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)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

La France en pleine crise

Many French people say that they feel that France is in deep crisis.

La précarité. It's hard to get a job and hard to keep your job. Housing is expensive. People feel that suddenly, without warning, something could happen and you could find yourself and your family on the street. That's la précarité.

Meanwhile unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since 1983, but is much higher among the young, as this report says http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/6461555.stm .

Coming back to the heart of worship


A cracker of an excerpt from the pen of Don Carson.

Singing the psalms

They're ours. We sing 'em. They're about Jesus Christ. Quite obviously! Psalm 2. Psalm 110. Just look at the way the psalms are quoted in the New Testament.

All that as a prologue to saying that the hymn I miss most is probably Isaac Watts':

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Behold the islands with their kings,
And Europe her best tribute brings;
From north to south the princes meet,
To pay their homage at His feet.

There Persia, glorious to behold,
There India shines in eastern gold;
And barb’rous nations at His word
Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
Extend His power, exalt His throne.

The sceptre well becomes His hands;
All Heav’n submits to His commands;
His justice shall avenge the poor,
And pride and rage prevail no more.

With power He vindicates the just,
And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
His worship and His fear shall last
Till hours, and years, and time be past.

As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall He send his influence down:
His grace on fainting souls distills,
Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.

The heathen lands, that lie beneath
The shades of overspreading death,
Revive at His first dawning light;
And deserts blossom at the sight.

The saints shall flourish in His days,
Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
Peace, like a river, from His throne
Shall flow to nations yet unknown.

It's Psalm 72. Nobody generally sings the verses in pale grey, though I like 'em fine!

I also miss James Montgomery's Psalm 72:

Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression and rule in equity.

He comes in succour speedy to those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy, and bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying, were precious in His sight.

By such shall He be fearèd while sun and moon endure;
Beloved, obeyed, reverèd; for He shall judge the poor
Through changing generations, with justice, mercy, truth,
While stars maintain their stations, or moons renew their youth.

He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope, like flowers, spring in His path to birth.
Before Him, on the mountains, shall peace, the herald, go,
And righteousness, in fountains, from hill to valley flow.

Arabia’s desert ranger to Him shall bow the knee;
The Ethiopian stranger His glory come to see;
With offerings of devotion ships from the isles shall meet,
To pour the wealth of oceans in tribute at His feet.

Kings shall fall down before Him, and gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him, His praise all people sing;
For He shall have dominion o’er river, sea and shore,
Far as the eagle’s pinion or dove’s light wing can soar.

For Him shall prayer unceasing and daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing, a kingdom without end:
The mountain dews shall nourish a seed in weakness sown,
Whose fruit shall spread and flourish and shake like Lebanon.

O’er every foe victorious, He on His throne shall rest;
From age to age more glorious, all blessing and all blest.
The tide of time shall never His covenant remove;
His Name shall stand forever, His Name to us is Love.

(We obviously have an issue with singing about countries...)

On discovering a new literature

One of the nice things about trying to settle down in another language is that you can read books all over again.

In translation - a friend bought a John Grisham in French because she had enjoyed it in English. That's nice, isn't it! Pat's reading Agatha Christies in French. I am not very good at re-reading books.

Thrillers - you can read trashy thrillers about mad monks and tricky terrorists knowing that it is not such a waste of time because all the time the patterns of French are getting settled in your mind.

Proper French books - you can try and find out who are the Ian McEwans and Martin Amises of French literature. This is a bit hard, because good contemporary French literature is going through a rather weird time with strange self-referential books about how hard it is to write books, and odd pessimistic sex-obsessed books about cloning and global warming and the breakdown of society, etc. (One thriller writer has recently published a book where he says he wrote such scary thrillers that he frightened himself, so he decided to write about his family history instead and discovered something so dreadful he frightened himself even more. There is surely a sermon illustration in there!)

Finding the equivalents. There must be a French Bill Bryson, someone who writes mildly amusing whimsical travel books (rather than po-faced "admire the wisdom of the ash-painted bushman and the incessant flapping of the prayer-flag"). There might even be a French Alexander McCall Smith !

Finding a whole new genre. I was thrilled to discover Oulipo, where (it seems to me) people said, "OK, if you want weird, we can give you weird", and so they describe in minute detail a green stain on a chef's baseball hat, or write an entire large book about a missing person without using the letter e. There's also a chap who writes murder mysteries set amongst the Dordogne English. "Oh, you're one of the Perigueux Ponsonby-Smythes!")

French pastoral. You can read novels that chart farming communities and so illustrate the social changes that have taken place - Catherine Cookson with garlic? There's one guy who writes about his country background with such spite and scorn that I really fancy reading some of his books.

Poems. I actually quite like poems, strange though it may seem to anyone who knows me.

The classics. Of course! However, if you find Dickens turgid, then a French Dickens will be in turgid French. It's just something to be aware of, that's all.

How to find books?

Well, one good thing is that our nearest and biggest bookshop puts staff recommendations on some of the books, saying things like This is so funny you mustn't read it on the tram or It's only rock and roll but we like it.... etc.

Personal recommendation - one good thing about the DEFLE was that we read lots of excerpts from books.

Then there's the literary prizes, though I am a bit cynical about them. Some seem to be prizes for the most weird and twisted book imaginable.

And there's the reviews and interviews and short stories published in newspapers and magazines and stuff.

There's even a TV books programme called Le bateau livre, but I have never seen it apart from in a class at DEFLE. Never been at home at the right time.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Choose your title carefully when translating!

The book The Purpose-driven Life has a vast range of products linked with it, from Purpose-driven journals (standard and deluxe) through Purpose-driven youth ministry, Purpose-driven tee-shirts, Purpose-driven mini-calendar, block-calendar and pocket-planner (it's good to have well-planned pockets) to the Purpose-driven resin cross. I have chosen those that particularly caught my eye amongst the vast array available at Christian Book Distributors.

The book is pretty influential in France, where it is called Une vie, une passion, une destinée.

Hmm. That title limits the "holy hardware" possibilities. Somehow Un calendrier, une passion, une destinée doesn't ring true. Neither does Une croix en acrylique, une passion, une destinée, though it has a certain something...

OpenOffice / Ubuntu Linux news

OpenOffice 2.2 is now available at www.OpenOffice.org

and the French parliament is switching to Ubuntu Linux.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Near us there's this amazing résidence.

It starts off as just slightly odd houses at each end, with strange angles and odd curvy walls - then suddenly piles up into these high blocks of flats with wonky balconies jutting out.
I'd LOVE to live there. I bet the architect had visited Portmeirion.

John Piper is bad


Thanks, Phil, for drawing my attention to this.

Who can identify all the people shown without cheating and looking at the comments below the video? You gotta post 'em all in one comment, OK?

p.s. sorry about yesterday. I was so busy reflecting that I didn't post anything at all to the blog...

Oh well !

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Expat Lit: 10 books on figuring out the French


I can certainly recommend Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong.

The others come with a health warning. I have not read them.

One last thing - The Horrible Histories France special is invaluable! (One of Gwilym's school friends is currently buying up all the Horrible Histories books, learning English so he can read them, and lending them to Gwilym in the meantime. Good show, what!)

Houses from a street in Pessac

One of the things that strikes you in France is that almost no two houses are the same §. This is the road that runs between Gwilym's school and Pat's language school.

§ Two houses appear twice in the mosaic, so it gives the impression that some houses are the same...

The new Kingdom Hall at Victoire

The people renovating the building are the local Jehovah's Witnesses.

They have a 300 sq m centre being renovated by volunteers.
Apparently there are about 15 JW congregations in "greater Bordeaux" with about 1500 people in total.

It really makes you want to spit. The new JW centre is off Victoire, between the FAC and Lycée Montaigne. Honestly!

My wife's just gone to

My wife's just gone to Italy.


Uh. yes? She's my wife....

My wife's still in Italy!


No, she's stays in one place.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Pessac men's group

Great. We had a ball. We discussed chapter 2 of Christ au coeur de la prédication - about l'identité évangélique. Next time, in a fortnight, it's Ch 3, about la théologie biblique. It's good to meet and pray and talk together as men.

There's a little issue I may have to address at some time. My degree is in biology (!). My theology qualification is informal - a four-year part-time course - we didn't even get a diploma. In fact we got a CPO catalogue. And it wasn't even signed.

If at any time it is necessary for me to become a pastor in an EREI church, I would probably need to have a formal theology qualification.

We'll see...

No coloured hair gel, please

for Gwilym at school, that is...

The teachers asked our friend at the school to pass on the word to me, and I talked to Gwilym about it. They don't want it starting a trend. (My son a trendsetter. Fancy!)

Anyway I mentioned it to Gwilym, and he's OK with it.

So that means I get the gel! He's, I mean I've got a copper colour and gold..

The robe - an emblem of working cross-culturally

Talking about the robe with people has been interesting and illustrates some of the issues that we face in adapting to working in France. It'd make a good title for a book, too, wouldn't it! The robe...

The robe helped French people to accept the church as a real church, a proper church, with real roots in the history of the country, and a French church - especially important when the church meets in the basement garage of a suburban house and the preacher has an accent that belongs in a British WW2 sit-com ('Allo 'allo, is he thinking gendarmes here..?)

After all, French history is different from British and American history. An American friend told me about his successful church-plant in New England. He's Congregationalist. There was a town with no Congregational Church. He started one. The Congregationalists came. Bingo! Job done!

In Britain it's not quite like that. At least, not in North Wales! But we have towns with no evangelical witness at all, and there we would start services with the aim of planting an evangelical or a Baptist church. We may not use the word evangelical, because that's pretty scary in Britain. Baptist is OK, but it still may keep some people away.

Here in France évangélique (evangelical) is a very scary word. That's those weird Americans who jump around and fall over, no? Baptiste? Scary! That's what George Bush is isn't he? No? Well I am sure one of them was. Réformée? That's not scary. That's French, OK, but aren't they basically about Kierkegaard and hospitals and youth clubs and stuff? Protestante? Oh yes - those are the people who stood up for what they believed even if it cost their lives. And after all many of the reformers who had most influence on us were Frenchmen. Chrétien? Well I suspect that most French ears will hear that word as Roman Catholic, but Christian is what we are after all, and the Christian message is what we are about.

OK - that's a caricature, but in a predominantly RC country the denominational variety of Britain and the USA looks really weird! Five churches in one street? What's that all about? And we can talk till we are blue in the face about gospel unity and dividing over secondary issues, but the French ear will hear sectes.

In Britain a new church, well it wouldn't be scary and you may even go and check it out. And cults and sects? Our instinctive reaction is "nutters". Not scary. Here in France there is a genuine fear of psychological manipulation and of new groups because they are sectes, aren't they. Obviously.

So you have to remember that you are not in Britain. And adapt.

And you also have to think long and hard about what you really are. What is important to you? Is it to be a Baptist and to have that on the gate? Are you wanting to see Baptists flourishing in every country of the world? Do you want to fight for the word evangelical? Some people do. And after all it's a word with a long and illustrious history.

One man said, "I don't read these words in the Bible". I said, "Well, John the Baptist..."

I'm expecting a quiet week this week

which is just as well. After last week I am feeling pretty shot-at.

So I can catch up on reading. The men's group is this lunchtime, so I have to find the book for that!

It also means that I may be able to post a little more reflectively. Not just bad shots of riot police. And do some jobs round the house. The fence in front of us is up now, so it's time to start planting bamboos and buddleias.

Oh - by the way, that construction "It's me who's driving" etc. I had decided to just avoid using it. But then I changed my tack and I use it loads now, in an attempt to get it programmed correctly in my head.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Isn't this a beautiful translation! This morning's text.

Psaume 133
Cantique des degrés. De David.

1 Voici, oh ! qu’il est agréable, qu’il est doux
Pour des frères de demeurer ensemble !

2 C’est comme l’huile précieuse qui, répandue sur la tête,
Descend sur la barbe, sur la barbe d’Aaron,
Qui descend sur le bord de ses vêtements.

3 C’est comme la rosée de l’Hermon,
Qui descend sur les montagnes de Sion ;
Car c’est là que l’Eternel envoie la bénédiction,
La vie, pour l’éternité.

Torrents d'amour

This is what we sing to "Oh the deep deep love of Jesus":

Torrents d'amour et de grâce,
Amour du Sauveur en croix !
A ce grand fleuve qui passe,
Je m'abandonne et je crois.
Je crois à ton sacrifice,
O Jésus, Agneau de Dieu,
Et couvert par ta justice,
J'entrerai dans le saint lieu.

Ah! Que partout se répande,
Ce fleuve à la grande voix,
Que tout l'univers entende
L'appel qui vient de la croix !.
Je crois à ton sacrifice,
O Jésus, Agneau de Dieu,
Et couvert par ta justice,
J'entrerai dans le saint lieu.

Que toute âme condamnée
Pour qui tu versas ton sang
Soit au Père ramenée
Par ton amour tout-puissant.
Je crois à ton sacrifice,
Ô Jésus, Agneau de Dieu,
Et couvert par ta justice,
J'entrerai dans le saint lieu.

200 years of the abolition of slavery




(That last one is particularly awful - a fit of altruism? But it does make a point about the importance of Trafalgar)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

They were ready for trouble !

These are the vans of the riot police, the CRS, parked outside the student centre.

There was a demonstration against Le Grand Contournement - a new road planned to pass through the Medoc for the heavy lorries going from Spain to Holland etc. to bypass Bordeaux. It started at 2pm and disrupted the trams. (Thankfully Pat had taken me to the stop at Bougnard otherwise I'd have been sat on an immobile tram, too!)

They had their riot-shields and everything!

(Telephone pictures, I'm afraid)

50 years of Europe


Linguistic adventures

A short report of yesterday. The day started with me reading with a couple - it's partly to help my French and also for fellowship. That turned into a lively discussion of service and authority in the church. Then to the student centre, picking up a box of rice and chicken saté on the way.

At the centre I read and talked with one student (Jerry Bridges - we've nearly finished the book now), then various different people came in. This is what was happening:

1) Fiona working with a French student on an essay in French that he was submitting.

2) French student working with a Chinese student on his letter of motivation for a place at University.

3) Fiona working with a Moroccan student on a PowerPoint presentation in English of their botany research.

I floated around for 1) and 3) offering the occasional suggestion, especially since botany isn't really Fiona's thing and of course it is mine.

Open day at Gwilym's school

It was good to go and to see the plans for the new lycée (high school), to chat with the different teachers (the German teacher teaches at the DEFLE, so it was nice to have that link with her) and to see Gwilym in two little performances with his French class. The one was a cyd-adrodd, a choral recitation of a surrealist poem, the other was a little scene from a comic play where a peasant tries to sell his wife as a donkey. They really enjoyed doing it (and theirs was easily the best of the 4 or 5 little scenes that were played).
At the end of this scene, the French teacher grabbed Gwilym and said "Gwilym here is from Wales and has been in France for less than two years, perhaps you didn't realise, but his spoken French is getting better and better".

Ma vie de bouche-trou

Well tomorrow is the last Sunday I preach before the return of the pastor. I have been a stop-gap, a bouche-trou.

I often hear the word bouche-trou, or the expression "Je bouche les trous, c'est tout" (I'm just a stopgap).

But it's been a great privilege to be a bouche-trou during these weeks. It's been frantic at times, and I have had the occasional very early morning. And then the funeral, of course.

It's also been helpful to see how work with the students and the centre works with church ministry. For these weeks it has been possible. I doubt whether weekends this loaded could work long term.

And God is able.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hey ! This is us !


Cherry trees

I saw these amazing cherry trees, covered in lichen and with a bracken fungus infection, flowering in the snow. Yes, it has been very cold here in the South of France.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another strong hymn, translated from the Welsh I think.

Far off I see the goal —
O Saviour, guide me;
I feel my strength is small —
be Thou beside me;
With vision ever clear,
with love that conquers fear,
And grace to persevere,
O Lord, provide me.

Whene’er Thy way seems strange,
go Thou before me;
And, lest my heart should change,
O Lord, watch o’er me;
But, should my faith prove frail,
and I through blindness fail,
O let Thy grace prevail,
and still restore me.

Should earthly pleasures wane,
and joy forsake me;
And lonely hours of pain
at length o’ertake me,
My hand in Thine hold fast
till sorrow be o’erpast,
And gentle death at last
for Heav’n awake me.

There, with the ransomed throng
who praise forever
The love that made them strong
to serve forever,
I, too, would see Thy face,
Thy finished work retrace,
And magnify Thy grace,
redeemed forever.

Nice ones, Timbo and John



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Funeral report

LOADS of people there. Immediate reaction - panic. Next reaction - thankfulness. (Typical) We had put out 130 chairs, but we reckon there were about 200 people crammed in everywhere. To bring the coffin in some people had to go outside to clear a way.

The service started at 10h30 and lasted about 75 minutes. Far and away the longest funeral service I've ever known. However the funeral directors were like lambs and I think we could have taken longer if we wanted. Also all the people standing were very, very disciplined.

There were 6 hymns/songs interspersed with readings and testimonials by different people. It went (all in French, of course):

Introduction and prayer.
When peace like a river
Psalm 91 : 1 - 16
Letter from the pastor, and poem by one of the women
Que l'Esprit de vérité (a free setting of the Lord's Prayer)
John 14 : 1 - 7
Testimonial by the young people
I know whom I have believèd
Romans 8 : 35 - 39
Testimonial by her sister and niece
You are my hiding place
John 17 : 1 - 9, 20 - 21 & 24
Sermon on John 17:24 (me)
Blest be the tie that binds
Apostles' creed
May God's blessing surround you tonight (in French it works for any time of day)

When I told people that British funerals tend to be 40 minutes, two hymns, one hour tops, and that at the crematorium you get a 20 minute slot they were horrified. "You can't say goodbye", they said.

Then some snacks and a chance to speak to people before going down to Lavarnac for the inhumation which was scheduled for 3pm, and was being conducted by a pastor down there. We sang "Thine be the glory" at the graveside, and I found that difficult, because last time I did that was at Mancot.

When I pointed out that the local pastor wasn't wearing a robe a smile sort of crossed our elder's face, then he said "Well, you wear them for the ceremony, but not for the burial." Then he said "But it's what she preferred" and I said, "Yes, of course, it's fine".

But when someone said "Now about Sunday and the robe..." I said "Non."

Today was, as we say, a strong moment.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Two texts

The first a hymn translated from the Welsh. I don't like the word redounds, but apart from that this hymn is a cracker!

FROM heavenly Jerusalem’s towers,
the path through the desert they trace;
and every affliction they suffered
redounds to the glory of grace;
their look they cast back on the tempests,
on fears, on grim death and the grave,
rejoicing that now they’re in safety,
through Him that is mighty to save.

And we, from the wilds of the desert,
shall flee to the land of the blest;
life’s tears shall be changed to rejoicing,
its labours and toil into rest.
There we shall find refuge eternal,
from sin, from affliction, from pain,
and in the sweet love of the Saviour,
a joy without end shall attain.

David Charles, 1762-1834;
tr. by Lewis Edwards, 1809-87

The second is in French. I haven't translated it. See how you do.

Elle chante avec les anges
Là où l'on est heureux
Ne trouvez pas étrange
Que pour elle, tout est mieux
Elle est dans la lumière
Comment imaginer?
Elle est auprès du Père
Quelle n'a cessé d'aimer

Levons nos yeux plus haut
Au-delà de ce temps
Il est un lieu si beau
Jésus nous y attend

Non, ce n'est pas mourir
Que d'aller vers son Dieu
C'est d'içi bas partir
Trouver un nouveau lieu
La vie est un voyage
Au parcours incertain
L'Au-delà, un rivage
D'un éternel matin

Nous savons tous qu'un jour
Nous serons réunis
Rassemblés pour toujours
Nous la verrons aussi
Et si nos coeurs se serrent
Nos yeux se voilent un peu
C'est qu'elle nous était chère
Un don venu de Dieu

Pour elle, le jour s'est déja levé.

J François Bussy

An expensive problem

I have long wondered what these things are in the water. The people I asked didn't know. An article in our local paper yesterday answered my question. In August 1944 the retreating Nazis sank over 200 ships in the Gironde between Bordeaux and the sea to paralyse the port of Bordeaux. These are the remains of those ships. So far only those that actually impeded shipping have been removed, but as the riverbanks are redeveloped the town would like to see the remainder taken away. But the cost is enormous.

An aerial photo of the cathedral in Bordeaux from the 1920s


The street that goes up at about 2 o'clock is where the student centre is.

Beau comme un camion, again

You don't have no robe? You mean the Protestant pastors in Britain don't wear a robe?

Well it's a good job Sammy and I are about the same dap, and that he left his robe behind the office door. It still took about 10 minutes and two strong men (an ex-seminarian and a candidate for the magistrature) to figure out how to attach the tabs.

Here is a picture of the kind of thing:

Monday, March 19, 2007

First funeral

Wednesday. Privilege. Sacred trust.

What more do you say?

Except please pray!

The lady who died was involved in planning the order of service for Sunday morning. This evening almost exactly the same team are meeting to plan the order of service for her funeral.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Well that's been a hard day

A lady in the church is terminally ill, and yesterday I heard that she had been admitted to hospital in a critical condition. I was preparing to preach on Psalm 34, and the team preparing the readings, hymns etc. was meeting that morning in her hospital room. Do I change my text or not?

I continued with Psalm 34. The service this morning was somewhat overshadowed by our awareness of her condition. The preaching went OK, though I felt ill-prepared, tired, anxious and sad. I had the occasional bout of "e" disease - e.g. rebelle goes rerbel, not rebel. My brian knows that but my mouth isn't always convinced and then my ears threaten to start a panic.. Still, a number of people discussed the message with me afterwards.

Then the elder and his family came for lunch. They're a great family, and we talked about our ideas for helping the students along, and so on (and for dessert we had a Delia Smith marmalade bread and butter pudding. Made with a baguette. Real comfort food!)

They left and I scuttled into town for our prayer meeting to find people somewhat shaken after visiting the lady in hospital, so we read and prayed together, then there was a phone call asking me to go to the hospital.

Well, she's comfortable and well cared for. Her family are with her and they're all very strong. There is little doubt in my mind that she's nearing the end. I'd say tonight or tomorrow, but then what do I know? She's 44.

I feel bad for the pastor and his family who are due to return from the USA next Monday or Tuesday.

I read Psalm 27 with the students and the lady and her family, and then John 17:24 with the lady's mother.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.

Jean 17: 24 Père, je veux que là où je suis ceux que tu m’as donnés soient aussi avec moi, afin qu’ils voient ma gloire, la gloire que tu m’as donnée, parce que tu m’as aimé avant la fondation du monde.

Friday, March 16, 2007

As I walked out...

Complicated family movements meant that I went early to the centre this morning, so I went for a walk with my camera. Here are some of the many cafés of Bordeaux:
Bigger versions of most of the photos are to be seen here : http://picasaweb.google.fr/alandavey/BordeauxSpringMorning

and the cathedral

and some details from buildings

some nice shops

these really are miscellaneous photos

The weird building is the juvenile law courts, built by Sir Norman Foster (I think...). Gwilym's been there. School trip.

Bordeaux has many beggars and homeless

The sons of Don Quixote are a pressure group for the homeless - here there's a little village of two-second tents right in the middle of the smartest part of Bordeaux.

Cynghanedd in French?

There's some lovely things in the French Bible, you know.

I mean things that sound lovely.

for example:

Psalm 2:6

C'est moi qui ai oint mon roi (sé-mwa-kee-é-wã-mõ-rwa) §
Sur Sion, ma montagne sainte!

and from last night's study:

Mark 2:14
En passant, il vit Lévi, fils d'Alphée, assis au bureau des péages.
Il lui dit: Suis-moi. (ee-lwee-dee-swee-mwa)
Lévi se leva, et le suivit. (lé-vee-suh-luh-va-é-luh-swee-vee)

I just think those sentences sound lovely!

§ that isn't the right sound for oint, but my computer won't put a tilde over i

Thursday, March 15, 2007

On the way to and from the Bible Study

Bible study went OK. Mark 2:1 - 3:6.

On the way there I saw this demonstration. I don't know what it was. Looking at the photos now the flags have JC on them. You don't suppose it could have been something Christian? The photo was taken with the long end of the zoom, and I didn't getnear enough to hear the chants and cries.

I like Bordeaux at night.

"Internet dating sites"

On MSN, Internaute etc., there's adverts for internet dating sites - sites de rencontres.

In a survey published this week in the Metro free newspaper, 29% of men aged 20 - 24 use a site de rencontres, and 27% of women. I suspect that it is hard for people to meet otherwise.

There's lots of information in the survey, but it is all summed up by a psychologist who says : (excerpts and translation - beware!)

Women's behaviour is becoming more and more like men's ... it's a behaviour of consumption, which short-circuits attraction and seduction... One seeks firstly to consume, with a certain authenticity, as the use of internet dating sites shows.

Except in France (translated from Courrier International)

The Hexagon is the country where religion has the least importance in daily life : that's what emerges from a survey conducted in 20 countries in late 2006 by the Canadian magazine Maclean's;

just 23% of French people say they agree with the statement Religion is very important for me every day; the British and the Japanese are at 24%, the Germans at 26%. However, 96% of Egyptians are in agreement, 89% of South Africans, 70% of Mexicans, 65% of Americans.

For Craig Worden, Vice-President of Angus Reid, the Canadian company who conducted the survey of 5800 people, it shows that beyond the tensions between Islam and Christianity, there is another line of religious difference in the world. The geopolitical map is being drawn more and more to follow a division between the secular and the religious countries, he underlines.

At least they had competitors.


I worked as copresenter of a weekly radio programme for about 9 months. I did it in my lunch hours from BT, it was great fun and the BBC actually paid me! Best of all, my name was in the Radio Times ! (Well, in the Wales edition)

It was long before premium rate numbers were invented, but it was not unknown to have a competition and for nobody to enter. Maybe nobody was listening?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Some of John Newton's rhymes are dreadful

Begone, unbelief;
my Saviour is near,
and for my relief
will surely appear;
by prayer let me wrestle,
and he will perform;
with Christ in the vessel,
I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way,
since he is my guide,
'tis mine to obey,
'tis his to provide;
though cisterns be broken
and creatures all fail,
the word he has spoken
shall surely prevail.

His love in time past
forbids me to think
he'll leave me at last
in trouble to sink;
while each Ebenezer
I have in review
confirms his good pleasure
to help me quite through.

Why should I complain
of want or distress,
temptation or pain?
He told me no less;
the heirs of salvation,
I know from his word,
through much tribulation
must follow their Lord.

How bitter that cup,
no heart can conceive,
which he drank right up
that sinners might live;
his way was much rougher
and darker than mine;
did Jesus thus suffer,
and shall I repine?

Since all that I meet
shall work for my good,
the bitter is sweet,
the med'cine is food;
though painful at present,
'twill cease before long;
and then, O how pleasant
the conqueror's song!

One of the posh shops in our local mall

It's called "Formen", because posh shops in France sometimes have English names, just like posh shops in England often have French names.

One day all posh shops everywhere will have Welsh names, like "Iddofe".

Anyway I took this because it seems to me that where the clothes are not bright red, they are overwhelmingly orange. I popped my head inside the shop and it's just the same - kind of beige and orange.

Or are my eyes playing me up again?

OK - next encounter with administration coming up

Gwilym is off on a school trip to Italy before long.

To go he needs:

a) a European health card. That's OK. I know who to phone about that.

b) a carte bleu. I need a bit more explanation of this...

c) permission from the town hall for a minor to leave the country. This one could be interesting!

Still, we'll get there!

Meanwhile we've been told that we will be a host family for an American girl who attends a French school in the USA and is coming to France to improve her French. On the form they asked what special features we had as a family to commend us. I said that the whole family speaks English fluently.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A jolly good post on Israel by Revd Dr Field


though I am not sure that is the whole question of Galatians...

A lovely blue Velosolex

This was in the Peugeot shop in Cours Pasteur. It may be for sale. I didn't ask!

Some photos of Pessac town centre at night

The Jean Eustache cinéma, recently refurbished, and the church. The glass mirror building is the side of the town hall.

President Chirac's farewell


(I hope this works OK on your computer. It links, I think, to a Windows Media Player file)

I think he has an interesting speaking style. He's clear. He takes his time. He uses his facial expressions and moves around. Apparently he had a communication consultant advise him years ago. Remember when they lowered Mrs Thatcher's voice by a few octaves?

The trial is taking place in Perigueux, about 90 mins drive from here


The doctor would have instructed the nurse to administer an injection of potassium choride to end the woman's life. The patient would have been in a coma and would have begun vomiting while still in the coma.

In French newspaper articles instead of saying things like "are accused of" and "allegedly", they express it like above.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Aha ! So to the French ear there's no difference (or no différence)

Chatting with one of the guys yesterday he asked how we pronounce the english word for mouton. I said "sheep", like the french word for crisps, "chips" = sheeps.

He said, so what about a big boat on the sea? I said "ship". He said, "ship, sheep, what is the difference?"

So I tried to demonstrate the sounds ee - i - eh (sheep, ship, shep), and he said that he cannot hear the difference between sheep and ship.

This was WONDERFUL news.

One of the hassles I have is ensuring I pronounce, e.g., différence as deeférãs and not différãs.

But if people can't tell the difference anyway, then I don't need to stress out about it!

But, I have decided that I need to keep working on conjugaison, so I am going to do a verb a day. All useful tenses (present, future, passé composé, imperfect, present subjunctive, conditional) just to revise it. Tenses like the pluperfect and future perfect are made up from the others. And I'm going to get play my verb quiz, too. I just feel uncomfortable with some verbs now and again, and I have to choose my verbs carefully when praying with the "We ask that you ..." construction..

Odds and ends on the French Presidential Election

To start off, From our own Correspondent is always worth a listen:


The BBCs profile of Jacques Chirac:


Then some Royal gaffes:


François Bayrou is the third man of the election whose intention is to form a centrist coalition government:


José Bové is a popular antiglobalisation campaigner, but I can't see him getting anywhere in the presidentials!


Le Pen caused ructions some years ago when he got through to the second round of the presidentials and the French descended in the streets. This time he's having trouble getting 500 elected officials to support his candidacy:


We don't get to vote.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My song is love unknown

My song is love unknown,
my Saviour's love to me,
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.
O who am I that for my sake
my Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from his blest throne
salvation to bestow,
but men made strange, and none
the longed-for Christ would know.
But O my friend, my friend indeed,
who at my need, his life did spend.

Sometimes they strew his way,
and his strong praises sing,
resounding all the day
hosannas to their King.
Then "Crucify!" is all their breath,
and for his death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
he gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
themselves displease, and 'gainst him rise.

They rise, and needs will have
my dear Lord made away;
a murderer they save,
the Prince of Life they slay.
Yet steadfast he to suffering goes,
that he his foes from thence might free.

Here might I stay and sing,
no story so divine:
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Samuel Crossman 1664

The Ireland tune is best, but I notice that some people sing it to the glorious Rhosymedre. It wouldn't suit it, but Rhosymedre is absolutely the top.

Graham's visit

Graham's in France, they said. Pat's nephew.

Yes, but where, quoth I. France is a big country.

Well he is in Clermont-Ferrand and today he drove over for lunch. We ate raclette together (!) then I scuttled off to Blaye and Pat and Graham went for a little walk into Pessac, that included inspecting the new tramway and getting lost. Then they went to get the kids from their camp de scoutes.

He's gone again now.

Also Graham Harrison and Mrs Harrison were in church this morning. When someone struggled with his name I said "C'est M Hérisson". Well it worked. Kinda.

Some pictures from the Blayais

It's nice preaching the same message twice in one day, because you can touch up the mistakes! For example this morning I appeared to give people a choice between a One Year Bible and a One Second Bible, because of pronouncing the d in Louis Segond's name! And I used a wrong word in preaching then used the right word in a conversation 10 minutes later (raciné / enraciné). Irritating! But those things were sorted for Blaye this afternoon.

Here's some pictures of the Blayais. The first shows the little church at Anglade with the new housing estate that's being built opposite.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The houses in front of us are almost finished, and they are on the market


That's an awful lot more than we paid for our house, believe me !

Wedding anniversary

Tuesday is our wedding anniversary, but I have a soirée théo to attend at the school that evening, on how to pass on values from one generation to the next.

So we are taking advantage of the children's absence to go out for a meal after the English Class this evening. And not at MacDonalds!

We have three options:

1) the place recommended by the director of our mission.
2) the place recommended by one of the students.
3) the place recommended by a colleague here.

I'll tell you sometime where we ate.

Bit of excitement here

On Tuesday the CUB announced that the tram is coming to Pessac Alouette - certainly to les hôpitaux de Pessac and possibly to Alouette itself. This means that the tram will certainly arrive within 300 yards of our home, and possibly within, say 150 yards.

It is due to get here in 2012.

Tomorrow I preach twice - at Floirac and at Blaye

It'll be good to go to Blaye and preach. It's my first time there.

Les enfants campent ce weekend avec le troupe de scoutes

Gwilym is hiding from the camera behind the wall.

I have seen the summer. The summer is bright. The summer is ...

The shops are full of orange tee-shirts, jackets, sweatshirts etc. etc.
So my nice orange fleece is no longer shocking, and I can hunt for my old orange tee-shirts too. I think they're in a box somewhere.
Who decides what colour is "in" each year?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bible Study

At the Bible Study last night we were talking about the power and authority of Jesus seen in Mark 1 & 2. The students were (as usual) pretty quiet, but afterwards someone started asking questions about the deity of Jesus and about the trinity.

I was encouraged by people's replies. No three leaf clovers or people on three horses, but straightforward passages from the Bible, ranging from Genesis to 1 Peter.

When I left to get my night bus the students were still talking about the deity of Jesus.

Made in France

"la casquette et les souliers seront made in France". That's what they said on the radio news when they were talking about the new uniform for the SNCF inspectors.

It highlights what for me is perhaps the biggest pitfall in French now - les anglicismes.

There are loads of English words that are used all the time in French now, and you never know how to pronounce the things.

For example. Shampooing has a French pronunciation that approximates to shaw-pwang.

This morning I was introduced to speaker and speakrine - words for TV presenters. Speaker = speak-urr. Speakrine is pretty much as you'd expect.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ooh la la !


(Such a useful expression.)

What a man !


Now come on Ségo, Sarko, show us what you are made of...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Oh he's foot-ball crazy

and tonight, in the rain, they were practising headers.

Those aren't freckles. That's mud.

(Thanks to the benefactor who fixed the red eyes!)

Well I have been battling with Gwilym's computer

We got it for him for Christmas - off eBay. (Famous last words if ever there were!)

It came with Windows ME and it was working kind of OK. Like ME used to.

I saw XP upgrades dirt cheap in PC-City and got one. Someone since tells me that it might be a collectors item!

I upgraded the PC. It went alarmingly smoothly.

I added the driver for the network card. The PC cycled endlessly through turning on and closing down.

The battle this morning has been to get into the BIOS in order to make it boot off the CD. I eventually managed it - don't ask me how, I don't remember! I am tempted to say brute force and ignorance but I am trying to train myself to say wisdom. (stop laughing)

And now XP is installing again. Thankfully the upgrade CD also works as an install from scratch after formatting everything CD.

Dare I try the network card again? I have to really, don't I!

Back in Wales a friend would have come round and we would have done this together late at night on the dining room table. He said to phone him, but I thought 'Big bold missionary with Swiss Army Knife. I can do this.' And there we are, it's on the way. Thanks, Father, and thank you Pat for praying.

The joyful tidings are (is) that one of the PCs at the student centre is playing up. Soon I must reload XP on that from some kind of backup and set it all up again.

13 things that don't make sense


Thanks, Tim Challies, for today's links. Every one a cracker.

Groupe Rive Gauche

was last night. It was different people from in February. I suppose if everyone came at the same time you'd get quite a gang.

One of the chaps showed us one of his Bible Study scrolls. He cut up two Bibles and pasted the pages together onto long strips of card. The strip he showed us contained the epistles.

Then using colour and pictures and arrows etc. he draws connections hither and yon in the letter. I don't remember seeing links from letter to letter, but he could do that.

It ended up looking like (in the words of one chap) a Jackson Pollock, but I was very impressed. Se had it with him at the prayer meeting, so I took two photos, one with flash, one without (and it was gloomy in our prayer meeting shed). This section is 1 Corinthians. Glorious, isn't it!

A church in London had a tract produced of Mark's gospel in map format that you could fold up like a map (ha ha!) and put in your pocket to read easily on the tube. Brilliant. You could also stick it onto card and draw multicoloured arrows everywhere.

Now how small could I print out Mark using my printer? Could I get it on two sides of A4? On four sides?

Confused about Sunnis and Shi'ites?

This might help.


Elders and pastors and shepherds

9Marks are (is?) thinking about eldership training:

First four studies based on the shepherd theme of Scripture:





Then how elders are trained at Ligon Duncan's church


You get their training manual in word format. It's really quite thorough.

9Marks has (have?) given us some really useful material here.

Whenever somebody talks about training elders I always think several things at once:

1) The character of the elder is the prime qualification. This cannot be stressed highly enough. The main thing you want is an elder of character. It's the character that matters most. Character.

2) Often pastors are really busy in our smallish European churches.

"Aha ! Then we'll give them another job to do - to train the elders - and we'll make it so that we can't have elders until the pastor has finished putting them through their training."

I ask myself if this is wise for us. Imagine the dilemma.

"Pastor Piers is so pressed. If only we appointed some elders to help!"

"Yes, but elders can't be elders until we appoint them, and we can't appoint elders until pressed Pastor Piers has finished training them and has set, invigilated and marked their examinations."

This is designed to make pressed Pastor Piers into stressed pressed Pastor Piers. He's on the critical path§ again. He lives on the critical path, and instead of him being the preacher and teacher who brings God's life-giving Word to the church he's the bottleneck, the traffic-jam. Again.

Elders can be appointed and trained on the job. And maybe the use of examinations favours a certain kind of elder and overlooks another kind?

3) What did Paul do? How did he train elders? If you look at Acts 20 you can see that he shared his life with them.

OOPS - done it again ! I have started with something I really like and ended up sounding as if I don't like it at all.... dumb klutz.

§ sorry for the jargon. I hope you'll understand it in context.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Day of the Jackal

While talking on the phone, blogging, etc. this evening, Chacal has been on the television - the Day of the Jackal. The remake. Bruce Willis. Machine guns. Exploding cars. Rampaging through the metro. Pumping each other fuller of holes than a sieve. What a load of rubbish.

Compare that with Edward Fox's understated menace in the original. Nasty! And of course, the best bit of the whole film, the sequence at the beginning where de Gaulle's life is saved by his chauffeur and the Citroën DS - and this really happened.

Baptists, British and American

While I walked I reflected on a conversation a while ago with a Baptist brother from America. He said that generally in the churches from which he came that Baptists do not consider themselves protestant, feeling that they predate the reformation, had little to do with it, were persecuted by it and owe little to it. They believe that there have always been baptists.

I was thinking about the history of British baptists, partly because of a friend who has to compare the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith with the Westminster Confession. The Baptist Confession owes a great deal to the Westminster Confession - it is a partial reworking of it, thus expressing the Baptists' identification with their protestant brothers and their reformation heritage. Most Welsh Baptists came from this line, I think, and many English Baptists. Errol Hulse wrote a History of the Baptists - it's in a box somewhere.

That set me thinking about creeds. I had read some stuff on Reformation 21, and I thought of how from my youth I can recite the Nicene Creed (especially if I am allowed to sing it), and that this creed serves not only to distinguish trinitarians from unitarians, Arians, etc., but also serves to unite us with all those who have believed, and who now believe in the one who "was begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven..."

Pessac men's study group

We met today at Alfred's office. It was really nice to meet up in the sunshine (yes - it hasn't rained all day) and Alfred drove us out to his office on the road from Mérignac to Pessac. He's an accountant and business advisor.

Our brief was to discuss our reflections on the intro and first two chapters of "Christ au coeur de la prédication". We got as far as the end of chapter 1. We discussed the various issues of Old Testament knowledge for Christians. In France dispensationalism is strong and makes the situation even worse than in Britain. We talked about the possibility of addressing the need for a general bible knowledge (overview, big picture, call it what you will), but for the vast majority of French christians they have only one teaching opportunity, on Sunday morning.

Afterwards it was still warm and sunny so instead of catching the bus home I walked home from Pessac centre. You see much more of the town when you walk. It took just over half an hour. A couple of people were sat in their gardens - it isn't that strange in France to sit in your front garden, and some people greet you as you pass. It's very genial.

As I walked I thought about the article Brian Edwards wrote in the FIEC magazine some years ago, arguing for a much fuller use of Sunday morning, with various classes etc. Maybe that's something that could work in France.

How to go green


Look at that swanky car ! A new Zafira ! And they reckon it was just £2000 a year?

Perhaps the Zafira wasn't actually his car.

It could be like posing for photos at the seaside in front of other people's cars as a kind of deliberate false memory syndrome. "Do you remember the dark red Bentley convertible ? That was a good car."

Back to school - but not by parachute

Well the kids and the wife are back to school, which means I am back on the school run. Bye bye quiet mornings. Hello frantic dash.

But it could be worse. Much worse !


Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Telegraph on Sarko


I doubt the lace-hatted crones would really be raking in enough from their bistro to pay 50% income tax. The tax rates are high, but the thresholds are also very high.

And I have reflected before on the French Etat and the British State. In Britain we may think it is shameful or a waste to be a civil servant. In France it's brilliant! It's like working for Caesar.

Incidentally, I have often heard the word grandiose used here in France, and never heard it used in a negative way. I have even heard it used to God in prayer. "How your acts are grandiose!"

Linux, Palm, MP3, etc. etc.

Oh sometimes I get so sick of computers...

Ubuntu just works? Not in 32MB of RAM and 3 GB of disk, it doesn't. I am going to try DSLinux. Just don't ask what it stands for.

The rest of Saturday morning I spent wrestling with a dodgy memory card in a Palm and copying and burning MP3 files of one thing and another.

Then to the centre for the English class and the apologetics evening.
Forgot the microphone. Found one that would work OK.
Prepared the PowerPoint.
Got the English Class ready (That was easy this week because last week we decided to have a Scrabble session - in the end we played Boggle because it is a bit faster and so on. Maybe we should try synchro-Scrabble.) We had fun looking up nonexistent words in my trusty old Chambers.

Then we got the room ready for the apologetics evening. This month the subject was cosmology and the origin of the universe, followed by a discussion of how to respond to someone who believes that death is the end, then an overview of Pascal and his Pensées.

Then home on the night bus through the driving rain. There had been a fairly spectacular accident on the boulevard but the police man guided us round the wreckage and the police wagons. I saw the famous Maison des Cakes from the night bus.

Tired but happy was the final outcome. As I was leaving the centre all wrapped up in my red jumper and my black coat one of the lads told me I was as handsome as a brand new lorry. Beau comme un camion (tout neuf). The brand new bit is optional. It's the kind of thing your granny says, apparently.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Total eclipse of the moon


All we need is for the rain to stop and the clouds to clear.

Pat took the kids biking in the local park yesterday - there's one of these tracks for mountain bikes - and they had a whale of a time slurping through the mud. Catrin was fine once they had dug her out and the second time round she used a snorkel for breathing.


Jim Elliot coined for himself the slogan, “the moon is round!” The night sky was a visible reminder to him that God’s purposes are whole and perfect, regardless of whether we can see or comprehend the wholeness or perfection. Even when the moon was just a crescent, or when it was obscured by clouds entirely, Jim would acknowledge its roundness in spite of what his eyes insisted. For him, the silver sliver of the moon was a small thumbnail image — merely a part of the whole picture.* He recognized that his senses might be able to apprehend a tiny, distorted perspective — but that his senses did not determine or alter the reality. The moon was round, regardless. God’s person and work was whole and perfect, regardless.

( Thanks Joy www.karagraphy.com for this )
Photo courtesy of BBC website.

Friday, March 02, 2007

You gotta love this guy



Gspace provides FREE Online Storage to access your files everywhere. It turns the 2GB of your Gmail account into free online storage. With Gspace you can manage unlimited Gmail accounts to store all type of files.

Like a USB stick without having to carry a USB stick.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

OSCAR - the UK information service for world mission

The Oscar website has a new blogging section. http://www.oscar.org.uk/

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi

Incidentally, some people are disconcerted by the use of a red dragon as Wales' national emblem. There is, of course, no connection with the imagery of serpents or dragons found in the Bible. Apparently the Roman legions who invaded Britain in 55 BC had a dragon insignia. After the empire's collapse the Romano-British kept the dragon emblem right down to this day.

John Piper's book, God is the gospel is available as a free download (pdf)


Is France catholic?

I am sure you can decipher this snippet from 20 Minutes, one of this morning's free newspapers:

SONDAGE - 64% des Français sont catholiques.

Selon un sondage Ifop pour La Vie, le catholicisme reste la religion de 64% de Français, loin devant l’islam, avec 3%. Les athées sont plus de 27 %. Viennent ensuite la religion protestante 2,1% et le judaïsme 0,6%.