Showing posts from September, 2006

The English class

Well, what progress! My group have really pretty good English, so we are working on fine tuning their pronunciation and their choice of vocabulary and expression. We read together from the Bible each week. Last week it was Psalm 23. This week Philemon. Then maybe there are issues relating to the meaning of the passage to discuss, and matters of vocabulary etc. Then we have a grammar spot. This week we have begun looking at phrasal verbs (like to get up, to get ill, to get over it, to get your own back, etc. etc.) And we have a pronunciation spot. Last week we set ourselves the ambitious goal of being able to pronounce the thing without any z or s sounds. I told them to put their tongues at the tip of their teeth and their fingers on their Adam's apple, and to then voice for the and blow for thing . And believe it or not, this week they can do it! So this week's project is initial h and terminal s . And the tricky word of the week is hearts . Do please pray for the folks in

A quote from Montesquieu painted on a building in the city centre

I would believe myself the happiest of mortals if I could make it that men could heal themselves from their prejudices.

The Bordeaux town hall

Hotel de Ville, housed in the Palais Rohan. Just round the corner from our student centre. 

Today I ate a jesuit, but I didn't eat the nun

A jésuite is a kind of custard pie with icing sugar on the top. It actually looked to me like a slice of pizza or something! I couldn't tell what it was, so I bought it and ate it for lunch! A religieuse (a nun) is a kind of cross between a chocolate or coffee eclair and a cottage loaf. That is, it's two little choux buns, one on top of the other, filled with either cream or custard and topped with chocolate or coffee. I think actually a nun is probably nicer than a jesuit. But there we are. Everyone has 20/20 hindsight.

Maps of gospel witness in France

The first map shows the number of evangelical churches of any description per department. The second shows the number of churches per 10 000 inhabitants in 1970 The third shows the number of churches per department that belong to the FEF (kind of like Affinity) The fourth shows the number of churches per 10 000 inhabitants in 2004. 1 gospel church per 10 000 people has been assumed as a reasonable kind of level of gospel witness.. It shows firstly how much progress has been made since 1970! But then, think of the number of churches in your town/county in Britain (I think of Flintshire) to remind you of the enormous amount of work that remains to be done here.


Today the kids went to school somewhat disgruntled. For Gwilym it was his first day back after his absence due to his cold. For them both it was the day when they stay for skool dinners, this because Pat has only an hour for lunch, from 12h30 to 13h30. Well we expected a phone call from the school to go and get Gwilym - but it never came. And guess what - they liked a decent proportion of their lunch. It was: Melon: Both like melon Sausage: Gwilym liked it. Catrin didn't. She ate half. Green stuff: Neither liked it. Unusual, Catrin usually likes green stuff. Chocolate yoghurt: Both liked it. Chocolate tarte: Gwilym ate it. Catrin didn't. Result! Also Pat is really enjoying her class. She has one of my old lecturers from last year, and another lecturer who is really good, and she feels she is making good progress. ( And it's only the second week, and she's missed almost half her classes through the kids' illnesses!)

Well if it's not the one it's the other

The start of the school year means the kids go down with BUGS. Gwilym - l'angine (sore throat and cough) Catrin - conjunctivite (you can work that one out) Gwilym - enrhumé (grotty cold) Poor Pat - she's been kind of part-time at the DEFLE so far. Still, if last year is anything to go by, things do settle down! Other kids are sick, too. And some people put it down to Bordeaux' damp climate - notoriously injurious to children's health!

A list of French expressions (let the reader beware!)

beware because there'll be dodgy ones!

One Year Bible

It's hard to have good habits, but the One Year Bible really helps because it makes it as easy as possible to read through the Bible in a year. It gives you four readings - OT, NT, Psalm and Proverbs, and I like that kind of balance. * I am sure it could be improved on, but it is still very good. It's available in French, but as far as I know only in the Français Courant, which is a bit like the Good News Bible. I've ordered a little supply of a booklet in French that gives you the One Year Bible readings suitable for popping into any translation you prefer. This website gives you similar divisions, using the Louis Segond 1910 translation. They'll also send you the readings in an e-mail each day. This is especially good for me, because I also have the MP3 files of the Louis Segond, so I can hear and read at the same time. Good, eh? The website linked to by clicking on the title above makes it as easy for a

Yes, but how did the Bible study go?

I didn't want to put anything on here before getting some feedback on last Thursday's Bible study. The upshot seems to be that it went ok. Phew. Thanks, Father!

Can you see what it is, yet?

Can you see it at all? When a large public building is put up in France a proportion of the cost must be put aside to commission a work of art . I think it may be as much as 2%. When they built the Bordeaux 3 university buildings you see here an artist put these special white rocks all over the courtyard. I noticed them for the first time today, just over a year since I came here!

People get married at the town hall

This wedding party was making its very noisy way down the road outside the student centre. 

Quick update

Pat - in fine fettle! She likes nothing more, I think, than nursing the children. She and Catrin have done lots of things today. Catrin writes long stories and Pat has been helping her prepare one to send off to someone. Gwilym - also in fine fettle. He had a nasty cough and lost his voice on Wednesday (it's an ill wind!) but he was fine by teatime. Catrin - conjunctivitis clearing up nicely, with the help of two types of drops, medicine to take and eye patches! She'll be back to school on Monday. Me - I am OK, though finding it all a struggle. Well, no - finding the language a struggle. I struggle on the phone. I struggle taking the Bible study. I struggle writing letters and e-mails. I sign things knowing that there's no way I could read or understand everything on every page. Thankfully the banks provide English translations, but they are non-contractual. Mind you, would I understand all the small print in Britain? Still, I just took a quick dose of a Bach motet "Fü

A rather natty trompe l'oeil

While waiting for the bus I saw this building again. It's really a grotty concrete warehouse with a nasty tin roof, but they've painted this neo-classical façade on the front and I think it works very well. (The trees are real)

NOW they tell me

You can't imagine what the dictionary came up with for "deep conditioning hair mask"...

You know I said the rocade was clogged with lorries?

Well yesterday I went to get Gwilym from football practice. NIGHTMARE! The rocade was clogged. The side roads were clogged. Everything was clogged everywhere. Emergency vehicles and breakdown trucks were struggling through the tangled traffic. Gwilym took some pictures of the lorries on the other side of the road. There were hundreds of them, many of them car transporters. Roll on the house-move!

Pessac town hall

Some time ago when I was waiting for Gwilym to come out of school I was taken with the reflection of the Pessac church in the glass of the town hall. 

Some photos of the church weekend

This was after the meal after the Sunday service. Sammy, the pastor, is the guy in the tie.

More pictures of the church weekend

The Floirac people travelled up to Blaye for the service, so there were more people at the service and at the meal than would normally be at either venue. (Because I was not using flash sometimes people are blurred because they moved)

An illustration of the difficulties of translation

by the way, I'm leading the Thursday night Bible study at the centre this evening and until further notice (at least assuming this evening goes OK, I imagine!). Luke 16:19-31

They're closing the bullring at Floirac

to build houses. We really are that near Spain. You see lots of black bulls on the back of cars. You see lots of Basque flags (it looks like the union flag but in red and green). You get these bandas , which are more Spanish than French, really. And bullfighting - not like the Camargue bullfights where you have to get ribbons off the bulls' horns. Spanish style bullfighting, where you do nasty things to the bull. And there's a lot of manana about, too.

The second mortgage offer has arrived!!

Now then - the comparison. With UCB/Paribas we would have a variable rate of 3.4%, but the T.E.G. is 5.39% With CA/Britline we would have a fixed rate of 4.6%, but the T.E.G. is 5.5091% The repayments are really quite close, at least after the first three months. (UCB give you 50 quid off for the first three months). The cost of credit with CA/Britline is actually less than with UCB/Paritas. Thankfully with each mortgage offer they give you a forecast of what you should be paying each month right up to the end (assuming that the interest rates don't change), so it makes it quite easy to compare. It looks like the best deal is with Credit Agricole Britline.

Margaux Motorway Menace

This proposed motorway is important to us: a. It will relieve congestion on the Bordeaux ring-road, the rocade. At present the rocade is clogged with lorries taking all kinds of goods from Spain and Portugal to northern Europe. (Lots of different cars are made in Spain and Portugal, including Peugeots, Citroëns, Volkswagens, Fords, etc.) We see an accident every one or two weeks on the rocade, and we only travel two junctions on the thing! b. It will increase the importance of Blaye by bringing the main road to Spain nearer to the town. We have a satellite church in the Blayais - there are two church buildings in villages near Blaye and we also hold services in a large room at a chateau just outside the town. As far as we know this is the only evangelical - indeed, the only protestant witness in that area.

Spurgeon contemplates the glory of the Lord being revealed

First mortgage offer has arrived

Strangely, not the one from our own bank. I imagine that is still crawling its way to us in the post. We've received the offer from the bank who said 'not at this address' when the postman tried to deliver our application forms to their office. The repayments would be less than with our own bank, but the interest rate is variable. However we can opt for a fixed rate after a month. We can also defer a month's repayment each year, etc. It's one of those flexible mortgage things. They have put an exclusion on my life insurance - that our mortgage repayments are insured if I am rendered unable to work, unless this is because of my asthma. Since my asthma is mild, and generally triggered by cats, dogs etc. I doubt if it will ever stop me working. The offer arrived today, and French law prohibits you from accepting it until the 11th day following, so we can only accept the mortgage offer on 29 September, which is the day we were supposed to get the keys. So I'll go t

The Queen of Tonga

Reading of the death of the King of Tonga made me think about the visit of Salote, Queen of Tonga, for our Queen's coronation. It emptied down for Coronation Day, and all the dignitaries and heads of state were hiding under the hoods of their carriages. All except 6' 3", 20 stone Salote, Queen of Tonga. Tongan custom forbids you to cover your head in the presence of a higher ranking person so out of deference to the Queen of England she sat grinning in the pouring rain, waving to the crowd and winning everyone's heart. They wrote poems for her. My favourite is this: Linger longer, Queen of Tonga, Linger longer wiv us. Longer while the English summer Gives us all the shivvas. While the summer east winds blow And shake our English livvas. The Time article (click on the link) tells how she won British hearts wherever she went. It only hints at how she unified her country and brought education, peace and prosperity (she reigned from 1918).

Parents' evening at Gwilym's college

Oh how these meetings go on and on. I arrived late because of trying to find somewhere to park after having deposited Pat and the kids at the tram stop. It was worse than usual because the cinema in Pessac was reopening, so there were more people than usual in town, so the police closed one of the car parks. I ended up in a paying place, and had enough change to pay for 1h30, but the meeting lasted longer so I thought I had better leave once my time was up. Because of this we still have no idea whether the extra support in German at 16h30 is compulsory or how long it lasts, or why Gwilym is partnered with a lad called Benjamin. I will have to go to the college and ask the vie scolaire people to explain it all to me. I'm also very confused about the time Gwilym should start on Fridays. His timetable says 8h00, but the PE teachers said 8h15 on days when he isn't going swimming and 8h25 on days when he is, I think... The meeting was worthwhile mainly for the headmaster's dry s

A happy busy week

This week has been very busy and very happy. It's been a week of special outreach at the centre, with street work to do, contacts to follow up and two special evenings to prepare for. I had to sing Hen Wlad fy Nhadau at a Soirée Galloise . Once I was sure it wasn't a joke I just went for it, (although I had actually practiced singing Calon Lân * in the car on the way to the meeting) It's also been an opportunity to get to know some of the students I've started working with and some of the folks who'll soon be learning how to say "by here", "by there" and "over by there" (equals ici , la et la-bas ) Then today was the church retreat. We decided at the last minute that it would be a good idea to have a PowerPoint presentation of highlights of the year gone by, so I threw together a loop of photos really early this morning, but wasn't able to stay and watch people's reaction to it because I had to nip off and get some leaflets f

Some scenes of Bordeaux

The first is simply of people waiting at the tram stop at Victoire. The second is a typical Bordeaux thing that amazes me. A really nice stone arch that is just falling to pieces. You see lovely stone buildings that are just crumbling. The third also amazed me. 4ème Cripple Creek Western Festival, à St Médard en Jalles. OK. Bon. The fourth is a common sight. An advert. It goes "Bon CV, mais do you speak English? Yes, I speak English. Wall Street English!" Wall Street English is a language school in Bordeaux where, presumably, people are taught to speak like American financiers. I had this idea of starting a rival English school called "The Queen's English". (Oh yes she is!) The poster would have George Bush and Her Maj on it, and she would be saying "Don't speak like him! Speak like me, with The Queen's English".

Bordeaux Cathedral Square

I took this on the way home today from the student welcome centre. It seemed more crowded in real life. The conkers are starting to drop, and you can see that the cathedral and our student centre are at the intersection of two of Bordeaux' three tram lines. 

Paul disagrees with some of what John Mackay said

Incidentally, I am pretty well utterly convinced about six 24-hr evening/morning cycles, but far from convinced about a 6000 years ago date! I'd put the age of the earth as some few thousand years, but I always think that when people nail it down to about 4000 BC it sounds as unconvincing as the billions of years of popular theory.

Quick update on the house move

Now two banks have said their head office has agreed to give us a loan. One has asked whether we want to insure just my life or mine and Pat's to pay the mortgage. (I think both, if possible. That's what we did in Britain.) The other has asked to see the sheets detailing the interest paid to us by the bank in Britain on the residue of our current account there (£1.43, I think it was.) Once the offers arrive we must take them to the estate agents who will pass them on to the solicitor. He will then be reassured that we have the funds to pay for the purchase. Then we must wait 10 days before accepting a mortgage offer. Then we can sign on the dotted line and have the keys. I can't see all that happening before Sept 29, but you never know! Meanwhile, happily, new prospective tenants are coming to see the house.


Kids in school. We saw the secretary at Gwilym's school and sorted out lunch tickets. We saw the school life counsellor and sorted out what we have to do to enable him to leave the school unaccompanied at lunchtime and hometime. And thankfully the same meal tickets work for both kids' schools. Pat at DEFLE. Today is the day of the TEST. So I took her to DEFLE because I hoped to see the phonetics lady for suggestions for further work, but she's tied up doing tests, so instead I breathed in the heady atmosphere of all those new people - for about 10 seconds - then left Pat to it and came home via the schools (see above!) Now - to read.

BOOK - A house for my name (A Survey of the Old Testament) by Peter Leithart

OK. Some books arrived this morning. Among them were The Kingdom and the Power and A house for my name , both by Peter Leithart. I had ordered them because so many people recommend his books that I thought it was worth a try. Well so far I have read the introduction, which takes you to page 42. And it really is good! You'll find lots of reviews if you google the title and the author. You'll find one short review if you click on the title of this post...

Good truths for bad days

Natty title, eh!

A near miss!

I was just about to delete a spam e-mail from someone I'd never heard of that talked about "your mortgage offer" (pull the other one!), when I thought I had better just check. It was an e-mail from one of the banks saying our mortgage final offer is about to be posted. Phew! In these weeks of uncertainty I had been considering what we would do if we ended up not getting a mortgage. We'd lose the deposit we have paid so far, certainly. Though it is not enormous, that would be hard. But we'd also have to rethink seriously what to do, because we could never buy outright within reach of Bordeaux a house big enough to live in. We would have considered perhaps buying a gite to rent out or maybe buying a smaller house to let out. Anyway. It looks like we are in the home straight. (Home straight...! Geddit?)

The changing face of blogging

This blog is going to change in future. Up till now our task has been language learning and acclimatising to France. It has been comparatively easy to blog almost every day about something. Now Alan's work is going to change. I won't be able to blog about most of the meetings I'll be involved in or about personal work, of course. However there will still be the howlers in my French to share, and I will be able to comment about books I am reading with people, and about Bible passages I am preparing for studies or to preach. And there will be occasional items of France-related news and family news to share.

Well I simply don't know what to say about this


More on the Arcachon oyster crisis

Guillaume the trainer and Gwilym the player

(sorry about the shadow) 

John Mackay on BBC HARDtalk

This is 25 minutes well spent. Best TV I have seen in years! (click on the title above) (Thanks Phil for sending me the link.)

Two little Gwilym snippets

1) His teacher said to him today, "Are you Portuguese? You have a bit of an accent." 2) You know we took him along to a football club, Les Coqs Rouges ? Well the chappie there told him that because there are so many lads he would never get to play in a match. So we hunted round and eventually tracked down the team at Pessac Alouette, and he went and joined today. They're a nice team. Les Coqs Rouges are the top dogs, but the Pessac team have a nice gang of trainers and a nice gang of lads, and what's more - their pitches are quite near the house where we hope to move soon and they train earlier in the evening, which is a blessing because it shouldn't clash with the church prayer meeting. How's that for a nice overruling by providence! And membership is half the price! So Gwilym went along today and played straightaway in a friendly against Cenon. And there's another match on Saturday. We'll never get him up in the morning.

Reverse culture shock

I had a nice email this morning from one of the American students who has returned to the USA. She lives in California and found it so hard to leave Bordeaux. But she talks about how strange America seems now. The SUVs (4x4s), the pickup trucks, the chewing gum, the familiarity and informality. The freeways! I think French culture is somewhere between Britain and the USA. For example, we were surprised by how much gum the French chew. We chew it now, too. Loads of it. Pat and the kids dispose of it in paper and I swallow it, but the pavements round the law courts are spotted with the stuff! And Bordeaux seems full of 4x4s, many of them with those special exhausts for driving through rivers. "Why?" I ask myself. And it seems normal now to shake hands with people at the school gate. Normal and nice. But it illustrates how you do become used to a new culture, and how your home country can seem so foreign after a while.

It's the French way, it appears...

You've got to laugh! Gwilym has begun his school year very gently, with odds and ends and no homework so far. Catrin has had a bit of homework and tests. Hard tests! Maths that is about the level Gwilym was at, by the sound of it (long multiplication etc.) and a French test. I expect she'll get the kind of marks a dog would get in the French test, but we'll see! There is this approach that seems quite widespread in France of first exposing what the student does not know by setting them something that is frankly much too hard. Like our dictée of Madame Bovary in grammar, for example. I seem to recall having 17 faults, which would leave me with a score of 3/20 or 6%! The theory seems to be that this will create a desire to learn in the student and motivate them to great efforts of study. It makes a kind of sense to me, but I also imagine a little fledgling swallow chick being told by its mama "Now today I want you to fly to Africa, ok? Be sure to be back for tea!"

Vive l'entente cordiale! (Long live the entente cordiale!)

Genesis 1 again

We finished reading Esther, so we decided to read Exodus next. So we turned to Genesis 1 to get the context (it seemed the right thing to do at the time). Catrin read the chapter. (In English, though she picked up a Welsh Bible first!) And as she read I was struck again by the sheer ... majesty of the chapter. It is so simple. No histrionics or grandiose effects. God spoke and it all came into being. The seed-bearing vegetation. I love plants. I love fruit. Big long green cucumbers. Round melons like bowling balls. (Same family, aren't they?) Squishy, pulpy tomatoes. Fuzzy peaches. (There's a peach tree in the church garden that has white peaches. They're delicious! Ripened on the tree. OK, there's the occasional mite moving on the flesh - but hey, this is France. The mite gets eaten too.) Grapes. Bananas! Apples. And we haven't even started to get exotic yet. It puts man in his place. We are really very good at destroying, but we can't create. Not create . We c

Oh Boy did WE make a mistake!

Gwilym's first two days have gone really well. For him And we are really thankful. For us - well yesterday we spent almost the whole day in the car. Today was better, though the sooner we move to Pessac the better! But we HAVE to leave earlier in the morning! We were about ten minutes late leaving the house and we found that the road leading to the rocade through Villenave was clogged within 200 m of our house! We've never seen anything like that before. So I took a swift left through Chambéry, which was clear, and got to the rocade. It was clogged. So I took a swift right into Talence thinking "How do I get through Talence to the centre of Pessac?". Basically I didn't know, so I followed the crowds when it felt right, followed my nose when that felt right, then followed signs to Pessac once they appeared. I said "If you aren't late this morning it will be a miracle!" One small miracle later Gwilym arrived at his school, on time. Pat took him to the

What a crazy day!!!

La rentrée scolaire - I am glad it's just once a year! 8h30 - Catrin starts in one part of Pessac 9h15 - Gwilym starts elsewhere in Pessac (actually quite nice - we had coffee in a café !) 11h45 - Catrin's lunchbreak 12h00 - Gwilym's lunchbreak 13h45 - Catrin back to school 14h45 - Gwilym back to school 15h30 - Gwilym finishes school 16h45 - Catrin finishes school Meantime at 16h00 I get a call asking if I am free to help the pastor move some furniture. Sadly I was in a supermarket in Pessac buying bottled water while waiting for Catrin to finish school! And at 17h00 some prospective tenants were coming to see the house! Thankfully , from tomorrow Gwilym is on his normal timetable, and he starts just before Catrin at 8h25 every day except Wednesday and Friday, when he starts at 8h00. He finishes every day at 16h30, just before Catrin, and I think it will all work out fine.

It's all hotting up for the presidential!

La rentrée scolaire

Today is the day when all over France the kids go back to school, or move up to their new school. Catrin went back last Thursday, so we took her in for 8h30 as usual , but Gwilym wasn't due at school till 9h15, so we stopped by the town hall in Pessac for a coffee on the way. The 6° is quite a big group this year. There are at least four classes. Gwilym is in 6° bleu, with 29 children. The kids are received with a bit of ceremony - the head stands outside the classroom with the form teacher and calls each child's name in turn. The child goes up and is greeted, then stands with their class. Then when all are there they proceed into the classroom and the head goes on to the next class. Davey being near the beginning of the alphabet, Gwilym's class got welcomed first. I am looking forward to seeing Gwilym's timetable because with Catrin's timetable added in I will be able to work out mine a little better. Pat won't know hers for another fortnight, so I may have to

Ligonier ministries new website

Well worth a look.

Bègles plage

And here are some pictures of Bègles plage. Bègles is the next town to Villenave. Our nearest Carrefour hypermarket is there. Their mayor is an interesting man. He was fined a symbolic amount recently for overstepping his powers when he conducted a homosexual wedding ceremony. The Republic recognises marriage as monogamous and heterosexual. He also campaigns very vigorously against genetically modified crops, though I am not aware of any fields at all in Bègles. He normally travels out to other departments to do his anti-GMO campaigning. But I'll say this much for him - they do have a nice beach at Bègles! Complete with lifeguards, showers, toilets and a sandwich van. Like most beaches in France, you have to be careful where you point your camera as many women adopt the same dress code as men.  

Le truc vert

We took the children to the beach. Le truc vert is about an hour away, and it's a very pleasant beach with lifeguards and a supervised bathing area. No shops, but two cabins selling ice cream and drinks. Just about the right level of commercialisation, really. Le truc vert probably means something very poetic as a placename, but in every day speech it would mean the green gadget, the green gizmo or the green thingamajig. I rather like the idea of a beach named "the green gizmo". On the way back we saw some van drivers protesting about something. There's two little controversies on the go. One is that Arcachon oysters are from time to time banned because of a micro-organism that causes food-poisoning. The other is some shellfish that Brussels says can't be sold under 40mm, but the variety grown round Arcachon only ever grows to 37mm. Or it may have been something else. Anyway, they protested by driving really slowly with hazard lights flashing and causing a tail

Post meeting deliberations

I've ended up with quite a big list of things to get involved with. I am really thankful. I don't think I'll be bored. (I also don't think I'll be doing any courses in philosophy, psychology or French Church History!) It's pretty unlikely that I'll be able to take on everything on the list, so I have to do some serious pondering, planning and praying over things and talking things through with Patricia. Réfléchir, that's the word.


I said "There we are! Your first week over!" She said "I've got school tomorrow morning."