smoky room done me bad!

Well, it was VERY smoky. At one point I was aware of being surrounded by clouds of smoke, but when I asked everyone assured me that I was not on fire. Anyway - rough night. Nurse Davey tried to convince me that I should stay in bed today, but if I had I would have missed almost half our phonetics workshop sessions. So I went in. Phonetics didn't go too well. I couldn't hear very well and I couldn't speak very well and I just wanted to go home. Still - I survived. Now all I have to do is make it to Monday and THEN I will spend the day in bed - because we have a BANK HOLIDAY! HURRAH!

Today at the DEFLE

Well, the big event of the morning was our exposé on mai '68. We followed a team of American girls who talked about French cinéma in the 60s and 70s. Then it was us. Me (Brit), Amy (American) and Katia (Russian). Amy has the best French, Katia has the best speaking manner and I have the best ... eye contact. I also had the best jokes, one when I spoke about how the cold war from time to time became somewhat warm, and another when I spoke about the enormous growth in the population of Europe after the war, which in French is called "le baby-boom". (It is, too). I managed to get through my background material without dissolving into a bout of coughing. However I fed Amy the wrong past participle for the dissolution of the National Assembly (it's dissoude). Then while Katia spoke Amy wrote her headings on the board and I scrawled some '68 graffiti. We always get a huge adrenalin rush after these things, so we went for lunch afterwards to the Vera Cruz. Unfortunately


Much improved! Didn't wake coughing last night. Thanks for praying.

April in Bordeaux

I am sure it's the nicest month. Temperatures have now hovered around the low twenties for nearly a fortnight. It's sunny and bright. I had been wondering when to start the mosquito stink machine going. Well - I had my answer last night. We were suddenly invaded by wave after wave of large, fat, thirsty mosquitos. Well, I wasn't. I was perfectly happy and relaxed in my seminar of literature, doing the Francis Shaeffer thing without the gospel ending. But Pat, Fiona and the kids were being systematically exsanguinated. So now the mosquito stink machine is on and, hopefully, working. Seminar of literature? Francis Schaeffer without the gospel? Yes! It is like the Schaeffer films all over again! Last night we were "doing Camus" (no final s here by the way) and the lecturer very carefully explained that Camus is trying to find a way for man to be man without God, and for it to be worth something to be man even though it means nothing without God in the picture. Are

Hurrah! Phinatuque again!

On Monday, the CPE having been repealed, the students voted to unblock the university and allow things to resume their normal course of events. For most people this has few implications, because the university year is over now and the exams have been postponed. But for us it means we can get into the phonetique labo again to catch up on the sessions we have missed. We need to catch up 10 hours of labo. We have four hours this Friday, four hours the next, then two hours.

I've got this cough

It's the remains of the cold I caught from the kids. It's not that bad. During the day it's OK unless I try and do something stupid, like talk too much. (You could see that as good really - after all, as I often ponder, we have two ears and one mouth and that should tell us something). But it's at night that it becomes a problem because I wake once, perhaps twice during the night to cough. And of course that means Pat wakes too. If it hasn't significantly improved by Sunday (i.e. at least one night without waking to cough) then I will go and see a doctor next week - probably Tuesday because Monday is a bank holiday. In Britain the doctor would tell me that after a chest infection it takes a long time for my asthma to settle and to use my Ventolin three times a day till it clears and it may take a fortnight to settle. So I am using my ventolin three times a day..

A pity

Gwilym's closest friend at school, Damien, moves across the river tomorrow. He will also be moving school. Their farewell was very touching.

Yesterday was "tell Alan horror stories" day

Horror stories about preachers' mistakes in French, that is.... For example, the chap who picks up "street french" expressions and drops them into his sermons without first finding out if they are terribly vulgar or not. (They are) Along with other stories too terrifying to share with you. I shall definitely use a word for word script to start off. And get it checked for vulgarisms.

An easter song

ALL shall be well! for on our Easter skies see Christ the Sun of Righteousness arise. All shall be well! the sacrifice is made; the sinner freed, the price of pardon paid. All shall be well! the cross and passion past; dark night is done, bright morning come at last. All shall be well! within our Father’s plan death has no more dominion over man. Jesus alive! rejoice and sing again, ‘All shall be well for evermore, Amen!’ Timothy Dudley-Smith, b. 1926 © Author Taken from Christian Hymns II ( I notice that Bishop Dudley-Smith was born in the same year as the Queen.)

Closure of the Peugeot plant at Ryton

You need to realise that the work isn't coming to us.

More from Tim

Soon I shall be on the dark side of the DEFLE and entering blogging silence. So while I can I am stocking up on some reading for you. This from Tim Challies. Always stimulating. Firstly an old one. 31 Days of Wisdom . What about it? Instead of 40 days of purpose what about 31 Days of Wisdom . A chapter from Proverbs every day for a month. You could do a lot worse than to use Gary Brady's book on Proverbs, available from Evangelical Press. Secondly, Tim makes some good points about our response to the movie industry.

Hodgson the hedgehog

Wanders round the house about lunchtime, but he hasn't been seen since Pat's family were here last Saturday. 

Cutting Catrin's hair

Yes, I layered it! No, please don't tell Auntie Penny!

Hooray! Salad days are back!

For months the lettuces have been small and expensive. As much as a euro each. Sometimes more! Now the big ones are back - 3 for 1€50 (about 30 pence each?) and huge, luscious cucumbers at 90 centimes. On the way round the supermarket I reran some of the conversations from the prayer meeting on Wednesday evening. We were talking at one point about ministers and how hard it is to keep them in good condition. I said, I fear, "They're not an easy animal to butcher!". Well, if the cap fits. At present I am too embarrassed to look it up and be sure, but I shall find a good saying to use and that right early! 

The ex-pat information sources are very useful

For example, this from the Telegraph:

Enough impertinence! Here's someone's blog's advice on study

And here's what happened when we took our Oregon friends to the Dune de Pyla


the kids jumped off


so did some of the adults


they climbed back


Dana and the kids signed their CD

I hope she doesn't see this before they are safely over the other side of the world, or I am in BIG trouble.

Have I NEVER mentioned Bill Lollar before? Sorry!

On non-Biblical standards

The Bible is a great liberating book. It gives me God's will for my life and frees me from man's notions. What do I mean and why am I saying that? Well because it is easy to surrender your conscience, your peace and your joy to all sorts of crazy ideas because they sound right. For example (and I choose a MILD one just to get you thinking), ministers are often told that they should always be the first person out of bed in their house so that they can pray for the family while they are still asleep (the family asleep, the minister praying...) But the Bible doesn't say that. It's not in the pastoral epistles. It is not there. Now it just so happens that I usually am the first up. But that's just because I am very mornings and no use in the evening. My wife is hopeless in the morning but has endless energy in the evening. But sometimes I am not first up. If I have preached at a church 5 hours' drive away and arrived home in the wee hours I am the last up the next d

What about Deeside church?

The day we were commissioned to come to France, Martin Downes was formally recognised and appointed as the new pastor. We left for France on 4 September. Martin started at Deeside on 1 September. We just rejoice at God's kindness, providence and goodness. Over the past few days we have had a number of different messages from folks at Deeside; by e-mail, telephone and letter, and all are so encouraging. It's a source of great joy that things are going well. I remember years ago at one of our houseparties talking to our speaker and talking about how I felt about the Deeside folk. "Of course", he said, "think of 3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. " Yes. Of course. I have always resisted making any comment whatsoever in the past. It's impertinent, to say the least, for former ministers to comment on the "new regime"! So I hope you will forgive this posting, aware that silence can be as eloquent

Could there be more to this than meets the eye? . . . . No....

The springtime conference season

Pray for pastors' conferences just now. Among many :- Over in the east of France at Belley the Colloque Biblique Francophone is taking place as I type. My heart is with them, but that's all. It's really hard to get to by public transport and I don't feel I can leave the family without the car at the moment. Hiring a car is too expensive. I hope to go next year. In the next few weeks the Banner of Truth conference will be meeting. I think this conference has had an amazing unifying effect as a rallying point for reformed pastors. Again my heart will be very much with them, but my ears and the rest of me will be back in the language school.

Some podcasts I listen to using iTunes

1) 10th Presbyterian Church's podcast 2) AudioBible in French 3) Desiring God radio 4) Discovering Music , from the BBC 5) Des papous dans la tête , from France Culture 6) From our own correspondent , from the BBC (I am a long-time fan) 7) In our time , from the BBC 8) St John Newland sermon podcast That's a lot, so obviously I don't listen to them all every week. I pick and choose. Many of these can be heard without using iTunes by using, for example, the "listen again" feature on the BBC radio website. And Radio 7 recently rebroadcast an entire series of Dick Barton!

Mark of a true Easter message

Mark Dever of "9 Marks ministries" has this article in Christianity Today .

Planning the liturgie

I met with our pastor yesterday because we were the liturgie team for this week. That meant choosing readings and songs to support the message to be preached. During the Good Friday service there had been readings from John's gospel, and the sermon was to be on Thomas and his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, so we decided that we would read John 20, breaking up the reading with hymns and songs to reflect the growing certainty and joy in the chapter. Before we worked on that he said "Now you're finished at the language school, yes? and OK to preach in May?" I can understand him thinking that, because the university term is finished now. All that remains is exams. But not for us! We still have six weeks of term, then I have exams the first full week of June. This is important for us because someone has predicted a great leap forward in language ability around Easter. We refer to this as our own Easter miracle, and we await it with urgency. So preaching in June.

Bordeaux's gorgeous Pont de Pierre

Bordeaux looked gorgeous today. 

Place de la Bourse

Bordeaux's gorgeous waterfront, complete with its three graces fountain. One of the three graces is Queen Victoria. 

We were able to meet up with Pat's brother and family

after a false start! Both children are fighting off colds at the moment - and first thing in the morning they get up with sore throats and fairly nasty fevers. By lunchtime they are pretty good, however, so we met Nigel and co. mid-afternoon on the waterfront. We had never walked along to the hangars before. It's very pleasant. 

Place Gambetta

Park? Roundabout? It's a nice place to eat a picnic lunch. 

Look who I bumped into

It's Pat's brother, Nigel, and her niece, Rachel. The whole family is staying in a hotel somewhere beyond Chartrons. We hope to meet up on Easter Sunday afternoon, children's health permitting (they all have colds!)

Sappers and pumpers

We have been inundated with an email asking about the sappers and pumpers. The firemen here are called "sapeurs et pompiers" and they do all sorts of useful things. They turn up at car crashes. They do first aid. And they persuade people clingfilmed to traffic lights to go home. They have these really impressive big red vans that say "emergency service for the injured and asphyxiated", as well as fire engines, of course.

Eating lamb wraps at the Good Friday service

The evening began with a film for the kids of Exodus and the passover. Then an interval for the lamb wraps (no spinach). Then readings from John's passion narrative interspersed with hymns and songs and finishing with a brief talk on the difference between the word "accomplish" in the Sermon on the Mount and in "It is accomplished".

A busy Bordeaux shopping street


Velosolex in Bordeaux

It's the second bike thingie in the queue . They're wonderful things. I heard it from round the corner because the engine is so LOUD! It appears that the engine is only really any good for "cruising". When the lights changed this young chappie started pedalling like mad, though his engine was running the whole time.

What an exciting day!

First in on the 9am bus to the prefecture to change the address on my car registration papers. There's no point going earlier because they reserve the early morning for small businesses. So the bus set me down at the bus stop ( Préfecture ). But could I see it? That bit of Bordeaux is all big offices - so I got out my map. Now if this street is, and if that junction is ... Well after walking completely round the block I saw a sign for the prefecture and followed it. Then tried to enter through the policeman's entrance, went round the block again to find the public entrance, opened my bags for the nice police-lady to check for bombs and followed the signs saying carte grise. This is what you have to do: 1) go to the front of queue A to get a numbered ticket 2) go to the back of queue A to chat about popping to the toilets, about how many people were in front of you (103), about how you should have brought a picnic and to wait to - 3) get your documents checked at reception. This

A reminder to look at

Well, so far so good

The admin things to do list is being dealt with one by one: Telephone company - I hope (!) I did this on their client services website this morning. Project for independent funding for the student centre almost ready to submit. Papers all ready for the prefecture in the morning, en route to the lunchtime prayer meeting. Form en route from Newcastle for child benefit. All that will remain is to contact the Tresor Public - either tomorrow afternoon or Friday. Then - homework. 1) A shortish (5 page) dossier on Oulipo, and the way that Georges Perec used Oulipo techniques in his two big novels La Disparition and La vie mode d'emploi . I think I am pretty well ready to do this now. 2) A 10 minute talk to prepare on the context and causes of the May 1968 "insurrection". Again, I think I have the basic material ready - it's just a question of organising it. 3) A 5 page dossier to begin on the book Cabinet Portrait by Benoziglio. As yet I am not sure what the lecturer wants

Today praying for pastors along the lines of

Joshua 1:7-9 - Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 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. and 1 Timothy 4, especially 11 - 14 - Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

It looks like being a Sarko / Sego race

David Field was away for a while

It is good to have him back. and don't miss:

Lunchtime visitor

about 8 inches long. Plenty big enough to eat the lizards. I hope he doesn't eat the praying mantis, that's all.. 

Special season of prayer meetings

The church is holding lunchtime prayer meetings at the centre near the town hall 12-2 Monday to Thursday. However, it takes us an hour to get into town, by bus then tram, so I hope to go in on Thursday, combining it with my visit to the prefecture. Meanwhile I am praying specially for pastors, (having been one, I know they need prayer) in the vein of Matt 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest and Isaiah 40 (renewing strength). I was going to write more about this, but I think that's enough. And a bit of encouragement on the old language front - I was talking with a couple the other day. He is French, she is married to a frenchman (him!) and has lived in France since time immemorial. They both said they have real difficulty with tu / vous . She because she finds it hard to switch from the one to the other. He because he finds it hard to remember who he says vous to and who he says tu to. I was so encouraged. Perversely so. OK, those things

Another admin job done - I think....

This one was filling in the form for joining the health service and sending it off. I confess that it is still a bit baffling. For example, for people coming to France from a EU country we are supposed to attach a photocopy of our identity card. But we Brits don't have them. Aha! So they've got our passports and birth certificates instead. Also do I want to join the retirement scheme? Frankly I would rather not. But I think I have to, as part of my responsibility to the collectivity: as a working man I am supposed to help pay the pensions of those who are retired, from whose past work I benefit. Anyway, it's done. Next job - the telephone company, to stop paying for unlimited calls to Britain. We don't use it enough and it's too expensive. We'll join TalkTalk instead in the hope of getting free internet access one day. Then the Prefecture. A word that strikes terror into my heart! It's at the Meriadeck centre somewhere. I hope there's a map on the intern

Who can that be?

I emerged from a small room to hear sounds of jollity, laughter and friendship. Pat on the phone. Who could it be? Family? Friends? A team member here? No, it was the Social Security Centre for Overseas Residents in Newcastle. After a very jolly phone call and, apparently, a stiff whisky?, our form will be put in the post for us today. Good oh, what?

Our children were kidnapped

by an international kidnapping gang, the leader of which is known on 9 continents. Strangely, after just one night, the gang agreed to return the children without any ransom, and the exchange was made in the Watermill Park at Gradignan, near the wallabies. 

I get so fed-up - shouldn't really!

We tried to register for child allowance again this morning. Last time was just before Christmas. I took the forms then, and they told me that I had the wrong kind of declaration de ressources , and that I had to use a certain form. Anyway, I got the form and realised that it was very similar to the UK tax form, so after doing my tax return I filled it in. But term had started again! Sadly, because of constraints of time it is not possible to go to the office while we are at DEFLE or while the kids are at school. You have to queue to be seen. Today I had opportunity to go back to the office. This is what you have to do. 1) check the forms 2) look at the map to plan your route to the office in Bègles 3) get lost 4) stop and look at the map again 5) take roads at random until you see the Bègles child benefit office in the distance 6) enter your name into the computer queueing system 7) help some French people to enter their number into the computer queueing system 8) wait to be called to

Bye-bye CPE

The CPE is gone. That means that in theory the University should reopen on Monday - except that it's Easter holidays. And the University year has ended. But the good news is that we should be able to have our extra catch-up phenotuques laboratory sessions from now on - they should unblock the doors to the language labs. And I really need my phinateques sessions!

Après-culte palm Sunday


One thing about church in France is that it takes a long time to get in and out

because everyone has to greet everyone else. There's a lot of milling around to do. 

Before the meal the children practiced one of these up, down, left, right songs


A convivial meal followed the service